On Giving Blood by Leonard Sweet
Zondervan, 2014 (356 pages)
–Review by Guest Reviewer Terry Rankin
To be clear from the outset, Sweet’s masterful work in Giving Blood certainly is not the bloody perfidy. On the contrary, the tragedy is that his vibrant faith and his semiotic theory and praxis for Christian homiletics are not the prevailing Christian paradigms they should be.
The body of Christ today has lost the Way, abandoned the Truth, and given up the Life. The contemporary church is tragically AWOL from its missional, relational, and incarnational (MRI) being and presence in our 21st century reality. The “lifeblood of God” Sweet describes in Giving Blood no longer flows from the heart of Jesus through the body of his bride; his lifeblood is nowhere to be found in the institutionalized, corporatized mainstream of 21st century faith.
Historically, the seeds of this tragic Christian debacle were planted at least 500 years ago in scientific and theological revolutions ignited by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Martin Luther (1483-1546). For all the great scientific and technological good they may be said to have yielded, the humanist naturalism of the Enlightenment and the denominational fragmentation of Western Christianity erupted and flowed in parallel. Humanist naturalism produced what Roger Olson characterizes as caustic “acids of modernity” that continue to corrode the philosophical, ideological, and cultural mettle of Christian theology to vaporous irrelevance even as Luther’s Protestant Reformation revolt eroded its Catholic foundations from within.
Underlying anti-metaphysical and anti-theological scientism reached full apotheosis in the positivist philosophy of Auguste Comte (1798-1857). The 1929 positivist scientism of the Vienna Circle and Ernst Mach Society “Scientific World-Conception” Manifesto distilled the Enlightenment acids of modernity to concoct what can be viewed as vastly more powerful 21st century ‘superacids of liquid modernity.’ The poisonous philosophical and ideological fruits of those historical forces spawned the dystopian reality confronting us today.
For 21st century Christians, the net result is the institutional church no longer being the wellspring of the lifeblood of Christ. The blood of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world is infected and corrupted with those superacids of liquid postmodernity, destroying the life-giving breath-bearing red blood cells delivering divine grace while dissolving the crucial life-sustaining immunity-preserving white blood cells for ensuring eternal salvation. Marrow divinity and humanity are both mortally wounded in a single blow.
This is the blood tragedy of our times for all concerned, whether Christian or not. The perfidious and pernicious anemia of scientism and the lethal leukemia of global corporatocracy are virally contagious pandemic maladies suffocating, starving, and exsanguinating the heart, soul, mind, and strength of all life on earth. The institutional corporatocratic Christian church blithely facilitates and joins this death march in its seminaries, pulpits, and pews, clinging to anachronistic theologies, homiletics, doctrines, creeds, etc., as irrelevant to those afflictions as bloodletting and leeching were for such ‘humours’ from ancient times up to the 19th century. S Multiple self-inflicted existential threats inundate us and the contemporary mainstream church could not be more benighted to that reality, despite half a millennium of opportunities to awaken from its dogmatic coma and liturgical slumber.
Giving Blood emphasizes the prerequisite laboratory bloodwork necessary to undertake Sweet’s EPIC narraphor approach to semiotic homiletics. His labor of love is as powerful as it is compelling in so vividly and profoundly defining his theology and its methodology. If any sorts of paradigm shift in contemporary Christianity offer shreds of revival hope for the future being and presence of the church and those of humanity in general, through the lifeblood of Christ in reality, they may be found in the cogent semiotic theology and the abundantly fruitful model of preaching Sweet offers in Giving Blood. The alternative—humanity’s apocalyptic extinction—is as imminent as it is unthinkable.
The only viable criticism one might raise against Giving Blood is that it fails to go as far as it could in the prerequisite laboratory work of developing theological understanding of these morbid and mortal afflictions. The pernicious anemia of scientism and the lethal leukemia of corporatocracy form the ethos and terroir of 21st century reality for every human being alive on earth today. Adrift in these bloody tragedies, Christianity succumbs to chronic and acute, morbid and mortal acquired immune deficiency syndrome, unable to ward off all manner of secondary and tertiary sociocultural infections, political and economic afflictions, aesthetic and ethical disorders, and more. Decaying inanition occurs, dying from the inside out from starvation of being and presence in the body of Christ and in Christ himself.
