New Year Resolution: Conversation

New Year Resolution: Conversation

Guest post by Scot McKnight. Original post can be read here. I share this post because I see much that is in line with my own experiences of good conversations at the pub. Read it and see if you agree.

The question: What are the central characteristics of a genuine conversation in your opinion?

I want to draw your attention to a massive and brilliant study, but for most of us far too specialized to be a book to “blog” our way through. The book is Benedetta Craveri’s The Age of Conversation. Her book is a detailed analysis of 17th Century salons, directed mostly by women, designed not for professors and specialists but for a nobility that wanted to form a society where its values and interests could become the central focus. I contend that the term “conversation” can be understood by taking an interest in this movement. I see its descendants in high society England and major metropolises in the world (e.g., high society New York — think The New Yorker). One publisher comes to mind: Alfred A. Knopf.

The Age of Conversation, seen in the salons especially in France, found a group of people who had the following characteristics:

1. They were directed by women and showed an unusual degree of integration between the sexes.
2. They were concerned with the pleasure of conversation, of learning, of enjoying one another.
3. They were shaped by absolute equality between all participants.
4. They had an ideal: to “marry lightheartedness with depth, elegance with pleasure, and the search for truth with a tolerant respect for the opinions of others” (xiii).
5. They sealed themselves off from the power structures and politics of the day in order to form an ideal society.
6.  They were shaped by a style: they carried on their lives with a notable style and a code of manners.
7. They secured an informal society that had some clear boundaries between themselves and others.
8. They were opposed from the left (Rousseau thought they were oppressive) and right (Pascal thought they were too worldly).
9. They privatized what was most important to life.

Now to the issue of “style”… Life was made in the salons of France into “the most elegant of games” (340) that was shaped by loving one’s partner and fellow salon members as they ought to be loved. Tolerance and mutual respect shaped the conversation completely; honoring the integrity and value of the other shaped the the conversation as well. These conversations became the educational force for those so involved.

Central to the task was aim of pleasing others and to do this they developed several strategies, and I shall try to use the French words with some brief translation:

Politesse: courtesy.
Esprit: mental, spiritual, and social sense and joy.
Galanterie: chivalry, galantry.
Complaisance: an obligation to the other, kindness, amiability.
Enjouement: cheerfulness.
Flatterie: without being overdone, one was to complement the other.
Raillerie: playful teasing of one another.

There are dangers here, like snobbishness, and they are obvious for anyone to see. But what happened was that the French salons created an environment where conversation occurred, not to beat the daylights out of someone else, not to denounce the other, but to enjoy the pleasure of discussing pressing concerns of a given group. They learned to converse in order to learn from one another and make one another more educated.

Conversation like this, however, has its problems. As Craveri sums them up, “their exquisite courtesy was a means of domination, and their intellectual malleability was a mask for sterility and sophism” (356). In fact, at times such conversations refused to ask the hard question. “As on the battlefield where French officers took their hats off to the enemy, or in life’s crucial moments when notaries drink to the health of their expiring clients, so, in theological discussion, politesse had the upper hand, and Morellet would turn to his adversary and address him as ‘Monsieur and dear atheist’” (359).

In other words, and I hope you like this swiped line from Cynthia Ozik, the danger of conversation in this sense is tete-a-tete gone flagrante delicto.”

The fundamental obstacles to conversation among are two-fold: most conversations are blocked either by a right vs. wrong obstacle or by an information-only obstacle.

Let us say that a person wants to converse about world religions, about the presence of “silent Christians” in the Islamic world, about the issues surrounding eschatology in the New Testament, about how to “do church” in a postmodern context, about preaching in today’s world, about homosexuality, about the church and the poor, about the gospel and social justice, about marriage, about rearing children… any topic that matters and any topic about which a person has concerns and wonders what is the best way to think about. Bring into the mix a person who is young or a person who really has serious and good questions about traditions … and you create the only kind of conversation that really can a conversation. Something important, a couple of people, and a desire to learn from one another. But, often mutual exploration is not what happens. Why?

The first obstacle is the right vs. wrong risk. Orthodoxy is right; anything else or less than orthodoxy is wrong. With that looming behind every conversation, when a person raises a question there is immediately a worry if what the person is asking is orthodox or not; whether or not by participating in such a conversation a person will be seen as harboring doubts about orthodoxy; and whether associating with such persons calls into question one’s reputation. Quickly, in many cases, the conversation stops being conversation and becomes instead a quick lesson on what tradition teaches the Bible says and that if one strays from that one is questioning the Bible and, there you have it, the slippery slope worry comes to the surface.

When conversation is shaped like this — and this is what I want to contend — there is no conversation. Instead, it becomes didactic. Which leads me to the second issue.

The second obstacle is that conversations, instead of becoming explorations of one another’s minds on a given topic as each reflects on how each makes theological decisions, become information-exchange sessions. Whoever knows the most becomes the teacher; whoever knows the least becomes the student. That’s all. It’s about information exchange. It becomes catechesis instead of conversation.But the “art” of conversation can’t be learned in such a context when everything is dominated by right vs. wrong or when it becomes whoever knows the most becomes the teacher. This isn’t conversation; this is lecture or information exchange.

I do not deny the value of information, nor do I deny the importance of orthodoxy. But can we have conversations sometimes?

What are the marks of a good conversation?

First, a good conversation (and therefore a good conversationalist) requires a safe environment. By this I mean space — somewhere to feel comfortable; and I mean at least two people with listening skills; and I mean the ability to disagree if necessary but not denounce, condemn or berate.

Illustration: most of us think this blog is safe; when someone joins us at the table and starts denouncing someone we feel uncomfortable. The reason we feel uncomfortable when someone denounces another is because we assumed we were in a genuine conversation in a safe environment. We believed we were in a conversation not sitting in a pew listening to a visiting pulpiteer.

I’ve been blogging now 8 years — began about this time 8 years ago — and sometimes I wonder how long I can keep doing this but it is the commenters — our virtual community — that keeps me plugging along. So thanks.

Many have turned to the blog world because they are having difficulties finding a safe place. I can’t tell you the number of pastors who have written me privately and said “I can’t say this on your blog, but I want to converse with you about the post today” or about something else.

Second, a good conversation requires a good topic or a good question. This one is clear: what is a good topic for some is not for others. It is also clear that some topics are better than others. Some topics are off-limits for one person and on-limits for another. There is a social skill involved here: some people perceive immediately what is on-limits or off-limits; others don’t.

