Wheaton Is Getting Desparate

At least that’s the only way I can explain my invitation to be a keynote presenter at this year’s Wheaton Theology Conference. I mean, past presenters have been giants in the field of theology, and I’m merely a Ph.D. student who will (someday) write a dissertation and get the damn degree. Even the folks doing the seminars have twice as many letters after their names as I do. I am clearly out of my league.

But, I found a loophole in one of the emails from the conference coordinators. They ask that our presentations be relevant to theologians, pastors, and college students! So, clearly, I’m the guy to speak to the lattermost crowd.

But seriously, I’m deeply honored and very much looking forward to it. I’m not much of one to present a “paper” at an event like this, but I did follow the rules enough to turn in an abstract today. Here it is:

“Whence Hermeneutic Authority?”
Tony Jones, National Coordinator of Emergent Village

Abstract

Tipp O’Neill famously quipped that “All politics are local.” Maybe so, but the postmodernists have argued that all hermeneutics are local. It is our local communities that shape how we see the world, and—as Christians—our ecclesial communities that shape how we interact with the texts of scripture. Stanley Fish calls them “authoritative interpretative communities;” we call them “church.” But in what way does the grand tradition of church history interact with our local iterations of the faith? Does Chalcedon trump Minneapolis? The emerging church movement offers some insight into how coming generations will navigate this relationship between old and new, for in an age of micronarratives, Vincent of Lerins’s exhortation that orthodoxy must “hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all” rings somewhat hollow. Or, maybe, orthodoxy has always been fluid, dynamic, open source…

  • Anonymous

    Tony,Ummm … “Whence”? Stop trying to sound so academicological!Sincerely,Steve K.

  • brandon

    Tony,I met you last year in West Des Moines, IA. At the time, I was working for an old friend of yours from MN. Now I am a grad student at Wheaton, studying Christian history. My interest in Emergent and passion for the Church’s future has led me to study her past. I was absolutely thrilled to see that you were on the roster of a conference where it seems that both will be discussed. I’ll be praying for you as you prepare. God bless you and see you in a month.Peace,brandon mick

  • Zach

    It sounds like a great conversation. I think Wheaton may recognize what many are starting to see…especially through Emergent. That is…theology is not the property of the academy, but is most connected to the truth when on the ground in the public discourse of everyday community.You’ll nail that, letters after your name or not.Peace

  • courtney

    Hmm . . . perhaps I’ve found a new name for Journey—I’ll no longer refer to it as my faith community, but my “authoritative interpretative community”. Except maybe not authoritative. Hmmm . . .I dug the “whence”. And I am totally unacademic. It just makes me laugh to picture you saying it.

  • Ken Archer

    I very much like the theme of authority that you have focused on. As you know these discussions often feel like people talking past each other, but I’ve found that the question “Where is hermeneutic authority?” is one that must and can be answered by all sides and provides a ground to actually learn from each other’s positions instead of talking past each other. My own answer to the question seems different than “Tradition” or “local communities” (not to simplify your thesis). I think hermeneutic authority is ultimately with the individual mind – whether a statement resonates as true to one’s experience of reality or not – with the caveats that one’s experiences are obviously local experiences and the clearest statements of general human experiences we all share (the human condition) are made by the great thinkers of the tradition.

  • Ken

    Perhaps there is no hermaneutic authority. Perhaps the language of authority has little place in human hands. Matthew has the Pharisees worry about authority and the crowds filled with wonder over Jesus authority. If there was one particular point of authority within humanity, wouldn’t that end our conversation? Would that diminish our interdependence on God and one another.”Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. (Matthew 21:23-27)But I have spoke of things too wonderful for me to know…

