A Response to J.R. Daniel Kirk’s “One Word”
Link to “One Word” here.
The first thing that I want to say is that I wholeheartedly agree with what J. R. Daniel Kirk is saying, in that having a theological education makes it difficult to sit through some sermons/teaching/lectures. I’ve found myself thinking about how certain pastors or teachers have misused or prooftexted scripture. I also find myself questioning some major and minor doctrines of the church (particularly when I attended certain Southern Baptist churches out in the country of East Tennesee).
I would like to draw attention to the following paragraph:
“In part, of course, it’s in our own life and understanding. The “gospel” as I would recite it has nothing to do with the gospel that Jesus proclaims–where does that leave me? The “Christ” I know from my theology is not the Jesus I meet on the pages of Mark–where does that leave me?”
For me, this is the exciting part of theological education. This is the reason that I decided to become an educator in the discipline of “Biblical Studies.” I am a firm believer in the idea that until you can actually weigh your own beliefs against the actual texts, as well as other people’s ideas, you cannot call your faith your own. Only by critically engaging the text, tradition, and your own theology, can you claim to truly own your faith.
Even after you own your faith, you need to continue listening to other ideas. Even, as J. R. Daniel Kirk says, “lessons that you would never teach yourself, from “exegesis” that you would never get yourself, from true ideas that are nowhere to be found in the texts from which they allegedly come.” This, like Kirk says, is the only way to grow.
To this discussion I would also like to add that I feel it necessary that, even while we let ourselves be challenged by these eisegetical sermons, talks, blogs, emails, or lectures, we should also challenge the pastors, teachers, and laypersons behind these ideas. I do not mean that we should do this in an antagonistic way, but by simply asking someone to clarify their point, and asking what hermeneutic they are basing their argument, and discussing it with them in a slightly more private setting (or, if appropriate, on a blog!).
My wife is about to finish up her first year of her first appointment in the United Methodist Church. I have learned more about sermons by working with her, helping her, and asking her questions than I ever would have imagined. Oftentimes, if a text is “abused” or “misquoted,” it is little more than an oversight. There have been a few times when I have asked her about how she used a text, and she responded, “Oh, I didn’t even mean to put it that way,” or “That’s not how it sounded in my head when I was writing it!” Other times, after explaining her usage of a text to me, I realized that I was mistaken, and that, at least in the context of a sermon to the specific audience of our church congregation, she was spot on.
All in all, J. R. Daniel Kirk has put in a great word that I agree with. I just wanted to add that I think it is ok to “push back” a little, in order to challenge as well as be challenged.