Just as God used words both to create the world and to give us commandments, we too use words for many different purposes. In fact, we use the same language to talk to each other and to talk to God. Can our everyday speech, then, be just as important as the words and prayers we hear from the pulpit? Eugene Peterson unequivocally says "Yes!"
Tell It Slant explores how Jesus used language - he was earthy, not abstract; metaphorical, not dogmatic. His was not a direct language of information or instruction but an indirect, oblique language requiring a participating imagination - "slant" language. In order to witness and teach accurately in Jesus' name, then, it is important for us to use language the way he did.
Part 1 focuses on Jesus' words in everyday contexts - his teachings to the crowds, the stories he told, his conversations with his disciples. Part 2 shifts the focus to Jesus' prayers - the words he spoke to God the Father.
Peterson's Tell It Slant promises to deepen our understanding of Jesus' words, strengthen our awareness of language as a gift of God, and nurture our efforts to make all of our speech convey a blessing to others.
"Language - given to us to glorify God, to receive the revelation of God, to witness to the truth of God, to offer praise to God - is constantly at risk. Too often the living word is desiccated into propositional cadavers, then sorted into exegetical specimens in bottles of formaldehyde. We end up with godtalk. . . . My concern is that we use God's gift of language in consonance with the God who speaks. Jesus is the primary person with whom we have to do in this business. Jesus most of all. Jesus, the Word made flesh. . . . I want to nurture an awareness of the sanctity of words, the holy gift of language whether it is directed vertically or horizontally. Just as Jesus did."- from the introduction
- How theology should be taught
Originally posted on my blog at http://bookwi.se
I am a fan of Eugene Peterson. I think he is the best living narrative theologian out there. Others write about narrative theology and using story to communicate the gospel. Peterson writes as a pastor and doesn’t just write about theology, but shows us how to read scripture and how to understand the gospel. He does theology.
Tell it Slant is another in Peterson’s recent series of books. I listened to this one on audio as I have the others. Peterson is best, at least for me, on audio. Grover Gardner is a great narrator and give just the right voice to Peterson.
This book is divided into two parts. The first part explores the parables that Jesus told in Luke on his final trip to Jerusalem. These parables are unique to Luke and form one long scene of final teaching before leaving his disciples. The second part looks at the six prayers that Jesus prays that are recorded in Luke. Peterson has has a unique ability to not only explain a parable, but narrate a lesson in theology, almost as an aside to his scripture teaching. He gives background, culture, linguistic theory, basic and advanced theology all in an understandable format.
Peterson suggests that one reason that Jesus told parables, especially to people that were hostile to him, was precisely because they are harder to understand. People would hear the story and not have anything to complain about. And by the time that their brain caught the real meaning of the story (and/or the Holy Spirit worked on them) Jesus would be gone. I have to admit that this wrinkle to parables has not occurred to me. I get that parables are stories to get a point across. I get that they are memorable and often will stick with a person longer than a didactic sermon. But it never occurred to me that stories take a while for our brain to process.
And Jesus when he is on his way to Jerusalem the last time, at least in Luke, his use of stories increases. In direct opposition of what our inclination would be. We would be more direct, Jesus becomes more oblique. Peterson thinks it is precicely because Christ was focused on the Father’s will and not his own that he can not worry about what would happen because his trust in the Father is complete.
I cannot recommend Peterson too highly.