A Book Review of Pub Theology by Matthew Goode
While I was an undergrad Religious Studies major at a state university, I had some of the best interfaith conversations of my life… at the bar. Our regular group consisted of an atheist, a Wiccan, a Catholic, and a Methodist (me). There were others from the department who would join us at times. This group was informal, formed quite organically, and was the setting of some of the most rewarding theological and philosophical conversations I ever had. Then something happened. I went to seminary. Although I continued having theological and philosophical conversations at the bar, they were mostly with other Christians. Now I am a pastor, and my conversations have become even more limited.
Bryan Berghoef has both invited and challenged me to return to the bar and to the transformational conversations that happen when we gather with folks who are different from us. “Pub Theology” is an insightful yet approachable blend of personal narrative, community narrative, theology, and, oh yeah… beer. Bryan’s honesty about his own journey and the risk of denominational disapproval should be an encouragement to all pastors who feel that they are hiding part of themselves in order to fit within the system. Bryan stepped out in faith, not to do something new and cool, but instead to authentically express the ways that God was calling him to be in community and conversation with others.
“Pub Theology” is not a how-to book for the next cool new fad in church outreach. “Pub Theology” is not necessarily even new or cool. Instead, “Pub Theology” is an authentic expression of the very old idea of coming together around the table in community with others. Deep conversations in pubs have existed as long as pubs have. When people are in a comfortable setting (with good beer) they feel free to let their guard down and be vulnerable with each other. That vulnerability opens up deep spaces where deep transformation can happen.
Make no mistake, Bryan has not written a whimsical proposal about how much fun it would be to talk about God over a beer. “Pub Theology” marries the experience of a community with deep theological thought. Bryan turns to minds like Jack Caputo and Peter Rollins (two of my inspirations), and presents their ideas in an approachable manner without watering them down. This book is a very pleasant read that has deep and complex flavors for the more discerning palate. Perhaps this is coincidence, or perhaps it is the author’s intention to have his book evoke the feeling of drinking a great beer.
I raise my glass to Bryan Berghoef and “Pub Theology” for inviting, challenging, and encouraging me to return the types of conversations that God is calling all of us to participate in.