Tag Archives: leadership

Deep in the Burbs Bibliography

Arens, Edmund. Christopraxis: A Theology of Action. 1st Fortress Press ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.

Barnes, Michael R. “Augustine in Contemporary Trinitarian Theology.” Theological Studies 56, no. 2 (1995): 237-250.

Baum, Fran, Colin MacDougall, and Danielle Smith. “Participatory Action Research.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 60, no. 10 (2006): 854-857.

Bennett, Marlyn. “A Review of the Literature on the Benefits and Drawbacks of Participatory Action Research.” First Peoples Child & Family Review 1, no.! (September 2004): 19-32.

Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. “Missiology after Bosch: Reverencing a Classic by Moving Beyond.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 29, no. 2 (2005): 69-72.

Black, Gary. The Theology of Dallas Willard: Discovering Protoevangelical Faith. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013.

Bliese, Richard H., and Craig Van Gelder. The Evangelizing Church: A Lutheran Contribution. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2005.

Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008.

Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. American Society of Missiology Series no 16. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.

Brookfield, Stephen. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.

———. The Power of Critical Theory: Liberating Adult Learning and Teaching. 1st ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

———. Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning: A Comprehensive Analysis of Principles and Effective Practices. The Jossey-Bass Higher Education Series. 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1986.

Cameron, Helen, Deborah Bhatti, and Catherine Duce. Talking About God in Practice: Theological Action Research and Practical Theology. London: SCM Press, 2010.

Charmaz, Kathy. Constructing Grounded Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006.

Coakley, Sarah. God, Sexuality and the Self: An Essay ‘on the Trinity’. 2013.

Conde-Frazier, Elizabeth. “Participatory Action Research: Practical Theology for Social Justice.” Religious Education 101, no. 3 (2006): 321-329.

Conn, Walter E. Christian Conversion: A Developmental Interpretation of Autonomy and Surrender. New York: Paulist Press, 1986.

Davis, Dent C. “Dialogue of the Soul: The Phenomenon of Intrapersonal Peace and the Adult Experience of Protestant Religious Education.” Religious Education 102, no. 4 (2007): 387-402.

Deshler, David, and Merrill Ewert. “Participatory Action Research: Traditions and Major Assumptions.” http://actmad.net/madness_library/POV/DESHLER.PAR (accessed March 20).

Dirkx, John M. “Images, Transformative Learning the Work of Soul.” Adult Learning 12, no. 3 (Summer2001 2001): 15.

ELCA. “Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”  (2011): 232 p.

Ellison, Pat Taylor, and Patrick Keifert. Dwelling in the Word. St. Paul: Church Innovations Institute, 2011.

Engelsviken, T. “Missio Dei: The Understanding and Misunderstanding of a Theological Concept in European Churches and Missiology.” International Review of Mission 92, no. 367 (2003): 481-497.

Farley, Edward. Practicing Gospel: Unconventional Thoughts on the Church’s Ministry. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Fink, Ben. “Organized Ideas, or Defeating the Culture Wars (What We Need to Know, and How We Need to Know It).” PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 2014.

Fishman, Robert. Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia. New York: Basic Books, 1987.

Flett, John G. The Witness of God: The Trinity, Missio Dei, Karl Barth, and the Nature of Christian Community. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2010.

Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline : The Path to Spiritual Growth. 20th anniversary ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.

———. “Spiritual Formation Agenda: Richard Foster Shares His Three Priorities for the Next 30 Years.” Christianity Today 53, no. 1 (2009): 28-33.

Foster, Richard J., and Julia L. Roller. A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 30th anniversary ed. New York: Continuum, 2000.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method. London: Sheed & Ward, 1975.

Garreau, Joel. Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. 1st ed. New York: Doubleday, 1991.

Gorringe, Timothy. “Living toward a Vision: Cities, the Common Good, and the Christian Imagination.” Anglican Theological Review 91, no. 4 (2009): 521-537.

Grenz, Stanley J. Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004.

Grenz, Stanley J., and John R. Franke. Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

Grenz, Stanley J., and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Groome, Thomas H. Sharing Faith: A Comprehensive Approach to Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry: The Way of Shared Praxis. 1st ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Habermas, Jürgen. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures. Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987.

———. The Theory of Communicative Action. 2 vols. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.

Hall, Budd L. “In from the Cold? Reflections on Participatory Research from 1970-2005.” Convergence 38, no. 1 (2005): 5-24.

Hatch, Mary Jo, and Ann L. Cunliffe. Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Hayden, Dolores. Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.

Heifetz, Ronald A., and Martin Linsky. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

Hess, Mary E. “Collaborating with People to Study “the Popular”: Implementing Participatory Action Research Strategies in Religious Education.” Religious Education 96, no. 3 (2001): 271-293.

———. “Collaborating with People to Study “the Popular”: Implementing Participatory Action Research Strategies in Religious Education.” Religious Education 96, no. 3 (2001).

———. Engaging Technology in Theological Education: All That We Can’t Leave Behind. Communication, Culture, and Religion Series. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

———. “Pedagogy and Theology in Cyberspace: All That We Cant Leave Behind.” Teaching Theology & Religion 5, no. 1 (2002).

———. “What Difference Does It Make? E-Learning and Faith Community.” Word & World 30, no. 3 (2010): 281-290.

Horsfield, Peter G., Mary E. Hess, and Adán M. Medrano, eds. Belief in Media: Cultural Perspectives on Media and Christianity. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.

Hunsberger, George R., and Craig Van Gelder, eds. The Church between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996.

Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Jennings, Willie James. The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.

Jenson, Robert W. Systematic Theology. 2 vols. Vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

———. The Triune Identity: God According to the Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982.

Kegan, Robert. The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

———. In over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Kegan, Robert, and Lisa Laskow Lahey. Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. Leadership for the Common Good. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2009.

Keifert, Patrick R. Testing the Spirits: How Theology Informs the Study of Congregations. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2009.

———. “The Trinity and Congregational Planning: Between Historical Minimum and Eschatological Maximum.” Word & World 18, no. 3 (1998): 282-290.

———. We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era, a Missional Journey of Spiritual Discovery. Eagle, ID: Allelon Publishing, 2006.

———. Welcoming the Stranger: A Public Theology of Worship and Evangelism. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

Kelsey, David H. To Understand God Truly: What’s Theological About a Theological School. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.

Knowles, Malcolm S., Elwood F. Holton, and Richard A. Swanson. The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. 7th ed. Boston: Elsevier, 2011.

Martin, Bruce. “Transforming a Local Church Congregation through Action Research.” Educational Action Research 9, no. 2 (2001/06/01 2001): 261-278.

Mead, George Herbert, and Charles W. Morris. Mind, Self & Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist. Chicago, Ill.,: The University of Chicago press, 1934.

Melancthon, Philip. The Augsburg Confession. Edited by F. Bente and W.H.T. Dau. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921. .pdf.

Merriam, Sharan B., Rosemary S. Caffarella, and Lisa Baumgartner. Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007.

Mitchell, Jolyon P. Media Violence and Christian Ethics. New Studies in Christian Ethics 30. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God. 1st HarperCollins paperback ed. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Newbigin, Lesslie. Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1986.

———. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans; WCC Publications 1989.

Norton, Christine Lynn, Amy Russell, Betsy Wisner, and John Uriarte. “Reflective Teaching in Social Work Education: Findings from a Participatory Action Research Study.” Social Work Education 30, no. 4 (2011): 392-407.

Orfield, Myron. Metropolitics: A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability. Cambridge, MA: Brookings Institution Press; Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 1997.

Palmer, Parker J. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. 10th anniversary ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007.

———. To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey. 1st HarperCollins pbk ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991.

Placher, William C. The Triune God: An Essay in Postliberal Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.

Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. 1st ed. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2010.

Polkinghorne, J. C. The Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 2010.

Powell, Samuel M. Participating in God: Creation and Trinity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

Reynhout, Kenneth A. Interdisciplinary Interpretation: Paul Ricoeur and the Hermeneutics of Theology and Science. text.

Roxburgh, Alan J. Missional Map-Making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition. Leadership Network. 1st ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Scandrette, Mark. Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2011.

Scharer, Matthias Hilberath Bernd Jochen. The Practice of Communicative Theology: Introduction to a New Theological Culture. New York: Crossroad Pub. CO, 2008.

Schneiders, Sandra M. “A Hermeneutical Approach to the Study of Christian Spirituality.” In Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality, edited by Elizabeth Dreyer and Mark S. Burrows. Balitmore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

———. “The Study of Christian Spirituality: Contours and Dynamics of a Discipline.” In Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality, edited by Elizabeth Dreyer and Mark S. Burrows. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Democratizing Biblical Studies: Toward an Emancipatory Educational Space. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Sheldrake, Philip. “Christian Spirituality as a Way of Living Publicly: A Dialectic of the Mystical and Prophetic.” In Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality, edited by Elizabeth Dreyer and Mark S. Burrows. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

———. Spirituality and Theology: Christian Living and the Doctrine of God. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998.

Shults, F. LeRon. The Postfoundationalist Task of Theology: Wolfhart Pannenberg and the New Theological Rationality. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999.

Simmons, Ernest L. The Entangled Trinity: Quantum Physics and Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.

Simpson, Gary M. Critical Social Theory: Prophetic Reason, Civil Society, and Christian Imagination. Guides to Theological Inquiry. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

———. “No Trinity, No Mission: The Apostolic Difference of Revisioning the Trinity.” Word & World 18, no. 3 (1998): 264-271.

Stoecker, Randy. “Are Academics Irrelevant? Roles for Scholars in Participatory Research.” In American Sociologcial Society Annual Meeting, 1997.

Tanner, Kathryn. Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology. Guides to Theological Inquiry. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997.

Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.

Teaford, Jon C. The American Suburb: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Thomason, Steven P. “Thketch of Kegan’s Five Orders.” 13:09, 2012.

Tisdell, Elizabeth J. Exploring Spirituality and Culture in Adult and Higher Education. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Van Gelder, Craig. “Effects of Auto-Mobility on Church Life and Culture.” Word & World 28, no. 3 (2008): 237-249.

———. The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000.

———. The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007.

Van Gelder, Craig, and Dwight J. Zscheile. The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation. The Missional Network. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011.

Vella, Jane Kathryn. Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. Rev. ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Volf, Miroslav. After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. Sacra Doctrina. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1998.

Wallis, Allan D. “Filling the Governance Gap.” National Civic Review 87, no. 1 (1998).

Welker, Michael. God the Spirit. 1st English-language ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002.

Wuthnow, Robert. After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Zizioulas, Jean, and Paul McPartlan. Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church. New York: T & T Clark, 2006.

Implications for Leadership in the Missional Church

I said, in the introduction, that the typical Lutheran suburbanite lives under extreme societal pressures to be a self-actualized, successful individual who navigates between a myriad of cultural choices as a radical individual with the power to choose. How can the Lutheran leader of suburban congregations cultivate spaces in which these suburbanites can find help to navigate these turbulent waters? What have we learned from the DITB project that might provide some insight into this question? In this, the final section, I will focus on my personal experience of leading the RT, my theological reflection upon it, and its possible implications for the missional church.

Stewarding Power

The first way we can address the question of leadership is to be honest about the issue of power. I faced an ongoing struggle with this issue as I led the RT through the DITB process. How would I handle my power? I entered the project carrying two forms of power. The first form of power is positional. I am an ordained pastor in the ELCA. The RT was comprised of ELCA members, most of whom are members of the church in which I serve. The Lutheran tradition has a history of hierarchical power structures in which the pastor (historically male, exclusively) wielded great control over the various congregational processes. I was automatically imbued with this power in the RT simply because I am a pastor. Further, I was the lead researcher. It was my project, for my dissertation, so the position of “leader” also carries with it inherent power. The second form of power I possessed was cognitive. This was, after all, my PhD research project. I have been immersed in four years of academic study, therefore my head is full of information that the RT did not have. Modern, Western society, being dominated by rationalism and empirical science, values knowledge above all things. Therefore, as Francis Bacon famously said, “Knowledge is power.” Knowledge, training, and extended vocabulary tends to intimidate people who are not fluent in a particular academic discipline and shifts the power to the one in the room who is considered “the expert.” I was the “expert” in the question the RT set out to explore and they often looked to me to give them “answers.”

Palmer, Brookfield, Hess, and Kegan all acknowledge the power differential inherent in the role of the teacher/leader. The purpose of critical social theory and PAR is to create communicative spaces in which adults can feel empowered to think critically about the dominant power structures and imagine a preferred future. The subject-centered model proposed by Palmer ideally brings the teacher into the circle with the other knowers. This process, however, is not one that ignores the power wielded by the teacher. Rather, it is one in which the leader/teacher is transparent about the power differential and understands the weight of responsibility to steward this power for the good of the community.

I struggled with the power differential throughout the research process. I was keenly aware of how much control I had over the structure of the room, the framing of the questions, the direction of the conversation, etc. I was also keenly aware of the constant push from some of the team members to ask me to give more direction, more clarity, and more answers. They often felt frustrated by the open-endedness of the process. Honestly, I felt frustrated by it at times and constantly fought the urge to swoop in like the hero-leader and fix everything.

I asked the RT to reflect on this issue in Phase Three. I asked them what advice they would give to the church leader based on their experience in the DITB project. The RT data indicate that the process of this project, and how I stewarded my power, is a good model for how the church leader should structure communicative spaces. They said that the missional leader would be better served if she understands her role to be that of the humble servant who facilitates God’s power, through knowledge and wisdom, to create a democratic and generative community of God’s grace and peace. This was demonstrated through the communicative action in the Dwelling in the Word exercises, the various pedagogical modalities, and the action projects carried out by the RT.

We must acknowledge that none of these things would have happened if I—the leader of the team—did not set a table that empowered such communicative action. This was my research project, after all, and I could have implemented instrumental reason at every step of the way and used my knowledge and skill to manipulate the research team. It was a learning and stretching experience for me to constantly step back and let the process unfold, trusting that God was working in, with, through, against, and for the RT the whole time.

