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)

len on May 31st, 2014

“Violence against women is the most common hate-crime.” Arthur Chu

I was listening to an interview on CBC radio this morning with this self-confessed “nerd.” A rather thoughtful and article nerd — Arthur argues that nerd culture is indicted in its attitude toward women. However, he also recognizes that there is an underlying movement in our culture in its attitude to power: someone has to be on top, and someone on the bottom. That means we create this competitive environment of winners and losers, and the resentment and pain that come with the dynamic. Is there a way beyond that struggle?

If we believe the gospel, the answer is yes.

Misogyny and Entitlement

len on May 27th, 2014

Geoff Holsclaw responds to Tim Challies, who ended a recent post criticizing the practice of Lectio Divina by saying, “This, then, is a danger in Lectio Divina, that it may teach us to approach the text subjectively rather than objectively.”

“But what is the big deal about reading the text subjectively as opposed to objectively?”

The language of objective/subjective may itself be the problem in this old conversation. We need to recognize that each of us approaches the text personally, and also within the context of an interpretive tradition. None of this equates to any mythical objectivity. Reacting to Lectio (also an old tradition) in the hope of establishing some kind of objectivity may actually subvert the deeper goal: a personal engagement with Scripture as a means to encounter with the One who stands behind it, as well as entrenching a myth that (subjectively) prefers one hermeneutic over another apart from critical reflection.

If we admit that neither subjective (or solipsist) nor mythical objective (free of bias, neutrality from any investment in a particular culture or tradition) is possible, what is the alternative? What IS the role of the Spirit in relation to the Word? What are the roles of tradition and of the interpretive community?

Geoff’s post HERE

len on May 26th, 2014

cover“With all the attention paid to issues of church and mission in recent years, surprisingly little has been written to reframe the biblical themes of creation and human identity in light of the missio Dei. Hjalmarson addresses this lacunae by pursuing an ambitious missiological agenda, arguing that even though God’s mission draws his people into an often surprising journey or pilgrimage, the particularities and textures of the places along the way shape our formation and participation in the gospel of the Kingdom of God. This book provides an important contribution to a vital conversation.”

Scott Hagley, PhD., Director of Education, FORGE Canada

“In a society in which families are spread out across the continent, and suburban shopping malls from Vancouver to Halifax to Phoenix all seek to sell us the same goods from the same chain stores, Len Hjalmarson invites us to think deeply about “place”: about being located and rooted. Len draws an extraordinary range of sources into conversation, which in turn provides the reader with a marvelous array of writers and poets to explore. His closing chapter, “Re-placing the World through the Arts,” does not so much end as invite us into the terrain of imagination and possibility.”

Jamie Howison, Priest and pastor, St. Benedict’s Table.
Author, God’s Mind in That Music

No Home Like Place is a walk through dense woods, theologically and poetically, guiding the reader into contemplation and reflection. And it’s a thin place, offering a spacious venue for astonishment and encounter. To find someone rebuilding place after the great postmodern deconstruction is beautiful. This book offers itself as a worthy companion for miles to come.

Brad Jersak, PhD. Author: Her Gates Will Never Be Shut. Westminster Theological College

There are many of us in places far and wide, practitioners seeking to live God’s call to the neighbourhood. We are committed to the most local expressions of discipleship because we have a gut sense that place matters to God and to the nature of Christian mission. What Len provides in this book a wonderful resource to those of us committed to the neighbourhood, a cogent, carefully researched and sensitively written theology of place that will sustain and strengthen our commitments.

Simon Carey Holt, Author: God Next Door: Spirituality and Mission in the Neighbourhood

No Home Like Place is now available with The Urban Loft Publishers.


Download a sample Theology of Place – Introduction2014

len on May 16th, 2014

30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks,
broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened
and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

32They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us
while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

–Luke 24

Emmanuel Levinas argues that life is essentially relational. And a relational life is dependent on encounters that are revelatory. I’m speaking from Luke 24 this coming Sunday — what is really going on in this passage? I want to focus on the importance of being deep listeners.


len on May 14th, 2014

Dominion SYNOPSIS — DOMINION. Vol.1. 225 pages.

Dr. Tom Woodward is the Director of NASA/AMES Research Center, and finds himself in the active nucleus of a scientific storm. When Tom Woodward meets Drs. Chris and Lisa Torrance at the University of Washington, he discovers that Chris has experienced an instantaneous ‘jump’ in space-time, combining a genetic anomaly with a rare catalyst in the pollen of an unusual flower from the mountains of northern Argentina.

Meanwhile, the genetic control mechanism is also connected to an incident at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, when a Russian technician ‘blinks out’ of the Universe for a moment, and the rip in the fabric of space-time is reflected instantly on the other side of the world at Brookhaven National Laboratory during an experiment with the National Synchrotron. The Russian FSB, carefully monitoring developments in Geneva, also take note of the incident, rumored to be the creation of a microscopic singularity.

In Los Angeles, a Japanese American scientist, Sakuma Shiratsu, who is involved with the BICEP2 cosmology experiments at the South Pole, has published a paper theorizing a human, genetic link to gravitational waves and the elusive ‘graviton’. Shiratsu suspects that a plasma collider might be adaptable to manipulating graviton particles, thus accessing the folds in space-time. His paper comes to the attention of Woodward through a Canadian scientist connected to the dark matter experiment (DEAP-3600) deep underground near Sudbury, Canada.

As the ‘black’ project gets underway, it is also militarized, and the team realize that any local singularity may connect to the supermassive black hole being explored by the Galactic Center Group, and thus act as a gateway to other systems and galaxies. With the burgeoning list of earth-like exoplanets growing out of the Kepler mission, the team capitalize on the 2015 discovery of a new planet in Alpha-Centauri, only 4.4 light years distant. Using the ESO’s VLT observatory in Chile, they confirm the likelihood of both continents and an atmosphere on the new planet, christened Nova Prime One. Together the team and the American military construct an FTL system underground at Brookhaven and plan a jump to Alpha Centauri, creating a new view of the Universe and our place in it.

len on May 12th, 2014

Jason Clark argues that inviting people to church might be the most sensible form of evangelism in post-Christian, post-colonial culture. Hmm.

If the church is a pilgrim people, a political reality, and if the experience of community as a sign and foretaste of the kingdom is at the heart of it all, then he is onto something!

The political novelty that God brings into the world is a community of those who serve instead of ruling, who suffer instead of inflicting suffering, whose fellowship crosses social lines instead of reinforcing them. This new Christian community in which the walls are broken down not by human idealism or democratic legalism but by the work of Christ is not only a vehicle for the gospel or only a fruit of the gospel; it is the good news. It is not merely the agent of mission or the constituency of a mission agency. This is the mission. – Yoder, Mouw and Cartwright, The Royal Priesthood. Herald Press, 1994. 91.

View this short video Jason recorded for the Vineyard, UK.