Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



Updating CS Lewis

A Year with C.S. Lewis was my go-to devotional for about a 5 year window. I just loved his witty takes, his everyday language, and his optimistic outlook.

Once I decided to go to seminary and started reading heady theology, Lewis took a back seat. I tried to pick it up again a couple of years ago but it seemed too folksy and some of his logic seemed questionable.

Lately I have been doing an experiment: taking material that I used to get a lot out of and attempting to update-adapt-translate for my current context and our contemporary era.

Bringing Lewis into the 21st century is a fun experience. I actually think that his ideas hold up for the most part but that his language just needs a little updating.

Here is an example from Mere Christianity:

A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way, a Christian is not a woman who never goes wrong, but a woman who is enabled to repent and pick herself up and begin over again after each stumble – because the Christ-life is inside her, repairing her all the time, enabling her to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ carried out.

That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or – if they think that there is not – at least they hope to deserve approval from good people. But the Christian thinks any good she does comes from the Christ-life within her.

She does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because God loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.

It is amazing how just a couple of pronoun changes and making God-language gender neutral (as God is) takes away all the distracting antiquated elements and allows the encouraging thought to come through with clarity and insight.

I am encouraged that I will be able to do this same process with some more material that has been so valuable to me over the years.

How about you? Anything that you would like to see updated-adapted-translated for our current context and contemporary era?



Mid-March Madness

The past month has been incredibly intense.

I had the honor of flying to NY to meet with my father and his board about rebooting his global ministry.

I am mid-semester at the seminary with 4 amazing classes (ecclesiology, essentials of christian theology, culture & system change, and world religions)


While I was back east, I went to the Methodist Archives at Drew University and found the documents that I needed to complete my dissertation!!!

I have been applying to professor jobs in the areas of religion, theology & ministry.

I have been talking with denominations about the possibility of being a pastor with them (come August) and have great hope that something is going to work out.

Lastly, I have also been developing a model for revitalizing existing churches AND connecting with post-evangelical / this-is-not-for-me 20 and 30 somethings. [more on this to come]

As you can see, I could use some prayer.

I want to finish this season of being a professor and writing the dissertation well.

I also have an eye toward pastoring again and what it might mean to model what it looks like to do church in a different way.

Thank you for your care, notes, prayers, and engagement. It means a LOT during this time.   -Bo



October Update 2015

A quick video to let you know about 3 things:

  • family stuff
  • school stuff
  • online stuff

Oct 9 from Bo Sanders on Vimeo.

I’m going to try to blog Tuesdays and Thursdays – I would love to know what you want to address and chat about.

X is for X-ray (technology)

Something a little different today. 

100 years ago was the beginning of what became known as World War I. X-Xray
I am fascinated by the changes that have come in that 100 year period.

The transition from the 19th to the 20th century houses a fascinating and rapid shift in both politics and technology (to name just two fields).

The build up to World War I is a study in what seems like not just a different time but wholly different world at points. Like learning the geography of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth or the kingdoms and families in The Game of Thrones, the world before the great war seems alien.
You have to get up to speed on such things as the Habsburg Dynasty and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Eschatology is an interesting entry point to this conversation. At the beginning of the 20th century, Post-Millenial views were the overwhelming position for protestant churches and denominations. The optimistic view of human progress and societal transformation brought an expectation of ushering in the Kingdom of God and a reign of peace and prosperity that would fill the whole earth. The horrors of the war brought that to an end. There was no ‘war to end all wars’ and by the end of the 20th century (the Christian Century) Post-Milleninial views were as a rare as telegraphs.

The beginning of the 20th century also saw seismic shifts in technology. The telephone, the airplane, vaccines and the radio mark the the era. The Xray illustrates the point as well as any other from this era.

The ability to see into the human body is remarkable. It transforms not just how we practice medicine but how we conceptualize the human body.
I read a passage a while ago, which I can now not find, where an author wondered how the apostle Paul’s writing would have changed if he had been able to take a trans-Atlantic flight or if he had seen that famous picture of the earth as a little blue marble as seen from the moon.

Which brings us to the question at hand as we begin to wrap up this series:

If technology and medicine, communication and psychology, economics and politics – and every other field – get to (and are encouraged to) advance, evolve, adapt and transform … why is religion so bound to the thinking of the pre-moderns and the ancients?

There is something peculiar about religious thought that needs to be examined. I understand those who want to conserve the tradition – I don’t agree but I understand the conservative impulse.
I prefer an approach that is incarnational and contextual. I see christianity as embodied (in-body) in a time and a place. All theology is contextual theology (as folks like Bevans and Schreiter say) and our faith must be re-callibrated, re-formed and re-membered within our cultural context.
Faith, like language, does not happen in a vacuum. It is (in)hereted. There is a given-ness to it. But faith is also in-acted and em-bodied.

