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“The Gospel of a lived love…”

I recently led a trip to Boston with some of my youth and these were some of my reflections that I thought particularly applied to our conversation here at pomoyogo. Enjoy!

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“The Sacred Art of Listening…”

Krista Tippett, host of “On Being” on NPR, shares some great thoughts on The Huffington Post on the importance of listening. Which makes me consider that perhaps one of the primary ways to be a good evangelist is to become a good listener. What if the first step to sharing the Gospel was actually listening to the stories of others well? How does listening incorporate into your understanding of sharing the Gospel?

Non-Christians are…

I greatly appreciated Driscoll’s thoughts that “non-Christians aren’t stupid, they’re blind.” However, I imagine if you told someone who wasn’t a Christian that they weren’t stupid, they were just blind, they might still be offended. It seems to me that most of us don’t do well with being told things about ourselves period. We tend to receive lessons better when we experience them than when they’re dictated to us. Too often, evangelism has sought to explicitly share the exact status of both those “in” and those “out”. But what if evangelism was more about sharing the story of where you’re at and how you’ve come to be there? What if it includes sharing God’s story…the grand narrative of what he’s been up to throughout history? But what if it could allow more space for individuals to come to their own realizations than forcing our knowledge on them? Thoughts, push back, reflection?

Non-Christians aren’t stupid…they’re blind.

Mark Driscoll* share a perspective that is helpful to keep in mind while we’re approaching evangelism and the Gospel. What are your thoughts?

*Yes, I’m aware that Driscoll has said some foolish thinks recently (and, in my opinion, repeatedly). I don’t agree with him on everything (or most things usually). On the other hand, that describes just about anyone that’s every existed. We’ve all made a passel of mistakes and none of us agree with everyone else on everything. Which is why it’s so important to be able to include a variety of people in our conversations. So I post this because I see (to use some Quaker terminology) “that of Christ” in these comments by Driscoll.

Definitions: Postmodernism pt 4

Several people have made the astute observation that we need some more definition of terms to help engage the conversation. With that in mind, I’d like to tackle the idea of postmodernism in a four part post that examines James Smith’s book “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?”, where he engages three postmodern philosophers: Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Michel Foucault. This is the fourth and final of the four part series (part onepart two; part three). I have adapted these posts from a paper I wrote in the fall of 2009. This post is particularly desiring your interaction!

In final summary, then, postmodernism contends that there is no truth without interpretation,  has a deep suspicion of systems of power, and is an exploration of alternate paths to what possesses meaning and substance.  This is not to say that in postmodernism modernism has ceased to exist, or that postmodernism is an effort to rid the world of modernism.  Instead, postmodernism allows for the opening of additional angles of discussion on what truth and life are all about. For a brief, simple explanation of the coexistence of postmodernism and modernism, check out this video/blog post.

It’s also worth noting that while generations might have tendencies towards modernist or postmodern mindsets, neither is generationally exclusive. The ideas that form postmodernity have been percolating for decades and are not a discovery of the last decade or two (though it’s in the last decade that they have picked up steam in Evangelical discussions).

With the three ideas proposed about postmodernism at the beginning of this post in mind, what paths might you see it opening up in discussions related to the Gospel? In what ways does it challenge our current approach to sharing the Gospel?

Definitions: Postmodernism pt 3

Several people have made the astute observation that we need some more definition of terms to help engage the conversation. With that in mind, I’d like to tackle the idea of postmodernism in a four part post that examines James Smith’s book “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?”, where he engages three postmodern philosophers: Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Michel Foucault. This is the third of the four part series (part onepart two; part four). I have adapted these posts from a paper I wrote in the fall of 2009. For ease of reading, I’ve bolded key ideas, so that you may either read all the gnarly details or skim for the key concepts. Either way, please leave comments and engage in conversation!

Lastly, Smith moves on to Michel Foucault.  “For Foucault, at the root of our most cherished and central institutions…is a network of power relations.  The same is true of our most celebrated ideals; at their base, Foucault claims knowledge and justice reduce to power.” This is not to indicate that knowledge brings power, that power brings knowledge, or that they are actually the same, but that they can never be exclusive (1).

Smith continues by acknowledging that, because of this, “postmodernism is characterized by a deep hermeneutic of suspicion” (2), indicating that there is an innate sense of distrust by postmoderns of power.  Foucault, though, isn’t intending to show power as an evil, or a good, but instead just as “is”, as unavoidable, and perhaps even amoral in that sense (3).

This combination of knowledge and power that Foucault observes is used to instill discipline, toward the end of furthering both knowledge and power.  Culture has, Foucault suggests, pursued panopticism, or the ability to observe and thus influence without being observed (4). Culture is not a static force that we live in with no consequences, but is a dynamic system that is desiring to align individuals to its goals.

Smith, though, suggests that we can’t, as Christians, be totally averse to being controlled and conformed as part of our calling is conformity to Christ (5). It is too easy for the church to get on board with Foucault because of our idolization of autonomy, while ignoring our need for community and conformity (6).

Smith further contends that discipline is not a single “bad” entity as Foucault would be inclined to depict it, but that “we can distinguish good discipline from bad discipline by its…goal or end,” and that “a disciplinary form is proper when it corresponds with the proper end of humanity, which is to be (renewed) image bearers of God” (7). Christian disciplines, then, have a place and a prominent one at that.

Smith finishes by describing what good discipline can lead to:  a true disciple. “The primary aim of discipleship is to create a certain kind of person who acts in a certain way, not someone who simply thinks in a certain way…knowing truth is only instrumental to ultimately doing the truth” (8).

  1. Smith. Who’s Afraid of Postmodernity? 85.
  2. Ibid., 86.
  3. Ibid., 91.
  4. Ibid., 92.
  5. Ibid., 101.
  6. Ibid., 100.
  7. Ibid., 102.
  8. Ibid., 106.

Definitions: Postmodernism pt 2

Several people have made the astute observation that we need some more definition of terms to help engage the conversation. With that in mind, I’d like to tackle the idea of postmodernism in a four part post that examines James Smith’s book “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?”, where he engages three postmodern philosophers: Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Michel Foucault. This is the second of the four part series (part one; part three; part four). I have adapted these posts from a paper I wrote in the fall of 2009. For ease of reading, I’ve bolded key ideas, so that you may either read all the gnarly details or skim for the key concepts. Either way, please leave comments and engage in conversation!

Smith next proceeds to consider Jean-Francois Lyotard’s statement that postmodernism is an “incredulity toward metanarratives.” (1) Many have interpreted this as meaning that Christianity and postmodernism are incompatible because Christians have a grand, overarching story that we believe is the core of how we live our lives.  However, Smith suggests that what Lyotard actually means by this statement is that the scientific obsession with reason is itself a metanarrative and one that does not hold all answers.  In other words, “metanarratives…(are) false appeals to universal, rational, scientific criteria–as though they were divorced from any particular myth or narrative.” (2) Narratives are not the problem; it’s when people claim an objective truth that lies outside of narrative.

With this in mind, Smith contends that postmodernity actually opens the door to Christianity, because it allows us to freely present our ideas in the marketplace of ideas and that, if understood and presented well, that our story is one of unique impact. (3) In other words, this insistence that rational thought alone doesn’t hold the trump card allows a key component of our beliefs to retake its central place:  faith.  

  1. Smith. Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? 63.
  2. Ibid., 68.
  3. Ibid., 73.