Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Recently at another site, someone wrote this comment in response to a recent post of mine here that dealt with modesty.

Let’s not discuss something as important as modesty with people as unserious as Kent Brandenburg.

So it does make one think.  Who is serious?  Seriously.  We could make "serious" mean almost anything we want and set the bar as high as could be.  How would I know, for instance, if I were serious about fitness?  Do I have to run a few marathons every year?  If I was serious about firearms, what would that mean?  What's the threshold for "serious about guns"?  I don't think I'm serious about them, but how far would somebody need to go before he was?  I tried to be as serious, I think, as I could about a definition, so I'm providing the Oxford dictionaries online to get a definition of serious.

1 demanding or characterized by careful consideration or application:   
marriage is a serious matterwe give serious consideration to safety recommendations 
solemn or thoughtful in character or manner: 
her face grew serious 
(of music, literature, or other art forms) requiring or meriting deep reflection: 
he bridges the gap between serious and popular music 
2 acting or speaking sincerely and in earnest, rather than in a joking or half-hearted manner: 
actors who are serious about their work 
3 significant or worrying because of possible danger or risk; not slight or negligible: 
she escaped serious injury 
4 [attributive] informal substantial in terms of size, number, or quality: 
he suddenly had serious money to spend

I didn't want to leave anything out, so I included the informal definition as well, serious numbers of definitions of this one word.  After the fellow condemned me as unserious even to discuss modesty, I thought about what serious people are like.

In tenth grade, when I knew I was supposed to preach the Bible, I started thinking about what I would need to prepare for that.  I had already started learning Greek, because my dad was taking it in college.  I carried Greek cards in 9th grade to go over vocabulary.  Probably a lot of other 9th graders do that on their own.  Then I started taking Greek in 11th grade, and then kept taking it for the next 8 years in a row.  Since then I've taught several years of it.  I'm teaching it right now on Wednesdays over skype to a group of men in Maine.  I wanted to study the Bible in the original languages, so I majored in it.  When I graduated, I received the award as the top Greek student.  I wasn't trying for that award.  They just gave it to me.

I also knew that if I was to preach, I needed to know how to communicate, so I minored in speech in college.  A speech minor required a sophomore speech platform that must be passed in order to continue with the minor.  It required a recital your senior year.  I memorized 30 pages for the recital and both nights the room I gave the recital were standing room only.  I'm just reporting.  The guy said I wasn't serious, and I'm just exploring here in front of everyone.  I still think about what I learned and practiced in college.  I still try to look into as many eyes as possible and retain eye contact.

For preaching, I decided early on that real preaching was exposition of Scripture, so I listened to as many expositors as possible, whoever they were.  I read exegetical and expositional commentaries.  That's still something I do, because I love them.  I love reading the Puritans.

To learn to pastor, I served under pastors.  While in seminary, I pastored a church an hour away in Elkhorn, WI.  At the end of that year, they wanted me to stay.  I couldn't. I knew I should go to California to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Let's say that the following is a serious definition of art:  "skill in doing anything as a result of knowledge and practice."  I read someone give that as a definition once, and said I agreed.  I see key words:  skill, knowledge, practice.  That's what I try to do when I'm serious about something.

When I was serious about working out, I used P90x.  I'm serious about jogging, so I jog 2 1/2 to 3 miles a day, five days a week.  When I got to California, I was serious about evangelism, so I did it 30 hours a week and listened to every "how to" tape I could on the subject.  Knowledge and practice.

Let's think about modesty itself.  The subject the man said I wasn't serious about.  I've written a book, which is not yet in print, that spends about eighty 8 1/2 x 11 inch pages, single space, on modesty.  It is heavily documented.  I read every single book I could on the subject.  I studied every applicable passage in the original language of Scripture.  Maybe that's not really that serious.  Not serious enough.  I'm always open to get more serious about things.  I thought that knowing exactly what the Bible said about it would be as serious as one could get.

I asked the man who said I was unserious how serious he was.  I asked him to show me how serious he really was about what Jesus said, the Apostles wrote, and he said he didn't want to do that.  He wouldn't play that game.  The only game in which he would partake was telling me how unserious I was.  OK.  Alright.  I see.  Uh-huh.  I don't know, maybe the guy wasn't serious about his criticism of me.  That would be ironic, wouldn't it?

Some more serious thinkers might think that I shouldn't talk about how serious I am.  That could be considered to be bragging or arrogant. I'm not trying to brag or be arrogant.  It's just that when someone says you're not serious, it gets you thinking about it.  I think if I got any more serious, my wife might get upset.  She's already telling me to calm down.  She wants less serious.  I'm not talking sense of humor, but about the things I do.

But perhaps it's true.  I need to get more serious.  There are ways in which I agree with you.  I don't think I'm serious enough.  Serious.


Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,
I don't know who made that comment about you not being serious. I would guess that what he meant is that you do not take his/their arguments seriously. He would provide popular opinion rather than exegesis, so you would not take him seriously. He would be unwilling to examine historical evidence, so you would not take him seriously. He would be more impressed with how people today FEEL about dress rather than examining what Christians, preachers, and commentaries have said and where they have stood on the issue of dress, so you would not take him/them seriously. How could you be serious if you are not willing to bow down at the monument of his/their intellect and opinions but look for yourself at what the Bible says and how Christians have understood what the Bible says? Keeping their own positions on modesty is too important to let you into the argument.

Kent Brandenburg said...


This guy sees me as unserious because I don't know enough. He wouldn't base it on feeling either. Generally he doesn't think other people are as serious as him on almost anything.

Another commenter said that my positions are less than 100 years old and described my preaching as "pulpit poundin'," which would indicate how little he really knows. I emailed him privately and I asked him for examples, but he treated that about the same as the other guy. They have made their accusations and they're stickin' with it. Ironic.

Joshua said...

According to that crowd, serious is having thought long, soberly and hard about the current situation, and then arriving at precisely the same conclusion. Miss it by a hair, and you're part of the problem.

It's also appears to operate like charity - it covers a multitude of sins. When your primary interest is the sins of others, this is very useful.

Pastor Webb - the monument has to be seen to be believed. It's like the Grand Canyon. Everyone tells you how big it is, but nothing quite prepares you for the breathtaking sight.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Have a nice hunting trip -- wildebeest or dingoes or crocodiles --whatever.


Kent Brandenburg said...

For anyone reading,

Another one of the comments on that blog site was: "There is also a distinction between being good at, say, Greek, and being a thoughtful human being." This would be the typical statement made in a big branch of fundamentalism, that is, poo-pooing or diminishing the massive amounts of work someone does to become skilled or prepared to exegete or preach by learning the original language of the New Testament. That is in a moment, an instant, just flushed or put aside by someone, who doesn't want the hard work to be defined as serious. If you can do that to years of labor to become skilled, you are going to reproduce a lack of seriousness, in fact. You'll get guys just reading commentaries and regurgitating what someone else said, rather than studying it on their own, like what I call 'making it from scratch, rather than mix.'

People who just slough off someone's efforts in the original languages says something about their seriousness. It's like hearing someone say that he spent 10 years of lessons on the piano or the violin and then saying, well, someone might be good at violin or piano, but that doesn't mean he's a thoughtful musician. Ooookaay. Nice.