Many or most if not all of the 99% of us are philosophical zombies, carriers or victims of both these divine and worldly blood disorders, already dead or dying to the essence of our being, obliviously adrift in semiotic dissonance while denying the deadly darkness, yet still ranting and raging against the dying of light. We aimlessly race against the subliminal terror, incapable of a mere nanosecond’s pause with semiotic presence to ask just what exit strategy the 1% oligarchic plutocracy are already implementing at our mortal expense from the rising threat of the infection they created as we celebrate and revel in our own existential peril. This perfidious paradox is the essence of 21st century irreality.
Sweet’s semiotic homiletics is the treatment and cure for both of these bloody tragedies, for the church and for all humanity. As spiritual anemia, pernicious scientism is easily treatable with a ‘vitamin B12’ regimen of large doses of transincarnational / transductive encounters and vigorous MRI exercise. Lethal leukemia (oligarchic plutocratic corporatocracy) is significantly more morbid, treatable only by radically aggressive regeneration of the essential Christ-DNA marrow tissue of the church through massive theological, homiletic, and praxis paradigm shifts. Giving Blood lacks only the laboratory tests and clinical protocols to specifically diagnose and effectively treat them, and the will and courage to deliver the urgent care so desperately needed.
Tragically, however, the church ignores or denies these afflictions far more often and adamantly than they confront them and proceed accordingly. As the cliché goes, doctors make the worst patients. Worse yet, quacks and profiteers far outnumber ethically expert practitioners of semiotic theology and homiletics as Leonard Sweet defines that specialty in Giving Blood.
The crucial residual question, therefore, is whether or not Sweet’s semiotic remedy will be theologically and homiletically approved for widespread clinical trial and general release to the public … if and only if it so please God and His Son doesn’t tarry.
Bauman, Zygmunt. 2012. Liquid Modernity. Reprint, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Comte, Auguste. Introduction to Positive Philosophy. Translated by Frederick Ferré. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 1988.
Hahn, Hans, Otto Neurath, and Rudolf Carnap. 2012. “The Scientific World-Conception. The Vienna Circle” in Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung. Der Wiener Kreis. Hrsg. vom Verein Ernst Mach. (1929). [The Scientific World-Conception. The Vienna Circle. Published by the Ernst Mach Society. (1929).] Edited by Friedrich Stadler and Thomas E. Uebel. Reprint. New York: Springer.
Kuhn, Thomas S. 2003. The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought. 1957. 24th printing. Reprint, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
———. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition. Fourth edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Lau, Graham. 2015. “Fluoroantimonic Acid: The Strongest Acid Known to Humankind.” A Cosmobiologist’s Dream (blog), September 14, 2015. http://cosmobiolotist.blogspot.com/ /2015/09/fluoroantimonic-acid-strongest-acid.html.
Olson, Roger E. 2013. The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Roper, Lyndal. 2017. Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet. New York, NY: Random House.
Sweet, Leonard I. 2014. Giving Blood: A Fresh Paradigm for Preaching. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Amazon Kindle.
———. 2012. I Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. Amazon Kindle.
———. 2009. So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook. Amazon Kindle.
[*] From two Aramean words, Maran’athah, meaning “Our Lord is coming, and he will judge those who have set him at nought,” cf. Philippians 4:5, James 5:8-9 (NIV), quoted from the public domain source, M. G. Easton, Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1897), https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/maranatha/.
 “Eternal life does not feed off lifeblood; it is the lifeblood of God.” (Sweet 2014, 18; loc. 299). “AWOL” originated as a military acronym for “Absent WithOut Leave.” The term is now widespread in vernacular patois with essentially the same meaning but extended to non-military contexts. For a lucid exposition of the underlying “Missional, Relational, Incarnational (MRI) DNA” of the vibrant Christian life, see (Sweet 2009). On the Christian church as a functional clone of corporate structure and operations, see (Sweet 2012, 18-58; loc. 457-1160).
 Sulfuric acid is a fitting metaphor for the “acids of modernity” characterized in (Olson 2013), while fluoroantimonic superacid, 20 quadrillion times stronger than sulfuric acid, is a proper metaphor for the superacids of liquid modernity; (Bauman 2012); (Lau 2015); (Roper 2017).
 Ibid., and (Kuhn 2003), (Kuhn 2012); (Comte 1988); (Hahn et al. 2012, 75-114).
 “EPIC narraphor” refers to Sweet’s concept of “Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich, Connective narrative metaphor” (Sweet 2014, chapters 2 and 3, 35-62; loc.601-1110).