Category Archives: Excursuses

What I Learned on my Mid-November Vacation – Part 1

I spent his weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Religion in Chicago.  I figured that, considering I have not posted a blog post in near forever, I ought to reflect on my time there.  I have a lot of reflections, so I will split this blog in twain. So, without further ado, what I learned on my Mid-November Vacation, Part 1:

1. I’m studying something that matters and is pretty cool.

What an awesome picture of Tillich! Ha!

So, I’m writing my thesis on Paul Tillich (my man) and Gustavo Gutiérrez (once I read more of him, I’m sure he’ll be my man too). While at AAR, I went to several Tillich talks, one of which was on investigating the early and later Tillich and his idea of history.  At the end of the paper, Jean Richard of Université Laval wrote on how many will like the later Tillich who are more spiritually and mystically driven, whereas others (like Jean) will like the early Tillich who are more social justice driven.  This tension reflects exactly the issue my thesis is addressing.  So, it’s sweet to see that people are thinking and caring about similar things.  Sweeeeeet.

2. Friends matter way more than academic colleagues.

I couldn’t resist.

Instead of going to another Tillich seminar, I had a long lunch with my good friends Maria Francesca French and Thorsten Moritz, and my new friend Holly Beers. Instead of going to a scholar’s reception, I had Friendsgiving at my friend’s place where I was staying.  In both circumstances, I had some of the best interactions and conversations during the whole trip. Not only did I talk about my thesis and theological passions (which people were genuinely interested and fascinated), but we just had a good time together. Now if only friends could pay me a salary to do that…

3. I coined a new word: mythonomy.

Wow, I was lucky to find a picture of them together. Thanks Derek Ouellette!

I went to a ‘conversation’ between Scot McKnight and N.T. (Tom) Wright.  Scot presented his paper “Kingdom as Church, Church as Kingdom: An Examination of an Old Dichotomy,” where he talked about how the kingdom and church are generally interchangeable.  He also talked a lot about “King Jesus” and the kingdom life.  Now, maybe this is because I’ve been studying a lot of Tillich (well, of course it is!), but I was taken aback by the intense evangelical language he was using.  I felt he was taking the idea of the kingdom and the concept of Jesus as king so literally, it almost seemed ingenuous and strained.  And then the word came to me: mythonomy.

Tillich often talks about autonomy (self-law, or the universal law of reason within all people), heteronomy ( strange-law, or a law foreign to humanity’s nature and being. Tillich talks about how ecclesiastical rules and norms are heteronomous), and theonomy (God-law, or autonomy that “is aware of its divine ground.”[1]

Thus, a mythonomy is myth-law; it is a normative rule of law based in a myth or story (keep in mind myth does not necessarily mean fiction).  It is what we understand as an all-encompassing meta-narrative.  How this relates to Scot’s talk is this: is it legitimate to use a Christological symbol such as king, or even Kingdom of God, as a normative standard for all Christian life and conduct.  At first blush we might want to say yes, but let me rephrase the question: ought we to take Biblical symbols and concepts literally and directly apply them to our contemporary lives, or are to be inspired by the Biblical symbols and concepts, interpreting and/or reauthoring them to correspond to our contemporary lives, and more italicized words?  This is a heavy and controversial topic which will need much more thinking, but I like the direction of the discourse. I do have planned a blog series on myth, but that’s another story for another time. Eek!

I have three more points to make, which I will on Wednesday!

[1] Tillich, A Complete History of Christian Thought, II:27. In This is a great article that explains Tillich terms.


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Where Heaven Meets Earth

There once were two men who day-in and day-out argued over whether it is better to look at the sky or to look at the dirt. “Look at all of the stars,” one man said to the other, in each one a million worlds! In each one a million truths!  If only I were to ascend to the heavens, to grasp at one star and hold it in my hand!”

The other man scoffed, “You are a silly man. Why do you long for what you cannot have? I, on the other hand, am satisfied with what I have here, on the earth, and I make do with only what I am and only what I have.”

The man looking at the sky retorted: “You are mistaken. We are meant to look at the sky so that one day we will float up and be in the sky among all the stars and constellations.”

The man looking at the dirt replied, “No, we are meant to look at the dirt so that we may use all the dirt provides for our needs and nothing more, for we have nothing more.”

It came to a point where the two men could argue no more, and so each went about their own business.  The man who looked at the sky built a flying machine and flew higher and higher in hopes to live among the stars, that he might catch one and hold it in his hand.  The man who looked at the dirt dug a deep and lowered himself into it, and in this pit he only had the things he most needed, for he only made do with what he is and what he has.

A group of travelers, old and young, men and women, were passing by and saw the two men, one in the sky and one in the ground.  One of the young girls said: “What a silly man!  Why would he escape the wonders of the earth for the heavens? In gazing only at the sky, he did not realize what he already had here in the dirt.” One of the young boys said: “What a silly man! Why would he ignore the wonders of the heavens for the earth? In gazing in the dirt, he did not realize what more to life there could be if only he dreamed!”

