Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



P is for Perichoresis

Perichoresis is the most beautiful and elegant picture of the Christian godhead that many Christians may be completly unaware of.P-Perichoresis

The easiest way to break down the word:

  • Peri – as in perimeter
  • Choresis – as in choreograph (from the Greek word to ‘give away’ or ‘make room’)

It is the dance of the godhead. The picture is of movement and inter-relatedness. It is the constant exchange of moving around the edge – always providing space in the center. The concept is also known as cicumincession or interpenetration.

Circumincession: The theological concept, also referred to as perichoresis, affirming that the divine *essence is shared by each of the three persons of the *Trinity in a manner that avoids blurring the distinctions among them. By extension, this idea suggests that any essential characteristic that belongs to one of the three is shared by the others. Circumincession also affirms that the action of one of the persons of the Trinity is also fully the action of the other two persons.

Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Kindle Locations 254-256). Kindle Edition.

In the gospels God points to Jesus and says “this is son in whom I am well pleased”. Jesus says “I do only that which I see the father doing”. The spirit anoints Jesus and empowers him to point people to God. Jesus leaves and sends/is replaced by the presence of Holy Spirit. This Paraclete leads into all truth and reminds us of what Jesus said (John 14:26).

Admittedly, talk about the Trinity gets complicated quickly. This is why so my contention surrounded the early churches councils and creeds. The filioque clause caused a schism between Easter and Western branches of the church in the 11th century.

Modern arguments abound regarding the hierarchy of Father-Son-Spirit. contemporary conflicts multiply about the gendered language of trinitarian thought and moving toward formulations such as Creator-Redeemer-Comforter.

In fact, the list of early century heresies and modern attempts to revive or reformulate theories about the Trinity can make ones head spin. It takes upper level philosophy and vocabulary to explain how 3 can be 1 or how a monotheistic religion has 3 persons in the godhead. It gets even more complicated when one has to explain exactly what happened on the cross and where exactly ‘god’ was.
It can be done but it is sticky and messy to say the least.

Then there is the whole matter of the ‘economic’ trinity and the ‘ontological’ trinity. That is for another time. Suffice to say that examination and exploration of trinitarian theories are deep.

One sure thing that we have a beautiful legacy in this perichoretic picture of the inner-life and dance of god from the 3rd century.


Artwork for the series provided by Jesse Turri

* another complicated distinction many may not know is that when speaking of the Trinity use of the phrase ‘person’ does not – in fact, in no way – connateness the modern/contemporary understudying of personhood. God is not a person in that sense. Theologians use it as a ‘super-category’ – almost like a place holder that they know needs to be defined, clarified and expanded later. 

Drop ‘The’

Twice is a trend, three is a pattern.  The word ‘the’ has become a stumbling block.

The first incident occurred on TNT when I spoke up about my friendship with ‘Al’ – as in incarnational, etc. – and Tripp professed his love for the word ‘the’. Tripp wants to talk about the incarnation and the resurrection. I am more interested in a more generic, and I would add more fruitful, discussion about concepts like incarnation and resurrection.
You can read more about ‘Al’ here.

The second occasion was a little less contentious and I loved the feedback I got from the suggestion to Add An ‘S’ As A Test. It turns our that simple making something plural can be a great way to get away from the certitude or dogmatic cul de sac that conversation can get caught up in.
You can read more about Adding An ‘S’ here.

Last month a third incident emerged. At the Phyllis Tickle event to celebrate her new book and her life’s work, Barry Taylor (who I have studied with) offered a profound challenge. Phyllis’ new book is about Age of the Spirit. It became clear in the Q&R at Fuller Seminary that the Spirit was going to be a point of concern for people. You have questions about the modern pentecostal movement at one end and concern about early Trinitarian formulations at the other.
What Barry Taylor suggested at the Live3D event afterward was dropping the ‘the’ in Age of the Spirit. Why not just talk about the Age of Spirit?

Dropping ‘the’ is sometimes necessary when adding an ‘s’.fundamentals

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that this is a cure-all formula for getting out of any theological pickle/quandary that you find yourself in. What I am saying is that dropping ‘the’ can sometimes open up greater possibilities AND provide much needed clarity to doctrinal or historical gridlock.

