Mr. Bueckert, we found your sermon on the internet. We have listened to it carefully, discussed our findings, gathered our notes together, and put our thoughts to paper. We’re hoping that you will be interested to learn what some prudent listeners have to say about your teaching in light of the high standard the Bible demands from elders in their handling of God’s word.
Mr. Bueckert, Red Deer Bible Baptist, August 2, 2009, None Other Name.
Summary: We will begin in Acts 4.10. One way of identifying a cult is by its teaching on the person of Christ. The Bible clearly tells us who he is. The Bible tells us things that are true only of him. We’re going to consider the deity of Jesus Christ and some of his attributes. Modern versions generalize who God is. The cults and mainstream Christianity are watering down the doctrine of Christ. Jesus was raised in Nazareth and born in Bethlehem. You can’t get any more specific than that. If we are too general about who Jesus is, he will mean one thing to you and another thing to someone else. And so this Bible study is for the purpose of laying out who the Lord Jesus Christ is. God’s word shows that Jesus Christ is God in human form. The JW Bible has altered this doctrine by the addition of just one word, the article ‘a’—and so in there it says that ‘the word was a God.’ Is there any such thing as a lesser God? If Jesus is a lesser God, then we have more than one God. Jesus is the Creator God, not the first of God’s creation. If Christ is a God, then that’s idolatry. God’s word just says what it says. In the Bible we see that Jesus is all Man and all God. It’s more than we can figure out. He had to be both God and Man. In witnessing, we have to explain who Christ is. He is not just another god you put on the shelf with the other ones, and not just another addition for getting into heaven. You can’t just believe Jesus is your Saviour and then live the way you choose. When we get saved, our heart is changed. We understand how wicked our sin is. If God were any less than God, he could not save us. Jesus is equal with God. One of the problems in this world is that people don’t know who God is—who Jesus is. The fact that Jesus is the Son who submits to God does not mean that Jesus is less than God in any way. He is no less smart and powerful than God is. Jesus declared to be the Jehovah of the Old Testament—the ‘I am.’ He declared his eternal existence. God does not need us to exist. We can’t exist without God. He exists independently of everything. We will never be a God. We are his creation. When Jesus walked the earth, he did not draw attention to himself. He limited himself to our abilities. When he performed miracles, it was for the purpose of fulfilling the will of God and to prove that he was the Messiah. Jesus also has no beginning or ending. There are three persons in the Godhead, one God. Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead bodily. The plural words to identify God in Genesis, like ‘our’ and ‘us’—they point to the reality of the trinity. Jesus talks to the Father. This is another proof. So we have God in three persons. Yet Jesus is in submission to the Father. Now if God is the head of Christ, and yet they’re equal, this teaches us something about the relationship between man and woman. The wife is equal with the husband. Some evolutionists believe that woman is less evolved. How do you like that? (He speaks at length on the responsibility and equality of man and woman and of church members generally.) There is no such animal as a universal, invisible body. It’s local and visible. When the church is described as the body, it’s always talking about you and I as local and visible. And each part of the body is important. We are made in the image of God. Jesus is God. We are meant to bring glory to his name. (He finishes with a prayer for his church to love God and his word, and for himself to have courage to preach honestly and to live honorably.)
Remarks: In this message, Scripture is copiously appealed to in support of the doctrine being taught. The pastor is passionate about his topic, and therefore passionate to prove what he is convinced of. His reproofs of error are generally relevant, for the errant beliefs reproved are contemporary. And though meanings are clumsily communicated, by frequent repetition they become a bit more clarified in the end. This is not a sermon. As Mr. Bueckert states, it is a ‘Bible study’ on the person of Christ. The fact that this is a Bible study, not a sermon, may be why this Baptist broadcast has a Sunday-school feel to it, or you might say, a ‘Plymouth Brethren’ feel. What we mean is that this is typical, fundamentalist teaching by a layman pastor. The sense we get from this pastor’s manner and delivery, and from some of his remarks also, is that he has just stepped out from the pew and into the pulpit. Not surprisingly, then, we detect in this message a note of scorn for ‘positions’ in the church, and for textbook theology too. His low view concerning these two things is largely responsible, no doubt, for his lack of depth and presence. This pastor has little regard for theology. Therefore is he not deep. And he thinks little of positions of church leadership. Therefore he has no authority. Third, he is a poor communicator. We’ll take these points up one by one.
