“Barbara Brown Taylor is a New York Times bestselling author, professor, and Episcopal priest. She has served on the faculty of Piedmont College as the Butman Professor of Religion and Philosophy since 1998, and has released such widely praised books as Leaving Church and Learning to Walk in the Dark. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Barbara and Sounds True's Tami Simon speak about appreciating the power of divine absence as well as divine presence. They talk about the value of becoming familiar with darkness and a “lunar spirituality” inspired by walking beneath the light of the moon. Finally, Tami and Barbara discuss the modern predilection toward busyness and how a dedicated Sabbath day can help alleviate the stress of everyday life. (54 minutes)”
You’ll find the podcast here. My favourite Barbara Brown Taylor book? Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (pub. 2007). I’ve yet to read her Learning to Walk in the Dark, but have had a look through the book and warm to its themes.
I picked up and am in the process of reading Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes by Margaret Heffernan, and published by TED (pub. 2015). It’s a book about culture change, a book that takes seriously the importance of social capital, the weakness of hierarchies, the physicality of thinking, and workplaces as complex systems.
While written for a business audience, it has much wider application and could be profitably read by church leaders, not for profits etc.
You can watch Heffernan deliver her latest TED talk (May 2015) below:
Scripture points to the human body and lived experience as the preeminent arena of God’s continuing revelation in the world, says Luke Timothy Johnson. Attentively discerning the manifestations of God’s Spirit in and through the body is essential for theology to recover its nature as an inductive art rather than -- as traditionally conceived -- a deductive science.
Willingness to risk engaging actual human situations -- as opposed to abstract conceptualizations of those situations -- is required of the theologian, Johnson argues. He celebrates the intimations of divine presence and power in such human experiences as play, pain, pleasure, work, and aging, showing how theology can respond faithfully to the living God only by paying due attention to human bodily experience.”
To be published in August 2015.
-- Fordham University
“This beautiful book focuses like a laser on a theology of the body in the concrete. Laced with deep knowledge of Scripture and salted with personal experience, it makes the interesting case that the movement of God’s Spirit is expressed not only grandly in public events but also simply through events of the body. The human body -- at play, in pain or pleasure, at work, being exceptional, aging -- is a locus of divine revelation, and theology would do well to begin from that place. . . . Truly a gift from a wise elder.”
“Dementia affects more than 342,000 Australians - and many other people besides — their loved ones, their friends, and their carers. So what happens to people when they lose a sense of their selves? Can anything be done to help them reconnect with things that matter to them, like spirituality?
Dr John Swinton is one of the world's leading thinkers on this subject, what's called 'disability theology'. His practice stems from the belief that even though it may look to us like our loved one has gone, they haven't gone — the self is still there, it's just the expression of it that's changed. He says disability theology helps us to see properly what it means to be a human being, and that to be human is much more interesting and complicated than the simplistic way that culture tells us it should be.
Dr John Swinton is Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care in the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen. He's the author of several books on dementia and theology, including 'Dementia: Living in the Memories of God', and he was in Australia recently as part of his new position with the independent Christian charity HammondCare, who he's helping to develop new practice in theology and spirituality for people living with dementia…”
Podcast here (ABC Local, Sunday Nights). Aired 12th July 2015.
“The church is living in a time of massive, unprecedented change. Traditional institutions and structures are unraveling in response to rapid social, demographic and economic developments. The existing ways of being the church are no longer meaningful to many. How should the church respond?
Many seek to address this situation by tweaking the established institutions, finding new structures, reorganizing congregations or renewing long-established practices. Some even argue that we need to abandon structures and institutions altogether. We regularly hear proposals for missional churches, organic churches, simple churches, fresh expressions churches and so on.
Alan Roxburgh argues that we need to look deeper. Structures embody the core narratives that shape how people see the world. We cannot simply replace old institutions with new ones. We need to examine the underlying stories, metaphors and cultures that give organizations their meaningfulness. The crisis of the church today is a crisis not of institution but of imagination.
In Structured for Mission, Roxburgh challenges the church to become a place where people are empowered to reimagine their religious life and experiment with new ways of being the church in a local context.
We are living in a brave new world. Will the church be ready?”
He also has Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time out in July. It’s published by Morehouse Publishing and out July 2015 too: “…Exhausted with trying to “fix” the church? It’s time to turn in a new direction: back to the Holy Spirit. In this insightful book, internationally renowned scholar and leader Alan Roxburgh urges Christians to follow the Spirit into our neighborhoods, re-engage with the mission of God, and re-imagine the whole enterprise of church. Joining God, Remaking Church, and Changing the World can guide any church — large or small, suburban or urban, denomination-level or local parish — to become a vital center for spirituality and mission.”
Steve Taylor is a friend, and we’ve interacted face-to-face, a good many times over the years; less so since he’s been in Australia.
We’re different personalities, but we’ve always gotten along well. I’ve followed his blog since it’s inception, and followed along with all the changes of focus and emphasis. I often reflect on those changes, both those in my own life and journey, and in Steve’s.
Neither of our blogs are the same as when we started out at very similar times – over 10-years ago… They’ve been built week-by-week and year-by-year.
My blog has changed as my journey, priorities, focus, and needs have changed. So has Steve’s. And because we’ve both regularly and consistently updated our blogs over that period, it’s always been interesting to me to reflect, longitudinally, on our respective journeys, the overlaps and the differences. Both blogs have consistently recorded facets of our respective journeys. Behind every marker is a story.
As I look back there are many and diverse markers of where we’ve each been; the uncharted terrain we’ve traversed as life has unfolded. I’m grateful for friends, for difference, for diverse journey’s, for emergence, convergence, and divergence.
