Does TED do Theology?

I was fortunate to attend my first TED event last weekend, in Sugarland, Houston. Since then I’ve become a bit of a junkie, watching TED videos on Netflix, and feeling my creativity muscles stretching, expanding. “TED” stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It is a conference held as far and wide as Taipei, Amsterdam, New York, Sydney, London, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Berlin, Silicon Valley, and just about every other major world city. It regularly draws scientists, thinkers, tinkerers, scholars, entrepreneurs, nerds, artists, designers, and overall, people who like talking about and listening to the latest ideas.

Is this a good thing?

I am enthusiastic about how much it is a good thing, particularly for those with a theological bent; I can picture my profs from Regent thoroughly enjoying a conference of this type, because they are always talking about the intersection of faith and culture, theology and philosophy, science and Christianity, practice and theory. For example; in one of the modules titled “Matter” (I’m thinking philosophy and ontology, so ears perk up…) they had a scientist come up and talk about the latest advances in Quantum Mechanics. As I’m listening I know what he’s saying has cross-over implications for the way we’ve been doing theology for thousands of years… I tweeted the following:

It strongly echoed some sentiments published by English theoretical physicist AND theologian John Polkinghorne (which one does he moonlight?) on how the latest finds in how particles behave, or more precisely interrelate; to show that the fabric of the universe is relational, as opposed to individual, independent. The cosmos, as a reflection of the Triune God, simply cannot exist alone. It is being as communion, to hearken Zizioulas.

So does TED do theology?

Not explicitly. But for discerning Christians and theologians I believe it is not just sitting around, talking about and listening to the latest ideas. It is being unafraid. It is coming out of the cradle of faith and finding that science need not be antagonistic to religion, that we should not isolate ourselves, that faith seeking understanding, credo ut intelligam (I believe in order that I may understand), is a legitimate base to begin from.

What Happens When A Pet Dies (and other theological / philosophical reflections)

As part of my ongoing reflections from my accident, surgery, hospitalization, and recovery, I shared a few reflections on “Postcards From the Edge” and waxed philosophical in thoughts about life, death, the hereafter, the intermediate state, and the resurrection. I cited a story I read on Facebook, posted by a now-anonymous friend – for the life of me, I can’t remember who, but if it is you, please don’t be offended – about a young girl whose dog passes away. Now this is not me being cynical as I have both a young daughter and an aging dog:

*daughter not included

so I truthfully enjoyed this story… UNTIL the last part: Continue reading “What Happens When A Pet Dies (and other theological / philosophical reflections)”

Is Eastern Culture Demonic? (a commentary on Mark Driscoll’s allegation that “yoga is demonic”)

It’s been awhile since I’ve been incensed about something like this and so I wanted to weigh in on this issue from what I think might be a little different slant:


A recent article in the Seattle Times details how a few prominent evangelical Christian leaders have sketched the practice of yoga as something “demonic” – says Mark Driscoll, a prominent mega-church pastor in Seattle: “Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic… If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.” Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological adds his voice to the mix in an online essay last month: “Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding… Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God” (there are so many theologically jacked-up things about this statement BTW that it merits a separate blog post – won’t even get into Mohler’s distorted views about the human body and the logos, although I am seriously tempted to. In the least I don’t see at all how this statement incriminates yoga at all).

So, to summarize, the issue is the demonization of yoga. Continue reading “Is Eastern Culture Demonic? (a commentary on Mark Driscoll’s allegation that “yoga is demonic”)”

The Pursuit of the Proverbs 31 Woman

We’re continuing our series @ Harvest Church Houston called “Excellent Women.” It’s a study through the book of Ruth; which is probably one of the most intensely personal, familiar books for me (odd I know) but all to say it is near and dear to my heart. One of the biggest discoveries for me is that in the Hebrew Scriptures Ruth doesn’t come after Judges (like in the Christian canon) but rather Proverbs; and that to say, it follows right after the famous Proverbs 31 chapter – the “Excellent Woman / the Woman of Strength.” It’s almost a subtle way of saying, “Prov 31… BTW here is an excellent example: RUTH.”

