Friday, April 4, 2008

The No Inklings Book Club, Once Again

Another Thursday night, another Club du Livre at Grace Lutheran. Robin and Scott and I arrived early for Vespers, glorying once again in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (we use the deplorable WELS hymnal at our current church). Having been duly refreshed with a salutary Word, we gathered downstairs in time to welcome the pizza delivery guy, always a popular dude.

So. Pizza, cokes, some incidental grapes to decorate our plates, and off we went. The first order of business once plates are piled high is to talk politics, led by the ever inventive Tim Gies, whose specialty is to back candidates no one has ever heard of. And since this is perhaps the most entertaining election year in some time for us crusty old conservatives, it took some time and not a little gleeful schadenfreude to work our way through the political scenery.

Our new book is CPH's latest offering: WOMEN PASTORS? The first really funny tale is that Robin was seen reading it while waiting for Deb at our chiropractor's office. Our Buddhist, Lesbian Chiropractor's office. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall of that woman's thought processes.

But I digress. We worked our way thesis by thesis through a Bo Giertz essay which attempted to lay the groundwork for a rational, Confessional Lutheran discussion of the issue. And much of the essay is quite good, laying a foundation of real, honest commitment to studying and listening to God's Word.

The difficulty when opening a study on such a complex topic is this: There is a strong tendency to look for proof-texts to support one's position. This is nice when it works and follows good hermeneutical principles, but it can also grossly skew a topical study.

What gets lost when staring at the tree is the forest, so to speak. Scripture is not written as a series of proof-texts, like a scientific study. The forest is more than individual trees. There is a complex web of relationship uniting scripture which in my experience takes a long time and much study to appreciate. There is the working of the Holy Spirit; the fact that hearing and reading scripture is a means of grace. When you say that God's Word does what it says, you've said a lot.

This has to be emphasized when a bunch of yoakum lay guys (plus my daughter and Millie)(plus the very astute Pastor Gullixson, who earns his stripes, believe me!) sit down to discuss theology. It takes time to hear the whole counsel of God. It is amazing how many sources within scripture will weigh in on a particular topic, however subtly. Things aren't always as they initially seem.

On the way home, Scott and I discussed this. If we agree that church polity is not the same as worldly polity, then we have to understand how difficult it will always be for those initially entering the church to have the ears to discern the differences. We have to assume that worldly assumptions will be part of their baggage, and catechize accordingly. This is impossible in drive-by situations, of which there are so many in the current culture. Who has time to sit still and grant the Holy Spirit space to discern for us the often subtle, always essential, articles of faith?

Well. Some progress was made. Some problems identified. And we'll be with this topic for the rest of the year, so I'm sure you'll be reading more about it here, again.

In the end, the Glass Nickel pizza was filling, and the fellowship , as always, gratifying.


scott said...

My question is, what personality trait has our resident author devouring anything readable he can get his hands on, yet refusing to subject himself to your reading "assignments". I'm not complaining, since what he has to add is usually right on the point, but it is funny.

I assume it's only to undermine you.

Bruce Gee said...

We used to call it the "Different Drummer Syndrome". I'm happy he shows up, and any reading he may do is a bonus. As for undermining me, shucks. I do that well enough by myself!

Cindy R. said...

Your book club sounds very interesting. I once tried to read Wingren's Luther on Vocation, but got bogged down in all the unfootnoted German and Latin. I wish I could have read the book with your group. After trying to do it on my own, I needed a Lutheran vacation. (I know, I know, total groaner.)

Bruce Gee said...

Yeah, Cindy... looking back on it we probably should have read Veith's GOD AT WORK instead. Not only am I named in the acknowledgements, but it is an easier read by far.

With book clubs, you live and learn.

In the case of this particular book club, I simply assembled all of my favorite guys, and we sat down to eat. And that has been going on, every three weeks or so, for over four years now. These little groups take on a life of their own. We even have a resident author.

Cindy R. said...

You're named in Veith's acknowledgements? (Checks book to see whether Bruce is joking.) You really are. Cool!

I had read God at Work and was inspired to go to the source with Wingren. But I decided that I prefer reading plain English.

Bruce Gee said...

I really love Wingren's book, I must admit. I dragged that poor group of friends through it because I am so enthralled with reading it. His section on Vocation/Imitation is still one of my favorites.

But not everyone shares my enthusiasm. It is a good thing we serve food.