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July 06, 2010

Tom Wright: On PhDs and Myers-Briggs Types

Wright_Panel_Discussion.jpg

In April, my friend Keas Keasler sent an email discussing his plan to visit us in New Zealand this July. As a postscript, he added a link to a recent theology conference that he thought I might enjoy listening to. However, due to school and writing responsibilities, I hadn't had the opportunity to follow through on his recommendation. When the semester began to wind down a couple of weeks ago, I finally clicked that link and discovered a real treasure awaiting me.

The conference that Wheaton hosted in April 2010 was focused on the work of the British theologian and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright. Titled, "Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright," conference-host Nicholas Perrin invited different scholars to interact with Wright's writings - in particular Jesus and the Victory of God, the second of his three (soon to be four) volume "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series. Following each day's papers, Wright responds to the particular points from the different scholars during a panel discussion; each scholar is then allowed to reply, often resulting in a lively exchange. As the culmination of the day, Wright then presents his own paper: the first on Jesus, the second on Paul. It is a little hard to describe how provocative and moving it is to listen to such an amazing group of scholars (Jeremy Begbie, Markus Bochmuehl, Richard Hays, Edith Humphrey, Sylvia Keesmaat, Nicholas Perrin, Marian Meye Thompson, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and Brian Walsh) interacting so robustly, critically, creatively, and charitably about something I care so deeply about. While listening to the different presentations, I literally caught my breath and/or laughed out loud several times.

(In fact, let me highly recommend listening to these talks if you are at all inclined. If you only listen to a couple, then choose Wright's day-ending addresses on Jesus and Paul. [His chapel address on Ephesians to the students at Wheaton is also great: short, funny, and encouraging; this is Tom Wright at a popular/pastoral level.] A third academic presentation, Kevin Vanhoozer's "Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and in Protestant Soteriology," is totally worth your time and undivided attention, too. These resources are free to either stream or download in audio or video formats, by the way. Thank you, Wheaton!)

Wright_Panel_Discussion2.jpgNow, all that prelude to set up the point that the blog-post title references: listening to the first day's response, "Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church," Wright said something in the 43rd minute of his talk so out of left field to me that I could not believe I was hearing it. He had just finished summarizing the story of Israel and its fulfillment in the messiah Jesus. He goes on to describe the real world impact for followers of Jesus Christ in light of his resurrection from the dead.

"Jesus is raised bodily from the dead, therefore he is the messiah, therefore God's new creation has been launched. The old world of exile and sin has been dealt with, the new age has dawned and therefore we have a job to do. That is endemic in the confession of resurrection. It is not, 'We just have a nice future way, away, and by-and-by-in-the-sky,' or anything like that. It's 'Jesus is raised from the dead, therefore new creation has begun, and therefore we have a job to do.' And part of that job is to tell the story, the story of Jesus as the climax of the story of God, of Israel's God, and of the story of the climax of Israel - the means of the world's redemption."

So, because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we are not waiting around to go to heaven after we die. Rather, we are called to participate in the new creation that has been inaugurated by Christ, the new Adam, who signals a renewed humanity amidst a new creation. Because humanity has been renewed in Christ, we once again are called, like Adam and Eve before us, to participate in the stewardship of creation. As Wright says, that means we each have a job to do, that God's kingdom may come, his will be done, "...on earth as it is in heaven." And according to Wright, part of that job of stewarding creation is telling the story of what God has done and is continuing to do in and through Christ. This is where Wright sideswiped me.

"Where do we go with all this? Many, many tasks are still remaining. The world of biblical scholarship is a difficult world, a complex world. As many of you will know, it is much easier to get a PhD in biblical studies if you're a details person, rather than a big picture person…In Myers-Briggs terms, it's much, much easier to get a PhD in biblical studies if you're a ISTJ. You'll never do it if you're an ENFP because you'll never finish it. You'll be having too much fun. But we need, we need, we need "N"s in this business as well as "S"s because we need big-picture hypotheses. It's very difficult to do that at PhD level because your supervisors and examiners will want you to nail down all the details (and you have to do that) but we need these big hypotheses."

