According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Walter Brueggemann – of Prophets and Poets

I've often wondered why the term poet has become so popular amongst bloggers and preachers this past year, especially since poetry seems so overlooked and little appreciated by Western civilization's need for making everything practical and utilitarian. You see this in the art expressed and in the music we listen to. It comes out in what we have time for and what we spend our time at (mostly shopping, I think). Everything must make money; must make us look or feel beautiful or energized; get us to a place of personal impowerment or importance; and generally, serve the purpose of a consumerist culture valuing things and money over people and life's deeper hiddenness.

Curiously, the term prophet has also been linked with the term poet which seems unusual, and again, I stop and ask "why." Was there something about a prophet that made him/her a great poet? Were they lyricists at heart or simply reactionaries who hated what they saw around them (or hated what they saw people were turning into because they were turning towards ideas and values less than godly? Less than what they thought humanity should be about?). Were they yesterday's vociferous voices startling society with words and perceptions largely unwanted and biting with acute observations? Or simply unpleasant types that didn't know how to be around with people and craving personal attention by saying and doing startling things?

Most poets I've read (because I can't say that I really know any poets personally, rare as they seem to be in today's society) appear to be placid types. Romantic, or cynical, but really not driven by a need for singular attention and fame. And the few angry poets I've read (whom always seem to be really good writers but not too healthy to constantly be reading... at least for me) strike me as writing for cathartic effect. That is, it is a way to find a kind of personal balance, health and growth, from the things that have angered them caused by earlier tragedies and severe losses and injustices done to them in this life. But I really don't think of a poet as a prophet, nor of a prophet as a poet, until you start linking the insight behind the poet's eyes and souls with the same insight that drives the prophet... each are passionate though one writes and the other proclaims. They are neither introverts or extroverts but both and none and all. So it kind of makes sense to place the categories together if only to tell society to listen again to the poets and prophets around us whom we ignore, whom we isolate with our biting sarcasm, or overlook because we don't really wish to hear what they have to say to us. To our lives. To our activities and enjoyments. To the way we think. And what we wish to believe or ignore. We prefer to shut them out, close the book, click to the next scintillating Internet page (or Facebook tidbit), and think about less upsetting things (or more amusing amusements).

And so, belatedly, I have stumbled upon the origin of the interrelation of the terms poet and prophet's revival through Walter Brueggemann's* book titles and discussions of the same from many years ago. It seems that he is the instigator for so much of this talk and discussion. We have him therefore to blame.... And being a writer of poetry myself (however humble my efforts and unappreciated its literary nature) I find my interest doubly peaked when hearing a theologian of Brueggemann's statue speaking of prophetic vision and poetry in the same vein. Or, of mixing the categories so that I begin to think of poetic prophets and prophetic poets (which isn't necessarily true of most poets I suppose with the kinds of contemporary poetry I've read; but then again, perhaps it is and my definitions should stretch a bit more to allow it, or my perceptions must re-attune themselves to see it). But I especially like a poet who gets to the discovery of life's divinity and holiness and begins to interweave its majesty - or hellish delves - into the fabric of our societal clothing and begins to rearrange the hems and styles so that it wears upon our fancy a bit longer. Perhaps pushes a button here, stitches a flash of colouring there, surprises with a rise, or a drop, of material, to help us see again what we have missed in the meaningless busyness of our days and nights, our mornings and evenings, breakfasts and dinner times. Pointing out in subtle ways - or loudly! - what we have missed, that might make us better men and women, fathers and mothers, administrators and helpers, servers and leaders. More loving, more kind, more tolerant. Less judgemental, less condemnatory, less harsh towards those different from ourselves. More at peace and less at war and strife with each other and our own pettiness and faults. More helpful and caring, compassionate and insightful. Poetry can do that... and so can a good prophet when we give them a chance.

And so, lest we miss God's blessings and contritions of heart to the unexamined word and life of obedience to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ I wish to again present W. Brueggemann's vision for the church and the life of its contrition to its Christian followers for our examination, edification, exhortation, and example. There never seems to have been a time in humanity when God has expelled His poets and prophets from service, and so we should not think that that godly task of the Holy Spirit is less in vogue today. I would rather argue that it is more needed now than ever before. And to those poets and/or prophets who are in our midst around us, do not give up. Speak out as only God has gifted you in the service of His word and by the power of His Spirit-filled ministry.

R.E. Slater
May 31, 2012

My thanks to Mason Slater (yes, he is my cousin's oldest son) for his insight and appreciation for Brueggemann's words and vision for the Church in the related article below. I am comforted to see the younger generation take up the task of dispensing God's word to their day and generation. May the Holy Spirit continue to gift you and give you voice.

*Walter Brueggemann is the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. A past president of the Society of Biblical Literature, he is one of today's preeminent interpreters of Scripture.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Walter Brueggemann – of Prophets and Poets

Mason Slater
May 25, 2012

Earlier this week fellow blogger Carson T. Clark posted a link to an NPR Interview with Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggemann.

In it he speaks on the role of the Biblical prophets.
The people we later recognize as prophets, says Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, are also poets. They reframe what is at stake in chaotic times.
It’s an excellent interview and an accessable introduction to the work of a brilliant scholar.

Brueggemann’s writing (along with scholars like Goldingay and Walton) has served to breath new life into my own reading of the Old Testament, much as N.T. Wright and others have re-shaped my reading of the New Testament.

If you are interesed in engaging with his work on the prophets and the theology of the Old Testament, I would recommend beging with the classic The Prophetic Imagination and then taking time to wrestle with the more contemporarily focused Out of Babylon.

Grace and peace.


In this challenging and enlightening treatment, Brueggemann traces the lines from the radical vision of Moses to the solidification of royal power in Solomon to the prophetic critique of that power with a new vision of freedom in the prophets. Here he traces the broad sweep from Exodus to Kings to Jeremiah to Jesus. He highlights that the prophetic vision and not only embraces the pain of the people but creates an energy and amazement based on the new thing that God is doing. In this new edition, Brueggemann has completely revised the text, updated the notes, and added a new preface.

Publ. June 2001


Explores the Old Testament's prophetic cry against materialism, consumerism, violence, and oppression.

Publ. Oct 2010

The people we later recognize as prophets, says Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, are also poets. They reframe what is at stake in chaotic times. Hear a very special voice in conversation to address our changing lives and the deepest meaning of hope this Christmas season. (12.22.11)

Listen to NPR's Interview

No comments:

Post a Comment