Theology After Google Event in March

  • 13

Theology After Google Event in March

I’m excited to announce an important upcoming conference and to invite you to participate. On March 10-12th, Claremont will be home to a cutting-edge national meeting entitled, “Theology After Google.” The age of the internet, texting, and social networking has turned human existence upside down and raised questions about what human community is. This conference will identify what it means to live in this new “Google age” and how religion is changing as a result.

I very much hope that you’ll want to attend and would be honored to have you present.

Even if you’re unable to come, we still very much need your helping in getting the word out in all the ways open to you — whether that means reposting this message on your own outlets, blogging and twittering about it, announcing it in your churches or classes, and encouraging your pastor and congregation to bring a whole group (at the discounted rate, of course). You’ll find lots more information by clicking on the image above or going directly to

Thanks very much for spreading the word!


Rocky Supinger

January 28, 2010at 8:14 pm

I’ll be there. All the way from . . . Claremont.

I’m stoked, though.

Philip Clayton

January 29, 2010at 10:43 am

Rocky, Great! It’ll be great to see you there… — Philip

Thomas Oord

February 1, 2010at 12:35 pm


I really wish I could attend the Google conference in March. But my schedule is too tight.

One reason I want to attend is to report how my blogsite has affected my theology over the past few months. Let me count some ways…

1. My theology has become more cosmopolitan. Knowing that my conservative and liberal friends will read what I write forces me to be especially careful and clear. It also makes for good conversations!

2. My theology has become more confessional and biblical. Appealing to authorities is hard when readers draw from such diverse sources. I find myself “defending” more of my theological positions with appeals to the Bible or leading figures in the Christian tradition.

3. My theology is more concise. Writing clearly forces me to seek clarity. And brevity often aides in that quest.

4. My theology is more expansive. I always knew that I had wide-ranging theological interests. Having my blog designed to write toward five different topics makes it even more plain that I want to talk about many, many things. Of course, my multi-discipline approach flies in the face of what experts say about “picking your unique market.” But it seems to work for me.

5. My theology has become more visual. I try to add photos — most of them I have taken myself — to my blog essays. That forces me to think about which photos tell the theological story I want to tell. It’s not a big thing; but it does have an influence.

6. My theology has become more connected to contemporary events. My readers want to talk about what is happening NOW. My blog essays that address contemporary concerns are often the most read and recommended. Although I still write books and journal articles, there is great satisfaction getting feedback on my ideas long before I would get feedback from my books and journal articles.

7. My theology has become less “dumbed down.” I worried that in my desire to be concise and widely accessible that my blog essays would become blaise. I’m finding that I can tackle difficult and controversial subjects. For instance, my essay on why I reject creatio ex nihilo has been widely read and circulated. There seems to be a desire for theologically sophisticated ideas presented in clear and concise ways.

That list is probably good enough for now. Just thought I’d comment on my experience with writing theology in the Google age.


Jeff Alexander

February 3, 2010at 12:21 am

Theology can be like this. In our family my children and I have the shared experience of their grandmother’s most excellent chocolate chip cookies. When we discus them we know exactly what the other is talking about for we have shared in the reality of the transcendent chocolate chip cookie. In Paul’s letter you can read that he assumes that his readers have shared in the same experience of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Lord and the Father and he knows they know what he is talking about from a shared spiritual reality.

Once I attempted to duplicate Grandma’s cookies. I had the recipe. But my results weren’t the same. I called her and grilled her here on every step, turns out she sifted her flour and used electric beaters. I didn’t sift and mixed by hand with a spoon. I followed her example and baked the real McCoy. I called her again and informed her she could now go to heaven as I now had the secret- a true apostolic succession. May we seek and find and share in that same Trinitarian reality spoken of in the New Testament!

I became a believer in my twenties – the joy of the Trinity for me has been the joy of a dolphin exploring a wonderful, strange sea!

Philip Clayton

February 3, 2010at 1:42 pm

Tom, great comments — I’m posting your comments to the “Theology After Google” Facebook page at — I hope you’ll join the page. Both class and conference attendees will have access to it. Wish you could be here!

