Matt Jenson | Theology in the Democracy of the Dead
7:49PM Apr 22, 2021
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today we're thrilled to be speaking with Dr. Matt Jensen. Dr. Jensen is associate professor of theology at the Tory honors Institute at Biola University and the author of the texts that we'll be discussing today, theology in the democracy of the dead, a dialogue with the living tradition. Dr. Jensen, thank you so much for joining us today.
Great to be with you, Jonathan. It's good to see you again.
I'm Dr. Jensen. First of all, you're gonna have to help me with his title, an intriguing title democracy of the dead. What are you getting at with that, please?
And unfortunately, it might be the kind of thing that that has people missed the book I I've had subsequent conversations with the publishers where they're, they're wondering if that was the best idea at the end of the day, but it was it was such a fetching title. In my mind, it was hard to watch, wanted to keep it. It comes from a Chesterton quote from Gk Chesterton's orthodoxy where he, you know, he's got his puckish way of doing things where he'll kind of set something out paradoxically, or challenge a conceived notion. And he, he just he says, You know, I don't get why people set tradition and democracy against one another. He said, you know, isn't isn't isn't tradition really ends up calling it the democracy of the dead. And just as in modern democratic societies, we don't want to show disrespect to someone just because they're saved from a lower class, everyone gets a vote. Same thing, he says, We don't want to show disrespect to someone just because they're a dead ancestor. Everyone gets a vote. So his idea is that when we're when we're to if we really want to talk about government, by the people, or we could talk about even kind of establishing what is the truth on the basis of how people see it, we have got to consider the dead as well. There's a there's a strangely, there's a strange myopia, if we care about contemporary diversity, without thinking about chronological diversity, diversity through time. So that's the idea. The idea is that, that, you know, we would be crazy to just pay attention to what people think about say, God, just those people who are living. Another way you can put it is in keeping with CS Lewis is comment, it might have been from his introduction to athanasios is on the incarnation, where he talks about, it's not that the past doesn't have prejudices, it's just a different prejudices. It's not that they have it all figured out. But but they had different things figured out. So you can read, say, Anselm's critius, homo. And he's got this long, strange thing that always baffles my students in me, where he really is keen to show that that the those who've come to Christ make up at least the number of the angels who fell away in the angelic Paul, that's not something I ever think about, or frankly, care much about. But for Anselm, it really matter. And there are doubtless things that we care about that seems so obvious to us that in future ages, will seem irrelevant to so it's a way of kind of kind of checking our presuppositions to do theology in the democracy of the dead allowing them to speak, though dead they are they're living in the community of saints and speak to us.
Really cool analogy and helpful unfolding in that expression. Dr. Jensen, you've been doing a lot of writing these days. Do you have any particular literary heroes, people that you're modeling your own style or work after?
That's a good question. Um, I will say that, so I'm a little major. I was a little philosophy major Wheaton College where I got a really rich theological education outside, ironically, the theology department, and then went on and did systematic theological work in grad school. So I think the main thing I would say is that I have learned from reading literature, to attend to images to attend to the images that are that are so often just lay just beneath the surface of our writing, but that carry a ton of freight can carry a ton of theological freight. So not so much heroes as, as I'd say, my reading habits are such that I'm almost reading as much literature as I'm reading theology. And so that's that's kind of constantly shaping me to attend to, to images.
