Coffeehouse Theology – An Enticing Introduction

Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski

Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski

When theology blogger and author, Ed Cyzewski was about to release his book “Coffeehouse Theology”, he sent out copies of aforementioned book to a heap of christian bloggers, if they would participate in a “blog tour” (meaning people review the book, each posting on a different day). Due to Rebecca having a really well written and widely read blog, Ed asked if my beloved would mind joining the tour.

Unfortunately, a combination of a really slow postal system, and Rebecca being flat-chat with assignments in the lead up to the end of semester, she has not (yet) read “Coffehouse Theology”, and being the inquisitive, literate person that I am, I pinched the free copy myself (which becomes legal now that we’re married), and had a read. So there’s your disclaimers – I didn’t pay for this book.

Despite a title that a friend called a little bit “touchy-feely-emergenty”, this book is a really worthwhile read. Up until now I’d have described Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind Of Christian” series as the best introduction to post-modernism and the ramifications for the church, but (with a completely different approach), Ed Cyzewski provides a very gentle, very thorough and balanced understanding of what post-modernism really is and how it effects how we think about God. Ed has a way of writing that makes him almost impossible to disagree with: you feel like he’s articulating the way you already felt, even as he takes you to places you’ve never been before.

“Coffeehouse Theology” provides a compelling case for contextual theology, and a clear and conscise methodology for theological contemplation. Ed doesn’t turn theological thinking into an academic exercise, but instead invites his readers to think about their Christianity, and to recognise that we follow Jesus in a time and place. “Coffehouse Theology” was great to read for myself, but in many ways it feels like I’ve only got about a quarter of the value out of this book, because this is a book that I will, without doubt, hand to someone else to have a read (and if you’re reading Ed, I’ll then encourage them to get out there and buy a copy themself! :)).

Coffeehouse Theology is the sort of bridge-building book that provides a real chance for the mainstream church to see that in so many ways, they are on the same side as “emerging” type thinkers. Because the road to syncretism and heresy doesn’t come from looking seriously at the culture we find ourselves immersed in, and recognise the benefits as well as the dangers of our culture, but rather it starts when we pretend that culture does not and has not effected us. Ed (it’s much easier to type than “Cyzewski”) is certainly pushing the church in a direction it needs to go, and is doing with an approach that doesn’t throw away the wider church tradition as we consider the words of Scripture.

Basically guys, it’s a really good book. If you get a chance – pick it up!

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WordPress 2.7 – Just Makes Sense

The New WordPress 2.7 beta 1 dashboard

The New WordPress 2.7 beta 1 dashboard

I’ve been a big fan of the WordPress platform since the moment I started blogging on wordpress.com (I had one of the early invites and managed to snag “geoff.wordpress.com” – it now seems a shame that I’m not really using it), and I would love one day to put the tedium of Oracle Database Administration behind me and just spend my days modifying WordPress as a CMS for small to medium enterprises. So in short, I’m a big wordpress fan.

So once I saw that the latest beta was out (version 2.7), I went ahead and installed pretty much straight away. There are a whole bunch of niggling little issues that this version is fixing beautifully. For starters, the entire UI has received a complete overhaul – which seems a little premature seeing as it was less than a year ago that they revamped for 2.6, but I really doubt that anyone could be complaining. After 2.6 came out, the wordpress team copped some flak with regard to the usability aspect, so they got experts in. And now, everything has just started making sense.

One of the biggest frustrations I had previously, was that in order to schedule a post to publish in the future, you would set the date that the post should appear, and then press publish. But when you press publish, you always had that fear that the publish button was going to override your scheduled date, and that you should be pressing “save” instead. But now, the geniuses have made everything make sense: the words on the button change when you alter the publish date. So as soon as the date gets set, the button text changes from saying “Publish” to saying “Schedule”. It’s a tiny little thing, but the mindset means that you could feel confident in trying to teach less advanced users to use the really cool features, because the User Interface just works.

The screen real estate in the back end is much more efficient, and reduces the likelihood that you’ll actually need to scroll down the page – a common niggle with the previous setup. The dashboard has been changed again, and I think they’ve finally nailed a setup that really encompasses the things you want to know when you first log in. They’ve made pretty much all of the backend pages available through drop-down menus, which makes life a bunch easier when you’re trying to find that obscure option you’ve changed once before.

