Monday, April 23, 2007

Initial Thoughts on Wheaton

It's been over a week now since I spoke at the annual Wheaton Theology Conference. Again, let me say that I was honored to be asked -- although Al Hsu reports that several theologians with whom he spoke were disgruntled and felt I had no right to be on the slate of speakers, much less in a keynote role. I guess if they want to maintain the purity of academic conferences, I can understand. But I think that the conference organizers are wary of the internecine battles that often result from academic inbreeding -- not to mention that very few academicians can speak with any credibility on the emergent church. So I gave it my best shot, and I took some criticism -- more on that tomorrow.

Due to Tanner's birthday on one end and the Emergent Theological Philosophical Conversation on the other, I couldn't stay at Wheaton for more than the day on Friday. This was a great disappointment, and it's not the way that I like to be at conferences.

The folks at Wheaton treated me with the utmost hospitality, particularly my friend, Vince Bacote. And I also want to give a shout-out to Karen Sloan, a true phenom in the emergent church. There she was, as she is at every EC event in the States. She reported to me that some of the other speakers were disgruntled because they'd heard that I was using powerpoint. (What's funny is that while my use of this Microsoft product seemed intimidating and out-of-place among academicians, it draws almost universal ridicule from all my Mac-happy co-emergers.) Another speaker reportedly scoffed at the emergent church with some derogatory comment about powerpoint slides. The problems with this assumption that academic discourse should (can?!?) be purely verbal are too numerous to post, so I won't.

John Franke was also there, and he was supportive throughout. I took a long walk with Jason Byassee of the Christian Century. He's an excellent and thoughtful guy who later in the day presented a paper on the emergent church. He was relatively fair, though he took a couple of cheap-shots at Doug; and his deconstruction of Mark Driscoll was devastating.

I ate two lunches: first with Collin Hansen of Christianity Today, who's working on a profile of Driscoll, and then with Andrew Bronson of InterVarsity Press, active in the Chicagoland Emergent Village cohort, up/rooted. Finally, I was graciously invited to the IVP author dinner, even though I'm not an IVP author. Seated amidst members of the Hauerwasian Mafia, it was fight or flight. I chose flight. Fortunately, Karen Sloan loaned me her car, and I got back to Wheaton without broken kneecaps.

Tomorrow: The Speech...


Blogger James Gordon said...

Sorry about the cheap shots from Wheaton and the others. I look forward to hearing/reading your address, and I hope you will continue to remain faithful to your calling.

In Christ,

By the way, you do have to go with Keynote...I mean c'mon :)

4:18 AM  
Blogger blair said...

TJ, thanks for hanging out with Glen even if it was limited. His report was that emergent was an underlying buzz throughout. Funny, he mentioned how refreshing the PP was compared to all of the auditory only academics. Howard Gardner anyone?

6:58 AM  
Blogger Tripp said...

I am glad your knee caps are still intact. 'Hauerwasian Mafia' what a great phrase. I think you should publish something with that title. Rock on

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Matt Shedden said...

I have always enjoyed your blog and books but I am wondering what the 'Hauerwasian Mafia' is, and possibly what your particular take on Hauerwas is. I have just started reading him and enjoy it alot, but it would be good to get another perspective on him.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Al Hsu said...

I should clarify that the folks after Tony's session didn't exactly say that he had "no right" to be a speaker. It was more along the lines that they thought that he shouldn't have been invited, or that he wasn't doing the kind of work that would pass muster (theologically, historically, etc.).

Part of the vibe that I sensed was that there's a gap between the emergent and academic communities, in terms of both methodology and language. And I think some of the professional theologians just don't know how to engage with folks who aren't playing by their rules or terminology. So the challenge lies in finding a playing field where emergent and academic folks can actually talk and interact with each other constructively.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Tatum said...

The worst thing the Hauerwasian mafia could do is to teach people to read Aristotle...which wouldn't be such a bad thing.

So, in the end, there'd be no broken kneecaps. But there might be some constructive ethical thinking. I'm interested to hear more about your wheaton experience.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Beloved said...

In my experience, most evangelical theologians (OK, the ones who would stereotypically be speaking at a school like Wheaton) are inept philosophers. Not that they aren't highly intelligent, but they just haven't put as much stake in philosophy as emergents have. Ironically, what they don't realize is that philosophy is preeminent over text, because it determines the lens through which they view the text. Hmmm... would've liked to hear their reaction to that, had it been presented.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Thanks for the thoughts Tony. I am working on getting some questions for you and should post them on my blog later today. I would love any response you may be able to give me.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Mike Clawson said...

I think I can probably guess who some of those 'Hauerwasian Mafia' were. One of them (at least one of them from here in Chicago) gave you a shout out recently on his blog. ;)

BTW, sorry I couldn't make it to your talk at the conference (church responsibilities). Julie and I hooked up with Karen Sloan on Saturday for Indian food, but you were already gone. :(

3:23 PM  

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