LA Times on Theology After Google

LA Times on Theology After Google March 15, 2010

Mitchell Landsberg of the LA Times enjoyed some of the event and published a story about it today:

“I think things like denomination and ordination are part of the old system of control and domination that has to go,” Pagitt, 42, said as he relaxed after the conference’s first day at the Theo Pub set-up for participants. Around him, beer flowed and conversation leaped from Twitter to evangelism to church formation to corn toss, a beanbag game popular in the Midwest and Appalachia that is gaining a toehold among the theologians in Claremont.

The premise of the conference had been laid out earlier in the evening by Philip Clayton, a professor at Claremont who talked about the role of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century. By making the Bible more widely available, he said, it democratized religion and led directly to the Protestant Reformation.

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  • Tom

    Interesting to contrast Pagitt’s comment with McLaren’s view in A New Christianity. McLaren actually supports a hierarchial structure. Denominational structures have their drawbacks; that is certain. They drain resources from their churches in order to support the structure. However, there area a LOT of small churches that would not survive without being part of a denominational structure. The support, both financial and otherwise, that they receive from their denomination keeps the doors open. In the denominational district that my church belongs to, 4/5 of the churches have 60 attend any given worship service. So if small church buildings are shuttered and the people move on (if they bother to do so), does Pagitt have any suggestions? I don’t see many people over 50 going online (I’m 50 and an exception to the rule). Do mega-churches become even more mega? If so, how do they serve the neighborhoods and communities that were served by the smaller churches? Tough questions demanding tough answers.

  • Tough questions indeed Tom. One of my favorite professors used to say that one of the problems with church growth strategies is that they assume that growth is always good- some churches need to die. Denominations can and do keep dying churches on life support for years, long after they’ve stopped engaging their own members and their community with the Gospel. Does that actually help the the mission of God or get in the way? Jesus suggested in John 12.24 that the death of a seed can produce more than the seed continuing to live. I feel for the old folks in dying churches, and I know they don’t want to go somewhere else. But my goal for the older folks I work with is to engage them with the call of the Gospel now, not recapturing a longed-for past.

  • Jason Derr

    While I hear and understand the issues people have with denominations, a full out death cry does not work. It seems that this idea of ‘out with the old’ is rooted in an idea that we have no need for history or tradition. Its a view that we are historically blank people – we want a church but we don’t want a legacy! I went from evangelical to Lutheran/Anglican not because for several reasons 1) to escape fundementalist readings and theologies and 2) a need for history and rootedness. I did not want to be in a church that had historic and theological amnesia, opting instead for communities with long, convulated histories that contain multiplicity of views ins legacy.

    I do dream of the post-mainline church. A church that retains the evangelical DIY ethic as well as progressive theological tradition (i am not willing to abandon womens ordination and LGBT inclusion) with a bottom up system.

    But, then, what do we do with our history?

  • Annie

    I don’t like what I hear in David Pickett’s comment above regarding older people. To conclude that what they’re invested in is mere nostalgia seems condescending. To infer that their sense of place and history are somehow not involved with the Gospel seems likewise problematic. I appreciate that looking down on someone because of their youth is to be avoided. I think the presumption that churches full of older people are categorically dead is equally troubling. It smacks of a culture that treats the aged as if they were disposable.

  • Although I appreciate this coverage, it needs to be noted that this coverage comes from the first evening. I find it odd, that the author picked up on Tony’s statement about cell phones and the fact that there was beer. But there was more, to the conference than noted here. By the way, Doug actually spoke on Friday morning — 2 people in front of me. There were a number of voices there, including mine, which spoke from the perspective of being a pastor of a church that averages under 100 on Sunday. I’m hoping that the sponsors will put up some of the presentations to view, so we can get the full picture!

  • If I said what Annie heard, then I’m sorry- your reading of my comment was not my intention in writing it. I know older folks with vital faith and a spirit that allows them to continue to learn and grow. I also know older folks who don’t fit that profile. One difference can be characterized as whether people are for the church or whether they perceive that the church is there to serve them, although people rarely fit into neat categories like that. What troubles me is that in so much of the traditional church where I serve, we can’t engage the older folks with concepts like missional vs. attractive, because they don’t want to have the conversation, or we haven’t tried it in a way that works for them. Do we just “respect” their age and leave them out of the conversation? I hope not.
    What does all this have to do with Theology After Google? I don’t care much whether Google and all it represents will ever matter to the older generation, but what we believe about God, the church and ourselves always matters.