Takeaway: If theology was taught like this more often, it would not be such a bad word for so much of the church.
I am a fan of Eugene Peterson. I think he is the best living narrative theologian out there. Others write about narrative theology and using story to communicate the gospel. Peterson writes as a pastor and doesn’t just write about theology, but shows us how to read scripture and how to understand the gospel. He does theology.
Tell it Slant is another in Peterson’s recent series of books. I listened to this one on audio as I have the others. Peterson is best, at least for me, on audio. Grover Gardner is a great narrator and give just the right voice to Peterson.
This book is divided into two parts. The first part explores the parables that Jesus told in Luke on his final trip to Jerusalem. These parables are unique to Luke and form one long scene of final teaching before leaving his disciples. The second part looks at the six prayers that Jesus prays that are recorded in Luke. Peterson has has a unique ability to not only explain a parable, but narrate a lesson in theology, almost as an aside to his scripture teaching. He gives background, culture, linguistic theory, basic and advanced theology all in an understandable format.
Peterson suggests that one reason that Jesus told parables, especially to people that were hostile to him, was precisely because they are harder to understand. People would hear the story and not have anything to complain about. And by the time that their brain caught the real meaning of the story (and/or the Holy Spirit worked on them) Jesus would be gone. I have to admit that this wrinkle to parables has not occurred to me. I get that parables are stories to get a point across. I get that they are memorable and often will stick with a person longer than a didactic sermon. But it never occurred to me that stories take a while for our brain to process.
And Jesus when he is on his way to Jerusalem the last time, at least in Luke, his use of stories increases. In direct opposition of what our inclination would be. We would be more direct, Jesus becomes more oblique. Peterson thinks it is precicely because Christ was focused on the Father’s will and not his own that he can not worry about what would happen because his trust in the Father is complete.
This is even more evident in Peterson’s discussion of the prayers. His discussion is remenicent of the book Living Prayer that I reviewed earlier this year. If you read Tell It Slant and want more on the Lord’s Prayer you should pick up Living Prayer.
I cannot recommend Peterson too highly.
Other Eugene Peterson books (last link is to Amazon, rest are to reviews)
Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Spiritual Formation)
Eat This book (Scripture)
Christ Plays on Ten Thousand Hills (Spiritual Theology)
Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Spiritual Formation/Role of the Church)
The Pastor: A Memoir (Role of Pastor)
The Jesus Way (Christology) – Still Reading