Why isn’t the Bible good enough for Perry Noble? 10

A few posts ago, in the pre-plagiarism era of celebrity pastors, I was working through a series on the implications of NewSpring’s use of former Congressman Gresham Barrett’s testimony to his conversion and baptism. The third and final part of that is still coming, but I need to set it up by paying a bit of attention to the rhetorical sleight of hand that Noble used to insinuate the testimony into his sermon that Sunday.

Story SeriesNoble opened the sermon by establishing that Americans are fascinated by stories, giving examples from children’s books and movies, a point that he then connects to the Bible.

I love Jesus because Jesus was an unbelievable storyteller. He hardly ever answered a question when someone asked him, “Hey, man, what do you think about this?” or “What do you think about this?” He’d be like, “Hey, man, that reminds me of a story.” Jesus is a phenomenal storyteller, and he always told stories — we call them parables — that had a point. And one of the things I just love about the Bible is that it’s full of stories. It is like every kind of story that you can imagine in the Scriptures in our society takes place in the Scriptures. [Lined-out dialog was a quickly corrected slip of the tongue.] And one of the fascinating things for me as your pastor of NewSpring church over the past 11 years is to see the stories in the Bible, like the stories that we read in the Scriptures come to life right here among us on every one of our campuses two thousand years later. What Jesus was doing two thousand years ago, he’s still doing it today. The stories we see in the Scriptures, we still see those same stories happening today.

From here, Noble summarizes the story of Nicodemus and compares it to Gresham Barrett’s testimony (a series I’ll conclude in the next post). The sermon that day consisted of three video stories interspersed with Noble’s introductions.

This is subtle and crafty, but Noble is arguing that because contemporary stories are similar to Biblical stories, we can replace the Biblical story for the modern one. That Sunday morning, NewSpring’s congregation heard a sermon from the Bible of Contemporary Events, not the Bible of the Holy Spirit. No matter how compelling and wholesome the stories, this is unwise and dangerous preaching.

It’s not preaching

Contra Noble, the Bible is not full of stories. Though it does have many stories, it also consists of prophecy, poetry, wisdom, law, non-narrative history (genealogies), sermons and dense didactic doctrine. If we focus on the stories, we miss the rest of it. For example, the gospels give us the story of the cross, then Paul’s epistles explain what it means.

When Noble describes Jesus’ tendency to tell stories, he misses the other part of that process, where most of his listeners didn’t understand the point of them. We understand Jesus’ parables now because the Holy Spirit also gave us the conversations between Jesus and his confused disciples, who had to have the meaning spelled out for them. If anything, the example of Jesus as a storyteller tells us that stories are a poor vehicle for presenting deep truths. Stories only work when they are followed by able preaching. A story, by itself, is not a sermon.

It distorts exegesis

Noble equates contemporary events with Biblical ones and assumes they’re the same thing. It’s one way he seriously and repeatedly misinterprets Scripture. For example, he assumes that God speaks to him the same way that he spoke to Moses. Most egregiously, he assumes that the Bible predicted Steven Furtick as the Messiah.

His slip of the tongue — Scripture, corrected to society — shows that these different types of stories occupy the same space in his mind. For Noble, a society story is just as useful as a Scripture story. That’s not unfair speculation; it’s exactly what he’s doing in this sermon. Barrett gets more time and attention than does Scripture.

It dilutes Scripture

By insisting that Gresham Barrett’s testimony is equivalent to the story of Nicodemus, Noble dilutes Scripture by adding to it. Scripture is quite insistent that it is sufficient and must not be added to, nor are preachers to preach anything other than what they find in it. At the end of his gospel, John tells us that most of the stories that could be told about Jesus weren’t included in Scripture, and the Holy Spirit has wisely left us ignorant of those wonderful narratives, assuring us that we have all we need.

If Noble wants to preach from a story like the one about Nicodemus, the Holy Spirit has provided a perfect one — in the story of Nicodemus. Why go further than what God has provided?

It misunderstands stories

The Bible has only one story, and it’s about Jesus, the Redeemer of fallen man. Every single story and page in Scripture points to Jesus and the cross. The sacred duty of every preacher is to show how the stories in Scripture point us to Christ and our need for him. Instead, Noble takes the story of Nicodemus and points us to NewSpring and a retired congressman.

