23 November 2009

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.

Getting back in the saddle with a flurry of posts today, apparently!

I have a professor this semester who has repeatedly expressed an insistence that pastors and worship leaders must know how to speak "in the language of the people, where they are." He generally goes on to say some variation of the following: "When you listen to your people pray, if they immediately revert to the language of the King James Bible, that is a clear signal to you that they are praying to a God who, in their perception, does not know them or have anything to do with them." They are praying, he says, to the God of stained glass windows and "Bible times," but not a God who is living and present today.

This strikes me as entirely wrong. I don't have a whole lot of use for the KJV, but many people do, and it isn't because they believe God is absent. It's because they understand that the Word of God is different from all other words in our society.

Steve linked to an interesting post that calls our attention to Wendell Berry's reasoning for continuing to use the KJV in his books. Following Berry's lead, the writer suggests that "We must learn to express new ideas in old language; then we will not be speaking past each other, but speaking poetry."

By all means, the pastoral responsibility is to help people know that God is with them, that God understands and cares about even the smallest details of their lives. But we have to attend to the balance/tension between God's immanence and God's transcendence. The great pastoral challenge is to be able to speak of the intimate love of God and the personal worth of each person using language that inspires a sense of awe towards the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Expressing new ideas using the "old language" of another era is one way to remind us that these truths are not of our creation; they are spoken by a distinctive Word and have been passed down through faithful generations.

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