The Communicative Zone

The second way that we can address the question of leadership is to understand the pluralistic dynamic of the suburbs and the skills necessary to navigate the communicative zone that exists in the space between seemingly polarized dichotomies. The typical suburbanite is constantly faced with a myriad of options at every level of life: ranging from mundane choices between brands of cereal to the profound choice of which faith tradition—if any—in which to participate. These choices form a perplexing array of apparent dichotomies.

Every dichotomy appears to have two extreme and opposing views on either end of a continuum. Most of human history is the story of opposing sides going to war over which side is correct and best for the world. Often times a move toward peace is the move to find a spot in the middle between these extremes. This, however, is not peace between the two poles, but is the creation of a completely new perspective that is neither one side nor the other. This is almost never acceptable to either side, and it simply perpetuates the ontological gap between particular spaces on the continuum.

An image emerged in my imagination as I progressed through the DITB project that has helped me to understand the implications for leaders as we help people navigate these dichotomies. Imagine that there is a pendulum that swings between two extremes. It does not stop in one middle place on the continuum, but continually moves back and forth between the extremes. As the pendulum swings it creates a field of energy between the two extremes.[1] The movement of the pendulum is both a particular object—the flat disc itself—and the field of energy created by the perpetual movement between the polar extremes. I would suggest, as illustrated in figure 18, that the space between the polar extremes is the communicative zone. It is a dynamic energy that keeps the tension of the two extremes in constant dialogue, thus creating life in the third space it creates. Further, it is another image of Trinitarian praxis. I witnessed the communicative zone form within the RT as we engaged in communicative action through the various modalities of our shared project.

The Communicative Zone

Figure 18. The Communicative Zone

How does this discussion impact the suburban leader? Here, again, we can look to Kegan for help. Kegan uses historical timeframes as an analogy to help us understand his orders of consciousness. I will add to that analogy and use a caricatured image of the small town vs. the suburban context to further describe these orders. The small town is third-order consciousness.[2] It is a single, homogenous system in which every member understands her particular role in society. Suburban life exemplifies fourth-order consciousness. The suburban landscape is comprised of thousands of radical, atomistic, autonomous selves moving through the chaotic, ever-changing transactionally based networks. Each connection is a consciously chosen, transactional relationship that is accidental to the primary substance of the individual self. Fourth-order consciousness recognizes that there are multiple systems, and each one of these systems are equally valid, and equally meaningless in the larger scheme of the mechanistic universe, in which the detached, objective observer and wielder of power can have free reign. This lifestyle ultimately leads to isolation, loneliness, abuse of power, and the high potential for violence and oppression. These autonomous entities experience an ontological gap between that which is the “other” and this gap can often be terrifying.

This is the challenge facing the missional leader in the suburbs. Most of the members of our suburban congregations are either third-order thinkers overwhelmed by the suburban lifestyle, or fourth-order thinkers experiencing increasing levels of isolation. What if God is calling us, as the missional community, to dwell in the communicative zones between these autonomous entities and myriad of choices that exist in society? What if we are called to stop and reflect on these relationships and to notice the movement and agency of the Holy Spirit between these seemingly polarized extremes?

We are not asked to abandon our faith cultures, but are invited to open ourselves to the interfaith dialogue, to be willing to listen to each other: to dwell in the world and the words of the stranger. Kegan claims that fifth-order consciousness realizes that all the apparently disconnected systems are, in fact, interconnected and interdependent. It is impossible to be autonomous. The apparently radical extremes need each other to exist, and are actually created and sustained by the pendulum that swings in the field of the communicative zone. This is fifth-order consciousness. This is a picture of relational ontology. This is the life of the Trinity.

Fifth Order Consciousness and the Communicative Zone

Figure 19. Fifth-Order Consciousness And The Communicative Zone

Here, again, we see why the ELCA may be an ideal space for the missional imagination, as I mentioned in chapter two. Lutheran theology upholds the tensive energy of paradox and has the theological imagination to cultivate the communicative zone in society. Could it be that the Lutheran pastor, leading in a fifth-order, missional key, might be able to structure spaces that lead to God’s peace? I would argue that this is the framework for a missional spirituality in the suburbs. Who knows? If we step into the spaces between, we just might meet the Spirit of the Living God in the suburbs.

Footnotes

[1] This is similar to the superposition of quantum physics that Simmons suggests. Simmons, The Entangled Trinity: Quantum Physics and Theology.

[2] I am drawing an analogy to the caricature of the small town as a geographically homogenous space as opposed to the caricature of the suburb which is fractured and multi-faceted. It would be naïve to suggest that all small-town people are third-order and all suburbanites are fourth-order. The reality is that individuals within all geographical locations will be spread along the continuum of the orders of consciousness for various reasons.

Leadership Matters: God’s Electricians and the Communicative Zone

This final section will focus on the implications that the DITB project has for leadership in the missional church. The postmodern, missional leader finds herself navigating a minefield of polarized extremes. One of the most negative and destructive consequences of the modern dogma is the inevitable dualities that it creates. Modernity polarizes society. This is an inevitable result of the buffered self and substance ontology. The buffered, autonomous self stands apart from and, ultimately against the other. The DITB data suggest that communicative action, inherent in both PAR and Dwelling in the Word, empowers the leader to the find the third way of God’s love that both acknowledges the good in polar extremes and combines them into a more excellent way. This third way seeks a win/win scenario in which hope is born, as opposed to a win/lose scenario that creates the classes of winners and losers.

God’s Electricians

My reflections on leadership matters flow primarily from my own experience of the DITB project. Allow me to use an analogy to express what I learned in this process. The analogy has to do with power. The movement of God’s Spirit in the world is the flow of power in society.[1] Think of this power as if it were electricity. Electricity is the movement of ionized energy and it can be used for destructive or constructive purposes. The way electricity is used is determined by the knowledge, skills, and intention of those who seek to harness this power. These people are called electricians.

The electrician is one who has studied electricity, respects its raw power, and has learned how to channel that power to provide the desired outcomes. There are two ways that the electrician can perceive herself. She can either (a) see herself as an owner and controller of power, or (b) see herself as a facilitator of power. The owner/controller can be tempted to hoard electricity, use it for selfish gain, and extort those who need it. The facilitator, on the other hand, sees herself as a servant of the people who, through knowledge and wisdom,[2] brings the power to the people who need it so that they can experience a higher quality of life.

The church leader is God’s electrician. The movement of the Holy Spirit is like electricity. It is the raw power of God. Church leaders throughout history have been tempted to perceive themselves as owners/controllers of power. The modern leadership model supported a command-control, top-down, bureaucratic style of leadership, and the modern church leader often followed suit. This style of leadership tempted the leader to manipulate power to control and, sometimes, extort the church members.

The DITB data indicate that the missional leader would be better served if she understands her role to be that of the humble servant who facilitates God’s power, through knowledge and wisdom, to create a democratic and generative community of God’s grace and peace. This was demonstrated through the communicative action in the Dwelling in the Word exercises, the various pedagogical modalities, and the action projects carried out by the RT. The fact we must remember, at this point, is that none of these things would have happened if I—the leader of the team—did not set a table that empowered such communicative action. This was my research project, after all, and I could have implemented instrumental reason at every step of the way and used my knowledge and skill to manipulate the research team. It was a learning and stretching experience for me to constantly step back and let the process unfold, trusting that God was working in, with, through, against, and for the RT the whole time.

