Open Thread: Suggested Topics for 2013


2012 marked the launch of the Questions That Haunt Christianity series, which has seen great participation in the comments by scores of you. That has challenged me as a theologian on a weekly basis. I both look forward to and dread Friday mornings, when I sit down to compose a 1,000-word response to these tricky and perennial questions. You can nominate new questions via my website.

Also, with the help of my editor Deb Arca, I launched the #progGOD Challenge, in which progressive theobloggers say something substantive about God. So far, we’ve hosted Who Is God? and Why an Incarnation? (Both are still open to submissions.) The next challenge will launch on Ash Wednesday.

As I look forward to 2013, I’m going to release a revised and updated version of A Better Atonement (also on Ash Wednesday), complete my next full-length book, Why Pray?, and write an ebook on communion.

I’m wondering what you’d like to read and discuss here at Theoblogy. More about spirituality? Less about politics? Silly videos that make Christians look dumb (just kidding — that blog genre is already overloaded). Drop a comment below and take part in shaping the conversation that we’ll have in 2013.

And thanks.

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  • pgregory

    Love the blog! I really benefit from reading the “Questions that Haunt” series. I do enjoy book reviews.

  • John Ericson

    I’m interested in how the church reaches out to and partners with a culture that increasingly regards the church negatively or at best as irrelevant.

    • Yes, this!

      And I might add, how do we do this without alienating the old-timers, many of whom want to keep things as they are?

  • Joe

    Thanks for everything you do on the blog, Tony. It’s always a pleasure to read, and the few times I’ve joined into the conversation have been pleasnt experiences as well.

    For what it’s worth, I like the blog best when you write as an ecclesiologist. I appreciate your work as a theologian and a cultural critic. I agree with proboably about half of what you have to say, but I always appreciate the aproach. But the bottom line is, I can get progressive theology anywhere. Theological agrument for gay marriage and a dime a dozen. But your voice is most uniquie and refreshing when you talk about seminaries, ordination, denominational structures and other church practices, and how they engerder various forms of spirituality. If I were you, I would capitalize on that in 2013.

  • Travis

    I want to echo Joe’s comment. I think some of the most interesting topics discussed on this blog involve how the church moves forward. I would love to see a series on theological education. This is selfish since I am seeking a Masters degree, but I feel that the theological education system is in dire need of a revamp. Perhaps, a #prodGod Challenge for theological education?

  • Tony, hope you and your family had a great Christmas. Same goes for the gang here. Merry Christmas everyone!

    The topics on Theoblogy have so far been excellent. Great discussions. Very thought-provoking.

    Much (if not most) of what you write is purely academic. And that appeals to me very much, so that’s not a criticism at all.

    But what I’d like to see in 2013 is perhaps more “practical theology/philosophy.” In other words, “doing” faith on the outside (practical application) rather than just how it is perceived/believed on the inside (intellectual stimulation).

    There’s much in “new Christian movements” that’s very contemplative and which espouses fresh theological and ethical thinking. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, and is in fact very important. But I’ve personally discovered a great deal lacking in such movements, not only because they don’t seem to adequately translate their fresh thinking into compelling real-world action, but also largely because there’s no inspiring new Vision to which such action would be attached.

    There are many “progressive” movements out there. But I find little in them (yet) that is genuinely transformative.

    So yeah. More posts on practical theology and transformative Vision would be nice.

  • Tony, I always appreciate your thoughts on things.

    I feel like “emergent” – or whatever word is being thrown around now – is becoming a sort of transitional place for many atheist/agnostic types (the “nones”). A safe space for people to question and doubt, but still find some sense of community that we don’t really get from many other places. Whether it’s to help someone leave the church or even be brought into a different kind of Christian community.

    I’ve found a few people locally (Raleigh, NC) who are interested in this kind of thing (if you know anyone around here, send em my way!), but I’ve been confused as to why there isn’t more of an effort being made by progressive type Christians for this. There are, obviously, tons of churches, but not anything going on – that I’m aware of – that is a space/time/place for open dialogue around spiritual/theological topics.

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this and related topics (doubt, skepticism, atheism, agnosticism, etc.).

  • I have found over the blog a lack of spiritual work- did not say none, just a lack. I would like to hear more spiritual.

  • Like many here, I’d like to see more of some topics I’ve seen in the past.

    – can there even be a Christian Church in 15 more years of this mess? If so, what will it be like and how can we get on board?

    – the sacredness of all areas of life.

    – friendship and conversation

    Also, the following are just a personal prefs, ive no idea if they’re topics you and your majority readers would be into, but I’d like to see and read about…

    – science and faith

    – art!

    I’ve read and enjoyed your blog for years. I appreciate and benefit from what I know is a titanic labor of love from you.

  • Craig

    Beyond interaction with progressive ideas generally and the proper abuse of bad religious trends and traditions, I’d like to see two things.

    First, I’d like to see regular posts that introduce good theologians and their best ideas. The challenge would be to identify and to concisely present discrete theological ideas for discussion.

