Popery in the Pulpit

Popery in the Pulpit

"The preacher has neither authority nor right to use the pulpit as a place to express his own opinions on anything: the pulpit is not a soapbox. Too many preachers have exaggerated, arrogant, and unscriptural notions of their office whereby they assume the prerogative of dictating the consciences of their people in every sphere of life. That is popery, and there is no place for it in the Church of Christ."

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Aaron Blumer's picture

The pulpit is for preaching the Word, certainly. But consider this: should preachers spend the entire sermon time simply reading the Bible aloud?  Why not?

josh p's picture

Aaron, I think I know where you are going with this but exegesis is not really opinion is it? If a pastor is faithful to the text and has the tools to handle it correctly than I would suggest there will be very little opinion expressed.

Aaron Blumer's picture

I think it's an overlooked question... what are sermons made of besides the text? You have exegesis, you also have application. A closely related question: why do we have "preaching" at all rather than just Scripture reading? 

In my view, pastoral preaching especially is about communicating the Word through the vehicle of personality. They know you; you know them. In that context,  some opinion is not only allowed, it's quite important. The key is to be careful to identify mere opinion as opinion and carefully avoid including too much of it in pulpit work. (Where we get in the most trouble is masquerading opinion as "thus saith the Lord"... and in turning the preaching into mostly a tirade of personal thoughts/opinion)

But a pastor is not merely pouring out Scripture and exegesis if he's faithful.

josh p's picture

Yeah I see what you are saying about application. This is probably another one of those balance situations. I have sat under far too many sermons where the majority of it was strictly opinion but on the other hand exegesis without application is pretty useless.

Brent Marshall's picture

Aaron, I am not getting how you think Dr. Barrett's statement is overstated. I infer that there is something that you think a pastor should do in his preaching that Dr. Barrett's position would rule out, but I am not getting what that is.

Second, I am not following how the vehicle of personality relates to the issue of opinion. Certainly, all preaching comes through the mouth of a person and thus is shaped by that individual's personality, but that seems much different than the opinion issue. The preacher's knowledge of his people should enable him to better focus on their needs, but again, that seems much different than the opinion issue.

Might you clarify?

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

Aaron Blumer's picture

Probably what we need is a definition of "his own opinions on anything"

Things that are, in my opinion Wink opinion

  • The proper interpretation of a text that has two or three possible and widely held interpretations by respected authorities
  • Quite often, how a passage should be applied
  • What emphasis a particular congregation needs most to hear on a given Sunday
  • Anything at all he thinks might be helpful to say that he tags with all honesty as "Here's my view ..."
  • Any observation based on his own experience

In my experience, people tend to be against opinion in the pulpit except when they find it helpful or agree with it... or, when it pretends to be more than opinion.

As for "personality," I'm not really talking about disposition. More along the lines of unique perspective, experiences, and knowledge of the audience.

So... to summarize, in the quote in the OP the writer presents two opposite extremes, oppressive and dishonest claiming of authority for opinion and no opinion at all. There is a vast continent between those two.