Saturday, 29 July 2006

Sound like anyone you know?

John Updike’s wonderful novel, In the Beauty of the Lilies (1996), includes a character named Matthew, who belongs to a bizarre Adventist apocalyptic sect. Have you ever met someone who fits this description:

“Matthew ... had his relentless, humourless powers of persuasion but could only talk to other Adventists; when he got among people reared on other premises, with no expectation of a Prophet and of the world’s soon ending, he was lost, dumbfounded by the vastness of such skepticism” (p. 415).

7 Comments:

D.W. Congdon said...

That sounds, unfortunately, like a lot of academic theologians as well. Many simply don't know how to talk with the average person, which is why they could never become pastors.

Ray Anderson said...

I am reminded of what Helmut Thielicke, a pastor before he was a theologian, wrote in his book: A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, Referring to a recent graduate of a theological seminary who became a preacher, Thielicke described his initial failure as due to the arrogance of a theological novice: “Under a considerable display of the apparatus of exegetical science and surrounded by the air of the initiated, he produces paralyzing and unhappy trivialities, and the inner muscular strength of a lively young Christian is horribly squeezed to death in a formal armor of abstract ideas.” It is not that theology itself is the problem, he went on to say, theology is a sacred task but it can become diabolical when it becomes “a coat of mail which crushes us and in which we freeze to death.” The Apostle Paul put it plainly: “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life“ (2 Cor. 3:6). Thielicke adds his own commentary when he says, “Whoever ceases to be a man of the spirit automatically furthers a false theology, even if in thought it is pure. . . but in that case death lurks in the kettle.” (Erdmans, 1962, pp. 8, 36)

MM said...

Ray, I read Helmut Thielicke's Little Exercise at the beginning of my theological studies... what a great antidote The Esoteric, and to many other forms of pride as well.

Aaron G said...

I just gave A Little Exercise to a ministiry intern who I am supervising.

byron said...

Have you ever met someone who fits this description

What about hands up those of us who have been this?

(or still are...)

Ben Myers said...

Very good point, Byron. In fact, I had originally written: "Have you ever met (or been) someone who fits this description?" But I changed it at the last minute in fear that it might cause offense.

In any case, I myself have both "met" and "been" this kind of character!

Tarwater said...

Reminds me of several characters (notably Elder Babcock) in David James Duncan's excellent novel The Brothers K.

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