Philosophy in Church – When the Cardigan Meets the Hymnal – Blogging Through Our Sermon Series

I’ve fallen behind on blogging through our sermon journey but be assured – it’s not because they’ve been lacking in substance. What’s somewhat true of me is the more I like something, the more time it takes me to post about it. It’s part of the procrastinator-perfectionist nature thing that I self-diagnosed myself with back in college. (Never saw myself as a perfectionist and I don’t think it adequately describes me.  I barely care about speling and gramar and punctuation?  I’ll let you know when I find a set of terms that suffices ;)

In all truth, the message that began the year was very excellent. It was entitled, “Words of Wisdom” and focused on Ecclesiastes 3. My goal for these posts are not to summarize the message but more to offer a my personal reflection having received the message so after a few weeks of a thought or two rattling around here we go. But as always, you can listen to the message here.

I love Ecclesiastes 3 because it contains extremes and so much tension. It’s all about life and death, love and hate and so much in between. Bryan talking about the nature of time and how we interacted with it. He sprinkled lyrics of a few songs dedicated to various generations. The Boomer’s had “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds, The X’ers had Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Time” (such a good song) and the Millennials had song by Molly Cyrus (Lol – Go Hannah Montana!).

As the sermon went on, I remembered this line from a Mars Hill Audio Journal selection I heard a few years back (MHA is like a NPR style “audio journal” hosted by the very sharp, Ken Myers. Prior to seminary, this was one of the fixes that filled my nerdy appetite. One of my resolutions is to listen again, so far so good). I don’t remember who Ken was interviewing but someone said, “We need our pastors to be more like philosophers and theologians and our philosophers and theologians need to be more like our pastors.” As one who celebrates balance and paradox, this made a lot of sense to me.

Not only do our pastors need to think more like philosophers – I think all believers do. Especially because the definition of philosophy means “lover of wisdom”. Growing in wisdom is something we should all keep pursuing. This was among the reasons that I liked this message – it had a philosophical bent to it and it was delivered to the congregation.

What encouraged me was that so many others expressed their appreciation for the message. Just the other day, someone referenced it again to me. It’s odd because I find that many people tend to push things like philosophy away. “It’s boring, stuffy and I don’t like the old white guy’s cardigan” are among the reasons I’ve heard.

If it weren’t for Christianity, I may have majored in philosophy … and been unemployed – kidding, sort of. I find philosophy to be fun, interesting, a secondary but necessary discipline to compliment all facets of life. I just couldn’t imagine doing it as a vocation, I just don’t have the capacity for it (and I don’t wear cardigans, even though they are back in style). But I digress – I really think that we need to be more philosophical.

“The unexamined life is not worth living” said the original cardigan-wearer Socrates. I’d like to think that I’ve taken lines like that seriously. There is a tremendous need to examine life, chase down the doubts, question the answers, question the questions, study, discuss, pray, reflect and dig out the “splinters of the mind.” Since that message, I think I feel a little more vindicated for spending time on things like blogging (and thanks to those who have given so much encouragement over the years. You’ve been just as helpful to me).

So if I can offer a word or two of encouragement, continue to examine the aspects of life that need to be examined. You don’t have to wear a cardigan to be a philosopher of your life, we just ought to spend more time thinking about how we are living and what’s going on around us.


  1. Philosophy is “secondary”? Every decision is theological/philosophical, actually doing philosophy is simply just the examination process. If you’re not doing philosophy, someone else is doing it for you and you just don’t know it. e.g. just watching tv, every commercial is selling a philosophy of consumerism, without critically being aware of the philosophy going on all around us, we’re puppets. People who want to take your money (or your soul?) are happy to have people forget this. Anyway, just giving you a bit of a hard time, Tim, great post! I love the quote about philosophers being more like pastors… what good is knowledge/wisdom if it isn’t applied “pastorally”? It’s like caring about nothing but making money with no intention of ever using it!

  2. Now, start leading reading groups in your Church with John Caputo, Richard Kearney, Merold Westphal, and Slavoj Zizek ; ) … with advanced groups for Derrida, Levinas, and Foucault.

  3. Yeah I still don’t think I got that line right. Maybe I could have used a metaphor like steering wheel versus engine. My definition of philosophy probably shifts a little there too. It references a conversation that I had with a good friend – he won’t common here (I know you won’t) but he’ll send me an long-winded email that will force me to yield out of boredom ;)

    Glad you got it though.

    Reading groups with that list – haha – well who knows. (I do like Caputo though). Reading through Pete’s Insurrection right now – enjoying it more than I realized I would – I’ll try to explain that later.

    We are starting a Reading Circle (much cooler than the “groups” ;) after our evening service on the Don Miller book Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I really hope to see different things blossom out of that.

  4. If you like Caputo, you really should check out Kearney!

  5. The little that i know, I like Kearney. Both him and Caputo presented together at an emergent gathering (at Eastern U) back a few years ago. I really appreciate their presentations, was grateful that they were eventually available as mp3s – was able to catch what I missed the first time around.
    We were encouraged to read Kearney’s After God (which I sorta read ;)
    But I really connected with much of Caputo’s stuff (On Religion, Deconstructing in a Nutshell, WWJDeconstruct and parts of Prayers & Tears).

    One of these days, I’ll bug you for a Process reading list.

  6. That panel discussion is what originally made me fall in love with philosophy and sparked my exodus from fidesitic evangelical faith. The single most important podcasts I have in my possession! haha

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