Logic on Fire: why I transcribe sermons

I have spent and plan to spend significant amounts of time transcribing sermons, even though the sometimes the manuscripts of many of those sermons are readily available online.

Why?

Several reasons.  The simplest is merely the fact that the actual preached message is different from the manuscript, and often the differences are noteworthy.

There is a fascinating underlying reason, though, and it relates to the nature of preaching, and prophesying.  Both John Piper and Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that prophecy can occur in preaching when the preacher goes “off script.”  They have labored in the Word, and in total reliance on the Holy Spirit have constructed a manuscript of a sermon to be preached.  Nevertheless, Lloyd-Jones counseled, and Piper practices, reliance on the Holy Spirit in the pulpit, with an openness to new words and phrases that are not in the manuscript, that the Holy Spirit supplies that have particular power, insight, application and authority.  This happens all the time in Piper’s sermons.  Piper often goes off-script in his preaching, and these excursions are often the most insightful, powerful, sometimes entertaining, parts of his messages.  How often that is prophecy, and how often it is merely Piper, I won’t attempt to assess here.  This is just my reason for so highly recommending that a person listen to the audio sermon, not just read the manuscript.

Another reason for this relates to preaching versus writing, which I’m sure has been adequately developed on books on preaching, but I’ll just sketch it out here.  God gave us a book, in writing, the graphe.  It is authoritative, and never changes.  Nevertheless, he also commanded that his people continue to preach the message, not just hand out the book.  He created us with voice boxes, not just esophagi.  He gave us lungs to speak with, not just to breath.  He gave us tongues to enunciate, not merely to taste and swallow.  He made us so that we could communicate with audible spoken words, not just thought-out-written-down words.  And he commands us to continue to communicate it this way.

Writing out transcripts enables one to capture a little bit more of the audible communication.  Italics can be added, all caps can be used.  Nowadays we can format the transcript to more fully capture the inflections of the preached word, as well as the specific words that aren’t in the manuscript.

I still highly recommend listening to the actual sermons.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!  There are times that chills go down my back listening to Piper preach, that I don’t get at all from reading the later book or the manuscript online.  Nevertheless, in an effort to make a little bit more of that available, I intend to keep transcribing certain messages and selections from them, Lord willing, a significant amount of his biographical message on Lloyd-Jones that I think is incredibly relevant more than 20 years later.

Stay tuned 🙂

“A new form of dispensationalism”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the gifts of the Spirit

From Chosen By Goda collection of essays reflecting on Martyn Lloyd-Jones and his legacy, edited by Christopher Catherwood.  Chapter 13: The Pastor’s Pastor, by Hywel Jones, 220, 221-2, 223-4.

What were these emphases?  First and foremost was the importance of spiritual life

When this element of spiritual life which was the result of the working of the Holy Spirit was under consideration, the Doctor could become a critic of orthodoxy, even Reformed orthodoxy.  He did so not only because of the heady effect which the (re)discovery of Reformed theology was having, but also because some exponents of that theology were overlooking or excluding the immediate works of the Spirit in addition to regeneration, viz. the baptism of the Spirit, the bestowal of spiritual gifts, and revival.  He pointed out repeatedly that Charles Hodge omitted any reference to revival in his three-volumed Systematic Theology and that B.B. Warfield regarded the gifts referred to in 1 Corinthians 12-14 as having ceased with the age of the apostles.  This the Doctor described as ‘a new form of dispensationalism.’ For him, Jonathan Edwards was right when he distinguished between excesses and the spiritual, though the latter would have varying, even striking, physical phenomena.  He declared: ‘We must learn to draw the line between the essential and the indifferent on the one hand and on the other between the indifferent and the wrong.’

The Doctor was interested in anything which appeared to display signs of spiritual vitality, wanting all the information about it and urging us to have the same interest.  In the [Westminster] Fellowship he would bring details of incidents which he had heard about and members would raise matters related to house church groups and the charismatic movement in their areas.  We discussed tongues, prophecy, miracles, healing, music and dancing and the use of the body in worship.  In all these the Doctor was most careful.  He would not dismiss all such phenomena as psychological or demonic as some would have preferred.  But he did not hesitate to say that those elements could be present.  On the other hand, he would not and did not endorse the charismatic moment.  He urged careful observation and evaluation in the light of what the Bible taught of the spiritual effects on an experience of God – awe and reverence, a sense of personal sin and unworthiness, love to the Saviour and the brethren, concern for the perishing and a spirit of prayer.  His most emphatic charge directed against us was ‘Why do we not have the problems associated with spiritual life?’ The answer was obvious.

He did not urge us to adopt the practices of the charismatics.  Rather he called on us to seek the Lord without setting limits to what He might do or what we would allow Him to do, asking Him to turn to us and visit us in gracious revival.  Meanwhile, we were not to follow any human methods for obtaining the Spirit because none were laid down in Scripture.  God gives the Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ to those who ask Him…

He was apprehensive about the effect which the various gifts practiced by charismatics would have upon preaching and preachers.  While urging the restoration of meetings like the society meeting of the 18th century, he contended for the retention of public worship in the nonconformist pattern, led from the front by the minister in a raised pulpit who integrated the service.  He did not regard this as either grieving or quenching the Spirit.  He gave himself to the preaching of the Word, ‘the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called’, and God exalted preaching through him…

While not denying that prediction may still occur, he regarded the prophecy referred to in 1 Corinthians 14 as the kind of thing which can happen in preaching when new thoughts and unprepared words are given from above.  He urged us always o be open to that dimension in preaching and never to adhere to our prepared sermons so rigidly as to refuse to follow such leading.