Beware of Elevated Vagueness

Beware of Elevated Vagueness

The term “elevated vagueness” caught my eye.

It was in a tweet by Fred Sanders linking to his article about F. W. Robertson, a 19th century British preacher. Even before I read the article I could smell the rot. Robertson, it has been discovered, was covering his sexual affair in private while covering the truth in the pulpit.

That is not surprising. There is a connection between skilled vagueness and concealed immorality. Why else would a man use great gifts to make things unclear unless he was afraid of clarity? And fear of clarity in preaching is a good sign that something besides doctrine is being concealed.

This is not new. And the reason I call attention to Sanders’ article is because I want to plead with pastors to be crystal clear in their preaching, and surgically clean in their private lives.

Be clear about what you affirm and what you deny. Don’t fudge. Don’t play clever games with the truth. Don’t slither like a snake. If you are a snake stand upright on your tail and hiss with all your might: “I am a snake!” And if you are a spokesman for the risen Christ, paint his crimson portrait with lucid precision. Conceal nothing that is true. “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).

This was a beautiful mark of the apostle Paul.

“As men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

“We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cointhians 4:2).

Yes. Yes. Yes. Pastors, let this be the mark of all your ministry, especially the pulpit. Clarity in preaching, cleanness in private.


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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.