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Some Thoughts on Preaching - from Ben Franklin??

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of those books that I have read parts of a number of times over the years. It is currently one of the books I have on my Kindle, so at times I find myself reading from this interesting book.

Benjamin Franklin was a moralist, but not a Christian. His book, however, has some interesting comments in various places in his Autobiography about preaching and preachers. Perhaps the most famous of these are the ones where he discusses the preaching of the great evangelist George Whitefield, who Franklin had the privilege of knowing personally.

It is in another spot, however, that I read recently that is the subject of this post, for it serves as a warning to preachers and it also serves as an illustration that some errors are not new.

In discussing his relationship with the "only Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia" he mentions that he once attended five Sundays in a row and follows that comment with the following:

Had he been in my opinion a good preachers, perhaps I might have continued... but his discourses were chiefly either polemic arguments, or explications of the particular doctrines of our sect, and were all to me very dry, uninteresting, and unedifying, since not a single moral principle was inculcated or enforc'd, their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens.

Now, I take his comments with a grain of salt, since what he would have been looking for in a message would be "moral principles" rather than necessarily faithfulness to God's Word, but I do find it interesting that the specific example he gives would indicate that there is good reason for Ben Franklin's concern.

The very next paragraph he mentions a specific sermon that this pastor allegedly preached on Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Here are the points that Dr. Franklin says the preacher got out of that passage:

1. Keeping the Sabbath day holy
2. Being diligent to read the Holy Scriptures
3. Attending duly the publick (sic) worship
4. Partaking of the Sacrament
5. Paying a due respect to God's ministers.

Assuming that Franklin presents this accurately, I agree with his comment after giving this summary of points.

These might all be good things; but, as they were not the kind of good things that I expected from that text, I despaired of ever meeting with them from any other, was disgusted, and attended his preaching no more.

Preachers, we need to be careful that we preach God's Word clearly and carefully. One of the great early leaders of our country was turned away from the hearing of the Word of God because a pastor chose to seemingly ignore the text of Scripture and instead proclaim what seems to have been his personal pet peeves.

It is one thing if it is the faithful preaching of the Word that offends and drives off folks - and the Word, when faithfully preached, will likely do that at times. It is another thing entirely to offend by preaching our opinions.

Let us be careful in the proclamation of God's Word - and pray for me that I would be careful in my proclamation of God's Word.

Just my thoughts,


A New Book by a Favorite Teacher

Saturday, October 02, 2010

When I was in graduate school at BJU, among my favorite classes was Systematic Theology by Robert Bell.

Dr. Bell was an excellent teacher and I enjoyed his class tremendously. He did a great job of bringing the subject to life and for such an important subject, that is vital. I remember him talking about theology being the queen of the sciences and the idea that sciences usually had labs and suggesting that we eat a bunch of lemons to see what it means to have our "teeth set on edge" (see Jer. 31:29-30).

In addition to Systematic Theology, one of the other classes that Dr. Bell taught was Advanced OT Theology.

BJU Press has recently released a new book by Dr. Bell on this subject entitled, "Theological Messages of the Old Testament Books". The book's list price - and Amazon's price is $39.95. It is currently ON SALE at the BJU Campus Store for $23.97. (It is about a 500 page book according to Andy Naselli, which is where I heard about its release - thanks Andy.)

From the blub at, we read the following:

In The Theological Messages of the Old Testament Books, Robert D. Bell suggests strategies for understanding and preaching every book of the Old Testament. Following the method for biblical theology outlined in his introduction, Bell bases each study firmly on the actual text rather than on imposed theological categories. Students will find the tools they need to understand the text of each Old Testament book on its own terms. Pastors will find resources for preaching sermons or series on a book's themes, characters, or overall message. Sample sermons and scores of tables included.

While you are at the BJU Campus bookstore, you can also find some currently good deals on a couple of other books worth picking up if you do not already own them.

Dr. Michael P. V. Barrett's book Complete in Him: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Gospel (recently back in print) is also available for $11.89, Robert Vincent's Gospel Primer is available for $7.67 and Colin Marshall and Tony Payne's book that has gotten considerable attention lately, The Trellis and the Vine is available for $10.49. (I have read some good reviews of some of these and I am looking forward to reading them.)

So, if you have been thinking about picking up some of these, check out this current sale at the BJU Campus Store.