This is a delicate dance to both honor the tradition and express in our time and place the truth of what was passed on to us.

The 1500’s had both Copernicus and William Harvey. The former told us that the earth revolved around the sun, the latter that the heart was responsible for blood circulation. In science the telescope and the microscope changed everything.

We live in the nuclear age. The Xray, the nuclear bomb and the microwave are just the tip of the iceberg. I have not even touched on TV, cell-phones, no-fault divorces, Christian-Mingle websites and credit-card giving machines in the pews.

Why, when every area of our lives from medicine to politics to economics to psychology is updating and evolving … why would religion insist on holding to the cosmology, metaphysics and epistemology of the pre-modern world?

When we get sick, even conservative/traditional folks will take an aspirin and get an x-ray.
The Christian faith, based on the story of incarnation, is designed to be embodied in a time and place. To hamper this process of adaptation and adjustment is to not only miss the point of the entire story but to worship an idolized moment in the development of its trajectory.

I would love to address the formerly enchanted world (without supernaturalism)  and the concept of second naiveté – but here is what I really want to leave you with:

The gospel is designed to be (in)carnate and (em)bodied. We have no fear of losing the gospel’s essential character by appropriating it to our time and our place. We live in a world come of age. It is time for a response to nuclear theology.

 Artwork for the series by Jesse Turri

I’m Back

The hiatus is over. It has been wonderful and I have accomplished a lot.

My brain is rested (which was the main thing) and I am ready to start prepping for my qualifying exams this Fall.

The window started when I  made 2 trips back East to fix up my parent’s house and put it on the market.

The window closed this past week when I performed a family wedding and hosted waves of family (and their air-mattresses) in the living room.

I turned 40 in the window and started a new lifestyle (exercise/eating) change.

There was family heartbreak with the announcement of a divorce for a 24 year marriage.

There was lots of laughter with silly movies and light reading.

I am looking forward to being back in the blog-o-sphere and processing some of the stuff that I am learning  with you here. Man Trip 124 old gears

I literally had to make lists of what I wanted to blog about in order to just keep some level of sanity while on leave. I have lots of thoughts that I have been processing. I look forward to getting back in the game … I have really missed the interactions.

Thank you for all your prayers, notes, and messages. They have meant a great deal to me during this challenging time.

Sincerely,   Bo C. Sanders

Report Card For New Pope

This weekend I found two stories related to the first 100 days of Pope Francis’ tenure.

The first was a glowing review by an unlikely source. Esquire magazine had a blog that detailed some of the major  highlights.

It has now been a little over a hundred days since Francis took over the Vatican. He famously declared on his first day “The Carnival is over,” by which he meant that he wanted the Church to abandon its luxurious ways. But for Pope-watchers the carnival has just begun. There is serious upheaval in the Vatican, with outsiders brought into major positions of power, and Francis speaking openly of “a current of corruption” in the Curia, but, as an atheist, I don’t really care about any of that. I’m sure it takes guts and brains to try and reform the Church, but whether the Vatican is a strong or a weak institution is of the smallest possible concern to me. What is much more important is how he has used many small gestures to demonstrate the possibilities of compassion.

Read more: Pope Francis Awesome – Pope Francis Is Kind of Great – Esquire
Follow us: @Esquiremag on Twitter | Esquire on Facebook
Visit us at

The second story comes by way of the CBC news show the Current. You can listen to the fascinating segment about the attempt – and difficulties – related to changing the Vatican’s ‘bank’ system and some of the corruption that has recently been

These scandals are notable because the Institute for the Works of Religion (the so-called Vatican Bank) handles billions of dollars in trusts and holdings for the Catholic church. Pope Francis is attempting to change the culture of the hierarchy but scandals like this expose that corruption goes all the way to the highest offices.

Late last week, Italian police arrested Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a high-ranking cleric in the department that manages the Church’s assets. Monsignor Scarano was already under investigation for allegedly laundering money, using the Institute for the Works of Religion — the so-called Vatican Bank.

Now, he is accused — along with two others — of trying to smuggle $20-million-euros out of Switzerland and into Italy, tax-free and undetected by Italian authorities. The arrests came just two days after Pope Francis launched a campaign to clean-up the Vatican Bank, which for decades has been accused of money laundering, corruption and links with the mafia.

While the famous foot-washing of Easter week was a wonderful symbolic act, and while he may be a fun and friendly character … it is matters like this bank scandal (and the billions behind it) that will determine not just the public perception of Pope Francis but ultimately the sustainability of the global Catholic structure.

As you may know, I went out on a limb the day he was elected by saying that this would be a game changer – so I like to keep an eye on his dealings. 