The bottom line: We are moving out of an era built around certainty and on propositional truth. Things are becoming more fractured, de-centered and relational (there is Al again). This can be a good thing – shifting from certainty.
(Now, in fairness, Phyllis had a great trinitarian answer to Barry’s concern that you will be able to hear later when the podcast comes out.)
There is a lager issue at hand, however, and that is the way in which we hold truth. I’m going to suggest in a post later this week that we revisit not just our conceptions of God and religious experiences – but that we hold our interpretations of them differently. Until then, I want to encourage you to do a little experiment and drop ‘the’.
Let me know how it goes.

Starter Suggestion: if you are someone who uses the phrase ‘the church’, try and replace that phrase with the word ‘churches’ and see if the sentence still makes sense. It probably won’t – which means that you will have to go back and look at the assumptions that underlie the sentence.

The Authority Question – Pentecostals & Methodists

Last month, at the Phyllis Tickle event, the ‘authority question’ came up, as it will/should whenever someone starts talking about ‘the Spirit’pentecost01

I was sitting out in the audience for the Fuller Seminary part of the evening. A little debate/concern arose about the issue of authority – especially as it relates to the rapidly growing Pentecostalism of the Southern Hemisphere.

I leaned over to the pastor sitting beside me and jokingly said “I pastored a charismatic church for a decade, and now I am at a Methodist church … this seems like the easiest thing in the world to navigate.”  The pastor requested that I blog about it.

Let’s get all the parts on the table and see how they come together:

Element 1: in the past we talked about seats or locations. Where does authority reside? Answers have included leaders, scripture, the collective, bylaws, reason, etc. Traditionally we have talked about authority in a static sense.

Element 2: in the Methodist tradition we have the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason. (for an interesting side-read, John Cobb questions the sequence of those four elements)

Elements 3: I read a fascinating article a while ago about developments in neuroscience. Researches have long looked for which part of the brain memories reside in. It turns out that memories are not located in any one place but in the connection made between different parts of the brain.


Proposal: Authority, like memory, is not located in any one place. It is uniquely comprised of the connection between component parts. Depending on the collected aspects, the authority that emerges will be unique to that organization, congregation and movement.

Authority, therefor, doesn’t exist (per se) in that same sense that we used to conceptualize it … OR perhaps I should say it doesn’t reside somewhere – but in the connection and configuration of collected elements.


The reason that ‘the authority question’ is so elusive is because it is different in every place and is changing all the time

Authority will look different if you are Catholic charismatic in S. America than if you are a non-denominational megachurch in N. America. This is due to its emergent nature as an evolving concept.


Pastoring the Process

Last week was a fun one for me! On top of interacting with concerns of Roger Olson and Tony Jones about process thought, I have received amazing emails, tweets, blog and Facebook comments.

Keep in mind that while I am familiar with process thought, I don’t subscribe to it hook-line-and-sinker … so I am a good person to ask these kind of questions to.


Here are the 4 biggest themes that emerged from those interactions.

How does Process affect your field of Practical Theology?

The first thing to understand that Practical Theology is kinda sociology with a theological lens. We use interviews, case studies & ethnographies (qualitative methods) to investigate how religion is lived out on the ground.

So a Practical Theologian does not need to subscribe to any particular school of thought per se. We do have to locate ourselves philosophically but no one approach is required.

Having said that … I am primarily concerned with pastoral theology and as a pastor, process theology has deeply impacted the way that I think, believe, lead and facilitate my interactions with the community of faith.

Doesn’t it seem weird to base so much on the philosophy of one guy in the 20th century?

Not exactly. Once you understand that all of christian history and specifically western theology is based and embedded with philosophy from day 1. If you don’t know how the Gospel of John or the Nicene Creed is laced with philosophical frameworks, this will be eye-opening to you.

Having said that, the philosophical approach that come from thinkers like Alfred North Whitehead is notable in a number a ways. It is naturalist (vs. empiricist) and it is advantageous in the areas of:

A) creation-care

B) give and take (symbiotic) relationship we have with the earth & the rest of creation

C) the realistic (not idealistic) way that things are after the industrial revolution

D) emergent thought and evolutionary history

When you put that all together, THEN add the fact that Whitehead had a Bible – what you end up with is an approach that is far more compatible with the way that the world actually works than anything we have inherited from centuries past.

