Thinking About God’s Creation

Autumn Evening on Eagle Lake, by Courtney Perry

I’m thinking and reading a lot about creation right now, in preparation for year two of the Christian Spirituality Cohort that I have the great joy of leading for Fuller Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry Program. (Another time I’ll write about what a joy it is to be in community with these 10 students.) In year one, Lauren Winner and I led the class through the history and theology of Christian spirituality; next year, Craig Detweiler and I will be teaching about spirituality, film, and fiction.

This year, my co-teacher is Brian McLaren, and we’re taking the cohort into the far north woods of Minnesota, to canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, outfitted by Boundary Waters Experience. Our subject matter will be Christian Spirituality and the Doctrine of Creation.

One of the things I like most about Fuller’s DMin program is the aggressive amount of reading required of the students: 4,500 pages per year. That’s a ton of reading, especially for people who are working full-time jobs in ministry. It takes an enormous amount of discipline, but I have yet to field a single complaint about the amount from a student.

Just to make you jealous, the required reading list is below. I’ve broken the books into three categories, with Moltmann’s creation theology serving as our ur-text. Every one of these books is worth your time.

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Who Thinks that God Is Still Speaking?

This post is part of the Patheos Book Club. Check out the Book Club for more posts on this book and for responses from other bloggers and columnists. And be sure to join the live chat with the author, 2-3pm EDT TODAY.

Some of us giggled a bit when, a few years back, the notoriously liberal United Church of Christ denomination inaugurated a marketing campaign with the tagline, “God Is Still Speaking.” What they were getting at is that God’s interest in contemporary issues didn’t end when the final book of the canon was penned.

But what’s ironic about the slogan is that liberal Christians are quite reluctant to affirm that God speaks to them individually. That’s the territory of conservative evangelicals, especially those of charismatic and Pentecostal stripes. Like, for instance, believers who attend Vineyard churches.

That’s exactly the group that Tanya Luhrmann studied and writes about in her excellent book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. Seriously, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you like this blog, you should read this book.

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Finding Hope in Prayer #WhyPray

See below for a story about this photograph

So, I think I’m turning the corner. I think I’m finding a reason to pray.

Often what I do is write my way through problems, both spiritual and theological. That’s what I did in my very first book, and about half my books since have been in that same vein.

This book, Why Pray?, however, is the first that is attempting to solve what has become a vexing problem for me both spiritually and theologically. I have been struggling to find a reason to pray. And, thus, have been struggling to pray.

Every time I write about this, several will comment that prayer doesn’t need a reason. In fact, some commenters will imply that questions of this sort are unfaithful. Prayer is meant to be mysterious, they argue, and analysis of prayer ruins it.

I get it. They have a point. But I don’t think that looking for a rationale for prayer is unfaithful. I think it is faithfulness, at least for me. And I think that people like me — people with questions about the efficacy of prayer — deserve answers.

And, at least for me, I think I’m coming closer to an answer that will lead me back into prayer.

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Taking Prayer Beyond Cause and Effect (#WhyPray)

I’m hard at work on a book about prayer. I’m trying to establish a reasonable, rational explanation of why we should pray. About what prayer accomplishes. About what effect prayer has on the Divine.

One of the things it seems I have to get over is my very human predilection to understand things by cause-and-effect.

I’m not the first one to tackle this, of course. David Hume thought a lot about cause-and-effect, including this famous billiard ball analogy:

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