Vine-Power-02

The Communicative Zone

Two experiences that I had during the DITB project illustrate the necessity of the facilitator/servant style of leadership that is needed for the missional church. The first is a specific experience that took place in a small group that was facilitated by a member of the RT. This group decided to study my book Reading Paul’s Mail.[3] They had finished the study and invited me to join them to mark the end of their journey by having a Q&A session with the author.

One person asked a question that sparked one of those amazing, Spirit-infused conversations that accelerated my theological imagination. The question was whether Paul thought that he was writing scripture when he wrote his letters. The ensuing conversation led to a mini-lecture/group-conversation about the topic of inspiration. I went to the chalk board and drew a continuum—a line spanning left to right. I wrote Spirit on the left side of the board and human author on the right side. Then I wrote our presenting question: What is the relationship between the Spirit and the human author in the writing of scripture? In other words: How did it work? What did it look like? The conversation led to the articulation of two logical extremes. On one side it was 100% Spirit. This is the dictation theory. On the other side it was 100% human author. This is the gifted human theory. I then drew two opposing greater-than signs that overlapped and intersected in order to demonstrate the sliding continuum between extreme poles. We stated the logical problems on both extremes, and, together discussed how the answer must be some form of a mixture of the two. One person said, “It is a symbiotic, reciprocal relationship.” Well said. I wrote those words on the board. Symbiotic. Reciprocal.

I said, “Since we’re throwing big words on the board, might I add the word communicative to the list?” I wrote it underneath the other words, and they were stacked in the center, between both extremes. We then discussed how it was like a pendulum that swings back and forth between these two extremes.

One person said, “If the pendulum stops directly between them, it is at peace, and at rest.”

I said, “Yes, but, it is also no longer moving. Maybe it is the motion between the poles that generates life.”

That comment sparked much lively discussion about how it is not that either side is wrong, but that neither side is 100% correct and life only happens when there is a constant interaction between the two sides.

Another person chimed in and said, “Look at your drawing. The intersection of those two signs forms a diamond. That is where all the good stuff happens.”

I looked at the board and sat in stunned amazement. Light bulb! I had never seen that before. The diamond is the communicative zone. It is the field of energy created by the swinging pendulum that brings forth constructive unity between the apparent extremes. Is it the pendulum that creates the field, or is it the field that generates the existence of the pendulum and the particularities of the extremes? The answer? Yes.[4]

The Communicative Zone

The conversation turned to how Paul was challenging his Jewish culture to move away from following the letter of the Law (as interpreted by any particular Jewish sect) to learning how to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul was continually led outside of his comfort zone and realm of experience as the Spirit showed him how God works among the Gentiles in ways that make no sense to the Jewish follower of God.

I commented that it is a daunting task to think that we might be leading the suburban church to know how to follow the Spirit—to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-6)—to see if we are actually following the Spirit of God. I steered the conversation to the group leader and said, “This is right in line with what we are talking about in our research.” The leader then invited me to share some of my thoughts regarding the social Trinity. I did, as best I could in a short time. Later I realized that I had just increased the awareness and understanding of the social Trinity in some suburban people.

That conversation led us to discuss the reality of living in the suburban context. We talked about how the suburbs, combined with advancing technology, empower radical individualism and make it increasingly difficult to find, form, or sustain community. One woman critiqued the suburban life by reflecting on how she was raised in a small town in Minnesota. They were a Danish, Lutheran Community. “They wouldn’t sell land to Catholics,” she said, “in order to preserve the unity of the community.” This point illustrated the town’s staunch Lutheranism.

That town shared everything. They went to the same school, worshipped at the same church, shopped at the same stores, etc. Then, she said, they grew up, and the goal was to move to the cities. They started in an apartment on the south side of Minneapolis, but then finally got to move out to the suburbs. Now, the disconnectedness of the suburbs that we had been describing left her, and the others that had made the migration, feeling empty. They had arrived, but felt alone.

Later that same week I had coffee with my Dad, like I do every week. I recounted the above story to him. He brought up an interesting topic. He wondered if the Muslim community might provide some insight into how the church should be in the suburbs? We batted this idea around for a while and concluded that, perhaps, the Muslim community is functioning as an exclusivistic, immigrant community that works very well for its members, but does not provide a valid option for the larger, global picture, much like the Danish Lutheran town of the woman’s story.

That is when it all came together for me and inspired me to draw the following illustration.

It begins with a syllogism (of sorts).

  • If Reason replaced Medieval/Protestant religion as the social glue of European/Western society,
  • and if Reason has proven, in the post-modern conversation, to be found wanting as a successful social glue–being equally violent and morally bankrupt—
  • and, if faith seems to be the preferred social glue,
  • but if said faith cannot be a return to the Medieval/Protestant faith of pre-modern times,
  • then we are left with the question: What kind of Faith are we talking about?

That is when I connected the conversation with the small group to quantum entanglement, my knowledge of suburban studies, and Robert Kegan’s 5 Orders of Consciousness.

I have already suggested that there may be a connection between Kegan’s theory of consciousness and the cultures of the small town vs. the suburban context.[5] The small town is third order consciousness. It is a single, homogenous system in which every member understands her particular role in society.

Suburban life exemplifies fourth order consciousness. The suburban landscape is comprised of thousands of radical, atomistic, autonomous selves moving through the chaotic, ever-changing transactionally based networks. Each connection is a consciously chosen, transactional relationship that is accidental to the primary substance of the individual self. The fourth order consciousness recognizes that there are multiple systems, and each one of these systems are equally valid, and equally meaningless in the larger scheme of the mechanistic universe, in which the detached, objective observer and wielder of power can have free reign. This lifestyle ultimately leads to isolation, loneliness, abuse of power, and the high potential for violence and oppression.

Kegan claims that it is only in the later years of a person’s life that she comes to a place of seasoned wisdom and realizes that all the apparently disconnected systems are, in fact, interconnected and interdependent. It is impossible to be autonomous. The Gadamerian fusion of horizons—the communicative zone—is the reality of human existence. The apparently radical extremes need each other to exist, and are actually created and sustained by the pendulum that swings in the field of the communicative zone. This is the fifth order of consciousness. This is a picture of relational ontology. This is the life of the Trinity.

This is the challenge facing the missional leader. What if God is calling us to dwell in the communicative zones between our enclaves of faith? We are not asked to abandon our faith cultures, but are invited to open ourselves to the interfaith dialogue, to be willing to listen to each other; to dwell in the world and the words of the stranger.

Who knows? If we step into the spaces between, we just might meet the Spirit of the Living God.