Thank You For Your Prayers: a quick update

I just want to thank everyone who has been so supportive through a difficult period.   I appreciate the notes, emails, Facebook messages and voicemails. Knowing that I am prayed for is really encouraging.

Just a quick update:

– I made it through my final semester of course work. I was able to complete my big papers in Urban Education and Post-Modern Approach to Sociology (my self-designed directed study with Barry Taylor that gets me ready in one of my cognate fields).

– My wife’s health is better now. After the ruptured ovarian cyst and subsequent bladder infection – on top of continuing Lyme’s disease… it has been a doozy.

– It was good to go back East for Christmas and see my family. My mom’s health continues to deteriorate.

– The Loft has really taken off and my ‘partner pastor’ is back from his emergency paternity leave.

– My wife’s sister and brother-in-law (along with our nieces) have been living with us as they prepare to move to Thailand and the girls return to school (college here in LA). They all leave us this week.

– I am doing research design at UCLA one day a week. It is part of my PhD requirement to have a research language. I am studying qualitative and quantitative research design so that I can do my dissertation proposal next year.

I have said publicly that November and December 2012 were the worst two months of my life. I am glad to see them go.

Thanks again for the thoughts and prayers. They are more appreciated than you know!


Blog Note: Now that course work is over, I plan to do some more personal reflections here along with the theological ones that initiate on HomeBrewed. I often have smaller thoughts that don’t need to be the big productions that I post over there.

Looking forward to it!

trying to making sense of the miraculous

This is a re-post from a blog that I did at Homebrewed Christianity. I wanted to display here in preparation for a series of upcoming posts.  [ I have started putting posts with big words over there and more everyday stuff over here – it seems to be working]  Thank you all for your great feedback and thoughts!

In his book Process Theology: a basic introduction , C. Robert Mesle says:

“the miracle of birth” is a wise phrase, pointing us toward a healthy theology of miracles. Birth is not supernatural. It involves no intervention violating natural processes. We know a tremendous amount about reproduction and may one day be able to create life in laboratories. Yet for all that, we still feel, and speak of, the miracle of birth…
Miracles become problems when we think of them as demonstrating divine power to intervene in the world however God wishes. The problems are not merely scientific, but also theological and moral. Nothing challenges the goodness of God or the justice of the universe more than the stark randomness of such alleged “miracles”.

That is an interesting way to think about the subject, but I want to make an important distinction between supernatural and miraculous.  The Miraculous can be seen several ways – as something that surprises us, outside our expectations; as something that is amazing; like the miracle of birth, something that is statistically improbable , like landing a Airplane on the Hudson River; or religiously as something that only divine help could account for.

There are several reasons why I think that this topic is SO important:
I can not tell you how often someone says something about how God directed them to take a specific road or a route that avoided an accident.

  • Did god tell everyone and they just were not listening?
  • Did god only tell those whom love god?
  • Does god monitor all traffic patters and why would god be so concerned with getting you  home on time but so unconcerned with children being abused and people going hungry?

People often get defensive and say “In a worship service I saw/experienced  _____. Are you trying to tell me that did not happen?”  No. I absolutely believe you that it happened. What I am saying is that maybe the explanation provided in the worship service was not the whole story of why the phenomenon happened (people being slain in the spirit, etc).
I want to be clear about something: I believe in prophetic words. I have told people things that I could not have known in my own power – including twice that I have described pictures that hang in their homes, homes that I had never been to.
I absolutely believe that the Lord could ‘lead’ you to call someone who needs a call ‘at that exact moment”.

So keep that in mind when I say that we need to revisit our frameworks around the miraculous and we definitely need to abandon the whole ‘super’ natural worldview. It does not hold together under even the slightest examination in the 21st century. Continue reading “trying to making sense of the miraculous”

Pat Robertson makes me a better believer …

God told Pat Robertson who the next President of the United States will be.
You can watch it at Slate or read about in million other places.

Here is the thing: as much as people may want to make fun of the guy for being delusional I have to think that there may be something to be said for him.

If anyone follows my blogs either here or at Homebrewed Christianity then you know that I am a big proponent updating the faith. In fact, truth be told, I have written about it more than any other subject over the last 4 years.

I am especially interested in 3 updating things:

  • The way we read the Bible (hermeneutics)
  • The way we conceptualize the universe (cosmology)
  • The way we talk about miracles (metaphysics)

I have even gone so far lately as to publicly articulate why the miraculous is not super-natural and to research church history about eschatology (the end)… I have even shown concern about the evangelical icon Tebow [here].  All of that is to  say that I am not dabbling in this or being halfhearted… nor I am doing what so many that I know are and simply walking away from a faith that is not intellectually credible, scientifically accountable, or personally tenable. Continue reading “Pat Robertson makes me a better believer …”

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