Saturday, October 30, 2004

Andy Crouch Responds

I am honored to report that Andy Crouch, the author of the CT article, "The Emergent Mystique" has posted a lengthy comment about the blogoshpere conversation taking place regarding the article (I've blogged about it here and here.) I may have not said it clearly enough in my first post, but I consider Andy a personal friend and a friend of Emergent -- when he first told me that he was assigned the article by the editors at CT, I told him that I couldn't wish for a better person to report on what we're up to.

So, here's his comment, followed by some of my thoughts:

It's been fascinating, and humbling, to read the responses in blogland to my article. Because I appreciate the spirit of Tony's (and others') critiques on this site, I thought I'd offer a few thoughts. I offer them not in the spirit of trying to justify myself (God forbid), but hopefully contributing to the most fruitful possible conversation.

First, the only thing that really bothers me about people's responses to this article are those who say I'm preoccupied with style over substance. True, that's where the article begins. But a good two-thirds of the article--and the last word--is completely about substance. I give a ton of space to letting Brian, Rob, and Kristen articulate some theological concepts that I take to be central to the emerging-church phenomenon. What I reported is the heart of what we talked about in open-ended conversations about what the emerging church means.

Is the hair a red herring (hairing)? Well, it's partly just good clean fun. And hey, I didn't even report on the fact that I saw two _more_ guys checking their hair in car windows as I arrived at Mars Hill. The reality is that there is a subculture--a small and fascinating subculture, call it metrosexual, artsy, progressive, whatever--that is way more preoccupied with fashion than mainstream American twentysomething culture. And that culture is way overrepresented in places that self-identify, and that others identify, as emerging church. That's worth reporting. But I take pains to point out in the piece that it ultimately is no more a movement than churches where people wear business attire.

The more substantive criticism, which I expected, is using Rob/Kristen (NOT just Rob--why does no one notice that some of the most trenchant comments were from Kristen?) and Brian as the sole stand-ins for an incredibly complex movement. Well, this was a tough decision. MHBC is not an "Emergent" church in many ways. But as I talked with the Bells, I realized that the fascinating story here was that this was a culturally-relevant megachurch plant whose founders--after planting the church--had read A New Kind of Christian and begun a theological journey that summarizes much of what seems core to the emergent conversation. I think that's pretty newsworthy. And in a magazine article--that you actually want readers to read--you have to choose a few people to represent bigger, more abstract and diverse realities. Also, my remit was *not* just to report on Emergent--the slightly more confined and distinctive "conversation" that Brian is most invested in--but "the emerging church," which generally, out there in mainstream church and mainstream media, includes churches like Mars Hill Bible Church.

On to Tony's point in this post. As someone who comes from a charismatic context (although I've worked in evangelical settings most of my adult life) and went to a mainline seminary, I just don't agree that Brian's background is irrelevant. We all come to our "positions" as "vectors"--we come from somewhere, and that affects what we see. (A very postmodern observation.) The theological problematics I hear over and over from key people in the emergent world are ones that really only make sense if your starting point is (at least heavily influenced by) the conservative wing of evangelicalism. I have talked to many savvy mainline people who were simply puzzled by A New Kind of Christian, for example. Whereas no evangelical can read it and not see the relevance of the questions Brian's asking--even if, like some of CT's editors, they don't like where Brian goes with it.

I certainly don't introduce Brian's background to marginalize him or diminish his contribution. (And BTW, the idea that CTI would want to marginalize or dismiss Emergent does not at all match my conversations with my editors nor the fact that Brian is a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.) If I wanted to marginalize him I would have relegated him to a single paragraph and left him unnamed... like I did with a certain DJ. :) Rather it's my job as a writer to *locate* his theological contribution in a history, a history he shares with many other people, who are over-represented at Emergent gatherings. Again, the insight that people do theology from a certain location is a crucial and helpful aspect of postmodernism. It is troubling, though, that so little emerging-church conversation and practice reflects a clear sense of how *particular* are the backgrounds and experiences that would make you look for answers where emerging-church folks tend to look for them. This is just a part of a larger story of the way that American culture is profoundly history-impaired.

