When I was in highschool I took an internship with the pastor of the church which ran the school in which I was enrolled. It was a fantastic relationship and mentorship. One of the things that was stressed in that course was the merits of exegetical preaching over topical preaching. While both are alleged to have their merits, topical preaching was framed as the weaker public form because it was seen as supporting a theology which was ungrounded. It gave opportunity for convenience in theology. However, there are times which social groups need to address specific topics. In fact Paul addresses specific topics at churches in his letters. In this sense then, theology when systematic, must look at issues topically. It must also look at all supporting arguments to make sure those arguments are exegetically or socio-culturally-contextually accurate. In these cases contextual relevance and interpretation is important. The topic of the discourse unit is paramount in the application of the verse. Verses markers in scripture are purely indexical. Understanding the topics the Bible discusses and why those topics are discussed allows for accurate and appropriate application in new social environments.
This morning at church we sang the song Ever Be. Part of worship is leading people in reverent thought and attitude. The lyrics made me think. Particularly the verse that goes:
Your love is devoted
Like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that’s been tested
Like a covenant of old
Your love is enduring
Through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon
With mercy for today
while there is a lot of symbolism in this imagery, the phrase like a covenant of old makes me wonder why the phrase of old is included.
Why is this not redundant information?Is it for the poetic effect of nostalgia? Or is it because the audience listening to the song needs to remember that there were covenants in an era not like the current era? This seems to indicate that covenants do not exist in and among the common populace of the current era.
If what we know about God is through analogy, and biblical texts, as divine inspiration are God’s way of communicating to us through things and experiences known to us in our culture then who is Jesus to a culture that has only a nostalgic connection to covenants? Particularly the theological view that Jesus is the fulfillment of a covenantal promise? Who is Jesus now?
If I had my choice of dramatized Bibles to listen to I would chose one where Morgan Freeman was narrator, where Michael Cain was perhaps Samuel. And Samuel L. Jackson is the Egyptian Pharo. Then Danny DeVito was Paul or Peter. George Cloony as Joseph (OT). Linda Hunt as Miriam (NT).
There are phrases in some bible translations which are sometimes referred by American Christians as "biblical terms". I "wonder" should our perspective be to hold these terms as "biblical terms" or should it be "in another culture they have an idiom…" (or in an older stage in our own culture, or in another culture that also used English). My point is that it seems that we intentionally or unintentionally elevate the language of the Bible without focusing on the culture in which the events and letters are sent. It seems that by taking this approach we decontextualize the original message. One inadvertent result of removing the cultural context is that it allows us to recontextualize the text in our own mental framework. Instead of looking at the message as it was conveyed from party "A" to party "B"along with the cultural abnormalities of the methodology used to convey that message.
My example is comes from sitting in church and hearing the preacher reference the following verse while explaining the phrase "he fell asleep".
And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. - Acts 7:60
Similarity by not understanding the context of the common culture in which the stories were generated it allows an errant contextual vacuum to form in our understanding of the original text. In the following verse what does "Son of Man" mean?
And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." - Acts 7:56
Sociology and conflict resolution. In thinking of recent events. And social response. I am personal agitated by these tactics. Not at a personal level but at a strategic level.
The author of the book of Acts writes about the strategy used to counter the apostles.
9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.
10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God."
12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council,
13 and they set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law,
14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us." - Acts 6:9-14
Sanctity of life Sunday is a Sunday where the Christian church in the United States takes a day to remember, highlight, and acknowledge a cultural option in the United States for women to have abortions. Each church which celebrates sanctity of life Sunday will do it in their own way.
As I sit and think and respond to the things said at my Church, I have a few responses.
- I am glad that this is important to us
- A certain historical set of statistics were presented estimating the total number of aborted babies. Well, I wonder why are these statistics so accessible, but the number of people killed needlessly by police (or even just in the course of duty) are not accessible?
- At my church the focus is on women. (And this might be uncommon nationally, or this might be a result of my own perception bias.) In fact this emphasis might be appropriately placed. I don’t think the intensity at which services for women are offered should be abated; but where are the services for men? Life – pregnancy – takes male and female. (Even my male homosexual friends who adopt children do not create the life sans the male-female union.) So, this apparent set of services offered to women, I wonder if it ignores men and their needs in the process – these services are often professionally offered by organizations financed by Christians. That is, the service providers are not bound by some government policy or stipulation to offer services to only women. But is the state of the asymmetrical offerings of services a result or reflection of culture bias in the United States or is it a reflection of government services to women to help them terminate pregnancies? Not that the entire governmental approach to women has not also been biased. For instance, in divorce courts there is often a bias against males. And WIC stands for “Women, Infant, Children” – where are the services for the men?
David, as a leader was he approachable?
He had to ask a new question. It took a cost under responsibility to realize that the right question was not being asked. Even though he asked a new question, he did not change the approachability of his leadership position.
Location of sermon: UFC Eugene, Oregon.