Saturday, November 19, 2005

Jazz Theology 101 with visiting professor Carl Ellis (Session 3)

Ellis puts it this way, “…God is not just classical. God is jazz. Not only does he have an eternal and unchanging purpose, but he is intimately involved with the difficulties of sparrows and slaves. Within the dynamic of his eternal will, he improvises. God’s providential jazz liberates slaves and weeps over cities. Jazz can be robustly exultant or blue; God has been triumphant and also sad. Jazz portrays the diversity, freedom and eternal freshness of God. The genius of jazz theology is the theology as it is done.” “Theology as it is done.” Something in us tells us that our knowing about God is to be more than an intellectual knowing. The demons could pass any classical theology exam but do they know God? We long for the kind of knowing that goes beyond the intellect without bypassing the intellect. The kind of knowing of God and being known by God that made God take Enoch early. The kind of knowing that rivals Moses and Joshua as they spoke with God face to face. The kind enthrallment with God that kept Jesus up all night in conversation with his Father. Jazz theology helps with this kind of knowing. It was J.I. Packer who said in his class work, Knowing God, that it is possible to know a lot about God without ever knowing God. How do we avoid this? How have you avoided this?


Blogger Lukas McKnight said...

I like the sense that God is still creating- his hands are present among us and they change the world everyday.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Constantine said...


Help me out if you would please. I have an important and serious question to ask you. I’m not being facetious with my comments or presenting a rhetorical inquiry for the purpose of instigating debate, but I am genuinely curious about how jazz theology responds to a particularly thunderous doctrine of classical theology. To be sure, I have already formulated my own answer to the question I will pose here, but nevertheless I continue to seek out greater clarity through the wisdom of the Socratic Method. I hope you don’t mind. Basically, I’m trying to triangulate my personal hope and give credence to that hope by the testimony of credible witnesses.

Now to my question: as a Jazz Theologian how do you hear the classical doctrine of Hell play out in a convergent theology? Your Ellis quote in this post supports a classical theological proposition, when in speaking of God he says, "...he [has] an eternal and unchanging purpose." But then the metronome goes offbeat when he says, "Within the dynamic of his eternal will, he improvises."

So I ask respectfully, what gives? What is the unchanging purpose of God’s eternal will in jazz theology? In other words, God improvises to what ultimate end?

So, when considering the doctrine of Hell in the light of jazz theology what does the music sound like? Does it somehow converge, or must it first emerge, before it can later converge?

What is the reality of Hell in jazz theology?

12:17 AM  
Blogger Seraph said...

Helluva Question Constantine. Jazzy, sounds like you ought to write a book or something.

9:37 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Hmm...the Socratic's really only fun if your the one asking the questions!

I anxious to hear what your thinking but here's my shot at it.

There seem to be a few jazz options and it all depends on the soloist. If you listen to Miles Davis, he leaves a lot of space in between the notes that he plays. He once said that was because he was only playing the pretty ones. This is an option that we have with hell. We don’t deny it, but for good reasons or at least reasons that sound good we can not highlight it. On other occasions he kept playing the the odd, flatted notes. Another jazz approach is to embrace the blue notes…those notes that don’t quite sound right but must be in the song for the other notes to be appreciated. In either case we must embrace the tension and the ambiguity.

Jazz theology doesn't seek to resolve the questions but rather enters into the various hell metaphors and lives with them.

I have to admit that this is kind of an odd quesiton to ask a jazz theologian. I'm not sure if your asking a question or questioning. A jazz approach stays away from questioning the text but rather seeks to be question by the scriptures.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Constantine said...

Interesting answer. I'll ruminate for a spell and return maybe to your reponse.

1:45 PM  

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