return to religion-online

Preaching As A Social Act: Theology and Practice by Arthur Van Seters (ed.)

Arthur Van Seters is Principal and Associate Professor of biblical interpretation and preaching at the Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, British Columbia; 1986 president of the Academy of Homiletics; and author of several papers for the Academy on social dimensions of preaching. Copyrighted by Arthur Van Seter, 1988, and published by Abingdon Press, Nashville. This material prepared for religion Online by Paul Mobley.


As noted in the introduction, this final chapter moves in two directions. It is an Afterword that interweaves material from the previous chapters-an analysis on analysis. It has been organized around five broad themes: theology, context, interpretation, language, and so-called "prophetic preaching." In drawing from the contributors of these chapters, I have indicated what comes from whom. Generally I have summarized, but even where I have used excerpts, I have usually omitted quotation marks.

But I also use the term Afterword in a future sense. It is what comes next, what is still to be explored Using this meaning, I have taken each of the five themes and pushed them further, introducing additional sources. For this reason the narrative endnotes have been more fully developed than is usual. Preaching draws on so many resources and utilizes so many disciplines that even such an array should, on reflection, not be surprising. In extending the discussion in this way I am also indicating the open-endedness of our study. Our canvas has become a scroll that keeps on being unrolled.

1. Theology -- Shaping Perception and Reality

"It is only a real spiritual revolution that can save us. Those are the words of an economist who works with the World Bank. They were uttered after a review of the growing economic gap between rich and poor nations and of the escalation of military defensiveness in the world.(1) The priority of "the spiritual," and of theology, is a paramount thrust in the analysis and description of preaching in the preceding chapters. It is also pervasively evident in the accompanying sermons.

God's free presence is not just the footnote but the theological key in the temple-dedication account of I Kings 8. In this free presence the world is viewed differently. God is not cifference for those who live in the world (Allen). This is the theological starting point of preaching's content, but it also shapes the structure of the sermon.

There are times when the evening newspaper unloads such an unrelenting litany of tragedy, escalating tension, and leadership failure that I feel despair. Others, I know, feel it too. Preachers, at such moments, cannot withdraw into some private realm or focus primarily on the hereafter. Eschatology as the consummation of God's rule gives us an alternative vision of that rule and sends us back to the empowerment of the Spirit of Pentecost(2) (Wardlaw). As Constance Fitzgerald has put it, "Contemplation, and ultimately liberation, demand the handing over of one's powerlessness and 'outsider-ness' to the inspiration and power of God's Spirit."(3)

Another theological theme concerns the Bible and its interpretation in preaching. The authority of the sermon rests with Scripture (the Gonzalezes) and this primacy of the Word of God is an explosive power (Wardlaw). But the normativeness of Scripture should still take seriously the reality of a spectrum of other views among listeners, ranging from the Bible as an imprimatur on the preached word to the biblical text as having little inherent authority (Allen). This spectrum may reflect a misunderstanding of the formation of the Bible as both an act of faith (and therefore normative) and an act of vested interests (and therefore humanly conditioned).(4) But this double character of the formation of the text, as well as its interpretation and reception, is a dialectic in which the act of faith persists and evidences from start to finish the guidance of God's Spirit of truth (Brueggemann).

The community that receives this Word of God is a human community, but it is also a community where God is at work and this leads to its understanding of inclusiveness. This is a strange perspective, from a human point of view, because God can say to the Jews that the enemy Ninevites are included -- not because they have cultural or military superiority, but because of the massive presence of children and cattle. This is a sacramental community that sees its human connectedness through its sacramental connectedness (the Gonzalezes).

Those who lead such a community are those who have stood on holy ground, for whom the spiritual is the integrating, synthesizing element of life. They have been called to preach and have experienced "burning, burning, burning, burning" because God has "plucked" them to be passion-filled messengers (Hunter).

The foregoing theological positions affect or ought to affect our world view. A commitment to God, to the Word of God and to the calling of God can enable us to see with the eyes of faith. The radicalness of this approach to perception is sharpened by Rosemary Haughton's skepticism about our acceptance of a biblical view of what the world ought to be:

A church of friends, a world of compassion without domination or privilege, winners or loser -- we dismiss that as impossible because our imaginations, conditioned by unexamined political and economic assumptions, cannot grasp it as a practical possibility.(5)

There is a clash between our perception of reality shaped by our theology and that shaped by our culture and traditions. A couple of chapters have called attention to ways in which our world views (our "landscapes of the heart") are influenced by our socialization, especially through the medium of television (Allen and Troeger). It is not only our perception of the world that is influenced by television, but also our way of perceiving. As Cohn Morris points out, television blurs the distinction between messages that are true and those that are false. What is important is the credible and the fascinating. The "visual statements" of advertisers dispense conventional wisdom with a power to evoke a positive response. Programming is so shaped that the communication of serious ideas becomes unlikely and the linkage between knowing and acting is severed. "Information bits" are presented with such rapidity and oversimplification that the viewer can only, it seems, suspend judgment or "believe tentatively and with elasticity."(6) The result is also apathy, the inability to feel passion that would enable action toward others in need.(7)

This media force, along with other cultural and social influences, shapes the disposition as well as the substance of theology associated with our view of the world. This affects what is believed as well as attitudes toward believing. In chapter two "Faith Church" struggles to discover the world views of its members by making use of categories (comic, romantic, tragic, and ironic) laid out by Carroll and Hopewell.(8) Members are asked how they believe God is at work in life, and the responses enable the pastor to communicate the gospel more specifically to the congregation (Wardlaw). In a somewhat broader way, Troeger explores the "rim of normative consciousness" and, following Newbigin, calls for the creation of a whole new framework within which to understand the gospel. We cannot work within the present general outlook to offer solutions to problems in life. Theology must furnish an alternative view of reality.

Throughout the previous pages (and preceding chapters) we have been speaking about the priority of theology and its critical role. But this, it seems to me, is not enough. What particular theology we hold makes a significant difference to how we view the world. Or we could say that how we view the world influences the theology we hold. A primary motivation in developing the substance and approach of this book came out of a desire to point to the relationship between declared theology and de facto theology. To what extent is the theology that is implicit in our behavior and attitudes toward society different from the theology we articulate?

