We all insist that we want to make our sermons accessible and yet, to listen to a lot of them, I’m not sure we mean the same thing when we use that word. Of course, accessibility (to some degree) is in the eye of the beholder. But I can benchmark accessibility by certain folk in my church. If the guys in my church who have no formal education, who aren’t big readers, who haven’t had a lifetime of listening to sermons can understand what has been said and can engage with it, then I consider the sermon reasonably accessible. If our guys who may have more education but who have English as a Second Language (and whose English may not be great yet) can engage with it, that’s another helpful marker.
There has been a bit of chat on twitter about Systematic Theologies. It all started with a thread taking a pop at Grudem. I don’t think Grudem’s Systematic Theology is without its flaws and some of those criticisms may stick, but I think there is more in there that has been helpful than not. I have had more than a few conversations with people whereby they told me they read the book ‘Systematic Theology’ and, when I asked them which one, they stared at me blankly and confessed they thought Grudem’s was the only one. Though that has been said of those in New Frontiers with a wry smile, my experience of that conversation has been with those involved in either UCCF or FIEC churches of one sort of another (or both).
But the discussion on twitter moved away from pelting (or defending) Grudem and started to ask which Systematic Theologies might be better. That led to other questions. But one particularly stood out: which is the most accessible? It stood out, not because it’s a bad question – it is a good one to ask – but rather because of the answers. Apparently, Herman Bavinck’s 4-volume Reformed Dogmatics and John Calvin’s 2-volume Institutes of the Christian Religion were both hailed as contenders.
Now, I like Calvin and Bavinck. But the idea that either one of them is genuinely accessible leads me to conclude one of two things.