Third, a good conversation operates on the basis of frequently-unexpressed but nearly always assumed, shared assumptions. I find this to be a regular hang-up on the blog. Many of us operate with a set of assumptions — and it would be fun to bring to expression what these really are — but we don’t talk about them. When someone violates them, we raise our eyebrows or start to wiggle our fingers and maybe even break into a sweat. Perhaps it begins with the viability of the question we ask.

Fourth, a good conversation requires the spirit of exploration and experimentation. If I ask my good friend, Greg Clark, who happens to be a philosopher and therefore practiced in the art of conversation and one who finds it delightful to turn over each stone somehow, a question, I expect him to tell me what he is thinking on the subject and he will probably explore his mind and he’ll ask me what I think and then I’ll ask him back and it goes on and on.

The major problem here is when someone gets too dogmatic. If in conversing we want to explore something together, we can’t have someone say “here’s the answer, buffo, and there’s no other possiblities.” The shared assumption is that we don’t get too dogmatic and that we explore and think together.

Fifth, a good conversation desires wisdom. I have very little use for a conversation that goes nowhere unless a few of us are gathered just to chat over beer or coffee or about a football game. No, a good conversation with a good topic or question leads to mutual exploration so each of us can learn and grow in wisdom. As a Christian, we want the conversation to lead us into the wisdom of the way of Jesus.

Sixth, a good conversation stays within the parameter of the topic. One of the routine challenges of conversation is wandering. We begin with a good question — Did Jesus do miracles by the power of the Spirit or in his own power? Can libertarian economics exist in a world like ours? — that begins on the right track but then someone begins to talk, and wander aloud to another topic (a previous event in life) and then we’re talking about that event, which leads to another topic and we realize we are no longer on topic. This element of conversation requires either a conversation partner who keeps us in line or, better yet, we make a mutual commitment to stay in line.

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

Pub Theology Live-Tweet


TONIGHT at our regular Pub Theology DC gathering, we’ll be LIVE TWEETING – you can join us in person, at the Bier Baron at 1523 22nd St NW – just a few blocks west of the Dupont Circle Metro stop, or you can jump in on the conversation via Twitter using #pubtheology. Be sure to follow me (@bryberg) and (@pubtheology). Here are the topics we’ll be discussing:

  1. If you could name the street you live on what would you call it?

  1. If you received an extra burrito when ordering at your local shop would you say something?

  1. True or false: We should be wary of any efforts to improve human nature.

  2. Did you march on Saturday? Are you marching tomorrow? Does marching lead to justice?

  1. Did Jesus pay for our sins? In what way?

  1. Is hell a just punishment for sinful people?

WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!  Come on down and join us for a pint, or grab your smart phone, a craft-brewed pint, and hit the Twitters! Starting at 7pm.

A Philly Priest Visits Pub Theology DC

kirkb2Guest post by Fr. Kirk Berlenbach, rector of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia. He has been facilitating the parish beer club (The Franklin Club) since 2007. Originally posted at So This Priest Walks Into a Bar.

WASHINGTON DC – One of the great things about the internet is that, no matter how obscure your interest or hobby, the net allows you the chance to seek out and connect with other people who are just as off kilter.  When I began to take this whole faith and beer thing more seriously one of the first things I tried to do was see who else out there might be doing it too.  I was pleased to find I was not alone in the universe.  I came across and have since corresponded with a couple of kindred souls.

Among them are guys like Michael Camp, author of Confessions of a Bible Thumper: My Homebrewed Quest for a Reasoned Faith, which is next up on my reading list.  Another book on the subject is Diary of a Part Time Monk by J. Wilson which I just finished reading.  I referenced J’s quest to emulate the monks of old in this post.  In short, he attempted to follow the Lenten discipline of monks who fasted existing only on their dopplebock.  The book is his account of this remarkable experience.

Then there is Bryan Berghoef.  When I finished reading his book, Pub Theology, I knew we had to at least correspond.  We hit it off and found we had a lot in common, not just in terms of our love of beer but also in terms of our approach to ministry and the Church’s need to find new ways to connect with the ever increasing “spiritual but not religious” population.  We discussed the idea of a visit but never got around to making specific plans.

Then, a few months ago I got the bright idea to do an event on the whole “beer-faith connection” as part of this year’s Philly Beer Week.  (more on this in next week’s post).  Anyway, when I was thinking through other clergy who could work with me on this event, Bryan was on the short list.  I contacted him and he was very excited at the possibility.  But I thought it was important to meet the man I was going to work with.  Moreover, I wanted to see an example of one of his “Pub Theology” sessions up close and personal.

So last week I took the train down to DC.  Bryan met me at the station and we headed off to the pub where that night’s conversation would take place.  The whole concept of Pub Theology is “Beer, Conversation, God.”  The gathering is open to anyone who wishes to attend and the topics are sent out a few days ahead of time.  On the heels of the massive Oklahoma tornado the topic included God’s role in natural disasters, as well as more abstract topics like, “Was there a time before time?” and “Scientists say dark matter is inferred, not seen.  Can you call that faith?”

We talked over burgers and beers and then made our way to the back part of the bar to wait and see who would show up.   Over time the group grew to a very respectable 15 people.  Many were members of Bryan’s new church planting project, Roots DC.   Others were visitors and one was a local clergy colleague.  People’s perspectives varied,  greatly (and thanks to the presence of a young woman from South Sudan, also went beyond just an American lens) and at least one person was by openly an atheist.

As the conversation progressed and folks ordered their 2nd or third beer, people definitely became more vocal.   Yet a no time was there a hint of disrespect or even frustration.

What Bryan has built here is no small accomplishment.  To create an environment where people, many of whom are strangers, can speak openly and honestly about the deeper issues of life is quite extraordinary.  As I have reflected on this I began to see the genius of Bryan’s concept.  While such a group could take place over coffee or in a park, the setting of the bar is really critical to its success.

Where else but in a bar can friends, acquaintances and strangers all engage impassioned debate yet still remain not just civil but even jovial?   Now it is true that often times those debates are about how the manager is mishandling the bullpen and not dark matter.  But there are many times I have heard focused discussion about politics, God and the meaning of life coming from the other end of the bar or the next table.