An appropriate example is our theology of the church's mission and religious identity. Francis Schussler Fiorenza identifies six interpretations. (1) On the dichotomous model, transcendence and immanence, religion and politics are totally separated. The natural and the supernatural are distinct orders; and the first belongs to the state, the second to the church. (2) A substitutive view holds that the church enters the realm of service in society only when the latter's institutions are inadequate to meet imperative needs. (3) A third position holds that social mission is voluntary, unofficial. Officially the church is not directly involved but it can inspire and motivate Christians to organize in the service of the world. (4) Partial mission is a fourth view. Here social mission is only one legitimate function of the church. To some it may be more central, to others less so. (5) On an overtly political model, the proclamation of the Rule of God has implications that function as a negative criticism of society. (6) Finally, in a liberation perspective, salvation history and world history are so linked that theology critiques the present but also strives to anticipate eschatological reality within history.(9)

Preaching is one aspect of the church and its mission. In the present volume the various contributors have demonstrated that preaching in all of its aspects is social. From beginning to end it is theologically motivated. But what sort of theology has which social effects is beyond the scope of this book's design. Such correlations are certainly important and will require careful historical analysis and interdisciplinary study. In an ambitious project of precisely this nature, William Everett and T.J. Bachmeyer work out an elaborate paradigm in which they interrelate three theological approaches -- cultic (Catholic), prophetic (Protestant), and ecstatic (Anabaptist) -- with three sociological traditions -- functionalism (unitary view of society), dualism (conflictual), and pluralism (balance of powers) -- with three psychological viewpoints -- conflictual, fulfillment, and equilibrium.(10)This highly provocative study is criticized by Gregory Baum as overly schematic and as favoring a liberal reformist (vs. prophetic) position.(11) While there are strong connections between our views of theology, personality, and society, similar commitments to social compassion may arise from different theological perspectives and we ought not to prejudge people's social commitment when we are only exposed to their theology or their views of personality.(12)

2. Context -- church and World

The context of preaching is a community with a memory and a present reality (Brueggemann). To state it this way is to view context in terms of time: the influence of the past on the present and of contemporary society on our way of hearing and interpreting. Preaching is "the interface of two social worlds," the world of the Bible and our world. The horizons of perception in these two worlds are joined in the act of preaching. This assumes that attention has been paid by the present Christian community both to its own social reality and to the social, and not just to a narrow perception of the historical nature of the biblical communities (Wardlaw). With David Tracy, proclamation is more than a distillate of social/historical study; it is a dynamic word of address calling for faith because there has been a "disclosure of a reality we cannot but name truth."(13) The intensity of this encounter is comparable to the abandonment with which people fully enter into a game.(14)

Another way of viewing the context in temporal terms is to see the congregation as sacramentally connected in the communion of saints in all ages. Cutting across the borders of time, Christians are linked with both the past and an eschatological future. At the same time this sacramental connection is geographically global; it is spatial. The congregation is open to the world, and preaching should address as well the community of faith throughout the world. This inevitably includes aspects such as gender, race, and status (the Gonzalezes).

Looking at "Faith Church" in the context of the city of Metro City, the structural aspect of this spatial dimension is stressed. The people listen to preaching both out of and toward their engagement in community organizations. Those organizations also touch matters that are national and international. This structural dimension is far harder to deal with in preaching. Often it is complex, diffuse, in flux, and even controversial. This is why the preaching moment is a confluence of people, times and contexts and therefore requires the engagement of the congregation not only as careful, critical listeners, but as participants in preparation and follow-up (Wardlaw). Increasingly our globe is a web of interconnections. We not only know what is happening on the other side of the earth, but in a myriad of ways our decisions and actions affect other countries, and their actions affect ours. Therefore, the Word of God, in a world of gross inequalities, cannot avoid addressing these linkages. In the words of Walter Johnson, written twenty years ago, "To refuse to pursue the question of the radical change effected in our situation by the hearing of this word is to be ethically irresponsible."(15)

The preceding chapters clearly urge that preaching be open to the world. This surely includes seeing it with Third-(and Fourth-) World eyes. For example, Justo Gonzalez's collection of sermons, Proclaiming the Acceptable Year,(16) are the words of those who see with eyes of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and minority groups in North America. In one of these, the words of Jesus to people in an authoritarian society, to "make up your minds not to prepare your defence beforehand" (Luke 21:14, NEB), make eminent sense. As C. S Song explains regarding Taiwan, "Christians brought to trial because of their allegiance to Jesus have changed a military court into a court of testimony!"(17) This contextualization can help us reflect on the judicial system in North America, for it allows us to penetrate the politicization of the rule of law when judgments are handed down that favor order over justice.(18) This is but one example of how the marginalized of the world have much to teach the Western world about social compassion.(19)

Although Canada, like the United States, is a part of the First World and has much to learn from the Third World, there are substantial differences between the two countries. As a Canadian editing a book written by United States citizens for a U.S. publisher, I am conscious that readers on my side of the border have to read with Canadian eyes in order to make an appropriate translation of this work for their own context. Canada, from its British roots, has a stronger non-conformist church tradition and in its treatment of immigrants from other countries has tended more toward a cultural mosaic than an assimilating melting pot. Further, the use of the term "American" as a synonym for the United States in some of the preceding chapters feels presumptuous to me in my Canadian setting and therefore even more so for people who belong to the other Americas. Attitudes toward the state, cultural assumptions, and self-designations all bear on how we do theology and should raise sensitivity in the area of preaching.

Two points have been made in the preceding paragraphs that can now be related to specific sociological studies of preaching. Contexts are interconnected and, when viewed together, they manifest considerable diversity. As part of an exhaustive study (examining forty thousand speeches) of religious pronouncements relating to cultural change in Finland, Tapio Lampinen discusses open and closed communications systems. An open system is adaptable to its environment; it grows under external pressure and adjusts to rapid, external change. A closed system fits better with a stable environment, is slow to adapt, and strives to change in its context. It becomes more differentiated from its environment in times of change and emphasizes its own traditions and distinctive language. This means that in a primarily closed system, the sermon content is determined by church tradition and, to a lesser degree, by the personal life of the preacher. In an open system there is substantial input from the environment and dialogue between the church and a changing society. As a result of this feedback, church doctrine is revised.(20)

One is reminded of Weber's church/sect typology in which the "church type" is more open, pluralistic, and inclusive whereas the "sect type" is a closed, exclusive community with more rigid doctrinal requirements.(21) Of course, these distinctions need to be put on a continuum since "pure" types do not exist as such. Nevertheless, preaching does tend to move toward transformation or equilibrium (Brueggemann) even though theologically these two tendencies are dialectically related in the judgment and grace dimensions of the gospel.

