Sunday, July 29, 2007

Relevant Reads

My latest issue of Touchstone arrived last week; while always a worthy and inspiring read, this particular volume contains a couple of feature articles which were, at least for me, particularly noteworthy.
I found much to agree with in David Mills's "Preaching Without Reaching, the Irrelevance of Relevant Preaching".

I find it ironic that, as Mills notes, the church can learn from the secular world when it comes to use and precision of language. I've recently heard two explanations of the gospel which stand in stark contrast to each other. One was given by someone who noted that he has labored for a couple of years to put the gospel into simple, understandable language. I.e. no words which had a hint of theological connotation allowed. His explanation was loose, general, and flat. Another brother delivered, as my dear husband refers to it, a "steak sandwich" sermon. Lots of meat. He used robust theological terms like "justification" and "propitiation" and he patiently and illustratively took the time to explain what these words mean. Now, I am all in favor of making the excellent truth of the gospel understandable to the common man but I don't think that language bending is the way that this is best accomplished. I am reminded of the very insightful words of Lilias Trotter, an Englishwoman who lived and worked in Algeria in the late 19th and early 20th century:

When we want a word for humility or hope or holiness, we can only borrow from the classical, dimly to be guessed at by ordinary readers. We write for a people yet unborn spiritually; the words will be understood when the realities for which they stand come to need expression. We have to make a spiritual language against the time it will be wanted. (I. Lilias Trotter, by Blanche A.F. Pigott, [London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott Ltd, n.d.], pp. 129-30)

It is not the question of just giving a Gospel in words that the people can understand, but to give them the germ of a spiritual language in which the things that the Holy Ghost teaches can be expressed. The dearth of this seems in the inverse ratio to the richness of the tongue for all secular purposes. . . . The words for spiritual realities have to be grafted on to the colloquial, waiting for the sap of the new life to weld them in and flow through them. (ibid., p. 137)

Though not online, another very worthy read is Anthony Esolen's "Esther's Guarded Condition". Esolen, through the narrative of the last days of his mother-in-law's life, addresses the medical care issues that loved ones of an ill or dying family member may face in a world of where "common sense and decency have departed."

And then there is the little gem of a meditation by Peter Leithart in the Quodlibet section on what it means to be human...

Great volume.

1 comment:

Kathleen Hamilton said...

Oooh! I have had that issue for a couple of weeks now, and I haven't read a word! You have inspired me to open it up today at breakfast.