See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

Actually, listen to me. If you haven’t gotten enough of me this week, I’ve taken over the Homebrewed Christianity Network.

I guest co-hosted The Homebrewed Podcast at Subverting the Norm 2.

I was interviewed about my experience at that conference by Christian and Jordan on the Homebrewed Culturecast.

PS: The headline of this post feels very Slacktivist, doesn’t it?

Can Postmodern Theology Live in Our Churches? #STN2

That is the overarching question at Subverting the Norm 2, a conference that I’m attending this weekend in Springfield, Missouri. Honestly, not many people addressed the question yesterday, at least not in the sessions I attended. So far this morning, the presenters have pivoted to talking about it.

Last night, I responded to John Caputo‘s plenary address. Some here accused me of failing to actually respond to Caputo, others have wondered if I made a Derridian move, and still others have thanked me for speaking plainly and forthrightly. Some requested that I post my response, so I will do so here. But before that, some prolegomena:

First, Caputo is the rock star of this conference. Several people here are his former PhD students, and many are his acolytes. I, too, am a big fan of Caputo — I think his Weakness of God is a brilliant text — and I had no desire to present a deep critique of his work in this context.

Second, due to no fault of his own, Caputo did not provide me with his manuscript in advance. In academic conferences, respondents are usually able to see the paper in advance so as to write a prepared response.

Third, Caputo is a philosopher of the first order. I am not. I’m a (practical) theologian, well-versed in postmodern philosophy, to be sure, but not at the level of going nose-to-nose with someone of Jack’s caliber. To do so would have been stupid of me and disrespectful of Caputo.

For all of these reasons, to attempt an on-the-fly response to Caputo would have been nigh on suicidal — or at least would have held the potential for a massive trainwreck. So, instead, I composed 13 points of challenge and exhortation for those in the crowd — particularly clergy — who are really trying to answer the question, “Can postmodern theology live in our churches?” Some of these points I prepared before Jack’s talk, and some are a direct result of and response to it:

[Read more...]

The Fuller Seminary of Malaysia

I’ve given three lectures so far in Malaysia. The first was on ministry uses of social media for Alpha Omega College in Kuala Lumpur. It was a great crowd. After my presentation, there was a time for questions. The first question was:

We have been told that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg work for the CIA. Is this true?

I almost made a “Culinary Institute of America” joke, but figured that would fall flat. I assured the nice woman that, no, I highly doubt that Facebook is a front for the CIA. The questions went on from there. Interesting.

Your Favorite Blogger with Dr. Joseph Komar

Then, yesterday, I gave two lectures at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia – known here at STM — one on the emerging church movement and one on emerging spiritualities. It was great fun and involved some excellent repartee with students and professors. I’m especially grateful to my host, Dr. Joseph Komar. STM started as an Anglican school, but it’s now also populated with students and profs who are Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, and free church. It very much reminded me of my alma mater and part-time employer, Fuller Theological Seminary.

It continues to amaze me as I travel abroad about how much people know about the American church in general and the emerging church specifically. DA Carson, for instance, is a regular visitor here, brought by the small yet fervent group of Reformed pastors. Students at STM were well-versed in the work of Tim Keller and the split between Mark Driscoll and Emergent Village.

One of the first things I’ve done in each of my talks is ask forgiveness for the imperialistic ways that the American church has previously carried out missionary work. I’ve asked them to teach me about how the characteristics of emergence might play out — or not work — in a Malaysian context.

But it remains somewhat awkward. There is a general Asian deference that is cultural — my hosts all insist on calling me “Doctor” or “Dr. Tony,” even when I ask them not to. And I’m more interested in discussing ideas and theological perspectives than I am at parsing the differences in American celebrity Christians.

But these things go as they will. Here there are two major similarities the the American church, albeit modified in the Malaysian context. One is that the mainline churches are on the decline and struggling to retain younger people. Our term for that is the “nones,” and Malaysia is seeing a similar trend. Many young people just aren’t interested in practicing religion of any kind, but neither do they want to declare themselves atheists.

And secondly, the influence of Willow Creek and the seeker sensitive movement was very influential here. Today I’ll be speaking at a conference at Eagle Pointe Church, a seeker named church if ever there was one. (Remember this classic article by Sally Morganthaler: “Soon, sandwich signs littered the newly poured sidewalks with names befitting North American Generic: Mountainview Community Church, SouthHills, Ridgecrest, Deercreek, Frontrange, Stonybrook.”)

When I put the genesis of the emerging church in that context, I can see the connections forming between us. I hope that more of that happens today…

Travel Tips for Kuala Lumpur

On Saturday, I’m flying to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malasyia. I’ll be speaking at a few venues, including the conference shown below. I’m wondering what you think I should see and do while I’m there. Have you been to Kuala Lumpur? If so, what tips have you got for me?


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