Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fun with Junk Mail

Ace Orthobloggers Aaron and Owen on their way to the Climacus Conference put me in mind of this conference just across the river (well, actually it didn't, but it makes for a nice segue.) Even though I have been full-bore Orthodox for some 5 years now, I remain on a number of mailing lists from the old days in the Church of Christ. Some of the mail--such as the promotion for the "9th-Annual Stone-Campbell Journal Conference"--is interesting to glance over, just to see what is going on in that world.

To explain what "Stone-Campbell" means, exactly, would risk losing the audience long before the punch line. Suffice to say that this is a conference for academic types, primarily from the independent Christian Churches, with a smattering of unity-minded Church of Christ academes, and the rare historically-minded Disciples of Christ scholar--all heirs to the 19th-century Restoration Movement led by Messrs. Stone and Campbell.

Other than the Disciples, these are conservative folks, and their churches have not exactly been at the forefront of religious trends in this country. And I mean that as a compliment. But a quick glance at the seminar topics reveal that they are doing their best to catch up. Most mainstream American Protestants were at this point a generation ago, so it is really a bit pitiful to see these latter-day Restorationists struggling to be so relevant, so inclusive and, of course, missional.

The seminar topics reveal much more than they realize about these churches' prospects. A sampling, below, with a few comments:

God, our Mother: Rediscovering the Maternal Divine in Prayer

[This one would be laugh-out loud funny, if it weren't so sad.]

Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman: A Case Study in Inclusiveness

Approaching New Religious Movements in a Missiological Spirit

The Latter-Day Saints Doctrine of General Salvation & the Restoration Movement Doctrine of Original Grace: Theological Conflicts and Connections

[Commonality with the Mormons?]

Rethinking Jesus' Death: Mark's Narrative in Mediterranean Context

Elaboration-Likelihood Model Applied to Preaching


Receiving the Message: The Reading Culture among Early Christians

[Seldom do you see the ramifications of sola scriptura laid-out quite so literally.]

A Theological Essay on New Testament Eschatology and the Contours of Christian Discipleship

Soulless Spirituality? Non-reductive Physicalism and its Substance-dualist Discontents

[I repeat, huh?]

From Table to Altar: Why the Early Church Moved from Supper to "Snack"

[This offensive title from THE contemporary Church of Christ scholar.]

Is Missional a Restoration/Stone-Campbell Paradigm?

[The better question would be, who would care?]

Toward a Stone-Campbell Theology of Religion: Interacting with the Proximate Other

The Historical Markedness of the Resurrection of Jesus: Its Value of an Evangelical Theology of Religions

Actually, there are two seminars that might be interesting:

Mad Honey Poisoning in Revelation 10


Divine Energies and Theosis

[What possibly could a Restorationist have to say about that!]

A hundred years from--if there is a hundred years from now--these churches will make for an interesting historical footnote.


Kirk said...

"From Table to Altar: Why the Early Church Moved from Supper to 'Snack'"

Let me guess: Rubel Shelley? Edward Fudge?

s-p said...

WOW!!! We NEVER saw titles like that at Lubbock Christian. Looks like a clamoring for "intellectual respectability" in case someone from Harvard Divinity gets a hold of a flyer. Sheesh. And actually one of the founding members of Mormonism (and Jehovah's Witnesses) were former church of Christ folks. The talk of Energies and Theosis would actually fit with a CofC "works and salvation" paradigm. That would actually be interesting to hear.

John said...

Kirk, good guesses, but too left-of-center. The correct answer is--John Mark Hicks.

s-p, I think one reason academic types have opted for "Stone-Campbell Movement" over "Restoration Movement," was their uncomfortable realization that the LDS and JW consider themselves restorationists, as well. No matter, S-CM has not caught on with the average layperson. To the extent that anyone in that heritage still considers their history (and few do), it is "Restoration Movement" that still holds.

In looking over these discussion topics, I quess I find that I am a little disappointed. For some reason, I expected better.

elizabeth said...

wow. and yes, how sad...