Dr. Jensen, this is an ambitious project, you seek to showcase the catholicity of the church, the universality, the breadth of the church, by exploring the particularities of a select Have Christian writers, that's an intriguing almost men bind mind bending process that you're bringing us into? How did you go about choosing the particular authors that you showcase,
it is not a foregone conclusion that a person would choose these 11. You know, it's we're just at the beginning of January, when we're taping this, everyone's come out with their top 10. lists, I in one sense, maybe I should have just made a 10. Or I could have done 12. For the apostles, I had 11, which is a little strange. It is probably first and foremost an accident of autobiography, which more writing I think, is that people are willing to admit or recognize. So I teach in what's now called the Tory Honors College. Actually, we've changed that in the last couple months at Biola University, which is a great books program. Which means that, you know, so in a couple of weeks when we start the semester on teaching Virgil's needed, and then after that, it's proverbs I teach almost no theology this semester. So it's constantly reading great books within that. We've got quite a bit of theology. But but it's limited. So 10 of the 11 of these authors are people we read in taury. And so I just, we contractually are obligated to give one lecture a semester, because it's mostly just seminar style discussion. And so I decided a while ago, inspired by a friend of mine, that, you know, why don't I just try to own one of these theologians each semester, to read as much as I can English translation, to get around in the secondary material enough to not make a fool of myself, and then to present a lecture that's, that's tight, oriented to my students, but helps them get into the theologians. That's where it started. So mostly, they were there were people we read in Tory with the addition of Karl Marx, because you just kind of have to have mark, I think there are lots of lacunae, there are people that I that none of the capitation fathers are in there. And we do actually, we read Gregor Munoz anzus. So it could have easily had him in their origins, not in their major, major figure. There's other people we do redentore that I didn't include. As, as some people would be, would be quick to note, there are no women in here, which I started the book off with a bit of a limit that I think that's mostly because our corporate sin has kept women from getting much formal theological training. So there have been very, very few women who have written at a high caliber, particularly in a kind of more exegetical or, you know, maybe what we now call systematic, theological manner, there have been more mystical writers. And I'm not quite second guess myself. But I wondered if I had, if I hadn't, have looked a little further. So yeah, that's a that's a longer answer that question.
Thank thanks for the reflection. So as we dive into this text and look at the 11 authors that you've got to help us understand the breadth of this Christian story, I was first stumped when we got to chapter four. So chapter four is titled The most, the most biblical of theologians, Denny's, the areola guide and the brilliant darkness of God. So not everybody would have chosen the Denny's The aryaka Guide, this fifth or sixth century really sued anonymous figure, some refer to him as pseudo Dionysius, why did you include him in your survey? And what does he add to the Christian story? Yeah,
so again, that's that's accident of autobiography where now I think I was part of I was partly instrumental in getting him in our curriculum, so I can't, but it took too much off of the curriculum. I think something about Dennis, he is so weird, for one. And so it's good, it's good to get him in there. Because he's just very weird, but deeply influential, particularly in the mystical tradition, but but also in all sorts of ecclesiastical matters. He is probably the great exemplar of apophatic theology. So this negative theology by which we we most reliably approach nearer to speaking rightly of God by denying that things are the case. So so he will, he will talk about knowing, knowing God beyond being he'll denials, he will say God is good, but then they'll say he's not good. And by that he doesn't mean he's evil. He just means that God is so radically transcendent of creaturely categories, that we cannot find a category that is perfectly adequate to name God. That's how much it's not that, you know, we're on earth, and Gods up to a 100,000 feet and he's like the super best version of anything we've got Dennis says, No, no, you have to you have to go a step further. If you want to really get his transcendence. You have to deny But he's any of these things at all. So again, that's for Dennis a way of speaking of the wonderful priority and absolute transcendence of God. But he does it with such a kind of such a, it's such a grammatical scrupulosity. If I can put it that way. He's so careful. And he follows it through all the way to the end, that it has a really arresting effect. I mean, it could be, you know, one thing if someone just says, Well, you know, God's even more, or, you know, he's like, he's not even quite like a creaturely. Good God. He's more than that. But when Dennis comes along and just denies flat out, but you know, that God even is a B, you sort of have to you stumble over it, because it's so bizarre. So I think I think he's an exemplar of that apophatic tradition. And he's also the fountain of the Christian mystical tradition. Again, and again, and again, people are going back to Dennis and so you could read, you could read john across you can read Teresa, Pamela, you can read the Cloud of Unknowing and it's all it's all going to go away back to, to Dennis there.