So, first let me say this: Amen. I cannot tell you how true this is in my own experience of writing and interacting around biblcal texts. I am in the middle of my third biblical studies-type writing assignment. If I were to characterize my editorial struggles in each of these works, I would do so with reference to the challenge that Wright highlights above. The need for Old and New Testament exegetical editors to get all the details "right" constantly threatens the larger narrative scope within which the details reside. I am not complaining, by the way. Wright is right to say that such detail is important and this work has to be done. However, he is also right to name the fact that this work, by its inherently atomizing nature, threatens the very possibility of big-picture creative work. I am reminded of Daniel Pink's assertion in his article in Wired, "Revenge of the Right Brain," drawn from his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, regarding right and left brain competencies and how such competencies are harnessed within economic systems:

"If the Industrial Age was built on people’s backs, and the Information Age on people’s left hemispheres, the Conceptual Age is being built on people’s right hemispheres. We’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we are progressing yet again – to a society of creators and empathizers, pattern-recognizers, and meaning-makers."

It is these notions about creativity, pattern-recognition, and meaning-making that I fear are endangered by academic and church cultures often over-focused on details and the technical aspects of learning and leading; that these cultures are also blind to their biases is not only a huge part of the problem, but illustrative of the very issue at stake (this is also why a person of Wright's stature naming this dynamic is so exciting to me). In a world flooded by information (read details), the need for people who can recognize patterns amidst the data-deluge is not just important, but critical for finding and making meaning in our lives personally and corporately. That Wright names the inherent bias of PhD programs and supervisors towards such left-brained, or "S", competencies is art of what makes me, a raging "N" (INTP, to be precise), so ambivalent about whether or not to begin such studies myself. I suppose this phenomena is also what is on display in the title of my book, Intuitive Leadership. In fact, hearing Wright say those things reminded me of something I had written in 2006 about the necessity of a new kind of leadership. It comes from my chapter, "Leading from the Margins: The Role of Imagination in Our Changing Context," in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.

"We need men and women who have previously been on the margins to come forth and lead us. In focusing so exclusively on our cognitive capacities, we have lost our imaginations. We need mystics. We need poets. We need prophets. We need apostles. We need artists. We need a church drawn out of the margins, drawn from the places and filled with people and shaped with competencies formerly thought to be of little account. In fact, perhaps it is from such 'marginal' communities as these that influence will begin to spread outward into communities that have been domesticated in a modern world and thus rendered docile. We need a wild vine grafted into the branch. We need alternate takes on reality. We need a different kind of leader - one who can create environments to nurture and release the imagination of God's people."

It is in the same spirit that Alan Roxburgh likewise describes the need for alternative leadership typologies for churches beyond pastors who teach. In The Sky is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition, he does inspiring work naming and describing the offices of poet, prophet, and apostle as other possible roles critical to provoking and unleashing the imaginative life of communities of faith today. But naming these alternatives begs a larger question: where will such leaders be identified and trained? Given its trajectory, it is questionable whether or not it will be within the academy. That Wright, while nailing all of the details, still has the ability to see the big picture and name the challenges it faces, legitimizes the need and gives hope that it might yet be addressed.

And that, to me, is "good news."

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Comments

Sarah  Harris

Actually I think the 'perfect' PhD type is INTJ...but NTJ in general.

Sivin Kit

I'm a pretty clear cut ENFP. and I feel comforted after reading Bishop Wright's comment! :-)

Tim Keel

Hey Sarah - are you back from the UK yet? If not, see if you can meet up with the good bishop/doctor and hammer out which is the perfect type! Which are you, by the way? Also, I downloaded the panel discussions in video format. I thought of you during an exchange between Wright and Keesmaat where she challenges his particular reading of Luke 19. She says his point is valid, but that he cannot make it from the passage in question. Rather, he should use Luke 12-14. He has a hilarious retort. I am going to go back and see if I can work out what they are talking about with text in hand. However, given your dissertation topic, I figure you'd know exactly what is going on. Give it a listen/watch if you have the time.

