What’s On Your Plate?

Slowing the blogging pace and stepping back for a week or two over the holidays, I started to think about what streams of conversation are flowing with particular force these days.

Over the past couple of years there have been emergent or missional conversations that always provided ready fodder for conversation. But those streams have largely dried up as ever-present conversation pieces.

Here are a couple of things that strike me as continuing points of interest as I scan the blogosphere. But I’d also love to hear from you: what are you thinking about and finding yourself in vigorous conversation about as you strive to work out what it looks like to faithfully follow Jesus in 2012?

  1. The Gospel. I know that sounds rather broad and… well… settled, but here’s what I mean: in the more or less evangelical circles in which I run, we are finding a good deal of traction in conversations that press us to articulate a holistic gospel that affirms the “spiritual” dynamics of a restored relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus while also affirming that the spiritual work of being at work in the world for the good of all God’s creatures is integral to the faith.

    Recent books by Scot McKnight, Tom Wright, and yours truly are all working to contribute to such a recalibration of the evangelical gospel, that has been too long denying what it should have been affirming (in many circles). The gospel is good news for the whole world.

  2. Human origins after evolution. As denial of evolution becomes a rallying cry for both religiously and politically conservative movements, it moves certain brands of Christianity into more of a backwater. Too many Christians now have too much education for this non-viable position to continue to hold sway among thoughtful evangelicals.

    But, this means that we are confronted with a monumental task. And here is where the conservatives are right: to affirm evolution entails a reconfiguring of the narrative of humanity in significant ways. What can Christians say about the significance of humanity’s place in the cosmos once the story of evolution displaces the story of one-off creation? What can be retained? What must be replaced? Pete Enns’ book, and the interest it is generating even prior to publication, is one piece of bookish evidence about the continuing significance of this issue.

  3. Gender in the church. Here’s one for which I have no direct evidence in terms of tell-tale books. (I apologize.) But, with the continuing surge of the neo-Reformed movement, there has been a concomitant surge theological conviction about male dominance of the church.

What do you think? Are these issues the ones that are active points of conversation in your world? Are there others? I started to wonder if “what the Bible is” might not be another significant point where evangelicals are entering a new place (cf. Christian Smith’s, The Bible Made Impossible), and if folks find themselves increasingly in conversations about sex and sexuality?


14 thoughts on “What’s On Your Plate?”

  1. Good list!

    Communally, we are working on #1 and #3. In regards to #1, we are working through Bell and McKnight and some of us are reading Wright privately.

    In regards to #3, we are trying to live it out well and trying to figure out how to deal and love people who still want to restrain women in the church and home (and market). Reading DeConick’s Holy Misogyny on the (wider) topic.

    #2 is a personal concern of mine, and I’m slowly working through Giberson’s Saving Darwin to that end.

    Personally, I’m working through the following:
    Reading through the Library of Early Christianity series. I read Stower’s Letter Writing in G-R Antiquity in grad school and it changed the way I read and think about the Letters. I’m planning on working through the whole series this year. Right now I’m on Early Biblical Interpretation.Wrapping my mind around Caputo/Rolins deconstructive approach to Christian theology.Articulating theology through a Rorty-like linguistic pragmatism vocabulary. I feel like Rorty and the like can be quite helpful to articulating and grounding theology and moving it away from trappings of Cont. and Greek philosophy. I just haven’t worked it all out yet.

  2. Good stuff Daniel! I’m doing what I call “Cafeteria Theology” for a section of my intro classes this semester.
    3 courses – blog posts – appetizers, articles – main courses, videos – dessert
    Students have options in each area and your blog is one of their blog options. I like what you’re on here and I share concern for what seems to be a narrowing of possibilities due to the new-Reformed movement (though I really like some people in the movement). One of the issues for all groups seems to be trying to get “the gospel” to = “my theology” and I like what McKnight and Wright have done with this, but Acts 17 throws a wrench in some of this. Wright and McKnight seem to insist that “the gospel” is (my summary) the announcement that the story of God and Israel is fulfilled in Jesus. I like that, but Acts 17 doesn’t talk about Israel (for obvious reasons?) and seems to say instead that “the story of Athens and God/s is fulfilled in ‘the man who God has appointed’” (ie. Jesus).
    I’m not trying to become a Marcionite but…
    ps- I think “what is the Bible?” is a great question

    1. Matt, interesting call on Acts 17. Acts sermons are all about receiving forgiveness that God offers. How do you show people that they need to repent? Apparently, Greeks don’t need much convincing if the true God is not one they know. If they don’t know this God, then they must turn aside from their futility and serve Him. It does seem to be a way, in Acts 17, of connecting their unknown God to the God of Israel’s story: the creator. However, Paul did preach to Greeks without telling them that fuller narrative. Luke/Acts raises interesting questions for us on this front.

