Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Gospel and Jazz

Gelinas.jpgDo you know about Robert Gelinas and his new book Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith ? There are very few books like this one — in fact, there is none. I really liked this book, and I will return to it over and over as the image shapes my own thinking.


How are Christianity and theology and theologians like jazz?

I place this book alongside Kevin Vanhoozer’s proposal of doctrine as drama; for Gelinas, Christianity itself is jazz and he is a jazz theologian. Though many may not use his terms, he is in the company of many other jazz theologians.

This book explains Christianity, the ministry, and Christian living through image of jazz — that is, through syncopation, improvisation, and call-and-response.

Robert Gelinas is known in Denver as the teaching pastor of solid
church, Colorado Community Church. I met Robert a few years back, and I
was hoping someday to sit down with him for a long spell and get to
know his heartbeat. It’s in jazz:


Along the way we are introduced to the history of jazz and all kinds of
jazz, including major jazz musicians — John Coltrane — and “jazz
novelists” like Ralph Ellison and to a host of other African Americans
who have shaped the soul of African American Christians. And along the
way we are introduced to hermeneutics as jazz improvisation (came close
to what I call “wiki” stories) and to jazz helping us to understand
human paradox and tension. We learn what it is like to be in an
“inter”denominational (not “non”denominational) church, and jazz
explains it. To finding your voice — in the big musical picture and
doing your own solo in the midst of the community’s music.

Surely the most potent chapter in this fine, and well-written book, was
the chapter on singing the blues — and he moves from Billy Holiday to
the cross of Christ. Jazz theologians alone see the blues in the cross of Christ and the call to follow him.

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posted April 27, 2009 at 3:32 pm

I will read this book! As a great fan of Jazz music, I have long understood my faith and discipleship through the lens of improvisation. Thank you Scot for bringing this book to out attention.

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Marcus Goodyear

posted April 27, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Robert Gelinas is something else. I wish I could go to his Finding the Groove Live tomorrow night… For now, I’m stuck in Texas watching the promotional video:

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Chaplain Mike

posted April 27, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Sounds great. One thing we really need in our day is people who can use apt metaphors to stimulate our imaginations and turn our too-often “prose” Christianity into “poetry;” or, to use Gelinas’s picture, to take people who are “playing scales” and think that this is following Christ, and turn them into jazz prodigies!

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John C

posted April 28, 2009 at 2:05 am

I seem to remember that Harvey Cox developed the analogy between Pentecostalism and jazz in Fire from Heaven. There is, of course, a genetic relationship there, since Pentecostalism and jazz share roots in African-American Gospel.
Musical analogies applied to theology are illuminating I think (even for a non-musician like me) – Tom Wright uses the analogy with classical music quite a bit in his writing, and there’s Jeremy Begbie’s work too. I think the attraction of these analogies is that they do justice to theology as a creative art, albeit one that is faithful to a score or certain musical themes. The jazz/classical analogies are both rich, but also different – improvisation versus interpretation.

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posted April 28, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I bet this purple abbess would resonate with the notes in this book…. ;^)

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Luke Parrott

posted May 1, 2009 at 12:22 am

I am a member of Colorado Community Church and just finished Robert’s book, “Finding the Groove”. It was probably the most workable metaphor I have understood to bring what Paul calls the “body of Christ” to a new light. It challenged me to learn to play my “instrument”, to know the basic rhythms and beats of my faith, to understand how to play together with others, and the importance of finding my own voice.
A beautiful picture of community functioning organically with what Robert calls a “jazz-shaped faith”. It’s a short, well written, easy read. Definitely worth your time.

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posted May 1, 2009 at 10:44 am

I’ve had the privilege of reading his book already, plus I’ve gotten to meet him and actually discuss jazz theology with him before the book came out. The book is worth reading, even to those who are not necessarily jazz fans. However, being a jazz fan will probably enhance the read. I am excited to see some african americans voices starting to be heard in the missional community, that has been a concern of mine. Good lookin out Scot!

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