In the end, it was a 3,600-word article for a general audience. People who thought it was too basic, remember, there are 300,000 churches in America and Brian says "a few dozen" are fully engaged with emergent; there are 150K readers of CT, many in places with no "emerging church" of any sort nearby. Also remember that there are strident voices in CT's world who would dismiss the whole emerging-church phenomenon as... well, you can fill in the blanks. A certain amount of basic education is required if there's going to be a widespread, helpful conversation in the, let's say, 299,000 churches that haven't started it yet. Those who want more substantive reflection from me should read the five-views book that we did--it was fun and I think has some real meat to it. This article is, like a lot of what I hope to write, a parable that gets conversation started. I'm glad it's working.

OK, I repent. Andy (and others) are right. I being was hyperbolic when I wrote that Brian's (and others') histories don't matter. (To be honest, I was thinking more of DA Carson's Cedarville lectures in which he used Brian's Plymouth Brethren background to dismiss him as nothing more than a recovering Fundamentalist.)

Yes, our backgrounds matter. I like Andy's use of "vector" to explain our relationship to our relationship to our pasts. The question is this: Is my background a launching pad or a ball-and-chain? I hope that mine (mainline Congregationalist with a dash of evangelical youth ministry) is a launching pad to the future.

This is why it is distressing to me (and Brian and others) when we see and hear comments by disenfranchised mainliners who haven't found a home in Emergent. I think this is a real problem, and Andy points it out in his comment above. Go to an Emergent event, read an Emergent book, check and Emergent web site, and you're likely to get a very evangelical vibe. We desperately want this vibe to change, and articles that highlight the evangelicalness of the movement don't help to change this vibe.

In other words, my post was wishful thinking. I want this to change. I'll bet Andy, Rob and Kristin Bell, and about everyone reading this wants it to change, too. Maybe if we could all be less defined by our pasts, then this movement would broaden.

Regarding the substance vs. style, I am among those who knew that Andy's hair references were meant to be lighthearted, not dismissive (thus my earlier post that Andy's writing tends to be somewhat "sly, with a twinkle in his eye" (which I love! -- it's one of the reasons that I so miss Re:Generation Quarterly, because Andy promoted that kind of smart writing)).

I am glad to hear that the bigwigs at CTI do not mean to dismiss Emergent, although Andy admits that some of CT's editors are not fans of Brian's theological direction, and many of CT's readers think that Emergent is downright dangerous. I'd say that out interactions with leaders at CT have never been particularly affirming. But it will be really interesting to read the letters to the editor in the next issue!

Well, thanks again, Andy, for being a part of this conversation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Let Bygones be Bygones

My buddy Jay and I had a round of several emails about his post, which was a response to my post. Our conversation got me thinking...

It seems to me that the only ones who brings up Brian McLaren's Plymouth Brethren background are those who are attempting to marginalize him or explain what he's up to. For instance, in DA Carson's lectures at Cedarville College, he refers to the church of Brian's childhood and Spencer Burke's time at a mega-conservative church in SoCal as evidence that these are simply men who are moving out of fundamentalism. Andy Crouch mentions it in a similar context in the recent CT article.

The funny thing is, in all my time with Brian, I've never heard him mention it. In other words, of all the things by which Brian identifies himself, "formerly Plymouth Brethren" isn't one of them. He was PB thirty years ago! He's no more PB or post-PB now than he is a post-teenager -- it may be true, but it has little to do with his current theological/ecclesiological project.

These people point out his and others' backgrounds as a way to belittle the theology that Brian et al are currently espousing. Like, "Oh, you can understand why he's reacting so strongly once you see that he's a former...FUNDAMENTALIST!" But that is to not take seriously what Brian is really up to. That's no more valid than to say that Brian is developing a new theology for himself because he's lost his hair and he's on a quest for new forms of virility. You see, it's ludicrous.

