Monday, March 26, 2007

Deconstruction, Anyone?

I've got a post on it at churchandpomo today.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wanna Canoe... some of the most beautiful lakes in the world? My friends at Boundary Waters Experience have approached Doug and me about leading some canoe expeditions this summer.

Basically, here's the deal: For $695, you get a full week of outfitted and guided paddling in Boundary Waters Canoe Area on the Minnesota-Canada border. But that's not all! You'd also be a part of a 7-person cohort, and there will be discussions around the campfire each night. Doug will be leading one on church planting and leadership, and I'll be leading one on spiritual formation and theology. Plus, we've got a couple others in the works. The date: the week of June 23.

But, honestly, we have no idea if anyone would be interested in such a thing. So, if you are, please email Hillary Hicks in the next couple weeks and let her know: If there's enough interest, we'll get the permits and away we go!

PS: I've been canoing in the BWCAW, and it's truly extraordinary.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wheaton Is Getting Desparate

At least that's the only way I can explain my invitation to be a keynote presenter at this year's Wheaton Theology Conference. I mean, past presenters have been giants in the field of theology, and I'm merely a Ph.D. student who will (someday) write a dissertation and get the damn degree. Even the folks doing the seminars have twice as many letters after their names as I do. I am clearly out of my league.

But, I found a loophole in one of the emails from the conference coordinators. They ask that our presentations be relevant to theologians, pastors, and college students! So, clearly, I'm the guy to speak to the lattermost crowd.

But seriously, I'm deeply honored and very much looking forward to it. I'm not much of one to present a "paper" at an event like this, but I did follow the rules enough to turn in an abstract today. Here it is:

“Whence Hermeneutic Authority?"
Tony Jones, National Coordinator of Emergent Village


Tipp O’Neill famously quipped that “All politics are local.” Maybe so, but the postmodernists have argued that all hermeneutics are local. It is our local communities that shape how we see the world, and—as Christians—our ecclesial communities that shape how we interact with the texts of scripture. Stanley Fish calls them “authoritative interpretative communities;” we call them “church.” But in what way does the grand tradition of church history interact with our local iterations of the faith? Does Chalcedon trump Minneapolis? The emerging church movement offers some insight into how coming generations will navigate this relationship between old and new, for in an age of micronarratives, Vincent of Lerins’s exhortation that orthodoxy must “hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all” rings somewhat hollow. Or, maybe, orthodoxy has always been fluid, dynamic, open source…

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Fly A Lot...

...and I even sit in first class quite often, as I am a "Platinum Elite" passenger at Northwest Airlines.

And I see several cadavers a year as a police chaplain.

But having those two experiences combined would be quite unnerving!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Primacy of Sweet Rolls

Each morning last week in Denmark, Thomas and Henrick would meet me with coffee and two bags. One held dry, white hardrolls, and the other held sweet rolls. You and I might call the latter "Danishes" (which the Danes hate). They call them "snails," since they're wrapped up like a snail. In either case, that's what we had for breakfast.

We'd sit down, and one of them would tear open the bags. They'd start with the dry rolls, maybe with some butter or jam, and I'd go for the sweet roll first.

Finally, on the third day of this, I asked them, "Why do you eat those shitty dry rolls first?"

They smiled and said, "What you're doing is very wrong. One never eats the snail first. You start with a hard roll. Then, if there are any sweet rolls left, you can have one."

"That's crazy!" I said. "You should eat the sweet one first, then if you're still hungry you can eat a hard roll."

They just smiled and looked at me like I was a gluttonous American. I, meanwhile, ate my snail and thought about the miraculous wine at the Cana wedding...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

On Stools

I like a stool when I speak. I almost always want a stool. I like to have the option to sit and to occasionally get on my feet to walk around. Honestly, I think the only time I don't want a stool is when the crowd is over 500 or so. And since I rarely speak in front of crowds that big, I usually use a stool.

I don't know why. It feels more humble to me, more unassuming. More like a chat, and less like a lecture. Maybe it's a security blanket for me, an anchor. Some people hide behind the pulpit, I am held up by a stool.

I haven't made much of a study of stools. I tend to like one that allows movement, like The Stool That Spins at Solomon's Porch. And I need a footrest. A stool without a footrest is worthless.

So, leave it to the Scandinavians to build my perfect stool. I used it only on my first day here, when I was speaking at a Pentecostal church in Copenhagen. It looked like something you might find in IKEA. It had a footrest, at just the right height. But, most importantly, it cradled me, held me securely.