Does it really matter?

100% Yes! Are you kidding me? When people question the nature of God’s power – why God doesn’t do the things that a god is supposed to do – when God, who could do anything if ‘he’ wanted to, doesn’t do them … both the world and the faith that we have inherited doesn’t make any sense.

Giving people both a permission to ask questions and a framework to process different approaches is a gift in the 21st century.

There is no school of thought that I have found more fruitful in engaging than process. Engaging biblical scholarship is a great starter. Asking big question about the nature of human violence (like memetic theory) is a catalyst. The pièce de résistance is found an alternative framework that not only asks different questions but allows for different answers.

Does it change how you pastor? 

Absolutely! If the nature of God’s power is not coercive but persuasive, then it affects everything.

  • The way you view administration
  • The way you counsel people
  • The way you preach
  • The way you recruit help
  • The way you pray
  • The way you empower & delegate
  • The way you do hospital visitation
  • The way you respond to criticism
  • The way discipleship is defined*
  • The way the community conceives of itself and participates
  • The way you perceive outsiders

I actually can not think of one aspect of church-life that is untouched  by this upgrade in operating-systems.

As you can tell, I am having a blast, so feel free to keep the conversation rolling! What else do we want to address? 

* In last week’s response “Is God Unique?” I made the case – based on the Advent podcast with John Cobb – that following Jesus in discipleship looks a little different. 

Jesus was as open to and as faithful to the will of God as Mother Theresa was to her calling, Francis of Assisi was to being Francis, maybe even Buddha was to be Buddha … That is not what makes Jesus unique.

WHAT makes Jesus unique is WHAT God called Jesus to. It is possible that all of these people were equally open & available to god as Jesus was. The difference is what God called Jesus to.

Jesus played a unique role in human history. No has ever – or will ever – play that role. What God did in Jesus has impacted all of humanity. Jesus is unique.

NOW having said that … the art of following Jesus is being open to and available to the presence of God the way that Jesus was open to available to the will of God is Jesus’ life.

Being like Jesus is not doing what Jesus did (walking on water) but being available to God the way the Jesus was available to God. This is discipleship.

Religion and Consumerism’s Bricolage: in conversation with Philip Clayton

A couple of weeks ago I had a very interesting conversation with Philip Clayton. Several of us went out for lunch after the High Gravity session on Religion & Science. We were at a restaurant where the walls were decorated with a busy collection of reclaimed signs, old pictures and re-purposed trinkets.

Dr. Clayton was across the table from me and at one point I look up to notice that above his head was a sign that read ‘Holy’ on one side and ‘Holy’ at the other end. The words ‘Holy – Holy’ were framing either side of his head. IMG_2884

I tried to come up with something clever to say, scouring my memory for some passage from the Hebrew Bible or the book of Revelation to tweak. The window of opportunity closed because the conversation was quite intense. That morning the topic had been ‘Science & Religion’ and now we had expanded it to ‘Religion & Society’ – or more specifically to ‘Church & Culture’.

The conversation intensified and it became clear that neither Dr. Clayton nor Tripp was too happy with my cynical take on consumer mentalities when it comes to consuming religious experiences within a capitalist framework.

At one point I said “it is like that sign behind you: it’s not like the holy is absent from the space and all the activity that happening here – it’s just that it blends in and goes unnoticed in the midst of all the bricolage that it melts into.”

Somebody had reclaimed that wooden sign. There is a story behind it – there might have even been more to it (I wondered if it used to have a 3rd ‘Holy’ further down the line that had been lost).

But that is my point! In any gathering there are going to be those (like us at that table) who think that what is happening is legitimate, sincere, authentic, important and worth organizing your life around. The congregation is also going to be largely made up of those who are consuming a religious experience – and it is financially worth about the same amount as a movie, a meal, a game or a show.*

I will go even further: this is my great hesitation with those who want to ‘go back’ or ‘conserve’ with their religious participation. This impulse was never more evident to me than when I began interacting with those were into Radical Orthodoxy or with evangelicals who had converted to Eastern Orthodoxy or Catholicism. The ‘zeal of the convert’ can be a telling element when it comes to the anti-modern or counter-modern impulse.

