Theology After Google: My Thoughts from Afar

Some folks gathered in Claremont, CA this week for what sounded like a fascinating conference called Theology After Google (TAG). While my duties at Woodridge UMC precluded me from attending in person, I was able to follow some of what was happening there some of the time thanks to the magic of twubs and ustream. I had both of those running in my office one morning as I attempted (and failed miserably) at multitasking. Later that day I wanted to watch and read more but had to turn it off in order to get some of my work done! What I saw and read was truly engaging and thought-provoking.

What was it all about? Much like the FirstThird Theological Dialogues on Youth Ministry conference I attended last week, it’s very hard to pin it down to one idea. Interestingly, as event leader Philip Clayton writes in his post-conference reflection, “this wasn’t really about Google. In one sense, it wasn’t even about technology. At a deeper level, it was about two questions: should the church adapt to the rapidly changing world around us? And, if so, what precisely should we do?”

It’s certainly worth your while to go read his whole post. In it Clayton contrasts the progressive approach, “attempting to be Christ-like to the people around us … by attempting to meet them where they are. Using new technologies, and thinking in new ways about our faith are part of that.” With a conservative approach to faith that says, very literally, “there is only one way to be Christian.” Left just barely unsaid by that group, “…and that one way is our way. The rest of you can suckit!”

Ok, so maybe, possibly, there’s a small chance, I added that last line.

That’s how some of my teenagers would have put it if they’d written it instead of Ken Silva. Who in the world is Silva and why does he think he gets to define for all people and all time what does and what does not constitute Christianity? I have no idea. And, frankly, I don’t care. Clayton is generous enough to link to one of Silva’s many hate-filled posts denigrating, well, nearly the entire world outside of himself. Personally, I don’t want to give the guy the satisfaction of  a link. Though to Silva’s credit, he’s posted several comments on Clayton’s blog. It’s almost as he’s looking for actual dialogue. I’m not buying it and here’s why…

In the post Clayton links to, Silva declares Clayton’s theology “poison” and says, “Therein lies their attack in trying to say that there’s more than one way to be Christian. And this fallacy becomes crystal clear in the following…”

Silva goes on to quote Clayton’s desire to form a “big tent” Christianity which has room for people who might not agree on everything but who desire to transform the church and society. Why is that bad? I have no idea. But Silva calls it “fallacy” and “not Christian.”

So Silva doesn’t like progressive theologians because we acknowledge that people find many paths for following God in the way of Jesus. Next comes the unbelieve-but-hilarious as Silva actually has the unmitigated gall to complain, “‘the conservative church’ is painted in a negative light as being narrow-minded and exclusive claiming to be the ‘only’ ones ‘qualified to represent Jesus’ message and mission.’”

Really, Ken? That’s exactly what you did claim just two sentences earlier! You’re the one saying there is only one way to be Christian! If that’s not the very definition of narrow-minded then what the hell is?!?

Ok, deep breath. Sorry, this guy just drives me batty. And not in the good way. He even declares contemplative prayer as demonic! But that, dear reader, is a rant for another day…

13 thoughts on “Theology After Google: My Thoughts from Afar

    1. Ken,
      First, thanks for posting on this lowly little blog. I appreciate it. Maybe I was wrong and you are looking for dialogue.

      Second, you know what? You are right. While I’m fairly certain I’ve quoted you accurately and I think I’ve understood your meaning, I also took a couple of verbal shots at you. I had an uncharitable attitude toward you and for that I apologize.
      It seems to me, based on what I’ve read of your blog (which is, admittedly, only a very little bit ), you are willing to take shots at others, including people I would consider friends. However, trying to use that as an excuse for my words is really no different than “he hit me first.” I don’t accept that from our kids and it shouldn’t be acceptable from me. In doing so I violated the very Jesus Way I’m striving to walk. I will make every effort to do better in the future.

      Meanwhile, please, let me know if/how I’ve misquoted you or misunderstood you.

      Perhaps we’re not so different. I don’t doubt you love Jesus and want to follow him. I know I do. Perhaps we’re both just attempting to defend our ways of following him.
      I do believe you and I and every other human being are beloved children of God, precious in his sight, called to live his way of love, justice and peace. I hope we can make room in the “big tent” for all of us.

      1. Dave,

        Not a problem, I wasn’t offended and was just kidding around with you. I don’t take this stuff personally.

        You are correct I’m “willing to take shots at others,” and on this playing field of ideas I’m also willing to take them as well.

        Unfortunately, though we might personally get along just fine, from what you say we’re very different theologically.

        And I’m pretty sure neither of us will be able to change each other’s minds. So, I’m willing to agree to disagree agreeably.

        I will tell you this, I honestly do respect your being willing to come right out with what you believe. That is refreshing, because there are others who aren’t so willing.

        1. Ken,
          Thanks for having a good attitude about the “playing field of ideas.” I like that line.

          I can certainly live with agreeing to disagree agreeably. I dare say if more folks through out church history (or just plain history for that matter) had found a way to disagree without being disagreeable perhaps we’d know fewer divisions today.

          1. Your last point, tru dat!

            As far as the playing field of ideas, you’re free to use it if’n ya want to. I’m a former high school head football coach and God taught me some things during my service at that secular school.

            In particular, before I got there it was known as a school that played dirty. I told them there’d be none of that, and we’d play very physical, but always by the rules.

            We actually won the best sportsmanship award and very nearly the state title, losing on a last second field goal. God honored my stance for Him.

            When Jesus gave me Apprising Ministries 5 years ago I was led to function much like a middle linebacker on the defense. If someone tries running the ball of wrong doctrine up the middle of the field of ideas, it’s my job to discourage them.

            And so, I write hard; but I play by the Law of Christ, love your neighbor as yourself. Make sense. If I’m wrong I want someone to love me enough to do what it takes to get through to me.

            On the field of ideas is one thing, however, off the field like this, is another matter entirely. 🙂

          2. What’s this? The great Ken Silva didn’t come out of the womb smiting heretics?!? Say it isn’t so! Suddenly the whole world is upside down! 🙂

            I appreciate your football metaphor. That makes a lot of sense.
            I can’t decide if I completely disagree with that as a representation of the life of faith or if I just play for the other team. 🙂
            But I’ll say this: from what I can tell you are truly living out your theology. And, really, that was a big piece of what the FirstThird dialogue was about: know your theology, live it, help others articulate theirs.

            I sure hope my emergent friends will still come over to play when I admit I had a rather pleasant exchange with you!

          3. “you are truly living out your theology”

            To quote that great pop theologian Popeye: “I yam what I yam.”

            “I sure hope my emergent friends will still come over to play when I admit I had a rather pleasant exchange with you!”

            Well, they won’t hear it from me. See you on the field sometime ya ol’ heretic 😉

  1. pclaytoncps

    Dave, thanks for opening a new conversation, and for the thoughts about Theology After Google. I wish you many more great exchanges!

    — Philip Clayton

    1. My pleasure, Philip. Thanks for taking the time to read it and respond. I just finished “Transforming Christian Theology” the other day. I really appreciate the manner in which you’ve taken on this role as theologian-for-the-people. I join you, Tripp and your team in desiring to transform church and society!

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