  3. I agree with your list, but I would include “What the Bible Is” as a a definite #4 rather than just a possibility. I think people will keep talking about what is meant by the term “Gospel,” but I don’t foresee it as being as contentious as Human Origins, Gender, and How we define inerrancy. Unless things change, I foresee a bumpy year for evangelicalism. (But I don’t have the gift of prophecy, so that isn’t a prediction:) )

  4. I would add issues of poverty and social justice. Evangelicals still have a hard time understanding how central these matters are to Christian praxis. Instead of making fun of the OWS movement, we should be making significant contributions to the dialog.

  5. Yes. Yes. And yes. Numbers 1 and 3 are especially getting attention in my church while I’m thinking through number 2 somewhat quietly at the moment.

    I agree that number 4 would definitely be the nature of the Bible–what it is and what it isn’t. Chris Smith’s book asked some great questions, and I think those questions are being asked among the lay people, not just the trained professionals, so it’s a hot topic for sure.

    There are definitely others in my world (PCA), but it would probably be a bit depressing for you to relive some of them. :)

  6. As others have said, those four topics (I included “what is the bible”) are most definitely hot at the moment. Some other topics that come to mind include sex/sexuality, authority (where does it come from), heaven/hell and social justice issues.

  7. Gahhhh!!!!! [Rant begins} It is quite annoying to have the discussion on origins written off as a "non-viable solution to continue to hold sway among thoughtful evangelicals." Which clearly implies that those who do not hold to evolution as not thoughtful and back in the swamps of Louisiana shooting up the forests with multiple calibers of non-registered firearms! [Rant ends]

    I’m assuming you haven’t read Stephen Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell”? He is not a thoughtful evangelical? I’m willing to bet that your education in biology does not come close to his education in biology.

    Seriously, the comment on evolution seems to be to be straight out of the “we elitists know best” handbook.

    1. John, yes, I confess, all of us are beholden to the elites in their fields to know what we commoners should think. I listen to the evolutionists for several reasons. First, because they are the standard for understanding not only biology but all of science. And, second, because evolution has allowed biologists to predict future findings–something creationism has not ever been able to do. This makes it more viable as a scientific theory and more likely to correspond to physical reality.

      1. My own thinking is that we take what the “elites” say with a grain of salt. To think that scientists are not affected by the fall and sin (as clearly demonstrated in the climate change scandal) is to put a little too much faith in scientists. Do not agree that evolutionary biology is the standard for understanding all of science. Future predictions being correct are interesting, but do nothing to prove or disprove theories of the past. Do not believe that any information system (DNA)has ever come into being by itself with it’s own meaningful language. Do believe that God has written his signature all over the complexity and direction of the cell as Stephen Meyer so clearly demonstrates in his book “Signature in the Cell.” Perhaps it would be profitable to read it to get a different opinion.

  8. These are definitely hot topics. Another is the clash of world views around the world. God’s love for us individually, specifically, uniquely is a challenging shock to societies that value family, tribe, race or nation over individuals (thinking here of Asia). Also thinking of the front lines of conflict between Islam and Christianity in Africa, Middle East, Pakistan and parts of India.

    The evolution topic is a subtopic within this clash of world views .. our creator versus purposeless, naturalistic world views.

    Recommend the following on the topic of a biblical understanding of (how God can use) evolution as a feature (like all other biological features created as a gift for us):

    Edward J. Larson: Evolution, the remarkable history of a scientific theory

    John Polkinghome: Science and Theology, an introduction

    Phillip E. Johnson: Reason in the Balance, the case against naturalism in science, law and education

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