Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Evolutionary Psychology


Evolutionary Psychology takes its roots from Darwinism, combining psychology and evolution to form a basis that psychology, or the function of the mind, is directly related to the function of the brain. In-other-words, that the way we have learned to process and think has developed evolutionally as our brains have developed physically. Our minds evolved along with our brains.
The basic problem with this can instantly be seen. It means that what we think, as a part of natural selection, is the best of us, or at the least the best of our evolved thinking.  Because natural selection does not allow weaker traits to pass along genetically, then according to Evolutionary Psychology, our thinking should also eliminate lesser or undesirable traits in the psyche as well.

This can be seen in the Evolutionary Psychologist’s attempts to explain erratic and sometimes criminal behavior. How else could abhorrent behaviors be explained by the psychologist?  If the brain has evolved, eliminating less desirable traits, how then can psychosis still exist? While at the same time as sad as it is ironic, one such debate revolved around the subject of rape. The authors of a book on Evolutionary Psychology speculated that rape is not a pathology, biologically speaking. [1]  They contended that rape was a biological desire for reproduction, and if consent was not granted, rape was a product of the desire for this biological function. Because natural selection had not eliminated the act, it must not be a weaker or undesirable trait.[2]  The authors called rape, “a natural, biological phenomenon that is a product of the human evolutionary heritage, akin to a leopards spots of a giraffes elongated neck.”[3] This horrible example of Evolutionary Psychology is to ethics an anathema. As eminent (infamous, more likely) philosopher and Darwinian champion Peter Singer writes, “(we) must face the fact that we are evolved animals and that we bear the evidence of our inheritance, not only in our anatomy and DNA, but in our behavior too.”[4] Evolutionary Psychologists are pressing hard for the thought that we are not only biologically evolved, but moralistically and ethically evolved as well. There is not room for the total depravity of man (Romans 3:23), much less the ethical depravity. Evolutionary Psychology is then a pseudoscience that allows for an anything goes society.

As for the Mind Body Problem (MBP), this concept is nebulous and abstract and rather “heady.” Nonetheless, there are parts that can be argued for or against. First, the dualist expression of a duality of soul and body is a legitimate point, scripturally and psychologically.  As Beck writes, most clinical psychologist practice a dualistic model, whether they would admit to it in professional circles or not.[5]

The ground work was done by Rene Descartes. In his work he basically came up with a theory that states (in my very down-to-earth language) that the mind and body are an integrated unit. While they are two substances, they are intertwined and affect one another. i.e. it is possible for the body to be so damaged it causes the mind to loose rational thought.  This dualist nature, often aligned with Cartesian Dualism, shows that there is a “mind”, (the old stand-by: I doubt / therefore I am.) Because we know there is a body by empirical means, the only remaining question is, does the body HAVE to have a soul? J. P. Moreland would surmise that the answer is yes. While Descartes would say the body and soul are together, but that they are aggregate. A better understanding is that the body REQUIRES a soul for life.

As for the assertion that God cannot be empirically seen, he is correct. And there is a reason for that. Faith is the foundation (hupostatsis) of things of which we are confident (elipso), the evidentiary proof of things that cannot be empirically seen. There is no need for faith if we can see God visually. But we can see the activity of God. One cannot see the wind, but the presence can be clearly seen, (leaves blowing; pressure on our neck, etc). To deny God because of a lack of empirical evidence is the essence of unbelief. However, this works toward his demise as well. You cannot disprove a negative. He cannot, prove that God is a chemical reaction, and therefore, scientifically, he cannot say definitively that there is no God. As Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “faith, when properly observed, evokes awe, not explanation.”[6]

[1] Pearcy, Nancy. Total Truth. Wheaton, Crossway Books. 2004. 210
[2] Ibid. 211
[3] Ibid. 211
[4] Singer, Peter. A Darwinian Left. New Haven. Yale Press. 2000. 6
[5] Beck , James and Bruce Demarest. The Human Person. Grand Rapids, Kregel. 2005. 178.
[6] Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and Trembling. translated by Alister Hannay. New York, Penguine Press. 1982. 107.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

“The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos” by Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor of The College Church, Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of numerous volumes, including Disciplines of a Godly Man, Disciplines of Grace, and the extremely popular Preaching the Word series. From: The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Volume 3, Summer, 1999. Available at Accessed 08/04/2012

     Hughes begins his article with a treatise on what he refers to as “dis-exposition,” a pejorative term meaning a bevy of things other than exposition. As an example, he mentions the de-contexted sermon, the moralized sermon, the lensed sermon, the doctrinalized sermon and the silenced sermon. All of these are sermons where the preacher focuses on his own pet peeves or sugar stick topics instead of finding the exegesis and preaching that. He might, as Hughes mentions, preach a Christmas sermon from Revelation 11:10: ““And those who dwell on the earth will
rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another.” “Surely not?” the serious expositor may ask. But it did happen.