And it's just as ludicrous to pin theological tags on everyone who's involved in this whole thing. It simply does no good. It's an attempt to paint them into a corner, to "figure them out": "Oh, you just a post-youth minister...seeker sensitive pastor...Lutheran...low church...etc."

So I sense a real predicament brewing. There are those in emergent who are through with all denominational tags, think that modern theological education has ceased to be productive, etc., and there are those who very much want to emerge within the setting of established institutions. Some find the differences and uniquenesses among Protestant traditions to be beneficial, while others find them to be a distraction and a waste of time.

I don't want to create a brouhaha, but I think this may be a massive storm cloud on the horizon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Emerging churches, UK style

Below are all the links to blogs, articles, etc. in which Emergent-U.S. types have criticized how emerging church is being done in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Mars:

Monday, October 25, 2004

The BCS Standings and Logical Positivism

For the second week now, some college football teams and fans have their panties in a wad over the BCS Standings. The BCS is a complicated, computer-generated system of ranking the top teams. And it's no wonder why coaches, teams, and university presidents get so worked up over the rankings: if a school finishes in the top six, they're sure to get a New Year's Day bowl game and a payout of over $14 million.

The problem with the BCS system is that it doesn't work. Several times since its inception, the computer program has been modified to make it even more "fair" and even more "accurate." But that's like medieval mathmeticians and astronomers using even more complex equations to support Ptolemy's geocentric cosmos. No matter how good the math, no matter how good the program, some things can't be measured "perfectly." In fact, one might go so far as to say that "perfect" measurements are not possible.

"The best college football team in the country" is a phrase that's designed to be debated. Strength-of-schedule, margin-of-victory, and other indicators simply cannot perfectly measure two teams that haven't played one another. And, in fact, superior teams often lose to inferior teams when, for instance, the better team has an "off day."

Yet the BCS system shows how beholden we are to empiricism, logical positivism, and the scientific paradigm in general. We are still tempted to believe that everything, even matters of opinion, can be quantified and measured.

The church, theology, the Christian life: Friedrich Schleiermacher said that these are governed by "rules of art," not by iron-clad laws, equations, or computer programs. Methinks that's a nice phrase; one that each of us might use as our scrolling banner screen saver.

"The Emergent Mystique"

In the latest Christianity Today, Andy Crouch wrote an article about the emerging church movement. There's been lots of email traffic in my inbox over this, as well as some traffic in the blogosphere. Here's an edited version of an email I sent out to a few friends with my thoughts on Andy's piece:

"In writing, as he does in person, Andy came off as sly, with a twinkle in his eye. However, he did seem to capture, as a journalist, some of the ambivalence within emergent/emerging church (there's one ambivalence right there: which is it?). Is Rob Bell one of us or not? Does the Emergent Convention represent us well or not? Is it a movement or a conversation? Ask 10 people these questions and read 10 blogs, and you'll get 20 answers. So if a journalist walks around and interviews a bunch of us, he's going to hear a lot of dissensus. I think that was one of the major themes that came through in the article.

"Now I personally think that dissensus is a wonderful thing and we should emphasize it. That difference of opinions is what makes the conversation so fruitful, and the inner critique is only going to make the EC, our books, etc., a lot better. Let's be honest, the EC got a major overhaul for '05 based on some of that inner critique.

"However, bloggers like ***** **** are already using this article to (once again) say that emergent in the US is merely altered evengelicalism while in the UK it's really an orgasmically great thing. That's sick, and if anything needs to be blogged about by some of us, it's that this was a journalist's view about what we're up to, and as such, it is partly right and partly a misrepresentation. That's what happens in journalism."

Some I've talked to on the phone think that Andy tried to marginalize us by making the hair jokes a running gag throughout the piece. I personally think that Andy is an important dialogue partner for us; if when he looks at us he sees more style than substance, then we'd better work harder at making substance our priority (I bet that even Andy knows that the hair jokes were a cheap shot). And CT may want to marginalize us, but I think a lot of organizations would kill for a cover article highlighting their impact.