I loved that stool, and I miss it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Random Thoughts on Scandinavia

Gas costs $6.32 per gallon.

Fundamentalism -- as we know it in the U.S. -- is not possible here. I don't know if it's the socialism, the media (which simply would not cover fundamentalist leaders), the church-state mix or what, but it just wouldn't work. I asked everyone I could, and they all agreed that American fundamentalism will never take root in northern Europe. Pentecostalism? Yes. Conservative evangelicalism? To be sure. But not fundamentalism.

No one is obese. I saw nary an obese person in a whole week.

Among men, horizontally-striped shirts are popular. We wear only vertical stripes in the States. They say that vertical stripes are slimming. So I guess this is related to the last item.

The beauty of a hairstyle is definitely in the eye of the beholder. There is no stronger argument for the contextualization of beauty than the Euro Mullet.

Other than the horizontal stripes and the mullets, I felt very much at home here.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I am truly blessed, I have once again discovered on this trip. I am now in Norway, and I've again been taken in by wonderful people who love God and love the church. Enough of this, and I might forget about all of the bloggers out there who think I'm the spawn of Satan.

After my engagements in Arhus, Denmark, I said a sad farewell to my friends Thomas and Henrick. I was driven by some fun-loving Americans to my next stop, a Pentecostal Bible college about an hour away. Jakob Vagner, teacher there, welcomed me with another great Danish meal (you don't hear much good about the food in northern Europe, but lemme tell you, the Danes know how to eat!). On Thursday, I addressed the student body in four sessions in the morning and had a session exclusively with the second-year students after lunch.

I was driven to the Billung Airport by a couple of students, and I flew in a very small plane to Oslo, where I was collected by another new friend, Bente. She had an excellent Norwegian breakfast for me this morning: bread, meat, cheese, fruit, and strong coffee. She then drove us to the Norwegian School of Theology, where I held forth for the morning, and into the afternoon. Now I've got a bit of downtime prior to my last engagement, tonight at a Covenant Church (where I'm sure to make more friends).

Somebody said that a man is rich, who is rich in friends. These are wise words indeed. And, I'm not trying to be sappy or anything here, but I've been thinking a lot about this concept of friendship whilst on this trip. There's really something to it -- the theological virtue of friendship -- and I'm mighty glad that we've made that a hallmark of Emergent Village.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Twin Cities Parade of Churches... coming!!! Check it out!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Danish Musings

Having a great time here in Denmark. On Monday, I spoke on emerging church issues to a group of church planters and other interested parties in Copenhagen. They were open and engaged, although our contextual differences were soon apparent. My host, Thomas Willer, opened by reading a bit from Soren Ostergaard's dissertation on Danish church plants in which Soren argues that the gospel is "radical contextualization."

I heartily concurred. The Danes (as has been my experience elsewhere in the world recently (Singapore and South Africa)) have been too easily co-opted by American models of church growth and revitalization. I pleaded that those of us from the US version of emergent church not be another in a long line of Americans offering a model. We're not offering a model, we're offering friendship. So, if you're looking for friends around the globe as you rethink church in your context, I said, then emergent is for you. Here's a pic of the Copenhagen group:

Early Tuesday morning, we travelled three hours by train to Jutland, the northwest part of Denmark -- kind of the equivalent to the Midwest, it's more agricultural, people a bit more conservative (in lifestyle, not politics). I spent Tuesday with a group of church planters in this area around Arhus. Today (Wednesday) will be with a new group in Arhus around issues of youth ministry, tomorrow at a Pentecostal Bible college, and Friday in Oslo, Norway.

One of the interesting things I've had to think through on this trip so far is the relationship between emergent thinking and charismaticism. The charismatic movement, particularly in its British "apostolic" form (as opposed, for instance, to the Vineyard) is very robust here -- well, I should say, robust among the small minority of Danes who are not part of the national Lutheran church. There's much talk about a church in Sheffield, U.K. who has developed this movement. My background is so thoroughly uncharistmatic that I always have to try extra hard to communicate faithfully in this idiom. More on this later...

Anyway, the hosts here are fantastically hospitable, the food exceptional (two types of herring at lunch on Monday!), and the beer.... mmm, what to say?... it's wonderful, and it comes in very large glasses!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Intrepid Journalist...

...Scot McKnight interviewed me a couple weeks ago. Part one available here.

