Dave Tomlinson at Converse

Dave Tomlinson, author of Post-Evangelical, dropped in to Converse last Wednesday evening. He’s out in Australia for the Black Stump festival this weekend, so Mike Frost and co. lined him up to join the conversers for an update on where he’s at. Working as a vicar for the Church of England it turns out.

He related his journey from authoritarian forms of Pentecostalism, through the house church movment, through Holy Joes, to the point where he felt drawn to more litergical forms of Chistian worship. Not a journey I particularly indentified with myself but a story that I very much appreciated hearing. Just goes to show that we’re not all in the same headspace and respect for diversity is important.

He also spoke of the ‘second naiveté’ and reenchantment which was much more in tune with my own experience; of the process of spiritual growth, moving from chaos to belief, from belief to doubt, and from doubt to doubting your doubts and experiencing re-enchantment. He related how the second innocence is not so much a burying of your questions as transcending them.

I found it interesting how closely Dave’s story mirrored Alan Jamieson’s thoughts on church exiles.

As for Black Stump, when we went around the circle at Converse I learned that Dean Tregenza is running the ‘sacred space’ out there this weekend. I found that encouraging as a few of the kids that attend our local youth group are going to Stump and it was good to be able to pass on there will be some alternative worship spaces for them.

4 thoughts on “Dave Tomlinson at Converse

  1. I have been interested in Tomlinson’s concept of post-evangelicals, and feel that I may be in this camp myself. To calm those who may run across this comment and fear for my orthodoxy, I still adherent to the foundational elements of the historic Christian faith, but I seriously question the way this is understood and expressed in evangelicalism given its strong connections to modernity and the Enlightenment.
    For me the missiological interaction with post-modernity and the emerging spiritualities has helped me sort through the cultural encrustations of modernity on evangelicalism. I hope for a variety of new expressions of the Christian faith within post-modernity, yet I realize that many have not come through this quest and the reassessment of evangelicalism so positively. I am glad that Tomlinson has done so, but there are many others, such as Gordon Lynch, who have come out the other side with serious concerns about the viability of creedal Christianity, yet still have great sympathies with the eschatological person and ministry of Jesus. I’ll be posting some comments on this on my Blog next week, but I appreciate your post on Tomlinson and wish that more evangelicals had the ears to hear from the post-evangelicals.


  2. John
    I wasn’t familiar with Gordon Lynch so I tracked him down and found at article of his entitled Dreaming of a Post-Credal Christianity. I can see why you have doubts about him. He constructs a straw man of credal Christianity then articulates a false dichotomy between that and mystical Christianity that I find quite perplexing. Not only because I embrace both simultaneously, but primarily because the Christianity of the Eastern Roman Empire was the source of BOTH many of the creeds AND the apophatic tradition which he proposes as an alternative. I think he needs to take a refresher course on non-protestant history.
    Maybe the nature of creeds needs to be more clearly understood? Creeds generally emerged in response to one sort of heresy or another, as an expression of sharpened Christian thinking in the wake of a theological controversy.
    So to talk of post-creedal Christianity is effectively a declaration that heresies are no longer a valid concern, that now anything goes. That strikes me as extremely naïve if his aim is to recover a more authentic Christianity.
    I gather what concerns him is the fact that many of our inherited creeds focus on the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus and have little to say of his life. That is a valid concern. But the creeds were situational, just because they never addressed potential future heresies that could arise in our understandings of the life of Jesus does not imply the authors were unconcerned with the life of Jesus. All it means is that his life was not the subject of controversy at the time.
    Our times are different. His life is now a subject of controversy. Did Jesus go to India? Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? Was Jesus a social justice advocate, or did he remove himself from political involvement? How did he spend time with God in solitude? These are important concerns. But the solution is not anything goes. The end of that road is a playdoh messiah for every vested interest not the man from Nazareth that reshaped the world. No, the way forward is to re-contextialize the credal Christianity for post-modern culture.
    Instead of this ahistorical approach what we need is to cast forward our history. That is what contextualized approaches to apologetics and incarnational approaches to mission are all about.


  3. Matt,
    I identify strongly with Dave Tomlinsons journey, and like John find myself drawn in many ways to the type of spirituality he expresses.
    I sense there is a desire to returned to a rooted and grounded faith, my own route has been slightly different and led me into the Methodist Church, I have sitting on my desk a set of candidating papers, and am fighting with the urge to dump them and run.
    Interestingly a recent survey in the UK Steve Hollinghurst would have the details has shown that young adults (late teens-30) express a desire for “proper” church, rather than a charismatic knees up…interesting I think they want to recover a sense of mystery and awe.


  4. Sally, I think it’s crucial to differentiate between the journey Tomlinson has experienced and the destination Tomlinson has arrived at.
    Strickly speaking, post-evangelicalism only describes the journey. Where he has arrived at cannot be encompassed by the term post-evangelicalism as there are many in the same place who did not come there by that same route.
    My own journey is a perfect example. Although I embrace contemplative spirituality, am actively exploring litergical traditions, and bring a post-modern perspective to much of my theology, I would be better described as a post-liberal than a post-evangelical.
    I grew up in a heavily litergical tradition (the Catholic Church) before diving into the New Age Movement to a degree that makes many Christian liberals seem like fundamentalists. I eventually came to see he limitations of that, and in the process of enagaging with the evangelical tradition and other forms of Christianity I have forged a path that draws on many traditions.
    But although there is an evangelical dimention to my theology now, I do not now, nor have I ever identified with the evangelical subculture, even as I have engaged with it. I can hardly call myself post-evangelical if I’ve never been one.
    The pertiant issue here is, the more missional the emerging church become, the more problematic the post-evangelical label will become if it people continue to equate it with the emerging tradition as a whole. New disciples will be post-New Age, post-relativists, post lots of things, but fewer and fewer will be post-evangelical if we are successful.
    This is not to delegitimise the journey of post-evangelicals, but merely a comment that the destination needs to be seen in a far more inclusive light.


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