Ranger said...

At least it is not completely dumbed down; the new John Ortberg book for sale in our bookstore is called- The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God's best version of you. I think that deserves a huh?what! of course he is a .Willow Creek disciple.
Steve would appreciate one of his graphs, diagraming the scripture "perfect love casts out fear"... just a line graph showing fear decreasing as love increases. It is all so funny, sad and truly telling.
Also in the future footnoted churches, I have a friend who is "planting" a church. He posted a short explanation of a missional view of why church plants MUST continue, the final conclusion, that most contemporary churches after 25 years, stagnate, and after 50 years they just simply die out. Thus, it is imperative to continually re-planting new churches w/ a contemporary mindset, otherwise all those ridiculous traditional churches will be the only thing left.

Kirk said...

John, here's an interesting topic for discussion--

Paging Mark Stokoe...

ccotten said...


Interesting that you should mention Ortberg on this thread. J.M. Hicks' home academic institution, Lipscomb University in Nashville, has just organized what they are calling the "Institute of Christian Spirituality" where you can get a one-year certificate in how to be a spiritual mentor. (As far as I can tell anyone can apply.) Ortberg is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at their inaugural conference. The institute's literature makes for fun reading; it sounds like it was spit out by one of those spoof online generators (in this case, of emergent-pomo-missional-speak).

The evangelical drift at work in "mainline" Churches of Christ for many years now is more like a mad rush.

(Now for the requisite disclaimer: I'm approaching the end of an M.Div. program at Lipscomb.)



What did you make of the keynote speakers? As I recall Ronald Heine (a noted Origen scholar) and Frederick Norris (who has also published widely on patristic topics) are scheduled to speak. Aside from that, though, I think you're right. Those topics look perfectly dreadful.

John said...

Ranger, "The Me I Want to Be"??? THAT was always my problem! Your friend's church-planting rationale is priceless.

ccotten, the talks by Heine and Norris do seem to be substantive (on Origen and St. Gregory Naziazen.) But the theme for the conference says it all, does it not? "Blending New and Old: Spirituality for the 21st Century." Sounds to me as though they are following the emergent pomo model--cherry-picking from Patristics and incorporating, or "blending" bits of it into their ontemporary "spirituality." No doubt it will be as successful as the emergents efforts along these lines--which is to say, not at all.

But before I come off as too cynical, in one sense it is perhaps a bit hopeful that some of the Church Fathers are being discussed at a Christian Church/Church of Christ conference. I remember a day when that would have NEVER been done.

And congratulations on your M.Div. If you don't mind my asking, what is your thesis?

JD said...

As a life long church of Christ member recently converted to Orthodoxy it seems I find a lot of former c.o.cers on these blogs. Am I accurate or am I just more in tune and heightened to that experience?

s-p said...

No, it is true JD, there are quite a few of us. At one time half of our Mission members were former c of C. I correspond with several ministers, elders and deacons every year from my podcasts.

John said...

JD, yes, your observation is correct. There are a number of us former CoC types scattered around on the Orthodox blogs. Besides myself and s-p, there is Clint who blogs with Fr. James Early, and then Clifton Healy’s blog, and then a couple of others, I think. Then there are regular contributors like Kirk, above, who falls in the not-quite-yet-former-CoC category. I think CoC members make good prospects for Orthodoxy, and once we become a little better known and the CoC becomes more untenable, then I think you may see more of it. I know a number of former members both here in our mission, and in the Dallas churches. Without sounding triumphalist, I think the reason is that Orthodoxy simply “is” what the Church of Christ strives mightily to be. And if you take the CoC plea seriously (and I did), then you have to eventually deal with the disconnect between the construct of ChurchofChristianity and the reality. The problem is as ccotten noted: “The evangelical drift at work in "mainline" Churches of Christ for many years now is more like a mad rush.” The distinctiveness within the CoC fading, for better or for worse. The evangelically-minded CoCer who looks at my becoming Orthodox as just a choice (albeit a weird one) from the buffet line of American religious pluralism is a lot harder to take than the old-time knotheaded CoCer who views me as a heretic who has lost my mind and salvation. Now THAT I can understand! I try to not talk much about the Church of Christ, as it would make it seem that I was trying to justify my move—which I am not (no fond backward glances, here.) I also try to avoid pontificating about Orthodoxy head-on. I will leave that to others.

