Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, May 27, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was attending the conference of the Center for 18th Century Studies at IU. I was late getting in, but Professor Rebecca Spang graciously sent me the 357 pages of pre-conference papers on PDF. They were interesting, provocative, and perceptive. The issue basically, stated much too simply, was: Did the Enlightenment open up the future, or did the opening of the future, for other reasons, cause the Enlightenment? As a theoretical and experimental narrativist, whether and how the future is open is a subject of considerable interest to me.

I didn’t stay through the conference, though. It was partly because I have a very slight hearing loss, which I refuse to acknowledge. My wife believes it is more than slight. At least, I think that’s what she said. I’m not sure, because she mumbles a lot. The people at the conference mumbled, too, some of them, Also, in any conference of that sort, a certain number of the responses to the papers are more to show off the responder’s knowledge than to advance the discussion. It didn’t seem like a good use of time, just sitting and listening to folks mumble, when I could do something constructive, like watching the Reds lose.

I could have worked harder at hearing, but even if I had heard everything, I didn’t have anything to do with what I learned. The other folks there were professors and graduate students. They have lectures and papers and dissertations as outlets for their thinking. I don’t. My academic days are over. I am writing a book about preaching, but it’s more of a funny screed than a reasonable approach to communication through preaching. A long time ago I heard some famous preacher say that a good sermon is like a string of beads, not a handful of confetti. My book is like a whole parade of confetti.

So I have no outlet, except this blog, and my readers have a right to expect something written simply enough “that those who run may read it.” [Habakkuk 2:2] Asking you to consider in what ways a closed or open future impacts the interface between historiographical alternatives, theological methodology and communication theory is a bit much.

So I’ll do what I do best, tell you a little story. When daughter Katie graduated from IU and went to U of IL to do doctoral work, she got a late start on housing and ended up in a 22-person house for graduate students that was sponsored by a fundamentalist church. Twenty-one fundamentalists, and Katie, which meant the fundamentalists were badly outnumbered. They didn’t know what to do with her, except to try to convert her from the Methodist heresies she had grown up with. One of her housemates accosted her one day with, “Katie, are you saved?”

“Yes,” she calmly replied

Her housemate was quite surprised.

When were you saved?” he asked.

“On Good Friday,” she answered.

The church didn’t know it, nor did historians and scientists, for a long, long time, but that day, Good Friday, students, was the day the future opened.


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