Boring teachers and preachers should be fired, Christian theologian Carl Trueman believes.
In his recent blog post on Reformation 21, an online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the professor of historical theology and church history made it clear and simple – good preachers preaching on doctrine or “the description of who God is and how he has acted” should never leave audiences feeling cold and indifferent.
Referring to 1 Timothy 1: 16-17, a passage which he recently preached from, Trueman described how God’s actions and persona always left apostle Paul in praise, a reaction that Christians should have upon hearing God’s word.
“The relationship between doctrine and worship in the structure of Paul’s letters allows us to infer that doctrine which does not lead to praise is not really true in the richest sense of the word,” he penned. “Doctrine which does not culminate in praise is not true doctrine.”
“Teaching of doctrine and appropriate response to the same are inextricably tied together such that the former should really terminate in the latter.”
Unfortunately today, this was not the case for many churches, Trueman observed.
“I was talking to a friend recently who told me of a Sunday school class on providence which he had attended. The presentation, while precise and correct at the level of formulation, left my friend cold. Nothing of the glory or the grace or the mercy or the patience of God had been conveyed in the presentation. There was nothing to call forth a response of praise and adoration.”
He clarified that this did not mean people should be swayed “by aesthetics” or “reader response” however. He just questioned a man who took “the deep, mysterious and glorious things of God” and consistently turned them into a “bland medium.”
Trueman hopes that the congregational elders would continually ask themselves if their pastors were leading people into worship or keeping them out of it, making tough but necessary calls.
“Praise and worship – the ascription to God of the honor and glory which is his – is a response to knowing who he is and what he has done. It is provoked and shaped by the description of God which the teacher gives.”
Praise resulting from anything else besides doctrine was not true praise but mere superficialities, he also stated.
“This is why Bible reading and good preaching are critical in a worship service,” he reasoned. “If they are absent, then there is nothing to which to respond, nothing which provokes the doxological reaction we see in Paul in 1 Timothy 1.”
But the burden does not just lie on the church alone. Personal worship in the home, in the form of Bible reading and reflection, is of importance as well, and requires the same response of praise.
“Doctrine should be a joyous thing, driving us to our knees in praise and gratitude again and again. We must never forget that.”
“So,” the Westminster professor concluded, “elders should make sure they fire consistently boring teachers and preachers; and congregations should connect their acts of praise and worship to the declaration of God’s wonderful acts about which they hear from the pulpit.”
Trueman is also a published author, penning works such as Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, and Republocart: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative. He is a council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.