It seems to me that if the bar is indeed the new Forum, then Bryan has indeed hit upon a valuable insight into how the Church can connect with the world outside its walls.  The key lies first in a willingness to go out to where the people are rather than insisting that they come to us.  But just as important is the setting.  In order to get people talking about what they really believe about God and what  truly matters in life, then you can’t do much better than your local pub.  And, at least in my opinion, the best way to start any meaningful conversation is over a good pint.

So here’s to Bryan and Pub Theology and the rediscovery of a great way to talk about God and all things that matter most.

You can read Kirk’s latest thoughts at So This Priest Walks Into a Bar: Beer, Music, and a Thirst for God, or find him enjoying a craft beer somewhere in Philadelphia.

In Session: Pub Theology 101

In Session: Pub Theology 101

A Guide to Cultivating Meaningful Conversations at the Pub

You’ve heard about people gathering at the pub to talk about God and faith, and wondered, why aren’t I doing this? Now you can, thanks to this new guide by Bryan Berghoef, author of Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God. Here Bryan walks through all the steps to beginning your own Pub Theology group, from choosing a location to deciding what to talk about. (You’ll have to make your own decision as to whether you prefer an IPA or a stout). And the best part of this new book: hundreds of discussion topics and questions, sorted by category–such as art, belief, death, morality, philosophy, politics, science, and world religions, to name a few–that Bryan has compiled from over five years’ worth of pub discussions.

So what are you waiting for? This is the inspiration you’ve needed, and the resources to boot, all for less than the price of a pint!
—Book description at

Pub Theology 101
Hot off the press!

My new book, Pub Theology 101: A Guide to Cultivating Meaningful Conversations at the Pub, is out TODAY for Kindle for only $2.99! (Go to Amazon page)

After my first book, Pub Theology, came out, I began to hear from people all over the country—some leading similar groups, others wanting to get one going. The constant request was: what do we talk about? Do you have some topics for us to get started?

I have compiled all of my topics, questions, and quotes from facilitating Pub Theology sessions for the last five years into one handy ebook, all sorted by category, as well as some tips and suggestions for best practices. And I’m making it all available for—have I said this—less than the price of a pint (or a tip to the bartender.) This is a must-have resource for anyone leading discussions at the pub!

You can carry this handy guide with you on your Kindle or smartphone and pull it out whenever you’re looking for something interesting to talk about with friends, or when prepping for facilitating a Pub Theology session (or Theology Pub, or Theology on Tap, or even Scripture and Scotch, as I heard the other day).

Quotes from Bob Dylan, Søren Kierkegaard, Mother Theresa, Mark Driscoll, Thomas Aquinas, Rob Bell, Kester Brewin, John Piper, Peter Rollins, John Calvin, the Talmud, the Buddha, Plato, Demosthenes, Immanuel Kant, Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Tim Keller, Richard Rohr, Jesus, the Shepherd of Hermas, Marcus Borg, Karen Armstrong, Walter Wink, John Frame, Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah, C.S. Lewis, Doug Pagitt, Blaise Pascal, Ludwig Feuerbach, Leo Tolstoy, Paul Tillich, and. . . many many more questions that I’ve written or others have shared with me —all gathered here, for your pub theologizing pleasure.

So what are you waiting for? Get your copy now!

I should also mention—there’s no marketing plan and no major publisher behind this, it is totally word of mouth and grassroots, so share on your Facebook page, Tweet it, pass it along to friends. If you know anyone who might benefit from this resource—let them know!

*Also, if this resource proves helpful to you, please leave a review at Amazon!

Don’t have a Kindle? You can get a free Kindle reading app for your Mac, your PC, your tablet, iPad, phone… Or, you can convert it to Nook or other another eReader format at Calibre.

From Chad Schuitema, facilitator of Pub Theology Lafayette:

“Everything you need to start your own Pub Gatherings – except the courage! The enormous amount of questions and discussion starters have helped me not only with each week’s gathering, but have helped me come up with my own as well. A much needed resource!”

Reading the Bible: The Driscoll Effect

A Conversation About Understanding the Bible

Awhile back someone posted this tweet of Mark Driscoll’s on their Facebook page:


I decided to comment. This led to quite an exchange about the nature of interpreting and understanding the Bible. I share this because I wonder if you can relate, and perhaps, you may have an insight to add. I also do so to highlight the nature of this conversation between an evangelical approach that leans on inerrancy and those who are more willing to allow recent biblical scholarship in on the conversation. Finally, you can let me know if I was ever inappropriate (or inaccurate in my own approach!), so I can do better next time in such engagements. To protect the innocent, I will name my Facebook acquaintance as ‘Driscoll Fan.’ (Excuse the typos, I kept the interchange verbatim).

It’s quite the back and forth, so buckle up.

Bryan Berghoef: One of the biggest mistakes people make is to confuse their interpretations of the Bible with the Bible itself. To come to a new understanding of a text or a passage than a traditional view of it, due to study of language, context, history, archaelogy, etc., is not to change the Bible, but one’s understanding of it, and perhaps to be more faithful to it. Not sure of anyone who seeks to actually ‘change the Bible’.

Driscoll Fan: Bryan, Unfortunately the epistemological and ontological assumptions of the postmodern emergent movement clearly seems to be enamored with reconstructing the Bible rather than reinterpreting it. There is for example a disregard for the objectivity of Scripture that leads language, history and archeological analysis to be more a deconstructive process than honest research. In this context I do believe that Driscol is absolutely right. There are always those who seek to “reinterpret” the Word in their own image rather than being willing to humble themselves before an immutable God.

Bryan: I don’t disagree with your last sentence – in fact, we are all at times capable and culpable of this. But to assume any of us can infallibly interpret the text is simply not the case. We *always*, invariably interpret the text when we come to it. There is a lens through which we see it (as in a glass darkly). Driscoll’s comment seems to presume that there are some who see directly (without this lens), or who have “the” lens. I have to disagree. Again, its not a matter of changing the Bible, but one’s interpretation of it. There’s a vast difference.

Driscoll Fan: Bryan – As I read your critique of Driscol it seems to me that you are saying something like this: “Those (Like Driscol) who say that we can have confidence in absolutes are absolutely wrong.” In other words you are claiming to be sure that anyone who claims to be sure is surely wrong. Kinda like saying You know that nothing can be known. This is the problem with postmodern epistemology. It is self-refuting at every turn. Even your disagreement with Driscol (and me in this Facebook) exchange assumes there is a measuring rod outside of those things being measured (to quote Lewis) and that your argument is measured to be more accurate than Driscol’s or mine. Without objectivity there is no reason to debate with anyone about anything. Disagreement would literally meaningless for there would be no basis or even any desire to engage in it. I would argue that you are basically proving Driscol’s point by saying that he is wrong for in doing so you claim to be more closely aligned with reality of what Scripture is than he is. So – when you respond and challenge me on my posting remember that the desire that pushes you forward toward such a challenge is the very thing you are claiming has no merit.

