Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


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

Some autumns back, I was seated at a banquet beside a man who had that spring retired as president of a school of theology. He told me that he had not wanted to retire entirely, though, for he still needed a few years on his pension, so he had stayed on the faculty, as a professor of preaching, since that was the only faculty position open.

“It’s sort of scary,” he said. “I’m ordained, but I never did have a job preaching every week, since I was always doing academic work. But I’ve spent all summer reading the church fathers to get ready.”

I was astonished. It’s a good thing to know the church fathers, to understand how Origen and Irenaeus differ on soteriology, but you don’t preach that. Not even how Ambrose compares to Augustine on the Trinity. Not even if you go to the new Bloomington restaurant called “The Hive,” which I’m sure was named for Ambrose’s famous sermon comparing the church to a bee hive. [1]

Preachers are experimental theologians, not theoretical theologians. It’s the difference between Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, experimental physicist and theoretical physicist. They are both necessary and important, but the Higgs boson [“The God particle”] would still be just a theory had not the CERN scientists found it wandering around in their super-collider. [2]

People in the pews don’t need to know theories of salvation, they need to be saved. That’s the point of preaching.

My banquet partner should have spent his summer reading Marshall McLuhan or Abraham Maslow, or listening to the sermons of Adam Hamilton or Rob Bell or Phillip Gully, because he was preparing experimental theologians, not theoretical theologians.

His theology school no longer exists. I hope he got his pension years in before it had to close up.

John Robert McFarland

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” Marshall McLuhan

1] When a restaurant asks my name, so that they can call me to come get my food at some unnamed later date, I tell them “Ambrose,” because if they yell out “John,” every old man in the place jumps up—as much as old men are able to jump--and tries to get my food, but also to honor Ambrose, since it was under his preaching that the hedonistic playboy Augustine was converted into St. Augustine.

2] I found Sean Carroll’s book, The Particle at the End of the Universe to be quite helpful in understanding the Higgs boson search.

No comments:

Post a Comment