Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Changing Your Mind”

At the Homiletics Festival on May 17th,[1] Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence presented a lecture on why people of faith change their mind.

She said she has been doing a lot of thinking on this topic. Here are some of the emerging answers to that question. An individual feels the call of the spirit. An individual recognizes himself or herself in a story of the Bible. An individual commits his or her life to a life in the sacred text. An individual decides that he or she has a script from the sacred text.

When someone is called by God to do a difficult thing, he or she usually balks. But then a sacred script comes to mind, and the individual changes his or her mind.

An individual of faith has to become a witness and give testimony.  Being a witness is not easy. You have to give your account of what happened and your belief as to what it means. There are often conflicting stories or testimonies. Some witnesses are discredited. An individual has to come to a verdict on which version to believe. The person has to stand and say what he or she believes about God.

Such testimony is contrary to the world’s “mean” script. Power. Might makes right. Do not share what you have. Be successful, beautiful, strong.[2]

The emphasis on witnessing and testimony prompt me to make comments drawn from my lawyering days. Being a witness in a U.S. judicial proceeding is not easy. A witness first has to be sworn: “I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help me God.” [3] This oath, in my opinion, should also be kept in mind when a person witnesses to matters of faith. Our law has a well established principle to ensure that a witness is competent to provide testimony on a particular subject. Our law provides for cross-examination to test the validity of a witness’ testimony. Our law also has principles to help a jury or a judge evaluate often conflicting testimony. In a religious context, testimony should be subject to similar procedures. One such procedure is the tradition of discernment in honest discussion with fellow Christians.

[1] The Festival seeks to bring together a wide variety of outstanding preachers and professors of homiletics; to inspire a discourse about preaching, worship, and culture; to engage issues related to church in the 21st century; to engage theologically the practices of preaching and worship; to invite individual preachers to consider various styles and methodologies of preaching; and to inspire preachers in their roles of proclaiming the gospel. Festival of Homiletics (May 16-20, 2011), http://www.goodpreacher.com/festival/index.php. See Post: Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Skinny-Dip Sermon” (May 19, 2011).

[2]  The discussion of testimony and witnessing is drawn from Florence’s  book Preaching as Testimony. See Post: Dr. Rev. Anna Carter Florence’s “Preaching as Testimony” (April 6, 2011).

[3] Alternatively a witness may affirm to tell the truth without reference to God.

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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