Some have a valid gripe that the piece only profiles one church (Mars Hill (the Grand Rapids variety)) and one author (Brian McLaren), and that neither of these does ministry in an urban context. Now I haven't talked with Andy yet, but I'm sure that he'll acknowledge that the emerging church is more complex than he could possibly report in a 3,000 word piece. Again, maybe the lesson is that we need to emphasize the small, urban church plant as we talk about emergent with others.

If we can't all take a deep breath and learn something at a time like this, then we're really screwed.

Women's Hoops Blog -- by Sara & Ted

My brother and sister-in-law run the best blog in the universe on women's basketball: Women's Hoops Blog. A couple of (thus far) kidless lawyers who know way too much about this subject, plus occasional other stuff.

Here's a movie quote that applies:
"My boy's wicked smart."
Movie, anyone?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Wow, that was fast. Marko and Phil both got it. OK, here's another from an older movie:

"You can't dust for vomit."

Random Movie Quote: Name the Movie

"Hmmm. A limo that can fly. Now I've seen everything."

"Have you ever seen a man eat his own head?"


"Then I guess you haven't seen everything."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Rehabilitating Gadamer

Listen, I'm not under any false illusions that Hans-Georg Gadamer needs my help, but I was a little rough on him in a previous post as being the quintessence of philosophical abstruseness. In fact, Gadamer is an incredibly important figure in 20th century philosophy, so all four of you who read this should have a better appreciation of him.

In the post-Kantian turn in philosophy, F. Schleiermacher and W. Dilthey emphasized that for a human being to understand a text, one must interpret it. They are (in)famous for stating that I, as a reader, can actually know what's going on in a text better than the author himself knew. They then developed a methodology for interpreting texts.

Gadamer, however, disagreed that a method can be developed; that is still too a part of the Enlightenment project (i.e., you can step outside of interpretation and develop a method, then step back into the interpretation). Gadamer said that all we do is interpret, and he used art as an example: most of us would say a painting or work of music conveys "truth," but it's not in the same way that a written text does. Since a painting does not use words, but we think in words, we have to translate or interpret what the painting is "saying." In other words, we interpret all the time -- interpretation is the human condition.

So here's a more helpful quote from Truth and Method:

"The hermeneutical situation is not a regrettable distortion that affects the purity of understanding, but the condition of its possibility. Only because between the text and its interpreter there is no automatic accord can a hermeneutica experience make us share in the text. Only because a text has to be brought out of its alienness and assimilated is there anything for the person to understand it to say"(472).

Monday, October 18, 2004

"Stop...You're hurting us."

If you have not yet seen Jon Stewart take the Crossfire guys to task, do yourself a favor and watch it -- link here.

Which makes me ask: Is Jon Stewart angry? (Rhetorical question -- the answer is yes.) But, is it OK for him to be angry? I mean, when he is firmly convinced that shows like "Crossfire" are hurting our democracy, that all they do is allow spin-meisters and political hucksters and sloganeers to come on and shout at each other, that they're about theater, not debate -- I mean, if he's convinced of all these things, then is he right to be angry?

I only ask this because lately I've heard a wave of, "You're so angry," and "You emergent people are so angry." To which I say, if you're not at least a little angry at the impotence of the church, then there's something wrong with you.

I sometimes wonder if the you're-so-angry defense is really a duck, so one does not have to deal with the real issues that the emergent church is raising. As a parallel, watch the clip and see how Begala and Carlson refuse to talk to Stewart about what he wants to talk about.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Divided by Faith

In the book, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, Michael O. Emerson (and Christian Smith) look at the contributing factors to the continued racial divide between blacks and whites and how the divide is exacerbated by evangelicalism. Sociologists, Emerson and Smith conducted a massive study, including over 2,500 phone interviews and 200 face-to-face interviews, thus cross referencing both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

First off, they claim that while the U.S. is not necessarily "racist," it is unquestionably "racialized": "characterized by by low intermarriage rates, de facto segregation, socioeconomic inequality, and personal identities and social networks that are racially distinctive"(154). That Black Americans are at the bottom of this racialized divide, they offer some devastating statistics:

Median net worth of Whites: $43,800
Median net worth of Blacks: $3,700

Median net financial assets of Whites: $7,000
Median net financial assets of Blacks: $0 (that's right, $0!)

