Friday, October 28, 2011

Prophets Are Enemies of Happiness

This is what I realized listening to Walter Brueggemann at the "Wisdom and the Liberal Arts" conference. Brueggemann is a brilliant scholar of the church, and he gave, as usual, a fine prophet's indictment. At this university conference on wisdom he indicted the university for unfaithfulness by pursuing worldly wisdom. Once again, though, I found that Brueggemann leaves me cold, though I appreciate the excellence of his work.

Today I realized why. Prophets are enemies of happiness. They cannot be satisfied. If you solve the problem they are on about today, they have plenty more.

The problems that real prophets name are real problems. We should try to solve them. Prophets are necessary in the ecology of the church. But they cannot be the whole of the church. In fact, they cannot be the leading element of the church or of any institution.

As we try to make happy lives and happy societies, we have to be able to admit that we are happy sometimes. Nay, we have to proclaim that we are happy sometimes, and that we are happy about some things all the time.


Anonymous said...

Jesus was a prophet.

Gruntled said...

He had a bigger job than that, which conduced to everyone's happiness.

Ordinary prophets can just fuss about things. Jesus could do something about it.

ceemac said...


Having trouble imagining being left cold by Brueggemann.

This is going to cover some old ground.

But I guess I am still not clear what you mean by happy or happiness. How about putting a definition in the manifesto section of your blog.

I am no prophet but I am a problem finder and solver by nature. I am happiest when I am doing that.

Are not some of your happiest moments when you are teaching and a student has an "aha" moment or when you are doing research and you able to connect the dots between a couple of things?

I suspect I am defining happy in a bit different way that you do. That's why a posting of your defs would be helpful.

Gruntled said...

I will attempt a statement of what I think happiness is, but I think I should wait until I have taught the course a couple of times. I know that students will make me clarify obscurities that I have not noticed yet.

I general, though, problem solving is one of the things that makes us happy - but the action of using our skills to solve problems, and the improvement that results in our lives once the problem is solved.

Prophets, on the other hand, are in the business of indicting our state or condition. They are not correcting a single foolishness, they are pointing out that we are fools.