In an earlier study of preaching in the Federal Republic of Germany, Osmund Schreuder examines listeners in terms of a six-point continuum from heteronomous, group-oriented, duty-bound people, to those who are more autonomous and cosmopolitan. He finds that the vast majority of members are in between these extremes and that their appreciation of sermons is strongly determined by their subjective, religious, and church attitudes and by their feelings of solidarity with the preacher. He also finds that "listeners are more attentive and remember more, if the sermon is more closely linked to the world as they know it," and if it is not transcendent. But overall, few listeners remember very much of the sermon (though this does not affect their appreciation of it!) and there is "a fairly undifferentiated reaction." The latter causes him to conclude that there is a "crisis" in preaching; it is the crisis of a mass of listeners "whose feelings of solidarity are characterized by unarticulated totality." This, he adds, prevents the Churches from functioning in a differentiated way for their members." This is " 'blind' solidarity, which is insensitive to differentiation."(22) Over against a superficial "unity" stands a catholicity of the church that enriches its life with a variety of perspectives and keeps it open to the diversity of human beings in our world (the Gonzalezes). The preacher will want this to be reflected in the way people are included and pictured in the sermon (Allen).

3. Interpretation -- Subjective and Corporate

Schreuder's contention, that a close association between preacher and people exists in preaching, points toward the subjective and corporate dimensions of interpretation. The distinctive background, upbringing, and experiences (spiritual and social) of preachers shape the kind of preaching they offer. This socialization may be deeply rooted in the community of faith which is subsequently involved in validating the call to preach (Hunter). Some may also be formed in major ways outside the church. Karl Gaspar's experience of political repression is but one obvious example. The socialization models are often varied. Shils singles out three institutions that are, in his view, the primary transmitters of tradition: family, school, and church.(23) Role models are drawn primarily from these, but there are also others, for example, public figures and media personalities. When it comes to preaching models, they have been predominantly male figures whose interpretive approaches have tended, until recently, to be more limited and subjective than we have cared to admit.(24)

It is not too much to speak of interpretation as "an act of vested interest" (Brueggemann). This does not mean that we should not try to listen with openness to the text and its interpretive tradition nor that the congregation should listen to preaching with only their own interests in view. It is simply the acknowledgment that neutrality and objectivity are elusive and that admitting our biases can help us interpret more responsibly. As interpreters we are both socially and theologically subjective (Allen). Sociology is one of those disciplines that can assist us to see "through" and "beyond" our primary socialization and to become more aware of our vested interests.(25)

In the biographies of J. Alfred Smith and David Bartlett, we find both spiritual formation and the development of social consciousness (Hunter), which may be termed conversion and consciousness-raising experiences. Some people might distinguish between them more sharply than others, but both processes involve a major movement affecting our subjective limitations and, therefore, they deeply influence our interpretation of Scripture and tradition. They are, of course, highly subjective experiences. They involve adopting a new system of meaning that reorders the various elements that make up our own biographies. We feel a satisfying newness rooted in a sense of order and purpose. Our meaning-system has changed and our perspectives have refocused. In some cases these have narrowed and in others expanded. With them we also change our social relationships, drawing closer to the interpreting community or becoming part of a new one.(26)

In view of the subjective nature of interpretation, attention ought to be given to a shift from a linear model of communication to a dynamic and corporate one. The linear model is simple, fixed, two dimensional and moves a message from preacher (sender) to congregation (receiver). This is a reified understanding of both the message and the congregation; an object placed into containers. so to speak. Yet this linear model thus stated helps us see that, in general, preachers have been socialized to be loners and congregations to be passive recipients. But what is really needed is "a dynamic, multidimensional model" that sees the preached Word as a living event and the preacher and congregation both as participants. The biblical tradition is then an active partner and the congregation becomes a community alive to the world in which that tradition will be heard afresh (Wardlaw). The text is not "a contextless absolute," but a bold, responsive, assertive, imaginative act that stands as a proposal of reality to the community (Brueggemann). The exposition of a text is mediated through world views of preacher and people, and the preacher needs to be aware of the congregation's view both of the world and of the Bible (Allen). But the more that preacher and people handle the text together, the more they are influenced by it and influence one another (Wardlaw and Brueggemann). People who have tried this model of "Faith Church" have found it effective. At the very least the preacher can follow a long interpretive tradition of some form of communal study and present the sermon as a "common act of imagining with" so that a wider web of meanings and insights is available to the preacher's imagination (Troeger).(27)

Implied in the above is the element of involvement. A linear deductive approach to life (and hence to preaching) can become "an infinite regress, always receding into finer and finer analysis." This could postpone "the action that might reveal life anew to us." Rather than think our way into a new kind of living, we need to live our way into a new kind of thinking.(28) Preaching, in a dynamic model, arises from our choices of how we live and act. It is rooted in where we take our stands.

4. Language -- Creative and Critical

"Language," says Claude Levi-Strauss, "is a social phenomenon" and it "lives and develops only as a collective construct."(29) Because language is a primary medium of communication, its very structure is affected by social organization and culture. In oral culture, for example, language is sound; it is what is heard. Through it people are generationally (temporally) connected in the retelling of stories, myths, and traditions. Language is communal, it functions within the cultural group. With the introduction of script, later intensified by print, the visual (space) aspect of language becomes more important than the sound (time) aspect. So in Hebraic culture, understanding is primarily a kind of hearing while in Greek culture it is primarily a matter of seeing. Language as speech is dynamic, fleeting, irreversible, but print breaks the strictures of time and leads to permanence. With the introduction of audio and audiovisual communication, sound can be played back and print can be sent across vast distances almost instantaneously.(30)

Against this backdrop we can expect to be influenced by reigning metaphors (Troeger), to be shaped by language in the way we think and act (Allen). Even at the most basic level of everyday speech, as George Lakoff and Mark Johnson point out, we are subliminally conditioned by our culture. So it is more normal to say "up and down" than "down and up" or "good and bad" than "bad and good."(31) On a grand scale, whole cultures have lived by "root metaphors," to use Gibson Winter's language. In the premodern world the dominant metaphor was organicistic. With the development of the modern world the organicistic metaphor was replaced by the mechanistic. Since this too has run its course, Winter seeks a new metaphor in the artistic process(32) (Allen). This suggests that language is not only influenced by culture but also has the potential to be an influence on culture. Sexist or racist language reflects social reality, but inclusive language can create an awareness of these realities and can provide us with a social world in which they are no longer dominant (Allen).

