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A View from the Altar / Making ourselves look dumb
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Making ourselves look dumb

Years ago, I got into hot water by stating unfavorable opinions about the Sunday School literature published by the Southern Baptist Convention.  I have not changed my opinions.  The literature is arguably worse today than it was in 1988 when I first raised this issue at my local church.  It is infected with trendy, faddish stuff from the most popular authors.  Christians ought to abhor groupie-ing, but they don’t.

Here’s the deal-ee-oh, or a piece of it.  People like to take pride in their denomination, an attitude which obstructs effective criticism.  Furthermore, taking pride in your denomination is not a good thing.  When the entire body of Christ has its entire act entirely together, we will be entirely rid of denominations.

Another piece of the deal-ee-oh is that, for reasons not clear to me, SBC literature aims low, and it has done so all my life, and apparently on purpose.  One of the irritating little phrases frequently quoted to me in the past twenty years is that we should “keep the cookies on the bottom shelf where the little children can reach them.” This is supposed to be spiritual, but isn’t.  It simply taps into the world spirit of the age in a way that sounds good to empty-headed people.  One of the strongest elements in the world spirit is a fierce belief in egalitarianism.  Americans take public opinion polls on virtually everything, asking people about subjects on which they are hilariously uninformed — for example, suggesting that Congress should pay for car company bail-outs so the taxpayers won’t have to.  Why should a person this stupid be consulted about anything, and yet it’s done in the name of egalitarianism.  Such idiotic thinking (if you can call it that) invades religion, masquerading as love.  After all, what could sound more loving than to make sure that all our people can access all our doctrine?

The problem is that bottom shelf, while fine for cookies, isn’t big enough to hold the cookies and all the things Christians are responsible to know about God.  He is, after all, a big subject.  So, we need more shelves.  In fact, we need warehouses stocked wall to wall and floor to ceiling with all kinds of great stuff.  We need it spilling over into the aisles, heaped in the alleys, stacked out on the loading dock, crammed into trucks… you get the idea.  And much of this stuff should be getting into the heads of people who claim to love Christ and are destined to serve Him for eternity.

I do not advocate needless complexity, as if we should take things to the other extreme, preaching in such a way that only a tiny band of theological savants could catch on.  We just need to make sure that the great truths of the Christian faith are not abandoned in the interest of reducing everything to a fifteen-minute sermon sound bite easily accessible to the dumbest guy in the pew who is, not coincidentally, texting his girlfriend about which restaurant she’d like.

Southern Baptist brethren, I say we lose the pablum and upgrade the diet.  Two great places to start that are in the Sunday School literature and the pulpit.  Quit worrying about whether people might miss something because they already are.  They’re missing all the great truth we haven’t been teaching.

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  1. […] Both Moore and Chapman have been heavily promoted by the SBC’s Lifeway publishing arm which, as I’ve noted previously, is long on fluff and short on […]

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