Saturday, August 17, 2013

So Many Complaints, So Little Time

Instant Replay, TRs, 
Spiritual Surgeons
and Johnny Football

And Now to the Tape. I expect the day will come when there will be no need for umpires and referees. Every play will be automatically and instantly reviewed. The strike zone can be standardized and balls and strikes called by lasers. No close disputed double play calls. Managers will argue with unseen computers which will take all the fun out of kicking dirt, cussing, spitting, and getting sent to the showers. Already there is very little in football that actually requires an official on the field. Cameras and computers could determine the line of scrimmage on every play, and ball placement could be handled by the guys who take care of the balls on the sidelines. We can have shorter games or more commercials. Already in basketball they replay the tape to see where the toe of the shoe was when when the three point shot was released or whether on the game winning shot the ball had left the fingertips before the buzzer went off. For all sports managers and coaches may become no more necessary than they are in now the NBA. I would guess with the popularity of the fantasy leagues we could eventually get rid of players, too. It may be that only the unions,who preserve positions long after the need for them has vanished, stand between us and virtual sports. If we get rid of the human element in sports, then we can really enjoy the games. 

Rodney Dangerfields. When I was a young TR, there was no little concern about the TRs who were among RTS’ early graduates. I remember several of us being asked to meet in Jackson with the seminary President and a member of the Board of Trustees. You might say they would have liked to do a product recall. That not being possible we were told we needed to cool it.  Dr. G. Aiken Taylor published his infamous Lo the TR in The Presbyterian Journal. A ruling elder who was an old friend of my ruling elder father told my father that the problem with the TRs was that they were against women. Several of us got letters from Dr. William Hill, President of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, asking us a number of questions mainly about evangelism. The memorable question for me was the one about whether we gave the invitation in our services. One of the negative assessments came from a somewhat surprising source, a RTS faculty member who remained in the PCUS, Mr. Otis Guy Oliver. Alumni near enough to drive to Jackson were invited back to campus from time to time for a program of some kind. One was a lecture by Mr. Oliver. All my experiences of Mr. Oliver during my student days had been positive. I remember still his polity lectures, especially the ones on the ruling elder, the deacon, and the tithe. As a part of a reading course on the Holy Spirit, he assigned me to read Frederick Dale Bruner’s still imporant book, A Theology of the Holy Spirit. So I and others were caught off guard by Mr. Oliver’s paper TR: The Anatomy of Slogan. (Sometime in recent years my copy disappeared. If anyone reading this has a copy, I would very much appreciate getting a copy of your copy.) It was, as I recall, a pretty scathing critique of us TRs. I know we did some pretty stupid things, and we may have been worse than I remember. But it seems to me that compared to today’s incarnation of TRs we were mild, perhaps even irenic. Today some of us original TRs find ourselves not liberal enough for liberals and not conservative enough for conservatives which is one of the ironies of life in the PCA. Meanwhile, Mr. Oliver got enamored of liberation theology and became known, so I hear, as Che Oliver. But, I tell ya, we just couldn’t get no respect. 

Ax or Scalpel. The last section started out as a brief introduction to this: One of the things Mr. Oliver found wrong with TRs was that they saw themselves as physicians of the soul. Lately I have been thinking about those who see themselves as soul surgeons. By their preaching, especially the application, and by their counsel, they see themselves as operating on the souls to lay open and attempt the cure of serious, potentially mortal, spiritual diseases. I am not so sure anymore about ministers viewing themselves as doctors of the soul, unless they can be guided by the prinicple "first do no harm." Sometimes I wonder whether who see themselves as surgeons use axes rather than scalpels. When you use a scalpel the point is to shed as little blood as possible and do no more cutting than is absolutely required to treat the patient's condition. Wielding the axe in the spiritual operating room leaves gaping wounds and a lot of blood on the floor. The pain inflicted may be worse than the disease it seeks to cure. The longer I am a minister the more I see congregants as mostly world weary and hurting souls whose greatest need is the soothing healing balm of the gospel applied to the wounds they already have, not new wounds. 

Then There’s Johnny Football. If believers need more gospel, John Manziel could use more law.  It seems to me that Kevin Summlin would have done himself and Texas A&M, and perhaps even Johnny and his dad a favor by jerking a knot in Johnny Football’s tail a long time ago. Winning isn’t everything. I support football programs that recruit only gentleman scholars and place a premium on sportsmanship. Go Gators!



1 comment:

Tom Cannon said...

As a college (and later) seminary student I saw the Old School TR's in practice. The one who looked after my soul on campus, despite his reputation at the time, was a very careful surgeon. He used the scalpel well.

I would say there is a difference in the fundamental frequency (no pun intended) between Old and New TR's. And the vitiation of American Fundamentalism is clearly the culprit. Ironically, I think the early critics of the TR's would be very much at home with this aspect of the New TR's. Go figure.