I think that's part of what makes the mystical tradition tough for evangelicals to get into. And then in some ways, the whole medieval tradition becomes a little tough for evangelicals to get into. For a brief time I was teaching suta, Dionysius in a in a tutorial that I was teaching at Moody, and consistently we would choke when we got to that point about pseudo Dionysius claiming that God does not even exist. It's not that there is no God God is, but he doesn't exist the way that we conceive of the categories of existence and non existence, because God is creator does not exist, the way that anything that we experience here exists. Is there a way to get through this material in a way that keeps us from choking a little bit? How do you you found any ways to help people enter into what pseudo Dionysius is doing?
That's it? Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, I think the choking is just good. I wouldn't want a person's whole theological education to be a time of choking. But I think I think dennis is best in his interruptive mode. You know, we're just constantly we're talking to God all the time. We're thinking about God all the time, we're making these sentences all the time. And he just, he just, he just puts a brick wall in front of us that we can't get over. And so I think I think the very choking can really, really profound where I would eventually want to go is if we could bring another author. And I don't do a lot of critiquing in this book. Because my main hope is to just say is just to get all the way inside the minds of these people and to understand the logic by which they work. But dennis is one place I, I do bring in a little more critique, and I basically argued that there's just not enough Jesus here. That's a controversial position. There's a guy named Alexander gerlitzen, who who has an argument that that all of Dennis's work presupposes the Eucharistic liturgy. And so it's always about Jesus, because it's about the body and blood of Jesus at the height of, of the liturgy, that might be true, but I still think it's presuming too much. And we're at what I'd like to see someone like Dennis go, or where I want to take students is, you might take them the direction of Bart, who also has a radical account of God's transcendence, but but at the same time has a radical account of the fact that, that God is none other than the one we meet Jesus. And so what I would want to do with dennis is, is have this kind of, to use a good body where this kind of dialectic between the transcendence of God, which means we just have to be silent, before his face, and also the other self revelation of God and Jesus, which means that now that we now we can speak with, it doesn't take away the dentist's moment either. It doesn't mean that, that that apophatic theology still has nothing to say it just means it always needs to, we need to toggle back and forth between God is unknowable, and God who's given himself to be known, and Jesus Christ.
Thank you so much, Dr. Jensen for that reflection. So 11 theologians, and I hit another major speed bump when I got to schleiermacher. So we're talking about Iran as an Athanasius, and a Gustin, we're all we're all on the home territory there, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, john Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, we're all with you. schleiermacher hits us in chapter 10. And many of us, myself included, know very little about schleiermacher. We mostly know him for what he doesn't stand for. He critiques the miraculous very, very hard, possibly categorically denying such and so why did you include schleiermacher? What does he contribute to the catholicity of the church?
Let me let me read you the my first sentence from that chapter. On May 4 1980, I sat by the fireplace in our living room as my parents explained the message of salvation to me. Now, I'll read a few more. They told me that Jesus died for my sins and that if I received him, I would have eternal life. I prayed sincerely that Jesus would forgive my sins, and I asked him to come into my heart. And so at four years old, I was born again, we celebrated my spiritual birthday with a cupcake and a candle, I drew a rainbow, the sign of God's promise, and my mom placed the drawing in the candle with the note of the date and a small wooden frame. That's my testimony, or at least the moment of decision. And then I go on, to talk about schleiermacher, who says, quote, that each person who can thus specify the birthday of his spiritual life and relate a wonderful tale of the origin of his religion? So he talks about, basically the thing about schleiermacher is he has an exquisite sense of the importance of religious experience. I think that is a big time double edged sword. My suspicion is that one of the one of the deepest one of the most significant genetic flaws in evangelicalism is an over emphasis on religious experience. And it's a genetic flaw, because I do think it goes back to the beginning of the angelical experience. And I think it's impossible to be an EV angelical without having a certain kind of emphasis on religious experience. And it's not only a flaw. So partly what happens is, you get someone like Luther, who says, Yeah, yeah, it's not enough to believe this stuff, unless you know that it is true for you. And for Luther, this was vital. And he was exactly what Calvin does the same thing. Jonathan Edwards comes along, in a time of established religion when everyone was a Christian, but no one was living like it. And so he basically said, you need to be born again. You need to be religiously awakened. But by the time you get to schleiermacher, you get someone who is so