Uncommon Sense

April 11, 2021

The Justifications of Preaching

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:26 pm
Tags: , , ,

In the early days of Christianity it seems that Christians met in houses as there were no church buildings (a congregation is the people coming together, and this was the first meaning of the word church, which had nothing to do with the building in which the congregating took place). To hold even a small congregation took a house of some size, so the houses used for this purpose were usually owned by the more well-to-do members of the community.

The primary activity at such meetings was the reading of important documents. Since the owner of the house was well-to-do, he was also probably better educated and was, presumably, often the “reader” of these documents to the congregation. Since most of the congregation were poor people, it was quite unlikely that they could read themselves, so they paid rapt attention to the readings because it wasn’t as if they could just “look things up” if they were confused later. These documents were precious to these people and were in the form of copied documents. A letter would be sent by some prelate with instructions to copy the letter (for the congregation) and then pass along the original. Of course this soon devolved into a game of “Telephone” and the documents became more and more corrupted. There were complaints as early as the second century that many of their primary documents were corrupted almost to the point of incomprehension.

The task of copying probably fell to the same house owner, he being one of the only members of the congregation who could write. And, as well, the house owner was not an expert at reading, copying, or any of these other tasks that required professionals to do elsewhere, e.g. temple-trained scribes, for example.

So, the first “office” of a congregation was that of “reader, copyist, host.” No one got up in church to “teach” or “preach.” If anyone spoke it was to share testimony, that is share experiences they had in which they felt Jesus influenced their lives.

It wasn’t until the Romans adopted Christianity as the state religion in the late 300’s that they impressed many of their cultic practices on Christians. It was at this time that the office of preacher began to evolve.

If you are a member of the atheist community, you are probably aware of how woefully ignorant many Christians are of their own scripture. Yet, in many of the churches attended by these Christians, a preacher spends much of the assembled time leading songs (a Roman “innovation”) or delivering a sermon. This is how we got speeches decrying the evils of secular music, short skirts on women, and Democrats worship the devil. Most recently we were treated to one “preacher” who claimed that the “Blood of Christ” would protect us from the ravages of COVID-19. (He died from COVID-19, an example of divine displeasure if there ever was one.)

There has been a substantial brain drain acting upon the clergy. It was not that long ago that intellectuals had three choices of profession: medicine, the law, or the clergy. But many a practice has muscled up in the brain department and now scientists, engineers, education, finance, business types, etc. all have drawn people away from the historic professions. In general there has been a brain drain away from all of the Big Three Professions and one consequence is that we now have preachers who are as smart as a sack of rocks.

These people go to “divinity schools” to take courses in how to preach, and achieve credentials that facilitate them seeking jobs in churches. They all pride themselves in being able to write rip-snorting sermons.

So, they stand in front of congregations ignorant as to what their scriptures actually say and deliver lessons on the evils of atheism, abortion, and Democratic politics. In other words, they consider the wisdom they have to “share” is more profound than the scriptures from which they get the backing for their “opinions.”

Consider what would happen if a church leader were to announce that they would be getting rid of their musical program, skip the preaching and group praying, and engage in a studied reading of the New Testament to deepen the understanding of all of the members of the church of their particular variant of Christianity. I will tell you what would happen—attendance would drop like a rock.

From this we can see what sermons really are. They are entertainment, preferably supporting the biases and positions of those assembled. So, people come to church, they get a little entertainment, their position in their community and their thoughts and prayers are reinforced as being righteous, rinse and repeat.

I do not think “sermons” can be defended on the basis of being a form of teaching, supplementing what people can now read for themselves, because it is clear that most apparently do not read scriptures themselves, otherwise they wouldn’t be so ignorant of what they contain. (Yes, I am painting with a broad brush and yes, I have known Christians who diligently read scripture, but I argue that these folks are nowhere near being a majority of most congregations.)

In addition, these “sermons” have no quality controls over them. A pastor writes up a sermon, delivers it on Sunday and his only fact checkers are his audience. There is no peer review, no organizational review of these sermons and many are just woeful, lacking almost any value to the recipients.

Most attenders of Christian services find them comforting in their reconcilability, their mundaneness, and think that they had to have been this way from the beginning. Actually, most of the structure of our “church meetings” are gifts of pagan Romans. Clerical garb is very close in design to the clothes worn by Roman administrators. The elevated pulpits, the choirs and music, all gifts of the Romans and having no counterpart in early Christianity. (If you are interested in learning more, consider the book “Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices” by Frank Viola and George Barna, two practicing Christians.

2 Comments »

  1. Yes. That’s all I have to say because that’s all that needs to be said. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Nan — April 11, 2021 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  2. As someone who, once upon a time, had to work closely with a wide variety of various members of clergy including people in the hierarchy, I can confirm that you’re pretty much spot on.

    During mass in catholic services there are supposed to be two or more readings, one general reading from the OT or the epistles, and one from the four gospels. Over the years these readings have gotten much, much shorter, to the point where often they aren’t more than a couple of paragraphs long. And almost always they are taken out of the context of the much longer passages they are from. The emphasis isn’t on what’s actually in the Bible, it’s what is in the catechism and church dogma. The sermons are generally more along the line of propaganda than instructions. They fail to tell you that much, if not most, of what is in that catechism isn’t actually supported anywhere in the actual Bible.

    Brain drain is appropriate as well. I’ve dealt with bishops and priests who, well, let’s just say they weren’t the brightest bulbs in the bunch and leave it at that.

    I see their names pop up from time to time. One is now “retired” after it came out he had an affair with a 16 year old girl when he taught at a high school. Another “retired” because… Well, you can probably guess.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by grouchyfarmer — April 11, 2021 @ 10:55 pm | Reply


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