Sunday, April 29, 2012

Imagine That

"If you want to change a people's obedience, you must change their imagination."

Writing essays for college has forced me to produce a small body of work for which I must take responsibility. For each individual essay I never set out with a preconceived notion of what it is I'm going to write, either because I want the readings I do to take me in unfamiliar directions or because I simply don't have enough knowledge to have any preconceived notions about the topic at hand.

And yet as I remember some of my past essays and plot the present one there is an obvious strand that runs right through them. It is the strand of "imagination". Here I show my Brueggemannian and Haysian roots, for these were (and still very much are) two scholars whom I would file under "influences". Imagination as a serious theological strand (and serious theological faculty) was articulated quite convincingly in a book I read last summer called Imagining God, and it's one that fuels my excitement about the work of theology. 

Since these things always get names we might call it Imaginative Theology, which is not merely a theology of the imagination but theology done by the imagination and for the imagination of the community of faith. I don't claim to be doing imaginative theology, but I do think that theology at its best affects most fundamentally our imaginations, defined by Brueggemann as our "capacity to host a reality or a world other than the one that is in front of us," that is, our capacity for faith, hope and love. That doesn't mean that theology must take the form of fantasy stories, or that there is no room for systematics or dogmatics. It does mean that when Jesus told the parable of the Lost Sons he was not giving us primitive source material for the real work of theology but was himself doing the real work. These beautiful stories are as valid a work of theology as a beautiful portion of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, who takes the stories and uses a gifted imagination to construe them into dogmatic form in the service of the church's imagination.

It is with this understanding of theology that I attempt to write about Paul's first recorded writing to the Corinthians. Paul, as far as I understand him, had a knowledge of Scripture that was surpassed only by his imaginative use of it in the service of his churches. Paul's capacity to host an alternative world to the Greco-Roman world in front of him was magisterial, and it is precisely this capacity that we read when we read his New Testament epistles. In effect, we are reading nothing less than the imagination of Paul given over to the community for its up-building.

That theology can and must be this gives me goosebumps.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Complementarian's Diary

Egalitarianism is a slippery slope. One minute I might be foolishly allowing a woman the dignity of having a voice that matters more than my own, the next I might be announcing my decision to have a sex change. Now I'm not saying egalitarianism would be the direct cause of my desire to become a woman, but it sure wouldn't help, would it?

Of course, I think -- I think -- it's not a "gospel issue". Just like there are some Catholics who might be saved, I firmly believe that there might be some egalitarians in heaven too. After all, they could be nominally egalitarian but functionally complementarian. So while they may say that in Christ male and female are one, as long as they don't put that into practice then who am I to judge?

By the way, I'd also like to take the time to thank God for the amazing conference I just got back from. To be in a gospel-centred room full of gospel-centred Christian men underwriting the biblical conviction that the male voice is the only one worth listening to in gospel-centred churches was so gospel-centred and Christ (who was, after all, a man) focused that it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Hairs that I'm not sure women even have. 

But you know what? I'm also so thankful for all the wives who stayed away from the conference. These are gospel-centred, biblical women who know that they have no business being anywhere near an event that is about male things like church and authority and preaching. I am truly inspired to be a leader by their servile nature. That they raise our children while we surf the blogosphere and write gospel-centred sermons and tell couples how to live biblical lives is a witness to God's creational desires. There, how's that for a compliment!?

They don't call us complementarians for nothing you know :)

(Inspired by this farcical piece)

An Aesthetic Endeavour pt. 2

Word on the street is that Ben Affleck is to star in Terrence Malick's next film. If Malick manages to make a film involving Ben Affleck that isn't utter tripe then it may just be his crowning achievement. In the meantime, here is a trailer of Malick's work for the unconverted.

Friday, April 27, 2012

An Aesthetic Endeavour

I have loved football from an early age, but my problem was that I became an Aston Villa fan at a time when iraq wasn't interested in showing goals. Consequently, I tended to watch football only in the form of either the Champions League or a big international competition. The Premier League held very little for me, other than the occasional moment of joy when Manchester United didn't win everything. My soccer sensibilities are thus quite Latin in nature, and for the first time I can name them as so and be thankful. 