Basically, while I wouldn’t want to be the person saying you should upgrade to a beta version, you should definitely be looking forward to the next release of WordPress. 2.7 is a great step forward in the evolution of the world’s best blogging system.


Making use of geoffmatheson.net

My shiny new personal site - geoffmatheson.net

Quite a while ago, when there was some sweet deal going somewhere for cheap domains, I registered geoffmatheson.net (geoffmatheson.com has been taken for quite a while by an American graphic design guy). The address sat there for a while, then I tried out Drupal on it, then gave that up because it seems to me to be a pain in the posterior. (I’m sure it works for lots of people, I just couldn’t be bothered with a CMS that’s harder to use than WordPress – what’s the point?)

So it sat as a default drupal install up until really recently when for whatever reason I got inspired, and so it now has a photoblog on it. And the coolest part is, it’s running a theme called “Monotone“, which changes the colour-scheme based on the colours it finds in the image. It’s cool, but could probably improve a little bit – the colours often come off as being quite bland. The photoblog won’t be very interesting unless you know me – it’ll probably mostly just be pictures of friends and family, as well as whatever fun I can end up having with the Nikon D90. Anyway – check it out, or don’t. Whatever.

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The Golden Calf has grown up

We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems. While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.

Pharyngula: Where’s Charlton Heston when you need him?

I’m sorry, but I can’t read about this, without wondering how people become “Christian groups”, without, you know, reading the bible. But could there be a greater symbolic act than a bunch of people praying at the Golden bull in New York for an understanding of just how closely we have intertwined the gospel with the consumerist culture of today. I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.


Belated Blogiversary

Just pretend it says "Happy 3rd Blogiversary"

Just pretend it says "Happy 3rd Blogiversary"

I knew this would happen, but I’ve missed my 3 year blogiversary. As of 21st of October, TheGeoffRe(y)port has been going for 3 whole years. You’d think I’d have grown out of it by now. So – in the interests of self-aggrandizement and arrogance, I’ve picked some posts from the ages, that I thought you might possibly have a read of. They’re a moderately arbitrary list, but it might give you an idea as to how some of my thinking has developed.

  • Still Learning – “Ever have that realisation that some of the things you’re teaching might actually be true? I’ve been teaching the youth every second Sunday morning, and found that I’ve been relaying the thought that god works best in us in our hardest times, and that those are the times that you learn….” – December 2005
  • It’s a small blogosphere after all – the post in which I alias my future wife as Natalie Portman – April 2006
  • Must “Emerging” go with “Missional”? – I was totally having the emerging/emergent terminology debate way before it was popular- July 2006
  • Trying to Understand Symbolism – I’m not sure I completely agree with myself now, but some interesting thoughts - January 2007
  • Beginning with Zechariah – The one and only guest post so far. Still easily one of the most popular posts of the entire blog. Bec and I got engaged- April 2007
  • Whose Australia Day?Stoking a little bit of controversy around the hypocrisy of Australia’s national holiday. Gets a lot of hits because the page gets a good ranking for Google Images keywords “Australian Aboriginal Flag” – January 2008
  • Rumblings of Something New – To quote Scott: “interesting blog post”. Pretty much a statement of where I’m at, or at least where I was at before last weekend. Details may follow - October 2008

The Blogroll Shuffle

Have just gone through my periodic purge of blogroll links and got rid of a few that were pretty old. At this stage I’ve only got one that I really wanted to replace it with (although I’ll likely think of others) – “itinerant and indigent“. Hamo linked to it a while ago, and I’ve been following ever since. It’s the story and thoughts of Phil, an Australian Aid Worker in Afghanistan, and his family.

Just at the moment, he and his family are having to consider leaving Afghanistan, because the violence is getting significantly worse. From a recent post:

Proximity, frequency, severity. These three elements are how I assess security changes and threats. Proximinty we have been able to control to some degree, by not going to those areas where the attacks were most frequent and most severe. But now the attacks have come to us. Severity we have little control over. Frequency we also cannot control. And it remains to be seen how frequent these severe, close attacks are. Is one attack a year too many? One attack a month? What about such an attack every six months?
Decision making | itinerant and indigent

So I’d encourage you to go have a read, as well as praying for Phil and his family. It’s a completely different world.