Median net worth of college-educated Whites: $74,922
Median net worth of college-educated Blacks: $17,437

When they surveyed white evangelicals, however, many refused to admit that there was a problem -- in fact, many were downright offended to be asked. While it may have been an issue 50 years ago, many maintained that those racial problems of the U.S. had been solved. When pushed further, most suggested that the solution to any lingering racialization is(drumroll, please) conversion!!! That's right, the evangelical theology of personal transformation trumps all. By far the most common response that the researchers received was basically, "If all these racist whites and downtrodden blacks would just accept Jesus as Lord, then they'd see that we're all God's children and we all need to be treated equally." There was virtually no acknowledgement that there is any systemic problem with race in America. There was also a lot of "if they'd just get off their lazy butts" kind of talk.

What Emerson and Smith go onto to suggest is that churches and denominations, by their very structure and by what has been proved by sociologists and social psychologists, tend toward homogeneity: "Religion contributed to this consolidation along racial lines -- and the stronger the religion, the more it contributes -- and therefore increases racial categorization. Again, its individual participants and organizations do not intend this result, but it is a latent by-product of establishing meaning, belonging, and group strength"(157). So even though multi-racial congregations may be the answer, people naturally choose the easier option, and worshipping with people who look and sing like you is easier.

What the authors cannot say directly (because they are sociologists) but clearly allude to is that this is a theological problem. The over-emphasis on the hermeneutic of personal transformation in Evangelical theology, to the virtual exclusion of biblical passages that speak to systemic sin, is the problem.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Taize - "Liberating the core of goodness"

Here's a reflection from Paul Ricoeur regarding his connection to Taize

Friday, October 15, 2004

Grammar I

Occasionally, I'll be posting my grammatical pet peeves; common mistakes that I think should be avoided. Here are three:

  1. When two ideas or people seem to work well together, they jibe -- they do not jive.
  2. When you change course, you take a new tack -- not a new tact. It's a sailing term.
  3. When you address your Christmas card to my family, it's The Joneses -- not The Jones' or The Jones's or, my personal favorite, The Jones.

Paul Ricoeur 1

Ricoeur is a philosopher/theologian who has had a great impact on the field, most especially, of philosophical hermeneutics. Unlike Gadamer, he emphasizes that we can indeed talk about methods of interpretation, but he is post-critical enough to admit that all interpretations are limited, never complete or final.

One of the interesting ideas he explores in Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning (1976) is that a text, like a conversation between two persons, has a life of its own. Thus, the point of interpretation is not to get back to what the author meant (a al Schleiermacher and Dilthey), but to discover what the text means now. Here's a quote from the end of the book:

"What indeed is to be understood -- and consequently appropriated -- in a text?

"Not the intention of the author, which is supposed to be hidden behind the text; not the historical situation common to the author and his original readers; not the expectations or feelings of these original readers; not even their understanding of themselves as cultural and historical phenomena. What has to be appropriated is the meaning of the text itself, conceived in a dynamic way as the direction of thought opened up by the text"(92, my italics).

So much for all of that historical-critical crap you learned in seminary, or the psychological reconstructions of Paul that you've read.

Later he writes that every text provides an "arrow" that points forward, and the reader's job is to follow that arrow into new meanings.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

R.I.P., Jacques Derrida

Derrida died late last week, and there was an interesting obit in the NYTimes (and other places as well). It was noted that Derrida's following was always larger and more passionate in the U.S. than it was in Europe. It also noted that several political scandals regarding the Holocaust tarnished his image (a Jew, Derrida defended some scholars with former Nazi ties) and that his academic star had been on the wane for several years.

