Resources and wisdom for pastors, Issue 115

August 1, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation

Provocative insights on religious themes from contemporary novelists …

On Evangelism:

REPENT, FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND, his next day’s sign said, and he inscribed it, YOURS VERY TRULY, followed by his name, which was Coleman Kinzaler, Ph.D. He had conferred the Ph.D. upon himself the same day he finished reading the Bible, at the age of 33, for he knew that though he had never actually been to college, he was a doctor now in the eyes of the Lord.

Kevin Brockmeier, The Brief History of the Dead

On Heaven or Hell:

In the afterlife you are invited to sit in a vast comfortable lounge with leather furniture and banks of television monitors. Upon the millions of blue-green screens, you watch the world unfold. You can control the audio coming through your headphones. With a remote control, you can change the angles of the celestial cameras to capture the right action.

In theory, you could choose to watch anything: the private activities of single people in their apartments, the unfolding plans of saboteurs, the detailed progress of battlefields.

But, instead, we all watch for one thing: evidence of our residual influence in the world, the ripples left in our wake.

David Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives [59]

On Christians and Jews:

It went without saying that Mr. Mawhinney was a Christian, a long-standing member of the great overpowering majority that fought the Revolution and founded the nation and conquered the wilderness and subjugated the Indian and enslaved the Negro and emancipated the Negro and segregated the Negro, one of the good, clean, hard-working Christian millions who settled the frontier, tilled the farms, built the cities, governed the states, sat in Congress, occupied the White House, amassed the wealth, possessed the land, owned the steel mills and the ball clubs and the railroads and the banks, even owned and oversaw the language, one of those unassailable Nordic and Anglo-Saxon Protestants who ran America and always would run it – generals, dignitaries, magnates, tycoons, the men who laid down the law and called the shots and read the riot act when they chose to – while my father, of course, was only a Jew.

Philip Roth, The Plot Against America [93]

Theological wisdom (and theological foolishness) is not the private preserve of professional theologians. Many contemporary novelists deal sensitively with religious themes, often offering provocative insights that pastors can use to good effect in preaching and teaching. Brief quotes do not do justice to the novels from which they are taken, but they can provide wise, often startling, sometimes humorous, but always thought-provoking resources within sermons and adult education. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation shares some wisdom from novels as a small contribution to pastors who seek to proclaim the gospel faithfully week in and week out.

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Many pastors identify talking about, raising and managing church finances as among the toughest challenges they face. The Presbyterian Foundation has created a tool box of resources to help with these and related matters. BROWSE RESOURCES