How sermons are stifling christianity

Cartoon

Preaching is one of the mainstays of Protestant christianity (though not so important in Catholic and Orthodox churches). Bible colleges teach how to do it, websites tell us how important it is, and those considered good preachers can become celebrities.

Yet the words “sermon” and “preaching” have negative connotations to many people, jokes about sermons abound (did you know that if all the people who sleep through sermons were laid end to end, they’d be more comfortable?) and educationalists and psychologists tell us they are not very effective in teaching or changing people.

Recently several friends, strong and active christians who attend church regularly, made strong anti-sermon comments. It made me think again, that sermons are stifling christianity.

Here’s how.

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Myths, legends, history and truth

Chaos Monster and Sun God

In my last three posts (plus an earlier post) I have looked at ways that we may see that biological evolution points to God as the creator, perhaps in ways that many would find unexpected.

In all of these ways, I believe science shows that evolution alone is unlikely to lead to the outcomes we actually see, suggesting that God has used evolution to create something more than a smart animal.

So now I want to look at how we may best understand Genesis in the light of evolution.

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Three views on christianity and politics

Ballot box

The combination of religion and politics can be explosive. It is very easy to hold our political views with religious zeal, and I am not always an exception. And so we often think that God is on our side of politics. (Or else we think God stands in the middle between the two polarised views.)

I thought it might be interesting to take a bunch of much argued over political issues and see what Jesus, as God’s representative on earth, said about them, if he said anything at all. A sort of HWJV – How Would Jesus Vote?

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Three views on hell and judgment

reading-bible

So far I have looked at two doctrinal issues in this series – Three different views of the Bible and three different ways to read it and Three different views of social justice and the gospel – and each time I have concluded that the truth lies between the two more polarised views.

It probably won’t surprise you, then, to find that I think it is the same with the vexed subject of hell and judgment.

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Three different views of the Bible, and three different ways to read it

Differences among christians

Reading

We all know there are many, many matters on which christians hold different views. Many of them are merely matters of opinion and taste (though you would sometimes think they were highly important), but they include many important doctrines too.

For many matters, there are a range of views, though often times two opposing views paint themselves as the only alternative to the slippery slope leading to the opposing view.

Over the next few posts I want to look at some of these divergent ideas and doctrines, and see if there are “middle roads” between the extremes. I hope you may wish to constructively join the conversation.

I start with the Bible, a topic on which I have written many times before, but which merits another look.

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Faith vs works?

Difficult issues series

Arm wrestle

Last post I considered the apparent differences between the teachings and emphasis of Jesus and Paul. I concluded that the differences are sometimes exaggerated, sometimes understated, but we should avoid trying to make them say the same things, and instead try to learn from both.

The issue of faith vs works is a good example of how the desire for neat theology and harmonisation of biblical teaching can lead us away from what the Bible is saying.

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After the gospels, one of the best (and shortest) books you’ll read about Jesus

rbauckham

You wouldn’t even try to count the number of books written about Jesus. Most of them would have value, I guess, but some are long and scholarly, others lack a good historical basis.

But here’s one that is short, written by a respected historian and is encouraging to faith. What’s not to like?

It is the best introductory book about Jesus I have read. I think you’ll find it helpful and stimulating, and you’ll want to lend it out. Here’s why.

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