The Appeal of the Ivory Tower



The problem with the church is that it’s full of people.

Those pesky, problematic parishioners parading painful personalities persistently.

A pastor’s pickle.


Some days I think it would be preferable to escape to the much-maligned ivory tower.

ivory tower

What could be more stimulating than quietly dissecting the inevitability of universal salvation in Barth’s theology?

What could possibly top an afternoon of conversation (with one, maybe two other ivory tower residents) around Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace vs. costly grace argument.

These are important matters, and must be discussed/argued/challenged/refined just a little more than they have been previously. And then delivered, in final form, to a patient, waiting congregation on a sunny Sunday. They’ll thank me for taking the time to leave the tower to share my wisdom.

“Tell everyone in the tower we said hello, Pastor! See you next Sunday!”

Sounds like a plan. Can I get an amen?

But then that same Bonhoeffer continues on about single-minded obedience…

When orders are issued in other spheres of life there is no doubt whatever of their meaning. If a father sends his child to bed, the boy knows at once what he has to do. But suppose he has picked up a smattering of pseudo-theology. In that case he would argue more or less like this: “Father tells me to go to bed, but he really means that I am tired, and he does not want me to be tired. I can overcome my tiredness just as well if I go out and play. Therefore though Father tells me to go to bed, he really means: ‘Go out and play.’” If a child tried such arguments on his father or a citizen on his government, they would both meet with a kind of language they could not fail to understand- in short they would be punished. Are we to treat the commandments of Jesus differently from other orders and exchange single-minded obedience for downright disobedience? How could that be possible?

So…sounds like my plan is a no-go.

When Jesus calls us to single-minded obedience, this includes obeying all his commands: Love your God. Love your neighbor. Love your parishioners. Engage.

Get out of the ivory tower and live life with your neighbors.

Even the one who never returns your tools.

We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and love the unlovable (and everything that entails).

That can’t happen in the ivory tower.


For a slightly (okay, completely) different take on this, check this post out.

PG’s-13 is an occasional brain dump of Pastor Greg’s. 13 thoughts, words, paragraphs, etc. about life in ministry, which can be a booger sometimes. Yet God’s grace is sufficient. Always has been, always will be. I love what I do. Peace.

About pastoroftheprez

Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Kings Mountain, NC.
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