On this count, I had a long conversation with Andy Crouch at the Emergent Convention in Nashville last year -- Andy's feature article on the emerging church will be in the next Christianity Today. Andy wondered if we were behind the times to have Jack Caputo, a major interpreter of Derrida, at the EC; deconstruction, Andy noted, was yesterday's news and no longer a force in academia.

Was our invitation of Caputo another examples of evangelicals coming to the game late and looking foolishly behind-the-times? I think not. While in the light of history, Derrida's work may be deemed transitionary -- a postmodern hyper-correction -- his interpretation and futherance of Heidegger cannot be ignored. Where do we take Husserl and Heidegger's work which all but killed metaphysics? Derrida offered one direction; and Caputo's messianic interpretation of deconstruction is wonderfully optimistic -- it's no wonder that many post-evangelical and post-liberal Christians (myself included) have been encouraged by Caputo's writings.

The Gadamer/Ricoeur hermeneutic turn is a more moderate response to the death of metaphysics, and it seems likely to win the day, but one of the reasons that they are what they are is that they were in conversation with Derrida and deconstruction. Derrida served an important function, and he will not be forgotten.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

tough weekend...

...for Minnesota sports fans. The Twins caved in memorable fashion, the Gophers choked, and the Vikes squeezed by the Texans in OT after leading 21-0. Ugly all around.

In happier news, the NYWC in Dallas was great -- lots of time catching up with friends, meeting new ones etc. One of the new ones is Mike Pilavachi with whom I had a scintillating conversation one night. Mike, Marko, and I all bemoaned the tendency that human beings seem to have to firmly establish themselves in ideological camps on the left and the right (theological, political, and otherwise). Mike, a self-described charismatic Anglican Christian, cannot imagine having a theology that values the charisms without those charisms driving one to real-life social action on behalf of the oppressed. The otherwordly focus of most American Pentecostals and charismatics he finds quite baffling. He is clearly a friend of emergent.

My seminar on youth ministry in the emerging church went quite well, I thought, but the seminar on pop culture seemed to get bogged down in the middle. I'm going to have to rework it for Atlanta.

Got home tonight around 7:30, having been gone for 11 days, and hugged and kissed everyone till they all fell asleep. Now I'm going to sleep, too. Good night.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Had breakfast today with Dr. Darrell Guder -- he's a fantastic guy who is interested in missional ecclesiology, especially from a Barthian perspective. We try to get together once a month, and it's always awesome for me. He'd be reason enough for anyone to come to PTS for an M.Div., and to get a Ph.D. from him would be da bomb.

Then I talked Moltmann for 90 minutes with Dr. Rick Osmer. That was spectacular -- mind-bendingly delicious.

Tomorrow I leave right after class for the National Youth Workers Convention in Dallas. Friday is a late nite on postmodernism with Marko, Spencer Burke, and Mark Miller, Saturday is meetings, hanging out with friends, and reading Paul Ricoeur, and Sunday is two seminars ("Youth Ministry in the Emerging Church" and "Developing a Theology of Pop Culture") before (finally!) heading home for four days with the family.

blog ethics

So I've got a question for you: if someone comes on your blog and flames you in the comments and then asks for the comments to be deleted, should you delete them or let her/him stew in her/his own juices?

Moltmann 2.1

I can't resist one more extended quote on the church from Theology and Joy:

"Being-there-for-others is an important matter. Dietrich Bonhoeffer used this formula to illuminate the mystery of Christ's vicarious living and dying for us. Being-there-for-others is also the secret of love with those who follow the man from Nazareth. Being-there-for-others is the fundamental structure of Christ's church which vicariously spoeaks up for men and particularly represents thos who have no one to speak for them...