Leading and facilitating change processes has always been one of Steve’s strengths and now Steve (and his family) face another transition, as they prepare to leave Australia and move back to New Zealand.
I was therefore interested, yesterday, to read his summation of the transition process that will be operating over the next few months at Uniting College. Adelaide.
You’ll find the post here. It’s well worth a read.
“Biblical stories”, Tacey says, “are metaphorical. They may have been accepted as factual hundreds of years ago, but today they cannot be taken literally.” The recoil for many revolves around the question of “believing”; on the need for literal belief; on the need for literal belief as a badge for belonging. As many of us appreciate, the Bible comprises many different types of literature, and as a consequence requires are wide range of approaches when reading and interpreting. This range is not always in evidence, both in interpretation and application.
Tacey argues that biblical language should not exclusively be read as history, and it was never intended as literal description. Yes, some Biblical texts have spiritual / psychological meaning, and in some cases, he argues they have historical meaning and significance too.
His target is the kind of literalism that often abounds in some circles, in some ways of being church and Christian.
Religion as Metaphor argues that despite what tradition tells us, if we “believe” religious language, we miss religion’s spiritual or deeper meaning and significance.
Tacey argues that religious language was not designed to be historical reporting, but rather to resonate in the soul and direct us toward transcendent realities. Its impact was intended to be closer to poetry than theology. The book uses specific examples to make its case: Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the Kingdom of God, the Apocalypse, Satan, and the Resurrection.
Tacey shows that, with the aid of contemporary thought and depth psychology, we can re-read religious stories as metaphors of the spirit and the interior life. Moving beyond literal thinking will save religion from itself.”
Tacey covered some of this material when he was in New Zealand delivering the John Main Lectures in January this year.
Most recently, he appeared on ABC radio show The Spirit of Things. It aired on Sunday 31st May 2015 and can be found as a downloable podcast here. You’ll also find a 2012 talk (the text) on many of the themes Tacey has covered in his book attached as a PDF to the bottom of this post.
“Prolific writer on spirituality, David Tacey says we shouldn't, and furthermore it undermines faith.
In his new book, Beyond Literal Belief, Tacey also takes to task the scientifically minded and self-styled 'progressives' who dismiss the Bible as 'mere myth'.
David talks to The Spirit of Things’ Rachael Kohn about why the metaphorical meaning of religious texts is crucial to faith.”
Published earlier this month is Michael J. Gorman’s latest book on St. Paul. It looks fascinating and is described as “The first detailed exegetical treatment of Paul’s letters from the emerging discipline of missional hermeneutics, Michael Gorman’s Becoming the Gospel argues that Paul’s letters invite Christian communities both then and now to not merely believe the gospel but to become the gospel and, in doing so, to participate in the life and mission of God…”
I shall be looking forward to reading it. It has the potential to affirm a whole lot of my own thinking, and many of the conversations I’ve participated in over the years.
While the book is too expensive for me to purchase, my own imagination was stirred by this nice summing up of the central theme in Bachelard’s fascinating book, Resurrection and Moral Imagination. The summing up (below) is from an online review by Phillip McCosker, published in The Tablet last June (emphasis, mine).
Transcendence in ethics;
Resurrection and transcendence;
Resurrection, imagination and ethics;
Living beyond death and judgement;
Mortality and moral meaning;
The practice of resurrection ethics: secularization, contemplation and the Church;
“…Bachelard’s game-changing vision is quite different from that of her fellow Anglican moral theologian Oliver O’Donovan’s earlier Resurrection and Moral Order. For O’Donovan, ethics must be founded on the Resurrection because it vindicates the created order and its morality; for Bachelard, the Resurrection gives a new world from which to act, and that world can be perceived even without explicit religious belonging…
… Crucial here is Murdoch’s conviction, which Bachelard makes central, that moral differences between us are not the result of making different moral choices within a shared world – choosing different items from the same menu – but rather because we perceive different worlds. We’re in very different eateries: the suicide bomber and the vegan live in different moral universes. Building on Wittgenstein, Bachelard emphasises how our unconscious background pictures of reality filter and unwittingly influence our every thought and action. The task of the moral life is to reveal the world as it really is and attend to it, avoiding the false consolations of attractive but illusory and facile views.
Our regular and predictable celebrations of Easter can deaden our sense of the utter strangeness of the Resurrection. Liturgical familiarity breeds not contempt exactly, but apathy or cosiness, a sense of “same old, same old”. We are now bored by the events that filled the early Christians with dumbstruck fear and awe, turning their conceptual universes inside out and upside down. Nothing was the same again, all re-constellated around the risen Jesus…
… By complete contrast, in the bizarre new world revealed by the Resurrection, we live a life after the pattern of Jesus. This is what the Spirit brings about. Not a life of prescriptions and proscriptions but a life shaped by a person, a person whose identity is constituted, not over against others, but by constant trust and dependence on the Father: an outward-looking life in which death is revealed to be a penultimate reality; a life sourced in God’s boundless generosity and grace, lived from and into the open and uncontrollable future.
If we receive our real identities from the risen Jesus who is always ahead of us as he calls us, this fundamentally alters our relations with each other. We cannot control our identities: we receive them as gifts. Likewise we do not possess goodness: we participate in it as it transcends us. For Bachelard, a moral life sourced in the Resurrection reveals the true depth of reality; it is always vulnerable because it lives from the unknown future and under God’s judgement alone, and it is therefore always compassionate, producing a moral discourse which doesn’t trade in easy certainties or wishy-washy niceness but is messy, unsystematic and painful…”