Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today


April 2011

weaving my theological web

part of being Post-foundational is a move away from thinking in “foundation stones” – building blocks that become unmovable or unquestionable over time – and moving to more a “web” of meaning or interpretation. The advantage of the web-mentality  is that it is flexible and you can adjust one part of it without the entire project crumbling into ruins.

I like this switch a lot.   Of course, no system or structure comes without it’s complications, glitches, and obstacles.

A web is not a liquid existence. It still needs to be anchored somewhere. It has to be connected to something.

I am fond of saying that I want to be innovative, but in a way that honors the original idea and provides continuity with the tradition. This desire means that I am not floating from thing to thing as if I was un-anchored. We are all, at some level, tied to both the original vision and to the modern manifestation. The first asks for accountability and the second one calls for integrity.

navigating between the original vision and the historic progression is demanding. It takes time, a little bit of research, and a whole lot of grace. In fact, I see why some people don’t want to do it. It would be easier to either A) be conservative and just set the foundation stones in place and then never need to move them or ask the original questions again or B) be destructive and/or pragmatic and just do what works now without consideration for the road that brought us here.

I have noticed a pattern lately in my conversations. There seem to be four ideas or movements that I use to anchor my web of meaning / interpretation to.  I ran this by a couple of friends and it has led to some really interesting conversations.

I am a post-conservative, emergent, progressive with charismatic leanings. – this allows me to be in conversation with process thought as well as post-modern thinkers. Continue reading “weaving my theological web”


WIKI-sermon help: John 3

My friend is preaching this weekend in a place where they have heard it all before. She has been given John 3 as a text and has asked for some fresh ideas / language about “beginning to participate in the kingdom of God”.

I threw out the following three ideas but thought that a wiki-approach might be really helpful – I am a big fan of the collaborative approach.

  • Look into “prolepsis” as an ancient literary device. Don’t let them tell you it was simply foreshadowing. Wolfhart Pannenberg talks about Jesus as a proleptic event.

So the church is not the kingdom. The church is NOT the kingdom come. The church  does not usher in the kingdom (post-millennial). Only God can bring the kingdom. Continue reading “WIKI-sermon help: John 3”

>After Easter

He is risen!   …  now what?

Last week I was a part of two vigorous online conversations regarding the resurrection. Then I had a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Easter Sunday in a glorious way. I thought it might be good to recap the implications of last week’s conversations and celebrations as we turn the corner toward Pentecost. 

The next question seems to be “what do we do with this?” – also known as the so what question. People want to know because there are 3 key passages in the New Testament that say Jesus’ resurrection has consequences for what we as believers can expect after our death. 

Here are the 4 layers of thought that seem to come out of the Resurrection conversation.  
Continue reading “>After Easter”

The table of the Lord: eating together

In the gospel story the Last Supper is the calm before the storm.

If we were filming it as block-buster movie, the Last Supper is where we transition from the wide-screen shots  to a narrow focus – from  fast cut action sequences of arguing with Pharisees to slower calmer exchanges with the devoted and the trusted.

There is a narrowing, a focusing, that happens at this point in the story. It gets tighter, it gets smaller, it gets quieter, it gets more focused. Everything draws in – the story takes a breath. Continue reading “The table of the Lord: eating together”

>Resurrecting space for belief

It goes without saying, Easter is a big deal. I only have to mention the significance of passages like Paul’s claim in 1 Corinthians 15:13-15 (NIV) 

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.

As I a pastor I looked forward to Easter so much, but I knew that we would have  visitors, family members, and friends who would come to our services out of relational obligation or for social interest in the event. I knew that some of these would not believe in the literalness of the resurrection of Jesus’ body. 

I always had to think through how I was going to talk about this as a way that was both faithful in proclamation for us as a community of faith, while also attempting to be invitational and sensitive to potential objections or barriers from our guests. 

I have no interest in apologizing for what we believe as a faith community. But neither do I want to dogmatically push an ancient worldview that may, to the listener, be suspicious at best and incompatible at worst.  Continue reading “>Resurrecting space for belief”

Best poem I've read this year

This is the best poem I have read this year.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I can’t post it all so click on the link to read the whole thing. It is wonderful. [link]

>the springs of Saratoga – a story (part 2)

in part 1 I began to tell the story of the springs …

When I first became inspired about the imagery of the springs, the language contributed a definite gravity to the direction of my sermons and the content of my congregation’s prayers. We began to see miraculous healings and answers to prayer that convinced us that there was something deep to this idea. 

I shared these developments with my regional pastor group and also my denominational pastors gathering. I was met at both places with a swift warning. “Make sure that your people know that the power for healing is with God and not with the water.”   This caused me to be very hesitant as I was continuously exhorted by other pastors and leaders not to “take it too far.”

 My wife would object to their line of reasoning by asking rhetorically “ If they have a headache and take an aspirin, do they think that the power is with God or the aspirin?” 
Continue reading “>the springs of Saratoga – a story (part 2)”

1 Evangelical & 1 Christology conversation

I have been working with some fun projects (beside work and school).

Here is an amazing interview with Roger Olson that Tripp Fuller did for Homebrewed Christianity (I edited it and helped intro it). He explains common misunderstandings around Arminian theology, the ethical problems of being a Calvinist, the nature and future of evangelicalism, Open theism, the Rob Bell controversy, and the impact of the homosexuality debate in American evangelicalism.

Roger Olson is an amazing Evangelical theologian who helped me greatly with his “post-conservative evangelical”  construction. Check it out here.  It is a fantastic read.

My friend Rachel Held Evans has become a go-to  even ‘must read’ blogger Continue reading “1 Evangelical & 1 Christology conversation”

>The springs of Saratoga – a story (part 1 of 2)

I have been talking about water the past two weeks: first Jesus walking on the water and then the healing pool in John 5.  I think a lot about mineral / hot springs and how they are a grace (gift) of God. I thought I might be good to pull back the curtain and share part of why they mean so much to me. 

Saratoga Springs, New York, is a unique little city that has grown up around a set of natural springs in the area. There are almost a dozen springs that are still in use. People come, sometimes from great distances, to drink, soak, and enjoy them.  Continue reading “>The springs of Saratoga – a story (part 1 of 2)”

Blog at

Up ↑