Obviously Ruth is an excellent woman in the Prov 31 vein; how the “Woman of Excellence” is understood today is where I have a qualm or two. Continue reading “The Pursuit of the Proverbs 31 Woman”

#GODonFILM: Interpretations of The TREE of LIFE

Today’s post is from a guest blogger, friend, and fellow Regentarian, Desirée de Jesus. Desiree is a film theologian and philosopher working in Europe right now, and so I’m glad to have found similar conclusions to her about The Tree of Life (particularly how the brother is the key element to the narrative). Here’s her take on the Tree of Life:


Terrence Malick is something of an enigma.  A philosopher-cum-filmmaker, Malick guides his viewers through cinematic meditations suffused with emotionally evocative imagery and sequences that create space for the contemplation of philosophical and theological notions about the tensions of the lived experience.  From Badlands (1973) to The New World (2005), Malick’s films probe the consequences of relational rupture within a world that has lost its innocence, and his most recent film The Tree of Life, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival continues this discourse, albeit through unconventional narrative means.

The Tree of Life is an ambitious exploration of the human condition as embodied by the O’Briens, a family living in a small, idyllic town during the American golden age of the 1950’s. Much of the film presents an Edenic landscape of childhood memories of freedom and adult-imposed constraint through the eyes of Jack, the film’s central character. The dynamism and myopia of the camera’s movement and placement offers an immersive cinematic experience that recalls the often complicated transition from childhood to adolescence.  And yet, this is not a straightforward coming-of-age film.  Rather than the conventional plot-driven, character development of popular Hollywood films, The Tree of Life situates this family’s story within the grand narrative of the birth of the universe and the evolutionary development of Earth’s living organisms. Some may find the heavy symbolism and Heideggerian visual poiesis of this particular style of storytelling too unconventional for their liking, but I’d like to suggest that the formal qualities of the film can offer interpretive insights that will help make sense of the narrative and illuminate theological themes. Let’s just look at a couple of them.

While this is not always the case, most of Malick’s films feature the use of voice-over narration during their prologues.  Although they initially appear irrelevant to the story progression, I think that the first words spoken supply the film’s thematic framework and ground the visual juxtaposition of what some film theologians refer to as “echoes of transcendence.” In this prologue, after the passage from the book of Job fades to black, the slow emergence of an isolated flame-like shape is accompanied by the whispered utterance of the word “brother.” Without giving too much away, the word “brother” not only functions as the central relational focus of the film (as it is the catalyst for the subsequent narrative flashbacks), but also as an invitation for the viewer to consider his (or her) shared loss of innocence personally, interpersonally, and in relation to the Fall.  For the film’s jump cuts and lyrical tone collaborate to create an immersive ontological event that evokes the recollection of our own childhood experiences; thus reinforcing the notion that this particular loss of innocence is an endemic aspect of creaturely life on Earth since the beginning. But this is not a meditation in which God is absent.  Rather, by using a visual rhetoric of light suggestive of the presence of God, Malick’s aesthetic seeks to depict some of God’s immanence, transcendence, and mystery within the natural world. The additional layer of visual subtext represented by the presence of windows throughout the film offers another opportunity to contrast the omniscience of God and the myopic, temporally bound human perspective. In fact, when I think of the film’s “message” in this way, it helps me to make more sense of a cinematic structure that on the surface appears to be the joining of two largely different films.

Of course, there are many other themes and ideas that can be mined from The Tree of Life, but I hope that my brief analysis of the film has offered you another avenue for theological and philosophical engagement, and maybe even encouraged you to give the film a second viewing.


Desirée de Jesus is finishing her MA degree in Christianity & the Arts at Kings College London.  For her dissertation, she is placing the films of Stanley Kubrick in dialogue with the early Church Fathers and modern philosophers.  She is also interested in genre studies (westerns & sci-fi), film phenomenology, film theory, and star studies.



If you’ve seen the movie, how does this resonate with your interpretation?

Is there an interpretation?

What is this movie about, really?