I just finished an interesting book entitled, Why Johnny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon (published by P&R, 2009). Gordon believes that part of the explanation for such poor preaching in American pulpits today is due to the manner by which the electronic media has shaped those who are called to preach.
While I do not agree with everything, Gordon does make some good observations. Here is one that is especially pertinent: “People may very well have a reduced attention span, but even so, they have no difficulty giving attention to a discourse they deem important and well organized” (30). We (preachers) need to be reminded that it is not always the congregation’s fault for not being engaged during a sermon. Sometimes (many times according to Gordon) we are just plain boring and that is our fault and not our people’s.
One of his ideas that needs to be advanced is an annual review of ministers. Gordon calls for an annual review (97) in an effort to strengthen the pulpit ministry. It does seem strange that almost everyone in the work force has to endure a yearly performance review (even professors). However, assessment of preachers has yet made its way into the church. While I understand the pitfalls and the fright associated with such a concept, it would seem that based on the importance of our message we should be the first to assess (objectively) the impact of our messages on a regular basis.
My seminary dean is not too fond of the winters in NEPA. When the snow is deep and the temps dip below 60 he often speaks of his desire to move the seminary south, say to Alabama his home town. Unfortunately, if that were to become a reality based on my appreciation for the message of the Song of Songs, I may not be welcomed in some parts of the South. It seems that at least some people in one community are uncomfortable hearing preaching concerning s-e-x. While I understand the sensitivity needed to address the themes of the Song on a Sunday morning, surely its themes are not against the New Testament as one evangelist notes in this article. Read the article.
For those interested in mastering their Hebrew vocabulary The University of Auckland (New Zealand) has a Biblical Hebrew vocabulary website that provides a multimedia environment to help students with their vocabulary. Students are able to see the Hebrew, hear the Hebrew (most of them), watch the Hebrew being written in order with vowels and see the Hebrew word in a simple sentence.
This is a helpful site.
Here is an article by David Plotz for Slate who encourages Bible reading. Realizing that he knew very little about the “good book,” Plotz set out to read every word of the entire Bible. Now that he has actually read the book, he recognizes the Bible’s contribution to literature and his Jewish tradition. While he may have read every word, his conclusions about God demonstrate that he does not understand its message. Plotz states,
I can only conclude that the God of the Hebrew Bible, if He existed, was awful, cruel, and capricious. He gives us moments of beauty—such sublime beauty and grace!—but taken as a whole, He is no God I want to obey and no God I can love.
Further in the article he asks,
If God made me, He made me rational and quizzical. He has given me the tools to think about Him. So I must submit Him to rational and moral inquiry. And He fails that examination. Why would anyone want to be ruled by a God who’s so unmerciful, unjust, unforgiving, and unloving?
While Plotz believes he came “to know the true nature of God’s conflict with Job,” he misses Job’s submission to the God who is in control of Job’s world (Job 42). I am curious to know what Plotz thought of Isaiah 29:16:
You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made should say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
I applaud the call for greater Bible literacy. I just pray that others will read the Bible with an understanding of its message as well as its words. (This article is helpful to understand the struggles many (even Christians) have with the God who inhabits the pages of the OT).
While it is a tad outside my OT interest, NPR’s Fresh Air ran an interview (March 4, 2009) with Bart D. Ehrman as he promotes his new book, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them).
Ehrman argues for the uniqueness of each individual gospel but rejects that Jesus did (or said) all the works and words each gospel attributed to him. Ehrman argues against building a biblical theology of Jesus based on the gospels.
His personal testimony demonstrates how one’s view of the Bible has a direct effect on one’s faith. He attributes the seemingly incongruent existence of suffering and the existence of a good and loving God as the reason for his loss of faith. (I wish he had spent more time in the OT especially Job). It is unfortunate that the well-spoken Ehrman has lost his faith in the word and its savior, Jesus Christ.