To proclaim the gospel of the Rule of God in our age calls for an interweaving of "depth" and "steno" languages. Scripture itself is both metaphorical and discursive. As human beings we have two sides to our brains that respond respectively to the denotative (left side) and the evocative (right side) (Troeger). We need the creative, poetic, and narrative in our preaching and also the analytical, explanatory, and hortatory. One expands our imaginations, the other penetrates our closed categories; together they enable us to become more holistic.

Rationality in preaching is not enough to counter reigning metaphors. What is needed are the images and narratives of faith, and the awareness that the use of metaphors can be a political act (Troeger drawing from Sallie McFague). While this is true, Winter reminds us that radical change does not come about just by altering metaphoric interpretation. Acts of oppression are caused by political and economic institutions. Symbol systems expose the structures of oppression(33) and therefore serve the political process, but the institutions themselves also need to be changed.

Although in the history of preaching since the second century the church has favored a discursive rather than a poetic approach (Troeger), there has been a long tradition of metaphor and analogy in theology. These are two kinds of tensive language reflecting different theological streams and functioning with different emphases. Protestants have tended to use metaphor because it connects dissimilar ideas and realities and therefore suits a Protestant preference for seeing the world in terms of contrast and dialectic. This negative dialectic destroys illusions and pretensions in society. Theologically, a metaphorical approach contrasts God's transcendence with human finitude and sinfulness. Analogical thinking and language emphasize similarities and have been more characteristic of Catholic theology. God is seen in terms of harmony with creation. According to Tracy, the analogical needs the negative dialectic of the metaphorical. McFague argues that images (whether symbolic/analogical or parabolic/metaphorical) need interpretation through concepts and theories, but interpretation never exhausts the meaning of images.(34)

So far, except for the brief discussion of the difference between oral and written cultures, we have concentrated on language as such. A comment needs to be added about speech as distinct from text. This is crucial for preaching though it also has implications for liturgy.(35) Sound produces a closing of meaning. Text has polysemy; it is open to multiple meanings that increase the farther their distance is from the author. As soon as words are audibly pronounced, some interpretation happens, some color is added that both reflects the new context in which the text is exposed and the particular meaning decided on by the speaker. This is a further creative and critical act and preachers sound like "print" when they are reluctant to risk this particularity. When they speak, the sound forms in the listener a mental image of structure like lines of printed text. When, however, the text is internalized and its meaning and descriptions understood and sensed (by the various senses), there is closure. This is but the most recent stage in the tradition of opening and closing the meaning of the original utterance. Meaning, then, cannot be fixed absolutely; it is always contextual.(36)

In connection with our earlier discussion of steno and depth language and the present distinction between open and closed communication, two tendencies need to be avoided in preaching. One is a false kind of objectivity that views the world, language, and interpretation as fixed (Brueggemann). Religious orthodoxy, concerned about certitude, may deny the dynamic nature of metaphor. This objectivist position seeks a consistent view of the world, clear expectations, and no conflicts, but this is not what reality is like.(37) The other tendency is a subjectivity that assumes we can conjure up private meanings without public accountability (Brueggemann). This denies (perhaps not intentionally) the structural nature of language, the importance of context, and the possibility of adequate representation of meaning through language.(38)The Bible itself, says McFague, "is a metaphor of the word or ways of God." As such, she adds, it "is a crucial issue for a metaphorical theology" against conservatives "who absolutize Scripture, refusing to admit its metaphorical quality," and against "liberation theologies, especially radical feminist theologies" which "relativize Scripture to the point of undercutting the relevance of its basic images."(39)

Earlier, in the section on context, I drew attention to Schreuder's observation about German congregations appreciating the sermon out of their sense of solidarity with the preacher. Lampinen calls this the "phatic function" of language. By this he means "a reinforcement of the feeling of togetherness."(40) When familiar and expected words or expressions are repeated in certain settings, form and substance recede in importance. The main function of this form of communication is neither one of conveying information nor of creating feelings, but of establishing social cohesion. What is remembered is not what was said or how it was expressed, hut the sense of being together.(41) This may be acceptable in certain social settings (a cocktail party, a casual greeting on the street), but it is certainly inadequate in preaching. Yet, for some, such banality is all they expect in a sermon, with the result that such preaching becomes a totally inward experience unconcerned with the issues of life outside the four walls of the sanctuary. The gospel, on the contrary, calls for language that is both critical in its exposures and creative in its vitalizing commitment.

5. Reexamining "Prophetic" Preaching

"Every church is in permanent danger of the rise of prophets."(42)As a general statement about religion, there would be many who would disagree. But prophets are generally regarded as a danger to the church to the extent that this designation, in the case of a preacher, conjures up a radical, condemning voice standing over and above the congregation thundering against the evils of society. W. W. Finlator points to the naivete' in this view when he asks rhetorically, "Did my seminary realize that its 'prophets' would not last six months if they tried to teach the true words of prophecy to their congregations?"(43) A number of studies show that the "prophetic" preachers of the sixties were often in deep difficulty with their congregations. All too frequently they became lone and lonely activists.(44)There is, to be sure, a need for public critics and iconoclastic individuals in both society and church. But in the pulpit? Not as a rule, and that for several reasons.

First, the prophet (as iconoclast) is incongruous in what Weber (and, with modifications, Troeltsch after him)(45) called the "church" type of faith community. Because this type is open to society as a whole, it is best led by a "priest" who cares for the needs and encourages the growth of an ongoing community. In Weber's typology, a prophet is an agent of radical social change, a charismatic figure claiming a personal, divine call to act and sometimes attracting followers. If, in the latter case, these followers begin to become a more traditional congregation, then there is a "routinization" and the prophet becomes more like a priest or gives way to a priest.(46) To the extent that Weber's paradigm clarifies the experience of mainline churches, it points to an incongruity that should not be lightly dismissed.

Second, there is a particular time and situation when prophets are needed. Otto Maduro, writing in the context of Venezuela,(47) lists a number of factors. Prophets emerge, he claims, when other avenues of reform are blocked and other movements for change are in formation. In addition, the laity who have been subordinated by the state must make religious demands on the church regarding their human situation. Finally, the church itself has to be the seat of new theological developments favorable to the demands of the people.