interested in being in, in this experience of religious awakening, that they seem to have lost a, the anchoring in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Trinity that establishes and carries along that experience. So so schleiermacher very much in this book is a is a cautionary tale. But I think he's a very instructive one, because he's sort of he saw this through all the way to the end. He's the, the best worst example of a, this kind of obsession with the religious experience. And I think he's that he's a sign of where things can go. Because he ends up really early in his teen years, he is a break with his dad, and he says, You know, I can no longer believe in the deity of Christ or substitutionary atonement. And he doesn't ever seem to ever recovered from that. It was a great exercise for me, because I too, have this bias against schleiermacher. And but to do this chapter, well, I had to be really, really careful. And in fact, I built a friendship with Terence Tice, who's the the recent Translator schleiermacher, his Christian faith and a number of other things and sort of a schleiermacher in the flesh, one of the most gracious guides you've ever met. And it was so good. So with Terry, and with each chapter, I would send out a chapter to an expert on the figure to say, hey, check my work here. I don't want to be so informed by my own biases. Here, so So schleiermacher, mostly a cautionary tale, but he does it as well as you possibly can. And so I think we've got a lot to learn from him partly about where not to go. Yeah, yeah, no, I think at the end of the day about where not to go. But there's a certain admiration that has to come in saying what can you do if all you do is focus on the religious experience? Someone has.
Dr. Jensen, that's totally fascinating. And if I can ask a follow up question on that. How do we live with our genetic flaws? I'm intrigued by that language that you use. I've never heard that applied to theology, but the metaphor is clear. So this ingrained, inherent orientation it's inclination towards a direction that carried all the way through may not be what we intend. And evangelicalism is certainly bent towards conversion ism. When we use the language of conversion ism, we're using David Bebbington is language defining evangelicalism. And that's, you know, Billy Graham's hour of decision if we are going to foster a revival movement. Well, that that results in countable results, some converting some didn't. So really religious experience is, as you say, part of our genetic inheritance. But it may be a flawed perspective to when we look at the broader church. How do we live with a with a theological genetic flaw?
Yeah, that's a great question. And part of what this sort of emerged in the writing of the book. But I really like that there is this movement from Luther to Edwards to schleiermacher. To Bart, because in Lutheran, Edwards, you do get this, I think, much more balanced sense of how what happened 2000 years ago, needs to make its home in us, Calvin to Calvin, sorry, Luther and Calvin, Edward schleiermacher. Mark, Calvin has this great bit, where he turns from the work of Christ to the work of the Spirit, and he says, unless Christ unless the Spirit brings Christ within us, it's to absolutely no avail. And he's entirely right. So there's this kind of twin movement of the work of Christ in the work of the Spirit. That's, that's really vital. And Bart kind of overreacts, I think Bart underscores and, and often gets close to dismissing the subjective response in which we come to Christ and faith because he's so adamant that God has done everything for us in Christ. So it's a it's a beautiful reason to make what I take to be mistaken. enbart. So the genetic and he's again, so reacting to schleiermacher schleiermacher, was the bet noir for Martin, he, in one sense, never got over him. So, you know, I think about a friend of mine, here's a story guy went to high school with I want to say it was where his parents alcoholics anyways, he just knew that running in him was a susceptibility to alcohol. So this guy for not for religious reasons at all, has never had a sip of alcohol. You know, you go out to a party, you go to a bar, you know, everyone around him in college, in college, you know, he went to UCLA, tons of people a drink and just wasted out of their mind on Coke, you know, just to get it in, because he knows what this stuff is going to do to him. So I think there's got to be something about that for evangelicalism that that we need to know, our pension to lose the objective work of God and Christ, and our fascination with our experience. And so and so we probably just have to go on an experiential diet, and, and live fairly austerely with regard to our fascination with our experience, okay, we can't give it up. You know, I have, I've done a lot of spiritual direction, I'm doing weekly therapy myself right now. So I don't think that means we give up things like introspection or other forms of spiritual formation. But we have to constantly check our, our fascination with our experience for its own sake, or even more our estimation of our spiritual location on the basis of the vagaries of our emotional life or, or our felt experience. I think, I think that's a really big thing. We don't give up experience. You're absolutely right, Pete, people, it's, at some point, someone's got to be converted. And whether there's even a memorable moment, we do go from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. And we we ought to expect and look for signs of the spirits transforming work in our lives. But I think this kind of fascination with it, as an end of itself is is disastrous for us.