Fifth Order Consciousness and the Communicative Zone

The Disruptive Nature of the Spirit

The second experience I had during the DITB project that taught me about missional leadership has to do with the curve ball I mentioned in chapter three and the disruptive nature of the Spirit. The congregation at Ascension Lutheran was experiencing the polarized reality that I have been discussing parallel to the DITB project. The congregation was engaged in a nine-month dialogue over whether the church should allow same-sex marriages. Members of the RT were deeply embedded in this polarized debate and I found myself leading through these extremely turbulent waters, both in the congregation and in the RT.

The question I continually asked myself during this experience was, Why? Why would God allow us to go through this difficult experience? I believe it is because that is what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus said that the Spirit exposes the world to sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:5-11).[6] The Spirit never lets us sit idle and become comfortable in our third-order safety, or in our fourth-order individuality, but constantly disrupts us so that we will see the world through fresh eyes and move into a fifth-order consciousness.[7]

Van Gelder states that the missional church that is created and led by the Spirit recognizes that the church is, the church does what it is, and the church organizes what it does.[8] He encourages the missional leader to be adaptive in a world of discontinuous change. I would add to this progression and say that, after the church organizes what it does, it has a choice. It can either concretize, sanctify, and mandate what it does, or it can constantly adapt what it does to the changing environment. I would further argue that, if the church does not choose to be adaptive, the Spirit will disrupt—and even dismantle—what the church does in order to nudge the leaders into the chaotic waters of the communicative zone. This is the disruptive nature of the Spirit.

The Disruptive Nature of the Spirit

In other words, tension is a normal part of life in the Triune God. The pendulum is always moving and generating the communicative zone. The Spirit is always disrupting. One member of the RT posted a reflection on this idea to the DITB website. She says,

Tension is normal. Tension is good. Tension is Love. God’s love is tension.

In May my small group watched Rob Bell’s Rhythm. The gist of the short 11-minute movie is “Are our lives in tune with God’s plan for the world?” It was our last meeting as group, and I thought a good “note” to go out on. I love this film. I’ve had years of musical training myself so maybe I readily identify with the concept of being “out of tune.” Or maybe it’s just that Rob’s movies are so simple, yet profound, asking really good questions and letting you sort out the answers (if there are any). As I was watching the film I kept thinking of Steve’s drawing of the Trinity, the “Beloved, Lover and Loved” or “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” as he drew for this Pentecost sermon that I listened to this morning. As I was watching the film I kept thinking of us in the middle of this Trinity and if were are truly in tune with the Trinity, we would be in the middle swaying with the forces. No one force would overcome the other, keeping us upright.

Balanced tension keeps us upright.

Then fast forward to a few weeks ago. It was a Saturday and I blissfully had nothing I “had” to do for anyone but myself so I weeded for hours my very weedy garden. Gardens are awesome. They are great therapy. I highly recommend people get one. But I digress. Before I went out my 7-year-old son made the statement that it looked like it was a nice day. I commented back that the weather looked “unsettled” but yes, the sun was shining (not wanting to squash his observation). He asked me what unsettled meant, so I described water and the difference between our boat sitting in the water and the “wake” our boat left after we traveled thru water (It’s all wind and waves right?;) ). All morning and afternoon, the weather was “unsettled.” It was fairly windy and dark patches of sky became more and more frequent until a rather large dark cloud (and the radar on my phone, and kindly next door neighbor) told me my weeding time was done. I gathered my tools and went into the garage, where my husband was working on our boat. After quickly helping him put things away so important things got covered, I sat in the garage, door open, watching the storm pass over. My son, who is fearful of storms, had come out and I invited him to sit near me (I was way too dirty to have him on me) and showed him that storms, especially this not severe one, can be enjoyable to watch. It was nice, because in a way, it forced me also to just watch the storm. He was making comments on the wind, and the driving rain and I kept watching one large tree in particular that was really dancing in the wind and it occurred to me how much tension was in nature. Storms which are necessary and are helpful and needed in some instances (trees that only grow after a fire, nitrogen that is fixed into the soil from lightning.) In nature, the tension between the cheetah and the gazelle. Really I could go on and on. Tension is normal in nature. God created the natural world, and really how far away are we really from this tension? Ours just comes in different forms. After the storm had passed I noticed how calm the wind had become and how clear the sky was. The tension between the fronts had passed. It was a fight, or storm for a while, but it didn’t last. And in the end, things became settled again.

Tension is normal.

Leading in the Zone

What does all this mean for the missional leader? It means we must embrace the chaos and be willing to be God’s electricians who can facilitate spaces in which all people are free to discuss their issues and dwell in the Word of God together. It is time to break down the polarized dualisms that plague our people, our churches, and our society. The DITB project demonstrated that an open conversation about the social Trinity is one way in which we might be able to join the disruptive nature of the Holy Spirit at work in the world. We are called to help people learn how to be in the world.

If ‘to be’ means ‘to be in relation’ at the most fundamental levels of physical existence, then we have an interrelational and communitarian understanding of existence, upon which all other emergent structures of complexity are built. Existence is community in relation. The very nature of physical existence at the micro level points to a dynamic interrelationality that human community at the macro level can also embody. Humans are not single, isolated beings that exist in self-sustaining independence from everything else. Rather, we are becomings that exist in dynamic interrelationship to others in the wider ecology of existence. In other words, identity is a process, not a possession, and environment forms identity. We are constituted by the world around us as we also help to constitute it. Since all existence is interrelated, there is a sense in which dynamic, communal relations are at the core of all existence. For human becoming, community resides in trust and in the willingness to transcend self-interest for the sake of the other. It is empowered by that around which the community gathers; indeed, what it has in ‘common’ to form the communio, the community.[9]

All of the dualisms that we encounter in life are somehow intrinsically connected and leaders must navigate the communicative zone between them. Dualisms are not bad. They are necessary. However, without the third way of the Spirit’s disruptive love the dualisms leave us with disconnected disagreements and corrosive stalemates. It will be helpful to remember that agreement is not homogeneity, it is the mutual existence of diverse elements for the greater good of all. If God is the Entangled Trinity, as Simmons suggests, and we are created in the image of God, then our very existence is the tension of two opposing ideas being equally valid in unique moments. Wisdom is the ability to “sway in the tension of the Trinity” and discern which polarity is the wisest choice in any given moment. Missional leaders are called to facilitate spaces in which people can live deeply in the Trinity each day. God’s love is tension that keeps us alive. It keeps us deep in the burbs.

Footnotes

[1] See Hegel.

[2] Wisdom is applied knowledge, otherwise known as skill.

[3] Steven P. Thomason, Reading Paul’s Mail (Minneapolis, MN: Vibble Books, 2009).

[4] This is a demonstration of quantum entanglement. See The Trinity Frame, chapter two.

[5] See Age Matters earlier in this chapter.

[6] This is one of the passages in which the RT dwelt during the session 07.

[7] I am focusing on leadership at this point. However, this statement is the definition of spiritual formation and at the heart of the research question. Missional leadership is de facto the process of leading in spiritual formation, because the process of evolving into fifth-order consciousness is the process of self-transcendence, and, as we have stated from the beginning, spiritual formation is the process of self-transcendence.

[8] Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit, 37.

[9] Simmons, The Entangled Trinity: Quantum Physics and Theology, 184-85.

How Do We Navigate Between Opposite Extremes…and Survive?

