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The Ecology of Faith by Joseph Sittler


Theological education was prominent among the many interests of Lutheran scholar and theologian Joseph Sittler, who died on December 28, 1988. Following are some of his more provocative reflections on that subject, excerpted from his recent book, Gravity and Grace (Augsburg Publishing House), copyright 1986; reprinted by permission. This book was published by Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia, 1961. It was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Preface


The occasion to write the material here presented was the invitation from the Yale Divinity School to deliver the Lyman Beecher Lectures on preaching in 1959. For the honor of that invitation, for the courteous attention of members of the faculty and students, and for useful critical reflections which I have tried to weigh I am grateful.

This little book is dedicated to my father. He was my first and best teacher. As I live and work and preach in a theological and general scene so different from that within which he served the church for over fifty years, I sometimes try to specify in my own mind the components of his still memorable sermons. The answer seems to be this: he lived with complete immediacy within the world of the Bible. He announced, administered, celebrated the gospel in preaching. The biblical images required from him no demythologizing; he intuitively understood them as Godly powers. The biblical words required no symbolization. for he never regarded them as anything but salvatory force. The stories in the Bible were not for him condensed moralizations from the long ago and far away. They were living transcripts of how a gracious God dealt and deals with his erring and unfaithful children.

The publisher and author record their grateful acknowledgment to the following houses for permission to quote from the items cited: Criterion Books, Inc., for George Barker’s lines from Elegy: Separation of Man from God; Columbia University Press, The Seventeenth Century Background; J. M. Dent and Sons, Ltd., Portable Conrad; Dodd, Mead and Company, Orthodoxy; Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., Complete Poems of A. E. Housman; The Macmillan Company, The Primacy of Faith; G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Art of Writing; Random House, The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden; Charles Scribner’s Sons, The Resurrection and Historical. Reason; The Bethany Press, The Nature of the Unity We Seek.

Permission to include the poems of Walter de la Mare has been granted by The Literary Trustees of Walter de la Mare and The Society of Authors as their representative.

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