Redeeming The “Problem Child”: Qoheleth’s Message And Place In The Family Of Scripture -- By: Brian Borgman
SBJT 15:3 (Fall 2011) p. 62
Redeeming The “Problem Child”: Qoheleth’s Message And Place In The Family Of Scripture1
Brian Borgman is the founding Pastor of Grace Community Church in Minden, Nevada. He holds degrees from Biola University, Western Seminary and Westminster Seminary California. He is also the author of Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life (Crossway 2010) and My Heart for Thy Cause: Albert N. Martin’s Theology of Preaching (Christian Focus, 2002).
Loving The Problem Child
My former Hebrew professor, Ron Allen, quipped, “Ecclesiastes is something of a problem child in the family of Scripture.”2 My encounters with this inspired book of wisdom repeatedly verify Dr. Allen’s conclusion. Both intrigued and frustrated, I took undergraduate and graduate courses in Old Testament wisdom literature and inevitably focused on Ecclesiastes. Books, articles, introductions and surveys only deepened my intrigue and frustration. My academic pursuit was like trying to unlock one of those cast-iron brain- stimulator puzzles. After years of wrangling with the iron pieces they were still interlocked. For years I stayed away from preaching the enigmatic book of Qoheleth (the Hebrew name for the writer of the book), but then I fell in love. My real love for Qoheleth blossomed when my family and I were on vacation on the Oregon coast. My daughter was just about to start high school (she is now close to finishing college). I was watching her play with her brothers and I was soaking in the joy of being a father, and then it hit me: “It seemed like just a few days ago she was a baby crawling on the floor. Soon she will be married, having children of her own. O how quickly time flies by! Those sweet days of childhood have slipped by with lightning fast speed. How sad! They are almost over.” It was a Qoheleth moment. In my melancholy I thought that Ecclesiastes might actually help me make sense of this feeling. So I studied the book with great vigor for the next six months. I devoted my spare time to reading Ecclesiastes repeatedly and reading everything I could get my hands on that dealt with this book. The mental puzzle pieces began to unlock. I finally saw that Ecclesiastes is a positive book of divine wisdom that helps us see God and live life. I couldn’t wait to preach it.
Dealing With The Problem Child
For many interpreters, the best option for dealing with the problem child of Ecclesiastes is to put him in an orphanage or, at best, a boarding school. Frankly, some of the interpretations of Ecclesiastes sully its claim to inspiration and nullify its value
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