Leadership assistant editor Ed Rowell was talking on the phone with Haddon Robinson recently when Haddon made the offhand comment, "More heresy is preached in application than in Bible exegesis."
The phrase stuck in our minds. We editors had several, animated conversations about it, standing around the black file cabinets in the hall outside our offices.
We finally decided to visit Haddon in his office at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, near Boston, and press him on the implications of what he'd said.
There, amid at least three containers of jellybeans, numerous diplomas, and an academic gown still in plastic from the dry cleaners, we found the Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching. Haddon authored Biblical Preaching, a text used in 120 seminaries and Bible colleges. He teaches on the daily program "Radio Bible Class" and, in a 1996 poll conducted by Baylor University, was named one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.
Our conversation became a rich, Socratic dialogue on the delicate art of applying ancient truth to modern people.
You've said that more heresy is preached in application than in Bible exegesis. Why?
Haddon Robinson: Preachers want to be faithful to the Scriptures, and going through seminary, they have learned exegesis. But they may not have learned how to make the journey from the biblical text to the modern world. They get out of seminary and realize the preacher's question is application: How do you take this text and determine what it means for this audience? Sometimes we apply the text in ways that might make the biblical writer say, "Wait a minute, that's the wrong use of what I said." This is the heresy of a good truth applied in the ...