Driscoll Fan: One more word – Indeed, “we ‘always’ interpret the text when we come to it” but that doesn’t mean we are “always” right in our interpretations. In fact we could be wrong. As Os Guinness says “Truth is true even if no one believes it and falsehood is false even if everyone believes it. Truth is true and that’s just the end of it.” Interpretations, i.e. opinions, are irrelevant to accuracy. Some people interpret the Bible rightly and some do so wrongly. So – the goal should not be to settle on a view of the Bible that suits our culture or our egos but to find out what it Truly says and what it Really means.

Bryan: Actually I wasn’t saying nearly what you’re implying I was. My point was simply that no one changes the Bible (it’s a nonsensical thing to say), and that we all approach the Bible with a hermeneutical lens. I don’t know a single biblical scholar who would say otherwise. You’re doing a nice job of avoiding what I’m actually saying while reading into my comments a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t say. It appears you’re more interested in fighting a caricature of postmodernism than discussing this issue.

Driscoll Fan: Not at all Bryan. In fact I would disagree completely with your contention that I’m avoiding what you’re saying. To the contrary I have addressed it head on and quite specifically and repeatedly.

Here it is again –

1. You disagree with Driscoll’s tweet and with me for posting it.

2. You are saying repeatedly that “everyone” interprets the Bible (i.e. changes it) through their own “hermeneutical” lens and life experience.

3. You say over and over again that no one reads the Bible with any hope of an objectively accurate understanding because we all bring our subjectivity to the process.

4. You therefore by definition align yourself with a “hermenuetic” that is postmodern rather than modern or premodern for the only way a person can hold your epistemological and ontological position is to say that anthropomorphic change and personal subjectivity always supersede the objectivity of natural law and the immutability and knowabilty of Divine revelation.

5. I have pointed out repeatedly that your above position is circular and self-refuting and that the very argument you bring to the table proves Driscoll’s point and mine more than yours because in arguing that you are right and that I am wrong you are appealing to the very objective standard of truth that you are attempting to deny.

6. I have highlighted the fact that in your efforts to disparage the absolute statement of Driscoll that you find it impossible not to use absolute statements of your own such as “all”, “everyone”, “no one”, “nonsense” etc.

7. I have suggested that the above is proof that you cannot disagree with someone who believes that there is an ultimate measure of accuracy and rightness without you yourself implicitly appealing to that same “measuring rod” of rightness that you at the same time seek to dismiss.

8. I have said that the fact that you are even taking the time to debate me right now proves my point. For you obviously believe you are right. Therefore, you believe I’m wrong.

9. Finally you contend that I am not interested in a “discussion” of the issues while at the same time you seem to not want to discuss the issues unless I agree with you. In other words “discussion” is great (I guess) as long as makes you feel comfortable but it’s not “discussion” anymore if it doesn’t.

I do have to admit to be smiling a bit at the claims of searching for “depth” while at the same time not being willing to acknowledge that one may be standing in water ankle deep – and in fact being offended when a fellow traveler even suggests that such shallows even exist.

Bryan: Yes, of course I think I’m right. I never said there were no absolutes. There are. If we couldn’t know anything, there wouldn’t be much point in talking about it. There are things that are true about the world.

But that does not imply a leap to knowing everything exactly as it is. You seem to be making a false dichotomy here that is unhelpful. Either there are absolutes *and* we can know them perfectly, or there aren’t any absolutes and we can’t know anything, which as you noted is self-refuting (and not the stance I was taking).

You’re confusing several realms of knowledge: knowledge about what Bible passages mean, knowledge about what we are able to know about ancient texts, and knowledge about what we can know in general. The same standards/limitations aren’t going to apply to all. The first category is limited by the second, which is limited by the third, and so on.

From the start, I was taking issue with Driscoll’s choice of language, which to me, doesn’t make sense. He (and you) are apparently conflating a change in the text itself with a change in how it’s being interpreted. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING! (And I think it is misleading and unhelpful to talk that way, which is why I responded in the first place).

The text of the Bible has been more or less stable for quite some time (setting aside minor translation issues and Dead Sea Scroll stuff). What is changing is how people are interpreting it.

There are clearly interpretations that are more right than others, and certainly plenty of wrong interpretations. I’m just cautioning a little humility in assuming we know in every case whether I or someone else has the right or best interpretation. If you think you’ve arrived at the best understanding of every text you should publish a commentary – I’d love to buy it.

There are things that are true. There are ways the world actually is. The question is which of those things can we know and how sure can we be whether we know them.

An analogy might help.

In clear sunlight we’re good at identifying the colors of things. In the dark we are not. Interpreting the Bible at times is like trying to identify colors at night. There is some light, but it is limited. More and more sources of light are becoming available (e.g., archaeology, history, linguistic discoveries). But we don’t all have equal access to those sources. Nor are we all equally good at seeing under low light.

Under these circumstances, we could still be in a position to say that this object before us is definitely not yellow (No one is saying there is no object, or no color!). It might be red or violet or indigo, but it’s not always totally clear. In all of this, reliance upon the Holy Spirit, one’s faith community, and historical witness all play a role, in addition to what’s already been mentioned.

We are also in a position to say that anyone who denies that there is insufficient light or who claims to be able to see perfectly clearly is extremely unlikely to be telling the truth.

On a different topic, I’m also not sure – given what appears to be your position – what need there is for faith. Where there is perfect and complete knowledge, faith is beside the point. Faith comes in when there is an element of doubt, when things are not obvious. If it was all clear cut and obvious, everyone would have that perspective.

Driscoll Fan: Bryan, I am going to try to be brief as I can for i fear I am risking becoming a bit pedantic in my responses to you.. So I am simply going to respond to several of your contentions in you last posting on a point by point format below.