  • Anonymous

    So honestly.Aren’t you emergent folk at least a LITTLE pissed of about the following…The Megachurches are now takin all your ideas, dumbing them down a bit and packaging it for mass consumption…and done better and more effectively & with more cash.Example: Emergent folks with no churches, but an internet connection have been talking about social justice, Africa, etc. but NOBODY did jack becuause they didn’t have the resources or the influence. Enter Rick Warren (Nemesis of many Emergent folks) and HE gets it done, starts talking about it, sets up P.E.A.C.E.Blogging. This year, it seems that all the megachurch pastors have started blogging. Examples http://www.perrynoble.com/http://swerve.lifechurch.tv/Hell, even Mr. Publicity/Marketing whore Ed Young is blogging. THE MEGACHURCHES HAVE TAKEN ALL YOU R TOOLS, DUDE! And guess what- they have packaged them better, marketed them better, and people are buying it.Sorta reminds me of Nashville. All the broke songwriters that are writing the music from their soul don’t get jack. It’s only once the song gets sung by Tim McGraw & packaged by the record company that everybody hears the song & starts to sing it. And guess whose song it ends up being…Emergents=SongwritersMegachurch Pastors=Tim McGrawThat sucks dude. Better start dressing like Ed Young

  • bigmack

    tony,first things first, i am way over my head in this discussion! (i had to look up hermeneutic)i am definately not an hermeneutician, nor a hermeneuticist, i know little about traditions and narratives local or global, so my only question is doesn’t it really come down to truth? Not yours, not mine, but God’s. Where do we find that? How do we know it when it is staring us in the face? Can it really be something that gains it’s authority in the local? I would agree it is lived out in the local. Laughed, sweated, bled for, embarased and ignored in the local but not given it’s authority there. It seems to me that unless it is like the north star, something that all localities, at all time, can point to and gain truth for the relationships they are called in and out of then it devolves from an ‘ology’, something that can be studied objectively, to a what’s your preference today chicago?i hope i haven’t screwed things up by being too simplistic, but when you blog, sometimes you get good posts and sometimes …..bill

  • Andy Patterson

    Jones quipped, “At least that’s the only way I can explain my invitation to be a keynote presenter at this year’s Wheaton Theology Conference. I mean, past presenters have been giants in the field of theology, and I’m merely a Ph.D. student who will (someday) write a dissertation and get the damn degree. Even the folks doing the seminars have twice as many letters after their names as I do”Pride comes before the fall…

  • Mary M.

    anonymous said,”Emergent folks with no churches, but an internet connection have been talking about social justice, Africa, etc”As if Emergent (whatever the hell that means) came up with the idea of ‘social justivce’?!?!!? Hasn’t this been a foundational element of Christianity since its inception? At least since the reformation and Ignatius (of Loyola)Mary

  • Chris in Waco

    To anynomous:One of the values that often comes up within Emergent conversations is authenticity (which at their/our best is a far off goal – us being human) and faithfulness. Emergent, at its most authentic and faithful cares little for marketing (although there are failure here), and even less if others use “the tools.” Faithfulness is key, pomp and circumstance is for others. Faithfulness does not care for money. It simply lives. If form is stolen without the deeper function, it cannot be said that churches (mega/otherwise) who use the forms of Emergent are doing the same thing. If the function is different, then they will not draw the same people that small, open-community, face-to-face ministry draw. That is simply the use of secular business models to drive a church that MAY (not neccesarily) reflect the isolationist life that is me-centerd, and judges faithfulness by “success and failures” (i.e. bigger, better, more = the kingdom).Emergent (at its best) proclaims something different. Small, dirty,self-giving communal life that are willing to be faithful and ultimatly incomparable to the grandeur of the larger church. But Paul says something about the glory of God displayed in Jesus on the cross is categoricaly different from the glory of rulers of this world have in mind.Let the megachurch do what they will as long as people come to Christ. If they do it out of open hearts and desires to love as Christ loved, that is amazing. If they do it to take from smaller churches, so what as long as Christ is preached.May we all be radical failures like the crucified God.

