Monday, December 29, 2008

"A New Kind Of Conversation"

Even though young people hardly ever do email anymore;
they text
(see Leadership Journal 12/08, "Emailing is so 2006")..

And even though blogging is maybe "modern"
and perhaps past its peak;
it's Facebook or Twitter/micro-blogging
(see "Blogging? So 2006!"),

I obviously still believe in blogging...

and even recently read

"A New Kind Of Conversation: Blogging Toward a Postmodern Faith,"

an intriguing 2006 (!! (: ) book (orginally posted as a blog):

"While postmodernism is typically discussed in traditional book form--an edited volume with essays--the format of this book seeks to place the discussion in a form that is consistent with its content. Using the motif of the blog, A New Kind of Conversation is an experimental book that enters into this conversation with five evangelical leaders (Brian McLaren, Bruce Ellis Benson, Ellen Haroutunian, Mabiala Kenzon, and Myron Bradley Penner) acting as the primary bloggers."
A bit skeptical of the title (capitalizing on McLaren title similarity) and format at first, I really enjoyed the book and recommend it. Not just because the "bloggers" and "commenters" helpfully interact with each other..

...but because several times one of them suceeded wonderfully in the primary task of the book: helping us grasp what the postmodern shift means for the church.
I'll simply share some of my favorite moments where this happens
related to topics I believe are key to the shift:

metanarrative, simulacra, bibliotary and spiritual formation/education.

On metanarrative, Robinson addresses a huge misunderstanding of a phrase invoked as the very heart of postmodernity:

"So often one hears Lyotard's famous summary of postmodernity as "incredulity toward metanarratives" as postmoderns aren't interested in any grand metanarrative at all. ..The Bible of course is a grand metanarrative. What many Christians are reacting against in postmodernity is not Lyotard's definition of postmodernity, but a neo-Lyotardism that takes this rather complex understanding of 'metanarrative' and simplifies it to meaning 'we must be suspicious of all grand stories.' ..but let's get Lyotard right...(What he actually ) said is that postmodernity is ultimately skeptical when anybody presents a grand story and then sayts it is true because Reason proves it to be so."
-Bob Robinson, p, 20

Bruce Ellis Benson (pages 7-8) is also helpful clarifying the metannaratives issue (as is James K.A. Smith in "Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church"

On simulacra, Penner nails it:

"North American evangelical subculture--with its televised programs and church services, its theme parks and bumper stickers, and like paraphernalia; and its ability to turn anything remotely related to Christianity into a consumer product--is waiting for a sustained sociological-theological anaylsis in terms of Baudrillard's categories as a nihilistic fixation on simulacra and hyperreality."
(Mylon Bradley Penner, p.38)
I have written much on simulacra here.

I have also written much on biblolatry (here ),
but Penner says it more concisely and with a punch:

"We evangelicals often run perilously close to validating the charge from our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters who find the Protestant emphasis on Scripture a form of 'bibliolatry.'
We need, in other words, a view of Scripture that captures and embodies the truth that'The Holy Scriptures are the highway signs: Christ is the way.'"
-Penner, p. 90

Finally on spiritual formation/education...
I recently taught (if that is the right word anymore...that is precisely the point) a course on leadership for Latin American Bibkle Instiutiute; we used Leonard Sweet's postmodern-sensitive "Summoned to Lead,"
and I allowed "experimental" final projects: instead of a typical research paper or final exam, I allowed more creative projects.
They excelled (photo). It beat spitting out answers crammed into short term memory onto an exam sheet,
Instead, we were greatly impacted (and will remember our "finals" the rest if our lives as we were exposed to holy brother even wrote a song). This was spiritual formation,
and academic integrity.

Which brings us to Scot McKnight's comments in the book:

"there has come in our day a new understanding of education, which is in part much of what is going on in all spiritual formation perceptions by Christians, and this new understanding of education is more after a holistic telos. In other words, we are no longer permitted as professors to 'inform' students simply by 'lecturing' to them and then 'testing' to see if they have 'learned' what they should know. More and more, the outcome-based educational theory asks us to decribe what we want our students to be able to 'do' when they finish our course or our major or school, and then everything has to be shaped to develop these outcomes if we wish to be genuinely an educational institution.


Check out this book; it will be of great 2006 (:
....and beyond.

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!