Bible Culture Preaching St Peters

Right Royal Preaching

I was preaching at a Chinese Presbyterian Church conference in Sydney this morning, and was immediately asked what I thought about the Royal Wedding (which some of them had stayed up to watch the night before). We had an interesting discussion.   I will keep my thoughts for later, but in particular they wanted to know what I thought of THAT sermon.  Again I will have a downloadmore thoughtful analysis later, but I have to say that the reaction to the sermon of Bishop Curry has profoundly disturbed me.  Not the sermon itself, which knowing Curry, I knew would be entertaining, well-delivered, inspiring and a bit rambling (as I have listened to it again – it also struck me how ‘anti-Gospel’ it fundamentally is).    Nor the reaction of the press – which from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, loved it.  What has really disturbed me is that the reaction to this sermon has indicated just how weak evangelicalism is in the UK and to some extent even in my own denomination.   Good Christian people were excited that ‘the Gospel was proclaimed’ and that, even if it was a bit wishy washy in parts,  at least it got the message of Jesus across.  But did it?

Again I will reflect on this some more – but for the moment let me simply say that this was at best a pick ‘n’ mix Christianity – a Gospel sermon without the Gospel – a Christian sermon without Christ.  The fact that there were great statements of truth within it (although so vague that anyone could make them to mean what they want of it), which the Lord can indeed use (as he could use a pagan King and a donkey!) should not take away from the fact that the most dangerous error is that which is mixed with truth.  The poison is even more deadly when it is adulterated with milk, meat and honey.

As I went to bed last night I read the following in my reading which seemed apposite:

“The officials of Zoan have become fools, the leaders of Memphis are deceived; the cornerstones of her peoples have led Egypt astray. The LORD has poured into them a spirit of dizziness; they make Egypt stagger in all that she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit.” Isaiah 19:13-14

It seems to me that there is ‘a spirit of dizziness’, not only in the hysteria of the mob culture we live in, not only amongst the liberal anti-Gospel leaders in the Church (such as Bishop Curry); but now sadly even amongst good and faithful evangelical  leaders, who seemed to swallow the Bishop’s hook, line and sinker.    I will explain more in an article I am writing for Christian Today but meanwhile let me leave you with this suggestion.

Go to the St Peters website and listen to the sermons (and indeed the whole services) from last Sunday – the 13th.  Sinclair Ferguson’s in the morning on the Ascension, and Andrew Robertson’s on a difficult passage in Ezekiel – are both stunning.  They are real preaching.  They are the Word of the Lord.  There is no possibility that the Guardian, the Mail, Ed Miliband, Pink News, or the BBC would praise them.  But that’s what faithful preachers do – they teach what the Bible says and not what the culture wants to hear.  It is not ‘curmudgeonly’ nor ‘unloving’ to ask that preachers should preach the Christ of the Bible.  Indeed it is unloving to feed the people anything other than the bread and meat of the Word.    Be thankful this Sunday if your preacher has the courage, faithfulness and love to do so.




  1. Thank you for expressing this so lucidly – it was all very entertaining, quite sweet given the context, but not the gospel. The principle stands, “test the prophets”; a congregation is to be discerning.

    1. John Calvin deals decisively with the ‘gospel’ of ‘Justification by love’ in his Institutes: Book 3 ch 18 para 8….over 500 years ago. After light, darkness!! The world will never hate this gospel or those who proclaim it.

  2. I was pleased to hear the bishop say some great things in his sermon, but was disturbed by the lack of theological clarity and rambling vacuous rhetoric.

  3. A thoroughly Pelagian sermon, undergirded by the bishop’s universalism. The message that when “we” have unleashed the power of love, “we will change the world” is the same old, tired, warmed-over Protestant liberalism that has devastated the bishop’s own denomination here in the USA. What a lost opportunity to proclaim the Gospel, given the crowd. But I am not sure that the bishop would know how to do that.

  4. Never watch this Royal Wedding tripe but that it em> ”profoundly disturbed” you … aaah … does warm the cockles of the heart … as doth the moon wane so doth your beloved Christianity.

    Remember the song Time Waits for No One from the Stones’ album It’s only Rock n’ Roll?

    An old rocker like you? Course you do!

    I wonder what next? Maybe the good ol’ C of E will be telling us Adam and Eve and Noah and Moses and Joshua were not actually real people as the bible suggests!
    Imagine that, eh David?

  5. Listened to it while driving the car and was left with a couple of thoughts.
    1 While he mentioned Jesus, the main message equated human love with the love of God.
    2 Love is God, then replaces God is love.
    3 This was emphasised by the re -imagining Lennon’s “Imagine” And the Beatles, All you need is love.
    4 not sure where fire fitted in, though I was being propelled by it in the car. But I’m not minded to listen to it again.
    5 I was pleased that this was a marvellous celebration of a man and woman marriage.
    6 Imagine what a poor foretaste all the lavish celebration is when compared to the celebration in the banquet at the marriage of Christ and His Bride.
    7 Imagine, imagine, imagine.

