The foundation for the humanities is preaching and synagoguery. Take away the gospel and you have some metaphysics, but no reason for literature and history. You still have the stories people like to tell but no Keystone keeps it altogether.
What I mean is that every narrative has a central point of view or set of values to hold the plot together. No cohesive values means no cohesive narrative: there’s just no human way to even care. But the only way you can have a cohesive narrative that covers all the stories – all of human history and the whole human race – is if you have a single cohesive set of values that are true for all peoples in all places.
The study of the humanities is teasing out of that set of cohesive values. If there is a keystone concept, a singular idea that encompasses all narratives and holds them together, that idea has to be the gospel. If it isn’t the Christian gospel, it must be some other gospel. If there is no gospel, then we are stuck with that other most basic idea that crowds into all questions of right and wrong, and truth and beauty: “sez who?”
I believe that the preacher has two duties:to teach the people how to read, and to teach the people how to think. By reading, I don’t mean the ability to look at letters and turn them into words and sentences, but the ability to look at words and sentences and understand the context and subtext, to read critically. And by thinking, I don’t mean the ability to think approved thoughts, but the ability to take approved thoughts and evaluate them according to an ultimate standard.
I’m always dismayed when I go to hear a sermon and I hear words being read, but no Reading being done, thoughts being recommended for adoption, but no Thinking bring demonstrated. It does no good to convey truths to a people like a black box, and give them no hope of learning how those truths actually integrate. How then when other preachers come and authoritatively hand out more attractive untruths?
It’s as though a soldier was added to the roster of a military unit, and was subjected every week to his captain and first sergeant demonstrating on his behalf all the skills of a great soldier, but was never trained to perform those skills himself. How then when he deploys? How when he is promoted will he handle increased responsibility?
I don’t remember, growing up, if I was subject to good preaching on Sunday mornings. I remember a few really good pastors, but I also remember moving a lot. What I did have was a mother who was faithful to teach me doctrine, and recordings of great preaching, and an excellent library. We had lots of theological conversations growing up. We probably had a lot of conversations that no other family would have. I’m always running into situations where a friend learns, as an adult or a reasonably mature Christian, something that was part of normal conversation when I was a kid. (Of course, I’m also always filling in lots of gaps.) My point is that I was taught to read and I was taught to think. Oh boy was I taught!
God has ordained two primary channels for Christian education: the parents and the preacher. Every other role is a supporting role. And it’s the preacher’s job to train the parents. My mom did her job, and an excellent one. But not every Christian gets an excellent mom. How much more then does the preacher have a heavy responsibility to teach the people every week to do more than just listen?
The Divine in Preaching.
FYI: Unction comes from the Latin “unguere,” which means “to annoint.” Like, with oil. On Aaron, or David’s head.