An incongruity is exposed in the counter-modern impulse of these conserving movements. Never mind for a moment that often what is being conserved is born out of a patriarchal model – set that aside for a second.

I will attempt to make this in 4 succinct points:

  1. You do not live in the 14th or 16th century.
  2. You do not think like someone in a previous century.
  3. You do not engage in the rest of your week as someone in a previous century.
  4. You chose, as a consumer within a capitalist framework, to participate.

Those four things signal to me that even the most sincere, authentic, devout, and thorough engagement – whether a Pentecostal, Evangelical, Orthodox, Anglican, RO, Catholic, Mainline or Congregational expression – must account for the ubiquitous consumerism within which we all are saturated.

Dr. Clayton rightly said that I while I had a good point I was proceeding in far too cynical a manner with it. He is correct of course.

My aggressiveness is born out of a deep concern. What we say the church is about – what we believe the very gospel to be – is so vital and so needed in the world today, that we can not afford to ‘play pretend’ about previous centuries and blindly participate in consumerism all the while trumpeting the virtue of our chosen ecclesiastic community.**

The danger, in my opinion, is that religious communities will become nothing more than decorations on the corner of a neighborhood or one more option at the mall food-court. 

For christian believers, the holy is all round us. We can not afford for it to disappear among the bricolage nature of our hyper-advertised media-saturated existence.

The gospel, at its core, is incarnational. Our central story as Christians is flesh and blood in a neighborhood. The whole project is contextual – it only happens in a time and a place. We can never escape that. That is why romantic notions of past centuries or early manifestations can be dangerous distractions and fantastical facades.

We can’t afford to fade into the bricolage. IMG_2886


* plus it usually comes with free babysitting. 

** Some might object that they have not chosen but rather have ‘stayed’. I would argue that they did within the consumer’s capacity to do so. 

That Liberal Label

It has been a while since I posted here and part of the reason for that is that I have embroiled in a bit of a kerfuffle. I didn’t go looking for it but it came and found me. Anyway, here is a part of my response to all of the hullabaloo.
Once is an incident. Twice is a trend. Three times is a pattern.

This the now the 3rd time this thing idea about shying away from the label ‘liberal’ has come up.

  1. I heard it for the first time almost 10 years ago: “Emergents are just cool liberals”. This came from conservative, evangelical and reformed folks who were squawking at the Blue Parakeets that were new to the yard.
  2. More recently Fitch & Holsclaw leveled the accusation in their new book Prodigal Christianity and Tony Jones took exception.
  3. Then last week the idea was suggested on a different blog that Tripp & I were really just closet liberals who where afraid of the label because of its intrinsic baggage.

I tend to bury my big point in the final quarter of every blog post. For the purpose of clarity I am going to begin putting them at the top of the post. Here is my main point:

There is nothing wrong with being liberal. It is one of many valid ways to participate in the christian tradition. If I were liberal I would be so proudly. I am not liberal. Liberal approaches do not go far enough to combat capitalism, address colonial consequences or repent of the Constantinian compromise that led to Christendom it’s subsequent horrors.

I am not liberal. While Tripp and I are left-leaning. We are progressive. We are postmodern in our approach. We are emergent in our expression. We are playfully heretical (in a good way) and we are innovative where appropriate given our christo-centric hyperTheism.

But I am not liberal. Liberalism doesn’t go far enough in addressing five of my biggest concerns:

  • Critique of Capitalism and Consumerism
  • Post-Colonial consequences
  • Continental Philosophy’s reflection on late modern thought
  • Criticism of Christendom (Western and Constantinian)
  • Our cultures’ dangerous cocktail of Nationalism and Militarism

I have written extensively about how Progressive is not Liberal and even got taken to task over at Scot McKnight’s blog for trying to make that distinction. I will say this again:

There is nothing wrong with being liberal. It is one of many valid ways to participate in the christian tradition.

If I were liberal I would be so proudly. But alas I am not.

