This Ought to Stir You Up

[Stanley Hauerwas, Unleashing the Scripture, pp. 15ff.]

Most North American Christians assume that they have a right, if not an obligation, to read the Bible. I challenge that assumption. No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America. Let us no longer give the Bible to all children when they enter the third grade or whenever their assumed rise to Christian maturity is marked, such as eighth-grade commencements. Let us rather tell them and their parents that they are possessed by habits far too corrupt for them to be encouraged to read the Bible on their own.

North American Christians are trained to believe that they are capable of reading the Bible without spiritual and moral transformation. The read the Bible not as Christians, not as a people set apart, but as democratic citizens who think their “common sense” is sufficient for “understanding” the Scripture. They feel no need to stand under the authority of a truthful community to be told how to read. Instead they assume that they have all the “religious experience” necessary to know what the Bible is all about. …

To suggest that the Bible should be taken away from North American Christians will strike many as absurd. They may assume that I am not serious. Is it not the very hallmark of Christianity, particularly Protestant Christianity, to encourage people to read the Bible? I certainly believe that God uses the Scripture to help keep the Church faithful, but I do not believe, in the Church’s current circumstance, that each person in the Church thereby is given the right to interpret the Scripture. Such a presumption derives from the corrupt egalitarian politics of democratic regimes, not from the politics of the Church. …

Indeed literalistic fundamentalism and the critical approaches to the Bible are but two sides of the same coin, insofar as each assumes that the text should be accessible to anyone without the necessary mediation of the Church. The reformation doctrine of sola scriptura, joined to the invention of the printing press and underwritten by the democratic trust in the intelligence of the “common person,” has created the situation that now makes people believe that they can read the Bible “on their own.” That presumption must be challenged, and that is why the Scripture should be taken away from Christians in North America. …

The fundamentalist and the biblical critic share the assumption that the text of the Bible should make rational sense (to anyone), apart from the uses that the Church has for Scripture.

[Timotheos]

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On Remembering Sermons

I hear it said occasionally that the “really good” sermons are those that we remember, or those from which we retain the main point. Don’t misunderstand: I have indeed heard sermons the main points of which I remember to this day. And I do consider them good, even great, sermons. But is our clear memory of them the criterion on which we should base how “good” they were?

Often, when someone recounts to me a story of some good sermon he or she heard, it usually begins and ends with an engaging illustration used. How many times can the person tell me what the point of the sermon actually was? Rarely, at best. The memorable sermons seem to be the ones that involved something out of the ordinary, or an amusing anecdote, or a witty observation. What about the Word of God that was preached?

So I propose a new standard for memorable sermons: not remembering them. Instead, the best sermons may be the ones that spoke the forgiveness of Jesus into our minds and hearts for some sin long forgotten. Or maybe it was the exact words of encouragement needed during a difficult time. Or maybe we have absolutely no idea what the purpose of the sermon in our lives was at the time, but God still worked His work through His words spoken and carried to our ears by the Holy Spirit.

If you remember a sermon because of the Word of God spoken and heard, good. But if you remember it simply because of something outrageous or out of the ordinary, without remembering the Word, it might be better that you just forget.

Timotheos

Hiatus Over

Good to be back from the land of No Communication. (I noticed we devolved from a rodent to a fish.) I hate moving. We had no phone for two weeks, still don’t have internet, only rabbit ears for a TV. That doesn’t even consider the refrigerator not being cold (which is a problem for a refrigerator) and the toilet not working correctly–both, fortunately, fixed now.

Anyway, how about an open topic? Anyone still reading? What the heck is on your minds?

Timotheos

Discipline

After spending a week at Walt Disney World watching parents interact with rowdy children, I wondered how I would deal with such children. I am not a parent yet, so I have no first-hand experience.

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Obviously, raising children is not a simple thing, but there have to be some things that good parents keep in mind when confronted with their own sin and the sin of their children. Also, what forms of discipline do you find to be the most effective and honorable for a parent?

Thanksgiving Day in America

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After celebrating the national holiday last week, I wondered to whom most Americans give thanks? As they sit around the table, pondering their many blessings, whom are they addressing when they say, “We give thanks”? Or, whom do we look to for all good things?

“I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good” (Psalm 54:6b, ESV).

Back in Time for This

After a restful vacation at Walt Disney World, I am back for another quarter at the seminary. Before classes begin, however, I was confronted with a somewhat strange ecclesiastical practice.
Check out Cross Theology‘s latest post in order to read about that practice.

The Flight

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I am in Orlando, FL, after a pleasant flight. We were in the air as the sun was going down, and the strata of dark red, red, orange, yellow, and blue in the sky proved to be the highlight. Close second: the kids behind us repeatedly asking their mother when we were going to land. She was a patient mother.

No Reason to Resign

A Roman Catholic official in Colorado, Peter Howard, resigned, apparently because he said that Catholics should not attend Protestant services. I don’t know about mere attendance, but his reasoning is right on:

Such “active participation” in a Protestant liturgical service, therefore, acts contrary to our faith which professes fundamentally different beliefs in critical ecclesiological and theological areas.

The only problem is with the phrase “Protestant liturgical service”; how many Protestant services could be described accurately with those words?

At least he takes the ecclesiological and theological differences seriously. It is amazing that we live in an age where someone is apparently forced to resign because of such clear-headed theological statements. I have no problem saying that “active participation” in non-Lutheran services is wrong.

How can real unity be achieved unless we are ready to acknowledge real, concrete, and important differences in doctrine and practice?

Timotheos

How Surreal Can It Get?

Just wait. When clear moral choices become emotional quagmires. Of course, the woman’s moral clarity–if she ever had it–was lost before she came to this decision. The child was already the result of having sex with someone to whom she was not married. Someone said it: ethics is only complicated to the man who has lost his morals [anyone know to whom I should attribute that quote?]. Oh, but the moral arrogance still exists:

While I have no doubt there can be joys and victories in raising a mentally handicapped child, for me and for Mike, it’s a painful journey that we believe is better not taken. To know now that our son would be retarded, perhaps profoundly, gives us the choice of not continuing the pregnancy. We don’t want a life like that for our child, and the added worry that we wouldn’t be around long enough to care for him throughout his life. … As for that baby that will never be, I will remember him always. But I’m quite certain that I made the right choice for the three of us.

Personally, I like Chesterton’s “advice”: “Let all the babies be born. Then let us drown those we do not like.” – Babies and Distributism, GK’s Weekly, 11/12/32

[No particular reason for the hat-trick of abortion-related posts, but it does seem that much of the infamy of our present society stems from the liquidation of the next generations.]

Timotheos