Jazz Theology

Brad M. Griffin | May 4, 2011

This week as I was sitting in on Lina Thompsons course in our Urban Youth Ministry certificate program, she shared some thoughts about jazz theology from Carl F. Ellis, Jr. in Free at Last?: The Gospel in the African-American Experience. All kinds of jazz-faith-leadership comparisons have been made in recent years, but I appreciated this layer in thinking about doing theology from below, in particular when serving in inner-city settings.

In a nutshell, classical music is formal, carefully structured, and finds its beauty in accurately presenting the original intentions of the composer. On the other hand, jazz is dynamic, improvisational, and finds its beauty in the soul of the performers and in the act of performance. Jazz theology, then, is participatory theology. It is concerned with the transformation of the soul and the impact of the communication (performance) of the messageespecially upon the lives of the oppressed.

In jazz theology, what God is doing now in the midst of the neighborhood matters tremendously alongside all we learn from classical theology. Its not that we should put classical approaches aside, but as we pay attention to what God is doing on the margins, we have the opportunity to read the Bible alongside people for whom its words open up new layers of meaning.

Thats worth listening to.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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