I recently got a copy of Niebuhr’s journal as a young man and young minister, ‘Leaves From the Notebooks of a Tamed Cynic’ at a used book sale and what a steal it was for a whole 25 cents. Here’s two zinger quotes. If you are a cynical Christian or recent div school grad this book is very theraputic.
As a preacher you must conserve other interests besides the truth. It is your business to deal circumspectly with the whole religious inheritance lest the virtues which are involved in the older traditions perish through your iconoclasm. That is a formidable task and a harassing one; for one can never be quite sure where pedagogical caution and dishonesty begins…I can’t blame them (the congregation) for not having the bright new knowledge of a recent seminarian, but the ministry is the only profession in which you can make a virtue of ignorance. If you have only read commentaries for twenty years, that is supposed to invest you with an aura of sanctity and piety. Every profession has its traditions and its traditionalists. But the traditionalists in the pulpit are much more certain than the others that the Lord is on their side.
If he had only had TBN when he was in seminary……
We make ‘acceptance of Jesus as your savior’ the real door into the fellowship of the church. But the trouble is that this may mean everything or nothing. I see no way of making the Christian fellowship unique by any series of tests which precede admission. The only possibility lies in a winnowing process through the instrumentality of the preaching and teaching function of the church. Let them come in without great difficulty, but make it difficult to stay in. The trouble with this plan is that it is always easy to load up your membership with very immature Christians who will finally set the standard and make it impossible to preach and to teach the gospel in its full implications.
I know I have thought this one before.