At this point a prophetic movement requires a charismatic leader, an innovator who can mobilize a following. By introducing innovations this charismatic leader or prophet tends to subvert the established religious order and is rejected. But by excluding the prophet, the church already begins to shift because it can only partially disqualify the innovation. The church must also partially incorporate the innovation in order to control the spread of the movement and reclaim its followers by meeting some of their demands. True and effective prophetic movements are those that are faithful to the roots of the ecclesiastical tradition as a new but recognizable interpretation of the church's foundational message.

The "lone ranger" in the pulpit who will set the congregation and the world straight is a muddled caricature of the prophet. No wonder David Bartlett says, "I don't see myself as prophetic." But with candor he admits to feeling like a prophet, "Only on the days I feel despised and rejected" (Hunter). Prophets are not self-made; nor are they called just when they think they are called. Prophets arise at certain historical, social moments and are invariably part of movements.(48)

A third reason why we should be careful to avoid speaking of preachers as prophets is that the more far-reaching and creative need in both the church and society in North America is for prophetic churches. Western society, says Lesslie Newbigin, is waiting for the church to present it with a new vision of reality. Our decaying culture and our broken world need radical renewal. This renewal requires a commitment to fundamental values within a framework of belief-in this case Christian faith-that is in dialogue with other frameworks.49 From a similar perspective, Robin Gill sees the primary function of the church in society as that of generating "key values which alter the fundamental moral, social, and political vision."(50)

This emphasis on frameworks and values moves away from activism as the sole focus of prophetic ministry. It recognizes the complexity of society as a fabric made from many interwoven threads -- economic and political, social and cultural, philosophical and spiritual. In their connectedness, the spiritual can have "social effects." Gill stresses this in his understanding of the church's prophetic ministry. He finds more problematic the working out of concrete and public "social implications." Prophetic ministry, he says, should articulate general values for society as a whole, but specific moral, social, and political implications are for individual church members only.(51) This is a kind of "trickle-down theory" of social transformation that seems both too theoretical and too politically naive.

The need for prophetic churches arises not only because of the structural connectedness of the church to society implied in the fabric image, but also because little will happen to transform society if attention is not given to specific issues, problems, and examples. These can be talked about best when, as in the case of the "Faith Church" community, the process of preaching is a corporate act and its prophetic dimension is in the life of the church (Wardlaw). Awareness and gospel insight come with concreteness and seldom without it. We have to see the church as a sacramental community, but this seeing is much more profound when we elaborate it in terms of social status, inclusiveness, attitudes toward change and false spiritualities (the Gonzalezes). The Canadian and U. S. Catholic Bishops' Pastorals on the economy were corporate productions. They would not have become prophetic if they had stayed with general values. It is because they were specific that people in and outside of the Catholic Church saw what their values really were and how they stood over against the dominant economic thinking in North America.(52) But it is precisely this specificity that calls for the corporate engagement of people in a prophetic movement rather than one person speaking alone.

"Prophetic," as I am now using the term, is not to be understood in the negative sense with which I began this section. Nor is it a predicting of the future. Rather, prophetic is connected with God's creating and redeeming work. It is an affirmation of life in faithfulness to God's purposes and therefore against the forces of death and destruction. It affirms life concretely on the level both of persons and of the wider world, but is also ready and daring in naming the powers that dehumanize and mar God's creation. In the light of this, how can the church be nurtured through preaching to become a prophetic community(53) rather than a "sacred canopy?"(54) A number of factors have already been stated explicitly or by implication in the preceding chapters.

1. The preacher is the pastor who is not primarily bringing God to the people but helping the people discover the presence of God (Wardlaw). The distinction between pastoral and prophetic is inaccurate (Troeger). Preaching is "struggling with" not "over against" because grace is transforming and guilt is debilitating. Bonnie Benda's examination of "social justice preachers" who are effective in their congregations confirms Hunter's description and analysis of J. Alfred Smith and David Bartlett. According to Benda's research, their charisma is not everything. They know Scripture and they know the facts in relation to the issues on which they speak. They are credible and trustworthy. Their integrity, openness, fairness to the position of others, confession of limitations, and personal warmth are transparent. Finally, they start with the congregation, not against it. (55)

2. A prophetic community is nurtured when the interpretation of Scripture is seen as both transformative and nurturing (Brueggemann), when its sagas renew identity, its parables explode prevailing views, and its apocalyptic passages offer hope amid crisis (Allen). Through the faithful interpretation of Scripture, according to David Bartlett, the congregation is inevitably led to get "involved in social and political concerns" (Hunter). For those in a lectionary-based tradition, the collection of essays in Social Themes of the Christian Year demonstrates a way of thinking theologically about the liturgical seasons in order to discern their prophetic dimensions.(56) But Justo and Catherine Gonzalez express a caution "that lectionaries are a selection which reflects the prevailing tradition of the church, and that therefore they must be seen with the necessary 'ideological suspicion,' and corrected accordingly."(57)

3. The language of the sermon can awaken new vision and deepen fresh insight. The language of myth and metaphor draws us into community so that preaching is "imagining with" (Troeger). Exhortation and poetry, imperative and indicative moods combine to ground the demands of the gospel in the narrative of grace (Allen). Imagination in all its vividness, newness, and concreteness, and analysis that is clear, specific, and well-researched are both needed. Jurgen Moltmann's unassuming title, "The Disarming Child" (for his sermon on Isa. 9:2-7), is full of insight. There, in a simple metaphor, a profound connection is made between the birth of a child and the answer to war.(58) In a different way Ron Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger(59) bombards the reader with statistics and factual comparisons to arouse a deep awareness of wealth and poverty. Although each of these approaches is effective in its own way, yet "images without concepts are blind; concepts without images are sterile."(60)

4. The sermon that fosters prophetic living in the church is one that connects preaching, liturgy -- especially the celebration of sacrament -- and the corporate life of the church. This is what Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon describe in a recent account of an inner-city church. It was a church that did not think of itself as socially radical. But it did act prophetically as it gradually demonstrated its determination to stay in its "declining" neighborhood and extend its eucharistic celebration to a weekly lunch for the people of the community. One element in this process was the theological interpretation by the preacher of these common activities that were constituting the congregation's new life.(61)

5. Finally, a prophetic expectation is created when the sermon is viewed dynamically as an event of proclamation (Brueggemann and Wardlaw). Then it is more than human words, passionate communication, and open, dialogical listening. It is an activity of the Spirit, enlivening, enabling, and encouraging.