Now, Dr. Jensen, that is completely unfair for you to use the example of abstaining from alcohol to an F angelical. Audience, because you know, that's what's going to, with prohibition. And, anyway, but your point stands, that if we, if we recognize an inherent weakness in our theological position, that's something you got to walk with, carry with and learn to compensate for. So thank you
when and let me just pick up the alcohol thing too. So, my friends predisposed. So who doesn't drink evangelicals are predisposed to an overemphasis on experience. So we need to check it. There I've met tons and tons of Christians who are on constitutionally on interested in the way that the life of Christ transforms their life. They need to take a serious, you know, interest in religious experience. So I do think that's something sort of aimed at a particular group of Christians and may not be true of all of them, wouldn't be true of all them at all times. It's probably most true of my evangelical Christian college students, you know, that there's a there's something being about 18 to 20. And already being this welter of, of emotions. It could be that that 50 year old evangelicals need to be to actually stop take some stock and consider The state of the religious experience.
That is a really powerful analysis and I think very helpful. So thank you very much for that. Dr. Jensen, you you conclude the book theology and the democracy of the dead with an obligatory chapter on BART, which is really an outstanding piece. It's a it's an excellent, it's an excellent introduction to Bart. Hello, help us through if you would, many. We hear with some frequency that Bard is maybe the last major Protestant theologian of our age. And yet a lot of us struggle to to understand what his main agenda is, if you would, what are some of the unresolved questions that you have as you've been researching Bart for this chapter?
I think probably I think probably the chief one is is it a question? I mean, let me just make a provisional judgment. I could be wrong Bart wrote so much and Bart scholarship, probably like most secondary literature, but Bart scholarship in particular is contentious. It's it's scholastic, it's exhausting. It's Yeah, it can be pretty rough. I suspect my my considered but still somewhat provisional judgment is that Bart just he was too afraid of speaking of the importance of subjective of, of our subjective response to the work of God in Christ. He is that for lots of good reasons. He's afraid of the liberal Protestant obsession with experience. He thought Billy Graham was the worst, ironically attack a little bit about that in the beginning. I love Billy Graham, I think he's great. But But he was, I think, partly he was suspicious of the kind of the individual response that Graham called for though he was also very nervous of the threat of hell being used in evangelism. And uncared for good reads, I think most of Bart's mistakes were the best mistakes. He thinks that God has done all we need and Jesus and he's exactly right. And that's part of why he minimizes our subjective response. He thinks that the gospel is unmuted, unmitigated good news, which is why he, you know, if he if he never becomes a dogmatic Universalist, all of his, all of his impulses lead towards universalism. I think the reason he's not a full Universalist is because he still thinks that God is free. And he thinks committing to a universalism at this point would be, would be to presume a little too much with regard to God's freedom. But I think he just thinks God did it, you know, as someone asked him, when did when were you saying he said 2000 years ago, and he's just he just adamant about that. And that it just is really is a beautiful kind of thing. But but there are, there are these, I think, mistakes that come on the other side of that, it becomes hard to talk about the, what happens to someone. So for instance, when he talks about salvation, he too often speaks about it nomadically instead of authentically. So in other words, what happens, you know, say when someone comes to Christ today is we realized something rather than our our verse status shifting. And and that I think, is because he just convinced that the humanity was saved 2000 years ago. So there's a lot of kind of knock on effects there. But I think that's the heart of this, this this question of what the subjective response. Now he also, he wrote a ton, but he didn't write his final eschatological set of volumes in the church dogmatics, they're already bigger than my screen will allow for, but he would have had this much more. And people say that's when he would have talked about the work of the Spirit more directly. And that's when he would have brought in the role of the human response. The one other thing I want to commend there is, his ordering consistently is to say, here's what happened to Jesus. Here's what happens in the people of God, whether we're talking about Israel or the church. And here's what happens in the individual. I do think that's exactly right. And again, something what angelical is tend to do is talk about Jesus and the individual and we are far too often relegate the people of God to much later and in a periphery thing. So so far, it's I think, just really right to say it's Jesus people, God, individual. Dr. Jensen,
what advice might you have for us as we perhaps try to begin reading Bart,
where should we begin?
