August 15, 2018

Books and Theology

By Robert F. Turner

Gospel preachers are not theologians -- in the "bad" sense: giving undue attention to critical studies or systematic dogma, at the expense of practical evangelization -- or even in a "good" blending of such studies in a methodical formulation of the "why" and "wherefore" of our preaching. Most of us have no formal training in such, and if we ascribe to a particular "school" of theology, it is coincidence -- more stumbled upon in the course of Bible study than accepted as such, or used to develop further conclusions. This is as it should be. We are thus left unfettered by creeds and "systems" that force interpretation of scripture into prescribed channels.

But gospel preachers like books: reference books, word studies, commentaries, and even theological studies -- "to get a fresh view." And if we could get these books from a discount house, at about half price, we might stock our library with material slanted in one particular theological channel, train our thinking down that path, and reach some very erroneous conclusions. The bent of our library will affect us most in fields of study where we have the poorest developed "theology" of our own -- re. the Holy Spirit, the nature of man, redemption, and judgment. (With good reason we have emphasized the particulars of such matters, but have not analyzed the "philosophy" of them. We would likely reject a particular error -- "a still small voice" -- while we accept a Greek "word study" that is colored by the same basic error.)

Now maybe you do not attach this much significance to the books you read, but book sellers know their potential impact. A recent Religious Book Discount House bulletin says, "When the Lord provides the place and the people to man it, then He moves on your heart to provide the money. Listen to Him: we trust you will hear Him say to you, Help RBDH to start their Houston oasis, thus obeying My command to feed My sheep I " And again, "if you folks down in the Chicago area will each give us a little publicity by your word-of-mouth advertising, we'll get this one up and doing the work of the Lord in sufficient abundance to have an impact on Chicago-land."

This is neither an indictment of books nor a suggestion that one should not buy commentaries from RBDH or other sectarian book stores. Brethren are selling these same books, often at higher prices. I am sounding a warning about loading one's library with Calvinistic theology; or, for that matter, with books dominated by any single systematic dogma of man. We are "conservative," "fundamental," and "evangelical" in the broad sense, so we naturally turn to this field for most of our books. But these terms are very broad, and cover a multitude of efforts. Don't allow yourself to be brainwashed by a "theology" you have studied because you could get it at wholesale-plus.

In the final analysis there is no substitute for your own study of the Bible. In my Bible I have pasted a short quotation: "The best sermons, like poems, are born, not made. They are most likely to spring up when the minister is reading the Bible." Fill yourself with God's word, until His truth overflows upon your hearers.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 2, pp. 9-10
November 11, 1971

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