Sorry for the delayed wrap-up. I finally scheduled my first licensing exam, so the next two weeks will be extra focused on studying. But no more highly anticipated waiting for my final thoughts on the Theology After Google conference. :)
First of all, the third day was by far the best. It was less focused on convincing everyone to use technology and social media and more of showing people various ways of actually utilizing it. I also appreciated that there was less focus on technology as the end-point in contrast to it being a means to an end.
There were a few points that particularly stood out:
In his presentation, Doug Pagitt (whose writings I very much admire and who I was very excited to meet at the conference) discussed different "Ages" that America has passed through that have affected how the church operates. He noted that we have been in the "Age of Information," which has created a church that is all about teaching. I have discussed before the question of the emphasis on teaching in church, but this really helped pinpoint it, describe it, and put it into perspective, particularly that church (even the organization on Sunday mornings) can and should be much more than teaching.
He also describe a phenomenon that I've noted before about the differences between mainline/progressives and evangelicals. While I have described it as a cognitive/affective split, he named it as open minded and challenging one's own assumptions and theology versus challenging one's aesthetics and mode of presentation. I think we're hitting on the same idea: Mainline/progressives are willing to change their thoughts, but not their mode. Evangelicals are willing to change their modes, but not their thoughts. While there's exceptions to these rules, I find them largely true. The problem is, I still have not found a satisfying answer as to why this is the case.
Further, I'm really sick of this divide. My friend and I both noticed that there was evidence of a very strong divide between evangelical thought and mainline/progressive thought. The conference was sponsored by and dominated by the latter, and there were various comments and such that showed a disdain for evangelicalism. I still want something in between. As I shared in a breakout group, I'm currently going to an evangelical church. I can do the cognitive challenging stuff on my own (I do it anyway). I need the group for the praise element. For some reason, I find that that is something that I cannot do satisfactorily on my own.
In response, Doug Pagitt mentioned how he is out of the mindset of "the God of the gaps," referring to God is only present with what man cannot do. I completely agree with him, as readers of this blog should know. God works incarnationally. However, there is something important about occasionally being explicit and praising God. An analogy I thought of is marriage. I should show my wife how much I love her and live that out. However, I also need to say it out loud. And frequently. I think it's the same with God, for God's sake AND for mine. Probably more for my sake, as I'll forget why I'm doing something.
That's one of my biggest criticisms and complaints from the conference. There was a noticeable lack of praise. I called it "devotion and worship" before, but I realized "praise" is probably a better descriptor. I think that may be an artifact of the mainline/progressive tradition. This is what makes me feel more evangelical than I thought I was. Now interacting with many of the top movers of Emergent Village, I understand why some people, like Dan Kimball have separated and started their own organizations. I don't know or remember the reasons why, but if I were deeply involved, I would consider that on the basis of wanting more explicit praise. Yes, I find it that important.
What do you think? What is the role and importance of praise? What does praise look like to you?