(1) First, his low esteem of theology. He dismisses the fact that the Church is, in some sense, universal and invisible. All scholars mean when they communicate this is that no local, visible church can be said to make up the complete Church that exists and that our omnipresent, omniscient, immanent God observes and takes care of. Mr. Bueckert says that every time the word ‘body’ is used for the Church, it is in reference to something that is ‘local’ and ‘visible.’ But here is what the Bible says: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free” (1 Corinthians 12.13.) If the ‘body’ in this verse refers to a body that is ‘local and visible,’ then this body must be the Corinthian church to whom Paul is writing. Who else can it refer to? It can’t refer to Mr. Bueckert’s church, for it says ‘body,’ not ‘bodies.’ When we misinterpret key words, we sometimes shut ourselves out from blessed verses, and from their blessings too. The truth is, anyone who has been born of the Spirit is baptized into this one universal body. This is the only sense that makes sense of this verse. To give us this sense, Paul goes out of his way to delineate who might be part of this body: Jews, Gentiles, bondmen, freemen; in short, any person from any station, background, or ethnicity might be part of it. The word ‘body’ in the verse quoted above refers to something much broader than a local body; it refers to a body that is indistinct to our tunnel vision. Many other verses use the word ‘body’ in this same way, and with good reason. As a matter fact, it seems possible from just a glance at how the word ‘body’ is used in reference to the Church that it never designates a local church. Why is the ‘body’ so generalized? Because the Church of God is much more than just a local organism. It includes all persons of like faith in Christ, regardless. How ‘visible’ is the invalid Christian who is neglected by the ‘local’ church? Thank God that the body is not just what is visible to our limited vision and that it is more broad than what is allowed by that word ‘membership.’ Professing Christians who are invalid, outcast, or unjustly excommunicated may all be part of the body of Christ—the invisible body that is seen, known, acknowledged, and accepted by God in spite of their exclusion or isolation from a local church. If tares are indeed sowed among the wheat, as the Bible says in Matthew 13, then the theologians are biblical when they speak of the Church in an invisible sense, not just local and visible, for what you see is not what you get. The field may look like a field of wheat. And so it is. But what truly makes up that body of wheat is invisible to us. We do well to keep in mind that the Church, as God sees it, is different from what we see. The idea of the Church invisible is not, as Mr. Bueckert presents it, just a useless, abstract idea, but a biblical truth. And this biblical truth is a practical stimulus to a widespread love among brethren, for the recognition and acceptance of the invisible Church as a reality is what can prevent the sectarian spirit from springing up, and growing thorns to divide brothers. Theology could have helped Mr. Bueckert in a most important way then, for its presentation of this biblical truth fosters brotherly love among all who profess and practice the ‘old time religion.’ It says in Ephesians 1 that Christ is the head of the church, “which is his body” (verse 23.) This body must be local and visible, according to Mr. Bueckert. Let him answer a question, then: Since it says ‘body,’ not bodies, which local body is referred to here? Is Christ the head of the Ephesian body? Or is he the head of Mr. Bueckert’s body? It seems prudent, I think, rather than have to choose between the two, to give in and admit that Christ is the head of a universal body. In Ephesians 5 it says that Christ is the “saviour of the body” (verse 23.) Is he the Saviour of the Ephesian body? Or is he the Saviour of Mr. Bueckert’s body? It can’t point to both of these if this ‘body’ is just one single, local, visible entity. The solution to this embarrassing dilemma is the fact of a universal body. Now, we know that it could be possible for Scripture to speak of a church body with the intention that this be taken by us to understand whatever local body we happen to be part of. It would not be wrong to speak like that. But this is not what’s going on in these verses. Scripture sometimes uses the word ‘churches,’ like in Corinthians 1 and 2. Interestingly, when the word ‘body’ comes up in reference to the people of God, like in 1 Corinthians 12, the contextual equivalent is ‘church’ (verses 27, 28.) That should teach us something, if anything would. We have the same lesson in Ephesians 1, 3, 5 and in Colossians 1. We cannot find one instance of the body alluding to ‘churches’; if the body did allude to churches, it is reasonable