I heard that the great modern "emergence" theologian, Phyllis Tickle, was making her farewell public appearance and I thought, "can't miss this." She was billed to do a talk and book signing at Fuller Theological Seminary, so I ventured from the haven of Process at CST to the heart of conservative evangelical theology. Little did I know that I would be happening upon an Azusa Street Holy Ghost Emergence Revival with bad-ass preaching, high theology, and even a hipster after party for Holy Rollers with home brewed hops. The only thing missing was the altar call. Phyllis began by identifying the exciting time we are living in as an "upheaval" that happens every five hundred years or so in Western history (if you're keeping track, we are three years away from the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation...I smell a book being written somewhere). It's time for the Church to drop back and take account of where it's at, where it's going, and how it may need to change in order to get there. "What we are doing today will establish the church for the next 500 years." Wow! No pressure. Most of the talk for the evening was centered around her latest book, The Age of the Spirit." This age suggests a resurgence of interest in the Holy Spirit. In modern context, Tickle raises the example of Azusa street which gave birth to the Pentecostal movement, presently one of the fastest spreading denominations in the world. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a product of this movement, but I also like to think that I out grew its theology some time ago. However, I have not out grown its fervor, zeal, and enthusiasm for spiritual expressiveness. The Age of the Spirit suggests the next radical upheaval characterized by the "movement" of the Holy Spirit (as in that third, sometimes confusing part, of the Trinity) and its role in shaping theology, ecclesiology, and spiritual practice. It's "God asking the world to come out and dance."
Moderator for the evening's discussion was Claremont Graduate School's own Podcast theologian, Tripp Fuller and Fuller Seminary's own poster boy for the New Hip Christianity, Tony Jones (see Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis). It was Tripp who raised the question of hermeneutical authority and where it lies in this Age of the Spirit. In Homebrewed Christianity fashion (see his podcast website), Tripp pointed out, "There can be some crazy ass shit that is put on the holy spirit." I'm glad he asked that question because, to tell the truth, I was beginning to squirm in my seat with all the Holy Ghost talk going on. I mean, I know what it's like to be knee deep in the Spirit, and I have seen some crazy ass shit go down in its name. Phyllis suggests that authority is up in the air for now, just as it was 500 years ago during the reformation. Characteristics of this age may suggest a decentralized church focused on individual spirituality within communal settings. Hierarchy and patriarchy will be dismantled and the anthropomorphization of God will be transcended. Hmm, cool.
The evening continued across the street on the third floor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ Pasadena where they have developed an "emergent" style gathering space called Aspire (look it up, Sunday's at 1pm). Ten bucks at the door got you your own craft beer glass and access to several kegs of home brew, one of which was crafted in Phyllis' honor; The 500 Year Rummage Ale. A much different type of Spirit flowing and definitely not your grandma's church. This was a Christian Hipster's paradise, with comfy couches replacing hardwood pews, throw rugs, candles (lots of candles), beards, cuffed bluejeans, and energetic, alcohol-infused conversation! The room was abuzz, literally! Over the din came the sound of new church music, Marley's One Love, Lou Reed's Take a Walk on the Wild Side. Nice. Perhaps this is what the Age of the Holy Spirit looks and feels like. So, in the iconic words of Marley, "What about the One Heart? Let's get together and feel alright, give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right."