An older man spoke up from among the travelers: “Come, we have reached our destination. Let us settle here where the dirt meets the sky.”  And so the travelers settled in the land and built a village for all the people, young and old, man and woman, to live in the place where the sky meets the dirt, where heaven meets the earth.

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Excursus: On the Love of Jesus

For the record: an excursus is a digression in a written text, wherein a digression is an intentional change in subject, wherein wherein is another way to say “in which” or “in what place.” It’s an excursus because it departs from the current miniseries “We Among Others.”

This post is inspired by a strange experience I had and how I wrote briefly about it on my Facebook, and now I wanted to explore more of it, yes. 

I don’t know why I felt it.  Maybe it was because I was writing on a response paper to Stanley Grenz’s chapter on the Holy Spirit in Theology for the Community of God.  Maybe it was because I was listening to Beach House’s new single “Myth” (, listen to it!), but I felt a powerful emotion. As I sat there, in my chair, behind my desk, my computer in front of me, my peace lily to the left, my green office lamp to the right, I felt an overwhelming urge to profess my love for Jesus Christ.

It was a sensation that began in the gut. It’s not a stomach ache, and it wasn’t anxiety, but it had a similar sensation to anxiety.  It was a tingling emanation from my umbilicus throughout and throughin its anatomical neighborhood.  It moved through and within my bones and muscles, and once it reached my head, the tingling sensation produced what I felt as being connected with my entire body in the experience of a single emotion.

Not my desk lamp, but a good example.

But what was this emotion?

It’s an emotion that centers you with the entire universe.  You are able to look at your computer, your peace lily, your office lamp, and sense a deep and profound presence of the divine in it and in all of it. Time slows down, reality morphs into tangible intangibility, that place where you know you are but that in there your being is in flux.  You are morphing and moving with reality in the stillness of change.  In this moment we can hear the still soft voice, we can feel the gentle breeze, and we can see the faint glimmer of the divine.

In these moments, we see that we have entered into a beautiful existence, or perhaps that the beautiful existence has come to us.  We are enraptured by the beauty that envelopes us , and in this all our senses and all our faculties strive to make sense of it. However, they can only make sense of it through alternative means, namely, the experience itself.

But in this deep clairvoyance is the striking emotion of commitment to the experience itself. In the experience we find ourselves muttering words of affection to the experience itself. But what makes this experience special is that the experience is personified, but not in the sense that a person is created in the experience, but rather that a person is discovered in the experience, encountered in the experience.

My peace lily, but not the one in my room.

In this, we, in faith, identify the experience as the love of God, meeting us in the still places, kindling within our hearts a gentle reminder of the love we share.  It reminds us of the works of God that we know of through the inheritance of history.  It reminds us of the present work of God in our lives and how in faith we have chosen to view our life in response to and in expectation of the divine. And so, likewise, it reminds us of the coming hope of the dramatic fulfillment of that which we have inherited and that which we experience and respond to, a consummation of love in perpetual fullness and completeness.

These reminders are all personified (or incarnated) in Jesus Christ, and we understand that the feelings we experience and the memories and hopes conjured up within the experience is the work of God making known Godself in the work of Jesus for us and in us. In this, in the enraptured experience and hope, we find we are compelled to do none other and by nothing other than to whisper into the stillness of the experience: “Jesus, I love you.”

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Now is the winter of our discontent? Thoughts on the season.

The following is an article I wrote for the Salvage Yard monthly newsletter:

‘Tis the season to be (fill in the blank), falalalalalalalala.  The song advocates for its carolers to be jolly, but for many, that is near impossible considering the season at hand.  Why is it considered to be such a terrible and depressing season, and in what ways can it be redeemed?

Winter embodies and represents many things that challenge its inhabitants.  At the very beginning of the season the holidays overwhelm us and wear us down.  For some, the obligations of the holidays leave us literally and metaphorically spent.  For others, the holiday season represents the worst in us, as the over-commercialization of the religious season banes us. Finally, the season itself wears us down physically with the retreat of daylight and the sun’s warm rays.

All of these are legitimate claims against the season, but the season also provides unique opportunities for growth and transformation.  It is true that the biting cold limits our “active” activities, but it is also an opportunity for us to work on our “passive” activities. Winter has been looked upon as a season of contemplation, and I think we need to reclaim.  In fact, I think we need to reclaim the seasons as a spiritual discipline of Christian faith-life.

We Minnesotans are fortunate to have all four seasons, and in such extremes!  The physical changes in the world help us to reflect and adapt to the spiritual changes in ourselves.  Spring is seen as a time of rebirth and fostering our energies in light of the season of action (Summer).  Fall forces us to reflect on our actions as well as to reflect on the significance of our lives, all in preparation for the season of stillness and quiet (Winter).  Winter is a unique time for spiritual contemplation and growth.  Take the time to read that book you got on spiritual growth, take the time to w the snowflakes fall; take the time to sit in the stillness of the night in prayer, and take the time to meditate on the previous year and how you want to grow in the next.

How do you take advantage of the season for spiritual growth, or, what thoughts and questions do you have about this seasons and its potential for spiritual growth? Lettuce discuss!

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