Tim Keel

That's good, Sivin!

Adam White

I get a little uncomfortable when people start talking about what Age we are in. Mostly, because the 'we' that we are talking about are prosperous westerners and only prosperous westerners. I'm always convicted because I think N.T. Wright has interesting and profound things to say but everything he says is completely unapproachable by the uneducated.

So, here we have a discussion about this Information Age that we are entering and the means of forwarding the gospel is to adapt it to this "New Age". But 40% of this world's population is pre-industrial. Only 25% of this world's population uses the internet.

I can't help but wonder if we are deceiving ourselves. A quote from St. Benedict's Rule says, "Imitate the example of the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine and went in search of the one who had strayed." I interpret this to mean we should be willing to abandon our own structures and homogenized cultures to seek those who are lost. Especially (in the context of 'Age') when it's more like leaving the 25 to seek out the 75.

So, is this re-imagining actually spreading the gospel to places it has never been or is it just a cool new way to for us to talk about?

Dan Dermyer

Interesting post, intriguing conference. I will want to listen. Thanks. I don't know if you read Larry Crabb, but he has a new book that tries to pull together the whole message of the Bible as it is revealed in each book--"66 Love Letters". I don't know it would be helpful to you as your write and work on a PhD, but it is very good for my soul.

AndyD

As an ISTJ..."I literally caught my breath"...what, with your hands Tim???

But Seriously, a great post, and as an ISTJ with a wife who is an ENFP, I completely agree that we need more than just people like me if biblical scholars like me are ever going to pull back from the detail and capture the bigger picture

Tim Keel

You bring up a lot of different and important points here, Adam. I can only respond to a couple.

You might give a listen to the Q & A at the end of Wright's first address. He is asked about the place of majority world theology in light of what he has proposed. One of the texts for a class I taught last semester is a collection of essays about this topic. Essentially, it is addressing the challenge of how we do theological conversation in a globalized world, especially when many of the people are not at the table. It's called "Globalizing Theology" and has many great essays, including one by Vanhoozer - a presenter in the Wright conference at Wheaton. There are no simple answers.

However, in my (albeit limited) experience in developing world countries (Africa and India, and now the Pacific Island cultures in New Zealand), and in the personal relationships that have grown as a result of that experience, I would say that you are wrong to assume that everything N.T. Wright is saying is unapproachable to the uneducated. (This is an interesting argument itself, by the way. Much of life is necessarily unapproachable to the uneducated, your own field of engineering being one example. I cannot speak intelligently to you about anything related to engineering. This doesn't make it untrue or irrelevant, though. It means that you need a certain level of education to participate at a certain level of conversation. Why should theology be any different?). It strikes me you have to be very careful here: saying that something is completely unapproachable to the uneducated is an assumption that a very educated person might be tempted to make.

If you interact with people from certain developing world communities you will hear them talk quite passionately and articulately about the "age" of colonialism and its very real impact on their lives and communities. The necessity of doing theology in the "post-colonial" age can not be overestimated because there is already the risk of becoming subject to a new age: the age of "neo-colonialism." For whatever it is worth, such communities have been devastated by a version of the gospel that legitimized the exploitation of their land because the theology said the only thing that mattered was their souls getting to heaven after death. (You might go back and listen to Claude Nikondeha's sermon at Jacob's Well from October 2008, I think.) The kinds of things that Wright proposes are quite relevant to the lives of the poor. This becomes especially clear when you discover that Wright is a bishop that pastors in one of the poorest dioceses in England.

Finally, I don't think Wright is adapting the gospel to anything. He is a New Testament biblical scholar that specializes in historical studies about Jesus. What Wright is doing is exposing the way the gospel was and is domesticated by the biases and blindspots of the ages of the Enlightenment and modernity. Rather than adapt the gospel, I'd say that he is seeking to recover aspects of it that have been absent or overlooked. In that sense, I am super glad that Wright is a detail-freak. ;-)

Have you read any of his popular writing, Adam?

