If I never hear the word “nuance” again, I would be all too happy.
In an age where people are yearning for clarity, people continue to obscure the things they say for the sake of some seemingly deeper meaning. Can’t we simply just say what we mean and mean what we say?? Isn’t communication all about making sense of the things that are said so that everyone can understand??
Many are guilty of confusion when it comes to talking about the things in Christianity. Pastors, theologians, authors, and the like end up being the greatest offenders. It is common for these supposed “leaders” to cloak what they say using big theological terms and phrases that unless you have a seminary doctorate, most can’t begin to fathom what they are trying to say. The same often goes in their sermons by quoting Hebrew and Greek words as well as analogies and metaphors that are so abstract you can’t see how this can possibly even fit the passage of Scripture they may use. Many also lead their audience on rabbit trails of cross references through Bible passages that end up being a type of “Biblical Hopscotch”; all for the sake of formulating some profound “sermon”.
You may have heard the old cliche, “If there is a mist in the pulpit, there is a fog in the pews”. In other words, if there is even a hint of misunderstanding or miscommunication from the pastor, then the congregation has no chance of getting the point. But the real danger is when the pastor, theologian, author, or the like thinks there is clarity in what they are saying, but in reality it is absolute nonsense.
Why I believe these things are done is that it puts the focus on the authority and the credibility of the speaker. If they can sound smart, witty, or more knowledgeable than the audience, they will gain the respect, adoration, and trust as someone who knows what they are talking about. It is almost as if they can fool people into what they say is “truth”, they will get people to follow them. Just say it convincingly enough, throw out a few verses, and people will buy what you are saying.
I am often astounded not only by the things these people pass off as true Biblical Christianity, but also by those that believe them. Anyone can throw out some cute stories, do the work to explain some word in the original language in the Bible, and jump from one verse to try to explain another. But it is rare to hear clear teaching from the Bible without having to package it so it is more appealing and palatable to the masses.
And if that wasn’t enough, these pastors, theologians, authors, and the like continue to try to one-up themselves. It is almost like a race to see who can come up with the more profound statement wrapped up in some intelligent sounding garble. Whole sermon series’, books, and everyday catch phrases get passed around as if they have some new “truth” to reveal. When all along they play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” by spinning people around so much they can no longer see what is Truth and what is heresy because it sounds right, deep, and spiritual.
What we are missing are those that preach and teach the Bible and theology clearly. Those that don’t need to add to or take away from Scripture, but merely focus on the purity of what the Bible actually says. God has given us the Bible, so why can we ever think to do anything but proclaim and make sense of what it says right before us?? We have got to stop this circus of giving credibility to those that think they are bringing some sort of wisdom in this kind of preaching, teaching, and writing.
How are we to recognize these people?? It can often be difficult because they are masters at pulling the wool over unsuspecting eyes. They are clever in their preparation and they deceive their audience by drawing them in with Christian and Biblical terminology, using passages from the Bible, and stories and others means to deliver their agendas. Often their charisma appeals to people because their demeanor and delivery is basically flawless.
But the fact of the matter is that they are nothing without these bags of tricks. They cannot simply go through a passage of Scripture preaching from what the passage clearly says, but must ultimately return to their own agendas that appease their followers. And often times if their point happens to be mentioned in a verse or passage, it is usually a sub-point of the lager point or some other random observation that has little to nothing to do with the actual point of the passage. In other words, their preaching and teaching diverts away from the clear proclamation of the Truth for something other focus.
It can be tricky to recognize at first, but once you see it, well, you end up seeing it at almost every turn these days.
I say all of this because there are many who are pastoring churches, writing books and blogs, and speaking at conferences who have no business even teaching Sunday School let alone leading these so-called ministries. Many of these people have seminary degrees or even doctorates. But I guess it makes no difference when it comes to twisting God’s Word. If embracing confusion over clarity, these guys truly are masters and doctors.
It is important that we seek clarity and Truth over subtle distinction and mystery. Even though there are difficult things to understand in the Bible, it requires us wrestle through those things that we can better understand them. We must bring the Truth to light. We must also hold those in places of leadership accountable for their preaching, teaching, and writing rather than continuing to endorse them. We don’t always have to agree on every point, but let’s at least agree that we will strive to be clear and do away with everything that hinders us for the sake of the Truth.