Narrative Theology in action – Donald Miller’s “Searching For God Knows What”

I’ve finished (not so long ago) “Searching For God Knows What” – the latest book from Donald Miller, the “Blue Like Jazz” guy. It’s a good read, and it’s certainly very easy to read. He takes a while to get warmed up, there’s not much of the first few chapters that I can really remember, but once he gets going, there are some great analogies in there. Highly recommend having a read.

And it certainly reads as a fairly solid example of “narrative theology” in action. (For a little background – have a look at my previous post on narrative theology) Miller’s ideas aren’t conveyed through propositional truths, instead he expands on his thoughts through stories, both of his own and those of others, to communicate meaning. He’s not interested in providing a list of statements of truth, but instead only offers his ideas as concepts that have been distilled from each narrative.

My initial reaction was one of excitement and, to a certain extent, relief. Relief that these ideas can work, at least on some level. I came away from reading “Searching For God Knows What” with a better understanding of what makes me tick, what makes others tick, and relating to God in general. The system works. The narrative structure of Miller’s theologising made it much easier to relate to what was being said, and there was definitely a feeling that this is how ideas like these should happen.

But…. (and there’s always a but)

I was also left with just an underlying feeling that it didn’t quite go deep enough. As much as I enjoyed reading it, and certainly “got stuff out of it”, there was a feeling that it almost became an exercise in “pop psychology”. I might have some post modernity in me, but it just felt like there wasn’t quite enough solid underneath it. To a degree, it felt like there is only a certain depth to which stories can travel, after that, you’re left with either going there on your own thoughts, or waiting for propositional truth.

And maybe that’s the poit of doing your theology in a narrative model – that it forces you to push to the depths yourself, rather than having someone do all the work for you. I’m not sure, but there was a slight feeling of dissatisfaction on finishing this book. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this – particularly if they have read the book themselves. Sorry that the post is a little dis-jointed and non-sensical.

Ubuntu – Joining the wonderful world of Linux

Well, there comes a time in every nerds life when he (or she) must make a decision. Whether they will stick with the evil Micro$oft empire, become a pretty little (cashed up) Mac person or join the hard-core nerd community and go with a Linux distro. And I’ve been wanting to leave the dark days of Windows for quite a while, but until now I’ve had too many reasons to stick with my Blue Screen of Death generator.

But things are changing. My work laptop, which is the machine I (ironically) use mostly when I’m not at work, now runs Ubuntu Linux. I only ran the install yesterday (freakishly easy install) but already I’m liking this thing. I had been playing around with an Ubuntu install on a VMWare virtual machine, but now I’m fully immersed. There are some cool things already, like having such a wealth of applications available for immediate install, and getting updated automatically. All very cool.

So stay tuned, I’m pretty sure the adventures of Geoff on Ubuntu will become a semi-regular feature here. If you’re wanting to follow along at home – you can download the CD image from the Ubuntu main site. It’s free. And in the wonderful world of Linux, free is a word you start to hear a lot of.

IE 7 Available as Release Candidate

Screenshot of TheGeoffRe(y)port in new IE 7 RC1Months and months ago I posted about the new IE 7 Beta – well it’s now available as a release candidate (meaning it should crash a whole lot less). It looks pretty, has tabs, has a slightly cumbersome UI but I’m willing to get over lots of it. Basically, it’s a good browser without being great. They’ve weeded out lots of the really frustrating rendering things, so that web developers are happier people generally, and they’ve got it coming close to where Firefox is at. Personally, I think that Firefox still kicks its behind, but given that we’ve got a few apps that only work in IE at work – there are worse problems than having to end up using this puppy for them. Naturally, I’d recommend that rather than use this, you click on the “Firefox with Google Toolbar” icon on the lower left hand side. But this is better than using IE 6, so if you’re still using that – get onto IE 7 quick smart!

Checking Out Windows Live Writer

This post is being written in the latest new fandangled thing from the Microsoft “Windows Live” people – who look like they’re doing some pretty cool stuff. “Windows Live Writer” – which can be found here, is a WYSIWYG blog editor.

At this stage I must admit it does look pretty darn clever. It’ll suck down the styles from your blog and make it look exactly like it will end up in your post. Pretty smart. I’d say I’ll keep playing around with it – at this stage it’s only a beta and there will no doubt be some issues. I’ll have to give it a whirl on the train this evening too – see how it performs in an “offline” environment. If we even manage to make it work with “Ultimate Tag Warrior” (which I just plugged into the wordpress install), we might even use this regularly.

Pretty funky tool at any rate.

Screenshot which I just pasted straight in there!

Pirates and Christians

Saw Pirates of the Carribean last night – and was pretty disappointed. I wasn’t quite as massive a rap for the first one: I do think that some of the enthusiasm was overblown, but there were quite a few parts in Pirates that left a lot to be desired. Orlando Bloom should one day have a fight to the death with Hayden Christiansen and Keanu Reeves to decide who is the more wooden, because I find him almost unbearable to watch. It consistently feels like he’s reading from a not-particularly-well-written script. And while Keira Knightley might have the market cornered for pouty english actresses at the moment, she certainly left quite a bit to be desired.

As you’d expect Johnny Depp turns in a really decent performance, despite not always having a wonderful script to work with. Regardless of the specific kind of eccentricity, if you were casting a slightly strange male lead in a film right now and hadn’t had a crack at getting Johnny Depp in to do it – you would be kidding yourself. He is very good. And the stuff with the cool tentacle beard on “Davy Jones” was pretty cool to say the least. But I even thought that some of the special effect stuff let itself down in a couple of places – there was a couple of moments where you started thinking that you were watching animation: not the ideal.