to assume that ‘churches’ would be used as the synonym in those instances, for the word is not foreign to Scripture, after all. The ‘body’ is one, not many; Christ gave himself for ‘it’ (Ephesians 5.25.) This is the non-sectarian truth. Now, to move on finally, biblical theology would have helped Mr. Bueckert in the sphere of worship too. For instance, he tells us that Jesus had to be both God and Man to fulfill his mission. Though the reasons why, at least in part, are in the Bible, they are not so easily come by. Maybe this is why Mr. Bueckert simply says that “it’s more than we can figure out.” Theologians have gathered the necessary data together in order to bless us with some, at least, of the biblical reasons for Jesus’ complex makeup. This is the kind of knowledge that stirs our hearts to appreciate who Jesus is and the glorious salvation that he wrought. There was a lot of time in this message to go into wonders like this. All of the digressions, most of the repetitions, and many of the examples should have been avoided to make room for such knowledge. Textbooks on preaching or rhetoric tell us to limit our examples of whatever point we are setting out to prove. No more than three or four are necessary, they say. This is correct, for those who demand more are unreasonable people who won’t believe no matter how many proofs are offered for consideration. This pastor must have something against theology, not to mention homiletics, and it is to the detriment of his teaching effort.
(2) Next, he has a bone to pick with ‘positions’ in the Church. This position of his on ‘positions’ probably stems from his false conception of what equality among saints implies. It does not imply that ministers are not placed above the people they teach. The fact that they are chosen to teach is proof of the superior standing they occupy in spite of the equality they have with other saints as saved persons. The qualifications elders are obliged to fulfill point to this elevation of rank, as does the double honor elders are said to be deserving of, not to mention the special caution put to those who would subject elders to reproof. There is no need even to quote these texts to a fundamentalist Baptist pastor. We’re sure he knows they’re in the Bible. A pastor who sees his job as nothing more than what any other church member is capable of undermines his own authority and stimulates no incentive to be listened to. Indeed, we think it reveals much that he says that he is responsible to lead ‘practically.’ The theory that underlies the practice seems like a minor thing to him; but this is the very foundation of practice!
(3) Besides what appears to be a contempt for theology and a mean opinion of the sacred office of ministering the gospel, what hinders this pastor most is his stammering, stumbling speech. Because of his faltering delivery, he is unable to speak extemporaneously without making dangerous mistakes. For instance, he says that Jesus limited himself to our abilities. Thank God he did not; otherwise the law could never have been fulfilled by him! We’re convinced by the context, though, that what he means by the statement is that Jesus came down to our level by taking up a very common form of employment as a carpenter. But as a carpenter, it cannot be truly said that Jesus limited himself to our abilities. A perfect Man who happens to be Divine must obviously possess abilities that far surpass that of any finite tradesman! Not only are mistakes made and the flow stopped up by this speech impediment, but it also diminishes the force of what he says, especially when we take into account that his failure to speak properly and precisely results more than once in statements contrary to what he is attempting to teach! Here is an example of this. From the message generally, we take it that he believes that there are three persons in the Godhead, not just one person manifesting in three capacities. But in the following statement, because of his muddled speech he seems to profess this falsehood that he elsewhere condemns. (Note the part we have italicized.) “Again, when you talk with a person who disagrees, who does not believe in the trinity, does not believe that Jesus is God the Son, God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, they have no explanation for the ‘us’ here.” Grammatically, though not intentionally, he teaches here that Jesus is the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is precisely the heresy that he is trying to warn us against! Check this out and see if we have wrested this passage from the context to make him look incompetent. We have not. If we were to take grammar seriously, grammar would condemn him. Maybe we could overlook the matter if he spoke his meaning most of the time. But he so often clashes his meanings with their opposites that it is not beyond possibility