Posts Tagged 'Doug Pagitt'

Losing My Religion

Last month I had the privilege of joining Callid Keefe-Perry, Jules Kennedy, and host Pastor Nar for the Losing My Religion podcast – outdoor edition!

We were at the beautiful campus of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC, at a truly singular event emceed by Steve Knight, communicant extraordinarine at Halogen: TransFORM – East Coast.

This conversation is like a small tasty morsel of the feast that was this ‘conference.’ I use air quotes because, truth be told, I didn’t attend too many of the actual sessions; raging ADD aside, there were just so many people I’ve known for years online, whom I was able to meet in-person for the first time. It was like a “family reunion in heaven” – people whom you’re simultaneously meeting for the first time, but whom you’ve also known forever. (I also had a great time with my Atlanta and Cobb Emergent Cohort peeps, and even a lovely Augusta representative – getting to see them is too long and far-between!) It was a rag-tag conglomeration of emergents and outlaw preachers and missionals and mainliners and meditators and Wild Goosers and Big Tent-makers and organics, all coming from every denomination (or lack thereof) under the sun – lots o’ variety in God’s great big family.

This event was very well-timed for me, personally. I’m at something of a crossroads, both vocationally (great developments, some of which I’ve already shared, as well as some scary-awesome challenges!) and health-wise (I really will get to posting about this in the near-term future); during large swaths of TransFORM I felt quite literally like I was going nuts. And yet the warmth and unconditional presence of the TransFORM folks carried with them the distinct aroma of Jesus. There was a palpable sense of Christ and his Kingdom throughout the weekend, on display in the kindness and dizzying diversity of those present – women and men; black, white, Latino and Asian; Quaker and Wesleyan, Pentecostal and Catholic, Baptist and Reformed.

TransFORM: The Event is but a subset of TransFORM: the Network – a collection of church-planting and pneumatic-community enthusiasts who color outside the lines. If this is you, you should connect with us. As I like to say, there’s more than meets the eye with TransFORM. (Cue groans)

Okay, without further ado, here is the free-flowing conversation, with gentle provocateur Pastor Nar at the helm!

And a little namesake R.E.M. – why not?

Finally – and most significantly – a TransFORM blog-post roundup (If I’m missing some – and I probably am – please put ’em in the comments section below; I’ll list ’em up here):

Adam Moore

Anthony Smith

Brandon Mouser

Callid Keefe-Perry

Chris Rosebrough (note: Chris, from Pirate Christian Radio & Fighting for the Faith, is not a fan. He’s more of a loyal critic, and drove all the way out from Indiana for the main purpose of critiquing. But we love him anyway!)

Darren Rowse (yes, the accliamed ProBlogger was with us via video link from Australia!)

Doug Pagitt

Drew Tatusko

Hugh Hollowell

Jonathan Brink

Joy Lynn- Schroeder

Julie Kennedy

Kathy Escobar

Liz Dyer

Lori Wilson – Part I and Part II (a very thorough recap of the actual sessions!)

Marcus Gibbs

Pete Rollins

Phil Wyman

Shawn Anthony

Sivin Kit (joining us via video from Malaysia!)

– Trans4m in the Twitterverse

Liiiiive from Minneapolis/Washington DC – It’s Doug Pagitt Radio!

During the TransFORM East Coast After-Pary, I was privileged to be an interview guest on Doug Pagitt‘s transplanted radio show – normally in Minneapolis on AM 950 KTNF, but broadcast from the President’s office at Wesley Theological Seminary. Doug was in town for TransFORM, as well as leading a JoPa social media bootcamp for pastors and nonprofit leaders.

Click the image below to be taken to our segment (Grrr…why can’t WordPress embed most video formats??):

Doug’s a great radio host, and we all had a good time that morning. If you don’t live in Minneapolis, catch Doug’s show on Sunday mornings on Ustream.

Postmodern Apologetics in a Post-Postmodern Time?

So yesterday a friend writes on my Facebook wall, “Mike, is there is place for post-modern apologetics in post-post-modern times? The issue has been weighing on me for some time now.”

And since my reply would probably be too long to write on his wall, I thought I’d share it here.

“Really? That’s what’s been keeping you up at night? I guess I’ve been thinking more about the national health care debate and whether or not Threadless is going to bring back my favorite t-shirt designs, but different strokes I guess.”