  6. I watched it with my older brother and sister who found the reaction of the British hilarious but were generally very scathing and mocking of Bishop Curry, very difficult for me to get all of his sermon in this environment but I have to agree with you, I wondered when Jesus was going to get a mention and when the great wheel of rhetoric was going to turn towards home which it did at length. Phew!

  7. Surely one key aspect missing from the sermon was any mention of what marriage is and how it should be taken seriously by all. Jesus presented a very high standard of interpretation of the Old Testament law and said that it would not pass away until the fulfillment of the times has come. He also said that to marry a divorced woman is to commit adultery and that those who teach people to set aside the law would be called the least in the kingdom of God. That is a sober teaching for our church leaders and one that is increasingly neglected in our churches..

      1. Well I suspect John the Baptist said something along those lines! The point is that the Archbishop of Canterbury was quite happy to preside at the wedding whereas one of his predecessors was at the centre of expressing concern over Edward VIII’s marriage to Wallace Simpson. It reflects the change which has occurred not just in society, but also in our churches where marriage has been downgraded and is increasingly being redefined (including by Bishop Curry’s church which is under formal sanction by the Anglican Communion) to suit human demands rather than God’s requirements. Now it appears that the Gospel itself is being redefined by church leaders in order to accommodate the prevailing secular liberal worldview. However, the true Gospel is one which faces up to human sin and calls for repentance, proclaims faith in Jesus Christ who alone can atone for our sin and grants new spiritual life by the indwelling of the Spirit of God. If we water down the law of God, then people will not perceive their need to repent and, therefore, will not be reborn by the Spirit of God. That is not a truly loving approach as it ultimately leads to spiritual death and divine judgement. Marriage bears witness to the relationship between Christ and the church and that is why it is considered to be sacred. It would certainly have been possible to draw out some of those points within a marriage service for the benefit not only of the couple concerned, but also for the wider audience without causing unnecessary offence. To take the opportunity presented by a wedding to draw attention to the need of the congregation (in this case a global congregation) for an encounter with Christ is the prime responsibility of the preacher. Jesus indicates that those with leadership responsibility in the Church will be held accountable for how they fulfil that mandate. On occasions doing so may lead to martyrdom, but we are called to share in the sufferings of Christ if we wish to share in His glory.

  8. Bishop Curry took sufficient time for his sermon to cover not just love, but the core of the Gospel. What he gave us could only ever be milk (1 Cor 3:2) but what he gave us was skimmed milk: skimmed of sin, faith, the cross and, of course, judgement. “All you need is love” was the headline message, as if salvation was inclusive of all who love, i.e. everyone, regardless of belief. Given he had the opportunity to preach the Gospel to 2 billion people, this is very sad. I suspect few seeds of faith were in fact sown. I hope I am wrong.

  9. I had Dr. Ferguson as a professor at Westminster in the 80’s. He was a fantastic teacher, and a good and humble man.

  10. I wonder what you think of Bob Gass’ Word for Today?

    Both WfT and the sermon went out to mass audiences.
    Both have elements of truth.
    Both have what appears to be emptiness.

    But both can be used by God.
    Personally, I have needed the milk of WfT even while I sat under your preaching; your preaching was just too much for me to bear. No, WfT wasn’t perfect but it was useful.

    The sermon wasn’t perfect. He didn’t preach atonement. But people listened – it may have planted seeds.
    And I’m looking forward to seeing if any conversations happen as a result.

    Maybe he could’ve said more. But he is a weak and frail man, as am I. Even if those conversations happen I’ll probably still mumble.

  11. Andrew Robertson declares in the sermon link that ‘Christians will be known by their holiness and obedience to God’s word’. It is a shame he never included in his declaration the words of Christ that….
    “All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”

  12. True, he did not exactly speak about repentance and sin, and it was disappointing afterwards to realise his views on homosexuality etc, which meant that his view of love is probably different (i.e. I also believe that it is not unloving to be truthful, or for God to punish what is wrong).
    However, what we expected was a minister speaking solemnly and nasally, speaking about very little, and if he did say much saying it in such a voice that it sounded like something he didn’t believe in but was just reading off a sheet. The underlying message of which would have been God is not relevant at all and religion is only tradition.
    Instead we got someone saying with confidence that the source of love is God. And saying that he believed in the miracles of the Bible, and saying that without embarrassment. And there were elements which were counter-cultural. What would it mean to be loving in business and commerce?! This seems like the kind of love which is sometimes sacrificial, and not just to please yourself.

    Underlying this of course was the powerful symbolism of having an African American preacher preaching in the style of a black preacher in a royal wedding!! And having a black gospel choir, sure not singing a gospel song, but again singing at a royal wedding. That is also important as a royal statement towards the racial divides in this country and in the Commonwealth and America.
    I hope that people who heard that message go on the search for churches where there is more than tradition, and hear so much more there.

  13. Pingback: Archbishop Cranmer
  14. It could have been a mere formality, but instead he made the love of God alive and exciting. Was it a full explanation of the gospel? No. Did he point people to hope in Christ? Yes.

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