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On Engaging in Difficult Conversations

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July 7, 2010 Tags: Pastoral Voices

Today's video features Joel Hunter. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

For more videos with Joel Hunter, visit our "Conversations" collection.

In this video Conversation, Joel Hunter talks about the need for courage—both from church leaders and believers—to engage in difficult conversations.

Hunter points out that when issues of faith become politicized and polarized, there will always be people who leave the churches that tackle these issues head on. Some people are simply looking for a noncontroversial worship experience, and if a pastor or minister addresses a controversial issue from a different perspective, they may not want to hear it.

Rather than being discouraged by this, Hunter argues that if teaching the controversy makes some believers that uneasy, they simply may not be ready to engage with the issues on such a level. “For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction,” says Hunter. “Any time you do something that is right, there is always a price.” However, Hunter reminds us these people are not lost to the Kingdom.

Hunter emphasizes the need for true courage, which he defined as “going places that the church has never been before” and finding God in places where we haven’t yet looked.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Joel Hunter is senior pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla. Hunter is also a board member of the World Evangelical Alliance and author of the book A New Kind of Conservative.

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Mike - #20854

July 7th 2010

Awesome video presentation by Mr. Hunter!

Jim Kraft - #20858

July 7th 2010

God is AWESOME. Lets reserve that word for Him and not Mr Hunter or 3/4 pound hamburgers.

Mike - #20863

July 7th 2010


I hope you were kidding Jim, but if you weren’t I will make the call on when I may use the word “awesome” thanks very much.

Rich - #20931

July 8th 2010


I agree with Jim Kraft.  The popular use of “awesome” to describe basketball players etc. is a trivialization of a significant word. 

The proper meaning of “awe” is reverence rooted in fear.  Something that is “awesome” commands not only reverence but also a degree of fear.  The Enlightenment tamed the Biblical notion of God, making God more rational and also more tender, while rendering him much less fearsome.  So the vocabulary point regarding “awesome” is not simply one about linguistic purity.  It has theological implications.  The Enlightenment God is powerful, intelligent, marvellously clever, admirable, etc.—but not awesome.  And this is how I feel when I read most TE writing.  The TE God is a God one can praise, but not a God one can fear.  I think there is a connection between “lack of fear” and TEs’ willingness to lay down stipulations about how God would have or must have created (e.g., he would have used only naturalistic means, and would never have burst into the evolutionary process with a rush of new information ).  Someone whose worship of God is combined with a healthy dose of fear doesn’t presume to tell God what to do.

Dunemeister - #20935

July 8th 2010

Rich and Jim,

You are being pedantic. “Awesome” just means something that inspires awe and reverence or amazement. It’s appropriate to use that word for God, for a particularly well-executed layup, or a panorama. Let’s leave the pedantry and focus on the content of the post.

Karl A - #20937

July 8th 2010

Wow, it is refreshing to hear those words from a pastor.  A courageous pastor leading a courageous church.  Jesus was always ticking people off, especially the religious.  With love as the deepest motivation.  Go thou and do likewise (preaching to myself)!

Rich - #20954

July 8th 2010


Your argument amounts to this:  it’s OK to misuse a word, if enough other people misuse it in the same way.  In other words, when it comes to meaning, mass democracy takes precedence over culture and education.

When a word with great emotional power is overused for shallow and trivial purposes, it bit by bit loses its power, and some new substitute has to be found.  Thus, the overuse of “star” in sports, to the point where it lost all its power, led to the creation of “superstar”, to denote what used to be called a “star”, and now even “superstar” is overused, with the result that merely good players are given the same label as truly great ones.  This sort of “word inflation” may not be a serious problem in relation to sports figures, but when it strikes at the heart of the Western religious tradition—the notion of an awesome God—it’s serious.

Canadian evangelical - #20956

July 8th 2010

Fundies being pedantic for their own, self-righteous purposes? 

How very surprising! [not.]

Rich - #20986

July 8th 2010

Canadian evangelical:

If you are referring to me, I’m not a “fundie”.  Look up any thread (mostly those on the Bible) containing posts by the inerrantist Martin Rizley.  You will find that someone named “Rich” has opposed Martin’s views at greater length than anyone else.  And guess who that “Rich” is?

It is not “fundie” to insist on the proper use of the English language.  It’s educated.  Barbarism and philistinism are everywhere in our culture.  They must be fought.  And in this particular case, i.e., the word “awesome”, anyone with the slightest concern to preserve the authentic Christian understanding of God should be concerned about shallow, secularized uses of the word.  But then, in a world where music as vulgar as “Christian rock” is considered a legitimate form of spiritual expression, I suppose I’m fighting a losing battle in asking Christian leaders to resist the language of the popular culture rather than imitate it.

Mike - #21012

July 8th 2010


You must really have a bone to pick with whoever you come across. This is a pretty petty and borderline immature argument. Words are only constructs of our culture, but it is the meaning behind the word that should be emphasized. Possibly, a generational difference or something but the local culture which I am surrounded by equates “awesome” to “great job” or any other uplifting message behind it. Funny you should group me in as a TE, might want to do some homework before you assign me to a specific group.

Clarification from my original post to appease people upset with my word choice:

“Excellent video presentation from Mr. Hunter!”

Rich - #21031

July 8th 2010


I didn’t call you a TE.  I made an application of the discussion about the meaning of the word “awesome” to the TE conception of God, but I didn’t attribute that conception of God to you in particular.

You haven’t grasped either the linguistic or the cultural point I’m making.  When you cheapen a word that was originally applied only to holy things by applying it to basketball players and desserts, then what word do you use when you want to say something really deep about something really important?  How can a culture which calls athletes “awesome” begin to speak of the Hebraic notion of Deity?

Sure, I understood what you meant when you said “awesome”.  I understood perfectly well that you were using the word vulgarly, to mean “really impressive”.  But I used that as a springboard to discuss the watering down of our religious language.  After two centuries of “enlightened” religion, and the ravages of popular culture in the world of mass media, It’s now almost impossible for a modern person to conceive of what was originally meant by “holy”.  The loss is incalculable.

But you’re right, this thread should get back on topic.

Papalinton - #21064

July 9th 2010

Where is the ‘Bio-Logos’ connection in this discussion?  It seems theology is simply a wrap-over for issues in the community or issues of science.  Where does theology interact with science or where does science interact with theology at the research/discovery level?  Where are the points of connection?  I have yet to see academic (for want of a better word) discipline applied to the notion of ‘Bio-Logos” and not an appeal to personal experience or preference being the final arbiter in describing that interrelationship.

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