Driscoll Fan: Opps – I copied your entire text and tried to respond to the first point and it reposted the entire thing… Sorry :- ) [he reposted my entire previous response, deleted here for brevity] Here is my basic response (probably better this way because I will REALLY be brief now 🙂 First, you say I am guilty of presenting a false dichotomy because I contend that you either have absolute knowledge or no knowledge – Not sure where you see that in my writing. Must just be your “interpretation” of what I am saying. Or is it possible my words and intent are being “changed” to suit what your experience and unique context leads you to want them to mean? Just because I am arguing that absolute reality exists and that it is knowable doesn’t mean I am arguing that I am always know that reality without error. What it does imply however is that reality exists and that it can be known and that arguments to the contrary are actually self-refuting and circular attempts to claim that you know nothing can be known and that you are sure that nothing is sure and that you are confident that we can have no confidence. Feels a bit like I am watching my dog chase his tail 🙂 Your obviously think it is REAL that I am wrong and that it is REAL that you are right in this debate. You also clearly think you KNOW what this REALITY is. Therefore you are essentially admitting to KNOWING Driscoll’s point while trying REALLY hard to claim you KNOW no such thing. Third, I disagree with you that Driscoll doesn’t make sense. In fact I think he makes more sense than those who argue that there is no “sense” that is common to and thereby anchored to a knowable absolute. Fourth, I agree with the caution for humility. The irony here is that history shows us that bowing to the knowability of Scripture Truth is the only way man has ever actually humbled himself before God and others. The elevation of ourselves to the position of “grand interpreter” is perhaps the quintessential example of the original sin where we don’t need God to tell us what is right or wrong or good or evil because we are fully capable of “knowing” this on our own. The Bible is clear and it should be read, heard, and “interpreted” in the context of such clarity. This is Driscoll’s obvious point. We have no right to “change” or “interpret” its meaning beyond the obvious. Doing so is the ultimate hubris and the antithesis of the humility you call for. Fifth, I don’t think you need buy one of my commentaries for I doubt (in all humility) my “interpretations” and “subjective” views would lend themselves to the “depth” of “authenticity” and “openness” you cherish…

Driscoll Fan: On your analogy of light – It appears that you are taking the same position of Jones, McClaren, Bell et al in claiming that ontologically there indeed is ultimate reality but that epistemologically such a reality can’t be known by flawed humans. I guess I can only respond by asking how do you KNOW this to be REAL and true? Or perhaps you are saying that you don’t know this??? Or perhaps you are conflating your opinion of what is true and real with what really is?? Or maybe … Oh never mind — my dog almost just caught his tail but watching him has made me real dizzy – or maybe not! Maybe dizziness is merely my interpretation and not real after all..

Driscoll Fan: Finally, forgive all the typos – I am rushing in between duties for the day and I haven’t had time to review and edit… But if it all boils down to your interpretation of what I am saying then it really doesn’t matter anyway because you can never REALLY KNOW what I meant in the first place anyway and it frankly doesn’t matter… Take the text and, in humility, make of it what you want.

Bryan: My guess is that we are both guilty of misunderstanding each other at some level, which actually illustrates my point about how communication works in reality. If you and I can struggle to understand each other clearly, imagine getting a point of view from people who have been dead a couple thousand years, spoke and wrote in languages no one speaks today, and lived in a culture that is in many respects different from ours!

I love the Bible, and study it a lot because of that, and because I think we can know things, and because I believe God is still speaking to us through it.

The simplest understanding is not always the most accurate, because we do not live in the ancient world and culture in which these texts were written. What seems simple and obvious to us in English may not always have been the author’s intent. The very fact that every pastor has multiple commentaries, and many, if not most, study the original languages – illustrates the exact point I have been making. All are unnecessary if it was always simple and clear.

Finally, I’m not sure why a mocking tone seems to follow all your comments about my approach and intentions. It detracts from the substantive things we are discussing.

Driscoll Fan: Bryan.

Frankly I’m saddened (but not surprised) that u just aren’t seeing that even in your last note you are essentially proving my point and Driscoll’s.

What difference does it make of there is no measuring rod of accuracy by which to judge the veracity of competing claims.

It is the ultimate in arrogance for man to place himself above this immutable scale.

This is what Driscoll was saying.

This what I’m saying.

Only subjectivity and sin would dim this light

Bryan: Yes, we do live in a subjective and sinful world. So my point stands. God may have such a rod, but we, this side of glory, are limited by the aforementioned, and get along by his grace.

Bryan: None of us stands where God stands, it’s a pretty basic point, really.

Bryan: In any case, appreciate the chance to discuss – I hope people can learn something by reading our exchange.

Driscoll Fan: Yep.

I guess if God’s measuring rod exists as you claim but that we are “limited” in our ability to ever truly know it then we are indeed a sorry lot.

Doomed to be oppressed by the power, popularity and pretensions of man –

Doomed to be subjugated to the bondage that always comes from opinions rather than being set free by the absolute Truth that Christ himself tells us we SHALL KNOW.

Doomed to political arrogance and ecclesiastical hubris.

Doomed to being given over to a reprobate mind –

Doomed to follow in the footsteps of the arrogant young professor of the Great Divorce where we never really had an original thought but simply kept parroting the opinions that seemed popular.

Indeed I hope people do read and learn and think about the consequences of their ideas.

Bottom line – At the end of the day all people will plead to be judged by God’s truth rather than yours or mine.

Thus Driscoll’s point.

What do you think?  I let Driscoll Fan have the last word.  Did he use it well?  In the end, after a later engagement, and despite my attempts to be as cordial as possible in the interchange—I was unfriended by Driscoll Fan, who, it turns out, is the president of an evangelical university.

Think You’ve Got it? Think Again


On the Problem With Agreement and Disagreement

A guest post by Peter Rollins (originally posted at

One of the things that I often see in discussions concerning some thinker is the use of the phrases “agree” and “disagree.” For instance, in relation to my own work I often see phrases like, “I agree with much of what says,” “I don’t agree with everything” or “I disagree with…”

These terms can initially seem like evidence of critical thinking (i.e. someone is willing to critically affirm or question what they are reading), yet these terms are actually more symptomatic of uncritical thought. The reason lies in the way in which these terms imply that the individual is taking the material and simply comparing it with what they already believe is correct. Insofar as what is heard or read corresponds with the persons own position they affirm it and where it differs they reject it.

Something that one learns quickly in a first year philosophy class is the need to suspend this attitude of agreement and disagreement so that we might enter into the world of the philosopher we are reading and let their vision impact our own.

While reading a thinker the question, “where do I agree or disagree with them,” effectively domesticates them and acts as a defense against the possibility of their work actually vacillating our existing paradigm. By vacillating our existing paradigm I mean the experience where one remains within ones intellectual frame, while experiencing it as a frame.

