Saturday, December 06, 2008

open source theology

the theology we need is like an OPEN SOURCE OS

open source OS (like linux or ubuntu) is a user-interface created by geeky guys in their bedrooms that will do everything you want on your computer for free. it will run every program (including making programs - for free - that typically cost upwards of $1000) and any problem you ever have can be solved by receiving free advice from other open source users.(they help because they are sooooo excited that yet one more person has discovered the wonder of an open OS.)

open source OS will do anything you need it to. it will run anything you need it to. it's harder to understand...waaay harder to use...but the rewards are infinite.

unpacking the metaphor: we need to be less concerned about making everything "fit" into one system of thinking and more concerned with being open enough to embrace the movement of god...even (or perhaps especially) when it's confusing, mysterious, or unexpected.

we need to read ALL of the bible in its original context in mind of its original audience...not just pieces of the bible that say things we like, or bits of the bible that seem (at first) like they were meant just for us and our friends.

we need to read the bible with our traditions, allowing scripture to edit those traditions when we discover that some of our favorite things actually have no basis in scripture.

above all? we need to realize that the WHOLE POINT of any OS (read "theology") is so that we can use the programs (read "gifts"and "fruits" of the spirit) we need to constantly be evaluating ourselves (and our OS/theology) on the basis of whether or not we're loving people better, serving god more wholly, and being more useful in god's mission to save the world.

and dangers? are there any big dangers to this open source theology? YES...absolutely. the biggest danger comes from anyone who latches onto an idea that is neither biblically substantive nor open to testing by other leaders and thinkers (i.e. their idea is complete crap but they refuse to acknowledge they become a cult leader). without systemic accountability anyone can run with any idea regardless of how kooky it is...the only way to avoid this danger is to open ourselves to dialogue, attend to our critics, and lean on the creeds as pillars of our orthodox confidence.

but - even with this very dark danger in mind - the rewards for faithfully following jesus are worth the risk of turning into a weirdo.

it's better for us to uphold the values of studying the scripture and opening ourselves to a more robust and deep-feeling experience of god through prayer and the guidance of the spirit...than simply memorizing a bunch of retread theology done by the swiss and the germans five centuries ago (or the italians and the french one millenia ago).

contemporary examples of the good OS: rob bell, tom wright, peter rollins, michael frost & alan hirsch, len sweet

historical examples of the bad OS: david koresch, jim jones


  1. Nathan Randall4:48 PM

    Wow. So true. And there are so many more parallels within easy grasp, some good, most bad. :(

    -Open Source OSes are insular. The great support network that it has is also wretched for newcomers. They are glad you've discovered it, true, but asking a question is more likely to get you castigated as a noob. They expect you to RTFM, even though there is no manual, before asking a question, and absolutely love to look down on you (and let you know they do) for not knowing as much after a week as they do after years and years.

    -They ignore all self-flaws. You are expected to think that all open source apps are better than closed/commercial apps, always, even when it is obviously not true. This is especially true when making comparisons to commercial (or even closed-source free) software. Once the community has chosen the design, suggesting a change to it is akin to heresy.

    -They fix 'bugs' fast. When something does not work as intended, or does but has unintended consequences, they quickly pool resources to solve the problem. Some bugs are found, recoded, tested, approved, and fully patched within a day.

    -They tend to navel-gaze. They make an awesome project, really. But sometimes I'd like to hear about what awesome things the project DOES, not how awesome it is. There is often (though certainly not always) a sense of making tools because they can, not because they are needed. (By comparison, Windows tends to make tools because they need to come up with an excuse for you to pay to get something you already have an older version of...)

    -They do lots of work on 'sexy' projects. This is good in someways, because lots of cool stuff gets made. But there is a perpetual problem that some underlying, un-sexy projects are often un-started, and rarely brought to version 1.0. Everyone wants to work on the cool thing, even though the boring thing is where 90% of the need is. (This has improved in the last 5-8 years, as larger tech companies have dedicated some paid people to working on those tools so that they would get done, but it is still a problem.)

    -There is a lot of infighting. No project without a very strong leader ever gets done. (The open secret is that it's really a hierarchical structure!) But a strong, unpleasant leader (most of them?) will cause a fraction of the team to split off, fork the code, and duplicate effort to make something that is a lot like, but slightly different from, the original project. Then they fight more about which is better than about if anyone even needs a tool like that in the first place.

    Then again, maybe we're not like that at all. ;)

  2. Anonymous5:17 PM

    Have you seen