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A Little More on Humor and Pulpit Dignity

A friend of mine passed these points along from a more-developed version of a lecture I’d heard BJ Seminary’s Dr. Layton Talbert give on humor:

  • The biblical record does not reveal a frivolous or slapstick sense of humor.
  • “The humor of the Bible is not of the rollicking type but the subtle and intellectual type for which the term wit is often an accurate designation” (DBI).
  • The biblical record does not suggest that He employed humor simply for the purpose of making people laugh.
  • Humor at its best is inherently observant, profound, and, consequently, instructive in nature.
  • Christ’s humor was always didactic in its aim.
  • Jesus used humor, wit, and irony for the purpose of pointing out spiritual incongruities and under¬scoring the spiritual truths that he taught.
  • “It is very important to understand that the evident purpose of Christ’s humor is to clarify and increase understanding” (source?). He made humor a conscious and effective part of His instructive ministry.

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Mark Dever on Acts 29 and Paul and Salon.com on Dignity

Here’s Mark Dever speaking to the Mark Driscoll-related Acts 29 church-planting network yesterday (emphasis mine):

Our differences are enough to separate some of my friends—your brothers and sisters in Christ—from you. And perhaps to separate them from me, now that I’m publicly speaking to you. And I don’t want to minimize either the sincerity or the seriousness of some of their concerns (things like: humor, worldliness, pragmatism, authority).

Dever goes on to say that what he shares with the Acts 29 pastors is greater than what separates them: the gospel and God’s sovereignty in salvation.

Paul on Dignity

I highlight his mention of humor because I want to mention a verse that has stayed in my mind as I have observed the kinds of ministries Dever was gently challenging:

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity…” (Titus 2:7, ESV)

I believe Mark Dever has this sort of Pauline spirit in mind when he criticizes humor in the pulpit. Humor certainly has a place, but it’s got to remain dignified.

Salon.com on Dignity

Even a lost Salon.com journalist back in 2006 noted a lack of dignity in an Acts 29 leader:

“After [the pastor] prays for the continued fertility of his congregation, and the worship band cranks out a few fierce guitar licks, the sermon begins. Pacing the stage like a stand-up pro, blending observational humor about parenting with ribald biblical storytelling, [the pastor] peppers his message with references to his own children as midget demons and recalls his own past in stories about duct-taping and hog-tying his own siblings. He riffs about waiting in a supermarket checkout line behind a woman who said to him, “You sure got a lot of kids! I hope you’ve figured out what causes that.”

“Yeah,” he flipped back. “A blessed wife. I bet you don’t have any kids.” The congregation hoots and hollers. “That shut her up,” he mutters.

It’s always powerful to me when a lost person notices a sin I or my kind (teachers of the Word) are committing.

HT: JT

All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes 6

“Modern popular culture is not just the latest in a series of diversions. It is rather a culture of diversion,” says Ken Myers. 56 “Since it is the purpose of most forms of popular culture to provide exciting distraction,” says Myers, “we should not be surprised that over time, television programs, popular music, and other forms become more extreme (and more offensive) in their pursuit of titillation. Folk culture has the capacity to limit extremes, since it is the expression of the values and aspirations of a community. Popular culture, on the other hand, presupposes the absence of community of belief or conviction.” 61

Myers quotes Ernest Van den Haag: “Who is slain when time is killed?” And Myers answers the question: “When we kill time, we are really killing ourselves.” 62

Again we hit the major theme of Myers’ book: not all that is permissible is constructive.

Here are three of Jonathan Edwards’ famous resolutions, all on this same theme:

4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes 5

Ken Myers calls the “Music Comparison Chart” idea (“if you like artist ‘A’ in secular music, then there’s a good chance you’ll like some of the music of ‘B’ in Christian music”) “striving to conform to the world.”

It’s refreshing to see a non-partisan like Myers say something like this, something so apparent and yet so much denied, even derided.

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All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes 4

What’s so wrong with pop culture? It may not necessarily be the content of its TV shows, movies, and music, says Ken Myers. Instead its danger may be that it “specializes in instant gratification.” Myers notes that “like most instant things, it may spoil your taste for something better.” xiv
Myers’ book, subtitled, Christians and Popular Culture, warns that “popular culture encourages a mood of expecting everything to be immediate, a mood that deters greater depth and breadth in other areas of our lives, including our understanding of Christianity and our experience of obedient faith.” xv
Myers suggests that “rather than starting our own TV networks, movie production companies, or imitations of People, we would do much better to make the church a living example of alternatives to the methods and messages of popular culture…. In such a time, the church could be a community displaying, in its corporate life and in the lives of its members, a culture of transcendence. This would not mean escaping from the world. It would require refusing to conform to its ways, not only when they are evil, but when they are not beneficial or constructive.” xvi