Pet RockBut seriously, that’s a good question. And honestly, the word ‘apologetics’ has rubbed me the wrong way since my undergrad days – it sounds very sterile, very militant, very…propositional. And we all know that for the certifiably postmodern, ‘proposition’ is a four-letter word. If you can ‘prove’ it, I don’t wanna believe it! Okay, but that said, I’m assuming you don’t mean ‘apologetics’ in a highly-concentrated form; you simply mean the credible and persuasive means through which we might gain a ‘proper confidence’ to embark on the life of faith – yes?

But probably, at least partially, you do mean ‘apologetics,’ and how the term fell out of favor when more ‘postmodern’ approaches to finding and sharing faith began to proliferate, and now you’re wondering if those approaches now stick out like a 1970s Pet Rock or 1990s Gigapet in the wake of What’s Come After Postmodernism, if indeed anything has. Giga Pet

So my first question to you (feel free to reply in the Comments) is, what do you mean by ‘postmodern apologetics’? I think of approaches outlined in Brian McLaren‘s Finding Faith or George Hunter‘s The Celtic Way of Evangelism or Doug Pagitt‘s Church Reimagined or Rick Richardson‘s Reimagining Evangelism (yes, one of the ‘Pet Rock’ elements of the pomo epoch might be the frequent employment of ‘reimagining’ everything. At least my wife seems to think so.) or Jim Henderson‘s Evangelism Without Additives or Spencer Burke‘s Making Sense of Church. In these books – and the lives and communities they seem to attest to – ‘apologetics’ is more like creating a sweet and savory aroma of the divine, inculcating a Godward hunger. It emphasizes a multi-layered approach, the power of narrative, the authority of the community of faith and of the subversive Holy Spirit, of belonging before believing, and of faith experiments to try and validate certain spiritual notions as true (or not) in the seeker’s own life. The postmodern approach sees the Gospel as a grace-filled, centered-set journey toward Jesus, not a bounded set who’s in/who’s out delineation based on saying the right prayers or believing the right things. And faith is seen as personal, but never private – having social, political, and ecological consequences as we learn to live well together in God’s good earth. Is this what you think of as pomo-apologetics?

Fire DancersMy second question is, if the postmodern turn is in some way over, what has come after it? I’m not convinced that the above is passé, though I will acknowledge some cultural shifts since those heady days of the 1990s when Christians began discussing things that rocked the art, architecture, and literary worlds of the 1970s. I think the pop cultural advent of the New Atheists phenomenon shows us that there might be a more resilient/resurgent strata of our population who rely on science, ‘pure reason,’ and reductive thinking than we thought – they’re not likely to make metaphysical leaps of faith based on such ‘squishy’ ethos like ‘belonging’ and ‘faith experiments.’ Secondly, our increasingly cozy global village and the collaboration/voyeurism engendered by social networking has shown us that a pure pluralism or pure relativism, as advocated by some postmodern purveyors, is untenable – even in the world of ideas. Some ideas – and some forms of faith – are simply healthier (better) than others. (It’s worth noting that neither of these phenomena are un-accountable for in pure postmodern philosophy, but they do grate against some of the ways the philosophy has trickled down into both pop culture and/or the ’emerging church’ conversation.)

In light of these shifts, I’ve heard two credible proposals for what might be Coming After Postmodernity. They are…

Critical Realism

I first encountered this term around 2001 when a guest professor was in a religion class trying to debunk open theism, claiming it was too ‘postmodern,’ that we needed critical realism or a post-postmodern take on reality. I wasn’t too convinced, as his version of critical realism seemed to strangely validate modern (or even pre-modern) epistemological ideas, and static Greek/rationalist ideas about God. Thankfully, though, his wasn’t the last I’d heard of critical realism – others, like Andrew Perriman, have made good use of critical realism in reconstructing a narrative shape to the Christian story from Scripture and history, proposing provocative ways we can live today in the wake of that story. I have seen Andrew and others faithfully live out a version of Wikipedia’s definition of critical realism as “The theory that some of our sense-data (for example, those of primary qualities) can and do accurately represent external objects, properties, and events, while other of our sense-data (for example, those of secondary qualities and perceptual illusions) do not accurately represent any external objects, properties, and events” – giving proper place to both objectivity and subjectivity in our spiritual journeys.