Somewhere, somewhere small, he repeats himself. He's got, you know, sort of a few themes that he just adores, and he will hit them from all All sorts of different ways. I first started, I was going to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and had no idea who Bart was. But he was a big guy there. So I read Hamlet golden stirs selections of the church dogmatics, which is really helpful. So going through that's, that's kind of dated, but I found it really helpful. A person could read something like his dogmatics an outline, which is, which is a, you know, 180 pages that that would be a great way in his late American lectures, evangelical theology and introduction are, are really lovely. They're a little more content light, they're more sort of the spirit of his theology. Or you could you know, if you wanted to go right into the, the big beast, his church dogmatics, you can start in the first volume of sort of the the first part of the fourth volume, his doctrine of reconciliation, which is just glorious, the first 100 150 pages, they're just, it's just a meditation on Emmanuel, God with us. He does, he's at once he's doing Christology and soteriology. He's running it through the parable of the prodigal son, as well. And it's just just really wonderful stuff.
Dr. Jensen, if you could add a couple more thinkers to your text here theology in the democracy of the dead, might you have put in?
Oh, that's great. Um, origins important, he's weird and divisive, but he's really important. So origins certainly could have been in there. I could see adding a chapter on one or all of the Kappa notions. For sure. I'd like to, you know, I've gotten gotten some understandable pushback on the lack of female authors. I'm not sure I would add one or not, but I'd like to do a little more reading and someone like Catherine of Sienna or little samarbeid, Katherine, Sarah, Katherine CNR, Teresa Abdullah, to consider them.
And those are the places I'd go.
Thank you. And Dr. Jensen, you've been teaching at the Torrey honors college now since 2006. That was your beginning year there. Christian higher education is changing a lot, not just because of the corona virus crisis. But there's multiple pieces to a really deep set change that's taking place right now. What do you see as the future of Christian higher education?
Oh, man, I think with Christian theological education. two things. One is it's global. I mean, it's it's in the West, and particularly in America, we have an embarrassment of riches and theological education. We just do, we probably have too many people getting PhDs. But we have so many places to study that do really good work. Some of them don't. But many, many of them do. There are huge areas around the world where the church is growing like crazy. But there's a significant need for deep, thoughtful theological education, that is that is tied to the life of the local church, excuse me, but is but is rooted in the history of the church rooted in the scriptures. So you know, partly my worry about schleiermacher is my worry for global evangelicalism that that will move so quickly and be so consumed with experience, you know, or will be consumed with numbers, that we won't have the kind of depth to ensure the church's life long term. So if I was, you know, if I was working with PhD students, I would say to them, Oh, my gosh, go go overseas, do work online. Now we know what to do with theological education online, teach people in the developing world. This is a way to be strategic. And it's frankly, it's the one place where sometimes I contemplate a shift is, I think, you know, is what would when I, my training, be better used in a place in the developing world. So I think globally, or in terms of theological education, globally, and also, there's probably something like the future in even in America, theological education is probably something a little more catechetical informational. I don't think we need 1000 people who are scholars in a third tier theologian from 1980. We need people who are steeped in the Scriptures, the Creed's catechisms, who know how to hand on the faith in an informed way and whose lives we've seen so many. Evan jellicle leaders in the states in recent days, just just fall off the wagon. We need people whose lives are deeply transformed. There's always going to be people who who fall. I mean, that's just we're all sinners, any of us could fall. But But I think there's been a lack of formation that's huge, larger, higher ed, where it's desperate. My suspicion is, and this is this is where, you know, I'm not a futurist, my suspicion is that
a ton of
