THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF FEBRUARY IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN
The two words “soldier on” are a personal motto of our good brother Leroy Garrett (born 1918), and also the name of his “occasional” e-bulletin. Issue #476 went out this week; Brother Leroy intends to stop with #500 if he reaches that far. He has published a personal bulletin of teaching, encouragement, and news for 64 years under a variety of names: Bible Talk (1952-58), Restoration Review (1959-92), Last Time Around (1993-94), Once More With Love (1990-2003). and Soldier On!
You can read all his writings, hear 24 audio sermons, and watch his eight video teachings at www.LeroyGarrett.org . He holds a divinity/theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD from Harvard University, yet mixes easily with the spectrum of humanity and preaches simply and without pretense. Through his papers, personal letters and occasional visits over the decades, Brother Leroy has been an example, mentor, and friend to me, for which I humbly thank our Father in heaven.
The Difference Christ Makes: Celebrating the Life, Work, and Friendship of Stanley Hauerwas, Edited by Charles M. Collier (Cascade/Imprint of Wipf and Stock, 2015), 103 pages.
In his Foreword to this book, Richard B. Hays of Duke Divinity School (“Duke”) explains its genesis and purpose, and briefly introduces its contributors. Simply stated, it consists of papers and responses read at a day-long affair at Duke on All Saints Day 2013, to celebrate the retirement of long-time Duke professor Stanley Hauerwas. The honoree himself presented “A Homily on All Saints,” and the assembly concluded with a Eucharist.
Hauerwas’ sermon focused on unknown saints–people who attain their sainthood, he speculated, by “their refusal to try and insure that they will be remembered.” Going against the natural instinct, true saints “do not seek to be known by their contemporaries or us. Rather they lead lives that exhibit a singular desire to be remembered by God.” Indeed, “saints do not know that they are saints until God tells them who they are” (p. 2). Clearly, the preacher wants us to be such people, and his friends see him as one. Samuel Wells remembers Hauerwas often saying, “I did not intend to be Stanley Hauerwas” (p. 5).
“The greatest immorality of the contemporary ministry,” Hauerwas says, “is its willingness to substitute socialization for belief in God” (10). But if socialization easily becomes a Liberal substitute for genuine faith, over-individualization is often the Evangelical’s downfall, when “the day of the Lord is no longer the day of cross or of resurrection, but the day I was reborn.” In this way “God becomes a character in a story that is fundamentally about me” (p. 9).
Hauerwas has been accused of becoming angry while preaching and even of using profanity. He apparently was raised doing the latter and gave it little thought, but now is said to have quit. And the anger? Wells says Hauerwas’ anger was like Jesus’ indignation when cleansing the Temple: “I thought this was supposed to be about God.” Stanley is mad at the Liberal Protestant church and much of the academy, because he believes that they present a Christ who makes no difference (p. 6).
The question before all who contributed to this book was: “What is the difference that Stanley has made?” His friends answer: “He has laid bare the difference that Christ makes” (p. 6). Richard Hays is crystal clear. “The deepest theme” of his colleague’s work, the “consistent thread running through all his thought,” is “his emphasis on the centrality of Jesus Christ” (ix). May our own lives and work merit the same summary.
The Biblical Cosmos: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Weird and Wonderful World of the Bible, Robin A. Parry, Illustrated by Hannah Parry (Cascade/Imprint of Wipf and Stock, 2014), 227 pages.
You know the drill: flat earth . . . Sheol or Hades down under . . . three-story heaven– sky, “outer space,” where God lives. To unbelievers, it’s all evidence that the Bible is outdated by far, not credible to people today or probably this side of the Enllghtenment, certainly without any practical use. Believers note that biblical writers sometimes demythologize such language or obviously see it as metaphorical. Worst case: it’s something to explain but of little practical use. Now along comes Robin Parry and agrees with both and disagrees with both. Agrees: cosmological language not intended to be read literally; disagrees: for significant use; very practical purpose in any age of human history.
The book has four major sections, beginning with a tour of “the biblical Earth” (Part I) and “the biblical Heavens” (Part II), then a leisurely stopover at “the House of God” (Part III), concluding (Part IV) with a practical question (“Can we inhabit the biblical Cosmos today?”) and then another (“How can we inhabit the biblical Cosmos today?”).
To illustrate the usefulness of such knowledge, Parry chooses several of the better- known stories from the Bible and points out that, far from being a distraction or a problem, the language of the biblical cosmos holds the key to the author’s very theological point. The Flood is not simply a tale of mass drowning; it is the undoing of creation. Similarly, Israel’s deliverance through the Sea is more than a divine rescue; it is a defeat of the monster of chaos.
This is a good example of a teacher (author) who holds a high view of scripture using the best fruit of biblical scholarship to help understand the biblical writers’ meaning and points. This approach is not new to regular gracEmail readers; it is part of our approach regarding biblical interpretation as well.