Stanley Hauerwas, professor emeritus of theological ethics at Duke University, has thought a great deal about America's relationship with war. Probably the most influential pacifist theologian in the U.S. today, he has a lot to say about why the country can't seem to keep out of interventionist conflicts. As we contemplate another in the long list of U.S. military interventions, I talked to him about his theories and why he is skeptical of the various arguments for a strike on Syria.
Sometimes your angle of incidence, the position from which you view things, makes all the difference in the world (see the picture above). Take for instance the popular phrase ‘the baptism of the Holy Spirit’. Now as a noun phrase, it does not occur at all, in the New Testament. It is a later label used to refer to some things which are mentioned or discussed in the New Testament, but the question is whether the label actually fits the package, and whether the assumption of what is said in the label actually suits what is being described in the New Testament.
Charles Spurgeon often worked 18 hours a day. His collected sermons fill 63 volumes (the largest set by a single author in church history). He read six books a week and could recall their contents. He read through The Pilgrim’s Progress more than 100 times. 14,460 people were added to his church’s membership, and he did most of the membership interviews himself. He trained 900 men to the pastorate. He founded an orphanage. He edited a magazine. He produced more than 140 books. He received 500 letters a week to respond to. More than 25,000 copies of his sermons were printed each week. He often preached 10 times a week in various churches. He did all this while suffering from gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease—living only to the age of 57. And his wife was ill most of that time.
How is this really possible, even for a perfectly fit man? Is some of this hagiography? Was Spurgeon a workaholic?
Jesus was the non-Bible Answer Man. He was asked, according to the Gospels, 183 questions and he answered only 3 of them. Usually Jesus responded to questions with his own questions. Jesus is notoriously known for telling down-to-earth stories that did not answer questions as much as provoke thinking.
Jesus was not a direction-giver. Jesus was a discernment artist. He trusted people’s ability to hear his stories and reach some startling conclusions about the kingdom of God. Some individuals wanted Jesus’ ready-made answers to their dilemmas. Jesus most often refused.
So you’ve heard a sermon and you’re not happy. You feel the preacher got it badly wrong in either his interpretation, his words, his manner, his length, his whatever.
Well, I’m not going to tell you exactly what words to use. I’m simply going to give you ten questions to ask that I hope will produce the right words and the right way to say them should you ever have to offer criticism to a preacher.
Extra-Curricular Activities is a weekly roundup of stories on biblical interpretation, theology, and issues where faith and culture meet. We found each story interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, or useful in some way – but we don't necessarily agree with or endorse every point in every story.
If you have any comments on these stories, we welcome you to share them here. We hope you enjoy!
–The Editors of Koinonia Blog