Reflections on #TheologyBeerCamp 2023

Reflections on #TheologyBeerCamp 2023 October 30, 2023

I didn’t know what to expect from my first time at Theology Beer Camp. In short, I was blown away by what an impressive model it offered of doing and being church in a manner that is progressive and open. My own talk was about theology in Doctor Who and Star Trek so I dressed for the occasion. There was a whole separate “geek stage” where the programming had this sort of focus. Podcaster Ryan Does shared this photo from the talk:

There were also many big name theologians, ethicists, and biblical scholars. I had the opportunity to chat on the main stage with John Dominic Crossan after he gave his talk.

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Throughout the event Steve Thomason was using a tablet to provide an illustrated summary of key points. You can get a sense of what he was doing and how it enhanced each presentation from his blog post “Faith After Deconstruction: A Visual Guide.” I also got to meet Grace Ji-Sun Kim in person, having long been connected on social media. Tripp was dressed as a Wookiee on the first day (although someone suggested that he looked more like an Ewok). I’ll let you decide.

On the opening night there was PhDs vs. Podcasters Family Feud. I think I contributed amusing if not always point-earning answers. One of the questions was about things you wouldn’t expect to find in Tripp Fuller’s office. Since he had mentioned the book negatively in his sermon just before this, I suggested Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict and they gave it to our team even though the survey answer was in fact “Calvinist literature” which McDowell’s book is not. What I thought was my best answer wasn’t on the list though. What would you not expect to find in Tripp Fuller’s office? Tripp Fuller!!!

I also had the chance to participate in karaoke for the first time in my life. It was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to hearing what it sounded like. The songs I joined in on (it was group karaoke) were Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer.” In other words exactly the songs you’d expect me to join in on!

As you could probably already tell, I’m not trying to summarize the various talks that were given. The main speakers were academics whose books you can read, getting what they have to say in their own words. I had a bunch of my own books available for purchase there, including my latest The A to Z of the New Testament which had only been out for a few days. I was impressed by how much interest there was not only in hearing from and talking with the various speakers but reading things we’ve written.

What was most moving was the final sermon, with music by Flamy Grant, and communion served by queer Christians many of whom have experienced exclusion elsewhere. The event venue was a church called The Venues (which caused me some confusion initially – of course the event is at the venues but what are the venues?!). They had a slogan on their sign that said “This church is not for everyone because this church is for everyone.” In other words, people self select to not become part of communities that welcome those they would prefer to exclude.

I have actually just written a book that will be my next one after the John the Baptist books come out next year, one that builds on things that I’ve been thinking and blogging about for at least a decade and a half. Once one has worked through the often traumatic experience of an oversimplified faith showing itself to no longer work and/or to simply not be true, and lived with the discomfort of feeling adrift for long enough, where does one go from there? What can it look like when one wants to stop defining one’s identity negatively (“not that kind of Christian”) and say what one believes and stands for? That book will see the light of day eventually. What I want to say here is that Theology Beer Camp offered a beautiful, moving, spiritually powerful example of what that can look like in terms of community, fellowship, preaching, music, and more. I plan to go back next year and as often as I can. I hope that I’ll get to meet more of my blog readers there in future years as well.

Timothy McPherson has also shared his recap and reflections on Theology Beer Camp 2023. Read more about Flamy Grant too. And check out these video debriefs!

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