A time for theodicy?
A century or so ago, the minister was often the most educated person in the congregation. As often as not, the preacher was the only person with ability, money or inclination to read the newspapers. This meant that the preacher often had to both tell people what was going on in the world and make some kind of “God-sense” of it. The first half of that sentence no longer applies. Two weeks ago there were protesters tweeting live from Tahrir Square , there is mobile phone footage coming out of Benghazi and I am receiving updates even as I type from those with family and friends in Christchurch, New Zealand. Guerilla reporting is here to stay. However, the need for spiritual articulation of these geological and geopolitical earthquakes is as acute as ever, surely?
Speaking not long after 9/11, Craig Barnes, of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, wrote that:
What we do best, and better than anyone else in town;is to climb behind a pulpit and speak into the fear and chaos with a sacred word.
Stirring words – but do we, I wonder? Rushing to premature judgement helps no-one, and simply airing our own perplexity in the pulpit is an abnegation of our responsibility. As biblical workmen and women our responsibility is to drill down into the bedrock of scripture and find what it says about the nature of God and the path of history. Now is not a time for half-baked prophetic pronouncements, but for fully risen statements of the sovereignty and compassion of God.
As a hapless Brit the full impact of the statement “step up to the plate” is lost on me, since I have never watched nor participated in a baseball game. However, the sense of responsibility and the desire to strike home with conviction and accuracy translates across many cultures.
God bless you, fellow preachers, as you ‘step up to the plate’.