Wednesday, December 09, 2009

a few questions on epistemology, missiology and "shift happens" @St. Arbuck's

I find it intriguing,
and maybe inevitable...

...that the folks who talk the most about a "relationship with Jesus"...even a "personal relationship with Jesus"..

....would usually respond with that rabbit caught in headlights look when asked,
"Great, you have a relationship with him, and know him personally..what is the last thing he said to you?"

Our epistemology does indeed need some freedom the the absolute certainty of evangelicalism/modernity... But now that an emerging postmodern epistemology inherently expects more relationality/experience/feeling..

...shouldn't we least once in awhile...have something to say (or paint?)

Wouldn't it be be a bit more evangelistically/apologetically/missiologically inviting (sorry if that sounds to "attractional") to have pre-believers actually asking us the "What is the last thing he said to you?" question..

..not to mention us actually having some form of an answer (or question) that isn't just chapter n verse.

I am digging out notes, and dusting off (surprised there wasn't snow all over them, haven't touched them since the freezing winter I took the course at Yale New Haven) notebooks from an amazing class from Paul Hiebert on Spiritual Warfare and Missiology several moons ago. Also drawing insights from Hiebert's seminal "Missiological Implications of Epistemological Shifts,"
(as well as from that book's popularized sequel, "Through the River").

Then, since I have promised to give a copy of Leonard Sweet's "The Gospel According to Starbuck's" to the amazing Moses, resident barista/pastor at our local Starbucks...
I have been gathering quotes from that book:

"Churches increasingly became not relational space but propositional place" (132)

And Len, in a post called "crossing over.. epistemology of mission,"
excerpts "Borderland Churches":
“We need to embrace a different way of knowing, one that moves us from description to an experience. Being able to put words to observations made by others is not enough. The greatest challenge is to move from theory and the broad generalities of descriptive writings to lived experience.”
Borderland Churches, Nelson, p. 27

I love words too much, I need to be given stewardship of prophetic images as well.
I am still part "travelling salesman (on my mother's side). I just fear I will accidentally come off like Uncle Ernie at Uncle Harry's again..
or offer some version of this below, even if I am at Starbucks:

One of the boys prayed that he desired to follow Jesus. In misguided fervor, I gave him a copy of St.John's gospel, scripture notes on St.John, a booklet entitled 'Now You Are a Christian' and another, 'The Way Ahead.' I did not see him for two years and felt hurt and concerned for his spiritual well being. When I saw him again I asked why he had been avoiding me so long. He looked embarrassed (and said): "I wanted to know Jesus, and you gave me a library." -Jackie Pullinger, "Chasing the Dragon,"p.77 , From my post, "I wanted to know Jesus, but you gave me a library"

...There are a few thinkers (feelers, too) I'd love to sit down with around this topic. So I will tag them in the facebook mirror of this post:

And since Paul Hiebert won't be available for awhile (RIP w/Jesus), and if Bono (who actually has had quite a bit to say about epistemological and EPIC shift in the last few albums.."the more you feel, the less you know", "a feeling's so much stronger than a thought"....) isn't too busy..

...let's talk a bit here.. It may not be St. Arbuck's..
..but it is a virtually real place to talk.

  • What does "knowing" look like in our day?
  • What do "prophetic words" look like, in light of epistemology and evangelism?
  • In what ways are we blinded by old paradigms?
  • Speak to the role of experience/relationship/feeling in faith and missiology
  • Talk about creating "relational space, not propositional place"
  • The role of church as third place


  1. That is a huge topic Dave....and each of your questions could easily warrant a long winded diatribe from me.

    I see the danger of propositional truth without relationships/community/ a real heart for God. But I am not sure that calls us to find fault with propositions in themselves. I think that it is possible to draw near to God with propositions on your lips and have your heart far from HIM. (Mat 15:8) And that phenomenon is obviously not new, nor the fault of modernism alone. I believe it is the native tendency of our hearts to use God as an accessory to our selfishness.

    But we shouldn't fault drawing near to God with our lips on that account. We simply say it is not enough. Anyone who wants to draw near to God with their heart will see that nearness pour forth in words of thanks, awe, faith, and confession.

    The basis of our knowing God is his full disclosure of himself in Jesus. When we see Jesus we see the father, and God has preserved the truth about Jesus in words that are adequate for the task even when our wayward hearts resist.

    Our blindness is bigger than our paradigms old or new. My protest is against more than modernism, and in 200 years thinkers will find that whatever new paradigm arises blinded them too. We need to see how paradigms hinder understanding and relationship, but see how the bigger problem comes from our stubborness. Fundamentally we don't know God because we do not want to know him. We love other things more, and that has been true in every age.

    Christian epistemology finds is full expression in person/work/words of Jesus and to truly understand God requires an act of his self-disclosure to the soul. It is a unmanageable miracle.

    More to say, but no more time for now.

  2. I like what Mike had to say about not knowing God because we don't want to know him. I think that has been the case for many people for a long, long time...probably forever.

    I think that you are very correct Dave, in your portrait of the rabbit in the headlights look from most Christians about what God last said to them. I think too many go through their prayers like a ritual always asking and never listening long enough to hear a response. One thing I have learned in my wanderings through the desert is how to slow down and listen for God's voice.

    I want my relationship to be real to the point that I know what God is telling me all the time. I found that I couldn't do that in an environment where the image portrayed to the public was Photoshopped and airbrushed to look like there were no flaws. It gnaws at me that people I love deeply are so happy with their Stepford church.

    Still wandering the desert but happy that God is leading the way.


  3. Hey all:
    I know my questions were way too broad.

    Mac will respond when i narrow something down for him. OK, Mac:
    Please comment on the role of "prophetic words," or God speaking through someone else, in the mix of hearing God's voice/will for our missional life.


    Brilliant interaction, as usual.
    You bring great balance and openness.

    If I only had your mind..

    Amen on ALL paradigms and eras blinding us..

    What hit me about "We simply say it is not enough" is the irony of some leading that, too (saying, words) can fall into the same propistional truth trap..

    I would love to hear more about
    "self-disclosure to the soul. It is a unmanageable miracle."

    What a loaded thought.


    Of course you are brilliant, too.. but you already knew that.

    (I think you met Matt at the Fosters last week).

    I think part of the secret to the listening for the Voice is we don't do it often enough in a corporate/communitas setting.
    I started asking questions about this on a follow-up post.

  4. oops, here's the link i meant to leave in the above comment for Dogma:


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!