This is a vital experience in the critical process for we need to be exposed to other thinking in order to gain a vantage point over our own way of seeing the world; all the while avoiding the fantasy of being able to step outside of it.

To understand the process we can compare it to being immersed in watching a movie on an old TV set. Imagine that, half way through the film, the screen shakes. At such a moment we gain a distance from the movie while still watching it. We are then reminded of its status as a movie. In the same way the intellectual process involves allowing another to vacillate our paradigm (something apologetics courses are fundamentally set up to avoid). This process involves entering the others world and asking, “where would this thinker agree and disagree with me?”

By doing this one enters into a properly antagonistic relation with the thinker, a relation that is more likely to lead to a development and deepening of ones own thoughts.

Peter Rollins is a widely sought after writer, lecturer, storyteller and public speaker.  He is the author of the much talked about How (Not) to Speak of God. His most recent work is entitled The Idolatry of God.

Sikh-ing Peace

A Necessary Conversation

The recent shooting in Wisconsin at a Sikh Temple has many wondering if religiously-rooted violence is about to erupt, or if this is one of the dying gasps of intolerance as our world continues to become a more hospitable place.

I would like to lean toward the latter, but realize we have a long ways to go.My own experience in interfaith conversations, as highlighted in my new book, Pub Theology, is that we need to work toward listening and learning, rather than antagonizing.

A few comments by young people of various faith traditions highlight as much (from an article in the Huffington Post):

Hannah Shirey, Christian, New York, USA

Through the pain, I have been reminded of the deep gratitude I feel for my time spent at a Sikh NGO this last year.

As we move forward, I am inspired by Sikh scripture that calls devotees to “recognize the human race as one” and by Jesus of Nazareth’s famous words, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” In our differences and our pain we are all interconnected and we all are capable of being peace-builders.

Nomi Teutsch, Jewish, Jerusalem, Israel

The injunction to “love the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt” is one of the most central teachings of my Jewish faith. To me, this speaks to the connection that all minorities have to one another. We must not only feel hurt and anguish, but rather remember to transform those feelings into standing up for other groups in their times of need.

I spent the last year working at UNITED SIKHS along with Hannah Shirey, and I became more and more connected to Sikhi’s message of equality and openness each day. I pray that Sunday’s devastating events remind us all to get to know the strangers in our midst so that we may love them.

Sana Rahim, Muslim, Chicago, USA

On Aug. 5, ignorance and hatred materialized into a tragedy that will be etched in my memory for years to come. Last night, I went to my local gurdwara and stood in solidarity with the Sikh community as an American Muslim. While the Quran stipulates that our differences exist so that we “may come to know one another,” it is only when our friendships compel us to action that we truly begin to challenge the status quo.

Eric Farr, Bahá’í, Toronto, Canada

As a Bahá’í, I commit myself to helping usher in a day when people of every race and religion will look at each other with an understanding and protective love akin to what we feel for the members of our own family. I offer my sincere condolences and prayers for my brothers and sisters of the Sikh Faith affected by the tragic events of this past Sunday.

Immy Kaur, Sikh, Birmingham, UK

The last few years have seen me move from skeptical to utterly convinced about the need for interfaith interaction, friendship and shared experience. During this painfully difficult time as a community, I have been touched by the global outpouring of love and support towards the Sikh community. The state of Chardi Kala by the American Sikh organizations leaves me yet again in awe of my brothers and sisters across the shores.

An excerpt from the introduction of Pub Theology calls for this needed conversation together:

My argument in this book is simple: good things happen when we sit down at the same table together and talk honestly about things that matter — and frankly, having a beer doesn’t hurt. We don’t need to agree on whatever it is that we discuss — that isn’t even the point. The point is that we are all stuck here together on this planet (for the unforeseeable future) — and we might as well get to know each other while we’re here. My sense is that more and more people are hungry for this. People of all backgrounds are opening up about the broadness and diversity of thought and belief around them. And I sense that there is a growing desire for this among my fellow Christians as well. People are ready. Ready to see openness happen in their own lives and communities. Ready to move beyond fear to understanding. Ready to take a brave step forward in learning to live out their own faith honestly and with integrity in the increasingly pluralistic and global world we find ourselves in.

Here’s the good news. It’s happening. In conversation. At the pub. Over beer. From London to New York to Ann Arbor, people are gathering to communicate, connect, and learn from one another over the topic of religion and theology, of all things.

In the past we’ve typically assumed that if you want to find God, going to church is the place to go. I wonder if this is still the case. It seems to me that God is breaking out of churches everywhere. In fact, some would say that’s not the best place to find him. Given the places Jesus frequented, that shouldn’t surprise us (hint: he never went to church!). It turns out that a pub creates a perfect setting in which to encounter people who are interested in spiritual topics, philosophy, life, and — yes — theology, and they are open to being honest about it. For some, it even becomes a place to encounter God himself.

Let me be up front that I write this as a Christian. But I write in the hope that readers of any perspective, religious or not, might garner something from these pages. Further, my hope is that as you read you will encounter a shift toward a more chastened, humble, and inviting Christianity — one that will have a seat at the table in the important conversations our world is having.  Unless we are willing to first listen and make space for the other, we won’t be invited. Here you will find real life stories, real people, real questions — many gleaned from conversations and encounters during actual Pub Theology gatherings. These recollections will attempt to give flesh and bones to this needed shift.

Where is God?

Who is God?

What do other religions say?

What do those who’ve given up on God say?

Turns out agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, humanists, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans and many others have wonderful traditions that have wrestled with these very questions for centuries. It’s time we start to listen. If you’re tired of pat answers that exclude wrestling and doubt while presuming certainty in the face of serious questions, welcome to the club. I wrestle with these issues in my own life. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do as well. I hope you’ll find encouragement and ideas here toward living out a more global faith.

How are you engaging those around you who have different ideas about God, faith, and life?  

Here’s to more good conversations.  We need them.

C’mon already

ouch! all too true

All this brouhaha over books and theology and who believes what and how they believe it is starting to rub thin…  I mean, who cares if Rob Bell doesn’t believe in hell, or believes in a different version of hell, or if this church has 9 official points of doctrine, but the other one has 49, and so on…

As my friend Chad noted on my previous post:

  • Oh how I wonder if all of the posting I see about Rob Bell’s books are just opportunities for people on all sides of the issues to virtually pleasure themselves with blog posts and facebook updates.  And, here I myself am indulging in the opportunity. Damn it! They will know we are Christians by our: a) certitude! b) love!, c) prolific internet postings!, d) choice of beverage!