Tim Keel

Hi Dan - I have read Crabb, though not the title you mention. I'll keep my eyes peeled. By the way, I have not begun any PhD studies. That is something I am trying to figure out...hence the post. ;-)

Tim Keel

That is good, Andy. However, one of the definitions for "caught" is to "engage a person's interest or imagination" (Oxford American Dictionary). This literally happened, causing a change in my breathing. What is your verdict, as an "ISTJ"? Can I say "...literally caught my breath" given that definition? ;-)

Thanks for the feedback!

Tim Keel

Hey Adam - I just had another devious thought: what are the chances that you are an "STJ"? Wouldn't it be characteristic of an "S" to be suspicious of big picture hypotheses...like descriptions of ages, for example? :-D

Adam White

Tim,

I am a border lined ISTJ/ISTP. Depending on the day is what side of the line I fall. Today was kind of frustrating, so I landed on the more critical side.

I read Surprised by Hope and was part of the book discussion and I really enjoyed it. I also teach ESL to immigrants who are uneducated and have a language barrier. The language barrier adds a level of difficulty but I still have a sense my students wouldn't know how to approach these thoughts. And it is very similar to my engineering background. These same students don't have an experience that allows them to understand what I do. I wrestle with this. I don't know what it means.

And finally, I prefer the practical things. Even though I work as an engineer, which is a very Thinking field, I want the application to go with it. I prefer Physics over Math because Physics is math being used. I approach these same ideas the same way. I want the real world application while the culture surrounding me wants the digital version. (I am a walking paradox. An electrical engineer who dislikes gadgets. I don't know how to use your iPhone but I could build one for you.) So, I become suspicious because the ideas are very academic and I want to apply it.

Tim Keel

Great stuff, Adam. Thanks for your reflections. They are important and I think that you are keying in on some very crucial things here.

It is necessary to recognize complexity as a phenomena that describes real states. Just because there are groups of people who don't understand the complexity doesn't render it irrelevant or suspicious. It actually takes more intellectual energy and thoughtfulness to be simple than it does to be complex. As Twain is to have said, "I sat down to write you a short letter but I did not have time, so I wrote you a long one instead." Simplicity is not the same as being simplistic, though - as I know you know. In fact, I am reminded of another quote that is attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes: "I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." This is critical, I think - and why Wright is such a gift to the church.

I think the key here is the pastoral one you reference in relation to real people you care about. I love it that this matters to you so much! The answer is not simplistic theology, or engineering, but rather incarnational translation. How does God use you to bring about awareness and understanding for the benefit of others? In fact, this is what teaching is. Further, this is what Jesus does for God - he reveals him as Father. But in all those things, you have to be careful about moving too quickly to practical application. To be a Christian is not necessarily to be a pragmatist. Again, good discussion Adam. Thanks.

Andy Rowell

I am INTJ and moved from New Testament to theology because I am an N and not an S--though the process was gradual and not the result of reflecting on Myers-Briggs. Thanks, Tim--I was at the conference but forgot this part! Tim, come to the Th.D. program at Duke where an N can be an N!

Timothy Johnson

I haven't had a chance to listen to the lectures yet, but I am stoked about getting a chance to hear Keesmaat and Walsh interact directly with Wright. Theology nerd explosion!

I resonate with what Adam was saying about Ages and descriptions. Coming from a primarily Western mode of thought, I feel like there is a constant temptation to interpret the nature of the world from my perspective. I was immediately reminded of Mark Van Steenwyk's essay 'Is Christian Scholarship Accountable to the Poor' which covered this issue in depth a couple of years ago. His conclusion is yes, and I tend to agree with him. The poor should be taken into account as a matter of course in Christian decision making. The hard part is knowing some in order to be able to take people into account rather than concepts of them.

