A Prophetic Countertheme – Brueggemann

When I write about speaking prophetically, this is pretty much what I mean. I have never claimed to have any special revelation from God. Anything I have said has come from my interpretation of scripture.

The prophetic tradition, ancient and contemporary, may be summarized around a series of quite specific claims. I have elsewhere offered these as characteristic marks of a prophetic counterinterpretation of human history:

  1. The prophetic tradition is against idols, and consequently against self-serving, self-deceiving ideology.
  2. The prophetic tradition refuses, then, to absolutize the present, any present.
  3. Prophetic speech characteristically speaks about human suffering.
  4. Prophetic speech characteristically takes a critical posture over against established power.
  5. Prophetic speech … is an act of relentless hope that refuses to despair, that refuses to believe that the world is closed off in patterns of exploitation and oppression.

These claims of course are not all explicit in our chapter. But I suggest they are implied and coded in the Yahwism that runs from Moses to Jeremiah, with Elijah occupying a middle position with great authority and consequence. It is this counterview of human history that is championed in the narrative through the person of Elijah, a view that continues to be the burden and wonder of prophetic faith.

Walter Brueggemann, “The Prophetic Word of God and History,” Interpretation 48I (1994): 244–45.
Walter Brueggemann, 1 & 2 Kings, ed. Samuel E. Balentine, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Incorporated, 2000), 292.

I’ve been reading in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles for a while now and I have come to the conclusion that revivals and reforms just naturally have a shelf life. This surely must be because of evil in the human heart. I am asking the Father to help me overcome that propensity, in his strength.

On Being Done, though Unfinished

Self-observation does not come easy for me. I’m about as self-aware as a golden retriever. My situation is beginning to sink in.

I’ve been sick with this blood cancer for about five years. My physicality has diminished, quickly at first, then gradually since. I really am quite incapable of more than minimal physical activity, and even that makes me shot for the rest of the day. I have already outlived the doctor’s expectations. Thus, I have sunk into more of a mental existence, of necessity.

This sinking is as frustrating for me as it is for those who love me. Yet, I cannot avoid it and must accept it, as must they.

I have fancied myself something of a conscience for the church in my little corner of the world. I have tried to be prophetic in the true sense of the word. I have tried to learn to be a faithful interpreter of scripture and have tried to use that interpretation in practical directions. I have, in the past, been modestly influential in the thinking of a handful of church leaders.

I now realize, as part of this painful analysis that I am unwillingly participating in, that I have no further standing for being influential in any corner of the church other than the one in my own head. I no longer deserve to be heard. My thoughts are no longer worthy of sharing.

Thus, I have determined to discontinue any posting that has the purpose of influencing the church and its people in how to behave and in how to think about behavior. Ethics is theology. That is, how we live is based on how we truly think about God.

But I’ll be leaving the job of “conscience” to those younger and more physically well than I. And to the Holy Spirit, so far as he is allowed to work in the church.

King David, Modern Moral Failures, & How the Church Should Respond: Tremper Longman (an interview) – Overthinking Christian

One thing that is clear and which separates him from Saul is that when he is confronted after he sins, he repents. That is what makes him a king after God’s own heart and that is why he is a poor comparison with Trump or Zacharias, neither of whom as far as I know repented of their sins.

I do find unsettling what we are talking about here; that is, the uncritical loyalty shown to compromised leaders. I in particular find unsettling the uncritical loyalty shown to the former president that stems from an erroneous Christian nationalism. What I find hopeful are people like former Governor of Ohio John Kasich, Senator Ben Sasse, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, and other Christian politicians who stand up against this madness at personal cost. The same is true for others: thinking of people like Peter Wehner (New York Times; The Atlantic) and David French (The Dispatch).

— Read on overthinkingchristian.com/2021/02/19/king-david-modern-moral-failures-how-the-church-should-respond-tremper-longman-an-interview/

Disregard the Elders at your Peril

In 2 Chronicles 10, Rehoboam succeeds Solomon as king of Israel, but is immediately faced with a potential revolt by the northern tribes.

Solomon’s reign has been hard on the north because of the massive building projects and the requirements of forced labor to accomplish them. The north, reasonably I think, asks for a lighter load under Rehoboam. The king takes a three-day pause to examine the problem.

He asks two groups of advisers about what to do. The old men see the reason behind the request and advise Rehoboam to give in a bit to the north in order to keep the kingdom united. The young men (actually more like middle-aged) advise the king to double down and make it even worse on the north. They even use crude euphemisms to make their point, as young men often do. Power goes to their heads.

Unfortunately for the united kingdom, Rehoboam accepts the advice of his buddies rather than the wise old men, the north rebels, and the rest is history. Rehoboam and all his successors rule over a much reduced kingdom consisting of only two of the twelve tribes, until even that stump kingdom becomes nothing at the hands of the Neo-Babylonian empire.

Most of the people I know who are of my age group feel marginalized by their churches.

Now, I understand that some old people are refractory and really only want things to be like they used to be. That is almost always a bad idea, and those ideas should be lovingly ignored.

But others of us understand that new times require new methodology, and our ideas just might be good ones. But it is rare that we are consulted, and if we are it is a token consultation which is summarily ignored.

It is quite frustrating to be put on the sidelines when your brain still works and brain is what is needed.

Is this a problem in your church? I hope not.

Tipping and Tithing

I have written and spoken on this subject at length in the past, but my idea is seldom understood. Let’s try again.

I believe that tipping is more important than tithing.

When good Christians hear that statement they jump to the conclusion that I am some kind of anarchist.

Many Christians are light tippers, if the anecdotes of servers are to be believed. I’ve heard people use the excuse of their tithing a reason for light tipping, as if the two forms of giving were interchangeable and, of course, giving to God is more important than giving to people.

That is wrong on at least two counts:

  • Tithing is not giving to God.
  • Got has told us to give to people.

Tithing, as currently practiced, is giving to the church. There is a lot of language in the church to make it seem as if we owe a tenth of our income to God, but that was OT legislation to provide for the living of those devoted to liturgical service. We don’t have a central place of worship to support, nor a centralized clergy, so the whole idea of tithing is moot. No good argument can be made for a requirement of tithing today.

Now, of course we should support our house of worship and the people who are paid to make it work. But that does not require a tenth of everyone’s income. I can prove that by looking at giving records and noting that Christians don’t, on average, give anything close to ten percent, and yet the church persists.

It’s time we were honest with ourselves about what we are doing when we give. It is not an act of worship; it is an act of survival.

Concerning people, Jesus told a wonderful story about how giving to the least is the same as giving to him. That, right there, shows how important it is to give to others.

Most of us don’t have many truly poor people around us. But, if we go to a restaurant, we have people waiting on us like manservants and maidservants of old. They are paid almost nothing by their employers and rely on us to make a living. It is my thesis that to fail to tip and to tip well is the same as stealing from these fine folks who are making our lives easier. (My personal practice is to start at 20% for poor service and move up from there. But I wouldn’t codify that.)

Thus, tipping is more important than tithing. And giving to those who need a boost is more important than giving to support a Christian shopping mall in the guise of a church.

Commence the discussion, if this tickles your interest bone. But maybe you don’t want to use your noodle that much.