"Still, being-there-for-others is not the final answer, nor is it an end and not even freedom in itself. It is a way, although the only way, which leads to being-there-with-others. Christ's death for us has its end and future in that he is with us and that we shall be living, laughing and ruling with him. Being-there-for-others in vicarious love has its end to be with others in liberty. Giving bread to the hungry has as its end to break our bread with all mankind. If this is not the end, our care for others merely becomes a new kind of domination. Church for others may easily lead us back into the old paternalism, unless its ultimate end is that kingdom where no one needs to speak up for the other anymore but where each person rejoices with his neighbor and all men enjoy themselves together. Being-there-for-others is the way to the redemption of this life. Being-there-with-others is the form which the redeemed and liberated life itself has taken. The church must therefore not regard itself as just a means to an end, but it must demonstrate already in its present existence this free and redeemed being-with-others which it seeks to serve. In this sense -- and only in this sense -- the church is already an end in itself, not as church complete with hierarchy and bureaucracy but as the congregation of the liberated. In that sense the church's function reaches beyond rendering assistance to a troubled world; it does already possess its own demonstrative value of being. In the remembered and hoped-for liberty of Christ the church serves the liberation of men by demonstrating human freedom in its own life and by manifesting its rejoicing in that freedom." (86-87)

Moltmann 2

In 1971, Moltmann wrote an extended essay called Theology and Joy in which he attempts to answer the questions, How can Christians claim to be joyful people in these anxiety-filled days (Vietnam, etc.)? and What is the role of the church in a society that no longer values the church's civic functions? Here are a couple quotes:

"The vision of God comes to life by following the crucified with permanent repentance and through constant changing of existing conditions. It cannot be obtained apart form this. Permanent repentance is the daily dying of the old man and the renewal of the inner, the new man. This is painful but constitutes only the reverse side of rejoicing in hope. Transfiguration cannot be demonstrated on a mountain away from the world. Even the transfiguration of Jesus took place on the road to Jerusalem and the cross. The transfiguration of the unveiled face must be demonstrated in a suffering and struggling transformation which involves changing oneself and existing conditions so that man [sic], together with other men, may be conformed to his future." (63)

And here's one on the church; it's long but worth it:

"Christian congregations should not use their allotted portion of the time free of labour and domination entirely for educational and socio-ethical activities. These activities may be necessary but they are not yet free. Christians should experiment with the possibilities of creative freedom. By this we do not mean the kinds of conversation, fellowship and games which only serve to provide necessary relaxation from the tensions caused by the excessive demands of everyday living. This is also important, but it is not yet free. But it does mean at these points we try to play out models of creative freedom. Following up on the reproductive imagination which updates the past, it means to encourage productive imagination which looks toward the future; and it means to bring back to light man's repressed spontaneity. It means to support a culture which does not merely offer social compensations but prepares for social change by introducing people to an unauthoritarian brotherhood. Worship itself may become a source of this new spontaneity; it no longer has to be a place of inhibitions, embarrassments and polite efforts. Christian congregations may then become testing grounds of the realm of freedom right in the realm of necessity." (85)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Gadamer 1

Had a really fun lunch today with about ten youth workers from the Princeton area. We talked about postmodern thought, youth ministry, and emergent. The dude from Young Life took a few hits, but he was a great sport. Really, we just used YL as the straw man that stood in for modern ministry in general -- fact is, it could have been almost any ministry/church. Anyway, it was a great time.

I've spent the rest of the day climbing the 575-page Everest that is Hans-Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method (1960). I've got to read it by Friday morning and I'm on page 300 right now. Here's a little taste of my current agony:

"Under the rubric of a 'hermeneutics of facticity,' Heidegger confronted Husserl's eidetic phenomonolgy, and well as the distinction between fact and essence on which it depended, with a paradoxical demand. Phenomenology should be ontologically based on the facticity of Dasein, existence, which cannot be based on or derived from anything else, and not on the pure cogito as the essential constitution of typical universality -- a bold idea, but difficult to carry through." (254)

I can hear you all ripping up you PhD applications...

remember, envy is a sin

I had a pretty good day yesterday. Really, one of the best days ever. Here's a run-down.

Woke up (in my barren, cell-like apartment in Princeton) and made a pot of espresso. Read the rest of Moltmann's Theology of Hope. When I googled the restaurant at which I'd be eating dinner, I thought, Oh crap, I need to go buy a tie (all my ties are in Minnesota), so I walked over to Marshall's and bought a green tie for $10.

