Our featured speaker at the Paideia conference was Mike Wittmer, a professor of theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and author of two books that reveal his social-theological perspective as well as the fact that he grew up listening to questionable 80’s bands. (The books are titled Heaven is a Place on Earth and Don’t Stop Believing, I would have called them He’s a Real NoWhere Man and What is and What Should Never Be, respectively, but no one’s ever published me, so what do I know? )
I was impressed at how well he knew church history and how competently he was able to discuss theology alongside philosophy. His knowledge is very up to date and relevant, which made him an excellent speaker for such a conference.
His main topic at lunch was the emergent church. Even though they sound really neat, the emergent church is full of theological issues that put them at odds with actual Christianity. In a respectful manner, Mike Wittmer pointed out these problems and discussed his experience in confronting actual leaders of the movement. It’s good to have a sound theologian out there combating the problems that the emergent church is creating for the rest of us.
In the evening, he discussed the topic of how we can really know anything at all. Can we know there is a God? Are we just hoping to be right in the end when we place our faith in Him? What do we say when non-believers say our faith is silly? God proves Himself to us, but we can’t exactly prove Him to others; it’s tough to be an intellectual in this type of conversation and our speaker discussed this delicate issue very proficiently. If people like Matt have anything to do with it, the damaging postmodern trends that are showing up in our churches will not have lasting negative effects.
(Notice I didn’t say all post-modern trends, not all of them are bad, but the bad ones are often the result of abusive post-modernism, but enough of that for now.) Here’s Mike’s blog where you can buy his books and interact with him through his posts.
Mike Whittmer gave us two fantastic lectures and took questions from everyone on many subjects. Not many scholars are so competent at being inter-disciplinary.
The talented Jake Rogers led us in singing some wonderful old hymns; earlier that day he had read a paper about mental states in hypothetical realities. I’m not kidding.
Mike Whittmer delightfully holds up the coveted Pew Society mug awarded to scholars who headline this conference making him the envy of every author, pastor, and philosopher. (Citation needed)
Stay tuned for one more blog entry about the papers that were read over the weekend!
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)