Thursday, August 18, 2005
Theology of the Word and the Postmodern Context: #3
My struggling with ordination comes out of the fact that I have to go before the Committee on Preparation for Ministry next Friday to hopefully become a candidate for ordination. Much of this process in the PCUSA is set up to make us pastors in traditional Presbyterian churches. Interestingly the Pittsburgh Presbytery has decided to support the Open Door, not a traditional Presbyterian church in any way. So it's difficult for me to go through this process that is designed for the traditional PCUSA pastor. BJ and Marlaena have responded to me below with some really good thoughts on ordination and seminary, read that stuff.
But... there is a lot of good stuff in the ordination process too. One of the questions they'll ask me next week is "Do you believe yourself to be called by God to the ministry of Word and Sacrament?" I'll talk about the ministry of Word, sacrament is for another time, that's tougher to think about than Word!
Am I called by God to the ministry of Word and Sacrament? Big question! To most presbyterians the ministry of the Word means that they get up in front of a congregation and preach. I agree that is a part of the ministry of the Word. Karl Barth defines three aspects of The Word. Two I've already written about, the word as Jesus Christ - that's the most important, The Word as scripture, and the Word proclaimed. Today I'm thinking about what happens when the Word is proclaimed and how it is that the Word is proclaimed. Barth and many reformed theologians believe that when a preacher gets up to preach the words that come out of his/her mouth are (potentially) the Word of God. That's what Karl Barth means here, that's a big and radical idea to me! I'd love to hear your comments!
My question is this, is the Word proclaimed only the Word of God when it is proclaimed by a trained professional in a the setting of a traditional sermon? I see it happening like this. The Word, Jesus, is understood by his people through scripture. When someone connects scripture to a context and proclaims the gospel Jesus actively works redemption - this is theology of the Word proclaimed.
But what does this look like in a postmodern context, where an authority figure up front is not trusted and people seem to learn better through dialogue? Can this theology of the Word proclaimed work in our postmodern context? I don't think we should completely through out preaching, but is that they only way that Jesus works in worship, is that the only way that the redemptive gospel can change people's lives? I think it can be adapted, but only with hard work. While I love this reformed theology of the modern age, I don't believe that theological thought should end there. I also haven't really read any really good emergent thinkers or people in our postmodern age who have expanded upon this theology. I think I'll post on this again, but first I'd rather read your thoughts. How do we understands Barth's theology of the Word in it's three capacities in our context?