len on July 15th, 2014

In an interview at Comment, Jonathan Bradford describes key values at ICCF:


“We believe strongly in our responsibility to respect the Johnson and Hernandez families. God has thought enough of them to create them in His image. He wants good for them. He wants opportunity and hope and flourishing and nurture. He wants shalom. He wanted shalom for my wife and I when we were married forty-two years ago. We had various ways that helped us achieve that, a college degree, supportive parents, and so forth. The Johnsons and the Hernandez families may not have that.

“Respecting these families that God sends our way means not holding wrongs against them, just as we read in 2 Corinthians 5: “The old is gone and new has come.” God’s care extends far beyond my heart and to every area of my activity, all of my being as a citizen in His Kingdom and in the city. Respecting the family, not holding the wrong turns against them, communicating hope and optimism is an extremely important thing.


“How do we respect? By expecting the pursuit of opportunity. That might sound like just a little clever turn of a phrase but, hey, you know what? If you regard the Hernandez and Johnson families as perfectly capable—as wanting good for themselves, as reaching for something more—for stability that has eluded them. We want to say to them: here is your chance to learn, to grow. “Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, what have you aspired to achieve?” Inevitably, we’re going to hear a financial roadblock. They’re going to say, “Yeah. I wanted to take that course at community college so I could qualify for a raise at work but I could never get the $300 tuition together.” “Well, sure, Mr. Johnson because you’re spending 55% of your income on inadequate, unsafe housing and there’s no reason why you should have to continue to do that.”

“When Mr. Johnson can go from spending $850 to spending $550, Mr. Johnson has a $300 a month raise. That’s $3,600 post-tax cash stays in his pocket. What, Mr. Johnson, can you do with $3,600? Will you take that class at the community college? Will you address the health issue you’ve been denying, ducking? On and on, the pursuit of opportunity.

“The final word, the final value that is, to my way of thinking as powerful, as important, as central as anything: that is simply beauty.


len on July 13th, 2014

imageIVP has released this book- subtitle “Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis” – new this month. A wide and diverse group of contributors – diverse in location and in perspective. In an interview with the editors IVP editor David Congdon asks:

“How would you characterize the ‘evangelical’ nature of this project? What positive resources do you find within evangelicalsim for pursuing a postcolonial theory and praxis?”

Daniel Hawk answers: “The vitality and growth of the evangelical movement around the globe makes the evangelical voice a particularly important contributor to emerging postcolonial conversations and movements. Speaking as one, I ask, are we willing to honor the intellectual and cultural resources that non-European evangelicals offer and engage them as co-equal partners in shaping theology and biblical interpretation? Are we open to having our identities and thinking changed by this global dialogue, or will we insist that theology and interpretation must still continue on our terms and on our turf?”

The description on the website follows:

“Colonialism involves more than just territorial domination. It also creates cultural space that silences and disenfranchises those who do not hold power. This process of subjugation continues today in various forms of neocolonialism, such as globalization. Postcolonialism arose in the latter half of the twentieth century to challenge the problem of coloniality at the level of our language and our actions (praxis). Postcolonialism seeks to disrupt forms of domination and empower the marginalized to be agents of transformation.

“In 2010, the Postcolonial Roundtable gathered at Gordon College to initiate a new conversation regarding the significance of postcolonial discourse for evangelicalism. The present volume is the fruit of that discussion. Addressing themes like nationalism, mission, Christology, catholicity and shalom, these groundbreaking essays explore new possibilities for evangelical thought, identity and practice.

I’ve become more aware of the need for this kind of contribution as I’ve seen the narrowness of perspective on the ground in Canada, even among thoughtful people. Isolation breeds closed conversations — we talk to others who are too much like us. This silo effect works against rich reflection and deep engagement. As so many have been learning, we need ‘the other.’


