The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

To receive cohort emails, join our Google group.


The New Christians

Kristen mentioned Tony Jones' new book over dinner last week, and then I saw that the first chapter is available for download if anyone is interested. You can find it here


Kristen Kuzmick said...

So, I'm in the process of reading The New Christians and I have found myself stuck in chapter 5 for a while now. I just want to soak it all up. I think that it very deeply touches on Zack's previous post (which I totally resonated with). Tony Jones entitles chapter 5 as "After Objectivity: Beautiful Truth." He talks about a “hermeneutic of humility,” pointing to a new way to approach scripture that is not overconfident or absolutist, but rather confident and passionate, however uncertain. I think that in past Christian communities that I’ve been a part of, I’ve always felt so guilty to ask questions about the “absolute truth” (which Tony deconstructs in this chapter – stating that the word “truth” cannot actually have a qualifier. On a true-false test, you will never find, __ True, __ False, __ Absolutely true). Despite feeling guilty, the questions did not disappear. I would ask them, and people would tell me that God is bigger than those questions and that I just had to trust, for example, that those who canonized the bible were guided by the Holy Spirit, despite the fact that they were still human beings who sinned just as much as me. I seemed that I had a much weaker faith because I struggled with these sort of questions. So instead of dealing with the questions, I just stuffed them down and pretended like I had it all together in my faith. But, like Zack, when these types of questions emerge, you cannot avoid getting cracks in your brick wall. And so mine began to crumble.

And because his words are far more elegant and precise than my own, I am just going to share some quotes from Tony Jones that have really spoken to me as I struggle to transition from an absolute absolutist to an almost maybe sort of absolutist who doesn’t feel like she needs to leave her brain at the door when she reads the bible.

He begins the chapter with a discussion of interpretation. Jones says, “while an emphasis on interpretation does preclude the many propositions about eternally ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers, it doesn’t mean that there’s no truth. Instead, it means that there are inherently better interpretations – that one interpretation can trump another.”

I think that this speaks to Emergents who are constantly engaged in conversation and who are not afraid to ask the difficult questions regarding faith and God and the bible. I think this also touches on Jane’s point about our own personal biases. We can only know the bible through our human brains, which certainly are not inerrant. To quote Jones, “To better know one’s own story means that one’s own biases and prejudices are revealed, and when those are revealed, their implications on one’s interpretation can be accounted for.” I know that as a white, American woman, the way I read and interpret the bible will inevitably be different from an African male in the Conga. Our life experiences and personalities filter our thoughts and interpretations. We are all looking through different colored lenses in an attempt to understand to the best of our abilities the vastness and greatness of God.

Then Jones really blew my mind. He started talking about truth (A.K.A. GOD). This section of the chapter opened my eyes to an idea that now seems so… obvious. Jones begins by saying that most Christians would agree with the statement, “God is truth.” That is, whatever is true necessarily proceeds from God; truth doesn’t come from anywhere else. Most people would also agree that we, as humans, cannot fully describe God in words because we are limited, finite, and altogether incapable of fully understanding God. God’s just too big! Yet, modern Christians who claim that God is truth and that God cannot be fully described goes on to claim that truth can be fully described. Emergents, on the other hand, suggest that talk of truth demands the same humility as talk of God.

I think that the point Jones makes here pretty points to the type of theology that emergents are embracing. I believe that truth, like God, cannot be definitively articulated by finite human beings. Rather than fighting for “absolutes,” maybe we should be embracing the paradoxes that exist in the bible and in God.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave some of the book out of my post so that you can actually read it. I promise, the chapter just gets better and better in my opinion.

I, too, would like to express my gratitude for the cohort. I finally feel like I can ask these difficult questions without judgment. And I am comforted to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with all of this. I only hope that our continued dialogue will bring us to better interpretations and understandings of our great God.

P.S. - Sorry this is sooo long. I applaud you if you actually read the whole thing. Thanks for letting me ramble!

Jesse said...

What great comments Kristen! You are really tempting me to go buy Tony's book - but I have to resist at least a few more weeks.

Andrew and I have talked of this before, emphasizing the humility aspect of it. This is powerful to me, because humility is not ignorance, but it is also not over-powering arrogance. I greatly appreciate the quotes and explanations you included here.

I've been surprised in some other reading I've done this week to see that many other great evangelical thinkers have proposed similar ideas, though in much more technical language. Here is one quote as an example: "There re not two separate avenues to understanding, one marked 'knowledge' and the other marked 'faith.' There is no knowing without believing and believing is the way to knowing." (Lesslie Newbigin)

Again, "The commitment is a personal matter; it has to be my commitment. In that sense it is subjective. But it is a commitment which has an objective reference. It is...a commitment 'with universal intent.' It looks for confirmation by further experience. Therefore it is something to be published, shared so that it may be questioned and checked by the experience of others." (Newbigin again)

Jesse said...

I got "The New Christians" at the library today - super stoked.