Regarding Dualisms

artwork credit: sarahweinmeier.wordpress.com

It seems that no matter where you turn in life you run into them. Dualisms. A dualism is when you find two polar opposite options to a single question that both have evidence for being correct. This is true in theology. Is Jesus God or human? Is it predestination or free will? Is reality physical or spiritual? Is God three or one? The answer to these questions seems to be “yes” but then common sense tells us that you can’t say “yes” to both options.

These dualisms are not found only in the musings of theologians. They are everywhere. Republicans vs. Democrats. Big Government vs. Free Enterprise. Conservatives vs. Liberals. American Military vs. Terrorists. I am right vs. you are wrong. The tensions between party lines are real and the way we navigate these tensions has global implications. So, this essay is not merely a mental exercise, but is motivated by seeking God’s peace in the world.

How do we navigate these tensions?

Dualisms are everywhere. Plato observed them in his experience. He looked around and saw the violence and destruction that his fellow Athenians heaped upon one another. Then he saw the very same people contemplating such things as beauty, goodness, and virtue. Which is it, he thought? He separated the two. There was, for Plato, the realm of ideals which was pure thought. This realm was where the perfect substance of what is right and good exists. Then there was the realm of the material substance which was a mere shadow of the ideals. It was in this realm were human atrocities exist and from this realm that the seeker of goodness and beauty must escape. Plato’s dualism became a canopy that spanned across most of Western culture and still casts its shadow today.

Many other dualisms have evolved throughout the course of Western history. Descartes divided the rational, objective mind of the observer from the material substance of that which is observed. Cartesian dualism gave rise to rationalism and the dominance of empirical science as the only source of knowledge in the West. Kant critiqued Descartes’ dualism and divided the noumena from the phenomena, thus giving privilege to subjective knowledge. These two forms of dualism became yet another pair of polar opposites as Objectivism, and its various iterations, fought against Subjectivism and its various subspecies. This battle dominated the academy of the 19th and 20th centuries.

There are two dualisms that are especially important for my research in Trinity and Spiritual Formation. The first dualism is the classic Trinitarian dilemma of One God vs. Three Persons. Is it one or three? The traditional answer has always been, “yes, but we have no idea how.” This mysterious duality has given rise to the dualism of Immanent Trinity vs. Economic Trinity and the various sub-species that debate has spawned. ((I must clarify the use of the term immanent. It is used in two categories within the Trinitarian conversation and each of the uses has the opposite meaning. This is very confusing.

The term immanent means near, or present within itself. Keep that in mind.

In the first use of the term—the Immanent Trinity—it refers to who God is within Godself. The substance of God is Triune, within Godself. However, the Triune substance is above, or Transcendent, from the created universe, thus completely separate from it. Therefore, the Immanent Trinity is Transcendent.

The second use of the term has to do with the difference between how God is related to the physical universe. On one hand, God is transcendent and completely separate from the universe, as described above. On the other hand, some believe that God is completely immanent, meaning God is completely within the universe. This view of God’s immanence is exactly opposite of the Immanent Trinity.

To review: The Immanent Trinity is Transcendent, and the transcendence of God is opposite of the immanence of God.

To further muddy the waters, the Economic Trinity stands in contrast to the Immanent Trinity. The Economic Trinity describes how God is immanent, or at work within the created universe, while the Immanent Trinity describes how God is within Godself outside of the created universe. see Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991).; Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God, 1st HarperCollins paperback ed. (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991).; Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity, Sacra Doctrina (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1998).; Stanley J. Grenz, Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).))

The second dualism has to do with human nature and how we relate to everything around us. Am I an individual self who is in relationship with everything else, thus giving precedence to individualism—both in its objective and subjective forms? Or, am I part of a social/ecological system that constitutes me and my individuality is just an illusion? ((This dualism takes the classic distinction between pantheism and theism. Are there two substances in the universe,or one? We will get to that later in the essay.))

Again, how do we navigate these tensions?

A Fixation with Continuums

I began my academic career in 1994 sitting in a Systematic Theology class with Dr. David Clark at Bethel Seminary. Dr. Clark loved to frame each of these pervasive dualisms in the form of a continuum. ((see David K. Clark, Dialogical Apologetics: A Person-Centered Approach to Christian Defense (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993).)) He would place one extreme view on the left hand and the polar opposite view on the right. Then he would draw a line between them and discuss the various views on the continuum between the views. The truth, it seemed, always lay somewhere in the middle. One author put it this way, “The river of truth flows between the banks of the extremes.” ((I cannot find a source for this quote.))

I fell in love with this kind of thinking and used it all the time. The truth is always in the middle, I thought. I found myself drawing continuums for every tension I encountered. I have come to call this “The Third Way.” The first time I encountered this language was, again, in a systematic theology course at Bethel. This time it was eight years later and the course was taught by LeRon Shults. He introduced me to a Third Way between the polar opposites of objective rationalism and subjective relativism, and between a theology done “from above” and theology done “from below.” ((The iconic symbols for this dichotomy are Barth—from above—and Rahner and Tillich—from below. Barth began with the transcendence of God and moved through revelation. Rahner and Tillich began with the immanence of God and moved through correlation theory and subjective, experiential knowledge.)) Shults called it the postfoundationalist task of theology ((F. LeRon Shults, The Postfoundationalist Task of Theology: Wolfhart Pannenberg and the New Theological Rationality (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999). This is further expounded in Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke, Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, 1st ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001).)) and I kept encountering it throughout my doctoral studies. ((Habermas talks about navigating the waters between the Scylla of Absolutism and the Charybdis of Relativism.Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987). Gadamer called it a fusion of horizons.Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (London: Sheed & Ward, 1975). Farley finds a third way between Individualism and Social-ism.Edward Farley, Practicing Gospel: Unconventional Thoughts on the Church’s Ministry, 1st ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003). Grenz and Franke build a strong case for a Third Way of postfoundationalism between Conservatism and Liberalism. Grenz, Stanley J. and John R. Franke. Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.))

A new question has dawned for me recently that leaves me unsettled. Does the truth really flow between the banks of the extremes?

A Problem with Continuums

I discovered a problem with continuums as my theological mind continued to evolve. The best way I can describe it is by sharing a story. In 1994 Dr. Clark used the truth-in-the-middle method to demonstrate how Classical Theism is the correct worldview. He said that there are five basic world views. On one side of the continuum he placed Pantheism which believes that God and matter are one and the same thing, thus reducing the universe to pure spirit. On the other side of the continuum he placed Atheism, which believes that there is no such thing as God, thus reducing the universe to pure matter. He then placed Classic Theism in the center, which believes that God—pure spirit—exists apart from, but in relation with the universe—pure matter. It is important to note that between Theism and Pantheism he noted Panentheism ((Panentheism is the view that all matter is within God, but that God is more than the sum of material things. This is similar to the relationship of the human mind to the body. Our mind can have an other-oriented relationship with our body, yet, the mind can’t exist without the physical function of the brain.)) and between Theism and Atheism he noted Deism ((Deism is the view that God exists, outside of creation, but has no interaction with it. God is the designer, the cosmic watch maker, who created everything, wound it up, and sent it spinning on its way, governed by the mechanistic laws of Newton’s physics.))

