How (Not) to Speak of God - Pt. 1

I've heard from some various people such as Andrew Jones, Scot McKnight, and Trevor DeBenning (the only person I actually know of the three) that this book, How (Not) to Speak of God is a pretty big deal when it comes to understanding the developing theology of the so-called emerging church. My history with this movement/conversation/whatever is varied. My first exposure to anything emerging was Dan Kimball's book The Emerging Church, and from there I learned of such authors as Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, and so forth. I've read books by all three and attended workshops/talks by some of them as well. It was back in 2001 that I first became aware of this developing thing and started to more or less keep up with it because I resonated with it. I joined the ooze and started to engage a bit in the thought and questions these people were asking, identifying with much of it.

For those not familiar with what I'm talking about, suffice it to say "the emerging church" or "the emergent church" or whatever you want to call it is a loose movement (calling itself a "conversation") wherein people are trying to figure out what it means to be Christian in today's world. By and large this is characterized by sympathy to a postmodern mindset wherein we are suspicious of claims to know "The Truth" or claims to have authority, etc. If you do a Google Search on the emerging church you'll find people who revile it as the latest gnostic heresy and others who consider it the saving grace of Christianity. It's difficult to try to pin down and you can't really understand it by reading a paragraph or even one book. I would like to think that I have read widely enough of blogs and books, listened to enough speakers and sermons, and whatever else to consider myself familiar and even to an extent understanding and resonating with much of what is called the emerging church. I certainly fit the profile of your typical person interested in this sort of thing. I'm a mid-20's Christian with facial hair, working with youth, in some way between a modern and postmodern mindset, trying to follow Christ in the midst of culture while being ashamed of/disgusted with/befuddled by much of contemporary American Christianity. I was more or less raised in the church but went through some severe doubting and questioning, and don't want to uncritically accept everything thrown my way "in the name of Jesus."

As I have read and kept track and watched the development of the emerging church thing I have become less enamored with the direction I see much of it taking. I appreciate a lot of it but I am growing wary of some of the things I hear/read. Also, I'm interested in discussing ideas and epistemology and all that, but I do feel at a certain point too much discussion reaches at best silliness or at worst pretentiousness. We people can become so interested in how profound our thoughts are that we keep talking long after we have stopped saying anything worth listening to. This may sound like an indictment of the emerging conversation but I don't meant it to be. I simply mean it as an indication of where I'm coming from. I like to talk about "deep" things in coffee shops as much as the next guy but at a certain point I can't take it anymore and I want to relate it back to actual life and living and consider the consequences of the belief. If you stay in theory too long, it becomes senseless when you return down to earth to apply the conclusions you've reached. Perhaps this makes me unqualified to interact with people who have Ph.D's in philosophy or perhaps it means that things of true depth simply fly over my head. So whatever thoughts I offer, of course feel free to disregard them as the ramblings of an uncomplicated mind who just doesn't get it.

Those things being said I want to interact a bit with what I'm reading in this book, How (Not) to Speak of God. Brian McLaren, a prominent figure in the emerging conversation, says it is "one of the most important contributions to date to the emergent church conversation." It is being heralded by many within the conversation as putting words to what they're thinking, of taking the conversation is a positive direction. With those credentials I figured I should check it out. I admit I am reading the book as a pseudo-skeptic with regard to the current direction of the emergent church conversation. My viewpoints should become apparent as I discuss various statements in the book so I won't bother to lay them out here. But I am reading this book as someone genuinely interested in many of the questions this conversation is asking, as someone dissatisfied with much of the prevailing thought regarding doctrine or theology or maybe even orthodoxy. I am not a doctrine hound, I am undecided on certain things, I am comfortable in embracing mystery when it comes to God, I am still working through what I truly believe about the Bible's inerrancy and inspiration and authority. I am not coming at this with my mind already made up.

I am reading this book to try to understand more of what the emerging church conversation is saying and where it is going. To see whether I really do disagree with where it's heading or if I've just been too fuzzy on it. As someone who was at first totally on board but is now less so. I want to apply whatever thinking I can to this book and seriously think about what it offers. I have decided to blog about it not because I think my thoughts are particularly profound, not because I think what I have to say is worth listening to, and not to root out them 'thar heretics in our ranks. I am blogging about it because I think this is a way I can actually think about what I am reading rather than simply tearing through it. I will also most likely not spend too much time refining my posts into masterpieces. This introductory post is already far too unwieldy and wordy. Nevertheless I will be comfortable with some rough edges and maybe some lack of development in my thoughts. If I wait to perfectly express what I am thinking I will never write anything down. So such as they will be, I welcome you to read my thoughts as I read through this book. This will be the first in a series of posts as I go through this book, How (Not) to Speak of God.


the dad of a crying baby

Earlier today Janelle went to get a haircut and left me with Belle. Less than five minutes after Janelle walked out the door Belle started to cry hard. It wasn't a fussy cry so much as a cry that seemed to indicate something was really wrong. She seemed in pain but I had no idea how to fix what was wrong. Babies are capable of making a face that induces pity like no other. I've seen Belle cry before but for some reason this time it affected me more than usual and I was overcome with a desire to make it all better.