One last thing in closing:  I understand the historic drift of the term ‘Liberal’. I know what it meant in the 1700’s (specifically as it relates to individualistic epistemology) and I understand what it has become in the late 20th century (a constellation of loyalties and identity markers). I also know about it’s demise as an impotent political approach and I get why some evangelicals are allergic to the term and thus why some would desire to shy away from it. I get all that. I even recognize the unique draw of its individualistic epistemology. 000_0008

What I am saying is that calling me a closet liberal who is afraid to be identified by the label is like saying that I don’t wear ‘medium’ sized T-shirts because I don’t like the letter M. It is to miss the point. I don’t wear medium sized T-shirts because they are not big enough and don’t cover some essential areas that I deeply care about.

i.e.  It just doesn’t fit.


Prayer as Poetry of Spirit

As a pastor I get to talk with a lot of people. The issue of prayer comes up more often than any other topic. I think I understand why but when any pattern is this consistent it piques my attention and compels me to dig a little deeper.Dark-Clouds

The problem, of course, isn’t for those for whom prayer is an automatic and assumed activity–nor for those who see no point in it. The problem, and thus the need for conversation, resides in those who are thoughtfully attempting to address how exactly a real God really works in the world.

To use a bowling analogy, there seems to be an illusive sweet spot we want to aim at between two proverbial gutters on either side.

The gutter to the left  is a mechanistic view  that too easily degenerates into prescriptive and formulaic constructs. The universe is not a machine and is not fueled by an individual’s personal piety, sincerity of prayer, amount of prayer, particular words and phrases, or purity of beliefs/doctrine.

The problem with many popular approaches to prayer is exposed when prayer appears not to work because certain outcomes were not achieved or no tangible evidence was produced. The difficulty then is the amount of time and energy one needs to invest to explain why prayer doesn’t always work. The explanations always seem to fall into the same worn ruts  involving God’s sovereignty, will and power. In the end these will always fail because God, after all, is not a machine and faith is not the product of an assembly line or factory.

The gutter to the right  might be called ‘cosmic coincidence’. One of the difficulties to being a person of faith is that it can be impossible to convince someone who wants to be cynical with enough persuasion as to disavow them of their skepticism. Somehow the concept of belief itself is elusive enough and just abstract enough to not provide the traction it takes to overcome the unqualified need for proof.
It is the narrow ground between these two gutters that I am attempting to navigate. I want to throw out a theory and get your feedback on.

My theory is that both the beauty and the power of prayer–and subsequently God’s work in the world– resides in the fact that God’s power is a low-level signal  being broadcast in the world on a weak enough frequency that two things happen:

  1. the transmission is subtle enough that those who wish to tune it out are capable of doing so. God’s work is not so obvious or overpowering that one is accosted by its blatant effects and thus would have to be in denial not to see it. The work of God in his gentle,  subtle, hidden, elusive at times and, as Jack Caputo says ‘weak’.
  2. at the same time, however, the work of God in the world is just consistent enough as to allow some to codify it and become prescriptive as to the optimal way to pray. Prayer works just enough of the time for just enough of the population for people to come up with formulas as to its power and how to tap into that.

Prayer is like poetry in this sense. Neither is so predictable as to allow themselves to be reduced down to a formula that can be perfected with simple repetition.

but at the same time–both poetry and prayer carry enough consistency to allow for them to be thought of as persuasive.

This is the beauty of prayer for me. am not praying to an interventionist God behind some supernatural veil asking for that Almighty but temperamental  being to puncture the membrane of the natural world and act in a coercive way.  The ancient images of God as warrior, puppet master or unseen mover don’t stand up to any level of scrutiny after the 20th century.

We know then what prayer isn’t… So what is it?

Prayer is the partnering of an open heart to participate with a God who is broadcasting a weak signal in the world  and which provides to every moment positive possibilities for every living thing  to bring about a greater good and beautiful flourishing.  As we participate in those positive possibilities we open up greater and more abundant possibilities in subsequent moments. As we resist the potential opportunities provided in the weak signal, we close down and crush possibilities for more abundant flourishing and beauty down the road.

