Saturday, November 13, 2004

Without Author|ity 1: Prolegomena

Well, my earlier rant has provoked some good and thoughtful discussion (and, of course, some not good and not thoughtful discussion). I'm sorry that I haven't responded yet, but, as Chris noted, I've been buried in work this week. I also make a habit of not getting involved in the comment section of my blog, for that seems to cause either lots of comments like "Thanks, I really like what you had to say, too" (which no one likes to read), or else it makes me come off looking defensive (cuz I'm tempted to defend my earlier post).

(N.b.: I also have another rule: will not edit or delete a post of mine, that is, unless it turns out to be horribly offensive. If it's just stupid, I'll let it stand as a permanent record of my stupidity.)

Now, let me say a couple things about dialogue. (Isn't it interesting that I chose to use "say" in that last sentence instead of "write"?) In my first book, the publisher and I thought it would be good to have others write comments for the margins. The reason for this was twofold: 1) Neither Marko nor I thought that I should have the only word on what it postmodern youth ministry, thus many of the comments in the margin directly disagree with my text, while other comments agree with me, and still others push my ideas further; 2) We thought that having multiple "voices" in the book would embody the postmodern fondness for discourse. In both of these I think we were successful; I still get comments from people saying they think it was very brave of me to let others write comments in my book, so let me say it plainly: there was no bravery involved.

I firmly believe that dialogue is all there is. There is no finality, no perfect answer, no ultimate authority on an issue. Discourse is the answer. A great reason to get involved in blogging (and bulletin boards and the like) is that HTML allows for an active (i.e., not static) exchange of ideas. It is, of course, much more fluid than a book, but still less fluid than a face-to-face conversation.

None of this is original with me -- there's been lots of commentary on this very thing (some of the best from Andrew Jones). I simply want to say again that, though each of us here talks with an amount of certainty in our attempt to persuade others, the event of dialogue is the only thing that approaches certainty.

So, thanks for commenting. Multiple posts on the issues raised in you commentary will be written this weekend.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

> "I firmly believe that dialogue is all there is."

But what role does praxis play? Philosophically, I believe that words only acquire specifiable meaning through the practices of a linguistic community. As a Christian, then, ecclesial practices are central to grounding Christian discourse. Words like "missional," "radical," "liberating," only acquire specifiable meaning through social (ecclesial) practices.

For example, Bush's National Security Strategy document a few years back is a lovely piece of discourse, and a just warrior could support his statement about preemptive strike in the face of "imminent" threat. But the meaning of "imminent" only becomes specifiable when the bombs start dropping in Baghdad, and all of the sudden people are going, whoah! Georgie and I have different concepts of "imminent."

I spent over a year of my life on pastoral staff at a church, wasted. I joined the staff because I believed the new senior pastor was sincere when he said he wanted to make the experience of "community" central to the life of the church. Gradually, and only through confusedly trying to understand the decisions he was making, I came to realize that he and I had drastically different understandings of what "community" means. His definition was quite compatible with the value system of the US lifestyle and mine was not. This ended up being a quite painful experience when I realized our differences and left the church.

So as much as I want to believe and follow the champions of "emergence," until I see concrete practices that give specifiable content to the terms that figure in the "emergent" discourse, I stand at arm's length waiting to see what happens.


10:55 AM  

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