Epistemetheology

The way we question life and response to these though challenges consist a multitude of approaches. Every person utilizes different methods. Especially in our postmodern times we are used to connect heterogeneous systems into a patchwork of approaches to meet the challenges in our lifes.

Philosophy is one of them; Theology a different one. In the book I read this week a variety of different systems is presented. William Raeper and Linda Smith collected all those approaches in “A brief guide to ideas. Turning points in the history of human thought.”

In sixteen steps the authors develop a thorough introduction to several problems and proposals of solution. Raeper and Smith travel though history and different disciplines to portrait streams.

They start off with classical philosophy and questions on knowledge and reason, followed by questions of identity soul, body and mind. Then, Raeper and Smith move on towards the philosophy of religion: the existence of God, Bible and mystics, rationalism and empiricism. The next steps portrait scientific disciplines or schools like existentialism, psychology, politics, humanism, etc.

The authors also deepen their examination on religious and theological questions and argue on christology, hermeneutics, reformation, science of belief, creation and evolution, miracles skepticism and pluralism, paranormal and transcendent topics, theodicy, feminism, relativism vs. certainty and new age.

All those exhaustive and detailed focus points supply with a broad introduction on the shift and history of philosophical and theological approaches towards life’s transitions and questions. And, they don’t really generate new information. No knowledge in the book is innovative or new science. The strength in the book is more the collection of several different approaches and the connection between them. Also the favored connection between rational philosophical approaches and religious or theological approaches is a nice benefit.

 

keep-calm-and-understand-epistemology

 

Epistemology

 

When I read the book I appreciated the way, Raeper and Smith represent a patchwork system of beliefs and mindsets, of tools or methods that people use to meet life. It was astonishing and impressive to see the heterogeneous solutions, which people came up with in different times of history.

One of the basics in philosophy is the epistemology, the science of knowledge, the “how do we know what we know”. (ἐπιστήμη knowledge and λόγος science). In further steps in history the epistemology was also used as a term of Gnostics or theologians in medieval times.  They added to the “how do we know what we know” the “how do we believe what we believe?” Those approaches where followed by debates on the importance of rationality in and after the time of enlightenment.

The strength of the book “Brief guide to ideas” is not to reveal new information of the field of epistemology, but to collect plural approaches and display them in a large network of possible solutions.

 

Epistemetheology

How do we gain information and ideas in our postmodern times? How do we structure and build our mindset? Which methods and sciences have an impact on our individual and personal theology and philosophy. Raeper and Smith display quite visually the heterogeneous approaches, which seem to exist in a happy coexistence.

Postmodern style: Patchwork.

I wondered, if we take this habit serious. The patchwork habit, postmodern people are used to. A little bit of rational science, a little Buddha, a little socialism, a little Freud  and some bible verses.

How do we approach this patchwork mindsets, which the book , unintentionally I suppose, displayed in a nice way?

Perhaps it is time, of the debates of rational science and questions of theology and religion during the enlightenment to initiate a new debate on the patchwork on mindsets. Perhaps we need to develop an epestemetheology.

Epistemetheology: as the knowledge how we deal with this multitude of offers on the market of mindsets.

What did we learn from the history of ideas, philosophical and theological and which new postmodern step might this debate give birth to?

The book of Raeper and Smith ends with a chapter called “For further thinking.”

A epistemetheology would be my further thinking.

 

How does your personal epistemetheology look like?

 How do you know what you know, how do you believe what you believe and how do you get this patchwork of mindsets in one system?

Packt like sardines

 

Everyone knows these situations. You are squeezed into a subway or bus. People are closer than it is comfortable for you. You own private space is invaded. These so called “crowding situations” give us a hard time, because we like to arrange our distance zones individually. When we are forced to limit these proxemics, our personal space, we feel uncomfortable. These are culturally defined.

The anthropologist Edward Twitchell Hall researched four different proxemics.

The intimate distance (for embracing, touching or whispering 6-18 inches),  the personal distance (for interactions among good friends or family members 1,5- 4 feet), the social distance (for interactions among acquaintances 4-12 feet) and the public distance (used for public speaking 12-25 feet). The distance is estimated for communication situations and varies between cultures and other environmental factors.

People from northern Europe need a larger personal space, than southern Europeans. (Latin American and oriental people are even described as “contact cultures”). Surveys showed for example that British people touch their conversation partner very seldom or never, however a Puerto-Rican touches the conversation partner up to 180 times.

„This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine. You gotta hold the frame.”

(Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing)

 

How is this your private space treated in our church culture?

This week I read MaryKate Morse book “Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence.” In her book Morse connects leadership with the use of the body in relational space. Morse created a framework differentiate the various kinds of power exercised in interpersonal relationships: Expert power (by special knowledge, skills, training or experience), character power (given by a group because of observed quality of character), role power (given thought a particular role in an organization), culture power (depending on the culture and on their values). All four dimensions can have positive or negative effects.

To be aware of this dynamic ensures a reflected use and application of social power to the individual leadership context.

She states that “leadership among Christians involves both a physical and a group dynamic: it has a physical dynamic because people instinctively use their bodies to influence others by taking up space in social settings.” (Kindle: 253 of 2139).

In exegetical paragraph Morse also argues the christological background and presents the role of Jesus concerning his leadership and his use of power. (Lk 7:36-50).

