One of the things about the way I’ve been reading blogs lately is that I often get summaries after-the-fact and reactions from others on various topics and happenings, which offers me a shortcut to catching the drift of some notable posts. And sometimes in this exchange I feel perhaps I’ve missed something important. Often I let it just slip by, but then there are times when I find my feet just instinctively digging into the sand adjacent to home plate as my eye fixes itself on the ball. This time it’s internal bickering among some who insist that any bickering on these points could not be classified as internal, because It’s fun to exclude others.
Yesterday I posted an overview of the Didache to introduce what it is and where it came from, but essentially it’s an early Christian document from around the same time that the New Testament itself was still being written. “Didache” means “teaching”, and the document provides a compilation of (probably) oral tradition about what the apostles taught concerning community life. Today I’m blogging on Chapter 6 of Tony Jones‘ newest book, The Teaching of Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community. The Didache is not a long document, but it is instructive for the fact that it deals with practical community matters during a time of liminality when the church was just coming to birth. We ought to imagine that it will offer us insight for a time when the church is undergoing a rebirth.
Philotheos Bryennios was born in March of 1833 at Constantinople. He was educated at the Theological School in Chalce of the Great Church of Christ and the universities of Leipsic, Berlin, and Munich, and in 1861 became professor of ecclesiastical history, exegesis, and other studies at Chalce. He was appointed master and director at Chalce in 1863, though he soon resigned these two positions. In 1867 he was called to Constantinople to be the head of the “Great School of the Nation” in the Phanar, or Greek quarter of Constantinople. He remained there until 1875 when he was sent by the Most Holy Synod of metropolitans and patriarchs to the Old Catholic conference at Bonn, where he receved a patriarchal letter announcing his appointment as metropolitan of Serrae in Macedonia. In 1877 he was transferred to the metropolitan see of Nicodemia, and in 1880 went to Bucharest on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchal and other independent churches to participate in a commission dealing with Greek monastaries that had been plundered in Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1882, at the instance of the Holy Synod of Metropolitans in Constantinople and the patriarch Joachim Il., he wrote a reply (published by the Holy Synod) to the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII concerning the Slavic apostles Cyrillus and Methodius. The man was no theological slouch, and despite this list of accomplishments, none of these are the thing for which he is most remembered following his death in 1914 or 1918.
I sort of missed out on the blog tour for Ed Cyzewski’s Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life due to a shipping delay that saw the book land in my lap a little late and at a busy time. I considered doing an interview with Ed instead, but that’s harder when you haven’t read the book. Both are too bad, because the book is quite good, and I want to ask him how to pronounce his name. Nevertheless, it’s still appropriate for a mention or two to appear here on my interwebs haunt. In that vein, I thought I’d offer an excerpt that helps give a sense of the book’s direction. This occurs early on, pages 19-20:
This week in Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth, I’m entering another one of those love-hate hymns. As background, Elvina M. Hall was born: June 4, 1822 in Alexandria, Virginia and died July 18, 1889 in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. The daughter of Captain David Reynolds, she married Richard Hall of Westmoreland County, Virginia. Following Hall’s death, she was remarried to Thomas Meyers, a Methodist minister in Baltimore, Maryland. Settling there, she attended the Monument Street Methodist Church in Baltimore for forty years. In 1865, she wrote the words to “Jesus Paid it All.” Meanwhile, John T. Grape was initially told by friends that a piece of music he had written was unremarkable, but his wife continued in her opinion that it would be a lasting score. Grape’s Pastor, Rev. George W. Schrek was already aware of the words to this hymn when he heard Grape’s score, and felt they would be best matched together. The song was thus published in 1868.
I noticed a Scientific American piece, The Certainty Bias: A Potentially Dangerous Mental Flaw, and read it with interest. The article is subtitled “A neurologist explains why you shouldn’t believe in political candidates that sound too sure of themselves,” and takes the form of an interview of Robert Burton, the former chief of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco-Mt. Zion hospital, by Jonah Lehrer, the editor of Mind Matters. Burton has written a book with the intriguing title, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not, which explores the neuroscience behind the feeling of certainty, or why we are so convinced we’re right even when we’re not. This was the subject matter of the interview. I quote an excerpt:
Yesterday I wrote the introduction to this post, which ended up being about as long as the next bit that contained the important stuff I wanted to say, so I split it up. Feel free to start yesterday, then continue on below, which is about the whole mess of misunderstanding over networks that are not called Emergent.
We return to the assertion that nobody’s mad at anyone, and add a caveat for the possible exception of those who have been grossly misrepresented in the fray. The essential take-away here is that the forming of a new network is not to set up an alternative one, but to found something for people with a specific focus. Undoubtedly, people both within Emergent Village and outside of it, within or outside the missional conversation, and within and outside of the emerging church. This should not be a surprise, and should be considered a form of progress. Not in the sense of “better than” another network or anything of that sort, but better in the sense that it represents a form of self-organization that is necessary for the inclusion of more conservative Christianity in the thick of what we’ve all been on about for a number of years already.
Or is that an oxymoron? At first blush, one would think that a systematic theology is such a modern construct that it would never fly as a postmodern emerging concept. On the other hand, what is a systematic theology but a collection of positions on the full complement of theological subjects? With all the “conversation” flying left and right, all that’s left is to gather it up, cross-reference it, and call it systematic, right? Or is it only about ecclesiology anyway? This post is a resurrected draft from August 2007, and if anything I think there’s a trend that has become more solid in the year since I jotted down my first early thoughts. While the emerging church was initially taken up with ecclesiology and philosophical questions concerning post-modernism, these topics have branched out, rippling through other areas of theology. Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian and its two sequels began to delve into various areas of theology as we followed Dan and Neo through a conversational reconsideration of a variety of accepted conclusions to theological questions… not just ecclesiology. (And it still strikes me as strange that McLaren was maligned the worst when he got to the doctrine of hell, of all things… as though Christians would reconsider anything except the surety of the eternal torment of others. But anyway.)