Integral Theory

The other major contender I’ve noticed for postmodernity’s usurper is Integral theory, most popularized by philosopher, map-maker and master synthesizer Ken Wilber. Integral theory is an attempt to make sense of commonly recognized stages of human development – biological development, cognitive development, moral development – as well as normal/extra-ordinary stages of spiritual development as recognized by everyone from Christians (like ‘sanctification’ – or purgation, illumination, union) to Zen practitioners (y’know, satori and enlightenment and all that jazz). The map-making can become almost freakishly dense until you get the hang of it, much to the ire of some right-brained people – there are Levels, Lines, Quadrants, States, and Stages – to name a few. This simplified diagram depicts how Integral-ness maps reality in a nutshell.

Integral Map

Two of the other important ideas in Integral theory are that everything is a Holon – a whole/part. So an atom is both its own entity, but is part of a molecule, which is its own entity and part of an organ, all the way up to humans, families, communities, nations, psychographic groupings, planets, solar systems, dimensions, the noosphere, etc…  The other major contribution of this line of thought is that integration implies that everything belongs. It’s not simply that a human being progresses from pre-conventional moral development to conventional or post-conventional development, but that we transcend and include each stage, integrating the best (and even the shadow-side) of each previous stage into ourselves. But it isn’t a ‘flat’ egalitarian values system – Holons form a ‘nested Holarchy’ wherein we’re moving somewhere. Integral Christianity is just now blossoming. There are growing ranks of integral Christian thinkers and practitioners, including John Sylvest, Corey deVos, Zach Lind, Carl McColman, Cynthia Bourgeault, Michael Dowd, Rich VincentBruce Sanguin and Chris Dierkes – but most certainly not including Stuart Davis. 🙂

Clear as mud?

To recap: You asked me: “Is there is place for post-modern apologetics in post-post-modern times?”

And I’m asking you:

  • What does ‘postmodern apologetics’ mean to you?
  • What, in your estimation, has displaced postmodernity? Is it critical realism? Integral theory? Something else?
  • And finally, what might a critical realist or integral approach to faith (and attracting others to a life of faith) look like?

Please – everyone weigh in, not just my one friend. I might do a follow-up post looking more at these questions.

Update: Andrew Jones has some oldie-but-relevant posts pertaining to the enigma of pomo apologetics, in his dialogue with Mr. Born Again himself – see a recap here.

PS: Do you Twitter? Let’s follow each other! I’m @zoecarnate

Watch the Church Basement Road Show – Complete!

In late July my friend Micah and I went out to the Raleigh stop of the Church Basement Road Show at New Community Church, featuring Mark Scandrette, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt. I wish I had blogged about it then, but I didn’t. But the saints at Disciples Fellowship in Birmingham have made their stop available in its entirety! I think everyone should watch this unconventional, fun, Christ-centered evening – especially some friends of mine who weren’t able to see it in person. 🙂

Church Basement Roadshow from Steve Knight on Vimeo. (Does anyone know how to embed Vimeo videos in WordPress? I’ve tried this a gazillion times and nada. Lemme know in the comments…)

When you’re done watching this, mosey over to Rethink Christianity, this great new site Jossey-Bass set up for readers and participants wrestling with the questions brought up by the Roadshow and its presenters.

Deeper, Safer, Richer: Emergence into Global Family

So my friend Wayne Jacobsen of The God Journey podcast (and co-publisher at Windblown Media, which you might’ve heard of ’cause of the runaway best-selling Trinitarian thriller The Shack) treated us with a visit yesterday, and Wayne is calling us to a fast from the ‘e-word’ in order to reach our truest ideals. Here’s what he said:

Mike, I think you missed my point in the questions I posed to you. There’s a difference, in my mind, between expressing your journey in ‘emerging ways’ and isolating that conversation as ‘Emergent.’ This term has moved way past describing emerging thinking on church life and has taken an identity as an organized group of people, identified spokespeople, and specific doctrine and agendas. Emergent is now a label that carries certain connotations and certainly some unfair accusations.

I don’t think you guys on the inside see that as clearly as folks do on the outside of it. It may not be what you wanted when you started this conversation, but what denomination ever began by a group of people trying to start one? I don’t think that’s evil, but unwittingly it creates an inside/outside environment and limits the conversation with others.My concern is with labels themselves. And you’re right, relational Christianity can just become another label, too, which is why I avoid using it when it takes on a life of its own. I just want my focus to be on Jesus, my fellowship to be broad among this incredibly diverse family, and to not help create or sustain movements that will over time just become another marginalized denomination to add to all the others.My hope is that some day we’ll just be a family, without needing to find any identity in labels. And we’ll get to have a deeper, richer conversation among the manifold expressions of church life that God gives breath to. My concern is only that labels limit that conversation rather than foster it. If you don’t believe me, just see how willing the ‘emergent folks’ would be to give up the term…Blessings, Bro! Always love your stuff and the freedom to crash hearts and heads without risking the friendship.With love,

Wayne

Wayne! Oh, I’m glad you saw my initial posts–I was going to alert you, but it’s been crazy moving around here (barely time to write the entries!). Thank you for taking the time to say all this; I think if anyone is, you’d be a helpful someone to offer some gentle corrective to ‘the conversation’ and how it inhabits or inhibits relationships in God’s ever-expanding kingdom.

