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Brueggemann: Churches Should Be Source of Greater Honesty

In an exclusive interview for BMS World Mission’s Catalyst Live in Reading, England, renowned theologian Walter Brueggemann spoke about greater honesty, the purpose of preaching and the sentence he wishes he’d written differently.
The Catalyst Live audience in Reading enjoyed a taste of Brueggemann’s theology through an interview with Mark Ord, co-director of BMS World Mission’s International Mission Centre, filmed exclusively for Catalyst Live ticket-holders.

In the interview, Brueggemann explored the purpose of preaching in a world of constant demand, where everyone says they don’t have enough time.

“I think what preaching wants to do is to create open spaces where those pressures are not defining,” he said.

Having that breathing space is “elementally important to human possibility,” Brueggemann said. He argued that failing to allocate time for this, in practices like Sabbath, leads humans toward fascism.

In response to a question on his famous belief that the only way to find God is “in, with or under the biblical text, and nowhere else,” Brueggemann admitted that that claim had gotten him into quite a lot of trouble.

“It’s probably a bit of an overstatement,” he said, “but it was my attempt to say that there is something very peculiar and very distinctive about this text. It’s so Jewish, and Jewishness, theologically, is a resistance to all of our smooth logic … This was an attempt to say that we ought not to domesticate this text to fit our ordinary reasoning because it simply doesn’t work that way.”

“I often wish I had written that sentence somewhat differently,” Brueggemann said. “It’s caused me a lot of trouble.”

Responding to an audience question on encouraging the prophetic in churches, Brueggemann called for greater honesty in the church.

“I think that we tend to live in an illusionary world that operates by euphemisms,” he said, “so we do not call things by their right name, and we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. I think the church ought to be the place in town where honesty is practiced.”

Sarah Stone is a writer for BMS World Mission. A version of this news article about Brueggemann’s interview at the 2014 Catalyst Live event first appeared on the BMS World Mission website. It is used with permission. You can follow Stone on Twitter @Sarah_Stone and BMS @BMSWorldMission.

Editor’s note: A photo news story from Catalyst Live 2014 is available here. Previous articles about Catalyst Live 2014 include:

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