In the Old Testament section of my office library, my Walter Brueggemann collection measures just over a cubit and a span. The oldest pair of books are hardbacks I bought for less than five dollars new for a college Bible course: The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions and Tradition for Crisis: Hosea. Together they were an epiphany for me. Having thought the Bible to be a flat, advice-filled bore, I was mesmerized by the idea that there was a living history behind and within it. We can overhear a hotly contested conversation going on within the Bible, I learned, and that debate drives our theological and social discussions today. A year later I was surprised to find myself in seminary, scooping up more Brueggemann, my imagination stretched to discern the ways biblical truths really matter, and might still matter.
James C. Howell is senior minister of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and author of What Does the Lord Require? Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, Walking Humbly (Westminster John Knox).