Thursday, July 22, 2010

Revelation Through Conversation !

I am not making this up. Every time I sit down and read another chapter in Brian D. McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian - Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith, I come across something so simple and so obvious that it makes me mad.

By that I mean why didn't someone articulate these ideas prior to 2010? Really, why didn't I hear about these ideas early in my journey of faith, like back in 1976 or 1982 or even 1995.

I have waited patiently for over 36 years to finally come across these words...."revelation doesn't simply happen in statements. It happens in conversations and arguments that take place within and among communities of people who share the same essential questions across generations. Revelation accumulates in the relationships, interactions, and interplay between statements.

In this light, the biblical text doesn't give us cement blocks and mortar with which to construct a building of certainty from the ground up. It gives us a bunch of hammers and chisels in the form of stories and questions. With these tools we chip away at human constructions, and revelation is like the breeze or shaft of light that streams through the cracks. The Word, or Self-Revealing of God, in this light, isn't a bunch of lessons, morals, doctrines, or beliefs that God dictates or otherwise encodes. It is an event, a turning point, a breaking open, a discovery, a transforming and humbling and ennobling encounter that occurs to readers when they engage with the text in faith - the text with all its tensions and unresolved issues intact.

To say that the Word (the message, meaning, or revelation) of God is in the biblical text, then, does not mean that you can extract verses or statements from the text at will and call them "God's words." It means that if we enter the text and feel the flow of its arguments, get stuck in its points of tension, and struggle with its unfolding plot in all its twists and turns, God's revelation can happen to us. We can reach the point that Job and company did at the end of the book, where, after a lot of conflicted human talk and a conspicuously long divine silence, we finally hear God's voice." Or not....

See what I mean? Wow! As usual I have my wife Ann to thank. She is always lugging home tons of books, and from the library of all places. As I write this blog post in bed I can easily count over 47 books with titles like The Next Reformation - Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity, by Carl Raschke, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Leaders Who Last by Margaret J. Marcuson, The Company of Strangers by Parker J. Palmer, Sexual Bargaining by John Scanzoni, Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey, The Night Offices by Phyllis Tickle, two different version of the Bible, The Healing Power of Emotion by Fosha, Siegel and Solomon, Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel, Picturing the Face of Jesus by Beth Booram, The Education of the Heart by Thomas Moore, The Healing Imagination by Ann and Barry Ulanov, and a giant book called The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

And these are just the books I can grab with my right hand on her side of the bed. (Did I mention Ann was an English major in college?) So thanks again to the wife of my youth for exposing me to some of the greatest minds to ever flesh out an idea on paper with words.

Yet even better than merely reading a lot of books, Ann is out daily in the marketplace engaged with real people, with hammers and chisels constantly discovering revelation through relationships.

Thanks Ann for dragging home thousands of library books over the past 29 years of our marriage and introducing me to writers like McLaren. And thanks even more for living out your faith in an extended community of global relationships while chiseling away at the certainty that keeps so many of us from the transforming power of revelation found in intentional conversation.

Keep swinging that hammer!
Love you like a rock,


  1. Good exposition. I believe revelation is achievable if we take the bold step of faith as we swing the hammer within spritual jurisdiction.

  2. O'Steven!

    Excellent post. You write so fluidly, cogently. Thanks for the mention, too:) I continue to long for God's Word to be liberated from the small confining cells we keep it in. I heard someone say recently, "Conversation creates culture." Another way of saying what you and McClaren suggest. I like that's right--if only we could learn to converse with more grace and curiosity. Thanks for blogging--really fine work and beautiful thoughts. (You might think about a book someday. I would keep it on my night stand.)

  3. Sounds like we need to clean up our room. Thanks for the credit, but some of those books on my side of the bed are yours! Love, Ann

  4. I have a big pile of books by my bed, too. I'm glad mine is in your pile. Thanks for sharing McClaren's ideas about conversation. Fascinatng.