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Preaching Parables to Postmoderns
Evangelicals are often ignored in the public square, says Brian Stiller. His book offers a foundation for understanding how our culture and the Bible interrelate.

Brian Stiller, author of Preaching Parables to Postmoderns, reveals that – as a young man – he dreamed of becoming a great preacher. Later, he learned that God has circuitous ways of helping individuals find their calling.

Stiller has spent much of his career as an administrator and teacher – not a preacher. He has served as national president of Youth for Christ, head of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and more recently, of Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.

Experience in the academy convinced him that Evangelicals have not taken scholarship as seriously as they should. Evangelical Christians tend to be ignored in the public square, he suggests, because they fail to contribute much that is substantive to public policy debates.

To redress this deficiency, Stiller believes that Evangelicals must better understand how our culture and the Bible interrelate. Culturally, preachers need to better understand the spirit of our times currently captured in the term "postmodernism." They need to more effectively contextualize the biblical message.

This book provides the author with an opportunity to revisit his longstanding interest in proclamation. This is done with a scholarly, spiritual maturity that he lacked as an idealistic young preacher. He writes competently on the current context and the biblical pretext.

Stiller unpacks the meaning of postmodernity; demonstrating how it differs from modernity. The guiding principle of modernity was reason which replaced God as the guiding source of truth. The 20th century grew increasingly disillusioned with modernism.

Postmodernity tends to reject any form of objective truth. Postmoderns prefer to know truth through subjective experience. and reject traditional authorities who are perceived to have misused their status, power and influence. Grand metanarratives (such as are found in the Bible) are dismissed because they too were usurped by the powerful to satisfy their own agendas. Truth is considered to be relative. All ideas are of equal value.

Salvation is understood as something therapeutically experienced and lacks transcendent meaning.

Stiller believes that the Bible can accommodate while challenging postmodern approaches to understanding reality. Here, he looks for ways to accomplish this.

"We are an image-driven and story-taught people," he says. We love narratives that hold up to us a mirror of critique and guidance. Jesus's parables serve as appealing, relevant stories.

The author then systematically analyses 10 of the 27 parables recorded in the gospels. From them he crafts four sermons that display his scholarly skill and audience-awareness. These serve as helpful models for others.

Stiller contends effectively with a good deal of postmodernist philosophy. But he skirts a major tenet - the relativity of truth. He says we need to be open to a range of voices in contemporary society but then functions with the assumption that there is but one truth - which for him, understandably, is orthodox Christianity.

Through this book, Stiller advances Gospel proclamation in the open marketplace of ideas. His noteworthy career as a Christian administrator, academic and wise advisor, confirms him as an evangelical leader who invites our respectful attention.

Preaching Parables To Postmoderns. Brian C. Stiller. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN. 2005. $22.00 Cdn. ISBN #0-8006-3713-5.

Dr. Wayne A. Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and helps facilitate adult spiritual development at St. David's United Church, Calgary.

Originally published on the website, CEP Online Community, August 2008.




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