Greg at The Parish shared this the other day:
Talked to a friend today who has been getting some grief about blog topics. The gist is that he focuses too much on the negative aspects of faith and ministry. He focuses too much on the hard parts of faith. He focuses too much on theodic questions. Etc.
Here's my question. What's the alternative? Pretend they don't exist? Keep saying the creeds and drinking the wine and praying the prayers and talking to the vapid soccer moms in their SUV's who show up for the Krispy Kremes and the talking trees in children's ministry and pretend Jesus is the answer to all life's questions?
Great question. If all we are doing as a church us help people feel good about our affluence, then we should pack it all up. If our theology can't stand up to the scrutiny of the experience of suffering and evil and horror, then truly our faith is built on sand.
One theologian gave this sage advice to preachers:
Don’t make promises God doesn’t keep. Account for the shaky ground and patches of quicksand. Don’t deny our disappointments or run away from our broken hearts. Explain the beast lying in wait, the damaged goods that can’t be fixed, the trouble in the streets. Show us God in the horrors hidden under cover of night and the prayers that don’t get answered. Make your words equal to our predicament. Give us faith as wild as the world. Describe that and we’ll hang on every word
To which my wife Rebekah Eckert reponded to in a recent yet-to-be published article:
"That isn’t easy preaching Most of the time we like to pretend we have a handle on God. We preach as though we can understand, at least partially, the God of the Bible and of life. This wild God, amoral (or more precisely, the source of morality unto God’s-self), unpredictable, is not one we like to admit. Yet by presenting the opposite, a supposedly “good” God, omnipotent and source of all morality, judge and controller of the universe, a God who fits seamlessly into the seductive categories of Greek philosophy, a God too easily assessed and understood, we feed right into a theology of glory, before whom we are forced to understand the rape of the women in Rwanda as part of God’s plan. Far better that we admit this hidden terrifying God, who exists we know not how alongside the God we do know in Jesus Christ."
I think we need to preach the hard questions because that's what is in the backs of peoples' minds. Too many Christians believe in the "parking space" God (pray for a good parking spot on a cold day and -presto- one opens up) as if God cares about the minute, self-obsessed needs and wants of our lives and ignores the larger gestures of history (i.e., the holocaust, genocide in Rwanda, war in Iraq, tsunamis, etc). Good news isn't good news unless it is believable in light of horror, atrocity, and suffering.
So let us be real in our theology lest our faith lose its credibility in a world hungry for good news.