In this way we acknowledge that prayer has just enough going on within it that those who prefer the formulaic or even mechanistic approaches of the past will continue to have just enough data to remain insistent. We also acknowledge that prayer will continue to be just elusive enough that those who wish to tune out the signal that is being broadcast by the divine to feel justified in doing so.

Prayer is the poetry of Spirit. It is not a math formula, a building blueprint, an assembly-line product or a battle plan. Nor is prayer a Christian form of meditation simply useful for aligning one’s heart and mind to the current running in the stream of the universe.

Prayer is a participation in an invitation to partnership that is being broadcast on a weak frequency in the world.



I would love to hear your thoughts on this … I just have two requests:

  • Be careful using personal (private) experiences like speaking in tongues or being slain in the spirit as irrefutable evidence of the former ways of understanding that I am attempting to move us on from.
  • Don’t talk to me about miracles in S. America, Africa or Asia unless you are from those regions please. I will explain why I make this request in a post next week. 


Your Spiritual Genius

I have been reading an inspiring book entitled Spiritual Genius by Winifred Gallagher. She looks at 10 ‘masters’ and the quest for meaning. One of the passages early on in the book has really stuck with me and yesterday I had the opportunity to present it as a ‘conversation starter’ (we don’t do sermons per se) at the Loft.

All of us use our spiritual genius some of the time. We might not recognize it as such, but we tap it whenever we “just know” that something is happening for a reason that, to paraphrase Blaise Pascal, “reason does not know.” Spiritual genius tells us that, despite the chaos and confusion around us, everything is all right, so we might as well be nice. It tells us that if we take on a worthwhile challenge, we’ll somehow find the necessary strength and help. It tells us that our true self is more that a bunch of personality traits and problems. Like a compass, spiritual genius always points us toward a reality larger than the ego and the status quo. Once we members of the meaning-seeking species find our place in the grand design, we’re able to gather up the pieces of our everyday lives, making a coherent picture out of what can seem like an impossible puzzle.

I tried something a little different by reading it like you would a passage of scripture and then circling back and going through it ‘verse by verse’. I thought I would post some of it here in the hopes of encouraging you today.

All of us use our spiritual genius some of the time. We might not recognize it as such, but we tap it whenever we “just know” that something is happening for a reason that, to paraphrase Blaise Pascal, “reason does not know.”

It is illuminating to recognize that you have spiritual genius inside of you. That is not to say that you are a spiritual genius or that you have a spiritual genius inside of you. What you have, however, is access to spiritual genius. Nov20sw1

There is a passage of scripture that talks about a “peace that surpasses understanding” and we can rest in that. By God’s spirit, we have access to a strength that transcends our ability to comprehend or master the information about the circumstances that surround us. We have stories in the gospels about a ‘power’ that is asleep in our boat in the midst of the storm. That old line ‘Hope was asleep at the back of the boat’ is a funny reminder that we are provided in the christian narrative a peace in the midst of the storm.

Spiritual genius tells us that, despite the chaos and confusion around us, everything is all right, so we might as well be nice.

I am the oldest of 4 siblings and developed a little bully streak when I was younger. I was a jock in high school (captain of the football and basketball team) and that fed my inner ‘jerk’. Pour on the gasoline of immaturity and I had a full-blown fire inside. I was prone to angry outburst and even into my early years of ministry, I would ‘vent’ in angry rants.

I repented of this whole fiery permission 7 or 8 years ago and have watched that fire crumble into a pile of little embers. Once in a while however, I am surprised that it will flare up out of nowhere. I have noticed a pattern: Every time I get angry it is a result of 1 of 2 things – either I am not getting my way or I don’t know how this chapter ends.

I have grown fond of talking about the ‘spirit of adoption’ from Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4: 4-7. This is part of your spiritual genius. When you receive the truth that you are accepted, approved and adored by God, there is peace and strength that surpasses your ability to understand your circumstance and allows you to be the full version of you … even though you don’t know how this chapter turns out.

It tells us that if we take on a worthwhile challenge, we’ll somehow find the necessary strength and help.

The walk of faith requires 2 things:

  1. That we participate in something bigger than ourself and are concerned about something other than yourself.
  2. That we step into that endeavor before we have secured all of the resources for it.