OK, OK.  I’m guilty as charged.

But enough theological wrangling already (and many of you know I live for such wrangling, in appropriate ways and settings).

Isn’t it time we all start doing something?

I have to admit, I’m looking forward to reading Bell’s book, and from what I can tell, he has some very good and important things to say in it, and some friends say, “It’s his best book yet.”   I think Bell would want us to read his book, and be so moved by the love of God to tell someone else about it, and make a difference in a real way.  But as David Fitch notes in his post, The Rob Bell Fiasco,  if we keep going as is (in our endless attempts to criticize his or anyone else’s theology), “the aftermath… is going to devolve into defensiveness and fail to produce a missional movement.”

It’s time to remember what we’re all in this Christianity thing for:  to follow Jesus. To extend the kingdom of God.  To be those who help the poor, the broken, the displaced.  To bring good news.

Thankfully, amid the frenzy,  many are doing exactly that:

  • My sister and mom are heading to Haiti tomorrow – check out the trip on their blog: Hearts 4 Mission.
  • Others are responding in many ways to the disaster in Japan: CRWRC and The Red Cross.
  • My friends Bradley and Kirsten are forming an organization that seeks to springboard people who’ve experienced a short-term trip to move  into missional lifestyles.
  • Others are making a difference in ways, large and small, in their local community and abroad, to bring healing, help, and the hope of Jesus.

As fun as some conversations are, may they not just be to see ‘who’s right’, but to push us forward into a deeper love for Jesus, and to embody the kingdom in ways that actually make a difference.

LOST: The Bitter End

a reflection on six years of island magic

As I was kayaking on the lake the other day, a large jet flew overhead in the blue skies, and I half-expected it to break in half, strewing itself along the lakeshore.  OK, someone has been a little *too* absorbed in a certain television show.  But I knew that was the sign I had to jump into the blogosphere about the ending of LOST.

The overwhelming response I’m seeing to the LOST finale is disappointment.  Yes, everyone is sad it is over, but many feel let down with how it ended.

Why all the fuss?

Well, the finale was going along smoothly until within the last half-hour, when we realize half of season 6 took place in some sort of purgatory or after-life.  So what is the problem with that?

A couple things.  One, the writers of the show said that we would not find out in the end that the whole thing was a dream or took place in purgatory or some sort of after-life.  (So technically they were true to their word, but they came really close to crossing the line).   Second, apparently most people share the broad assumption that what happens IN THIS LIFE is what counts, and anything after that doesn’t really matter.

Now, we are all of course a bit biased on this, as all any of us have ever experienced is this life, so that explains some of it.  But I think we have a deep-rooted resentment as a society to the religious panacea of ‘heaven’ as the answer to all our ills.

Struggling with depression? Believe in Jesus and you’ll go to heaven forever.  Who could be depressed knowing that?  (OK OK, stop raising your hands).

Arguing with your spouse? Believe in Jesus, and you’ll go to heaven forever.  (Where you can argue with him or her ad infinitum).

Want to know how to raise your kids? Believe in Jesus, and get them to believe in Jesus, that way, it won’t really matter how you raise them or whether they behave or not, because you’ll all be in heaven together in the end.

OK, you can see that we could play this game for awhile.  But the point is, far too many have had this kind of thinking presented to them one too many times.  We have been told that faith (of the Christian sort) really has more to do with what happens after this life than what is happening during this life.

Sounds appealing, right?  (NOT!)  Yet that is exactly the message that American evangelicalism has been peddling for years.  Now, once in a while, they’ll make a concession and come out with a statement about something that does matter right now, like:  “this war is God’s will” or “continue to abuse the environment, because, well, heaven is around the corner” or something else clearly useful and brilliant.

When this happens (the focus on heaven), the gospels are dissociated from this life and distilled to: “believe in the right thing or burn.”  After awhile, people start to ask questions.  Questions like, “Burn where?”  or “Does hell exist?” or “Who says?” and eventually, “Who cares?”  It begins to feel a lot like the kids in M.Night Shyamalan’s The Village who are told not to go in the woods because of “those we don’t speak of”, where the monsters are merely fictional control mechanisms.

Ironically, the more you explore the actual message of Jesus, you begin to realize that he – like us – was passionate most about what happens IN THIS LIFE.  Why else would he teach us to pray about God’s will happening “on earth” as it is in heaven?  Why not just pray for us all to go to heaven?  Why would he teach us to ask for bread, the daily physical nourishment we need to live?  The sooner we stop eating, the sooner we die and go to heaven, and that must be better than a good meal.  Why would he, in teaching after teaching, focus on things like hospitality to the marginalized, peace rather than violence, generosity with money, loving your enemies?  This sounds like nitty gritty, earthy stuff.  Not spiritual escapism…

My hunch is, even Jesus would be a tad disappointed with the LOST season finale.  “No, don’t you get it, it’s not all about heaven!”

It felt like the reverse of the Matrix, where for six glorious seasons we thought we were finally unplugged and alive and free.  Something new and unknown and unprecedented was happening.  But when it all came down to it, we got plugged right back into -you guessed it-  “heaven.”

The church, with such a message, is increasingly seen as irrelevant.  To have LOST end in a church, well, it couldn’t help but feel a little irrelevant.

Am I bitter about it?  Well, I had my doubts going into season six, after I felt season five had presented itself as a brilliant ending to the whole show, with jughead going off and the screen going to white.  Perfect.

That would have left us asking:

What happened?
I don’t know, but anything is possible.

What did it all mean? I don’t know, but anything is possible.

I was never big on having all my questions answered with this show, and sometimes felt insulted when they were.  This season seemed to try too hard to make those connections, and sometimes it worked, other times, well, not so much.

But all that said, LOST was a great ride, and I actually really enjoyed the finale up until Christian Shepherd opened his mouth.

Perhaps my criticism is a bit unfair, as much of what drew me to the show were the rich philosophical and theological overtones. Yet by making such an explicit move, it felt like they went a bit too far.  But they had to end it some way, and really, there was just too much island folklore, crazy mythology and dharma secrets to make some grand unified theory that connected everything.  I’m OK with being left hanging, and even knowing that events on the island never really ended, as Hurley was appointed the new guardian, and life was going forward from that point.  So as far as how all that went – in this life – not so bad.

