The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

Pulpit Crimes: The Criminal Mishandling of God’s Word

I have a feeling that James White and I would get on well! I like a writer who tells you what he really thinks rather than dressing it up in over diplomatic language, who is not enslaved by political correctness and who, above all, is passionately jealous for the word of God.

All of that is true in this plain speaking book which highlights some of the ways in the which the word of God and the pulpit are being abused.

As I read it I was reminded of an editorial I read just a few weeks ago in a church magazine. Commenting on a verse of Scripture, the author wrote, and I quote, “I’ve deliberately used the King James Version of this verse. To me, even though it may not be an absolutely accurate rendering of the Hebrew, it captures a truth better than the NIV translation.” In other words, as I read that, a “better” translation is one that fits what I want to say rather than an accurate one which more closely fits what God wanted to say.”

White believes that the stakes in this are very high. “I have become convinced that nothing less than the very gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake when we speak of the proclamation of the gospel in preaching.” (p11) “Could almost anything in this world terrify the heart of a believer more than the idea that I might make the cross of Jesus Christ my Lord void?…For a man who earnestly wishes to be a servant of Christ and honor him and be used to feed and protect Christ’s sheep, what could be more repulsive, more abhorrent, than the idea that in my very proclamation I could be emptying the precious cross of Christ of its power?” (p12 referring to 1 Corinthians 1:17).

He begins with a couple of chapters in which he briefly expounds a number of texts in the New Testament, focussing on the Pastoral epistles which stress the importance and nature of faithful biblical preaching and then he draws up what he calls his “rap sheet” which is, for UK readers, the charge list. Each of these is then unpacked and explained in the remainder of the book:

  • prostitution – the `name it and claim it’ teaching
  • pandering to pluralism – denying the uniqueness of Christ as the way of salvation
  • cowardice under fire – compromisng when attacked
  • entertainment without a licence – “entertainment has replaced worship, amusement has replaced the sober contemplation of God and his ways. This is a pulpit crime of immense proportions”
  • felonious eisegesis – the mishandling of the scriptural text
  • cross dressing – the role of women in the authoritative proclamation of God’s word to the gathered congregation
  • pulpit fiction – the developing of personality cults
  • body count – the obsession with numbers
  • identity theft -“short-selling” the divinely instituted ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  • warranty fraud – easy believism

White’s closing chapter, entitled Where are the Cops?, is a call to preachers and members of congregations to be faithful to the word and recognise “the importance the pulpit has in Christ’s rulership of His church” (p59)

The author deliberately does not “name and shame”, for fear of making the personality the issue, though sometimes, I confess, I found myself wishing he had done! However, almost without effort, you, like me, will undoubtedly be able to think of examples of culprits that would fit each of the crimes listed.

It was Michael Green who said that “the standard of preaching in the modern world is deplorable” and much of the reason for that can be found in the issues addressed in this book. Would that more of us were as willing as James White is to speak out and against those who are not the “faithful men” of 2 Timothy 2:2. Would that more preachers would sign Paul’s preaching pledge: “…we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word”. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Solid Ground Christian Books (23 Oct. 2006) Review written in 2013

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