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Scottsdale Bible Church

This is the last post in my little series on this visit to Scottsdale Bible Church. I have been sitting on the fence about posting this at all, as my impression of SBC was mostly positive and most of what I have to say here is negative. And it’s not a criticism of SBC or Jamie Rasmussen in particular, but more the way we as conservative, Bible-believing and -quoting Christians go about exegesis.

The tagline for this sermon was Rasmussen’s encouragement to us to develop “a mindset that leads to a biblical worldview of the struggles of life.” This was sort of its premise and its conclusion: Rasmussen took us from this as a statement of a goal to be reached, then to various Scripture verses with commentary, and back here to this conclusion again. Let’s for the moment ignore the question of whether terms like “mindset” and “worldview” are native to Scripture or whether they’re modern concepts that have to be imported into a text. For Rasmussen this boils down to a simple (not to say easy) matter of switching our focus from our personal struggles to “the glory of God.” This consumes most of the sermon, and it’s not until the end that he explains what he more or less means by the latter term, and it turns out to mean the pursuit and perfection of various spiritual disciplines: more prayer, more Bible reading, etc.

I’m going to call this a bait and switch, because that’s what I think it is. It’s not that our problems are real and God’s glory is imaginary, but rather that our problems are concrete and specific, while the glory of God is often abstract, general, and nebulous. We have a sense of God’s glory in the grand sweep of redemptive history, and we know God is glorified in specific acts of worship, but generally the terms here can’t be fairly compared. Either God is glorified by the fact that we suffer (and that’s not what Rasmussen is claiming) or He isn’t; if the former we’ve got an apples-to-apples comparison here; if the latter we don’t.

Rasmussen also sets up and knocks over a straw man that is familiar in conservative circles: he appeals to unnamed TV preachers who claim God will deliver us from trouble if we pray enough and are faithful enough, if we buy “prayer cloths” and “combine your faith with my faith by giving to my ministry.” I don’t know who if anyone on television actually says these things, especially the latter about combining faith. I don’t think the conservative community is well-served by this sort of characterization. Preachers who do this should either name names and give concrete examples (which would be my preference) or stop dealing in these terms. It’s sloppy and cowardly.

Finally Rasmussen closed with this quote from Spurgeon:

There are experiences of the children of God which are full of spiritual darkness and I am most persuaded that those of God’s servants who have been most highly favored have nevertheless suffered more times of darkness than others.

I continue to be surprised that otherwise careful people offer up such bland nonsense as true just because it was said by somebody famous. To my recollection Scripture offers no such sentiment; I’d pay a whole dollar for a reasonable counterexample. I think it’s more likely that this is comfort Spurgeon, who it is widely believed today suffered from some form of depression, offered himself, but on the basis of his own opinion, and it should be treated as such, rather than as the closing citation in a sermon otherwise founded more or less on Scripture.

 

 

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