Thursday 8 March 2007

Making the gospel difficult

“Scripture and tradition require to be read in a way that brings out their strangeness, their non-obvious and non-contemporary qualities, in order that they may be read both freshly and truthfully from one generation to another. They need to be made more difficult before we can accurately grasp their simplicities.... And this ‘making difficult’, this confession that what the gospel says in Scripture and tradition does not instantly and effortlessly make sense, is perhaps one of the most fundamental tasks for theology.”

—Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), p. 236.


Drew said...

fascinating quote... thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

Great quote, great book. Williams - what an all-rounder.

Jonathan Marlowe said...

As Walter Bruegemann once said, "Jesus isn't user-friendly."

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben for the Rowan Williams quote, and Jonathan, I love your quote by Walter Bruegemann, Jesus was constantly scandalizing his contemporaries. However, I would like to add - is the gospel not inherently difficult without having to add to its difficulties? When the gospel is rightly proclaimed it makes an assault on our self righteousness and arrogant activity and is impossible to bear except when we are sustained by a miracle. Could it be the case that what is needed is a return to a gospel that is not merely difficult but disturbing?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Michael -- that's an excellent point.

Anonymous said...

I can understand the importance of demonstrating how the gospel/truth can be difficult to reconcile with certain lifestyles and ideas. Showing difference is important if you are trying to convince someone that they are not following the path of truth that God intended. However, while a text can be rich with multiple meanings, there is no reason to make it more difficult to understand. Literary analysis doesn't make the literature harder to understand. It introduces a different or renewed perspective in light of its findings. If people don't understand the gospel, they won't and can't follow the gospel. Jesus was user friendly. People can still appreciate and understand Jesus. The church and theologians are matter entirely.

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