The logic of truth-in-the-middle made it clear to me that Theism was the truth. Then something happened. Through more study I came to believe that Deism and Atheism were not actually separate world views, but were subspecies of Theism that emerged during, and as a result of, the modern era. A truer continuum, then, would be to place Pantheism—the ancient world view of Eastern Thought—on one side, and Theism—the ancient world view of Platonic dualism—on the other side. By shifting the “banks” of the river I discovered that there is a new river flowing down the middle: Panentheism.

I found myself caught in a theoretical conundrum. My belief in truth-in-the-middle logic led me to discover that Panentheism is the most logical description of reality. Yet, my conservative, theistic upbringing made me raise red flags and resist this discovery. I pushed it to the side of my consciousness for about two years, holding the tension without having the framework to discuss it. More on that in a moment.

A Different Take on the River of Truth

Another idea started percolating in my mind around the same time that I was in class with Shults. I was reading Leonard Sweet ((Leonard I. Sweet, Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic, 1st ed. (Dayton, OH: Whaleprints, 1991).; Leonard I. Sweet, Aquachurch (Loveland, CO: Group Pub., 1999).)) and he took a different angle on the use of continuums. ((I must acknowledge that Sweet is not a primary source in this discussion. He was writing popular literature, aimed at the local pastor, and was drawing on the work of Heideggar, Gadamer, Ricouer, et alia. I was unaware of the deeper hermeneutical discourse at that time, thus i must give credit to my lived experience of these ideas.)) He claimed that it is not that the truth flows between the banks of the two extremes, but that the truth lies in the tension of both extremes being correct, but incomplete. As illogical as this sounds, it raises a good point. The analogy of the river-between-the-banks doesn’t really work because the river is not of the same substance as the banks. It is something completely different. If the river of the third way is the truth, then it is actually just another, separate option from the two banks, thus creating a new duality. It doesn’t really address the two extremes, rather it discounts them as being wrong and finds an alternate option that is of a different substance than the two banks.

Sweet proposed that we must think of the truth as lying in the tension of both extremes being correct. This helps in that it validates the opposite viewpoints, but it leaves us with the same original problem. How can this be true? How can two opposites both be correct? He chalks it up to mystery. Perhaps that is the most honest answer we can give. However, on both counts, it leaves room for the proponents of the extreme views to discard any discussion of a Third Way. The opposing sides will view a third way as either compromise (said with disgust) or wishful, Pollyanna thinking. Thus, the battle between the extremes continues and people get hurt.

A Lesson from Sunspots

Somewhere in 2001 or 2002, while I was wrestling with Shults’ and Sweet’s metaphors, an image came to me. I was teaching an astronomy lesson to my children and we learned about sunspots. Astronomers made an interesting discovery about these dark spots on the surface of the sun. First, they almost always come in pairs. Second, the spots almost never touch each other. Third, they are always oppositely charged. One spot is positively charged and the other is negatively charged. ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunspot (accessed July 17, 2014) )) Hmmm…a pair of polar opposites. A dualism.

Astronomers tried to figure out why these spots were always in dualistic pairs. They couldn’t figure it out until something happened. They broadened their horizons. Instead of thinking about the sunspots as marks on the surface of the sun they looked at the larger picture of the sun’s Corona and made an interesting discovery. The sun has streams of energy racing around inside of it like a jumble of spaghetti. Once in a while these streams will burst outside of the boundaries of the sun’s surface and form a loop into the sun’s corona.

Let me attempt to illustrate this. Imagine that you have a beach ball and inside the ball is a bunch of flexible plastic tubing. Now imagine that the tubing pokes out of the ball, curls around, and reenters the ball, right next to the place where it exited. The plastic tube forms a loop that is sticking outside of the ball. Can you see it? Now imagine the place where the edge of the ball meets the surface of the tube at its exit and entrance point. What shape does the intersection make? It’s a circle. If you were observing only the surface of the ball, and had no concept of the space around the ball, you would observe two circles right next to each other. But, if you back away and take in the bigger picture, you discover that you have a single tube that is coming out of the ball and going back into it.

What’s the point? When the astronomers broadened their perspective and looked at the question with a different set of tools, they realized that the seemingly disconnected and opposite spots were actually part of the very same thing and very much connected. I wonder if this metaphor can be helpful with our ubiquitous dualisms? What if we looked at our polar opposites from a broader perspective and with a different set of tools? Might we then discover that Sweet’s proposal could be correct and not just a mystery?

Some Help From Quantum Physics

There are a growing number of theologians who look to Quantum Physics as a source for grappling with our mysterious dualisms. ((Ernest L. Simmons, The Entangled Trinity: Quantum Physics and Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014).; J. C. Polkinghorne, The Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 2010).; McIntosh in The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality, Blackwell Companions to Religion (Oxford ; Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005), 179-189.;)) Ernest Simmons summarizes the conversation well and proposes that Superposition and Quantum Entanglement are metaphors that may help us discuss our dualisms in a more helpful manner. Further, these metaphors may help to promote peace between the extremes without the negative connotation of compromise.

Here’s the simple version. Physicists at the turn of the twentieth century discovered a new dualism. They observed that light was both a particle and a wave. This is logically impossible, according to the conventional wisdom and logic of the day. What they discovered, upon further experimentation, was that, indeed, light is both a particle and a wave, and the thing that determines which it is at any given moment in time is the measurement used by the observer. Its physical nature is relative to the intention of the observer. This superposition of two polar opposite realities being both simultaneously true has allowed physicists to take a step back from the traditional, rationalistic, empirical methodologies of the scientific community and begin to imagine a whole new world of possibilities.

It also led to another, equally strange discovery. Quantum physicists have discovered that subatomic particles are connected to each other in a way that defies classic physical laws. They found that when the subatomic particles are physically separated from each other they are still connected across space and have physical reactions that would normally only be possible if they were touching. This strange connection between realities in called entanglement. Between superposition and entanglement, we might say that physicists discovered the tube that connects the sunspots.

Re-imagining the Trinity

Simmons, among others, uses this discovery as a helpful metaphor and attaches it to the ancient Greek term perichoresis. ((This term was used by the Greek Fathers to describe the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It means to move in and out of each other, or to dance around. It brings with it the image of a mutual, equal interpenetration and indwelling of all three persons. It, however, existed within Godself, thus was not helpful for how God related to the world.)) He finds this helpful for discussing the apparent dualisms in the theological debates about the Trinity, namely (1) is God one or three persons, and (2) is God the Immanent Trinity or the Economic Trinity? Simmons proposes that “perichoresis entanglement can be understood as the energy of the divine Trinity through which the creation is expressed. The immanent Trinity exists in superposition with the economic Trinity and evolves within the entangled life of God with the creation, thus supporting a panentheistic model of God.” ((Simmons, 144.))

Notice the term panentheistic in the last statement. There it is. That intuition which I had shelved for two years came to the forefront. Now I had language and a metaphor to help me understand that a panentheistic model of reality may be the most helpful model after all.

