Thursday, February 28, 2008

At the National Pastors Convention

I'm in San Diego at the National Pastors Convention, and it's been a crazy busy time here meeting with folks. I've been connecting with several of my authors, like Andy Crouch, Shane Claiborne and James Choung. Nice to catch up.

Last night IVP hosted a dinner for our authors, and our guest speaker was Krista Tippett, host of NPR's Speaking of Faith. She offered a very encouraging picture of how public discourse about religion has been changing in the last few years, and particularly how people are coming to have a much better understanding of evangelical Christians. She said that people are moving beyond Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson stereotypes of evangelicals and are learning that within the broad category of evangelicalism, there's tremendous diversity and complexity. And folks are discovering that there's more to evangelicals, with evangelicals like Cal DeWitt and Richard Cizik championing issues like environmental stewardship and global poverty. Tippett was encouraged that evangelicals are now engaged in a broad range of causes, because evangelicals tend to get things done. It's certainly a different moment now than even just five years ago or so; it seems that evangelical Christians and the general public are less wary/suspicious of one another and can work together fruitfully for the common good.

I've managed to catch several of the sessions, with speakers like Chuck Colson and Bishop John Rucyahana of Rwanda. Brenda Salter McNeil was last night's plenary speaker, and she did an exposition of John 4 and the Samaritan woman at the well (which happened to coincide with last week's lectionary reading). Her material is available in her new book A Credible Witness: Reflections on Power, Evangelism and Race, which was just published a few weeks ago. She does an excellent job of showing how the gospel requires both vertical reconciliation between us and God as well as horizontal reconciliation between us and other people. I highly commend her book.

Tonight's plenary is N. T. Wright. Looking forward to that. I chatted with him briefly last night at our dinner. I'd met him on a few previous occasions, and he's quite a gracious and winsome fellow (as well as amazingly brilliant, of course). As I've mentioned before on this blog, many of my theological mentors and heroes have been Anglicans like John Stott and J. I. Packer, and Tom Wright is the most recent in this line. His writings have been very formative for me in the past decade. So I'm glad that he's here at NPC and that pastors who have not previously heard him will have the opportunity to learn from him tonight.


L.L. Barkat said...

I recently picked up Krista Tippett's book at the library and I'm really enjoying it. Makes me glad she'll be at the Calvin Festival and that I'll be there to enjoy her thoughts.

And good to hear yours, from San Diego.

Aaron said...

Hey bro. I was wondering if you could shed some light on something. It is just a question and not meant to stir any controversy. In my recent discussions with some of the "emergent" folks I have found out that there is a wide range of theological differences that I have with them as far as the masculine nature of God, the bible and its inerrance, and the nature by which one is saved.

In these conversations they have often quoted N.T. Wright as one of their heroes and almost seemed to suggest that he is spearheading a lot of the "new" theological thinking.

I was wondering if you knew of this and what exactly (if any) his roll with the "emergent" folks is? I know he has recently done some work on the idea of "heaven" that I think is great but wasn't sure if he is also in this camp that the "emergent" folks are in.

Appreciate any feedback. Thanks bro!


Anonymous said...

I'm interested in aaron's questions as well. Perhaps, if Al is comfortable describing someone else's positions, he could provide us with a post on that.

But it's really a matter of curiosity and an opportunity to see another point of view.

I am reminded of my recollections of living with my parents. When I shared some recollections with my sister, she had different recollections of some of the same events. And I know my parents saw them differently, too. Who knows who was right -- probably we were each a bit off.

What mattered was that we were family, and acting like -- loving like -- brothers and sisters is far more important than whose perceptions are most accurate.

(Proverbs 9.8b-9)

Al Hsu said...

Hmmm. Good questions. Where to start? Wright probably wouldn't self-identify as "emergent," but emergent folks like him because he provides a fresh perspective that's quite distinctive from a lot of the discussion here in the States. Part of that is his British perspective; he's much more global and holistic in his understanding of the gospel and Christianity than many of us Americans, and as such, he provides a good corrective. And he's absolutely brilliant, like a modern-day C. S. Lewis - his academic biblical/historical work is written at the kind of level that Jesus Seminar folks have to take him seriously, and yet he's pastoral and can translate and communicate his thought to the person in the pew.

Maybe I should post a separate post sometime about Wright in general. He's so wide-ranging that it's hard to know where to start. But others (like Scot McKnight over at Jesus Creed) have blogged through his most recent book, Surprised by Hope, so maybe go there and check out some of Scot's summary and take on Wright.

If you've not read Wright, a good starting point is The Challenge of Jesus, which is a baby version of his massive Jesus and the Victory of God. The Challenge of Jesus came out of addresses from a conference I attended back in '98 where Wright was the main expositor. Simply Christian is Wright's version of Mere Christianity and shows the appeal and coherence of the Christian faith. He's got a lot of stuff out there, but those two books are good places to start, and they explain his take far better than I could!