Just say "No!" to oversimplification!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Proclaiming the Gospel

[A friend tells me this chapter is an example of what it's saying:
that ideas really only ripen when a reader is ready to think them himself.

Still, the only excuse for saying things badly is that I couldn't do better; and there's something else to write today. Bear with me, or just skip this one, okay?]

This title brings up several questions:

"Should we be proclaiming the Gospel?"

"How should we try to do that, if we should?"

"What is that, anyway?"

While it seems most logical to begin with basic concepts and then stack them up -- That doesn't work.

People think they already know what the basic theological concepts are (or should be) -- and what the available basic words mean -- what they ought to mean -- or meant to their grandmother or their teacher or whoever else seems to Have Worked It All Out (for now).

If you come out with some new concept that you really really wish a familiar word would mean -- then you simply make yourself unintelligible. The Transcendentalists often wrote that way; there are experts who tell me they were saying some highly worthwhile things -- but for me, for the amount of time it would take me to decode them, I'd rather think of something myself.

And while I do appreciate people believing I know something worth figuring out -- instead of assuming I must have meant the first thing people automatically think of when anyone drives the conversation over some familiar subject -- I don't find many people reading me that way, so I don't expect it.

What I long ago noticed about myself: Whenever I'd hear or read something before my mind had the space prepared,  I just didn't understand it.

Sometimes I'd have some Great Thinker assigned for a class; and I'd see it was all bullshit; and since he wasn't around to argue with -- and didn't fight fair, given that the teachers thought he was right so I must be wrong -- it was useless. I couldn't benefit from anyone I didn't already see some genuine merit in.

Sometimes my sense of bullshit was entirely correct. Other times, after life had ripened me various ways -- I'd look at that bullshit and find it saying wonderful, perceptive things. But even when I was right in dismissing someone's Great Thoughts... the fact is,   for some people he'd provided a new way of seeing things.

Maybe he'd led a long line of blind followers into a ditch... but he'd taken them out of whatever hole they'd started from.

I once met a prophet, whom I asked: "What should I do now?" He told me: "Make mistakes and learn from them."
[For awhile after that I thought I could 'learn how not to make that mistake again' -- And wouldn't it be nice if that were so...? That's another story.]

Even our mistakes are part of our development. They're appetizers for the main course. You work on a puzzle a long time; that lets it work on you. Then you may become able to see, and enjoy seeing, how it works.

Certain modern biographers of Jesus used to wax sentimental over all those simple agricultural metaphors he could work into those lovely parables. All from that idyllic peasant background. What they didn't get is that his background was extremely sophisticated; while theirs was sterile. Jesus used agricultural metaphors because the life of the mind and the soul works in a significantly agricultural way. Seed is spread, it lands in good soil or bad, is watered or withers...

and people hear a message when their ears come up high enough to hear it.

It's not a matter of  how hard you sow or reap, but when, and how.

If you know the Gospel is true, you know God can give you the words you need -- to help the particular real live human being in front of you at any given time. And know that every person will ripen when God grows him, which will happen in accord with God's timing. This doesn't mean you should, or shouldn't, expect to say something he'll finally appreciate years later. It means you can ask God to give you the words, for this time, that will best serve God's purposes. God might not, on some occasions, need you to bother a person at all.

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