Interaction with The End of Words (by Richard Lischer)
The End of Words is the best book on preaching I have read in years. I put it right up there with the works of Fred Craddock and Tom Long. I have learned about preaching because of reading Lischer’s book.
I will be interacting with this book for the foreseeable future as I plan to re-read it in 2017. For me, 2017 will be a year of re-reading books on theology, homiletics, and race relations. The re-reading, I hope, will drive me to deeper engagement with these fine works. In The End of Words there is much I could write about here, but for now I opt to comment on one idea from his essay ‘One Last Story,’ (p.89-128).
Lischer says, “The Stories of Jesus haunt our world not because they correspond perfectly to history but because they correspond perfectly to his real presence among us” (p.125). The distinction he draws is important. People don’t come to faith because we Christians convince them, in their skepticism, of the historicity of events in the Christian story. Some Christian apologists are so determined to win the argument and then proclaim their victory, they lose sight of the real goal: helping people meet and come to know Jesus.
People are not won to faith by convincing arguments. They come to faith in God when they meet God in Jesus Christ. Hence Lischer’s use of the verb ‘haunt.’ Skeptics and believers alike are haunted by a ghost – the Holy Ghost. Apologetics has its place. Our preaching can be defeated if it fails to hold up to scientific and historic scrutiny. However, strong proofs do not win any victory for the preacher. We don’t help people find their way to Jesus unless we have the Holy Spirit with us.
Our sermons will successfully tell those stories that haunt the world, when the Holy Spirit haunts our sermons and our souls. Near the conclusions of the section, Lischer says, “We have the high and dangerous calling of telling one last story in a world filled with lies: the story must be true” (emphasis mine) (p. 127). That we can show the historicity of the resurrection of the scientific veracity of the world as something created does not make our story true. Those types of proofs make the message verifiable to some degree. What makes it true is if Jesus is in it and in us as we preach it. When people hear the message and find themselves staring into the eyes of Jesus, we have told the true story, the one the world desperately needs.
Thank you, Dr. Lischer, for this amazing book. Five stars!