I am reading Walter Brueggmann’s “The Prophetic Imagination” which stimulates my own imagination causing me to fit what I believe he is saying into the framework of what I think I understand about God and us, His people. I am only into the second chapter (20 pages plus introduction) but here is what has me excited:
Prophecy cannot be separated very long from doxology, or it will either whither or become ideology.
Permit me to explain. Ideology here is a “consumerism ideology” or, explained in the vernacular, “television jingles.” In my book “Challenged” I maintain
In this new age, we are rightly labeled ‘consumers’ who are objectifying every aspect of life in an effort to secure a sense of wellbeing. We desire things in order to find happiness. We are addicted to ‘things’ that we imagine will define fulfillment, success, significance. This is the context by which we perceive what is moral, aesthetic and spiritual.
Consumerism is not the church’s message—or shouldn’t be!! What we are talking about here is discourse. The question is “How do we herald the message of Grace (a double sided coin: freedom in Christ and final judgment or true justice) to our world? Brueggmann wrote to show that “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”
There is a definite difference in how believers think, how we [I consider myself one] imagine, how we interpret our experiences in Christ, what memories we hold unto, how we understand suffering or pain, how we embrace hope, and—let’s face it—how we talk (our discourse).
As God’s people we are gifted with an “alternative perspective” on these four (according to Brueggmann): Memory, pain, hope, and discourse. [I know: he talks strange.]
We possess an historical narrative whether written or oral, whether as tradition or personal experience, that declares the record of God’s works, the Spirit’s moving, among us. We have personal testimonies that are undeniably the visible signs of the hand of God upon our lives. These Brueggmann might call memories.
We have a story to tell that has changed our perception of suffering—what our author calls pain. And hope, Brueggmann’s third term, is not something we need to conjure up by purchasing lottery tickets. Ours is alive.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5.
The utlimate proof of this distinction is God’s Love or what Brueggmann calls “the emergence of compassion.” [Did you know that in the Old Testament the word for mercy is only used of God? The New Testament word for compassion is only used of Christ and the church!] N.T. Wright speaking of the Apostle Paul and referencing Descartes said it rather succinctly. He was concluding that because we are made in the image of God and being conformed from Glory to Glory into the image of His Son [Romans 8:29] we can say (almost a quote):
Descartes said “I think therefore I am.” Paul affirmed “I love, therefore I am.
Brueggmann references the doxology for the more general term discourse. It is not important that we invent words (although this has been done) to express our faith as much as it is of critical importance that we see the difference between a postmodern cultural use of language distinct from ours and that we do not acquiesce to their understanding of what is right and wrong. There is a difference between the life God calls us to and what society has evolved into.
The true voice of prophecy (I agree with the author) is not to pronounce a thousand woes on our world—a world hardened to these cries of alarm. Nor is it—God forbid, that—we use our voice to rubber stamp cultural behavior (outside of Christ) or ameliorate that offense of the Cross by heralding a message that is more accepting of everyone and sees no difference in following Christ.
Our perception and consciousness should be like Paul’s on Mars Hill. The crowd murmured, “What is this babbler trying to say? … He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They called his teaching new—a most astute observation, for it was. Paul did not intend to dress up old philosophies or compromise his understanding of the mystery of Godliness. They called his ideas strange. [Acts 17:18-20] as should ours be in a postmodern world.
As the professor reminds us that we serve a God “who …is unco-opted and uncontained by the empire (our culture).”