Did I miss your point? Hmm. I may indeed have; I’m just not sure who you’re talking about. Besides maybe Tony Jones (happy 40th) or Doug Pagitt, can you name any Emergent Village folks? Most of ’em or rather low-key, and Tony & Doug are obnoxious in a good way. (did I just say that in print?) But point taken that emergent now carries a particular ‘taste’ in many people’s mouths, and not a very pleasant one among her most vocal critics.

You mention ’emergent’ as having an agenda, and I agree that there is one. The tragical irony of it all is that the agenda is fostering hospitable place for respectful dialogue regardless of differences, so that there is no ‘insider-outsider’ conception. And I’d say that this worked beautifully until around 2005 when Christian and mainstream media began taking notice, alerting people who didn’t want to converse and indeed thought that this theological hospitality was a dangerous thing. In recent years our ‘enemies’ have defined us too much, which might seriously jeopardize the value of the descriptor.

As to your concern with labels themselves–I’m with you almost all the way on that one. Have you ever read Wendell Berry’s essay In Distrust of Movements ? A great little piece; on distributed, incidentally, in 2004 I think by Brian McLaren when some people ceased referring to an emerging ‘conversation’ and started referring to it as a ‘movement.’ I think Mr. Berry’s points (and yours) are to be heeded.

And yet when you say “I just want my focus to be on Jesus,” I have a split reaction. In my heart of hearts I say “Oh yes, me too”–and mean it, just as you mean it (and live it out quite compellingly). But the other part of me is reminded of the first century situation in Corinth, where the “Just Jesus” folks were every bit as labeled and movemented as any of the other factions–maybe even more so because they were blinded to it by a false assurance that they were ‘just about Jesus’!

You know me, Wayne; I’ve been around the house church/simple church/relational Christianity/’outside the camp’ scene for 10 years now–several years longer than my reflecting on postmodernity’s interactions with faith, the mood and probing that gradually became known as ’emerging church.’ Well, in the outside-the-camp land, folks blast what they call “the institutional church” or “the IC” with aplomb–’cause they thank God they’re not that. While there are some lovely people in this stream that I call dear friends to this very day, I can’t help but see their desire to be “just about Jesus and the pristine simplicity of Scripture and divine revelation” as a modernist impulse to escape history and retreat to some kind of ‘objectivity’ that is above the messy situatedness and contingency of life. But there is no escape. I have green eyes and am 6-foot-2 and kinda overweight and I was born in Georgia. I like sci-fi and comic books and have a wonderful wife and little girl. Amid my journey into God I was Baptist then Pentecostal then Presbyterian. These days I’m way more permeable spiritually but I can still accurately describe myself as practicing apprenticeship to Jesus in a house church community context, asking questions of God, friends and reality along similar lines as those involved in a conversation we see as indicative of a kind of emergence occurring on a global scale. Try as I might seek to transcend the particulars of my life, I cannot. We are all contextual people, historically situated in a particular time and place, with proclivities that can indeed be summed up from time to time. It grates on enlightenment Western individualism, but I’m not all that original. And so sociologists can sum us up, Wayne—you and me both. We may as well enjoy it.

But I agree with your heart, brother, that we as friends and followers of the risen Jesus shouldn’t seek to sum up or size up, ever. Why eat from the Tree of Judgement (aka ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’) when you can dine on life itself? I yearn to be more like a family with this great conglomeration we call the cosmos. I want deeper, richer, safer conversation—and not just conversation, dammit, but bold new creative, loving action! So if we need to be (I cannot help but snicker as I write this) post-emergent in order to evolve into this, then so be it.

So let me take you up on your challenge, Wayne: No “e-word” for the next 30 days on this here blog (my own commented replies to this post notwithstanding). Last time I checked I don’t have a green “e” tattooed on my forehead, and I’d be quite fine forgoing it as a source of identity and comfort. Let’s see if the fast will last!


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    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
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    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
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