My dad used to call me Schillaci when I played soccer as a kid, and my earliest memories of watching football are the Champions League final in 1994 between Barcelona and AC Milan, followed by the World Cup in the U.S. Players like Romario, Stoichkov, Bergkamp, Ronaldo, Boban, Laudrup, Raul, Muller, De Boer, Litmanen and Rijkaard captured my imagination. Though I ended up supporting Aston Villa I had no strong feelings for them (I inherited Villa from my cousin, mainly because I had to support someone from the Premiership and it had to be someone other than Manchester United), and I never really cared much for the Irish national team. European and South American football was where my heart lay.

And so from the beginning, football wasn't about allegiance to a club or a country. For me, football was an aesthetic endeavour. I wanted to watch the teams and players that played the game with the most beauty, and afterwards I wanted to go outside and play like them. The team I "supported", therefore, changed from era to era. There was the Barcelona 'Dream Team', then the Ajax of 1995, the Bayern Munich of the late 90's, the Galacticos of Real Madrid, the Deportivo team of the early 2000's, and the Barcelona team with Ronaldinho in his prime. As that Barcelona team disintegrated, Arsenal came on the scene in 07-08 with a group of young, talented players who were arguably playing the most exciting football around. With the age of football streaming reaching Mervue I managed to watch almost every Arsenal game that season, desperately wanting their aesthetic superiority to translate into silverware. It should have happened but it didn't. Yet as my faith in Arsenal decreased, 08-09 saw the re-emergence of my love for Barcelona.

Guardiola was another favourite from my childhood. Naturally, I was excited to see what he would achieve with a team of gifted players who had lost their way. The answer has proved to be: everything. I have watched about 80% of Barcelona's games since 2008, most of them for the pure joy if it. This team embodied every reason I had for watching football. I didn't support them merely because they won. I supported them because they made sense of football; they confirmed everything I had grown to believe about this simple sport.

There are some people who don't get that. They think that supporting a football team is only about being a fan of so-and-so through thick and thin, but that is not the way I have been trained to think. Loyalty to a relatively abstract entity called "Liverpool" or "Ireland" or even "Barcelona" is not how I want to operate. I am not a fan of FC Barcelona, just as I was not a fan of Arsenal - I am a fan of this particular Barcelona team. Were they to sell Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta and appoint Big Sam Allardyce as boss with the tactic of lumping it down the middle to Kevin Davies then I would no longer be a fan. The philosophy, the aesthetic, trumps everything. The test of a football team -- like the test for a mathematical equation -- is, Are they beautiful? Barcelona under Guardiola were precisely that.

It was therefore not without a tinge of sadness that I read today of Guardiola's impending resignation as manager of FC Barcelona. He has moulded a team that will go down in history as one of the greats, a team that has revolutionised the game of football, and a team that has more to give. 

Of course this Barcelona team stand on the shoulders of giants, and have a history that goes far deeper than the appointment of Guardiola in 2008. It is this history that has most profoundly shaped the way I see the game of football. It is the history of the idea that football at its best is a form of art.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Forms of Ideology pt. 2

One of the most dangerous historical judgements we can make is to think that in 1945, good triumphed over evil.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Violence of Tolerance, The Loneliness of Free Choice

File under "Must Read".

Liberals insist that children should be given the right to remain part of their particular community, but on condition that they are given a choice. But for, say, Amish children to really have a free choice of which way of life to choose, either their parents’ life or that of the “English,” they would have to be properly informed on all the options, educated in them, and the only way to do what would be to extract them from their embeddedness in the Amish community, in other words, to effectively render them “English.” This also clearly demonstrates the limitations of the standard liberal attitude towards Muslim women wearing a veil: it is deemed acceptable if it is their free choice and not an option imposed on them by their husbands or family. However, the moment a woman wears a veil as the result of her free individual choice, the meaning of her act changes completely: it is no longer a sign of her direct substantial belongingness to the Muslim community, but an expression of her idiosyncratic individuality, of her spiritual quest and her protest against the vulgarity of the commodification of sexuality, or else a political gesture of protest against the West. A choice is always a meta-choice, a choice of the modality of choice itself: it is one thing to wear a veil because of one’s immediate immersion in a tradition; it is quite another to refuse to wear a veil; and yet another to war one not out of a sense of belonging, but as an ethico-political choice. This is why, in our secular societies based on “choice,” people who maintain a substantial religious belonging are in a subordinate position: even if they are allowed to practice their beliefs, these beliefs are “tolerated” as their idiosyncratic personal choice or opinion; they moment they present them publicly as what they really are for them, they are accused of “fundamentalism.” What this means is that the “subject of free choice” (in the Western “tolerant” multicultural sense) can only emerge as the result of an extremely violent process of being torn away from one’s particular lifeworld, of being cut off from one’s roots.
Slavoj Zizek, Living in the End Times 

Forms of Ideology

In the grossest, sorry, highest-grossing film of 1998, the keynote speaker has this to say.