JD said...

S-P and John,

Those are good observations and I certainly understand those two polar positios viz. the CoC. My last duty station as a CoC was one that is on a migratory track becoming more and more evangelical (including IM). So I left the knotheaded group years ago. Yikes no more bloviating, we've all heard those stories and I was about to break out in a rash fearing becoming embedded in one of S-P's orthographs.

s-p said...

JD, you can run but you cannot hide... :)

ccotten said...

Hi John,

I'm planning on writing a thesis on John T. Lewis, the student of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding who was responsible for establishing most of the churches of Christ in the Birmingham area in the first half of the last century. (Incidentally, the thesis will be written under the direction of John Mark Hicks. I've found his work on Lipscomb and Harding to be helpful, even if I don't agree with all of his conclusions about how well they would fit into the mindset of the average Church of Christ today.)

I was raised in the non-institutional churches, in a particular wing of that wing that sometimes had more overlap with Amish-Mennonite/Pentecostal understandings of holiness than do most in "mainstream" Churches of Christ. Lewis, with his views on Christian participation in war and in government, the head covering of 1 Cor 11, and prayer posture, is about the best representative of that wing of the NI churches that one could come up with.

Needless to say, none of these ideas are in vogue on campus at Lipscomb University.

I enjoy your blog (and those of a number of other Orthodox bloggers). The concern for the secularization of American Christianity that I see in your writings (and those of the "Ochlophobist" and Fr. Jonathan Tobias) desperately needs to be heard in the churches of Christ. But most congregations of which I am aware either cannot or will not hear it.

Chris Cotten

jmgregory said...

Two can play at this game! (In nothing but a spirit of fun):

"The Truth is Out There: Confessions of a Post-Postmodernist" -- It wouldn't be a legitimate scholarly conference without the word "postmodern". Also, you academics need some new nomenclature, stat. I really don't want to have arguments with my post-post-post-modernist grandchildren.

"Pinocchio and the Moral Imagination" -- You know things are going downhill when theologians resort to papers addressing animated films. I just hope no connections were made with the story of Jonah.

"Scripture as an Icon of Christ" -- Wasn't there already a conference or something about this?

"The Orthodox Moviegoer" -- Can one even be both Orthodox and a moviegoer? We need to ask Fr. Tobias about the possibilities.

"Harry Potter: The Gateway to English Literature" -- It's true. Go look at the recent sales figures for Thomas Hardy.

OK, so to be honest, this was probably a fantastic conference, and I wish it had fallen on another weekend.

JD, I'm another one of those CofC guys with interests in Orthodoxy.

John said...

Chris, your thesis sounds interesting, indeed. You come from a wing of a wing of which I am unfamiliar. I did my master's thesis on the Stone Movement in Texas, 1824-1865.

I suggest you do not put me in the same sentence with Ochlophobist and Fr. Jonathan again--such praise will no doubt go to my head!

John said...

jmgregory, I was wondering when we were going to hear from you! Truth be told, I did a double-take at some of those discussion topics myself. But you have to admit, at least they didn't use the word "missional."

JD said...

jmgregory, the first time I was in an Orthodox church was a festival of course. The priest was doing a little overview/Q&A. I'm sitting on the front row ( a coc fellow in good standing then) and the priest opens up with something along the lines of the Orthodox being the oldest and original expression of Christianity/the Church. Truly, I can not begin to describe every thought that went through my brain in about .oo6 nanoseconds. It was a bizarre beginning with a great conclusion.