Friday, December 19, 2008

Prominent Preachers and Plexiglass Pulpits

The old axiom is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Poppycock! Such a phrase is a damning comment on the collective ability of those people who create book covers, if you ask me.

While it may be occasionally so that a cover doesn’t accurately portray the contents of a book, as a general rule one need look no farther than the cover to judge the merit of its contents. For instance, I propose the following hypothesis with regard to books written by putative preachers: the more prominent the face of the preacher on the book, the less theologically sound.

I offer Exhibit A:

I can assure you (without oathing!) that only the softest most maleable clay is used in the Potter's House.

Exhibit B:

Osteen may be having his best life now with the dollars of sheep, but he leads them all astray.

Exhibit C:

Speaking of Joyce Meyer. My grandfather used to quip about women preachers, "They sound like a hen trying to crow." And if he ever heard Joyce Meyer get up to preach, he would have fled "faster than a minnow can swim a dipper."

Compare that to Dr. Sproul:

And to John Piper:

Yes, books can be judged by their covers, usually. Are there any caveats to the aforementioned rule? Yes, of course. First, all bets are off if the preacher is dead. Someone may put Calvin's picture on the cover if "The Institutes," but I assure you Calvin wouldn't have. Same for Luther, and Jonathan Edwards. Also, biographies can be an exception. You get the idea. If a book purports to be about theology or "Christian living," let it lie, pun intended, and leave it alone if the cover is dominated by a preacher's face.

And speaking of instant judging, let me give you all another tip. If you ever walk into a church and the pulpit is made of plexiglass, leave. Just walk out. Nothing good ever came from behind a plexiglass pulpit. If you can see through the pulpit, you should see through the preaching.


Rhetor said...

Interesting topic.

Sproul does have one book titled, "Now, That's A Good Question!" with a picture of him lounging in a chair like a wise old grandpa. No foul in my opinion.

I am also wary of any publication that has, "Six ways to do this," Or "Seven ways to do that," in the title. Our "Christian" bookstores are full of self-help books that pull scripture out of context like it's a science.

As you said, the masses proclaim,
"Judge not lest ye be judged!"

Perhaps the appropriate response is,

"Twist ye not the scriptures lest ye be the devil."

Hal Brunson said...

The Puritans thought that portraits violated the Second Commandment; I think they were wrong, but your post is definitely "right on." Actually, it's simulataneously funny and tragic to realize how the cult of personality feeds appetite for superficiality.

Shane said...
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J. Matthew Brunson said...

Hey Shane,

more interesting is that the word "you" is in the title of the first three books (you could claim it's even the main focus of the theme). This reflects the modern-day sentiment of churches - the church is a guide to make "your" life better, make "you" a more successful person, etc. This is a great way to draw a crowd and sell books, but a gross misinterpretation of what theology is about. How about this book title - "Ten reasons why 'you' are not what 'you're' supposed to be." Probably not a best-selling topic, but would be much more useful for readers.

Rhetor said...
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Shane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shane said...


That is a brilliant observation. I was thinking in the car just the other day about the "you"s in Christian book stores. Sometimes it's explicit like in the books in my post. But other times it's a tacit "you," such as "[Your] Purpose Driven Life."

FYI, I deleted my own comment earlier, so I could more clearly address it to Matt's observation.

Hal Brunson said...
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Enchanted Etymologist said...

Dr. Brunson,

That is a very touching (and true) portrayal of your mother. She is such a testament to God’s peace manifested through human lives. What a woman- so true!

Enchanted Etymologist said...

Sorry all! I was meaning to comment on "Hands Shaking".