I address you tonight not as the President of the United States, not as the leader of a country, but as a citizen of humanity. We are faced with the very gravest of challenges. The Bible calls this day "Armageddon"- the end of all things. And yet, for the first time in the history of the planet, a species has the technology to prevent its own extinction. All of you praying with us need to know that everything that can be done to prevent this disaster is being called into service. 
The human thirst for excellence, knowledge, every step up the ladder of science, every adventurous reach into space, all of our combined modern technologies and imaginations, even the wars that we've fought have provided us the tools to wage this terrible battle. Through all the chaos that is our history, through all of the wrong and the discord, through all of the pain and suffering, through all of our times, there is one thing that has nourished our souls, and elevated our species above its origins, and that is our courage. The dreams of an entire planet are focused tonight on those fourteen brave souls traveling into the heavens. And may we all, citizens the world over, see these events through. God speed, and good luck to you.

This speech is the window through which this film was viewed by millions, and thus the reason for its enormous success. We know it is dumb, we know it is scientifically, aesthetically, morally, biblically, actingly absurd and repulsive. And we know all this within the first few seconds, when the words "A Michael Bay film" appear on screen. It is confirmed when Billy Bob Thornton addresses one of his colleagues as "hoss".

But none of that matters when your ideology is in tune with the masses. The ideology goes something like this:

Technology will save us! Science will save us! Our courage will save us! War will save us! A blue collar American who loves his country and his freedoms will save us! Our knowledge will save us! (And since there are no atheists on planets that are about to be destroyed by giant asteroids) God will save us!

Technology, science, courage, war, patriotism, knowledge, "God" - these are our truths. What we so desperately want to believe is that our truths are redemptive; that they give us the tools to fight against that which threatens our lives. The irony is that a film as stupid as Armaggedon helps us believe in these truths. Ultimately, in the film, it takes the sacrifice of a willing human to preserve them.

This sacrifice is the sacrifice of the Christ-figure. There is a crucial difference, however, between the Christ-figures and the Christ. These Christ-figures die to preserve the world as it is, with its current ideologies propped up by such heroic deaths. The death of Christ is, by contrast, the end of the world. It is a judgement of the world's ideologies, a bringing to nothing of the powers and systems that seek control of the future. Given our complicity with these powers and systems, it is no wonder that we so easily recognise Harry Stamper's death as salvific while we puzzle over the foolishness of the cross.

The ideological mistake made by Christians is thinking that God is interested in preserving the world, and that the death of Jesus is our assurance of this. We can add "Jesus will save us!" to the list above. But to do so would be to misunderstand the word "Jesus" and the word "save". Salvation by Christ is not the safeguarding of the present order of creation. Salvation is creation, again. It is new. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

God Moving Over the Face of the Waters

In another life I would try to become a football writer. My first book would be called Soccertese: The Philosophy of Football. I would heavily quote Jonathan Wilson, who has this to say on sport:

Sport is predicated (within certain boundaries) on winning....It's not about entertainment first and foremost. It's entertainment through struggle.

I would then analyse the philosophy of FC Barcelona, and discuss why their tactical revolution can only properly be appreciated when we realise that they have created a new language game. For example, the meaning of the word "defender" or "defending" inside of Barca's language game is incommensurable with the meaning of the same words for another team. For other teams, defending is what you do when you don't have the ball. For Barcelona, defending is first and foremost what you do when you do have the ball. Barcelona try to have the ball for 90 minutes, which in theory would be the most perfect defensive performance. It is on this platform that attacks are built. To say Barcelona "are bad at the back" is to miss the forest for the trees.

