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. If you’re struggling with your studies, do you know there is probably a custom research paper for sale on your subject?
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. Studying is so much fun and I enjoy every second of it, I would like to study in canada next, possible in the Northern part of Canada, it is supposed to be such a beautiful place and will be the perfect location to further carry on education…
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 we always joked that seminaries where cemeteries! Continue reading Why I Study…
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). Continue reading Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger
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). Continue reading Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? By James K.A. Smith
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. Continue reading The New Christians: Dispatches From The Emergent Frontier By Tony Jones
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. Continue reading A Christianity Worth Believing by Doug Pagitt
While the emerging church (EC) tends to focus on different areas, one of the main emphases is on the life and ministry of Jesus. This means that the EC crowd tends to place a high priority on the Gospels then on Paul’s letters. It also means that they try to model their lives after Jesus: fellowshipping with the outcast, loving the unlovable, hanging out outside the religious establishment, etc.
However, this emphasis on Jesus’ life leaves me asking an important question:
Do they pray for the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead and see other sings and wonders? Or do emerging folks tend to be cessationist? If not, then where are the Pentecostal and Charismatic emerging church leaders?
I ask because in all my reading this spring, I have heard nothing on this topic. Yet, if postmodernism is a worldview shift, then the Pentecostal/Charismatic church would need to change along with the Evangelical and Mainline churches. So, where are the Pentecostal/Charismatic emerging church leaders?
As I read Stanley Grenz and John Franke’s book (Beyond Foundationalism), two things struck me. The first being the understanding that postmodernism is not simply a philosophy that can be put on and off at will. Instead it is a culture and mindset that radically changes everything, from the questions asked to the way one sees truth and life. The second thing that struck me was the realization that, without knowing it, I had already traveled pretty far down the path outlined by the authors. This book helped placed my journey within the context of those around me.
A quick look at the one of the three main sources of theology, scripture, serves as an example of this understanding. Contrary to the way I was raised and the view of the majority of believers around me, I have come to the understanding that while the Bible is true, it does not contain all truth – but instead points towards the Truth (i.e. Jesus). In John 16:13, Jesus tells us that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide us “into all truth.” He did not say that he would leave a book!
The most challenging section of the book was the third part in which Grenz and Franke’s propose three focal motifs of theology. For the last seven months, I have been praying through a Celtic prayer book. One of things I have noticed about the prayers is their focus on the Trinity. At first this was very odd as I tended to think about the Trinity in a very linear way, separating each Member into different roles and functions. However, after reading Grenz and Franke’s book, I’ve come to the realization that the church at large needs to rethink its view of the Trinity. I’m not sure where this will lead, but I think it is worth pursuing. Continue reading Theology in a Postmodern Culture (Part 2 of 2)
There has been a ton of negativity about the up-and-coming Postmodern culture and worldview from Christian circles (especially within the Evangelical world). As such, it was with great interest that I started an Emerging Church and Postmodern class at Fuller Theological Seminary.
The first book they had us read was Stanley Grenz and John Franke book “Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context.” This book was amazing! For the first time, I fully understood what Postmodernism was about and how it was changing the face of Christianity.
Because of the importance of these issues, I am going to post a very detailed book view outlining Grenz and Franke’s book. This will be done in two separate posts – the first dealing with the book itself while the second post will talk about my personal reaction to the book. I hope you will enjoy the journey. 🙂
The catalyst for this book was John Franke, a postmodern and postconservative theologian, who was the Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania at the time of writing. Since the time of the book, Franke has changed positions within the seminary to become the Professor of Missional Theology. In addition to teaching, he has joined the Coordinating Group of Emergent Village and serves as the co-chair of the Evangelical Theology Group of the American Academy of Religion.
John Franke’s co-author is Stanley Grenz, a former Baptist pastor and noted theologian, who was the Professor of Theology and Ethics at Carey/Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, at the time. It was Grenz’s book Revisioning Evangelical Theology that provided the framework for the current book, Beyond Foundationalism (x). Continue reading Theology in a Postmodern Culture (Part 1 of 2)
I recently read you newest book “A New Kind of Christianity” and found it very interesting. The questions you asked are ones that need to be asked in this changing culture and times.
Specifically, I really liked your focus on challenging the Gnostic thought patterns within modern Christianity. It is sad to think that Christians have become trapped by this heresy, claiming that the ‘material world’ is bad and the ‘spiritual/immaterial world’ is good. Unfortunately, this mindset has caused many believers to consider environmentalism as ungodly. By the grace of God, I have had the blessings to be a part of a movement of Christians that seek to be good stewards of the environment – both for the glory of God and to help our fellow humans.
I also enjoyed reading your response to the question “How Should the Bible Be Understood.” This is a hugely personal issue for me as I face criticism about how we are to read the Bible on a weekly basis. Every time I try to explain the cultural and historical background of a Bible passage, the men in my Bible study shoot me down. To them, each word in the Bible was written in such a way that they should mean the same thing forever – forgetting that the Bible is a collection of letters written to different people at different times among different cultures using multiple genres. Hopefully, the Lord will show them one day that the Bible is not a database of statements to be grabbed and shoved together in order to ‘prove’ whatever action/thought/idea/doctrine they want. Continue reading An Open Letter To Brian McLaren
I just received all my books for the class I’m taking this spring about the Emerging Church. They look pretty good! =)
- Gibbs, Eddie, and Bolger, Ryan. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures.
- Note: Ryan Bolger is the class professor….
- Grenz, Stanley J., and John R. Franke. Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context.
- Jones, Tony. The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier.
- McLaren, Brian. A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith.
- Smith, James K.A., Who’s Afraid of Postmoderism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church.
- Pagitt, Doug. A Christianity Worth Believing: Hope-Filled, Open-Armed, Alive-and-well Faith for the Left Out, Left Behind, and Let Down in Us All.