  • Janet

    Chris in Wacko wrote,”May we all be radical failures like the crucified God”What is this supposed to mean, anyway? Please say more about this. Tony,I’m not sure why you are surprised to be invited to Wheaton. Wheaton is a Jr. Varisty ‘theological’ school anyway. They arn’t really a part of academia, they are more a church school like Bethel, Gordon, Biola, Fuller, Westmont, APU, Seattle Pac, etc. – you know, all those conservative christian protestant evangelical “i love jesus” schools….enjoy the confessional church theology conference…(sarcasm)

  • Chris in Waco

    In responce to your question: I will first say that my statements are in responce to certain points made earlier about the “succesfulness” of certain churches that have adopted so-called “emergent tools” (read forms – liturgy, service, ambiance) and “market them better” and are therefore “more succesful.” That is the context I was writing in. I believe the kingdom of God has a radically different ethic and moral guidline. I believe, unless I have missed Christ’s and Paul’s understanding of our faith, that our judgement of successes are not about numbers, or marketing, or strategy – but about measuring success as being faithful to those differnt values of Christ. Christ’s was faithful to death, and not only death but a political revolutionaries death on a cross (see the citation of his crime above his head – King of the Jews). A death of humiliation is the high point of faithfulness in Christ’s life. So when me measure success by numbers, dollars collected, or simply in “baptisms” (over against maybe one person who begins to follow Christ and is a disciple for life, but can’t be measured) we miss the math of the kingdom. To those who measure “success” in numbers, dollars, etc. then the total commitment like death on a cross, or a congregation who has only 25 memebers, or a church that barely eeks by financialy (even though all of its memebers tithe heavily)is failure. Christ on the cross, the crucified God, shows us that faithfulness not packed auditoriums is success (this is not to say that packed auditoriums are negative, I dont believe they are – these statements can be said to be about the math of the kingdom, which is different from the business world).

  • Chris in Waco

    On a side note:Please read Jurgen Moltmann’s “The Crucified God.” Hardly the traditional “I love Jesus” person. I think Tony would agree with the recomendation.P.S. Ridicule is far from the ecumenical ethos that this site would seek to engender.

  • Janet

    Chris in Wacko wrote,”I will first say that my statements are in responce to certain points made earlier about the “succesfulness” of certain churches that have adopted so-called “emergent tools” (read forms – liturgy, service, ambiance) and “market them better” and are therefore “more succesful.” That is the context I was writing in.I believe the kingdom of God has a radically different ethic and moral guidline. I believe, unless I have missed Christ’s and Paul’s understanding of our faith, that our judgement of successes are not about numbers, or marketing, or strategy – but about measuring success as being faithful to those differnt values of Christ. Christ’s was faithful to death, and not only death but a political revolutionaries death on a cross (see the citation of his crime above his head – King of the Jews). A death of humiliation is the high point of faithfulness in Christ’s life. So when me measure success by numbers, dollars collected, or simply in “baptisms” (over against maybe one person who begins to follow Christ and is a disciple for life, but can’t be measured) we miss the math of the kingdom. To those who measure “success” in numbers, dollars, etc. then the total commitment like death on a cross, or a congregation who has only 25 memebers, or a church that barely eeks by financialy (even though all of its memebers tithe heavily)is failure. Christ on the cross, the crucified God, shows us that faithfulness not packed auditoriums is success (this is not to say that packed auditoriums are negative, I dont believe they are – these statements can be said to be about the math of the kingdom, which is different from the business world).”I’m even more lost than before. Can anyone else out there tell me what this guy is blathering about? First, he makes a cryptic pseudo-intellectual statement, then he follows it with a slurry of nonesense even less profound than the originial quip. Yes, I’ve read Moltmann. Again, please explain his relevance. You juste tell me to read him, but you forgot to say why, and how that is important to support your original statement. Even that guy above, Brandon from Wheaton, can understand this – and he goes to the, what you call, “i love jesus” school.—Chris also wrote, “P.S. Ridicule is far from the ecumenical ethos that this site would seek to engender.”Again, I’m at a loss of words and have no idea what this is supposed to mean or refer to. Please say more about this.

  • Anonymous

    Methinks some posters in these comments should get their own blogs. This is a comment section, not a theological dissertation section.

  • Anonymous

    “Moltman is bigger than the Beatles right now.”-Tony Jones


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