The Church Is Dripping with Culture

My response to Jason Clark’s review of my book is up at Church and Pomo:

If I may put a finer point on it, the question is this: Is there a normative (biblical?) ecclesiology that is timeless, to which every congregation must aspire? Or is ecclesiology necessarily shaped by the culture that inevitably envelops every congregation?

I unequivocally say no to the former and yes the latter.

I am most interested, as I wrote above, in theologies that are grounded. My criticism of Jürgen Moltmann is that he is too idealistic, too naïve—and he’s exponentially more grounded than Milbank, Hauerwas, and the other ecclesiologists on the scene today. To develop an ideal ecclesiology—an image of the perfect, eschatological church—doesn’t do anybody any good because it’s pure hypothesis. It merely establishes a aspiration of which every congregation in the real world will fall short.

Every congregation is dripping with culture. It comes into the sanctuary in the clothes that congregants wear, in the music they were listening to in their cars on the way to church, and on their phones as they check Facebook during the introit. A realistic ecclesiology will acknowledge culture; it will recognize that parishioners talk about their experience of the numinous using cultural idioms, not second-order theological discourse.

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

Gay Christian College Students Exist

Richard Flory has the evidence, but he wonders why they don’t transfer:

Richard Flory

What strikes me most about [Biola Queer Underground] and its counterparts at other evangelical colleges is that its members are not only committed to evangelical Christianity but also to the institutions that systematically marginalize them. From my perspective, it would be much easier (and perhaps much more healthy) to leave and find a more accepting place, perhaps even chuck the evangelical belief system altogether. Yet, as members of BQU suggest on the group’s website, a confluence of factors works to keep them at the school: They grew up in a conservative atmosphere and it is comfortable for them; their parents would only pay for a Christian college education; they only realized through their time at college that their identity was LGBT. In short, these young people want to be evangelicals, but they also want to be accepted for who they are.

That’s not an unreasonable aspiration. Recent opinion polls suggest that the younger generation of evangelicals is more accepting of homosexuality than older generations (39 percent of evangelicals 18-29 believe homosexuality should be accepted in society, compared to less than a quarter of evangelicals 34 and older). There are likely many explanations for this change, not the least of which is increasingly positive media representations of LGBTQ people. Because of that openness, younger people in general actually seem to know (and often become good friends with) a more diverse range of people, including LGBTs.

Read the rest: USC Knight Chair in Media and Religion.

Ten Missional Myths

A couple weeks ago, Steve Knight took notes during a talk I gave at the Funding the Missional Church conference, and he’s posted them on his new Patheos blog, Missional Shift. Here are the first 5; click thru to Steve’s blog to see the rest, plus my theological reflections on “missional.”

10. Missional is trying to put the conventional church out of business — Not so, says Dr. Jones.

9. Missional is anti-denominational — Many of us were surprised to hear Tony say this, but he clarified his personal position: “I am anti-denominational, for theological reasons.” But what Tony thinks is not what typifies all of the missional church, thank God! (grin)

8. Missional is a new way to “do church” — “Missional is a thorough-going theological re-evaluation, a thorough-going rethinking of church, what it means to be a disciple of Christ. … Everything should be re-thought in view of missional church.”

7. Missional has a spokesperson — Tony affirmed the broad spectrum of theological voices in the missional church conversation, which is the philosophy of this blog, as well.

6. Missional doesn’t appreciate church history — “Missional is more of a pastiche, a mosaic, a re-appropriation of church history in a different kind of fashion.”

Read the rest: 10 Myths About the Missional Church.

Debating Creatio Ex Nihilo

In response to my quote bomb, Tripp has bombed me back with a very good post debating the merits of the traditional doctrine of creatio ex nihilo — that is, the belief that God created the cosmos out of no pre-existent material. That God created everything that is out of nothing but Godself.

I agree that there are some problems with creatio ex nihilo, and I’ll be exploring them with my DMin cohort next month (as we canoe in the BWCAW – jealous?). For now, I encourage you to read Tripp’s post, and let me know if you agree with him that creatio ex nihilo is problematic.

Creation Out of Nothing isn’t Biblical, as in it isn’t in the Bible. If you read through the Bible you will not find the affirmation that God created the world out of nothing. It’s just not in there. In fact, even Biblical scholars who in the end want to affirm the doctrine for theological reasons will not point to the idea being present in the Bible. Just re-read Genesis 1 and ask yourself ‘where did the darkness and waters come from?’ They weren’t created but were there when God began to create.

Read the rest of Tripp’s objections: Creation Out of Nothing is Overrated (For Tony Jones).