     The idea behind Hughes’ article is that preachers must turn from the pop psychology of “felt needs” and return to biblical based preaching that focuses on an exegetical, expositional approach. He quotes William Willimon, Dean of the Chapel at Duke University as saying,

Do you know how disillusioning it has been for me to realize that many of these self-proclaimed biblical preachers now sound more like liberal mainliners than liberal mainliners? At the very time those of us in the mainline, old-line, sidelined were repenting of our pop psychological pap and rediscovering the joy of disciplined biblical preaching, these “biblical preachers” were becoming “user-friendly” and “inclusive,” taking their Homiletical cues from the “felt needs” of us “boomers” and “busters” rather than the excruciating demands of the Bible. I know why they do this. After all, we mainline-liberal-experiential- expressionists played this game before the conservative evangelical reformed got there… The psychology of the gospel—reducing salvation to self esteem, sin to maladjustment, church to group therapy, and Jesus to Dear Abby— is our chief means of perverting the biblical text.”
Hughes then explains that the answer to resolving this plight among evangelicals is reverting back to the basic Homiletical underpinning of logos, ethos, and pathos.

In Logos, Hughes sees the crux of exposition as bound up in Biblical authority. Do we cherish the authority and potency of the Bible? Without the proper correlation between the Bible authority and its impact on a believers life, preaching loses its most vital role; transformation. Through a proper understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit as Scriptures author, we understand that preaching that word then activates the power of the Spirit for transformation in the life of the believer and for salvation for the unbeliever.

In ethos, Hughes writes that, “Biblical exposition is enhanced when the preacher invites the Holy Spirit to apply the text to his own soul and ethical conduct.” In other words, he is saying that truth in and through preaching start in a then comes through the man. Who we are as men will dictate how successful we are as expositors. Preaching is more about what comes through us as opposed to what passes through our lips.

Lastly, he focuses on pathos, the preacher’s passion. This is to be Spirit directed passion, not trumped up feelings for the audience’s sake. Martin Llyod-Jones calls that “method acting for preachers.” Instead, the preacher should be alive with the text, what it means for him and his people. When the text is properly exposited, he will have passion galore to share that good word and the good news of his Savior.

Hughes’ article is funny, well researched, and thoughtful. He balances the subjects of expository preaching, homiletics, and human nature in a light hearted but profound way. I would highly recommend the article to a preacher just beginning his Homiletical studies, or to an old timer that needs a refreshing on the subject.

Monday, July 30, 2012

John Calvin, The Man and His Preaching

“The Divine Majesty of the Word: John Calvin, The Man and His Preaching” by John Piper, Senior Pastor of Ashland Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and author of several books including, Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards. From: The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Volume 3, Summer, 1999. Available at Accessed 07/24/2012

     The absolute foundation of John Calvin’s theology, doctrine, and homiletics is not bound up in perseverance of the saints, predestination, or particular redemption. Instead, Calvin’s highest ideal was what he referred to as a “zeal to illustrate the glory of God.”

     This phrase was first used by Calvin to refute a letter sent to Geneva by Cardinal Sadolet, attempting to bring the early Reformers back into the Catholic fold. Calvin’s response was so grand that it brought praise from Martin Luther. His push back against Catholicism was not found in transubstantiation, papal authority, or priestly indulgences, but in their lack of understanding of the supremacy of God’s Sovereignty. This shows through in Calvin’s later writings, and especially in his Homiletical style.

     Piper’s article is written to show how the Reformer’s life and theology ultimately determined his homiletical style, which was, according to Piper, expositional. This is a natural flowing from Calvin’s sense of the Scriptures as being the ultimate authority, as opposed to any human authorship--such as the papacy. Coming from the Catholic church of the day, where the Scriptures were in flux and the Pope had equivalent authority, Calvin preached the authority of God's Word alone. When the Scriptures began to be made available to the hoi polloi, it became necessary to begin the process of exegeting the meaning, and delivering them through expository sermons instead of topical homilies.

     What Piper shows in this article is Calvin’s view of the majesty of God as seen in the Scriptures. This convinced him that the Scriptures were indeed the very Word of God. Calvin wrote, “We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it.” From this Calvin wrote the great Institutes, many commentaries, gave lectures, and of course, preached regularly in Geneva and abroad. All of this was in expositional form.

