Benjamin Vrbicek on Pastors, Preaching God’s Truth From the Pulpit Doesn’t Require Equivocation

The other day while going for a jog, I listened to a sermon on the seventh commandment, which addresses adultery. In the 40-minute sermon, the preacher used the phrase I think over 40 times and the phrase we think another half dozen.

Of course, I was not counting at first. But as the preacher neared the conclusion, it occurred to me how often I’d heard that phrase. So, I went back and listened again and tallied the nearly 50 references.

Consider the following two examples. When talking about sexuality, he said, “I think all of that truth is grounded in Scripture.” Later in the sermon he said, “I think we have to take Jesus seriously when we wrestle with the biblical view of sexuality.”

Clearly the phrase I think functioned at the level of a subconscious tic, like saying umm or swaying side to side. And while these kinds of empty repetitions may be distracting to listeners, the theological import of sliding errr or ahhhh into a sentence amounts to essentially zero. Not so with I think.

Is truth grounded in Scripture, or does the preacher think truth is grounded in Scripture? Should we take Jesus seriously, or does the preacher think we should take Jesus seriously? The difference matters.

Too much “I think”

In 1566, the Reformer Heinrich Bullinger famously asserted in the Second Helvetic Confession, “The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.” He added that when the Word is preached, even if the preacher “be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.” Such a bold statement requires more explanation about what the author means and does not mean.

Bullinger also speaks of the closed nature of the canon of Scripture in traditional, orthodox terms, stating that “nothing be either added to or taken from” what God has commanded in Scripture.

In another section on how Christians should understand the interpretations of the church fathers, councils, and traditions, Bullinger writes that while Christians may be helped by them, they are to be accepted only “as far as they agree with the Scriptures.” Then he adds, “We modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures.”

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Source: Christianity Today