The prophetic church that gathers to hear the Word of God on Sunday is also a people scattered on Monday and the days thereafter. As scattered people they are still the church, still seeking to be prophetic. Their common life will include open sharing of daily life and work and theological reflection on this sharing so that they can feel supported and can become discerning as Christians in the world. This will help them face the inevitable contradictions and institutionalized disharmonies that mark their ordinary experiences, but they will make their contribution amid the ambiguities and pluralisms that are everywhere evident.(62)

The scattered church is also open to participation through groups and movements struggling to respond concretely and systematically to particular socio-economic realities of injustice. Some of these are interchurch, Christian movements; some are interfaith; and still others are regional or national organizations outside the church. Often such specialized communities can mobilize expertise and engender the commitment and visibility necessary for constructive action.(63)

That action may be social, but within that, in our society it is also political. The care of the poor and the needy, an obligation so central to the church that from earliest times it was associated with the Eucharist, used to be the church's direct responsibility. But when the state, in structured societies, took over much of this responsibility, the church's ministry became more and more political. In our highly complex Western society "social help becomes increasingly a matter of political-social legislation."(64) The church's prophetic role has to be appropriate both to its vision of creation and redemption and to the particular way in which its society is structured.

It may seem that there are so many issues and dimensions to living prophetically that congregations could feel quite overwhelmed and immobilized. But this is more likely if people see themselves as an aggregate rather than a community and if the preacher addresses them individualistically. However, the more they form networks and share their part in the whole, the more prophetic they can become.

A Closing Comment

Some years ago William Stringfellow gave a series of lectures in Montreal. Each lecture was followed by extensive and lively discussion. But not immediately. He always seemed to stop lecturing before he was finished. Each time there was an awkward silence. Suddenly the very incompleteness we sensed sent us back through the lecture and impelled us forward into all kinds of unexplored avenues. But more, this incompleteness reminded us of our humanity and our need to journey on in faith.

This book is unfinished. I was reminded of this as I was preparing to write this Afterword. I had a fascinating conversation with Max Stackhouse of Andover-Newton Seminary who felt that one of our greatest needs in the subject area of this book was for an examination of the history of preaching on certain texts as the "Rich Young Ruler" to see how sermons related to different contexts. I also recall Doris Lessing's words in her 1985 Massey Lectures about the importance of reading history to see the larger recurring patterns of human behavior and to be more modest about our own "discoveries."(65) This is only one of many ways in which the theme of preaching as a social act can be continued. Continue I hope it will, in new directions and from diverse perspectives.(66)



1. Quoted by Tilden Edwards, Jr., in his introduction to Living with Apocalypse: Spiritual Resources for Social Compassion, ed. Tilden H. Edwards (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984), 1.

2. Cf. "The magnitude of the problems needing to be addressed in our time should incline us to acknowledge that the Church could scarcely aspire to have significant impact without a fresh empowerment of the Spirit. Biblical understanding assures us that Pentecost was an event that needed to be repeated." James A. Forbes, Jr., "Social Transformation," in Living with Apocalypse, 59.

3. Constance Fitzgerald, "Impasse and Dark Night," in Living with Apocalypse, 112.

4. Faith and vested interests, as noted below, is a dialectical relationship in which normativeness may also be associated with the latter as in the case, for example, of the vested interests of the poor. 

5. Rosemary Haughton, "Liberating the Divine Energy," in Living with Apocalypse, 89.

6. Cohn Morris, God-in-a-Box: Christian Strategy in a Television Age (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984), 28-29,40-46,49,147, 165-67. Robert Jewett and John S. Lawrence have made an analysis and theological critique of television's super hero whose redemptive acts destroy stereotyped evil and impart "the relaxed feeling that society can actually be redeemed by anti-democratic means." In addition, reality is thought to be what is presented on the evening news. The American Monomyth (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1977), xx, 210-16. But there are also counterculture series such as "M.A.S.H." and exposes such as "60 Minutes" in the U. S. and "W5" in Canada.

7. For an important theological critique of apathy, see Dorothy Soelle, Suffering (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 36-49.

8. Actually they were borrowed from Northrop Frye, The Anatomy of Criticism, 131-239, as is noted by the authors, Handbook for Congregational Studies, ed. Jackson W. Carroll, Carl S. Dudley, and William McKinney (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986), 32-33. The treatment of these categories by Carroll and Hopewell lacks theological and social critique as though all four perspectives have equal validity.

9. Francis Schussler Fiorenza, "The Church's Religious Identity and Its Social and Political Mission," Theological Studies, 43, 1982, 197-204. The scheme developed in this article requires, I believe, more stress on the fact that religious and cultural symbols inevitably have a political meaning. For different views of belief in relation to the world see the introduction, note 23.

10. William W. Everett and T. J. Bachmeyer, Disciplines in Transformation: A Guide to Theology and the Behavioral Sciences (Washington: University Press of America, 1979). "We have assumed that considerations about Christianity, personality, and society have many points in common. From the Christian side in particular, there exists a drive for linkage with personality and social concerns. . . . At the same time we believe that personality and society matters both relate to one another and have definite associations with religion as well" (111).

11. Gregory Baum, "Ecumenical Theology: A New Approach," Ecumenist, 19,1981, 65-~8.

12. A sociologist turned spiritual director, Parker J. Palmer, sums up the point of this section when he says that there are three ways of approaching reality: through data and logic, through emotion and instinct, or through faithful relationships and community. A spiritual approach, he says, is relational, in community with God and through God with the whole created order. "The Spiritual Life: Apocalypse Now," Living with Apocalypse, 35. This reference to the created order is a reminder that nature is also an important concern of preaching. Douglas John Hall speaks of "three dimensions of human being-with," namely, God, neighbor and the "unsilent" creation, all of which, he says, are connected, Imaging God: Dominion as Stewardship (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 123-31.

13. David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981), 108, 269-75. "Without a sense of the religious event-character of proclamation, the New Testament itself ceases to be a religious classic open to properly theological interpretation and lives on in memory, if at all, as literature" (275).