not as well funded private schools, religious and otherwise, will close in the next five years, tons and tons, there'll be some who get a bit of a windfall from that. And so they will be actually strengthened in their in their position. But even so, the the financial bid, she's just can't be sustainable. So I know places like Biola, where I work, no one's making money at Biola. But it's breaking the bank for students who come here. And we're not unique, so that that that doesn't need to worry, our advancement people at Biola are recruitment people, it's just cost too much to get any kind of Christian education in it all, but the smallest of exceptions these days. So there's got to be some kind of way to do it. My suspicion is that less is more here. There is a really good piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed A few years ago, that talked about the the omnivorous University and the way that universities are, are trying to do everything they're trying to be, you know, places, places of experience to try and, you know, so you got sports, in the CO curricular, but but they really are trying to be almost like sort of small, niche cities that cater to every whim of students. And that's just not gonna, I think that's a big part of the reason it's just not going to fly. So my guess is we need to go small. We need to focus on the core of what what a liberal education has always been about, as well as figure out ways to train people and set them up well for vocation in life. Now, that's, that's nice that academics can say, say those nice big picture things, how that gets worked out. That's where we need entrepreneurial minds. We need really good systems thinkers. We need donors, we need administrators who are courageous enough to do something that they haven't done before. And I have I've got great respect and lots of compassion for people in my own institution, others are trying to try to sort that out.
Dr. Jensen, thank you so much for your candor. And for your help comments there. Dr. Jensen, you write, you've written a number of books on the church. And one of the things that we're tracking in this program is trying to envision what church reunion could look like? What would it mean for the church to be united reunited today? Can you help us envision that? What would church unity look like? And what might we be able to do now to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17?
Yeah, that's that's a great question. Let me let this this is just an immediately coming out of what I've been thinking about recently, I've been reading one of Matthew Bates, his recent books on allegiance. He's written a couple books recently. pretty controversial. He's is, I think part of it is a linguistic argument that the pistas Christie that the the faith or the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, or the faith in Jesus Christ in the New Testament, could could be translated as allegiance. That's a whole nother question. I'm not sure what to what to do with that. And, but but the simple retrieval of this idea of allegiance or loyalty to Jesus, the king, that seems like a great place to, to go on a local level. So I do think that I mean, there are lots of things that can be done for global reunion. But if we wait for a global reunion, it won't happen. And even if it does happen on a global level, if it doesn't trickle down to the local, it's, it's not gonna happen either. So then I would, I would say, one very simple thing we can do is we can start with looking for loyalty to King Jesus. We can look for people who are who who have their allegiance clearly in place. What's nice about that is it's it's it's cross doctrinal. It's something that is christocentric. I just don't think you can have unity in the church apart from a christocentric unity. But it also asked people to put their money where their mouth is, too. So it's not it's not. It's not first about doctrinal statements. So I think those are vital. But it's about who around me, has an allegiance to Jesus, who around me is living out of that allegiance to Jesus, and what would it look like for me to do join them? In the work they're doing? Invite them to join me in the work I'm doing? And at the very least, to speak of them as if they had an allegiance to Jesus. I kind of like that phrase do because it doesn't require but you know, I think sometimes people think Are they part of the church? Are they not part of the church to me? So, God was the Roman Catholic Church, which will do a strange thing in acknowledging the baptism of non Catholics, but refuse to say that the church actually subsists fully in non Catholic communion. I think that's pretty problematic. But But I don't think we have to decide who's officially in the church or not. I think we can start by saying, does this person does this community have allegiance to Jesus? And
if so, that's huge.
So there are lots of other big things, but
I do think it's a place to start.
It's been a delight today to be speaking with Dr. Matt Jensen, associate professor of theology at the Toria Honors College at Biola University and author of the text that we've been discussing today, theology and the democracy of the dead, a dialogue with the living tradition. Thank you so much, Dr. Jensen, for joining us today.
Thanks, gentlemen. It's just my pleasure.