I then proceeded to take the New Jersey Transit train into NYC. It was a beautiful day in the City, so I walked north into Midtown. I hung out for the next several hours atop the Peninsula Hotel, in a spa ( that has reciprocal membership with Flagship (, my home club in Minnesota. The Penisula Club is real shee-shee: warm robes, mahogany lockers, and lots of people standing around to hand you a towel or shine your shoes. I had an interesting conversation about the state of religion in the U.S. with an old Italian-American "realtor" named Alfonso.

Around 6, I met a new friend from a publishing house for a glass of wine. We had a great conversation getting to know one another, and we talked about how his house could develop some resources for high school/college age students.

Then, at 8, I met some other, long-time and very valued friends from another publishing house for what must be ranked as one of the top five meals in my life. It was orgasmic.

We were seated at Le Bernardin ( just after 8 and we started with a glass of champagne. I went on to have these three courses of fish:

from "Almost Raw"
Hamachi Tartare Topped with Wasabi Tobiko; Ginger-Coriander Emulsion

From "Barely Touched"
Thinly pounded yellow fin tuna lightly seared on one side

From "Lightly Cooked"
Pan Roasted Codfish, Sautéed Baby Artichokes, Pistachio and Parmesan in a Sage and Garlic Perfumed Broth

For Dessert
Honey and Vanilla Poached Prune Plums; Mille-Feuille of White Chocolate, Pistachio, and Caramel Ganache

The wine was called "Flower," and it was fantastic. Truly, every bite was heavenly. And, needless to say, the conversation was wonderful, challenging, funny, foward-looking, and left me with a warm glow as I took the train back to NJ.

It was a good day.

P.S.: I had three different people make a point of telling me how much they liked my tie.


Twins beat Yanks in 4 games...

Monday, October 04, 2004

Moltmann 1

So I have the good fortune of reading a lot of books as my vocation right now, so I'll try and cull one or two good quotes from each book for this blog.

The first is Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology by Jurgen Moltmann:

"The resurrection has set in motion an eschatologically determined process of history, whose goal is the annihilation of death in the victory of life of the resurrection, and which ends in that righteousness in which God receives in all things his due and the creature thereby finds his salvation." (163)

"The logos of the eschaton is promise of that which is not yet, and for that reason it makes history. The promise which announces the eschaton, and in which the eschaton announces itself, is the motive power, the mainspring, the driving force and the torture of history." (165)

"Cross and resurrection are not merely the modi in the person of Christ. Rather, their dialectic is an open dialectic, which will find its resloving synthesis in the eschaton of all things." (201)

You gotta love that phrase that the announcement of the eschaton is "the torture of history."


...there won't be any links or pictures or anything fancy like that on this blog. Nor will there be a list of "Books I'm Engaging" (that I actually haven't picked up in 6 months) along the left side.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Worship Leaders Shouldn't Talk

So I was speaking at the pretty cool youth event recently, and during the evening session, the 'worship leader' (as they like to be called), said something like this between songs:

"Isn't it just great to be the presence of the be silent before him...yeah, it's really great...cuz, you know, he's always there for, have you ever felt really ticked at God?...Yeah, you know, that's okay for you to feel that way, because God can handle it...he's okay with us being ticked at him, you know...but I'm not saying that God changes, cuz he doesn't, cuz he created the universe, you know, so he doesn't change."

I am not bullshitting, that's pretty much what was said.

Can we install electric buzzers in the little headsets that worship leaders wear so that whenever they say something theologically stoopid we can shock them?

Oh yeah, and if one more 'worship leader' tells me that I have to stand up, I may go postal.

Len Sweet is the Ganga

A friend, who shall remain nameless, and I were wondering why Len Sweet has not really been a part of the the emerging church conversation of late -- at least he has not been at the core of it (emergent conventions, gatherings, theological conversations, etc.). I said I think Len is like a doorman: he stands at the door and ushers people into the conversation. My friend said, "Yeah, he's like the gateway drug to emergent."

That's beautiful.