14. Tracy, Analogical Imagination, 120. The four steps in interpreting a "classic" are: (1) recognition of pre-understanding (the interpreter is always a social, communal subject); (2) a claim calling the interpreter to attention; (3) a back-and-forth dialogue between text and interpreter (the game); and (4) the larger conversation of the entire community of inquirers (118-21). On the intensity of dialogue with the biblical text (and the biblical world) see also William A. Beardslee, Literaiy Criticism of the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), 10.

15. W. Walter Johnson, "The Ethics of Preaching," Interpretation, 20, 1966, 429. For a carefully reasoned presentation of the global responsibility of the church, including its task of proclamation, see Vincent Cosmao, Changing the World: An Agenda for the Churches, trans. John Drury (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1984).

16. Justo L. Gonzalez, ed., Proclaiming the Acceptable Year: Sermons from the Perspective of Liberation Theology (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1982).

17. Choan-Seng Song, "Truth-Power and Love-Power in a Court of Testimony," Proclaiming the Acceptable Year, 34.

18. One thinks, for example, of the trial ofchurch leaders involved in the Sanctuary Movement in recent times.

19. While this is abundantly obvious, it still needs to be restated. See Tilden Edwards, "A Conversation with Henri J. M. Nouwen," Living with Apocalypse, 15-22, and Robert MeAfee Brown, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984).

20. Tapia Lampinen, "The Content of the Parochial Sermons in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland as Indicators of the Openness and Closedness of the Church as System," Social Compass 27,1980, especially 422, 426, 428-29.

21. For a discussion of Weber's typology with reference to the church and preaching, see Robin Gill, Prophecy and Praxis: The Social Function of the Churches (London: Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1981), 21-30. Edward Shils has been critical of Weber's insufficient attention to the role of tradition in both hurch and sect types, Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

1981), 175-79.

22. Osmund Sebreuder, "The Silent Majority," Communication in the Church, eds. Gregory Baum and Andrew Greeley (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), especially 14-19. Another sociological study, from a symbolic interactionist perspective, examines Roman Catholic preachers in a number f U. S. Catholic parishes. In this view the preacher creates social order through preaching, and, therefore, the understanding of social order in a parish is the preacher's view of this order. Because of this natural inclination n the preaching process, both the preacher and the congregation need to develop a counter-balancing critical view of preaching. Thomas J. Mickey, "Social Order and Preaching," Social Compass, 27,1980, 347-62.

23. Shils, Tradition, 168-85.

24. Some years ago in Montreal I heard James Cone speak about his "white" education in a similar vein. This subjectivity in interpretation of Scripture was bluntly stated in Walter Wink's highly polemical monograph, The Bible in Human Transformation: Toward a New Paradigm for Biblical Study (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973), 1-15.

25. See Peter L. Berger, Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective (New York: Doubleday, 1963), 23-38, and C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 5-8.

26. See Berger, Invitation to Sociology, 51-64, and Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York: Doubleday, 1967), 156-63.

27. Cf. what Henri Nouwen says about the preacher needing to have a capacity for dialogue and to be personally available, Creative Ministry (New York: Doubleday, 1971), 33-39. See also Tracy's description of the dynamic character of both the interpretation and formation of a "classic," Analogical Imagination, 115-30.

28. Palmer, "The Spiritual Life," 31. Especially important in this connection is Parker J. Palmer's The Company of Strangers: Christians and the Renewal of America's Public Life (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981).

29. Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (New York: Basic Books, 1963), 56-57. Levi-Strauss later explores "the fact that both language and culture are products of activities which are basically similar" (71). On the social nature of language, see also Berger and Lockman, The Social Construction of Reality, 34-46.

30. Morris, God-in-a-Box, 181, and Walter On, The Presence of the Word (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), 3,17-23,32-35,50-54, and 87-91. On draws attention to the fact that the introduction of typography in many ways helped produce the modern age (8-9) and contributed to the Protestant Reformation's view of Scripture (265-74).

31. George Layoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 132.

32. Allen is drawing on Gibson Winter, Liberating Creation: Foundations of Religions Social Ethics (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981). Compared with organicistic and mechanistic metaphors, the root metaphor of artistic process is difficult to understand. Root metaphors furnish clues for understanding institutional struggles and the clash of symbols in our world. They are constellations of metaphors called forth by each other. Artistic process is not reducible to metaphor but uses metaphor; art is itself a metaphoric activity. It penetrates hidden things and finds bonds between them. In an age of transforming power in nature and history, art is both transformative (like the mechanistic) and bonding (like the organicistic). In particular it binds humanity and nature when these have been wrenched apart by technology and mechanistic thinking. Artistic process, in effect, integrates organicistic and mechanistic processes in "creative dwelling" (5, 9, 11, 12).

33. Winter, Liberating Creation, 5. See also Fitzgerald, "Impasse and Dark Night," 110.

34. David Tracy in Tracy and John B. Cobb, Jr., Talking About God: Doing Theology in the Context of Modern Pluralism (New York: Seabury Press, 1983), 17-28 and 29-38, and McFague, Metaphorical Theology, 13-18, 26, 60-63. On the "shocking" use of metaphor in the New Testament, see Beardslee, Literary Criticism, 11.

35. Naturally this will vary with the kind of liturgical tradition. Those who use pew Bibles and/or prayer books or other written documents distributed to all worshipers may be less attuned to the sound of liturgy than those without a written text. This is a conclusion from my own experience and a deduction from the discussion below. Others may have a different experience where the presence of a text enhances an awareness of the particularity of sound.

36. See J. Severino Croatto, "Biblical Hermeneutics in the Theologies of Liberation," Irruption of the Third World: Challenge to Theology, eds. Virginia Fabella and Sergio Torres (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1983), 140-68. This in no way contradicts Troeger's distinction between steno and depth languages but simply adds a further dimension to both On the attempt in the eighteenth century to establish written control over the spoken word through the publication of dictionaries and grammars, see On, The Presence of the Word, 50-79, and more recently, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London: Methuen, 1982).

37. See Layoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, 210-11, 220-21, and also 186-88.

38. Ibid., 223-24, 188-89.

39. McFague, Metaphorical Theology, 54.

40. Lampinen, "The Content of Parochial Sermons," 430-31.

41. 5. S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action, 3rd ed. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), 77-84. Hayakawa calls this presymbolic language and finds it in sermons and political speeches. People, he says, "often come away from church services without any clear memory of the sermon." This makes no sense from the viewpoint of symbolic language, but fits with the social function of presymbolic language which is social cohesion, (84).