Understanding this would change how last Wednesday's Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona was analysed, for example. It wasn't simply that Chelsea defended excellently and Barcelona failed to defend the one time they were called to (as has been the dominant narrative in the media). Given the different systems each team employed, Barcelona’s was actually more successful in terms of what constitutes “defending” within that system, limiting Chelsea to just one shot on target and no other chances. It wasn't as successful as last year’s match against Arsenal (who failed to have a shot at all, not to mention one on target) but quite excellent nonetheless.

Anyway, all this football mumbo jumbo is just an excuse for me to post my favourite picture related to the beautiful game. My respect to whoever can spot the film it seems to re-enact.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia

"The trick is not minding that it hurts."

Lawrence of Arabia hurts. It is just shy of being four hours long. (It has an intermission for flip sake. The last film I saw with an intermission was The Ten Commandments, and I'm pretty sure it's still going. These are epics like we do not witness today.) Setting out to watch Lawrence of Arabia was like setting out into the desert. I questioned whether I had the supplies, the mental strength, to make it out the other side alive. But I knew I had to do it, for this was a journey remembered fondly by those who had gone before me - namely, my uncle. The memory of him sitting there on a sofa during the Christmas holidays watching Lawrence of Arabia (which was a synonym for "we're never gonna get to watch what we want to") still lingers. I wondered what he was doing. Did he just put it on to annoy us? From the outside looking in it was like watching a man watching a painting. I couldn't understand this event, yet the event itself stayed with me. What kind of person would I have to become to actually sit down and watch this paint dry? Moreover, what kind of person would I have to become to enjoy it?

"The trick is not minding that it hurts."

It is this line, one of the first in the film, that gave me hope for the journey. T.E. Lawrence has just put out a match with his fingers, and showed no sign of pain. A fellow officer tries to replicate the feat, but the burn causes him to yelp "It hurts!" "What's the trick?", he asks Lawrence. "The trick," says Lawrence, "is not minding that it hurts."

But while Lawrence of Arabia is long and slow and sparse, it is epic not just for its length, but for its imagination and beauty. You do not have to be a masochist (as Lawrence is portrayed as being) to enjoy this film. The vast expanse of the desert and the perspective that it makes possible -- seeing human beings as tiny dots flickering in the distance, evolving as the distance narrows -- is captured magnificently and leaves the world of Arabia lodged deep within your consciousness.

Of course the driving force of the film is Lawrence himself. His subordinations, enigmatic motives, friendships, quirks, and passions make up an enthralling character who is happy to play the fantastical war hero at one moment and just looking to live a quiet, normal life at another. He is extraordinary, but it is hard to know what makes him so extraordinary, or at least hard to know if what makes him extraordinary is actually good. We are known by our relationships, but Lawrence's are not easily defined. His closest friend is an Arab leader played by Omar Sharif, though it is usually Sharif who gives himself to Lawrence rather than the other way around. Lawrence is known as merciful, yet also as barbarous. He is courageous, but to what end it is unclear. Does he go beyond the call of duty for the sake of Arabian freedom, or for his own? His freedom from the confines of what it meant to be a British officer at the time, his freedom for anarchy and self-determination, for living a life in which "nothing is written".

What kind of person did I have to be to watch this film? I had to be someone with nothing better to do on a Thursday night. I also had to be a subscriber to Love Film, and thus with little else of quality to chose from. Watching Terrence Malick's filmography in the last eight months has also helped in terms of film endurance. It takes hard work to watch a good film sometimes, but that's okay. The trick is not minding the hard work that it takes. 

In my desperation to watch Home Alone I never thought it possible, but perhaps some day the shoe will be on the other foot, and I'll be the uncle half-asleep on the sofa watching Lawrence of Arabia while my nephews look on with frustration and bafflement. That is the kind of cultural, historical and aesthetical education children need, and I'm grateful to my uncle for providing it. 

Though I'm convinced he really was just doing it to annoy us.

