One of my tasks during this placement is to read and discuss a book from the recommended list from 121. I chose Eugene Peterson’s ‘Under the Unpredictable Plant‘ which is subtitled ‘an exploration in vocational holiness’. I’ve started it and I am enjoying it, but I’ll save fuller comments for a little later. My first reaction to it has been wondering what its relevance is – it seems very pre-occupied with what, to me, sound like very typically US issues. It takes as its starting point the problems surrounding much of the US evangelical movement – things like the ‘prosperity gospel’, mega-churches and ‘programme-led’ and results-based ministries. That said, it doesn’t mean it has nothing to teach, and in many respects it is quite a challenging read, forcing the reader to question what his/her primary focus is in ministry.
I have recently started reading some blogs which, in a sense, back up what Peterson’s purpose is in writing the book. They all point to major issues within US Christianity. And as I read these and related links, I do start to see the relevance of the book. With so much culture exchange between the UK and the US, it’s only a matter of time when there are similar issues here. In fact, with the rise in popularity of churches such as, for example, the Vine and Hillsong in the UK, one might argue that the issues are already here. I’ve just read an illuminating interview with Eugene Peterson which pretty much sums up where he’s coming from in his writings. So, with that as a background, I’ll approach the book in a slightly different light and post my thoughts accordingly.
As for the blogs I’ve been reading – millinerd, internetmonk and the Boar’s Head Tavern – I’ve decided that the more I learn, the less I know. Whenever I read a bit of theology or someone’s thoughts on theology, it just raises more and more questions in my head that I don’t know the answer to. So I read some more, answer (or at least clarify) some of those questions, but at the same time raise others. The question-answering seems to proceed linearly, the question-raising is almost certainly exponential. Maybe I should just stop reading and finding questions. Then again, I was having a clearout of paperwork earlier and came across a printout of a sermon I delivered a little while ago. In it, I had a wee go at ‘simple faith’, claiming that there’s really no such thing and that not confronting questions and issues was doing a disservice to the intelligence we’re gifted with. Maybe I need to listen to what I preach to others.