Re:Gen - Copenhagen

My host, Thomas Willer, collected me at the airport and we dropped off my bags at the convent/hospital where I'm staying for my first two nights in Scandinavia. He and I then joined three of his church-planting colleagues for lunch at The Laundromat Cafe, owned, they tell me, by some Icelanders. Over lunch, we talked of church planting, differences between the U.S., the U.K., and Scandinavia, and the strange marriage in their church plant of Baptist, emergent, and charismatic sensibilities. We also had a fairly in-depth theological/philosophical discussion on human ontology, in which they said, basically, a human being is more than what s/he does and I argued the opposite. (Don't read too much into that -- there was some devil's advocacy going on.)

We then walked to the loft bar/cafe where their church, Re:Gen, meets on Sundays at 3pm. After about an hour of set-up, the folks started to flow in -- mostly university students and people in their 20s. Worship went almost 2 hours, with some music, lots of discussion, and a coffee break in the middle (which I think is a fantastic idea!). My friend, Simon Willer, who visited Minnesota last summer, led the sermon/discussion time on materialism and tied it in with a Lenten practice.

After worship, I was taken to dinner by Ivan, lovingly known as "The Godfather" at Re:Gen. A long-time Baptist children's pastor, Ivan now works at a Catholic preschool and volunteers his time with Re:Gen. His children are grown, and one of his boys joined us at dinner, along with another friend. We had a great dinner with lots of laughs, talk of the Bush Administration (uniformly despised in every country I visit) and global economics. My big question here is: Can liberal socialism compete in the global economy as emergent free markets (like India, and maybe someday, China) embrace liberal democracy...

The Flight Over Here

Seven and a half hours from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, a long walk through the Schipol Airport, then and hour and a half to Capenhagen. As usual, I couldn't sleep at all. And, as usual, I cried at an in-flight movie: Rocky Balboa. As I had read in reviews, it really is a fitting end to that series of movies, a series which sometimes expemplified the worst of 1980s filmmaking. Stallone wrote and directed it, which gives me more respect for him that I'd previously had.

I also watched Casino Royale. As a young boy, I read all of Ian Fleming's novels about James Bond, so I was confused when I watched the movies -- also examples of bad 1980s filmmaking -- like Moonraker. The books were about long card games in exotic locales, while the movies were about guys skiing and shooting at each other with their gun/ski poles. Casino Royale not only parallels the book of the same name, but Daniel Craig is the most kick-ass Bond ever. His chase scene on foot beats any other Bond chase scene in cars. And, he screws up, which other Bonds never did -- it's a Bond who's learning epistemic humility!

PS: Thank God the Phil Yancey -- who has my dream job (author/columnist/speaker) -- is all right.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Scandahoovia, Here I Come!

Like many life-long Minnesotans, I'm at least one-eighth Norwegian. I don't know exactly -- I'm between one-eighth and one-fourth. I had one great-great grandfather named, Thor Thorson. Sounds pretty Norwegian to me. He changed it to Thor Michaelson when he came to the States.

Growing up, many holidays were spent in Gaylord, a small farming town in south central Minnesota. My grandmother, Florence, was the Norwegian (she married a Welsh-American), and she served the Norwegian-Minnesotan staples: lefse (that's flat potato bread, often served with butter and sugar), egg coffee (made with the whole egg, shell and all), and the coup de grâce, lutefisk (cod, soaked in lye, then boiled until gelatinous). Supposedly, she made a nasty entry in her diary about me once since, when I was about 10, I complained about the smell in the house while the lutefisk was cooking.

Thus, the Norwegian heritage played strongly in my upbringing; in fact, more than the German, Welsh, or English did. So, it is with great anticipation that I sit in the MSP Airport, about to take off for my first trip to Scandinavia. I'll land in Copenhagen tomorrow morning and spend some time with my host, Thomas Willer, and his church-planting team. Then I'll lead seminars Monday-Thursday. On Friday I'll speak for Soren Ostergaard in Oslo, and have a free day in the Norwegian capital on Saturday before flying home next Sunday.

So, needless to say, I'm excited. It'll be great to see the land of the Thorsons, to meet some emergent folks there, and to smell the lutefisk again.

Of course, if you're in Copenhagen or Oslo, look me up and we'll grab a cup of egg coffee.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Do You Read Bob?

Bob Robinson, that is? Well, he's consistently one of the most incisive, thoughtful bloggers I read. Currently, he's blogging about his interactions with DA Carson. I know Bob gave Don the benefit of the doubt -- and he shares Don's Reformed sensitibilities -- so I thing Bob is doing us all a service by blogging through his thoughts. Three posts so far:





P.S.: I also happen to agree with Bob's criticism of Randy Balmer's book. In other words, neither Bob nor I are "lefties."