Why Postcolonial Conversations Matter – Brian McLaren
Reflection on Postcolonial Friendship – Brian D. McLaren
The Importance of Postcolonial Evangelical Conversations – Steve Hu
A Response to the Postcolonial Roundtable: Promises, Problems and Prospects – Gene L. Green
The Postcolonial Challenge to Evangelicals – Editors
Prospects and Problems for Evangelical Postcolonialisms – Robert S. Heaney

And then follows Part I -
Mission and Metanarrative: Origins and Articulations

And for those of us involved on the ground with first nations friends, this is a great start!

1. From Good: “The Only Good Indian Is a Dead Indian”; to Better: “Kill the Indian and Save the Man”; to Best: “Old Things Pass Away and All Things Become White!” An American Hermeneutic of Colonization
L. Daniel Hawk and Richard L. Twiss

2. North American Mission and Motive: Following the Markers
Gregory L. Cuéllar and Randy S. Woodley

3. Postcolonial Feminism, the Bible and the Native Indian Women
Jayachitra Lalitha

4. Converting a Colonialist Christ: Toward an African Postcolonial Christology
Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo and Reggie L. Williams

Part 2 The Stories behind the Colonial Stories
Introduction to Part 2 – Kay Higuera Smith

Part 3 Revisioning Evangelical Theology
Introduction to Part 3 – Jayachitra Lalitha

Part 4 Transforming the Evangelical Legacy
Introduction to Part 4 – Kay Higuera Smith

Part 5 Closing the Circle
Introduction to Part 5: The Evolution of the Postcolonial Roundtable
Joseph F. Duggan

The page on the IVP website – HERE
See also “Take the Other to lunch” (TED)

len on July 11th, 2014

coversI’ve finished the two introductory volumes I began working on last summer. They are each 85 pages and 12,000 words, with lots of full color images. The first is an introduction to theology of place, and the second, an introduction to missional spirituality.

I considered checking with a major publisher before doing the layout work — but the delay got me thinking that I am less interested in mass distribution than just getting these to people who will appreciate the work and find them useful.

While I approached the subject with an aim to integration and an appeal to both artistic and structural types, they still lean to the academic side by virtue of many footnotes! And hopefully, also by continuing to encourage rich theological reflection. Links –

Intro to Theology of Place
Intro to a Missional Spirituality

“If we are to avoid the legalisms associated with driven activism or the disobedience associated with wimpy passivism we will need to learn how to worship God in the fulness of life. This is no mean feat and in fact requires a serious reorientation from the prevailing evangelical spirituality of quiet times in quiet places. Len has gifted us with precisely such a reorientation in this book. I am grateful.” –Alan Hirsch

Download samples here –

Intro Theology of Place
Intro Missional Spirituality

len on July 10th, 2014

Siegrist and Wiebe write,

“Can the Coalition distinguish its articulation of the gospel from the work of Christ? The problem is the epistemological confusion that arises when we mistake our description of a thing for the thing itself. This is the same sort of confusion often propagated by invocations of “objective truth.” On one level, at least, the Coalition recognizes this. In a document they refer to as their “Theological Vision for Ministry,” the group claims: “Our theoretical knowledge of God’s truth is only partial even when accurate, but we nevertheless can have certainty that what the Word tells us is true.” What this statement seems to miss is the distinction between “what {170} the Word tells us” and what we say the Word tells us. Projected into the organization’s mission this means that a popularized Calvinism is pushed as the answer to evangelicalism’s woes.

“A second factor we believe accounts for the Coalition’s growing influence is the theological comprehensiveness of Reformed doctrine. At its best Anabaptist theology makes no pretentions about being a totalizing system. The historian William Estep has observed that formal statements produced by early Anabaptists show a general reluctance to delve deeply into theological specifics… The Creeds, though not often used in worship or as tests of faith, also contributed to the theological grammar Anabaptists employed. By showing that there is a traceable genealogy of formalized theological statements from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries, Karl Koop has demonstrated that Anabaptism does constitute a theological tradition. Nevertheless, the Anabaptist tradition does not possess the theological breadth of Calvin and his heirs; persecution is an old reason, worry about intellectual hubris more recent. Anabaptists have not been great systematizers. We like to think that daily life is the place where our theology finds its integrity and scope.