It is in that place that God meets us with that which we lack but so desperately need for the thing that we have been called to.

It tells us that our true self is more that a bunch of personality traits and problems. Like a compass, spiritual genius always points us toward a reality larger than the ego and the status quo.

Your spiritual genius begins with a confession that are more that the sum of things that can be measured. There is something about your life that is greater than what can be seen. The struggle is getting outside of the ego and not accepting the status quo. This means fighting for something that is both bigger than you and may not even profit you – it also means not accepting the ways things are as the way that will be or should be.

Once we members of the meaning-seeking species find our place in the grand design, we’re able to gather up the pieces of our everyday lives, making a coherent picture out of what can seem like an impossible puzzle.

Life is messy. It is mis-matched mixed-up collection of experiences, relationships, assumptions, attitudes and limitations.

Here is the possibility and the payoff however: IF you will bring your spiritual genius to the table, it makes us all better. When we all bring our spiritual genius to the table, each of us is better. 

You have spiritual genius in you. How do access it? On what worthy endeavor will you spend it? 

Emergent Preaching?

A good question can stimulate the brain to put together things that one had not previously connected. Stuart Harrell asked my a question about what a course on emergent “preaching” would look like. Here are some of my thought – I would love to hear yours.


My cleaned up tweets are posted as bullet-points with a clarifying thought following. 

  • You would want to immediately address message and medium. It’s not just a repacking of the same old material.

What we are experiencing in a genuinely different expression of the good news. I watch lots of video clips of hip – fashionable – edgy young preachers who are still on an elevated stage using the exact same forms as the past 100 years … only they have added video clips and hair gel.

That is not what we are talking about. That is just lipstick on pig 🙂  not that I really believe that old-school preaching is a pig, I just love that phrase.

  •  #EmergentPreaching would involve scripture, culture, media, dialogue, experience & impartation to start.

The ‘problem’ with emergent thought is that it is neither reductive nor is it reproducible. It is environment specific (contextual) and organic. It interacts with its surroundings and emerges from its participants. It is a different animal from day 1.

  • I have given a LOT of thought to Emergent Preaching since my dad is a homiletics Prof. & I helped start The Loft LA recently.

One of our biggest glitches is that our ‘gatherings’ don’t translate to podcasts or video very well. We planned on being media savvy but the ‘sermon’ is broken up into conversation starters, dialogue, small groups, feedback and presentation. It’s kind of messy and we are still trying to figure out how to ‘capture’ it authentically. I think that we are going to start just throwing it out there unedited for members who missed that week in case they want to catch up.

  • the task of Emergent Preaching would deal with issues of power, voice, dialogue, participation, action, justice & cultural stuff.

This is where the medium must be addressed along with the message. HOW we do something is as important as WHAT we do.

Proclamation is a vital part of the Christian tradition. We don’t want to lose that! We address the form as well.

Why is there one person talking anyway? How is that person chosen? With what authority do they speak? These are essential questions to ask.

  • Assumptions of culture, the gospel, power, structures, and orthopraxy are vital to address in thinking about.

We are always attempting to do at least two things (this is true for every area of life). Side note: this is why saying that sex is only for procreation is ludicrous.  So it is incumbent upon us to concern ourself with present cultural realities as well as desired outcomes – because we preach an incarnational gospel that must be in-bodied (embodied) to survive.

  • One would have to pull back the curtain & examine the scaffolding (assumptions) that hold the entire project up.

This is the tough job of deconstructing a constructive theology. There is no easy way around it.

  • It would be part Liberation, Feminism, Walter Wink, masters of suspicion, biblical scholarship & philosophy.

There is just no sense in even attempting to do proclamation in the 21st century under the auspices of emergence without this. Emergent Preaching would need to be well-informed and undeniably self-aware at some level. This seems unavoidable.

  • But it would also have to be rooted in history, hermeneutics, scripture and praxis. Those are my thoughts on Emergence Preaching. 

In the end, we preach the christian gospel and not some form of god-ness or spirit-uality. We are the church after all. Accounting for history, hermeneutics, scripture and praxis is tall order. But what is the other option?

I would love to hear your thoughts on my little list and see if you had any additions. 

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