Quick Take Review: The Next Evangelicalism
June 8, 2009, 8:13 pm
Filed under: books, Christendom, culture, dissertation, emerging church, missiology, Seattle, theology

Last week I got a chance to sit down with a book that’s been getting a bit of buzz in the circles I run in.  It’s called The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church From Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah.  I believe it’s a very important book, and one that I hope will find its way onto many seminary course readings lists – and not just in specialty classes like “Multi-cultural Worship.”  Rah has some good words to share, but they will be put to best use in a broad marketplace.

The book is an uncomfortable read, especially for a white midle class USAmerican dude.  I have attempted to sensitize myself and the people I have influence with to issues of race, power, and control, but I know I’ve fallen well short of ideal.  There’s still a lot more to be done in my own heart, as well as in the church at large.

I strongly recommend this book.  The way it approaches the issues of racism in the church in USAmerica are helpful and prophetic.  The chapter on race is a good primer, and the chapter on how the emerging church is perpetuating most of evangelicalisms same old problems is a stinging rebuke to a bunch of people who have been a bit smug about having rescued the Western church from all of its ills.

With that said, I do have a few points of critique.  First, I’m not sure the book delivers on the title – I get that Rah is riffing on Philip Jenkins’ genius work in The Next Christendom, but unlike Jenkins, Rah doesn’t spend his primary content on describing the new form that’s coming to replace the old.  I got a very helpful picture of yet another broken aspect of the previous, broken evangelicalism, but less of a vision of what the new way forward looks like.  There are some good examples, including one here in Seattle that I can personally vouch for, but I wanted more.

Second, I don’t know how excited I can really get about the dawning of a new “ism.”  Frankly, I’m not looking for the next evangelicalism – which may have more to do with my continuing flashbacks from the last one, but another ism sounds like another opportunitiy to institutionalize forms of thought that might work right now, but will be rendered obsolete by future generations.

Third, and I admit that this is entirely selfish, but this book came out about 9 months too late.  As I was writing and editing my doctoral dissertation, I knew full well that the day would come that I had just put my biggest, hardest writing project to bed, and I’d wake up one morning to find a new book/article that would have taken my work to the next level and made it really shine.  This is that book.  No hard feelings, though, Dr. Rah.  I’ll get over it.  I’ll take the opportunity to borrow your ideas the next time around.  Congratulations, though – this is a reall solid piece of work, and one that I hope will be influential in the near future.


Reading again
February 13, 2009, 8:45 am
Filed under: books, school

I’m either proud or ashamed to say that I completed reading my first book of 2009 earlier this week.  Proud, given that it’s the fist book I’ve finished in the past three or four months.  Ashamed, because at this point in the year for the past three or four or five years, I would have completed five or six books.  I guess I could be even more embarrassed to say that even the book I finished was a piece of popular fiction.  But there’s no shame in that for me.

After a long slog of research and writing, which took me out of the reading-entire-books-at-a-time game, I’m looking forward to some more normal approaches to books.  I’ve just begun my reading list for the year (which you can check out here, if you care).  There only only a few there, and I’ll certainly add to the list.  Truthfully, I haven’t even tried – those books are just off the top of my head.  I’m also planning to do a lot of reading of unpublished material – over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of studying with some school mates, who have worked very hard to produce their dissertations, as I have, and I’m eager to dig in and see their work.  First up on the reading list will be N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God.  It’s a book that has been patiently waiting on my shelf for three years.  I’m really looking forward to this during the season of Lent.

If you have any suggestions for books, hit me with a comment.

An Irishman, a Puerto Rican, a Texan, and a Californian walk into a pub . . .
November 19, 2008, 11:36 am
Filed under: books, conference, emerging church, friends, Seattle, theology

Yesterday was a fun, thought-filled (thought-full?) day with friends.  Church of the Apostles hosted a couple of theology pub dialogues with Peter Rollins from Belfast, Ireland.  I got a shout this past weekend from Ryan Sharp, who was interested in coming up from Portland for it – he jumped on a train, and I picked him up from the station.  We grabbed a quick bite, went to the Fremont Abbey for the talk, then went out afterwards to the Greenlake Zoka with Eliacin for some de-brief chat.  So there you have it – an Irishman (Rollins), a Puerto Rican (Eliacin), a Texan (Ryan – though he’s not a proud Texan in the way most are), a Californian (moi), and a pub (well, sort of – they didn’t have any actual “pub fare” for the afternoon thing we went to).