Jeff, thanks for your comments. We would have thought that mass communication would take away the need for the basic experience, but it’s actually the other way round — democratized social media DEPENDS on shared core experiences, in religion no less than in all other forms of human community. In *Transforming Christian Theology* I describe it as putting Belonging before Believing…

— Philip

Jeff Alexander

March 1, 2010at 5:16 pm

Thoughts on liberal Christianity. Years ago when I was a new believer in Jesus I attended a large Episcopal church near San Jose. Because I had come out of a new age/occultic/eastern religions background the supernatural aspects of Christianity weren’t a problem for me. I was puzzled/amused by the beliefs of the priests, despite the intensely biblical and traditionally Christian words they read and sang every Sunday what they actually believed and thought was true was quite different. One priest would spend time at Esalen. One time as this man processed into the sanctuary – they had lovely services – I couldn’t help but think what’s he doing here, he doesn’t really believe any of this. I remember defending the empty tomb and the resurrection to another priest. When I quoted Paul “if Christ be not raised your faith is in vain”, he went quiet and changed the subject. Once I went in to ask the head priest if he could give me instruction in how to get close to God in prayer, his reply – I don’t know how to do that – and referred me to the Cursillo movement which was active in the parish. I visited another priest in another nearby Episcopal church asking the same, and received the same reply. I have often thought why do they bother, why don’t they just become Unitarian/univeralists – but there isn’t the same employment and career opportunities, I suppose. The real standard of truth and frame of reference in liberal Christianity isn’t the Bible and the classic understandings of the Church, so why bother with them and just really be honest what the frame of reference, the grid of truth is, the real creed – which to me seems to be a blend of scientific materialism, Darwinism, liberal political and social thought, and vague spirituality (i.e. Unitarian/univeralism), which forces one to redefine, reframe and pick and choose from the Bible and Christian tradition, because taking them straight up doesn’t work. You want revival and purpose in liberal christianity – what is it going to be based on? what truths? when many of the traditions and scriptures it comes out of contradict the present truths now believed.

Philip Clayton

March 2, 2010at 10:38 am

Jeff, powerful reflections. Sometimes the real “grid,” as you put it, is scientific materialism. Other times it’s a certain stance of political correctness; Christianity just becomes identifying oppressive relations in matters of race/gender/class. (That this is PART of the Christian gospel I don’t deny.) There are attempts to challenge the adequacy of the scientific worldview, such as process theology; and I’ve done it in my recent “Adventures in the Spirit.” But one often has the sense that people aren’t grappling honestly with the real tensions — tensions that were manifestly clear to you when you attended these churches, as they are to many others like you.

If we’re going to get anywhere, we need to begin by being brutally honest about the tensions, even when it may be really uncomfortable to do so.

— Philip

Jeff Alexander

March 3, 2010at 4:36 pm

For what is worth here is my grid. Christianity I think teaches three basic truths. I call it my Trinitarian apologetic. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The Father created what we call the universe, not in the beginning God became the universe. The evidence for that is that unassisted mater and energy doesn’t have the mojo to come into being and then develop into what we see via random permutations and that nature reflects the godhead and greatness of God (Romans 1) and the heavens declare his glory Psalm 19. The second truth is that Jesus of Nazareth is the incarnate Son of God as evidenced by his resurrection. The evidence for that are the usual ones made for the resurrection and historicity of Christ and the reliability of the NT documents. The third truth is the Holy Spirit as a living reality accessible and present to the believer who also provides a real presence of the Father and the Son as evidenced by the inward experience of the believer, changed lives, answered prayers, miracles and other gifts of the Holy Spirit and the positive effects of Christianity in history and society – a mixed bag here I confess as the Holy Spirit is working through fallible temples and human weakness. These truths for me have sufficient evidence and validity. I don’t define faith as a leap in the dark, but rather as leap towards the light of Christ you know is there.

Jeff Alexander

March 4, 2010at 2:17 pm

Oops, I forgot an evidence for the second truth _ Jesus of nazareth is the Son of God_ If you apply as your spiritual discipline and means I John 4:15 “Whosoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God” great things happen- The Father is revealed to you and you have the life of the Holy Spirit in you. or “you may believe that Jesus is the Chrsit, the Son of God and believing have life in his name” John 20:21 – Sweet! This has been my joy and expereince and is the glory of the Church – those who glory in Christ Jesus, worship God by the Spirit and put no confidence in the flesh.

On another line of thought – a huge topic I had to wrestle with – an experience and my personal conclusions on the subject. Perhaps pertinent somehow to your conference.

