June 18, 2007

Theology by Exclamation Point!


A recent form-letter I received from a Synodical Official included seventeen exclamation marks. Three of these were in reference to the Ablaze!(tm) "movement."

I will include exclamation points in the manuscripts of my sermons as an indicator to me that I need to emphasize something. They are code to me to yell speak up. But even though I make the manuscripts available, I do not consider them writing intended for the eye. If I am writing for the text to be read by others, then one or two well-placed exclamation points is more than sufficient. Anything else makes it seem like a carnival.

Which makes me wonder what it says when literature about synodical programs movements, devotions, and other ecclesial communications are filled with exclamation points. It's like those well-meaning guys who read the Scripture lessons or prayers in church with dramatic affectations - I suspect they are trying to convince everybody that yes, they really do mean it. It annoys me. Quit clowning around and read.

But it must go deeper than that - or rather, shallower. Our happiness is our doctrine! We are so glad to be in love with Jesus! We've got the joy, joy, joy!

When asked about the rise of modern Evangelicalism, John R.W. Stott evaluated it as "growth without depth" (Christianity Today, October 2006; quoted in Modern Reformation, January/February 2007, p9). That may describe what is happening in Lutheranism today as well: growth without depth. Except, we're not growing either. But in all the hubbub about growing, counting, touching, critical-eventing, where is the depth? Replaced by the exclamation point! Oh, well! As long as we're happy!

3 comments:

Rev. Scott Klemsz said...
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Paul T. McCain said...
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Rev. Eric J Brown said...

It is my theory that "Ablaze!" should be pronounced "Ah - blah - zay" - as I believe it comes from the Latin "Ablazare" meaning "To throw money into a bottomless burecratic pit." Note that "Ablaze!" is in the imperative case - so it is literaly a command - "You, throw money into the bottomless burecratic bit!"