The world’s poor stand to lose the most

Cartoon from theage.com.au

Cartoon from theage.com.au

The urgency shown by rich countries to tackle the financial meltdown is in stark contrast to their foot dragging and broken promises over aid and poverty alleviation, human rights and climate change.

It is too soon to predict exactly how badly the poorest countries will fare in the financial crisis and resultant economic downturn. But it is clear that reduced demands for exports to developed countries and lower foreign investment will mean less growth and government revenue for already fragile social protection and services.

The world’s poor stand to lose the most | theage.com.au

As we enter what will inevitably become a more difficult economic climate, there’s a real danger that the traction gained in the Make Poverty History campaign to push for the Millenium Development Goals and to just take two-thirds world poverty seriously, will have been lost in the distorted priorities that arise out of our sudden belief that our “needs” are more important than the thousands dying of preventable diseases and hunger.

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CW Stoneking ‘Jungle Blues’

C.W. Stoneking at The Basement.

Image via Wikipedia

Authenticity can be a tricky thing, and attempts to replicate a bygone era can quickly slip into cliché and pastiche. Bluesmen are nothing without a verifiable history of the doggone, no-hope, down and out blues. I don’t want to know how he does it, I just know that listening to the sinister calypso of ‘Hell’ sound-alike ‘Love Me Or Die’, the carnivale jazz of the title track and the grainy samba of ‘Brave Son Of America’ doesn’t just suspend your belief, it seats you front and centre in his debaucherous speakeasy.

CW Stoneking ‘Jungle Blues’ – Music | thevine.com.au

I’m partly posting this because I think CW Stoneking is unreal and will likely pick up this album at sometime in the future. But mostly, I just love the language in this review! Have a read, it’s pretentious, it’s a little bit ridiculous, but it’s beautiful wordsmanship. “Andrew” – whoever you are, I salute you.

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Rumblings of something new

In the White House Situation Room, Leo McGarry...

Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry from "The West Wing" - Image via Wikipedia

It’s been quite a while since I’ve put together a stream-of-consciousness post, and this is one of those.

I’m restless.

Not an annoyed type of restless, because I’m not really angry at anything, nor is it the same kind of restlessness of a kid on Christmas morning, just aching to open their presents. Instead, this is more like a kid on a really good theme park ride, going through a bit of a lull and hanging out for whatever is going to happen next.

And like that kid, I have no idea what it is that’s coming. I’ve got some thoughts, some hopes and dreams maybe even, and a deep gut instinct that something new is getting ready to be born, but there’s still no genuine indication as to what that actually might be. I’ve spoken about church planting before, and about wanting to rethink how church happens, and that’s certainly the arena that I’m hoping and believing it’s going to be in, but I still can’t get any kind of a hold on what that’s going to look like.

A couple of nights ago, Bec and I watched an episode of “The West Wing” – called “Let Bartlet be Bartlet“. The vast majority of the (first) season up until this point had been about the compromises that the president’s administration had been consistently making, to keep everyone happy. And throughout the episode, the frustration of believing one set of things, and not acting on those beliefs is proving too much for the White House staff. The whole episode eventually raises to the crescendo, where the President is pulled aside by Leo McGarry – his chief of staff and Bartlet is challenged to start acting on his beliefs.

And that’s how I feel (in some respects). It feels like there are a bunch of things that I’ve been discussing, and thinking about with respect to church stuff, and that it can’t last much longer before the dam will burst – else I’ll be stuck in this cycle of inaction perpetually. There are so many things left to happen, people to  join up with, before anything could possibly “get started”, but there’s just that feeling deep down that God is pushing some of this stuff up to the surface.

What next? Like my metaphorical child on the theme park ride – I don’t know. But it’s an exciting prospect.

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Hold Tight – this could get rough

Now a better blogger would play around with themes and stuff on a test blog. But not me. So I’m playing around with a new theme on the live site. Hopefully you’ll cope.