“What Anabaptism does not offer is a totalizing, self-contained vision of the whole of human life. The challenge and the opportunity this carries is that the Anabaptist tradition will always be dependent. As a reform movement within the church catholic, Anabaptism requires a vital relationship with the universal, historic church. Anabaptist communities make a serious mistake when they substitute groups with a slightly more comprehensive vision, like the Coalition, for the church catholic.”


len on July 8th, 2014

“Ms. Paglia argues that the softening of modern American society begins as early as kindergarten. “Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It’s oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys,” she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess. “They’re making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters.”

“She is not the first to make this argument, as Ms. Paglia readily notes. Fellow feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has written about the “war against boys” for more than a decade. The notion was once met with derision, but now data back it up: Almost one in five high-school-age boys has been diagnosed with ADHD, boys get worse grades than girls and are less likely to go to college.”

Interesting stuff from a very vocal, secular feminist, Camille Paglia. This interview occurred in late December in 2013, but remains interesting. Culture in general does seem more friendly toward traditional feminine modes of being more than male ones. While feminine qualities have been lauded in recent years, masculine ones have been denigrated, leaving many western males with an identity crisis.

Elsewhere, at Q-Ideas, Rebekah Lyons responds to third-wave feminism with a call to gospel selflessness. Admirable, no? Who could disagree that this is not a gospel call – an anchor in kingdom ethics? Yet her talk left me uneasy. One woman responded like this:

“Third wave feminism has morphed into a broader movement that is more inclusive of other minority groups as it sees the elevation of the status of others as tied to our own equality as women. Hence the fight for LGBT rights. It also preoccupies itself with liberating women from harmful societal myths and common beliefs that create such things as rape culture and a society that normalizes or justifies domestic abuse.

“As for being a kind of ‘power grab’, it’s kind of vital in the fight to protect women and children from domestic abuse to enable them to become self-sufficient and independent and to create a culture that assists them in this endeavor.”

To which I said :

While I found myself sympathetic too her emphasis on servanthood, I agree that there are unresolved issues, both in the church and in the wider culture. And arguing that some women are after power seems irrelevant to the issues of justice – some men are also after power. How does the church respond in those instances (often with a promotion and more responsibility). ANd frankly I wonder if we overplay the call to serve — to serve is to willingly offer ourselves, not to demand that others follow our example. That’s simply oppression. And service is not the only important quality in our call, and maybe not even the ultimate one – Jesus said, “I call you friends.” Honestly, I found myself wondering if she has really grappled with the issues. It’s so easy to speak like she does if you are white, wealthy and comfortable. It’s easy to say what she says from the center, not so easy from the margins.

len on July 1st, 2014

The Missio Alliance blog hosts the video and transcript from a lecture at Morling College — Karina Kaminski. It seems in wider evangelical circles there are two discernible trends: a conservative reaction against what feels like hazy thinking and dissolving boundaries and definitions, leading to what feels like endless negotiation. Mars Hill Church would be a good example of the conservative reaction.

At the other extreme is an unwillingness to wrestle with Scripture on these issues any longer, instead throwing hands in the air and denying that Scripture has anything meaningful to contribute, it is too culture bound and therefore we should just go with the best social science has to offer.

In response to both these extremes, what would the unveiling of God’s kingdom mean for gender?

Missio Alliance

See also Trinitarian and Gendered

len on June 24th, 2014

COVERSI’ve finished the two introductory volumes I began working on last summer. They are each 85 pages and 12,000 words, with lots of full color images. The first is an introduction to theology of place, and the second, an introduction to missional spirituality.

I considered checking with a major publisher before doing the layout work — but the delay got me thinking that I am less interested in mass distribution than just getting these to people who will appreciate the work and find them useful.

While I approached the subject with an aim to integration and an appeal to both artistic and structural types, they still lean to the academic side by virtue of many footnotes! And hopefully, also by continuing to encourage rich theological reflection.

