Monday, 5 September 2005

Speaking theologically in times of crisis

Jim West has offered these further reflections on the need for theologians to speak up in times of crisis.

As I said before, I think there are times for silence—times when words would only cheapen the reality of human suffering, times when any words except prayer are wasted breath. Job’s comforters, after all, acted rightly for the first seven days. But as Jim says, there are also times when we must speak—times when we must attempt somehow to say the word “God” within a concrete situation of human suffering.

And in such times—when we do speak—we had better hope that we really have something to say. God forgive us if in such times we indulge in philosophical speculation about “the problem of evil.” God forgive us if in such times we utter pious jargon about “divine sovereignty.” God forgive us if in such times we resort to cheap talk about “the consequences of Adam’s Fall.” Most of all, God forgive us if in such times we merely find an occasion for preaching about heaven, hell, and the brevity of human life—so that the suffering and death of real human beings are reduced to a trivial moralistic example for the rest of us.

In short: God forgive us if in such times we have anything at all to say except the gospel. I’m not talking about a simple repetition of the gospel, but rather a concrete translation of this message, such that Jesus Christ himself is encountered anew right here and now in the depths of crisis and desolation.


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