    Second, I’d like to see more deliberate, first-personal inquiry into what it is that keeps you, Tony
    Jones, committed to God and to distinctively Christian beliefs. I’d like to see ongoing
    attempts to clarify and to scrutinize your reasons for staying religious. One effective way to do
    this might be to try to drop, for a season, whatever remains of your religious faith. You could
    then simply blog about the experience–whatever comes to mind, perhaps trying to describe what
    it is that you find missing, along with the new sorts of things that come to “haunt” you as an
    earnest nonbeliever. Even if you come to find that this project, or an aspect of it, is
    impossible, it might be an interesting to discover why (and you might still try to role-play a non-believer to whatever extent this is possible).

    • Craig

      Sorry about the formatting.

  • I don’t know if this is a “question that haunts” per se, but I think the question of sin is one that needs to be reexamined today.

    * What is sin?
    * How does the Bible talk about sin?
    * Is sin just a matter of not breaking God’s commandments?
    * Is sin a symptom of brokenness (something we diagnose as sin after the fact) or is sin an action that we can preemptively avoid (some non-righteous action that we avoid doing)?

    I recently read Mark Biddle’s Missing The Mark and Gary Anderson’s Sin: A History (yeah, I’m an MDiv) and both of them suggest that we have to thin or too narrow a view of sin. And I think they’re right.

    If Jesus, the atonement, salvation, the Kingdom of God, etc. are part of God’s solution to the problems that plague our world, it’s right that we should study them, but we should also try to get a better grasp of what the problem (sin) actually is.

    Reminds me of the story in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where they find that the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42. And then they need to go back and figure out what the question actually is. If Jesus is the answer to the problem of sin, then what’s the problem again?

  • Mary

    Hi Tony… thanks for your work and the question
    I’d like to see steps to the other side of the emergent/ evangelical conundrum; to the higher, better thing. By pointing out how it is done wrong, we just end up with separation (like our many denominations). What do we right, no matter what label we wear? How do we begin to build that?

  • JimA

    I have two topics I’d like to hear discussed:
    1. How is that followers of the Jew Jesus wind up with a memorial (communion) that emulates the act of consuming blood and human(?) flesh, both unthinkable to an observant Jew?
    2. How does one actually go about loving an enemy?
    I can offer an opinion on both after wrestling with both for a long time, but would like to know if I’m the only one that has struggled with these. Oh yes, my tradition(s) helped me with neither.

  • JimA

    I want to add a PS to my previous post. I hear that last sentence echoing in my head, and it is wrong. My traditions as practiced in community in the day to day were not in fact particularly helpful. And yet, those very traditions gave me roots and fertile soil in which to grow a living, personal faith that includes (for me) a need to deal with many of those irritating questions and contradictions. Despite the fact that there was little to no substantive discussion of many such things in those church community settings – I still found something of the essence of the Way of Christ (as I understand it) that took form and continues to evolve over time with a shape and integrity I can live with.

  • T.S.Gay

    -Please touch on “spiritual awakening”
    -multi-voiced worship
    -the Christian virtues
    -exclusivism,inclusivism, universalism

  • Cathy Mia Kolwey

    I would love to see a discussion about why progressive/liberal/moderate Christians refuse to acknowledge/accept any sort of incarnational/mystical/pentecostal faith expressions as valid or meaningful.

  • Ken B.

    I’m interested in the topic of secularization and Christianity. Tony has posted on belief/disbelief in demons. What other ways does secularization shape or influence Mainline, evangelical, and emergent expressions of Christianity?

    Here’s an extended quote from Roger Olson’s post on the topic:

    “This is one area where I agree with fellow evangelical Wayne Grudem (many of whose other opinions I disagree with very strongly). Wayne has written about the demise of prophecy in Christianity and how important it is to recover that gift. And by “prophecy” he doesn’t mean what most evangelicals mean by it—good preaching. Another more conservative evangelical (than I am) theologian who has advocated a renaissance of non-secular Christianity among evangelicals is J. P. Moreland, author of, among other books, Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan, 2007). I once served on a panel with him and Greg Boyd at a National Pastors Conference. They both reminded me just how secularized I have become, along with most other evangelicals. Moreland talked very openly and publicly about angels who attend him. Boyd, of course, talked about spiritual warfare. Many in the audience, made up mostly of pastors associated in some way with evangelical emergent churches, looked very skeptical. (I was sitting with Boyd and Moreland on the platform [this was not in a church!] and examined the facial expressions and body language of the audience members I could see.)”

    “I’m not advocating seeing angels or practicing spiritual warfare or renewing prophecy so much as I am simply pointing out how far we American evangelicals have moved in terms of absorbing a secular outlook on life. Evidence, as I see it, is not so much that we don’t do those things as that we are skeptical about them in a kind of knee-jerk fashion. (I wrote in my previous post about the dwindling of church meetings for fellowship and worship and other symptoms of creeping secularization.)”