Years ago I had a life changing experience. I was spending a weekend at a Trappist monastery. A friend and I entered the church for the first time, We suddenly and simultaneously each had a marked spiritual experience. We stared at each other in shock and surprise. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit, fiery and enlivening. It lasted but a moment. What shocked me most was not the mere fact of experiencing “spirit” (I was used to that in my new age and eastern religious exposure) It simply wasn’t the same spirit as I had encountered in those arenas. I had been taught the cardinal principle that God or Spirit or the Absolute in every religion, despite different approaches and words, was the same in essence and taste. I could no longer think that, based on my experience and what I was reading in the Bible. I was undone. Unless I reinterpreted and redefined the words of the Bible in the light of systems alien to the Bible – making it say things it doesn’t. – I couldn’t blend Christ with Hinduism/Buddhism. I still had a way to go but eventually I left eastern and new age thought behind and became a Trinitarian/Nicene creed type as that understanding had the best fit to scripture and my own experience of the Three Persons of the Godhead.

A parable I wrote about this subject.

The coast of Namibia is the only place in Africa where elephants swim in the ocean. Two gnats went out to sea. One landed on an elephant; the other on a whale. Both returned to land and shared their experiences. While their respective accounts had differences both said something like this: “It was huge beyond understanding, wet, gray, and above all, alive!” Many gnat theologians decided the two gnats had experienced the same thing, while others disagreed. The discussion continues.

Obviously the whale is Yahweh.

What is the experience of the elephant? I think the “elephant” is deifying and absolutizing via “spiritual” practices and teachings your inward awareness which is created in God’s image. Your inner awareness and self is Godlike and through proper training and continued mental programming you can expand it into an experience and perception of “absolute reality”. From the Christian perspective this is embracing the primal lie found in Genesis that you can be as God and is the root of eastern religions. Anyway, this is the conclusion I’ve come to in this area. I know this is offensive to sincere and well intentioned followers of eastern spiritualities, but Jesus Christ is termed the rock of offense and the stumbling stone in the New Testament. I barked my shins against him and it was painful, but in the end I trusted in him.

Philip Clayton

March 6, 2010at 10:19 am

Jeff, thanks for sharing this powerful testimony. It would be fun to explore the theological implications with you — the various theological models that are consistent with your experience. I’d have lots to say on that topic. But I don’t think comments on a website is exactly the right place and way to do it…

— Philip

Jeff Alexander

March 10, 2010at 1:22 am

Well, if you want to continue the discussion you may email me at Now does process theology means God is in process or we’re in process? Apparently that’s your specialty.

Jeff Alexander

March 10, 2010at 3:18 pm

Did a bit of homework, looked you and process theology up on Wikipedia and went to the transforming theology website. I guess I am a congenial conservative for reasons of poetry and Spirit. I find what people call being traditional and conservative more beautiful and meaningful, though I perhaps put a 21st century spin on it as I can’t help being a child of the times and due to the miraculous and spiritual events in my life liberal christianity comes across to me as silly and limited and cramped, just living inside a closed box reality with God vaguely around, maybe seen a little in a form of nature mysticism, or if you’ve paid your dues in some sort of contemplative discipline experienced in a generic perennial philosophy way instead of a personal Trinity entered through the living Jesus of Nazareth God and Man. Yes, it would be fun to discuss as you seem to be striving to be a bridge person.

Rachel Stephens

March 12, 2010at 12:16 pm

I am incredibly disappointed I am not able to attend this conference. My husband and I are currently Peace Corps volunteers in Namibia, so I think the reason for my unavailability is obvious! I do however look forward to reading the discussions, articles and blog posts that follow the event and I hope all who attend will not spare any details!

When I read the “Theology After Google” article it resonated with me a lot. I completed my graduate degree in Apologetics from Biola and am currently trying to finish my MA Theology from Fuller currently. While I love my church back home and think it is more relevant than most, I have not been able to stifle a strong feeling that things need to change considerably. Modern, hip, postmodern churches may have spiced things up a little – have a rock band, dim lights and a smashing preacher with tattoos – but all in all it’s still a cookie cutter church, just a different shape. The bottom line is our culture has gone through some major shifts in communication of which the church has not recognized and adapted to.

In the age of google, blogs, Facebook, Twitter I think we need to call for a drastic change in how we do church and communicate the gospel message. Additionally, the current postmodern and emerging era similarly call for even more sweeping changes as well. The emerging generation is calling the church not just to speak about faith and the gospel but to actually live it out. I have a vision for a whole new church that is not localized and does not even have a pastor. A church that utilizes the new technology to discuss, learn together, journey together; a church that gathers in small groups to do theology together and share faith journeys and not simply listen to a one way dialogue in a low lit auditorium. Furthermore, a church that has the sole function of gathering to LIVE out their faith rather than gathering exclusively at the local “christian club” (aka: church).

I fully support the conversation that is going on at this conference and hope to hear much more to come!!

Leave a Reply

EcoCiv’s Tweets