     Calvin was so dedicated to the belief in expositional preaching that he carried it out in every sermon. In fact, one of the great stories about Calvin revolves around his dedication to verse-by-verse expositional preaching. In 1538, Calvin preached on Easter Sunday, and was banished by the church council the next day. When Calvin was allowed to return three years later in 1541, he picked up his preaching from the very next verse!

     Piper points to three things that led to Calvin’s affinity for expositional preaching. First, Calvin was convinced that the Word was given for the people, and to the people. Not for the clergy, or to the clergy. It was to be a lamp to light the people’s path and a guide to direct the people’s steps. By exposing the people to the Word, he was exposing them to God’s plan for their life.

     Second, Calvin was aghast at the thought of a preacher standing in the pulpit and proclaiming his own thoughts. Calvin believed in letting the Scriptures be the catalyst for understanding God’s will. He wrote, “When we enter the pulpit, it is not so that we may bring our own dreams and fancies with us.” It was imperative to Calvin that the preacher say what God intended to be said, and not what the preacher wanted to say. The third thing Piper brings out is that Calvin wanted so very much for the people to see the Word of God as the Word of GOD. This brings the article full circle, as Calvin wanted above all for God’s glory and sovereignty to shine from his pulpit into the people’s life

Piper’s article was brilliantly written and disseminated. He shows us the background and thought processes of one of the greatest theological minds from the Christian faith, and particularly how this history shaped his preaching.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Expositional Preaching as a Mark of a Healthy Church

“Sermon: Expositional Preaching as a Mark of a Healthy Church” by Mark Dever, Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. and author of Nine Marks of A Healthy Church. From: The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Volume 3, Summer, 1999. Available at Accessed 07/20/2012

     What makes a good church? Mark Dever begins this article by asking the question. There is certainly no shortage of scholarly answers, cultural assertions, and man on the street speculations. Nonetheless, it is a question that all Believer’s should ask, whether or not they are in a “good” church now or not. After all, even if we consider our church to be good, healthy, and relevant, there are always those who will venture in for a first experience, and retention is based on their feelings as well.

     Dever answers his own question by telling the reader the most important mark of a health church is expositional preaching. The remaining article articulates his conclusions. Summarized, the idea is that while church growth strategist might make all sorts of suggestions, the bottom line is the respect of God’s Word among God’s people.

     For Dever, honoring God through the Scriptures is paramount, and supplants many modern ideas on church grow, such as worship style, relevance or so-called “felt needs,” and such bane and trivial things as cleanliness of the women’s bathrooms. While all of these things are certainly important, they cannot be the most important issue in the life of the church, if the church is to be seen as “good” or as “healthy”.

     Over the recent decades, the Worship Wars of style, format, and tolerability have caused many churches to decline, grow, split, or even fold. Worship is an important aspect, and one of Rick Warren’s five purposes of the church. Nevertheless, worship itself should flow from a proper understanding of God’s Word. As Dever points out, while a church that does not practice expositional preaching may have the marks of a healthy church, without the proper understanding of God’s Word, these might very well be accidental. Secure nurseries and sparkling bathrooms, contemporary worship, and wonderful service and fellowship can be a shell of mediocrity in the life changing aspect of the centrality of the Gospel message. In other words, do clean bathrooms change people for the eternal?
     Dever delineates between expositional and topical sermons, including providing a well thought out definition for both. Topical preaching, for Dever is defined as a sermon that, “begins with a particular topic on which the preacher wants to preach and then assembles truth from various texts of the Bible.” The topical sermon can be expositional, but usually is not, characterized by Bible bouncing. Dever writes of his experiences with topical preaching. “I already knew what I wanted to say when I set out to prepare this sermon, as opposed to what is usually the case when I preach expositionally. In the latter instance I may be surprised by the message of the text.”

     Expositional preaching is juxtaposed to topical preaching by Dever and he states that, “expositional preaching is that preaching which takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” In other words, the point of preaching is to find the point of the passage, then relate that to the modern church. By finding the nugget of truth in the passage itself, and not forcing of chipping away at the Bible passage to make it fit a topical point, we more faithful honor the Scripture as Authoritative for our personal lives and the life of the church. Ergo, expositional preaching is the mark of a healthy church.

     Dever ends the article with another question: “So what is it that makes a really good church?” And He answers the question as a summation of the article; “(It is) more than the parking and pews and greeting and programs and nurseries and music, and even more than the preacher, it is what is preached—the Word
of God.”

     Dever’s article was right on target. The importance of these tertiary issues cannot be down played. Parents want to feel their children are safe. Mother’s want to have a sense of cleanliness in the church building (whether or not the bathroom should be the test is debatable) and things like parking and worship style are important to the membership and visitors. Ultimately; however, the bottom line is “why do we gather?” If not for the glory of God and the life changing message of the Gospel, then all is for naught anyway.