that an error like this one could be taken by his listeners as the proposition he upholds. This is why we have to bring it up. Speaking of reproofs, we are relieved that Mr. Bueckert doles a few out, for ministers are commanded to put their people in mind of heresies and falsehoods in the midst. We are glad that he does not cower from singling out Evolution, Catholicism, the JW’s, and even a neighboring church. From our experience of listening to other pastors in the city, this courage is very unusual. Sometimes it takes a layman preacher to rise to the occasion. It is difficult to know for sure what he is calling into question at Living Stones because his imprecise ramblings are tough to trace to a reference point. But a member of that church having told him that he’d “never heard that before” seems to be in reference to his never having heard the gospel of Jesus Christ there, for Mr. Bueckert’s topic at this point is an evangelistic effort he was engaged in at the time. That would not surprise us in the least if a member of Living Stones had not heard the gospel after three years attending there. But since we’ve got to wonder if the gospel gets preached any more correctly over at Mr. Bueckert’s church, we question whether it was not a good thing that this person had never heard over at Living Stones what Mr. Bueckert was trying to convince him of! We will find out in the next sermon of his, maybe, if Mr. Bueckert has a gospel to preach, and if it is the right one. There is no gospel message in this one per se. Who Jesus is is not enough to go on; that, by itself, is not the gospel. And if a bumbling attempt to teach is all the proof we need that the gospel is not being proclaimed, then this Baptist church qualifies as an errant church just as well as any other. Our own body must be in good order before we go staring at and broadcasting the supposed inadequacies of a nearby pulpit. In the pastor’s defense, he does admit that there may be some saved souls over at this other church.
Conclusion: Though this informal address is wandering, repetitive, and digressive, it is an attempted defense of a cardinal truth and doctrine. Throughout the study, Mr. Bueckert goes from Scripture to Scripture to try and prove his proposition. Therefore is the study Christ-centered in a way, and for the most part, biblical. But it is also a choppy, meandering monologue that has no structure. And it is very elementary. The gospel is in here, sort of, by which we mean: the death of Christ for sin is mentioned. But it is not connected to anything or anyone: no application is made. The gospel is not preached. We are never told what we ought to do in light of the fact that Jesus is God and that he died for the sins of mankind. This is a study, not a sermon. And so at first blush it seems that we shouldn’t fault him for not applying his content. However, are Sunday mornings for Bible studies, or for sermons? We are thankful that there is no worldliness in the study, nor levity. When there is humor, it does not descend into irreverence. To sum up, our verdict is that this pastor seems orthodox, but we are not drawn to his church by this message. Taken together, the three faults that we have exposed may be summed up like so: A low opinion of theology, the result being a substandard, sectarian belief on what the body of Christ is; a low opinion of church leadership, the result being a noticeable absence of authority; and a miscarriage of communication, the result being the assertion of the heresy he makes it his business to try and disprove. We are not being hard on the man. It is not wrong to ‘test all things’ like the Bible commands us to do. These are serious deficiencies. With all due respect to the man for his good intentions, we should toss up the following question: If a pastor cannot present his doctrine without affirming the heresy he is trying to denounce, can we have any assurance that he has been called by God to occupy a pulpit? Maybe Mr. Bueckert doesn’t believe in having to be ‘called’ to minister the word. But the idea is a biblical one, and therefore a necessity (Acts 13.2.) We must end by honestly pointing out that the summary does not come close to exhibiting the disabilities of the sermon and its delivery. A person has only to listen to the podcast to gain an immediate perception of what we mean by this negative remark. We have been very kind. In order for the summary to make sense and not be too repellant, we have to give it a better construction than the sermon it is based on. We have to leave the chaff alone, for the most part, and grasp at the wheat. The chaff we pluck at in the Remarks and Conclusion. This is a poor pulpit, maybe the most impoverished one out of the many in Red Deer that we’ve examined so far.
Mr. Bueckert, we welcome any feedback you might have regarding our bold effort to test your ministry.