16.9.14

The Silence of God by Helmut Thielicke


Thielicke, Helmut. The Silence of God. Eerdmans Publishing, 1962.

I am almost always in the middle of a book of sermons. I read them both to increase my own skill as a preacher and to hear, in the voice of these other preachers, the word of God preached to me. For the year 2014 I am also almost always in the middle of a book by Helmut Thielicke. I am experimenting this year with taking one author who I respect and learn from and attempting to read all of their books. I’m not sure if I am going to make it. Thielicke wrote a lot.

Much about Thielicke’s writing impresses me; more than I am willing to type out in a book review. One of the constant themes, however, is his ability to speak deeply into the experience of doubt and struggle in faith. So far this book does this best.

The Silence of God is a collection of ten sermons – six ‘regular’ sermons and four ‘festive’ sermons (those preached on holy days). Each deals with the ways silence of, or questions of, or actions of, God seem confusing or threatening to faith. The ways, in other words, in which God’s silence demands answers.

In doing this he takes on some very difficult texts, such as Matthew 15:21-28, with marvelous results.
Speaking of the Canaanite woman in this passage Thielicke points out that: “There are some among us who cannot make anything of one or another dogma or who have doubts that they cannot resolve. They should prick up their ears and hear about this great faith. For it does not consist in regarding something as true, or in a capacity for dogmatic understanding, but in a struggle, in a dialogue with God.” (pg. 11)

Not all questions are answered, and I would not classify this in any way as apologetics. Instead, these are sermons which are meant to draw you forward to the only one who can answer: Jesus.  

In his own words: “Thus the message which we now have to proclaim from Calvary’s hill is that there hangs here One on whom our burden rests and on whom we may lay it – our care, our anxious fear of the future, our guilt, our broken homes, the many bankruptcies we experience in life. Here hangs One who bears all that we find intolerable and who knows all that we dare not know. And here also hangs One who for us has burst open, or rather prayed open, the way to the heart of the Father. And if I am at my wits’ end when the hostile power of conscience attacks and accuses me, if I am oppressed by sickness and misfortune, if I am forsaken by men, if I can no longer see the divine hand or higher thoughts, then I may confidently repeat what the dying Savior dared to cry in His last agony: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ And as I say this, the everlasting hands are there into which I may entrust myself and from which I can receive all things; and the comforting angels will come and lead me. For the way is open; One has gone before. Hence the night of Good Friday is full of the joy of Easter which is possible only in this night and at this place of a skull:

I cling and cling for ever
A member of this Head,
We go our way together
Wherever Christ may tread.
Through death He onward goes,
The world and sin and woes;
He makes his way through hell
And I will follow still.

But before I may sing and praise thus, I msut first come to Golgotha and say to the Man of Sorrows, the Man of my sorrows: ‘I will stand here at Thy side; despise me not.’” (pg. 75-76)

Conclusion: 5 Stars. Highly Recommended. 

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