And so that this isn’t just a straight movie review, this article from “Out of Ur” (a consistently good performer blog from the Christianity Today people) has some very valid points on the way christians react to movies, and looks at some of the reasons behind it (although I think they are over-stating the badness of the Pirates film). Pretty fair comments, and while I’m not really one to get out the placards and protest against any movies, let alone Harry Potter or Pirates of the Carribean, there’s no doubt that as chrisitians we need to be consistently evaluating why we’re “opposed” to some things and allow others. Where you draw these line I’m not sure, but at very least when you do – they need to be straight ones.

Da Vinci Deliberations

I didn’t want to be a film snob. I wanted to at least be able to put aside concerns about poor acting/directing/scriptwriting to engage with the appeal of the wider phenomenon that is “The Da Vinci Code”. I usually like Ron Howard. I really quite like Audrey Tautou (those eyes – and she speaks French, how could you not love her) and I wanted to be able to put up with Tom Hanks’ mullet. I wanted to at least have something nice to say about the movie. It’s pretty hard. I did like the “smart car” car chase, although it was plenty unbelievable enough to set the scene for the rest of the film. And I did think that Ian McKellen was very good – I do like him a lot. But the movie really didn’t do anything that the book hadn’t already done, and I certainly didn’t come out feeling as though it had been at all thought provoking.

Poor Audrey Tautou was fed some horrifically bad lines. One of the most unintentionally funny things in the film was when Tom Hanks has just said that the letters are all scrambled up, and the line from Tautou is “An anagram?”. Even Tom Hanks looks at her like she’s an idiot. I couldn’t not help laughing at that.

There’s no doubt that the ideas behind the book have caused at very least discussion (and at worst, the church whining about how bad they look). And so I’m glad that I’ve seen the film, so that if it comes up in chats with work people that I have a reference point from which to be able to explain why I believe that as non-fiction it is a festering pile of cow dung.

Office 2007 Beta Review

It’s been a while since I did anything super tech focused and so when I got a hold of a link through to the new Microsoft Office 2007 Beta (from Weblog Tools Collection), I thought I’d better check it out. So this is a pretty quick look at what I reckon, there will be better, more comprehensive, interesting reviews, but this is mine.

The first thing I wanted to try out was what caused my previous post. I’d heard that Office 2007 was going to support blogging, I wanted to have a go. And the results were, well, underwhelming. This is obviously a feature that wasn’t quite ready – they even say that in the description when you’re setting up your blog. For starters, they’ve stuffed the WordPress connection in that it: a) won’t work with Categories, and b) sets the date of your post as being 1, January 1970. Not so useful. I was going to try out some other trippy type things, but after the simplest of posts failed, I thought I’d better leave it at that.

The obvious change to Office is the huge change in the UI. Like the new IE, the traditional File, Edit, Format, etc have gone, making way for a mutating toolbar type arrangement. And while there’s little doubt in my mind that this makes the entire program look prettier – I’m just not sure that it makes it easier to use. Or even level to use. Had a little play around with Excel and spent a fair chunk of time trying to find the auto-height, auto-width funtions. Which I use all the time. Although the more graphical nature of the toolbar does seem to me to be likely to make it much easier for people who don’t know about features in Office, to find things that will do cool stuff. Don’t know.

One of the most technically insignificant changes, but culturally huge, is that the default fonts have changed! Gone are the stalwarts of Times New Roman and Arial, start getting used to Calibri and Cambria. What’s most significant about this move is that now the headings are Serif, and the body text Sans-Serif – following the trend, certainly on webpages for the last few years.

The place that I think Office 2007 looks the best is in its revamped Powerpoint. This is one place where the graphical toolbar approach is much more useful and the little bits of playing around with that have been lots of fun. One thing that I really like too, is their design templates now work with loads of different colour schemes. So you work out what design you’re looking for and then you get a beautiful array of colour choices. And they’ve got some mix and match font styles, so you can stick with the defaults or choose headings and body text that goes well together. It’s pretty cool!

I’ve got one image in there for you, might add some more later.


Book Review: “The Quest For The Radical Middle”

I’ve been on training all this week (I’m working towards the lofty goal of being an “Oracle Certified Professional” database administrator. Nerdy nerd nerd), treatment and as a result been afforded long lunch breaks, capsule which has been a great chance to do some reading. So I’ve been getting stuck into a book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages, there and recently got my hands on – “The Quest For The Radical Middle” by Bill Jackson.

The Quest For The Radical Middle (TQFTRM) is essentially a history of the Vineyard movement. As someone who has been a part of a vineyard for the last 8 years, and had an affinity for Wimber and the Vineyard ideas for longer than that, it’s been great to read a documented history of exactly what happened in Vineyard as it went through its early stages. And Bill Jackson doesn’t shy away from the mistakes and hurty bits in the formation of the movement. I don’t think that I’ve read a more honest and open look at John Wimber’s influence in the Vineyard, and it’s that honesty and realistic self analysis that encourages me about the Vineyard’s ability to continue to grow and move in what God is doing.

TQFTRM was such a fun read too. As I was reading through the history of Vineyard, I’d recognise little bits of the story – you’d have heard John Wimber say that on a video, or in the case of stuff like the Toronto Blessing I can vividly remember being a part of a good traditional Anglican Church in the UK that really embraced what God was doing as an overflow from that place.

I think TQFTRM is a wonderful read for anyone who is in a Vineyard Church and wants to understand some of the background of the place, and especially anyone who is looking to plant a Vineyard – I think that this would have to be on the Required Reading list. I loved it.