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How Evangelicals Ignore the Minor Prophets

God has an important message for today’s church through the Minor Prophets—they are called “minor” only because of their length—if only we would listen to it.  What’s the problem? 

As I wrote in my post “What Sins Do You Call Excusable Part II,” our ideological commitments lead us to downplay the gravity of sins that aren’t stressed in our church tradition.  They even lead us to play fast and lose with biblical authority. 

Evangelical Christians claim to believe that the whole Bible is the authoritative word of God.  Nevertheless, the Minor Prophets are ignored.  Why and how? 

  • Individual spirituality vs. social spirituality.  The Minor Prophets stress both, Evangelicals usually the former.  When Evangelicals preach on Habakkuk, it is almost always only about trusting God in difficult times (Habakkuk 3:17-19) or justification by faith from Paul’s quotation in Romans 1:17 of Habakkuk 2:4.  One would never know from Evangelical preaching that Habakkuk strongly condemns social injustice and oppression by international powers.
  • Eschatology: When Evangelicals concern themselves with the Lord’s return, they generally focus on some rather uncertain chronological details but don’t connect our future hope to present biblical action, except as a call to evangelism.  Indeed, the biblical vision of the new heavens and earth is often used as a reason to call social and ecological action pointless.  But Hosea 4:3 says that because of the sins of God’s people “the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.”  Don’t we need to ask ourselves whether our sins have contributed to famine and the pollution of our air and water?
  • Unmentioned sins.  When last have you heard a sermon on Amos’s condemnation of unjust war practices (1:3-2:3) or a corrupt court system that deprives the poor of justice (5:10-15).  Ignoring the biblical message concerning these sins makes our hymns and choruses repugnant to God (5:21-24).
  • Difficulty. The Minor Prophets are difficult to read because they speak about ancient customs, peoples and issues.  Application to contemporary problems can also be complicated.  Contemporary “Evangelical Lite Christianity” doesn’t encourage patient study and serious thinking. 

What to do, Evangelicals?

  • Serious Bible study. Get a good Bible dictionary and study Bible and read the prophets.  I’ve always benefited from the New Bible Dictionary.
  • Biblical Preaching.  Pastors, begin a fast from church growth, management and leadership books.  Read the Minor Prophets.  Dust off your Hebrew and use a good commentary.  I’d recommend Thomas McComiskey’s The Minor Prophets.  Frankly you’re going to need courage, because the messages will probably not be popular, but the Bible doesn’t countenance cowardice. 
  • A renewed commitment to biblical authority.  Pastors and laity, examine your church programs and individual commitments to see how they reflect the message of God’s word in the Minor Prophets.  We need to practice what we preach; that is, what we should be preaching.  

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