I must rise now and speak against the current heresy known as sopholalia. This phenomenon occurs when the spirit of education moves upon certain ministers and causes them to speak in completely unintelligible thought. You can usually spot the moving of the spirit of education just after the sermon title has been announced.

A brother of my acquaintance recently preached on the Last Judgment. I began to sense at the beginning of his sermon that he had the gift of sopholalia, for he announced as his title, “The Inevitable Exposé.” Sure enough! I stroked valiantly through the molasses of his thick logic, at last conceding that he had the genuine gift. He smiled above my thin intelligence and moved on to complex levels of his marvelous gift. His thoughts were as high and mighty as the throne. The next Sunday he preached a sermon on the forgiving Father (which would have been a splendid title in itself). After he announced his tide to be “The Absolution of the Abba Almighty,” all doubt was erased. It was clear he had the haughty gift.

I had seen the gift early in my life when an evangelical minister I knew well preached a series of three on the Second Coming. They were named in turn: “The Impending Parousia,” “Armageddon and the Advent,” and “The Meaning of the Millennium in Modern Mideastern Missiology.” This remains the most classic example of the gift of sopholalia that I have ever witnessed.

To this day I have never seen a lay minister knowing only Halley’s Bible Handbook receive the anointing of the spirit of education. It is given generally to well-educated ministers with low self-esteem. And it comes frequently to those who have taken too little time to minister in arenas of human hurt or to walk the ghettos of destitution.

I never cease to probe among those who have the gift of sopholalia in an attempt to discover how the spirit of education first moved upon them. One young minister, winner of the Thomist Medal of Elevated Thinking, said he first felt the irrepressible Spiritus Inductus when he was having his Whitsunday devotional out of the Septuagint. A second minister, who was last year’s honoree at the Anno Domini Foundation Dinner, said he first discerned his feelings of high elation when he was writing a monograph on the “Post-Nicene Fathers and Then Soteriology.” The spirit, he said, moved so mightily on him that he wrote half his paper in Greek cursive before he realized dunamis was resting upon him.

But the most probable source of the widespread gift was admitted by the ever-honest Dr. Younghope, who says he finds sopholalia is inevitably the result of sniffing the newly inked signatures on upper-level degrees. Dr. Younghope, who is the widely known head of the American Council on Sopholalia, admitted in a symposium on the subject:

“Once I faced my own degrees—and they are numerous, indeed—I realized the sheer power at my disposal. I yielded my own mind to the Potens Mentoris Omnis and presto, Fiat nux.” It was a powerful and lofty statement. Who could have said it better?

Author Calvin Miller is pastor of the Westside Baptist Church in Omaha, Nebraska.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.