I just happen to believe there needs to be a little humility in the pulpit.
My father, Paul Burleson, has pastored Southern Baptist churches for nearly the past six decades. He has pastored small churches and mega-churches before people knew what mega-churches were. He has trained hundreds of pastors who were receiving their theological education at Southwestern Theological Seminary in the 1970's. He is friends with several of big name pastors and SBC executives of today, but is known for his love and concern for the small church pastor. He and my mother, Mary, have led couples retreats for pastors and wives all across our convention. Everywhere I go, people know my father. He is a great preacher and he has every reason to be proud. Because of his maturity and years of experience in the ministry, he has every reason to insist he knows the truth - and is right in his views.
But he has taught me and others what it means to be humble in the pulpit. Listen to his words . . .
This is where I came to in 1980 in my own preaching when I determined to not preach anything as absolute except what I personally saw as clearly presented in the text. My message changed beyond anything I could have imagined. I came to grips with the fact that much/most of the things I was saying in the pulpit was coming from what I'd heard others, whom I admired, say was in the text or was generally Baptist held viewpoints because of traditions that were baptistic in reputation but had no real foundation in the text itself.
I also began to see that what Peter said of some of the things Paul the Apostle preached was correct. [This is also true of several matters in the text of scripture.] Some of the things he delivered WERE hard to understand and those that were the most difficult I decided I'd better hold my personal view as to their meaning lightly because the correct meaning was more important than my interpretation.
This is not out of a lack of confidence in the integrity or authority of the text but a true awareness of my own inadequacy to hear God accurately on occasion. Some things are clear. Some things are not that clear. When the text isn't totally clear I won't be dogmatic as to it's meaning. 1Timothy 2:15 and the "she shall be saved in child-bearing" is an example. From my present perspective the whole of that chapter may have been delivered through a glass a little darker than some are willing to admit. But that's another post.
Since the true biblical messenger is to be careful of proclaiming his/her own viewpoint, opinions or grievances, I tread lightly on some passages and some theological positions that others seem to state the meaning of with great personal conviction. More power to them. All I'm saying is the messenger CAN get in the way of the message if we declare as absolute our personal views on some issues where there are good people on both sides of a possible meaning of any given text.
I'm not sure but what God may have left some of His total message a little less clear than say the gospel so we will make clear with conviction that gospel and keep trusting Him for greater understanding of other theological areas. I love what Gene Bridges said... and I quote
"And, with that in mind, I think we can be more confident about our reliance on probabilistic reasoning, for if God has wanted us to have more evidence or better evidence, then it was within his power to do so. Hence we are judging certain questions on the basis of the evidence which he has left at our disposal. Therefore, we shouldn't be plagued by nagging, gnawing doubts about the possibility of being wrong. Even if I were wrong some of the time, it's out of my hands, and I'm in his hands. As a Christian, I don't require a godlike control over the evidence. I can go with what I've got because it's what God has given me to go by."
I have to say "amen" to that statement. I can give my understanding of difficult passages but respect others who differ with me trusting the God who gave it in the first place to be able to make clear His message ultimately.
To read all of Paul Burleson's excellent post and comment on it, go to his blog and read the two part article entitled The Foolishness of Preaching.
It's worth leaving up all during this September 9th preaching weekend. :)
In His Grace,