I wonder, though, if maybe the issue isn't just "Are the Christian scholars taking the world's poor into account," but rather, "Are the Christian scholars taking the non-scholars into account." Most of my favorite Christian thinkers are professional Christian thinkers. They obtain their livelihood primarily from being pastors or teachers or Christian writers, and tend to make a pretty good living at it (or could, and give the money away). Not that any of these professions are bad, please don't misunderstand me, in fact, we are getting necessary perspectives from these dedicated points of view (ala, engineers). But I wonder if there's an in-crowd sort of mentality to Theological scholarship that more incarnational theologians rather than scholarly theologians (not that these are mutually exclusive, mind you) might be able to share that we're missing out on. Adam White, keep your day job, and write a theology thing. I'll read it.

Maybe it is all a matter of broadening our own perspectives, and seeing through the eyes of the Other. We do live in the Age of Google, of course, where information is at our fingertips, and yet there are people for whom something as simple as a windmill is unobtainable technology, where women in significant portions of the world spend significant portions of their day grinding grain by hand. So perhaps, in these descriptions of Ages and trends, let's remember that all description is inadequate, and all theory is in some way localized and perspectivized. We do live in an Age of Google, or an Age of Post-Reason, but also, an Age of Shrinking Pastoral Societies, and an Age of Extreme Poverty, and an Age of Pre-Modern Clashing with Post. And these Ages overlap and influence each other. In the coming years, the internet will be increasingly available in parts of the world where electricity is uncommon now. Cheap cell phones are radically changing and moving globally rural societies (in some cases for the much worse Re: Congo). And the Muslim world increasingly is moving into and affecting Western societies in the Global North. I think it would be arrogant to call it a trickle-down effect, so let's call it a cross-pollenization of Ages in a world where these things can happen more and more due to technology.

Oh, and as far as Myers-Briggs goes in academia, I'm more curious about the Es vs Is. How many of us Es have the stamina to lock themselves in a room for that long to even have the time to explore N vs S dynamics?

Timothy Johnson

Wouldn't let me post a link to the essay. Trying again: http://www.jesusmanifesto.com/2008/12/is-christian-scholarship-accountable-to-the-poor

And sorry, it was Dan Oudshoorn that wrote it.

Colin Toffelmire

Tim, there's no particular reason not to start a PhD program based solely on personality type (there are lots of other good reasons not to start of course :) ). I usually measure out as an INFP or ENFP (both I/E and T/F are almost in the middle for me), and I'm working on a PhD in OT/HB. You need a program that will suit you of course, as Andy says (and I've heard great things about the Duke ThD), but I can't see any reason why personality alone would stop a person from getting the degree. Some aspects are certainly harder for people like me, but there are other elements like presentations and teaching where intuition and extroversion are game changers.

Tim Keel

Hi Andy - thanks for your comments! We are who we are - that we often take circuitous routes to discover that fact, though, is both frustrating yet necessary part of discovery process. It would be interesting to hear your story and how this unfolded for you. And thanks for the invite. Having finished the Hauerwas memoir a couple of weeks ago, I am definitely intrigued. By the way, tell Lauren Winner hello for me.

Tim Keel

Hi Tim - yes, you definitely need to listen to them. In fact, there is a very lively exchange between Keesmaat/Walsh and Wright on this very issue in the panel discussion on the first day (I can't remember if I already said this to Adam). Wright goes there again in his talks on Jesus and Paul, and in the Q&A that follows each.

I want to push back on you regarding this "Age" thing a little. These are generalizations and as such, are as likely to obscure as much as they reveal. Granted. However, you can't resist using such generalizations if you to talk on a meta-level about anything. You yourself begin by making such a generalization about the "Western mode of thought." I can likewise be suspicious of your characterization and contend with you about its accuracy. At the same time, though, I realize that you are using it as a short-hand to make your point and so I grant it for the purpose of the larger point you are making.