Simmons claims that his proposal of Entangled Trinitarian Panentheism may:

  1. Through phase entanglement and non-local relational holism provide metaphors for the perichoretic activity of the Trinity immanently and economically in sustaining and sanctifying the creation from within a scientifically consistent panentheism;
  2. Through quantum indeterminacy, affirm the freedom and openness of the creation in relation to divine self-limitation and the problem of suffering;
  3. Provide a conceptual bridge between creation and the Trinitarian character of the divine life;
  4. Contribute to the mutual understanding and interaction of theology and science;
  5. Assist interested persons in deepening their understanding and appreciation for the divine mystery of the Trinity; and
  6. Help provide a basis for interfaith dialog and cooperation as we collectively address the global issues of our time.” ((Ibid., 187-188.))

Re-imagining Personhood

Entangled Trinitarian Panentheism helps us to see the Trinity and the world in a new way that may work toward peace. I would also like to use the metaphor to address the second dualism that I mentioned at the beginning of this essay. It has to do with personhood, or our understanding of self in relation to community and the universe. Am I an individual, separate from everything else, or am I simply created by the environment and nothing more than the random conglomeration of biological and sociological forces, in which my individuality is just a mirage?

Here we have another continuum between two extreme options. Superposition and Quantum Entanglement help us once again. I believe this has to do with the discussion of relational ontology. ((The major voice in this conversation is Zizioulas Jean Zizioulas and Paul McPartlan, Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church (New York: T & T Clark, 2006).. Polkinghorne brings relational ontology into conversation with Quantum Entanglement in a helpful way in Polkinghorne.)) Ontology is the study of being itself. Is being substance, or is it relationship? The answer? “Yes.”

I am an individual, that is an observed phenomenon. However, I am also created by my environment and the relationship of all the elements of that environment. Apart from these relationships—my parents, family, society, sunlight, water, air, the basic elements, etc.—I cannot exist. This, too, is an observed phenomenon. If we think of the polar opposites in any continuum in terms of substance—being completely different entities—then we can never reconcile them. But, if we think of them as being of the same substance, but also differentiated by the intentionality and the context of the moment, then, perhaps, we can see how these two opposites can both be true and necessary.

I am both an individual and my individuality is constituted by the relationality of all things. God is both transcendent from creation and immanent within creation. There is a place for Republicans and Democrats; for Christians and Muslims; for Conservatives and Liberals. We must learn to live in the tension.

A Word from the Suburbs

As I was writing this essay, I took a break and read a recent journal entry from one of the members of our research team. This team member captures the essence of what I’m discussing in a beautiful way.

Tension is normal. Tension is good. Tension is Love. God’s love is tension.

In May my small group watched Rob Bell’s Rhythm. The gist of the short 11 minute movie is “Are our lives in tune with God’s plan for the world?” It was our last meeting as group, and I thought a good “note” to go out on. I love this film. I’ve had years of musical training myself so maybe I readily identify with the concept of being “out of tune.” Or maybe it’s just that Rob’s movie’s are so simple, yet profound asking really good questions and letting you sort out the answers (if there are ones). As I was watching the film I kept thinking of Steve’s drawing of the Trinity, the “Beloved, Lover and Loved” or “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” as he drew for this Pentecost sermon that I listened to this morning. As I was watching the film I kept thinking of us in the middle of this Trinity and if were are truly in tune with the Trinity, we would be in the middle swaying with the forces. No one force would overcome the other, keeping us upright.

Balanced tension keeps us upright.

Then fast forward to a few weeks ago. It was a Saturday and I blissfully had nothing I “had” to do for anyone but myself so I weeded for hours my very weedy garden. Gardens are awesome. They are great therapy. I highly recommend people get one. But I digress. Before I went out my 7 year old son made the statement that it looked like it was a nice day. I commented back that the weather looked “unsettled” but yes, the sun was shining (not wanting to squash his observation). He asked me what unsettled meant, so I described water and the difference between our boat sitting in the water and the “wake” our boat left after we traveled thru water (It’s all wind and waves right?;) ). All morning and afternoon, the weather was “unsettled.” It was fairly windy and dark patches of sky became more and more frequent until a rather large dark cloud (and the radar on my phone, and kindly next door neighbor) told me my weeding time was done. I gathered my tools and went into the garage, where my husband was working on our boat. After quickly helping him put things away so important things got covered, I sat in the garage, door open watching the storm pass over. My son, who is fearful of storms, had come out and I invited him to sit near me (I was way too dirty to have him on me) and showed him that storms, especially this not severe one, can be enjoyable to watch. It was nice, because in a way, it forced me also to just watch the storm. He was making comments on the wind, and the driving rain and I kept watching one large tree in particular that was really dancing in the wind and it occurred to me how much tension was in nature. Storms which are necessary and are helpful and needed in some instances (trees that only grow after a fire, nitrogen that is fixed into the soil from lightning.) In nature, the tension between the cheetah and the gazelle. Really I could go on and on. Tension is normal in nature. God created the natural world, and really how far away are we really from this tension? Ours just comes in different forms. After the storm had passed I noticed how calm the wind had become and how clear the sky was. The tension between the fronts had passed. It was a fight, or storm for a while, but it didn’t last. And in the end, things became settled again.

Tension is normal.

So What?

Why do I (we) care about these things? I said it at the beginning. This is not an exercise in esoteric philosophy, this is an attempt to bring reconciliation and peace to warring factions. Simmons writes,

“If ‘to be’ means ‘to be in relation’ at the most fundamental levels of physical existence, then we have an interrelational and communitarian understanding of existence, upon which all other emergent structures of complexity are built. Existence is community in relation. The very nature of physical existence at the micro level points to a dynamic interrelationality that human community at the macro level can also embody. Humans are not single, isolated beings that exist in self-sustaining independence from everything else. Rather, we are becomings that exist in dynamic interrelationship to others in the wider ecology of existence. In other words, identity is a process, not a possession, and environment forms identity. We are constituted by the world around us as we also help to constitute it. Since all existence is interrelated, there is a sense in which dynamic, communal relations are at the core of all existence. For human becoming, community resides in trust and in the willingness to transcend self-interest for the sake of the other. It is empowered by that around which the community gathers; indeed, what it has in ‘common’ to form the communio, the community.” ((Simmons, 184-185.))

In other words, all of the dualisms that we encounter in life are somehow intrinsically connected.

Dualisms are not bad, they are necessary. Agreement is not homogeneity, it is the mutual existence of diverse elements for the greater good of all. If God is the Entangled Trinity, as Simmons suggests, and we are created in the image of God, then our very existence is the tension of two opposing ideas being equally valid in unique moments. Wisdom is the ability to “sway in the tension of the Trinity” and discern which polarity is the wisest choice in any given moment. ((see my commentary on this http://www.deepintheburbs.com/the-holy-spirit-twitter-and-practical-wisdom/ (accessed July 16, 2014) based on Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe, Practical Wisdom the Right Way to Do the Right Thing (New York: Simon & Schuster Audio,), sound recording.)) We are called to live deeply in the Trinity each day. God’s love is tension that keeps us alive.

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