logos and google

'The Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other'.

Attributed to Karl Barth, this is the classic cliche about the need for preachers to remain connected to both the Word and the World, the Text and the Context, as they prepare and deliver sermons. Earlier this month in Amman, I heard Dr Yohanna Katanacho (Bethlehem Bible College) refresh the Barthian quotation, as he described his own approach to preaching:

'Using Logos helps me understand the text; using Google helps me understand the context'.
[NB: I am assuming that 'Logos' refers here to a Bible software package.]

These statements align with the Stottian quotation which I hear most frequently as I travel: the call for 'double listening'. We need to be listening to the Word and listening to the World on the way to relating the one to the other in the sermon - and in life itself. I've been reflecting again on how much this principle has been woven into the fabric of who I am and how I function in ministry.

As a young pastor, in my twenties, there was a bus company that moved us around in the lower South Island of New Zealand. It was called H & H. I remember articulating the 'H & H' that moved me in ministry: hermeneutics and homiletics. Interpreting the Bible. Preaching the Bible.

As a young lecturer in my thirties, I found myself teaching H & H. I was like a little boy in a licorice shop. As my thirties gained momentum I was asked to develop a course from scratch called The Gospel in a Post-Christian Society. WOW - those were the days... With H & H - and now GPCS - filling my waking hours, 'double listening' had embedded itself into my vocation. Text and Context. Word and World. Not surprisingly, my developing doctoral studies had a similar flavour as I wrestled with 'the parable in the postmodern'.

Into my forties and a 'jack of all trades' teaching career (at BCNZ/Laidlaw College I had taught in every department and at every academic level) was traded-in for a single, specific focus: homiletics, or preaching. As I lived in this area a model for teaching the subject took shape. At its core was a commitment to double listening - or, more accurately, quadruple (?!) listening - as we listened our way around the four corners of a room, engaging with text, listener, world and self - with the text having the strongest voice as these conversations morphed their way into a sermon. [NB: One ongoing incarnation of this 'four corners' approach is the impressive Kiwimade Preaching website where contributing articles are collected in these four corners.]

Now in my fifties and involved in a preacher training ministry with a global reach, the Barthian cliche continues to have its manifestations, sometimes in surprising places. My suitcase, for example. This morning I looked in there and noticed the two books, on a blue towel, selected for reading on this trip. Almost intuitively by now, this selection pulls me into double-listening. I really like it like that...

Well, that is a slice of one person's story into a life of 'double listening'.

What does your own story sound like?
Because we all need to be doing it, in every vocation.

nice chatting



Sean said…
My journey has been seasons of "in" and "out". In ministry and trying to figure out how the Scriptures speak in that context. Then pulled into a period of intense time at college of study where I was a little removed from the world, then back into ministry. Now, as I approach the finish line for my PhD, I can't wait to reconnect with the world. Perhaps this spells the end of my withdrawal phases?
Paul Windsor said…
So close to the finish line, Sean. I remember you as a young, enquiring and motivated student. So pleased you have made this investment with your life and look forward to following you as you remain wordy and worldy, salty and lighty, gracey and truthy as you live for Jesus.

Popular Posts