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Donald Miller, Theology, and Relationship

Derrick, recently returned in a sustained manner to the blogosphere, has stirred up the waters with a post (rightly) critiquing Christian hipster and coffeehouse favorite author, Donald Miller on the issue of theology, relationship, and the knowledge of God. Miller, for his part seems to have responded, both via blog and tweet.

Derrick, of course, is right, at least in my judgment. The problem with contrasting  “theological” pursuit with “relational” encounter with God is that it fails to see how utterly theological realtionality is. There is no such thing as some sort of “bare relation” that does involve theological reflection. Indeed, on this point I’ll go out and surprise all of you by saying that Milbank is absolutely right, everything is theological, whether it is acknowledge or not.

Of course Milbank wasn’t the first to come up with that, but still.

P.S. If you want something deeper and more interesting than Donald Miller critique, though I suggest Derrick’s most recent post on deification and ontology in Maximus the Confessor.


  1. Derrick wrote:

    Thanks for rallying to my defense over there. The hipsters are angry man, Im afraid to walk around in downtown Portland, Im going to get beaten by empty coffee mugs and unread copies of Nietzsche. My favorite response so far (which Adam thankfully pointed out) was a guy who indicated what he was about to say was meant in the most non-offensive way possible, but that he hoped Id get my ass kicked to bring me down to earth. Blogging is dangerous, apparently.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    No man, its the unread, espresso-stained copies of Derrida’s Of Grammatology that you have to watch out for.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  3. Zack Allen wrote:

    Geez, did any of those naysaying commenters actually *read* the article? I found myself shouting, “Yes! Thank you!” at the close of each paragraph only to find myself completely speechless at so many of the comments.

    I agree that “to know a set of facts *about* someone” is not the same thing as actually *knowing* someone (a simple illustration could prove the point), but that this does NOT (NOT NOT NOT) mean that theology and relationship with God are mutually exclusive enterprises.

    I get a little frustrated when someone with my church community stands up to speak and begins with something like, “I’m not real big on the theology stuff or anything, but…” What? What do you mean “the theology stuff”? Don’t you realize that *everything* is theological?

    But it’s not their fault though. They are only repeating what they’ve heard others they look up to say. Nonetheless, it needs to stop and understanding needs to be brought in regards to this within churches.

    stay salty,

    PS: x-posting this over at Derrick’s.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, I kind of thought that the whole Donald Millermania thing had seen its day, but apparently not. All it takes is one post on a barely-read (no offense, Derrick, but you just got back into it) theology blog for the man himself to start tweeting it, responding to it on his own website, and the legions of his minions to descend and wish violent ass-kickings on us.

    And seriously, what’s up with Miller’s friggin tweet? : “If you have to understand this to be a Christian, children and simple thinkers are in big trouble!”

    Right, I’m sure tons of kids and simpletons are reading Blue Like Jazz, or Miller’s most recent memoir–which is literally on the experience of having Blue Like Jazz made into a movie. I mean, seriously, who is he kidding? He writes for disaffected intellectual college students that want to have their parents pay their rent while they do art. And somehow this is more “real” and “authentic” than an attempt to . . . do theology? Which is bad?

    Probably because it takes work do theology.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  5. Derrick wrote:

    No offense taken, it was completely startling to me too. Ironically I said as much when the first couple negative responses started pouring in because one guy said I should be accountable and talk to Don Miller about this before posting, to which I replied “I doubt Miller cares what a random blogger said about his one article.” Boy was that off the mark. And Miller’s tweet dig at me I found just as bizarre. I think if anything in particular stood out to me it was the rampant anti-intellectualism of all the negative responders, like you mentioned.

    I think my next post should just be a bunch of keywords strung together like “Driscoll Piper Miller Milbank Hart Hauerwas Tea Party Justin Bieber Lady Gaga” and let the hit count roll in.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    I want to read that post.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  7. A.J. Smith wrote:

    Is Donald Miller really oblivious to the fact that he is propounding a theological methodology in his post? (And not a very good one at that).

    And since when does ass-kicking become part of supposedly non-theological reflections on theology?

    These people are kinda weird….

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  8. Matt Elia wrote:

    A well-worn quote I imagine most here are familiar with, but still pertinent:

    “The one who prays is a theologian, and the theologian is the one who prays.”
    St Evagrius

    Given the usual scorched earth tone of blog discourse, I appreciate Derrick’s patient and unthinkably charitable responses to his critics, but I can only imagine an Orthodox Christian (or for the sake of provocation, really, an orthodox Christian) would – out of love for the Church – meet the comment section of Derrick’s post with unrestrained, unrepentant contempt.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  9. Derrick – I’m highlighting a few bloggers at the end of this month in a little blog-project I’ve called “Theology: Does It Matter?”

    You and I have never met, but you have already written your contribution. With your permission, I would like to excerpt and link to this post. Well done.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Permalink
  10. Derek wrote:


    This literally made my day better. I am forever in your debt.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  11. roger flyer wrote:

    I confess I read it. Sort of like reading Kerouac on Jesus.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  12. roger flyer wrote:

    Derrick has discovered something truly profound:
    “Suffer fools gladly lest you suffer the greater fool within.”
    -St. Roger

    Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  13. Jeremy wrote:

    My favorite part about the comment section was the people who accused Derrick of not having a life or friends because he was smart. Except the only way they even knew he wrote the post is because they follow Miller’s tweet religiously, and then attack Derrick personally when who wrote what I thought was a fairly generous post given the asinine content of Miller’s article. I’m so tired of pious, passive-aggressive bullshit.

    Monday, May 24, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

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