My Response to Andy Campbell

I’ve responded to Andy Campbell’s review of my book:

Objectivity in the social sciences is a unicorn. It never existed. Just ask Christian Smith, who after years of researching his fellow evangelicals converted to Catholicism. Anyone who does research is affected by that research. And, if they’re paying attention, the object of the research is similarly affected. I pray that evangelicals read Smith’s books and are chastened, and that people in the Vineyard will closely read T.M. Luhrmann’s masterful new book, When God Talks Back.

via Jones’ Response to Campbell : the church and postmodern culture.

The Fatal Flaw of Process Theology

Scott Paeth says it more succinctly that I have:

If God is within the univere or an emergent quality of the univere, then God is contingent as the universe is contingent. Yet, a contingent God is no God at all, for that God is not free of the limitations and constraints of the universe of which he is a part. Rather, God becomes a being among beings. This is the central flaw in process theology, as attractive as it may be on many other fronts. Unless the nature of God is that of a being free from the constraints of the universe, there is no way of conceiving of God salvifically, since God is ultimate bound to contingency with all other beings. Such a God is in fact less than the universe itself, since God is limited by the possibilities of the universe. This might be a good description of Galactus, but doesn’t do justice to the vision of God embraced within most theistic accounts. This is, in an old phrase, a God who is too small. (via Against the Stream: Creatio Ex Nihilo)

This is exactly the issue that I’m wrestling with in my forthcoming book, Why Pray?: Avoiding a God that is impotent on the one hand and contingent on the other hand, for neither is a classical (or biblical) conception of God.

Is Tony Too Close To His Data Set?

Chad Lakies’s review of my book, The Church Is Flat, is up at The Other Journal. He’s generally positive, though gently critical of my research. Here’s the critical part:

I appreciate Jones’ offering in The Church is Flat. To my knowledge it is the first serious academic treatment of the ECM to come from within the movement. More are surely needed. As I mentioned above, Jones employs a phenomenological methodology in an attempt to mitigate his close proximity to his subject. I’m not convinced that he was altogether successful in “bracketing off” his biases in his assessment of the data he collected. I wonder how successful Jones feels he was in his attempt, as he reflects back on the experience?

Regarding his explication of the data he collected in his interviews, surveys, and focus groups, one can’t help but notice the high number of anecdotes Jones uses from Solomon’s Porch and Journey. These two churches, more than any of the others, seem to provide most of the illustrative fodder for the practices outlined in the book. Yet proportionally, these churches account for only 7% of his data set. If the other six churches also engage in the distilled practices mentioned above, why the heavy reliance upon examples from just these two?

There is little mention of ecclesial practices outside of a church’s regular weekend gathering. Almost all of Jones’ attention is paid to what happens within the confines of the church’s gathered corporate life. I’d be interested to know more about what life for an ECM community member is like between Sundays. While Jones makes mention of some higher level conversations that occur between churches and with other religious groups, one does not get a clear picture of how the regular, daily life of an ECM participant is changed by their involvement in their church. Perhaps the brevity of his visits to the eight churches didn’t allow for observation of activities outside the weekly corporate gathering?

Finally, it is interesting to note that if Jones were to undertake a similar survey today using the same four criteria outlined above, only one church would likely appear again: Jones’ own Solomon’s Porch. Both Vintage Faith and Pathways Church would not qualify, each having dissociated itself with the ECM, and the other five (Cedar Ridge, Jacob’s Well, House of Mercy, Journey, and Church of the Apostles) have all undergone significant leadership changes. In the end, I was left feeling that the book has more to teach the reader about Solomon’s Porch’s ecclesiology than about a broader ECM ecclesiology.

Read the positive part: Forest, Grove, or Tree? Predilection and Proximity in Jones’ The Church is Flat : the church and postmodern culture.

My response to Chad will go live tomorrow.

Richard Mouw to Retire from Fuller Seminary

I can’t find it on the Fuller website yet, but here’s the announcement that was emailed to alumni last evening:

I have the highest respect for Rich Mouw, and a deep love for Fuller. This will be a tricky search process, however, since Fuller occupies a precarious spot on the Protestant landscape: centrist evangelical. It’s a bit like being a political independent these days — you’re a person without a party.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X