But the forces of good and evil, the seeming immortality of Jacob and the mysterious Man in Black, the “rules” that governed the island, the magnetic anomaly, time travel – all of that seems to have been for nought when we wind up in heaven after all.

Yes, what happens after we die is important, but every story ends there, and somehow we thought we were witnessing something original.  Ending in heaven?  That just made LOST seem ordinary.

In any case, LOST has ended.

I guess it’s our turn to leave.

(But don’t give up all hope, as word on the street is that Season 7 is still a possibility)

(Check out this more positive take on the finale: LOST Finale Explained Well, which I really do like and is supposedly by someone connected to the show)

What is the Emerging Church?

Many people have questions about terms like the ‘emergent church’ or the ‘emerging church’, and wonder, well what exactly does that mean?

The Re-Emergence Conference I attended in Belfast recently helped clear up some of that for me. Phyllis Tickle, one of the featured speakers, noted that there is a shift happening in Christianity, and it’s something that happens every 500 years or so. Most recently was the (Great) Reformation in the 1500’s, before that was the Great Schism between the East and West portions of the church, before that was the Great decline and fall of the Roman Empire, with Christianity recently becoming the official religion of the empire, and before that was the life of Jesus, called by some the Great Transformation. (And if we want to go back further, 500 years before Jesus was the Babylonian exile, the end of 1st Temple Judaism and the beginnings of second temple Judaism, and 500 years before that was the beginning of the monarchy in Israel with David. Note that all of these dates are approximations, nobody is suggesting it is 500 years to the day.)

Tickle and other experts assert that today we are entering a similar time of broad change. When these changes happen, certain things are brought under question and examination – in the Reformation one major issue was ‘who or what is our authority?’, and the answer shifted from ‘the church’, to ‘the Bible’, or sola Scriptura. That was one major aspect of the shift at that time and helped spark the birth of Protestant Christianity (noting there were many other factors as well).

Today similar questions are being asked:

1) What is a human being? (Tickle: “For the first time in human history we do not know what a human being is.” She noted the shift from Descartes to Freud to Jung among others.)

2) How do we relate to other faiths and religions? (We live in a ‘glocalized’ world, where global and local concerns, realities, traditions, religions intersect, and the old imperial/colonial mentality of Christianity (‘the need to convince everyone’) perhaps needs to be rethought or reunderstood.)

3) What is our understanding of the doctrine of the atonement? (In other words, what did Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection accomplish? What was he about? Our understanding of that typically comes from a medieval development stemming from Augustine and more fully articulated by Anselm of Canterbury in Cur Deus Homo, or ‘Why God Became Man.’)

4) What is our authority and what exactly is the Bible? (Given scientific discoveries, biblical criticism, etc.)

These shifts are happening throughout Christianity, and there are various aspects of it under a variety of names: the emerging church, missional church, the emergent church, fresh expression, de-church, faith collectives, the house church movement, the new monasticism, hyphenateds (meaning a combination of a specific tradition with emerging church aspects, such as Anglican-Emergent, Reformed-Emergent, Presby-Emergent). No aspect of Christianity will remain unaffected by this shift.

Some hear the word ‘emergent’, and say we should run away from it. Those are usually people who don’t know very much about it, or only have ‘second-hand’ knowledge of it – in other words, they’ve only read what other people have written about it (usually condemning it), without reading authors who are a part of the movement itself. Some criticisms are that it ‘doesn’t take the Bible seriously’, or ‘isn’t faithful to Jesus’, or has ‘weak theology’, for example. Tickle noted that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

She says there is a profound depth to the theology of those who are a part of this shift, and I would totally agree. Authors like NT Wright, Walter Brueggemann, Marcus Borg, Brian McLarenScot McKnight, Dallas Willard, and Walter Wink, to name just a few, have done some incredible studying, thinking and writing about who Jesus was and how we are to understand the gospel and Christianity today. My own sense is that these individuals have such incredible respect and love for the Bible and for Jesus that they are willing to ask the hard questions, questions that might cause us to rethink what we thought we knew about exactly who Jesus was and what his message was/is. Those opposed to change are often ironically a product of major changes that have already happened in the faith (e.g., the Reformation or the invention of the printing press).

The questions many of these authors in the emerging world are asking are: how does the culture of the authors of the Bible affect what they are saying, how does the broader political, geographical and cultural context help us frame certain events and writings, how did the original readers of a text understand it, and how have our own modern, post-Enlightenment, post-Reformation biases affected our understandings of the text? Some are opposed to doing any rethinking about any of this, and think we’ve already arrived at all the answers (Thank you, John Calvin and Martin Luther. Of course we forget that even Calvin and Luther had a religious and political milieu within which they were living and reacting against).  If you ask me, a faith that refuses to ask questions, refuses to engage with the text and take it on its own terms (as much as possible), a faith that thinks it has already arrived, is a faith that is not living but dead.

The wonderful thing to me is that many in the emerging church are finding that the gospel is bigger, broader, and more beautiful than we’ve thought. Jesus wasn’t just about helping individuals escape punishment in the hereafter, he was articulating a new way to be human, not just individually, but in community, as it relates to a local community of people (of varying beliefs/backgrounds) as well as to the various political and social realities we find ourselves in. Jesus did not come to start a new religion but to announce and embody the kingdom of God. This embraces and includes all of life, all people (not just Christians), and the entire universe. It is truly good news.

I hope this is somewhat helpful, as many are asking these questions and wondering what this whole emergent or emerging church thing is. It is not something to be scared of, and the reality is – you are in the midst of it, whether you know it or not. Phyllis Tickle noted that emergents are people who are skeptical of denominations and mega-churches, are allergic to owning a church building, are interested in exploring and developing their faith in community and conversation, are eager to draw on some of the other great Christian traditions other than their own, and are interested in how art, faith and justice connect and interweave. Perhaps some of that resonates with you. Above all, it is a conversation – one you are invited to join.

Tickle has a great book on this whole shift, called, aptly, “The Great Emergence”.  I cannot do justice to the whole conference, or even one lecture, let alone a book in a short posting, but feel free to leave a comment or send me a note if you want to discuss it further.

If you haven’t listened to the BBC audio of the conference (a 5 min clip), check it out, there you can hear Phyllis Tickle, Dave Tomlinson, Peter Rollins, and myself, among others.

Here is a short explanation from Tickle herself: