Our ‘100th’ Post: 100 Things We Love

Recently, we realised that we were coming up on our 100th post here at Lost in the Cloud.  It’s only been a little less than a year (and we are actually cheating in bringing some of our posts over from our time at Criticism As Inspiration, which account for more than 1/3 of this total), but we felt like it was an occasion we wanted to mark.  Being that we are incredibly fond (or freakishly obsessed) of lists here at LITC, we decided to simply post a list of 100 Things We Love (split about evenly, though there are a number of items that would end up on both of our lists, which are marked with an asterisk [*]).  We have decided not to list out all of our family & dear friends, as well as our favourite films/bands/theologians/etc. which we have previously made space for elsewhere.  This is just a stream-of-consciousness exploration of our affections, listed out alphabetically.  We hope you enjoy & thank you for reading!

Among other things, Elijah loves…

  1. Amoeba Music, Hollywood*
  2. &s (ampersands)*
  3. Autumn-winter succession*
  4. Baseball – Detroit Tigers
  5. Being a member of God’s Church*
  6. Building/repairing electric guitars
  7. Burritos
  8. Deuchars IPA
  9. Disneyland (because in spite of the consumeristic lies it sells, it remains magical)*
  10. Dressing up (especially in a kilt)
  11. Dundee Contemporary Arts
  12. Ecclesiastical architecture
  13. Failblog.org
  14. Finding creative ways to higher ground while in the wilderness
  15. Football – Celtic FC
  16. ‘Friscalating dusk light’
  17. The City of Glasgow
  18. Griffith Park (and all that’s within, such as the Griffith Observatory, Bronson Caves, Los Angeles Zoo, William J Mulholland Memorial Fountain, the Autry, Travel Town, etc.)
  19. Tim Hawkinson’s artwork
  20. Hiking/camping
  21. The history of music in the recording era
  22. Incredibly arid climates
  23. Incredibly wet climates
  24. Innocent Smith’s Musical Circus/Parkside Upper Quads Philharmonic Orchestra
  25. Joshua Tree National Park
  26. The City of Los Angeles
  27. McSweeny’s
  28. Millionaire shortbread
  29. Moleskine journals
  30. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
  31. The NRSV translation of the Bible*
  32. The number ‘44
  33. The Parish Church of the Holy Trinity, St Andrews
  34. People (especially those who are humble, patient and tender)*
  35. Printed media (books/book covers, street literature, record sleeves, etc.)
  36. Road trips in California
  37. St Mary’s College
  38. Sequoia & King’s Canyon National Park
  39. Silence
  40. Single malt whisky*
  41. Space/aircraft
  42. Thoughtfulness*
  43. Typeface/setting
  44. Urban exploration
  45. Vegan Express, Los Angeles
  46. The wisdom of my elders
  47. Wormit Parish Church
  48. Writing music with Greg & Justin
  49. Writing utensils (STABILO point 88s; Dixon Ticonderoga Mediums; Staedtler Noris HB 2s; Pilot G-2 0.38s and 05s)
  50. Handwritten correspondence*

Among other things, Greg loves…

  1. Amazon(.com/.co.uk)*
  2. American Romanticism
  3. Archives Bookshop (In Christ is a close second!)*
  4. Backyard time with an 18 yr. old bottle of Glenfiddich & thoughtful conversation with authentic men (whether in La Mirada, Long Beach, or Marina Del Rey)*
  5. Banksy’s wit*
  6. BBC adaptations of classic works of literature, particularly of Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell & Charles Dickens
  7. Bic black “round stic Grip pens”, fine point
  8. Biola Residence Life & Hope North RAs
  9. The BioLogos Forum
  10. British spelling and punctuation
  11. Cambria, CA (especially Supper Club vacations)
  12. Close reading of the Bible, literature & pop culture*
  13. Craig Thompson’s artwork, most notably in his graphic novel, Blankets
  14. Deep bass notes and thick kick drum sounds
  15. Delicious Library
  16. Domenico’s Pizza
  17. Drawings by and notes from my kids
  18. Elijah Wade & PUQ performing at Punk N’ Pie (which I believe is the same as Elijah’s #24)…twas a most epic performance (x 2)
  19. Extraordinary moments (car crashes, explosions, injury to the groin shots) caught on video, displayed on YouTube/Failblog.com/Spike TV
  20. Footnotes (digressive comments or noteworthy book references)
  21. Fuller Theological Seminary
  22. God’s covenants (though not necessarily in a Reformed “Covenantalism” sense)*
  23. Grace Brethren Church facilities crew, mid-90’s (including “crass Fridays” with Mark & Bill)
  24. Indie music, in most of its hybridisations*
  25. The iPhone (particularly playing Skee Ball with my kids and Words With Friends with Mark, David & Matt B.; and occasionally, Tim)
  26. Libraries*
  27. Magazine subscriptions (currently down to four since Paste went belly up – The Week, Entertainment Weekly, The Atlantic, Christianity Today – but once as high as fourteen)
  28. Making mix CDs*
  29. Mint.com
  30. Mixing cereals (current favorite = Crispex & Honey Smacks)
  31. Moby Books Illustrated Classics
  32. The Muckenthaler Mansion (where I married the most wonderful girl)
  33. Multiple-view books on theological topics
  34. The number ‘22
  35. The paintings of Patty Wickman & Mark Tansey
  36. People who ask good questions in conversation
  37. The Perry Bible Fellowship*
  38. Postconservative evangelical theology
  39. Powell’s Books (and Portland, OR in general)
  40. Questioning things*
  41. The Radical Reformation
  42. Redeemer Church
  43. Short story, novel, screenplay, lyric, or poem concepts & bits
  44. Thinking about impossible endeavours (e.g. making a film of the whole Bible)
  45. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Caramels
  46. Weather in the high 60’s-low 70’s & overcast/cloudy
  47. A wide selection of beverages in the fridge (including Coke, Cherry Coke, Coke Zero, Peach Snapple, Arizona Green Tea & Henry Weinhard’s* root beer)
  48. Wind rustling through tree branches
  49. Writing on Lost in the Cloud*
  50. Zappos.com (Michele hates that I love this…like 2 pair of shoes for $250 hates it)

Reformed and Always Reforming, Part II: The Postconservative Style of Evangelical Theology

So what exactly does “postconservative evangelical (PCE) theology” look like?  Some inclinations were hinted at in the “10 features of conservative evangelical theologians” in Part I of this series and Olson begins in his next chapter to sketch six features that will give a sense of the “mood” of PCE theology (you can see already the desire to elude rigid categorization, can’t you?).

Before he lists these characteristics, he delves into the issue of whether some in the Conservative Evangelical Establishment (CEE–my term, not Olson’s) would question whether PCE theologians are indeed “evangelical.”  Olson answers this by proposing two “controversial theses”:

  1. Evangelical theology is theology done by an evangelical theologian (do you wonder if he was being ironic with the word ‘controversial’?)
  2. An evangelical theologian is someone who claims to be evangelical, is generally regarded as working within the evangelical network, and adheres to five cardinal features of evangelical faith–biblicism, conversionism, cross-centered piety, activism in evangelism and social transformation & respect for the Great Tradition of Christian belief

The second thesis might cause controversy among some in the CEE because they are uncomfortable with the confusion that exists as to who are truly evangelicals, as well as dismayed at the “rampant diversity of interpretation among evangelicals.”  Olson points out a distinction that CE thinkers (such as D.A. Carson in The Gagging of God) would like to draw between “sociological evangelicalism” (those people who participate in evangelical churches, organizations, etc.) and “authentic doctrinal evangelicalism” (detailed theological orthodoxy).

While Olson acknowledges the legitimacy of concerns with doctrinal pluralism and the contemporary “desertion of the cognitive substance of faith” and he also admits that CE theologians are correct that “authentic evangelical faith includes a strong commitment to orthodox doctrine,” he holds that they are wrong “insofar as they elevate doctrinal orthodoxy to incorrigible status where it is functionally infallible and therefore equal with divine revelation itself” (which Olson sees in CE “traditionalism that enshrines [the intellectual content of] Protestant orthodoxy as it was developed in the post-Reformation period by Protestant scholastics and especially by the Old Princeton School theologians in the nineteenth century”).

Olson sees the only way to keep from raising doctrinal formulations to peer status with Scripture is “to leave a door open to doctrinal reconsideration and revision in light of Scripture [by defining] the evangelical attitude toward orthodox doctrine as one of respect and deference but not slavish adherence.”  He proposes that “what makes a theologian evangelical is not strict faithfulness without mental reservation or reconsideration to doctrinal orthodoxy [but rather] that he or she works enthusiastically from within and embodies the ethos or the evangelical movement” (as defined in his 5 cardinal features above).

Olson delves briefly into a section on the two predominant approaches to American evangelical faith, or the “dual inheritance” of the “two strands of Protestantism that flowed together in the Great Awakening,” which reveals a great deal about the tension and turmoil in the contemporary Western evangelical community.  The two approaches are:

  1. Puritanism that was publicly focused, scholastic, and whose outlook on salvation was Reformed or Calvinistic, exemplified in Jonathan Edwards & influencing contemporary Reformed movements such as the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
  2. Pietism that was more inwardly focused in its experientialism, with a view of salvation that was influenced by synergism and more Arminian (though predating Arminius to Melanchthon and the Anabaptists), exemplified in John Wesley & influential in the Jesus People movement of the 1970’s, the Pentecostal-Charismatic movements, as well as the emerging churches network and the house church movement

Olson points out that the “vast bulk of evangelicalism lies somewhere between these expressions, combining aspects of each” and reflecting the two often conflicting impulses of “evoking experience of God” (Pietism) and “inculcating correct beliefs” (Puritanism)  He also suggests that PCE theology is “by and large a derivation of the Pietist side of the evangelical movement” and CE theology (and the fundamentalist movement preceding it) has arisen out of the Puritan ingredient.

Some of these limbs wish they had a saw...

Now we finally move to the six features of the postconservative style of doing theology (I’m not using quotes, but am condensing/editing Olson’s words in these paragraphs):

  1. PCE theologians consider the main purpose of revelation to be transformation more than information (Note: while CE theologians would agree with the transformational goal, they would see revelation as primarily as the communication of information/facts for the purpose of creating knowledge, while PCEs wonder if knowledge is the only or best means of transforming persons).  PCEs do not reject a propositional, factual, and informational aspect to divine revelation, but stress that revelation is given primarily for the purpose of redemption through personal encounter and relationship, and that nonpropositional aspects of revelation can be useful for theological endeavor.  They see the Bible as not as a “book full of timeless truths” but as a vehicle that contains many types of revelation, all of which support that which is primary in Scripture:  narrative.  PCEs are generally enamored with narrative theology, which emphasizes the power of story to transform people in a way propositions do not, and they worry that CE theology is too caught up in the idea of cognitive Christianity to the neglect of transformation and relationship with God.
  2. They see theology as a pilgrimage and a journey rather than a discovery and conquest and hold that the constructive task of theology is ever unfinished–there are no closed, once and for all systems of theology.  A few quotes from the late PCE theologian Clark Pinnock will illustrate this point:  “Why do conservatives assume that the received doctrinal paradigms created by human beings like ourselves are incapable of improvement?” and “How awfully easy it is for people who think themselves in possession of God’s infallible Word to transfer some of that infallibility to themselves.  And how easy for them to respond to anyone who questions any aspect of their fortresslike position with righteous anger and adamant rejection.”  PCE thinkers believe that taking risks in theological endeavor with thought experiments is not a sin and also appreciate the role of imagination in theological work.
  3. They evidence a discomfort and dissatisfaction with the reliance of CE theology on Enlightenment and modern modes of thought.  Alister McGrath points to the covert modern influence on CE theology: “Certain central Enlightenment ideas appear to have been uncritically taken on board by some evangelicals, with the result that part of the movement runs the risk of becoming a secret prisoner of a secular outlook which is now dying before our eyes.”  PCEs are concerned that conservative foundationalism and propositionalism elevate something alien to revelation above revelation as the criterion of truth, reducing Christianity to a philosophy.  They believe that some forms of postmodern thought can help liberate evangelical theology from the Enlightenment.
  4. They view evangelicalism as a centered set category rather than as a set having boundaries.  This means that the question is not who is “in” or “out” of evangelicalism, but who is nearer to the center and who is moving away from it (the center being Jesus Christ and the gospel & reflecting the 5 core elements above).  There is no evangelical magisterium to decide who is in or out of the movement.  The issue of how you can have an identity with a fuzzy boundary is responded to with the following clarification: an organization has boundaries (such as a nation, i.e. Who is an American?  Any US citizen.), but a movement does not (i.e. Who is a “Westerner”?  Not all Europeans or Americans are truly Westerners culturally and many people living in Asia are Westernized!).  So it is with an evangelical–there is no test for determining who is an evangelical and yet we all know that not everyone who claims the label deserves it.  In this, PCEs are more comfortable with possible ambiguity as to who is truly an evangelical.
  5. They have a tendency to view the enduring essence of Christianity, and the core identity of evangelical faith, as spiritual experience rather than as doctrinal belief.  Stanley Grenz argued that evangelicalism is a vision of the Christian faith expressed primarily in a distinctive spirituality, a shared experience of “convertive piety” that manifests itself in a personal, transforming relationship with Jesus Christ and is expressed communally in shared stories/testimonies, hymns, witness, and worship.
  6. They have a tendency to hold relatively lightly to tradition while respecting the Great Tradition of Christian belief, even as they subordinate it to revelation and consider it at most a guide.  Kevin Vanhoozer agrees, noting “Sola Scriptura means at least this: that the church’s proclamation is always subject to potential correction from the canon.”  Two terms that could be used to describe this tendency would be “generous orthodoxy” and “critical orthodoxy.”  While not eschewing doctrine, propositions, or tradition, they believe that all of these ideas are subject to the greater authority of divine revelation in Jesus Christ and in Scripture, which may at any time break forth in new light that corrects what has always been believed and taught by Christians.  The PCE style demands humility, generosity, and openness of spirit in conducting the work of theology and handling the cognitive content of the faith.

These are merely sketches that Olson goes on to fill out in subsequent chapters…any thoughts on these features from our intrepid readers (i.e. those who read through to the end of this post)?

[Part III available here]