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A Highly-Educated Minister and a Member of His Flock

by Ronald R Johnson (

Quotable Quotes from Lloyd C. Douglas

From his novel, Magnificent Obsession, chapter 18.

The Rev. Bruce McLaren, PhD, has just finished a sermon that, as usual, has gone over his parishioners’ heads, and one of the members of this unfortunate flock shakes his hand on his way out the door:

Deacon Chester, warmly gripping his pastor’s hand, shouted above the shrill confusion of the metal-piped postlude that he guessed it was the most profound sermon ever delivered in Grace Church! The statement was entirely correct; nor was the word “guess” used in this connection a mere colloquialism. Had Mr. Chester been a painstaking stylist—he was a prosperous baker of cookies by the carlot, and not averse to admitting that he had left school at thirteen—he could not have chosen a word more meticulously adequate than “guess” to connote his own capacity to appraise the scholarship disclosed by that homily. Had a photographic plate been exposed to Mr. Chester’s knowledge of the subject which Doctor McLaren had treated, it could have been used again, quite unimpaired, for other purposes.

This passage is important because it shows us his sense of humor and how down-to-earth he was. But it is also important because it shows us what he tried very hard to avoid doing from the pulpit. He himself valued education and wanted to convey to his people the importance of staying informed, especially when it came to scientific research.

Even from his earliest days in the ministry, he had an impressive vocabulary and could be quite eloquent when the occasion demanded it. But he tried never to speak over people’s heads. For the most part, he accomplished that goal. Even when his hearers disagreed with him or considered him too liberal, nobody ever complained that they couldn’t understand him.

But I love this passage because he’s poking fun at his own profession, and at the tendency for Modernist preachers (people like him, in other words) to try to wow their congregations with their worldly knowledge. The fact that he was aware of this tendency seems to have helped him avoid it.

For a free PDF copy of the booklet, The Secret Investment of Lloyd C Douglas, fill out the form below:

Author: Ronald R Johnson

I am a Christian author and philosophy professor who speaks and writes about everyday spirituality. I also write funny, suspenseful novels that aren't philosophical or religious... or are they? Learn more at

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