I thought the trouble might be with her clothes; she was wearing a new outfit so I guessed it might be irritating her skin or something. I took off her outfit and while she lay on the changing table her mood changed a bit and she even smiled and cooed a couple times. Soon she was fussing again and I put a different, proven outfit on her. This seemed to bother her less but she still stuck out that bottom lip and cried. I sat down in our rocking chair in her room and just held her up against my chest (and warm sweater) while she cried. She fussed a bit but started to calm down. After a while her crying started up again so I cradled her in my left arm and she buried her head in its crook. She calmed down and fell asleep in my arms.

I sat there, rocking back and forth, and was (as I sometimes am) struck by the fact that I am actually holding my daughter. This little baby girl is completely dependent on Janelle and I for everything, from food to security to warmth. She is part Janelle and part me. And she actually feels safe in my arms. I did my best to savor the moment. I imagined the different kinds of pain she would go through in life, from physical pain to having her heart broken to disappointment and, if she follows in her father's illustrious footsteps, even being teased at school. I hope I'm able to comfort her when she deals with those things. For now I'll do my best to enjoy having a baby, dirty diapers and all. I get the feeling the easiest part of being a dad is being the dad of a crying baby.



Okay I discovered that Blogger made it a little easier to label posts than I expected. When you are tasked with labeling the category of things you post you realize how inane much of it is. Anyway I added some labels to some of my stuff. How helpful it is, who knows. I just know I like that I can.

it's almost over

First, real quick - I've just upgraded to the new version of Blogger. This basically means two things. One, my posts from here on out will probably have "labels" that categorize them. Then you'll be able to click over on my "labels" to the right and find any and all posts I've made with that label. There are 510 posts already on this blog and I do not intend on going back and labeling them. So I'll just do it from here on out and maybe label the occasional past entry. It also makes the archives for the blog a lot more manageable and easier to navigate, as you can see on the right side. That's all on that.

Right now I'm at seminary in the computer lab. I just finished taking my last final. My last two classes don't have finals per se, which is nice. In my preaching class we will be having the last few people present their last sermons (I gave mine last week). In my theology class tonight we will all be presenting our final projects and that will be it. So basically I'm done with anything intellectually demanding for seminary until February. I am very excited about this.

This past week has been insanely busy, as I've spent almost every waking hour getting my last projects and assignments done for school. Janelle has been awesome, taking care of Belle and taking care of me, making it possible for me to focus on schoolwork. Crossroads also had a big weekend with "dramatic impact," which is this thing we do periodically where the weekend services are all skits tied together rather than a sermon. I was in one of the skits so I had to make a couple practices during the week, and Saturday night/Sunday morning was full up. Then Sunday night Crossroads had its annual Christmas Banquet, which is a working night for me. It was actually a lot of fun. I think I was at least partially "happified" by the facts that (1) I'd finished my schoolwork and(2) Janelle and Belle were there and I got to walk around showing off my baby.

I am really excited for the next couple months, as I'll be able to spend more time focusing on Belle and Janelle. I will also be able to get a lot more reading done. I have a lot of books I want to read but haven't had the chance to. I'm also excited to do some more relaxing, video game playing, getting some more work done around the house, hanging out with some friends, and so on and so forth. School doesn't start up again until February and I intend on getting the most out of the time I have free from its grasp.


Christmas Pictures

Belle Christmas 2006
Originally uploaded by actionjax.

This morning Janelle and I braved Babies R Us in order to take some Christmas pictures of Belle (and Anthony). I've always looked with pity at those parents struggling to get their kids to behave and smile at the right time for the photographer. Just last week I was in there buying a humidifier and I saw the long line of parents and was quite thankful to not be among them. Working the timing out was actually a challenge. With an 8 week old baby you can't exactly threaten her into smiling. Instead Janelle used her Ninja Mommy skills to time everything perfectly. We arrived in time to be only the third family there, Janelle fed Belle and got her into a smiley mood, and it all worked out. Check out this picture. It makes standing in line worth it. There are other cute photos you can check out by clicking on this photo of Belle and looking at our flickr account.

Tis the Season for cute pictures of Belle, suckas!