1118081341 Pete Rollins is the author of How (Not) To Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal.  He’s also one of the founders of the Ikon community in Belfast.  He’s also  PhD Postmodern Philosopher.  He’s also quite funny.  He also has the ability to speak at blazing speeds with that Irish accent of his.  The last three of those things often left my head spinning . . . and yet wanting more.  Oh, he also keeps himself on time by continuously referring to his cool pocket watch.

I’ve not gotten a chance to read The Fidelity of Betrayal yet, so I don’t know exactly how redundant his talk was to that book, but there were so many good sentences – things I’ll be chewing on for a while.  Here are a few gems to start.  I’ll probably come back sporadically and pop a few more on here.

– “It’s not about convincing your mind to believe given truth, it’s about convincing your ‘social self,’ where the real belief resides.”  In other words, the belief resides in the actions of the body, not in the head.

– “The real question is not whether or not God exists, but ‘What is God saying to me?'”

– “Your beloved doesn’t meet your needs.  Your beloved creates your need.  ‘I never needed you until you arrived, and then I realized that I’ve always needed you.'”

Giving people what they don’t want (yet)
October 25, 2008, 2:13 pm
Filed under: books

In a world where people believe they are not hungry, we must not offer food, but rather an aroma that helps them desire the food that we cannot provide.


Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God, p. 37

Control Freaks Celebrate!
September 7, 2008, 9:08 am
Filed under: books, Christendom, missiology

I was reading some juicy bits from Roland Allen’s genius work from nearly a hundred years ago.  He’s got the control freaks of Christendom pegged in a big way.  Sadly, we’ve not made much progress.

Speaking of spontaneous movements of people choosing to follow Jesus, he writes:

By spontaneous expansion I mean something which we cannot control. And if we cannot control it, we ought, as I think, to rejoice that we cannot control it. For if we cannot control it, it is because it is too great not because it is too small for us. The great things of God are beyond our control. Therein lies a vast hope.

From The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes Which Hinder It.  Available as a web page here.

Another book I need to re-read
August 30, 2008, 1:17 pm
Filed under: books, missiology, school, theology

I’m doing some research and writing today, which has me buried in a book I read about three years ago.  It’ The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History by Andrew Walls.  I remembered it being good, but now I’m thinking it needs to be on the short list of books I go back to every year or two.

A couple of choice quotes for you:

No one is saved through Christianity – though it may be possible to be damned through it.  (p. 9)

The purpose of theology is to make or clarify Christian decisions.  Theology is about choices; it is the attempt to think in a Christian way.  And the need for choice and decision arises from specific settings in life.  In this sense, the theological agenda is culturally induced; and the cross-cultural diffusion of Christian faith invariably makes creative theological activity a necessity.  (p. 79)

My plea to the publishing industry
August 11, 2008, 2:08 pm
Filed under: books, culture, school

I would like to make a humble request to anyone out there who is involved in the publishing industry.  I really need some help on this one, o.k.?  It may seem a bit selfish, and maybe just a little counter-intuitive, but really, I’d appreciate it if you could do whatever you can to help.

You see, I’ve been in school for the past couple of years, and even now that I’m done with the coursework phase of my degree, and I don’t have to keep up with my professor’s required reading lists, I am in the middle of a huge research and writing project.  All of that to say that I am simply incapable of keeping up with the massive amounts of new books that you publishers keep churning out.  Granted, I don’t need to read every new title that gets published, but there are a significant number of books that I see publicized, blogged about, and celebrated, and I just don’t have the time to get to them.

I’m a literary fellow – I love reading, and do a lot of it.  But not enough to keep up. 

Sadly, that’s only half of my problem.  The other half is that the more progress I make on my dissertation, and the more I spend time going through notes and flipping through the stacks of books that are on my home office desk, the more I realize that there are quite a large number of books I’ve already read once or more that I really need to return to.  In some cases, I read them too fast to have retained enough.  In other cases, the books are so good, so compelling, that they need to be re-read at least once every two or three years for the rest of my life.

So what do you say publishing industry?  Do you think you could just take the next year off, and not publish anything?  For me?  I still love you.  I just think we need to take some time off from each other.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I really want to work things out, but I need some time away.  You understand, don’t you?  Maybe you could spend some time with the movie industry – I don’t see enough of them these days, either.