Power, space and body

In our Lutheran churches we use some tricks to ease the personal responsibility of the preacher and to order leadership in liturgical service settings.

We use robes, to indicate a certain role of the preacher. This is helpful to the preacher (easier professional distance from individual personality and clear visible definition as the ordained preacher)  and also to the parish (distinction from private person of the speaker and the preaching role).

We also set certain spaces in our services. There are fixed and determined spaces for the reading of the gospel (ambo), for prayer and the Eucharist (altar) and for the preaching (pulpit). Pews help us to find a setteled space.

The liturgy itself also provides a clear structure that allows the pastor and the parish to behave in a certain manner without reflecting and questioning the process of the service concerning power, role, space, distance and body.

Some might value this as a limitation of freedom, but to me, it organizes the framework in a service. In this set framework I can shape my spiritual encounter with the preacher, with the other parishioners and with God the way I want. It relieves me from verifying my own sensation of my personal proxemics, interpersonal relationships and powers and influence.

In which situations have you reflected the impact of your body on power and leadership in your tradition?

The action in distraction

Lets make a game?

Ok?

I’ll tell you a story about a company and you have to guess, which company I was talking about.

Ok?

Go:

I am talking about a large and global company, with stores in 117 countries. The company was founded in the 50’s and already in 1978 it approved a policy of granting sabbatical to eligible employees based on years of service in the company. (Eligible staff includes full-time employees, managers and maintenance employees).  The sabbatical is a paid eight-week time off for every ten years of service (and with their own annual vacation allowance the employees can even add the eight weeks up to three month). The company does not expect employees to report back in during their time off.

The Global Chief Human Resources Officer says:

“I have seen people the day before they leave, and I have seen the same people ion the first day they come back. They are energized about going on sabbatical, and they are re-energized about coming back (…) They have had a great opportunity to clear their head. If you think about it, we are all trying to balance everything. Here is a wonderful opportunity for eight to twelve weeks to be able to say: What do you want to do with your time?” (169)

Great company, right? Who wouldn’t want to work in a company like this?

So, here is the question, which company was I talking about?

(mehr …)

Hermitage Queen Mary

Three weeks ago, I was able to participate at the leadership summit of Willow Creek in Germany.  Willow USA and Germany hosted a large conference with 8000 leaders in Leipzig, Germany. In the last years Willow emerged to an important inspiration for a lot of German Churches. Many pastors joined the conferences, bought books by Bill Hybels and used Willow material, for their ministry. Willow is still the most important example for attritional work in churches in my country. Many pastors dream, that the experiences of a church close to Chicago could also have an impact on their work here. In two years Willow Creek will also host a large conference in my hometown Hannover. I am exited about the impact this will have in my synod.

Amongst the different speakers at the conference in Leipzig, the senior pastor of Willow Creek Coomunity Church, Barrington, USA, Bill Hybels was also lecturing. He gave the into keynote with the title “If church is church”

Amongst other topics, Bill Hybels talked about the need to spend time with God. He mentioned, that he also saves special times for retreats and solitude. He said, that he spends one week a year in silence and prayer and that this is an important tradition to him.

I was fascinated and imagined Hybels in a monastery, in the nature or in a retreat with a spiritual mentor. But then he went on with the story and explained that he always spends his silent days on the cruise ship Queen Mary. (It seems he told the story more than once).

I don’t know, what disturbed me the most: The fact, that Hybels values a cruise ship as the ideal place to encounter God (Although I don’t want to judge it and I am positive, one can also spend time with God on a posh liner in the Caribbean) or the fact that he proclaims it in a surrounding, where most of his listeners won’t be able to spend one single night on a boat like this (but afforded hotel, journey and 200€ for conference tickets, excluding coffee or snacks just to listen to Hybels thoughts).

This week I read “Isolation – A Place of Transformation in the Life of A Leader” by Shelley Trebesch. After defining isolation and providing a glance of isolation examples in the Old and New Testament, Trebesch enfolds two different experiences of isolation: voluntary and involuntary. She tries to analyze the processes in isolation experiences and wants to make them fruitful. As results she mentions inward transformation, spiritual transformation and ministerial transformation.

Trebesch states, that (involuntary) experiences of isolation happen to everyone. And we can try to be prepare, to be braces, when they occur. This can be trained to through healthy ways of spending time in isolation voluntary.

For some this might be wilderness or desert (like it is presented in the bible as synonyms for uncultivated and uninhabited areas) for others the Queen Mary. Again: I don’t want to judge his hermitage. A pastor of mega church might need other places for retreats and in our relation ship with God, we are all different. I am only questioning the way, Hybels used his posh and luxerious spiritual life as an example or standard for others to copy. If God calls us into the desert, not all might think of the Queen Mary as an ideal heritage first.

For Bill Hybels‘ next keynote, I would love to hear his from his struggles, short comings and (involuntary) isolation experiences. He has a lot of inspirational story’s to share. Like Willow creeks Reveal study, which was started 2004 to research the connection between church attendance and spiritual growth.

I would appreciate, if a wise leader like Bill Hybels could also share his broad isolation experience, instead of romantizing it as a cruise trip with the Queen Mary.

What are your isolation experiences? (Involuntary and voluntary?)

How do you share those experiences?

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