Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Convergent Community

"A unit of complementary parts that contribute to a single effect. From the French meaning 'together.' From the Latin, meaning 'at the same time.'" ( In jazz one needs an ensemble. What about theology?


Blogger Pete Gall said...

Is the study of God - theology - inherently not Jazz? Is study a classical approach? When I think of Jazz Theology, what comes to mind is more experiential, and the study part feels more sociological applied in more practical ways. Something about adding "jazz" to an approach to God invites Him to be larger than the containers of Theology. Is Jazz Theology an oxymoron, especially as it is built around convergence?

12:29 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

I don't think that it is an oxymoron but I want to make sure that I understand your question before I respond fully. Are you saying that jazz precludes formal study and all jazz is played by ear?

2:26 PM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

I think of Theology as a classic thing more than a "standards" thing - ontology and epistimology leading to doctrine more than the exploration and fan-study of the person of God.

When I add "jazz" before Theology, especially when you mention an ensamble, I think of God as being more "in the mix" - closer to people - and less "wholly other." When I think of Jazz Theology, Jesus makes better sense...where classical theology feels more like a docetistic, Jesus "seeming" to be human but really being more of an illustration of God.

So, when I move from there to chewing on a living ensamble living together built around jazz "standards," I think more in terms of shared experiences - "yeah, that sounds like the God I know too" and less in terms of replaying scripted aspects to religion and wrestling over intellectual constructs.

I don't think that precludes formal study, but it may preclude a certain amount of "pure" science (as opposed to "applied" science). It seems that God, while desiring a direct relationship with us, is pretty content with that relationship having a physical basis and real world out-working. I wonder if much of the formal theological study has chosen to attempt to work with a more static, containable God than the real One is. I wonder if Jazz Theology ends up being an exploration of the person of God, and less the exploration of the constructs of God. Less the hypothetical testing and more the "how do we get this done" of reality. Of reality rooted in living relationship - with Him and with each other. Formal, but applied. Measured against a new and more pragmatic (more Jewish?) standard...

Playing by ear can't be it, though - I think that is too low a standard, and it leaves too little room for aspiration (Kant would say you can't know what you can't know you know...but history seems full of greatness pursued through inspiration...often inspiration grasped only vaguely...heard through a dim glass...) Jazz Theology has to "make sense" enough for a person to want to improve at it, so it can't be as limited as what a person's ear is able to groove with right away.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

sorry for the spelling error...
too much coffee..

3:11 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Before I respond, I'm wondering if we have any musicians who would like to offer some thoughts...

4:17 PM  
Anonymous lightskinned negro said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:38 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...


Doesn't the concept of ensemble resolve your dilemma?

6:13 AM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

The concept of ensemble is what wipes away the "systematic" from the theology. It's exactly what makes the focus feel more incarnational, more pragmatic and relational. I think it's a good thing...but it requires a certain diminishment of classic "God in a book or a concept" approach.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

"...but it requires a certain diminishment of classic 'God in a book or a concept' approach."

I think that's a great thing personally. I think ensemble theology is absolutely critical to Christianity, but it has to be Christianity informed by Scripture.

I don't know much about Jazz, but within Jazz or any music, wouldn't there have to be some guidance for it? Whether sheet music or notations or something like that? Or maybe just the bandleader guiding things.

However, it doesn't work without the each member of the group doing his or her part.

Am I way off base here?

11:48 AM  
Blogger fatherneo said...

Not to be simplictic, but our Renovare bros and sis's have nailed the need to have the great 'streams' of Christianity merge to enrich us all. We need a fresh look at the Sacraments, the Scriptures, social justice, etc. By 'fresh' I don't mean 'progressive,' but a dynamic look at what has always been there.

7:50 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Yes, Fatherneo, Renovare has pointed to the "need" but not the "means" to merge the great streams. I agree that a dynamic approach is what is needed. That is why I think that Jazz Theology shows promise.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous light-skinned negro said...

My Cool Daddy (formerly
known as Your Cool Daddy),

I agree with you and not father neosimplistic.

Now, in the name of Jazz and all things holy, I would like to request that this comment be deleted.

Thank you,

9:31 PM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

Hey JazzTheo -
I've moved my blog away from Blogger to my own site. You can visit it here. The link is

10:15 PM  

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