Thought For The Day:

There are few things as transient as comedy. Yesterday's Young Frankenstein is today's offering by the Wayans brothers. Today's In The Loop may well be tomorrow's...offering by the Wayans brothers.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Threat of a Good Example

“...true church law is exemplary law. For all its particularity, it is a pattern for the formation and administration of human law generally and therefore of the law of other political, economic, cultural and other human societies ....In the form in which she exists among them she can and must be to the human world around her a reminder of the justice of the kingdom of God already established on earth in Jesus Christ, and a promise of its future manifestation. De facto, whether they realise it or not, she can and should show them that there already exists on earth an order based on that great transformation of the human situation, and directed towards its manifestation. To those outside she can and should not only say, but also demonstrate by deed,...that things can be different, not merely in heaven but on earth, not just some day but even now...” 
Karl Barth, CD IV/2, 719, 721

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wittgenstein Forever

Wittgenstein is an extremely camp film. It may even be the most flamboyant film Michael Gough starred in, which says a lot for a man who featured in Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin. The sets on Wittgenstein are awash with colour and frill, John Maynard Keynes walks around dressed like the Joker, with Bertrand Russell donning a dickie-bow and what basically amounts to a red cape.

But then there's Ludwig Wittgenstein himself, wearing the same bland clothes the entire film and the same frustrated expression on his face, be he teaching philosophy to a child  in a rural school, giving a lecture in Cambridge, or applying for manual labour in the Soviet Union. It is the frustration of a man who does not fit in with the world that he wants to fit in with. He is too complex for the philosophy circles of his time, too skilled to be a manual labourer, and too homosexual to be truthful about his private life. In all these things he lives a life what goes against the grain of what seems natural to him, namely that manual labour is the kind of thing that people ought to do, that philosophy is a simple task without any inherent problems to solve, and that there is nothing hidden - everything is public.

I had no idea what to expect from the film, which is really more a play shot with a camera. The original screenplay was written by Terry Eagleton, which is what made me watch the film in the first place. And you know what - I'm glad I did. It's far from perfect, but like that far-from-perfect Bonhoeffer movie I watched last summer, the central character is interesting enough to keep you engaged. Wittgenstein was a genius who aimed to change the nature of philosophy, uprooting it from its origins in the lonely self with his private sensations and moving it to the public sphere of culture and our "shared practical life together". He may well have succeeded, and this a man who never even read Aristotle.

Finally, the film contains some classic Wittgensteinian moments, one of which is the following dialogue with a student:

Wittgenstein: Tell me, why does it seem more natural for people to believe that the sun goes around the earth, rather than the other way 'round? 
Student: Well obviously because it looks that way. 
Wittgenstein: And how would it look if the earth went around the sun?

In the same way, it may be more natural to see in this picture a duck, but what would the picture have to look like for us to see a rabbit?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What has the Roman Road ever done for us?

Most people are familiar with the Roman Road to salvation, if not the term then most likely the methodology and content. You've heard it in church, on the street, from a friend, or at a crazy Christian drama that terrified me to my very soul. It begins by proving you are a sinner, followed by informing you that because you are a sinner you are separated from God and await a fate worse than death. First the bad news, then the good - so the thinking goes. Moreover, if it can't convince you of the bad news then it actually has no good news for you, so proving your guilt is integral to its evangelistic endeavour.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, however, thinks this approach to be the opposite of the gospel. John Howard Yoder explains:

...many think that to win someone for the Christian faith one must speak to him at the point of his weakness. One who makes this assumption is then predisposed to attend to the shadow side of human existence, since it is that which proves that "something more is needed." Such "methodism jumps on a man when he is down": it proves the need of God by proving we are no good without God. This is for Bonhoeffer the opposite of the gospel itself, which should be telling people, especially outsiders, about the love and goodness of God for its own sake, not trying to convince people of their misery or their guiltiness. Only if it is not seen as a response to weakness, only if its credibility does not depend on proving human weakness, is the gospel really the good news of the love of God as Creator, sustainer, Savior. Apologetic approaches that try first to make the point of human weakness and ignorance and lostness are hopeless, not because they do not say something true, but because what they are interested in proving is not the good news.

I've often heard from people that it's hard to share the gospel in these modern/postmodern/post-Christian/secular/post-secular times. "People just don't believe in sin anymore", is the lament. That may be so, but the assumption is that to be a Christian you must first believe in sin. That, however, is not strictly true. To be a Christian you must believe in Jesus, which of course amounts to much more than thinking he exists or that he was raised from the dead. It is to confess him and worship him and witness to him as the one to whom creation belongs and the one who reveals the true shape of that very creation. Only then, at the moment of our confession that Jesus is Lord, do we know ourselves as we ought to know ourselves. Only then can the word "sin" be the impossible possibility of anti-creation that we once participated in and that we are drawn to by what we now know to be perverted desires. Only then can we confess our sin, in the knowledge that the one to whom we confess is Victor over sin and death and hell. But not before Jesus. Not before the good news.

