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Nominalism is a theory of knowledge that “universals, general concepts representing the common elements belonging to individuals of the same genus or species, are empty concepts that have no reality independent of their existence in the thought of an individual.”[1] Using this definition, perhaps some “universals” of the Christian faith are: forgiveness of sins, atonement, and justification. Continuing with the definition of nominalism, individuals of the “same genus or species” can be taken to mean Christ-followers. The universally shared concepts of Christ-followers do not exist independently of the faith-community. Thus, “reality is found only in the objects themselves.”[2]

Spurgeon seems to have believed that pastors must not teach universals such as: forgiveness of sins, atonement, and justification as having a separate existence rather pastors must preach these universals from inside of their own existence and experience. Thus, he says, “Brethren, we shall never preach the Saviour of sinners better than when we feel ourselves to be the sinners whom He came to save.”[3] This may be very important because pastors may be drawn to preach universals as having a separate existence “apart from the individual object.”[4]When this happens, pastors may lose the power of their “ministry.”[5] Therefore, it is important for pastors to know that “theological knowledge” is no substitute for “Christ in us.”[6]

I have recently become a licensed minister in my denomination. I believe Spurgeon would say that my responsibility is to preach the whole gospel while becoming all things to the congregants. I must preach the sorrow of sins by baring my own sins from the pulpit.[7] In addition to this, I must preach the joy of forgiveness that comes through Christ.[8] Perhaps a pastor committed firstly to Christ will understand that his/her life will become a tapestry of “Divine impulses” that the Lord has sovereignly ordained to reach his people.[9]

As a new minister, I am still learning to be sensitive to these Divine impulses. I began my ministry at the Mt Wilson Church of the Brethren by sharing my entire testimony from the pulpit. My testimony can be summarized as a life of sexual sin. I was exposed to pornography at the age of six years old. I was delivered from it at the age of twenty-four. By sharing my testimony with others, I have seen men move toward Christ. This may not have happened if pornography was not moved from the realm of the abstract to a tangible example, namely, Myself. In no way do I claim that I am responsible for these men making a move toward Christ but I feel joyful that I am being used by Christ to reach the lost. In summary, I believe that Spurgeon is reminding us to lead and preach by example not from theory.

[1] Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 843.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Charles Spurgeon, An All-Around Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: The anner of Truth Trust, 1986), 63.

[4] Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 843.

[5] Spurgeon, An All-Around Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students, 64.

[6] Ibid., 87.

[7] Ibid., 63.

[8] Ibid., 64.

[9] Ibid., 65.

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