42. Otto Maduro, Religion and Social Conflicts (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1982), 106. Maduro acknowledges that this statement goes back to Max Weber whose whole approach to the sociology of religion indicates that religion is world-shaking.

43. W. W. Finlator, "Preaching in America: An Impossible Task?" Christian Ministry, 16/5, September 1985, 25.

44. See Gill, Prophecy and Praxis, chapter 4 and especially the bibliography in the endnotes (71-72); ad Hart M. Nelson, "Why Do Pastors Preach on Social Issues?" Theology Today, 32, 1975, 56-73.

45. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), 254-55, n. 175. In the following discussion, the definition of "prophet" may seem too restrictive. Nevertheless I think Weber's typology, as a heuristic device, elucidates the social development of institutions.

46. Gill, Prophecy and Praxis, 24-39, and Shils, Tradition, 228-31. There is an irony in Weber's church/sect, prophet/priest typology. The prophet is more likely to be associated with a sect that is a closed community, even though prophets were often concerned with social reform. Gill's assertion that social reform was only a means to an end, namely salvation (25), does not eliminate this anomaly. Within the church, some clergy have felt constrained by their denomination. They were, in the official view of the church, ordained to expound the doctrine and maintain the traditions of the church. To claim direct communication from God as the basis for prophetic utterance against these traditions could mean being at least threatened, perhaps silenced, or even excommunicated. Morris West, The Clowns of God, quoted by Louise Kumandjek Tappa, "God in Man's Image," New Eyes for Reading: Biblical and Theological Reflections by Women of the Third World, eds. John B. Pobee and Barbel Von Wartenberg-Potter (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1986), 106.

47. Maduro, Religion and Social Conflicts chapters 25, 33-35. Maduro's views closely follow those of Max Weber and also Antonio Gramsci. In North America there have been effective "prophets" who have spoken largely outside of the organized church, people such as Will Campbell, Clarence Jordan, and William Stringfellow.

48. On the corporate dimension of prophecy in ancient Israel, see John S. Coalman, "The Social World of the Israelite Prophet -- A Review Article," Religious Studies Review 11/2, April 1985, 120-29. Two prophetic figures of the twentieth century, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., were both involved in massive movements and were both highly innovative, charismatic leaders. Neither, of course, fits into Weber's topology.

49. Leslie Newbigin, The Other Side of 1984: Questions for the Churches (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1983), 27-29. Newbigin clearly wants to avoid the "Constantinian" model of the church aligned with supreme political power, 30-37. The notion of "church" in this and the following paragraphs is different from either church or sect in Weber's topology. It would be useful, however, to explore these differences and also any similarities.

50. Gill, Prophecy and Praxis, 129.

51. Ibid., 95, 130-31.

52. See Gregory Baum, "Call for Social Justice: A Comparison," Ecumenist, 23/3,1985,43-45, and "The Theology of the American Pastoral,"Ecumenist, 24/2,1986, 17-22. The same point can be made about the nuclear arms industry. See, for example, Steven Schroeder's review of A. G. Mojtabai, Blessed Assurance: At Home with the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas, in Christian Century, 103, 1986, 651-53.

53. This assumes some general agreement with H. Richard Niebuhr that Christ is "the transformer of culture," Christ and Culture (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951), 190-229. See also, Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), 110-11.

54. This is Peter Berger's phrase and reflects a view of the church that is a "buffer" protecting people from the negative effects of technological, bureaucratic culture. For a critique of Berger's sociology, see Gregory Baum, "Peter Berger's Unfinished Symphony," Sociology and Human Destiny: Essays on Sociology, Religion and Society, ed. Gregory Baum (New York: Seabury Press, 1980), 110-29. There are, however, situations like Native American communities where the notion of sacred canopy is appropriate.

55. Bonnie Benda, "Preaching on Social Justice Issues," 9 pages, a paper presented to the Academy of Homiletics, 1982. There are, of course, times when the preacher does stand against some of the positions of those in the pew, but always with the pain of a disappointed pastor before God.

56. Dieter T. Hessel, ed., Social Themes of the Christian Year: A Commentary on the Lectionary (Philadelphia: Geneva Press, 1983).

57. Justo L. Gonzalez and Catherine G. Gonzalez, Liberation Preaching: The Pulpit and the Oppressed (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1980), 40, see the whole section 38-44. See also Lloyd Bailey, "The Lectionary in Critical Perspective," Interpretation, 31,1977,139-53. J. Irwin Trotter pays particular attention to the way the lectionary functions corporately in non-lectionary-based traditions to subvert the individualism of North American culture, "Are We Preaching a 'Subversive' Lectionary?" School of Theology at Claremont Bulletin, 28/2, December 1985, 1-7.

58. Jurgen Moltmann, The Power of the Powerless, trans. Margaret Kohl (London: SCM Press, 1983), 28-37.

59. Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hun ger (New York: Paulist Press, 1978).

60. McFague, Metaphorical Theology, 26. McFague also characterizes "symbolic, sacramental thinking as priestly and metaphorical thinking as prophetic" (17).

61. Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, "Embarrassed by the Church: Congregations and the Seminary," Christian Century, 103, 1986, 117-20.

62. See M. L. Brownsberger, "From the Other Side of the Pulpit," Christian Century, 103,1986, '746-48.

63. Examples of such communities springing up across Canada (and lam sure there are similar ones in the U. S.) are outlined by Tony Clarke, "Communities for Justice," Ecumenist, 19/2, 1981,17-25.

64. Francis Schussler Fiorenza, "The Church's Religious Identity," 224. See the whole section, 222-25.

65. Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, CBC Massey Lectures (Montreal: CBC Enterprises, 1986).

66. Since completing this last chapter I have read three works that advance the discussion of the preceding pages, especially the section on prophetic preaching. Andrew Kirk, from an "evangelical" perspective, challenges the separation that often exists between evangelism and social responsibility in The Good News of the Kingdom Coming, The Marriage of Evangelism and Social Responsibility (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter Varsity Press, 1983). Charles Elliott in Prayering the Kingdom, Towards a Political Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1985) also links the gospel with the coming of the Kingdom and argues for an approach to the social needs of the world that emphasizes grace rather than guilt and powerlessness. Finally, Gregory Baum agrees that guilt is an inappropriate response to the radical social message of the churches. Mourning and lamentation are the appropriate biblical reactions, followed by responsible action ("Resistance to Prophetic Preaching," Arc, 14/2, 1987, 47-53).

Viewed 114993 times.