Why I Study…

Why I Study…

I have been thinking a lot lately about why I read the books I do and why I working on an International Studies masters degree at Fuller. In a lot of ways, the things I do don’t make sense; shoot, some of you reading this blog have even expressed confusion as to why I read the book that I do and why I pour myself out studying theology, missions and history. Well, I guess it all goes back to the summer 2001. I spend that summer with my new bride volunteering with Latin America Missions in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We lived with a local family for two and a half months while helping a local Christian organization love on their neighbors through microfinance loans, computer training and youth Bible studies. It was a fantastic summer that fueled my love for international missions. One day that summer I remember sitting in our bedroom at our host home talking to the Lord when He told me something close to the following (I don’t recall the exact words): You can’t give what you don’t have. At that moment it hit me – if I wanted to change the world for God; if I wanted to help people – I would have to have some kind of skills, training or knowledge to give away. While I was going to college for a business degree, there was something about that day that sparked an interest in studying theology. I don’t really know why that thought came across my mind that evening as “theology” was a cuss word to me at that time. Shoot, growing up...
Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger

Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger

Edmund (Eddie) Gibbs is an English born missionary, professor, scholar, and author who has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary in California since 1984.  Drawing from professional expertise in Church growth and renewal as well as first-hand church planting experience with the Church of England in Chile, South America (:8), Gibbs is able to provide a historical high-level view of the emerging church movement. Co-author Ryan Bolger is also a Fuller Theological Seminary professor with expertise in contemporary and postmodern culture.  Bolger’s background as a generation X-er involved in several new paradigm churches (:8) helped balance out Gibbs’ Baby Boomer generational worldview. This book was born out of a desire by Gibbs to follow up his theoretical book ChurchNext with more practical data and Bolger’s need for field research to complete his Ph.D. degree at Fuller Theological Seminary (:7). Joining together, the authors set out to analyze “emerging trends in the U.K. and the U.S.” (:8) with the goal of proving that the church is in the “midst of a cultural revolution and that nineteenth-century (or older) forms of church do not communicate clearly to twenty-first century cultures” (:17). To do this, Gibbs and Bolger spent five years listening to the stories of emerging church leaders across the USA and the UK (:9-10). Whenever possible, they visited the churches to see first hand what was happening on the ground and how these churches differed from more traditional mainline and evangelical churches (:333-333). From these interviews, Gibbs and Bolger indentified three main practices shared by all the emerging churches and six sub-practices embraced in different degrees by the various churches (:44-45)....
Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? By James K.A. Smith

Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? By James K.A. Smith

James K.A. Smith is a Christian philosopher who came to Christ through the ministry of the Plymouth Brethrens before having a long “sojourn in the Assemblies of God.”  He is now a Professor of Philosophy and Congregational/Ministry Studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Smith was influenced by the writings of Francis Schaeffer – to the point that he considers this book a “sequel to Shaeffer’s own engagements with humanism and existentialism” (:21). It is also worth noting that the core of the book was formed out of a series of lectures given at Schaeffer’s study center, L’Abri Fellowship, in Switzerland (:12). In regards to the emerging church movement, Smith has been both a critic and a friend, arguing that the emerging church is not postmodern enough.    At his core, Smith is a proponent of Radical Orthodoxy, a “sensibility that seeks to articulate a robust confessional theology in postmodernity” (117). The thesis of Smith’s book is that the French postmodern philosophy promoted by Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Michel Foucault has a “deep affinity with central Christian claims” (:22) that can help Christians “recapture some truths about the nature of the church that have been overshadowed by modernity and especially by Christian appropriations of modernism” (:23). Smith starts the book off with an introduction of both himself and the three French philosophers listed above (1). From there, Smith separates each of the philosophers into their own chapter (2-4), allowing him to “demythologize” (:22) their claims before showing how the claims can used to further the Kingdom of God. Chapter five wraps up the discussion with practical examples of...
The New Christians: Dispatches From The Emergent Frontier By Tony Jones

The New Christians: Dispatches From The Emergent Frontier By Tony Jones

Tony Jones is the theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN (Doug Pagitt’s church). Prior to this, he was the National Coordinator for the Emergent Village (2005-2008) as well the Young Adult leader for Colonial Church of Edina, MN (1997-2003). Jones holds degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div. in systematic theology/postmodern philosophy) and Princeton Theological Seminary (Ph.D in practical theology).  He currently lives in Edina, Minnesota,  and is active in the PTA and Cub Scouts as well as severing as a volunteer police chaplain (255). The thesis of Jones’ book is fairly simple: to tell the story of the emerging church. That is, to tell the story of how the emerging movement started and what factors affected its growth and development. To do this, Jones starts off chapter one by describing the “Old Country” dominated by mainline Protestant and evangelical churches. After describing the various problems on both the ‘right’ and ‘left,’ Jones describes the new “Frontier” being pushed open by the emerging church (chapter two). Throughout both of these chapters (as well as throughout the entire book), Jones makes liberal use of personal testimonies – highlighting the fact that the emerging movement is not about doctrine or church structure, but is about real people finding freedom in God to live hope filled lives. Chapter three marks a shift in the book from describing the landscape in which the movement exists to describing the movement itself. This shift continues through the next two chapters (ch 4 & 5) where Jones talks about the theology of the emergent movement as well as how they view truth and the Bible. The...
A Christianity Worth Believing by Doug Pagitt

A Christianity Worth Believing by Doug Pagitt

Doug Pagitt grew up in a non-Christian home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he has lived his entire life. When he was sixteen years old a friend invited him to see a Passion Play at a local church. At the end of the play, Doug gave his life to Jesus and started a journey which led him to Bethel Theological Seminary (21-22). Graduating in 1992 with a M.A. in Theology, Doug joined a local mega-church as a youth pastor before moving on a few years later to start a holistic missional Christian community called Solomon’s Porch (21).  In addition, he is a business owner, author, professional speaker and a co-founder of the Emergent Village. The thesis of the book is that the “dogmas and doctrines of God, of humanity, of Jesus, of sin, of salvation” being taught by the church at large is so “firmly embedded in the cultural context of another time [Greco-Roman] that they have become almost meaningless” to people today (35). The first three chapters of the book are focused on establishing Doug’s credibility as a Christian leader and as someone who can speak on the topics at hand. In these chapters he describes his life before Christ, his conversion experience and his life after accepting Jesus.  He also points toward the fact that he attended a Christian undergraduate college as well as seminary. In addition to establishing his credibility, Doug uses these chapters to describe the disconnect he felt between his relationship with Jesus and what the organized church was telling him. Chapters four and five build on the disconnect Doug mentions in the first three...