Both volumes will be available very shortly, via CreateSpace and also AMAZON. More to follow here shortly :)

len on June 18th, 2014

First issue of a new journal — Theopoetics

The main index of the first issue follows:

Liberating Language: Rubem Alves, Theopoetics, and the Democratization of God-Talk
Jeffery S. Hocking
At Cave Hill | Amor | Virgin of Milk
Amy McCann
A Heraldic Ethic: Critical Resistance, Theopoetic Embodiment, and Dialogical Impulses
L. Callid Keefe-Perry
A Theopoetics of Seeking Cultures of Peace
Scott Holland
Bridge | The Names of Things We’ve Lost | What the Sky Lacks
Thom Caraway
Creativity, Love, and Metaphor: A Christological Perspective

Eric E. Hall
Once Again, I Vow | St. Jerome’s Miracle | The Earth’s Solitude

Lynn Domina
Writing on the Boundary Line: Theopoetics as the Breaking of Form

J. Blake Huggins

len on June 3rd, 2014

It used to be such a simple problem. The culture was secular, the church was sacred. That easy dichotomy was probably never really so easy, but the time when we could pretend it was true has long since passed.

But there is still another layer of complexity, and Jamie Smith is helping us understand the approach taken by Charles Taylor with a companion book to Taylor’s “Secular Age.”

Jason Clark reviews Smith’s companion book — “How (not) to be Secular.” Jason writes,

“This book by Smith is now ‘The’ essential companion to Taylor’s work. As Smith puts it, you might move from a predominantly Christian location in the US to a more secular location, from Jerusalem to Babylon so to speak (or in the UK you might move from the relatively Christian landscape of North Ireland to London). When you get to those ‘secular’ locations you will find people are not looking for answers to missing parts of their lives, with questions about God just waiting for you talk about Jesus.

“Instead they have a way of life to make meaning that provides for all they need. The secular world is not like the Mars Hill of St Paul, with people worshipping false Gods, open to the idea of worshipping the true God. Instead we find that in the secular world, people have created a world in which there are no God’s and no need to consider the divine at all. So how do we bear witness in a world like this?”

Jason Clark

and then here you can find an interview with Smith.

len on June 2nd, 2014

I am using “theological formation” to talk about the purposes of the Christian academy, as opposed to “theological education.” Education in our day implies learning, but often divorced from real life and practice, and often built on models where “objective knowledge” is assumed. Since the goals of theological education are unique, and therefore have a particular means and a particular telos, I prefer this – at least for now!

It seems to me that paradigms for theological formation exist as an implicit ecclesiology. If they do not, they should – because the telos – God’s reign – should shape every practice. What do you think?

Let’s start with telos. I’ll take Col.1:28 and Eph. 2:14-16, and Eph. 4:11-16 as providing the telos – “the fulness of Christ,” and “the new humanity.” But notice this is a collective end, not first an individual end.

It seems to me our theological formation is meaningless without a clear telos – that being demarked by at least two parameters – the meaning of the gospel of the kingdom, and the fulness of Christ (Eph 4)- the new humanity. Obvious implications for theological formation since “the medium is the message,” but for reasons that also transcend this.

And what to do with the Great Commandment (Mark 12)? Is this a gospel telos – or practices that take us there? Are these merely “means to the end” of God’s reign? But love never ends, as we hear from Paul in 1 Cor. 13 – all else will pass away. So loving God, neighbour and self are means, but are taken up by God and become part of the new kingdom. “All that is at all, lasts ever, past recall..” (RB Browning).

Now back to my starting assumption. Theological formation must exist within an ecclesial and kingdom frame. If we are the new polis, a sign, servant and foretaste of the kingdom, then those qualities must translate into the means of formation, the forming practices. The focus will be less on forming individuals, than on forming faithful communities that demonstrate the reality of God’s inbreaking kingdom in their daily work and relationships.

It seems to me – what are your impressions? – that the telos in theological formation has been largely assumed and not articulated, and I don’t see any discussion of this connection between theological formation and ecclesiology?

See also A New Model for Theological Formation (PDF) (Direction Journal, 2013)