One other thought on this - we are talking about constructs around the phenomena of culture. When you live within a culture it is difficult to discern its distinctives. Going abroad places such distinctives in stark relief by robbing you of them and simultaneously confronting you with new and strange ones in their stead. This is called "culture shock" and I have been experiencing it for almost seven months now. It is impossible not to. Most of us are willing to accept the phenomena of culture in place (e.g., Kiwi pragmatic culture, American consumer culture, etc.). You have signaled that you are willing to accept the phenomena of culture in thought (e.g., Western thought, Eastern thought, etc.). Why not the phenomena of culture in time (e.g., the Information Age, the Industrial Age, the Bronze Age, etc.)? I know that because we cannot separate ourselves from time the way we can from place/space, such perspectives are more challenging to make. I still think that they are worth making if we grant them provisional status.

This, by the way, is not Wright's issue. It was mine. He said that in the discipline of biblical studies there is a bias towards a certain way of knowing that is problematic when needing to address a) the larger scope of the biblical account, and b) the implications of that account for the world. I happen to agree with his assertion. I then tied his assertion to an idea that is particularly important to me: leadership and the place of creativity therein. I see a similar dysfunction at work - and I have seen it all over the world, among rich and poor alike.

The poor need good theology. I will never forget being in Uganda for a theology conference with young, creative, and intelligent African practitioners talking about this very issue. There were maybe 200 of us. As the conference finished, we had to wrap up and leave very quickly because the Benny Hinn crusade was in town and if we didn't leave the hotel early enough (10 hours early) we would not make it to the airport due to the hundreds of thousands of Ugandans that were heading to the stadium to hear Hinn's theology - a theology that permitted him to take "faith" donations from some of the poorest people in the world. The disparity between 200 talking about systemic issues related to poverty and the 200,000 giving their money in faith to Benny Hinn as a "seed offering" to solve their financial difficulties was extreme. It was tempting to give into despair when comparing the 200 to the 200,000. But in this we must keep in mind the parables of Jesus and his teaching about yeast and dough.

The answer to bad theology (scholarly or otherwise) is not an abandonment of theology, but rather good theology. Like you, I believe that good theology must be done with a method that is Christological - at minimum. And by that I mean theology should "...have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped..." Thus it is "self-emptying" in the sense that Christ is self-emptying, or kenotic, as Paul describes him in the Christ hymn of Philippians 2. Christ didn't exploit his riches, he emptied himself (kenosis) of them so that others could become full (pleroma), becoming poor so that other might be rich. Theologians, like engineers, must work out in their callings (because that is what they are) what it means to be Christ-like.

And, yes, T. The "E/I" dilemma is a real one, too! Thanks for your thoughts, brother. Sorry I couldn't address all of them. By the way, I think Mabry is going to be in your basement tonight. How cool is that?

Tim Keel

Hi Colin - yes, I agree. One of the things I am seeking to do at this point in my life is discern potential steps into the future. Considering additional education is a big issue I am trying to gain some clarity on. As you say, this issue of personality is but one of a handful of considerations. As I process through this, Jesus's words about builders and towers comes to mind!

Thanks for taking the time to share your reflections with me, Colin. Good luck in your studies - where are you, by the way?

AndyD

Okay, so I have thought about it, and have decided the following...
Given the definition provided, where 'caught' means to "engage a person's interest or imagination" (Oxford American Dictionary), then I would say no you can't say "I literally caught my breath"...because it is really the subject matter that is engaging your interest/imagination, and therefore you cannot claim that you yourself did the catching! So whatever the correct use of the word "literally", you make the sentence redundant by using "I".

Although there is a possibility I have over-thought this to some degree!! :)

Tim Keel

Marvelous, Andy. Thank you for your labor! I stand corrected. Or...literally, I sit corrected. :-D

paul soupiset

two great posts in a row; love the lewis/wright heaven/hell post as well

Jason Clark

So when does your PhD commence mate?

AndyD

Very good. Now I can take a step back and see the big picture of what the post is really saying!

Tim Keel

Ah, Jase, I do not know the answer to that question!

Tim Keel

Thanks, Paul.

Tim Keel

Um, Andy...it's not really saying anything - is it?

Adam White

I reread your original post to remind myself what was being discussed here and came accross the quote you inserted from Emergent Manifesto of Hope.

"We need men and women who have previously been on the margins to come forth and lead us. In focusing so exclusively on our cognitive capacities, we have lost our imaginations. We need mystics. We need poets. We need prophets. We need apostles. We need artists. We need a church drawn out of the margins, drawn from the places and filled with people and shaped with competencies formerly thought to be of little account. In fact, perhaps it is from such 'marginal' communities as these that influence will begin to spread outward into communities that have been domesticated in a modern world and thus rendered docile. We need a wild vine grafted into the branch. We need alternate takes on reality. We need a different kind of leader - one who can create environments to nurture and release the imagination of God's people."

While I don't disagree with this at all what I seem to experience is that the culture surrounding me wants to be mystical Thinkers instead of mystical Livers. And I will refer back to the question I had in my original comment:

So, is this re-imagining actually spreading the gospel to places it has never been or is it just a cool new way to for us to talk about it?

And while I like Wright's thoughts, I always fear that it's nothing more than another book to read. I've read a lot of books and thought a lot of thoughts and now I'm running into conversations where I can no longer communicate with people who haven't read these books or thought these thoughts. Or at least I need a couple hours of exposition before we can even talk about the topic. (maybe that isn't a bad thing and we just need to spend more time talking)

What if the 'different kind of leader' you talk about in your quote, doesn't come FROM the margins but goes TO the margins. What if the neccessary change is that we recognize our dependency on cognitive stimulation and break ourselves of that habit. Instead of the mystics and poets coming to the thinkers, the real leaders step outside the thinking environment and call out "Come follow me"?

Tim Keel

Yes, Adam, always that danger of another book to read:

"Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body." Ecclesiastes 12:12

We might substitute the word "blogs" and "commenting" for "books" and "study."

In terms of my quote, Adam, I would actually say that I think you may have misunderstood the nature of mystics. Mystics don't "do" things, at least in conventional terms. They are contemplative. They seek to apprehend hidden aspects of reality - realities hidden in the person of God. It is their willingness to be still, to be present, that allows their heads and their hearts to be integrated and find union with God.

I think the typology that you are describing is, ironically, in that list, though - the apostle. The apostle is the one who leaves the established place to go and "spread" the gospel to places where it has previously not been known. But the reason that the apostle needs all of the others is because the gospel itself is more than information about God. It is a way of life that includes, but is not limited to, the poor. Many are needed to incarnate this alternate reality that is called by Jesus the kingdom of God.

I have friends who have spent years working among the poor and have found that sometimes they need to "do" less and "think" more, even to the extent of beginning or continuing theological studies - at least for a season. I think this continuum moves bi-directionally, too. I know some amazing theologians whose studies have led them to do important work in specific places among the poor. I guess I would hope for a community of reflective practitioners who understand and live deeply Paul's analogy of the body in 1 Corinthians 12.

"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'" (vs. 21)

Perhaps your dissatisfaction is a sign of your own calling to do something? The importance of knowing and following one's calling, as well as rightly perceiving the season in which one finds oneself, is critical - and in my experience, a challenge that requires the perspectives of people who know and love us.

...and I did mean FROM the margins. But that doesn't mean they likewise don't go TO the margins, even the margins within ourselves.

liz perry

now that i have discovered we are both INTP'ers, i will need to give all of my pastoral prospects the myers-briggs test.

incredible! i was always curious as to how you, more so than any other, articulated the gospel in ways that i "intuitively" understood.

thank you for continued updates, friend.

(p.s. you know that we're profiled as the absent-minded professor, right? i find this to be true! oop!)

andrea clark

that myers briggs comment may have just explained why i have a really hard time narrowing down questions for academic research. and why i'm having a hard time getting my thesis done. i'm having too much fun.

Tim Keel

Hi Lizzer! I like the idea of you handing a pastor a Myers-Briggs assessment. Too funny. I did not know we shared that "type." And yes, I had heard that we were characterized as the absen...what?

Tim Keel

There you go, Andrea. Glad to be of some help! Now, quit having fun and go narrow down a question or two. ;-) Hope you are well! You need to keep me in the loop on what you come up with.

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