The methodological error of starting with human weakness is in fact a theological error of gross proportions. It begins the story of the world as if it is intelligible without Jesus, not to mention without the Trinitarian dance of love and the overflowing gift of creation. Beginning with sin may have worked in the past and may still work in the present and future in terms of bringing in the numbers, but Christianity ought not be be concerned about whether things work or not. Christianity is concerned with the truth, and we have no other truth to witness to than the person of Jesus, whose beauty and grace and judgements are the glory and goal of creation.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Finger On Pulse

Given that it's been a while since I've inhabited the blogosphere, I thought I better post something voguish to get me back in step with the current climate. So here it is, a lecture on Rob Bell and universalism.

[Sits back to watch the hits clock up]

Okay so before you turn away in disgust at this flogged-to-death topic that died about a year ago, this is a very decent lecture by a Calvin/Barth scholar who has some good things to say about evangelism and theological method.

Finally, somewhat related to the present topic, here is what I take to be a key difference between Paul's evangelism (and evangel) and the evangelism that most 20th/21st Century Westerners are used to: We assume that the people we evangelise are going to die (either tonight in a car crash on the way home from the revival meeting or of old age or what have you) whereas Paul made no such assumption. In fact he may well have assumed the opposite. Our assumption compared with Paul's betray our opposing theological methods: We begin with human experiences, chiefly our anxiety over death, whereas Paul begins with Jesus, whose death, resurrection and return are the realities which we must be anxious over because he is our judge, and which we must not be anxious over because he is our redeemer.

Barth, Bell, and Hell from Calvin College on Vimeo.

The Preaching Moment

Preaching a text is doing what is necessary to let the lion out of his cage. We come to the sermon as if we’re visiting a zoo that is all too familiar to us. We know which animal comes next on the tour, and we expect nothing more from them than peaceful slumber or, if we’re lucky, a whimper and a stroll. We leave thinking that we have seen a giraffe, or a gorilla, or a polar bear; we leave thinking we know what they’re about. But our desire for the animals’ domestication and our own security prevent us from the real seeing and real knowing that constitute a real event that effects real transformation. A visit to the zoo will do nothing that changes us...unless the lion is let out of his cage.

On Sunday morning we pay our weekly visit to church, expecting nothing but peaceful slumber followed by a cup of coffee to get us ready for the rest of the day. Often times the preacher fosters this disposition, choosing to tame the text in order to meet our deep-seated need for security and stasis. A text on repentance is domesticated, the act reduced to an apology for wrong things done and an empty promise not to do them again, carried out in the unspoken presumption that this God does not care about the idols to which our hearts cling; he merely cares about how good or bad we feel about ourselves. We exit the sermon and the church with our guilt deposited on the pews so that we can go about our lives outside of church as if God is not an active, powerful agent who determines the shape of our existence, and so that we can do so with a clear conscience. The text and the God of the text remain behind bars. We think we have heard the word of God; we think we know what it’s about. But our desire for the text’s domestication and our own security prevent us from the real hearing and real knowing that constitute a real event that effects real transformation.

The faithful preacher, however, lets the text out of its cage. She does not deny its appetite for destruction, because she knows that many of the lives which this text now confronts are based on structures and systems that need to be destroyed. She does not sedate it to a peaceful slumber, because she knows that sedating the word of God is sedating the people who are formed by this same word, and they are called to be awake, not asleep. The text’s familiarity breeds contentment that numbs, and so the preacher makes every effort to unfamiliarize the text and its God so that his strange passion and zeal becomes our strange passion and zeal in this moment of essential discontentedness. She creates a time and a space for this word to be heard afresh by those with ears to hear. She does not have to change or manipulate the text so that it becomes something it is not. She simply removes the shackles that have been placed on it so that it is free to do a work that she can neither predict nor control. She trusts the God of the text to really speak and to really be heard, because she has opened the text in such a way that faith is not only possible but necessary. When the lion is out of his cage, it requires great faith to stand in his gaze and encounter him as he really is. It is, after all, an awe-ful thing to be confronted by the living God. This confrontation, then, is the goal of the sermon. When all is said and done, the preacher can say to her flock, “The lion has roared; who will not fear?”