That’s regrettable, but Noble takes it to a whole new level of fail with the point he actually makes from Barrett’s story. The underlying and aggressive message of the Barrett sermon is designed to separate us from Jesus, not bring us to him. More on that in the next post.

10 thoughts on “Why isn’t the Bible good enough for Perry Noble?

  1. PP Dec 26, 2013 9:40 am

    I have had this issue with Noble for years. I think it is at the heart of what is wrong with Newspring. The Bible is not sufficient for us today. We need to improve it. They would never say that as a confession of belief, but it is all over their practice. What you really believe is not in confession but in practice. Noble’s Code Orange Revival sermon (first one I think) really showed his view of scripture (and that sermon in my opinion was blasphemous). I think one of the reasons so many flock to Newspring is because Noble has a low view of Scripture. I have found that many I have come across that attend Newspring really have nothing to do with their Bibles. They read it a little, may reference it a few times. But it is clearly not the source of authority in their life.

  2. Concernedparent Dec 26, 2013 10:02 am

    Another example of his narcissism. However he uses the Bible when convenient, for example to condem homosexuality and equate this form of love with all other sins. If modern day stories are more his style he should consider reading some scientific journal articles on this matter. But since he considers himself to be an annointed authority, he doesn’t think it is necessary to learn truth from real experts who have engaged in rigorous learning efforts. Noble is a manipulator who subversively twists ideas to suit his own pursuit of power and validation.

  3. SallyVee Dec 26, 2013 12:05 pm

    Music to my ears, Amen:

    The Bible has only one story, and it’s about Jesus, the Redeemer of fallen man. Every single story and page in Scripture points to Jesus and the cross. The sacred duty of every preacher is to show how the stories in Scripture point us to Christ and our need for him.

  4. J Dec 27, 2013 5:35 pm

    Now reading Jesus on Every Page for my christmas break!
    Thanks for the link Dr Duncan.

  5. Sara Dec 27, 2013 10:50 pm

    I’m so glad Perry and crew traveled (went on vacation) to Israel on the church’s dime yet again to show me the significance of the Nativity story. Scripture alone definitely couldn’t have conveyed that message.

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/perry-noble-travels-to-israel-to-demonstrate-nativity-scenes-modern-day-relevance-111557/

  6. Steve Dec 28, 2013 4:39 pm

    @PP,

    I can confirm. I went to NewSpring for about a year and don’t recall once opening my Bible–not blaming that directly on NS but such is indirecty promoted there, especially given Noble’s irreproachable “exegesis”. I left after being no longer able to tolerate Noble’s personality and celebrity and the place left me very unsure about the Christian institution. I do recall home groups being arranged to study Rick Warren’s book, however.

  7. Elaina Dec 28, 2013 10:50 pm

    @ConcernedParent, are you saying that homosexuality is a form of love and is not a sin? If so, what verse in Scripture says this? There are verses that I can point to that say otherwise; 1 Corinthians 6:9 for example, ” Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
    It looks to me that it’s not Noble’s opinion but God Himself Who includes homosexuality with other sins that will prevent those who practice them to enter Heaven.

  8. Concernedparent Dec 29, 2013 3:34 pm

    I am not going to argue here about biblical references regarding homosexuality vs scientific proof. But I will say that I believe and have observed that there is a difference between monogamous love between any two individuals, and Perry Nobles view which equates homosexuality to molestation.

  9. RDM Dec 30, 2013 8:20 pm

    James Duncan, I agree with much of this post and it outlines, IMO, almost everything wrong with the seeker-driven, purpose-driven leaders (do not call them pastors). They are story-telling life coaches. However, I would respectfully request that you include Bible citations for your main points, otherwise you are simply editorializing and your opinion is simply an opinion. I know you’re not writing a sermon, but you are “examining teaching in light of Scripture”, and the more Scripture you include in these types of posts, the more validity your conclusions can carry.

    For example, this point is spot on, “Scripture is quite insistent that it is sufficient and must not be added to, nor are preachers to preach anything other than what they find in it,” and I know there are Scriptures which say exactly what you are saying they say. But I’m not sure which ones and a couple of citations on your part would be very effective, IMO.

    Concernedparent, if/when scientific proof and the Bible conflict, there is no choice. And there is no credible scientific proof that someone is born gay. And it’s not from a lack of trying to find it.

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