Recently, I was teaching my daughter about music. She wanted to know where I thought Michael Jackson would rank in the history of music. Then, I began to tell her the difference between artists who are major successful and artists that are brilliant. My own thought was that there are some who do the best they can, with the gifts they can and somehow become wildly famous. Then, there are some who simply have the gift to change how everyone else hears, and how other musicians play/write and perform music…those are the brilliant ones.

As a matter of perspective, I watched the HBO Film series “John Adams” this week. He was a brilliant man, haunted by his own vanity and insecurities. Perhaps the driving force behind the adoption of our Declaration of Independence. Yet, it is only recently that America has really began to fully appreciate his influence on our history. Did you know that it was his idea to call the President, “Commander in Chief” rather than just “Mr President?” (something George Washington was against by the way). This man was surrounded by brilliant men, including a close friend of Benjamin Franklin. Another one of President Adams’ close friends (other than the few years that he was ticked off at him) was Thomas Jefferson. The portrayal of Jefferson in this movie was played by the renowned actor, Stephen Dilane. Just how brilliant was Jefferson? When President John F. Kennedy welcomed forty-nine Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

In our world of theology, there have been brilliant men and women who’ve changed the way we see God. Most of them, in their time (and currently) were persecuted for their beliefs because they represented a sweeping change. Yet, the question I have today is, who are the brilliant men and women that are truly changing theology and belief? There are people of influence who many people listen to, and yet they really aren’t saying anything new about God, just re-enforcing old ideas. There are amazing teachers out there who are quietly changing the minds of younger generations, and thereby changing how these future leaders will see God. But really, who are the brilliant men and women of God thirsting for renewal, revival, reformation in how the Church exists, how it sees God and how it behaves in a 21st century world? So there, I pose you that question. Who do you believe is changing things today? Not who sells the most books (necessarily) or who is the loudest voice, or the coolest speaker/teacher you know…but really who’s a game-changer? I have some in mind (surprisingly small number), but I want to hear from you.


3 responses to “Brilliance

  1. John Thomas, the current General Minister and President of the UCC, travels the world building connections between churches of all denominations in an effort to fulfill the prayer of Christ “that they may all be one”, and working for justice. His committment to ecumenical unity and to justice for all God’s people is noteworthy among international theologians.

  2. My favourite at the minute has to be Peter Rollins. This podcast might give you an idea what he’s about:
    Sometimes I find his ideas beautiful, other times a little unsettling, but he writes and speaks with such passion. I highly recommend his book, ‘How (Not) to Speak of God’.

  3. Oh, and Frank Viola is fantastic. But don’t read his stuff if you’re overly attached to the institutional church.

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