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Friday, July 28, 2006

Preaching as power

I am reading "Reframing Paul", an excellent book by Mark Strom which explores the philosophical and theological foundation of Paul's worldview and unpacks it with a view to helping build a model for grace and community today that attempts to stay faithful to the position from which Paul wrote his letters.

On page 113 Strom discusses the arrogance of the Corinthians to presume that they could adopt "a common therapeutic model of reason to improve the weak by correcting each faulty belief." This is what I have termed "teaching people into the kingdom". It is a ideology that says reason is supreme and it is the only way to convey truth. We forget that we have the word of God in Scripture but this is inspired by the Spirit of God who is still active in people's lives today.

At seminaries across the world people are trained for ministry by demonstrating how intellectually capable they are. Those that are the most intelligent receive awards and honor while those who struggle are left to struggle or simply fall off the radar. This is because our standards of what constitutes a "pastor", for want of a better word, are based upon this "mind is king" idea.

Strom goes on to say "Paul had no such agenda. He promoted love rather than precision and conformity." Am I dismissing intellectual rigour? Most surely not but I am seeking to undermine a system that leaves people stranded on the doorsteps of our churches if they are not at least educated to a decent high-school and often degree standard. This is wrong. The gospel is life and power to those who believe.

In the book Strom seeks to draw out modern evangelical comparisons and he speaks of "an obsession among some clergy and congregations with driving out every vestige of thought deemed less than evangelical." Often, a good deal of what goes under the name of exegesis and teaching are evangelical witch hunts. We have no need to look for an enemy when "the devil prowls like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour". The Church is called to be a beacon of hope to all people. The result of those who seek to live on the theological high ground is that "they preach to cast out error, while never facing the pain of those who hear." Isn't this somewhat reminiscent of the pharisees?

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