A bit of a theological rant

The comments below were posted on a preaching website I frequent. I’d be interested in your thoughts…

“Having been on the receiving end of my share of similar messages (“Let’s not talk theology, Rick; let’s talk life.”), I offer a comment in favor of talking theology (since, for me, theology IS about life!).

Gerhard Ebeling was a Lutheran theologian (he died in 2001). My favorite Ebeling quote is, “Theology exists to make preaching as hard as it needs to be.”

I like this for several reason.

1 – It rescues is from using theology as an “entrance exam” into the reign of God, in which only those who know the “correct answers” get in. Theology is not about right answers, because FAITH isn’t about right answers.

2 – It puts theology at the heart of what we, as preachers, do. Not for the sake of showing  off our education (or to tell people what the “correct answer” is (see above)), but in order to help us do the work we need to do, so what we say on Sunday morning (and our other preaching opportunities) is actually something akin to Good News.

3 – Articulating Good News ain’t easy! It takes effort, along with prayer, study, and a good dose of humility.

And here’s why it’s not easy – Good News is not our default setting! Works Righteousness is! In our fallen state, we humans seem hard-wired for trying to do it all ourselves. It is far too easy for us preacher types to get up and simply spew religious jargon (which never really addresses our sinful default setting), and as long as we throw in enough random references from the Bible, refer to Jesus a certain number of times, and use a new quote from C.S. Lewis or Martin Luther every once in a while, we figure we’ve done our job. Not necessarily so!

4 – One more thing. I submit that “Theology exists to make *everything the Church does* as hard as it needs to be.” This rescues theology from being a purely academic exercise for clergy types, and puts it squarely in the court of every single Christian.

We ALL need to be wrestling with articulating and living out Good News; we ALL need to recognize that we don’t “do” Good News naturally; we ALL need to realize that pretty much all of life contradicts Good News.

Which is why we ALL need the promise of this passage from John [14: 26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”]. The presence of the Holy Spirit with us is not just about comfort. It’s about being remade, in very concrete and sometimes painful ways, into Good News people.

Here endeth the rant. Go in peace!”

2 thoughts on “A bit of a theological rant

  1. Thomas Arth

    I learned preaching from David Jacobsen and whenever we preached in class, his first questions to the class after we finished our sermon was “DId you hear the Gospel?” I look at every sermon I write and preach through that lens. “Does this proclaim Good News?” I need to know theology so that I can rightly differentiate Law and Gospel and make sure, at least to the best of my ability, that people will hear the Good News.

  2. agjorgenson

    Thanks Rick. I like it but I would reframe “all of life contradicts the Good News.” I believe I know what you are getting at, but I consider the word life to extend beyond those arenas in my life with are infected by works righteousness.


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