I’m studying Matthew 13 for the sermon tomorrow, and in doing so I am reading through Stanley Hauerwas’ commentary on Matthew and it has some interesting and insightful quotes that were too large to tweet, so I thought I’d throw up a quick post.
In reference to the parable of the sower, where seed was scattered on four types of soil, Hauerwas states that this parable provides a commentary on the issue of the shrinking church in North America and Europe. He says the reason provided in scripture for this is, “It is hard to be a disciple and be rich.” (p.129) We are tempted to think that the issue is more complex than that, but Hauerwas argues that the concern for wealth and the things of this world simply choke out our imaginations. As a result
“…the church falls prey to the deepest enemy of the gospel – sentementality. The gospel has become a formula for ‘giving our lives meaning’ without judgement.” (p.129)
He then argues that we have tried to attract people back into the church to deal with the issue, but those people are not capable of the deep discipleship needed, or deep roots needed, to face any challenges. He continues:
“This is a particular problem in America, where Christians cannot imagine how being a Christian might put them in tension with the American way of life.” (130)
Lest you think this is a not so lightly veiled attack on the right, he states that it hits both the right and left as both have assumptions about freedom as a necessary condition for discipleship. I would add that it is a very particular definition of freedom to which he is referring. Namely, the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as you do not hurt someone else in the prescribed ways in which we are not supposed to hurt other people (for we must admit that libertarian arguments about freedom ending where hurting another begins are suspiciously void of the various and sundry ways in which our actions do indeed impact and hurt those around us).
Finally, Hauerwas writes,
“The church in America simply is not a soil capable of growing deep roots.” (130)
I found this all well worth chewing over in my mind. If he is correct in his interpretation of the four soils and its application to our present day context, than much of what we do denominationally to increase church attendance is not only misguided, but probably also damages our abilities to actually make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Here is the commentary if you are interested: