Rotating Header Image

confronting difficult texts and issues – mark keown


Not for the first time, I recently had a conversation with a preacher in which that person spoke of their practice of avoiding difficult texts and questions in their preaching. So for example, this person avoids questions of sexuality, marriage, eternal destruction, and difficult controversial moral issues. I pushed back, but with little effect.

In my view, we abdicate our responsibility as preachers if we avoid difficult questions raised by the text or the world. Tough questions like God’s use of violence in the OT to affect his will, the relationship of God’s sovereignty to human volition, sexuality, marriage, money, and so on, cannot be avoided. One of the problems I have with Lectionary’s is that they often jump such texts. Put simply, if we are going to encourage our people to be avid Bible readers, we have to be prepared to go to those tough places. If not, are we worthy of standing the pulpit on behalf of our God and claiming to be his mouthpiece? It is at the tough questions that the word is most prophetic.

Where the world is raising questions, we simply have to go there. So, when the government is discussing gay marriage or euthanasia, we have to engage. If we do not, our people will be self-selecting in terms of the voices they listen to. They will speak to the incarnate “god” of our time, “Google,” and ask the question. Who knows what they will then read or listen to. Likely, it will be material from those who know how to manipulate Google to get their material to the head of the search list. Then, Google will feed them more of the same as their god recognizes the preferences of the listener.

If we do go into the tough spaces though, we have to do our homework. We have to watch that we ourselves are not googling to find all the answers. We have to equip ourselves by seeking out good theological material, take time to read it, and translate the ideas into the level of our communities of faith. We have to invest time into reading of the different views that exist on hot topics and meet them through the Scriptures. We have to read Scripture well, preferably ourselves equipped with the tools to exegete the Scriptures from the original languages. Where not, knowing where to go to read Scripture well.

Never in the history of the church have our people been as vulnerable to the forces of darkness which seek to subvert the truth and corrupt our thinking, conforming it to the patterns of the world rather than the voice of the Word. With everything now one click away, we have to guide our people through the maze of voices to those they can trust; those who read the world and Scripture well. So, as we go about teaching in the tough areas, we need to lead our people to good books and writings. We won’t stop them googling, but we can give them direction concerning the trustworthy voices out there.

Our preaching must be a continuous movement between the questions of the day and the written Word through which the Living Word speaks. If you are one of those “avoiders,” I urge you to think again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *