Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Searching for God Knows What

A friend of mine slipped Don Miller's Searching for God Knows What into my hands and said, "this book really rocked my world. Read it."

So, I'm reading it. And liking it quite a lot, as matter of fact. The book has the feel and tone of a story, a first-person narrative full of remembered episodes and humorous side-trips, which I gather are Miller's stock and trade. But the book is about the Bible, in large part, and you get the feeling that Miller has tried hard to get out from under the "Biblical theology" approach to that book in order to read it as a story and to interact with it, to feel it, as a story.

This happens to be something like the approach I've been trying to take myself, so the book strikes a confirming note for me. Here's the insight from Miller that I appreciate a whole lot: the Bible is much more than a collection of life-lessons or sermon-opportunities. It will be very difficult for preachers to get their minds around this fact, methinks. Preachers are always trying to mine the Scriptures for life-lessons. "That'll preach!" they say when they hit upon such a passage.

Since this sort of preaching is often the only way people hear about Scripture, they are soon trained to mine the Word with the same purpose in mind. That is, to search for nuggets that will encourage or assure them, teach them a neat little life-lesson, etc. What they often miss is the broad sweep of the story, Genesis to Revelation, of God's plan and purpose for creation.

Now, mind you, I have heard that kind of preaching. It's not impossible to "preach the story," but it's rare. It's rare to let a parable stand on its own, as Jesus did, without parsing the life out of it with learned exegesis.

In my many years of listening to preachers, I often felt as if the preacher thought he needed to talk me back from the edge of a cliff or something. "Don't do it. Life is worth living. God loves you! Let me show you from the Scriptures!"

Well, the road to therapeutic deism is paved with good intentions . . . just like that other road! I'm sympathetic to Dan Edelen's suggestion (here) that for a time the church should replace preaching with the reading of whole books of the Bible. Imagine that!

1 comment:

nance marie said...

sounds good, so i zipped it onto daughter's kindle for our upcoming trip.

picked up "animal, vegetable, miracle" at the library today.