MIXED MOTIVES

T. PIERCE BROWN

I was picking blackberries early this morning, not because I have an inordinate desire for their flavor. The doctor told me to walk a mile or two each day, and I thought that tramping up and down hills and bending over in all sorts of awkward positions would help fulfill that requirement. Also, I have a special feeling for chiggers. They apparently are terribly lonesome and starving to death, for they seem to greet me with an enthusiasm that is hard to match anywhere else I go. They seem so attached to me that it almost brings tears to my eyes. If I did not show up, I really do not know how long they would go on living. They might even be put on the endangered species list and lead to riots inWashington.

My feeling for them is evidenced by the fact that when someone told me that lye soap was good for chiggers, I found someone who had some like my mother made back in the depression. I bathed with it, for I felt that what was good for chiggers was good for me.

Another reason for going out is that we are expecting company for dinner this evening. A friend whom we have not seen in about 25 or more years called Tomijo yesterday and she invited him for dinner. Since I thought he was probably “citified,” having lived inHuntsvillefor many years and had not seen a freshly picked blackberry in years, I made an effort to rectify that situation.

It is possible, too, that my few trips to a blackberry patch the last few years have provided me with tremendous insights into scriptures that others have not seen. For example, James says, “Count it all joy, my brethren when ye fall into divers testings, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2,3). When a person is reaching for a clump of berries on a far away vine and dives head first into a yellow jacket nest, this can be thought of as the “divers testings” James mentions!

Also, the existential experience, called by Bultmann, Barth and other neo-orthodox theologians “a leap of faith” becomes more meaningful. Even Shakespeare comes alive, for he said, “Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head: and this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything.”

By this time, some are no doubt wondering what is the point of this article. Part of the point is this: It seems to me that it illustrates a lot of the preaching one hears today from those from whom he might expect better. Notice some of the following things: 1. I have not said anything that is not so. For example, I do have a special feeling for chiggers. Since I might later want to deny something of which you might want to accuse me, I find a way of stating it that makes it ambiguous. 2. I have perverted a scripture in James to make it sound as if it means something that it does not mean, but even there, I have not actually said it means that, but “it may be thought of” so if anyone wants to challenge my exegesis, I can claim I was making no exegesis, but merely stating what some might think. 3. I have made a reference to some neo-orthodox theologians which indicates that I have a broad knowledge of many things, or a scholarly background in something that is supposed to give me an edge over the more ignorant raffle. I did not actually say anything that shows any real insight into the theologians’ false doctrine, or whether I actually believe it or oppose it. So, again, if I am challenged, I can take any position that seems expedient. 4. I actually give more space to Shakespeare than I do to James. But again, if you make any critical point of that, I can suggest that you are a mote hunting critic who is really trying to find fault, for some of the greatest and soundest preachers among us quote from Shakespeare or any other secular writer to emphasize their point.

When you find a preacher or writer who can put a lot of words together 1. Without saying anything that can be easily understood without ambiguity and 2. Without saying anything that helps you to see Christ more clearly, love him more deeply and serve him more earnestly and 3. Merely using scripture as “window dressing” without helping you see the meaning and application of the scripture in your own life, you need to examine that preacher and his doctrine and teaching more critically than you might normally do. You can do this without making an unscriptural judging of his motives. Whatever his motive may be, his method and material can be discarded.

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