"...we are God's co-laborers." 1 Cor 3:9

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Exile Means

This past summer there was a flurry of discussion (see here, here, and here, and over here) about the threat of a coming cultural exile facing the conservative Western church. I was busy at the time with travel and the happy occasion of welcoming with my wife a new baby daughter into our home, so I didn't get a chance to comment on that discussion until now. Hopefully the distance will provide some perspective.

There is a sense in which the church has always been in exile (1 Pet 1:1), awaiting the full restoration that Christ began in his incarnation but will not fulfill until he returns again. Throughout church history, her experience as an exilic community has waxed and waned, so that it is not entirely inappropriate to speak of exile when the church faces particular moments of defeat or persecution.

For this reason, I can sympathize with Christians who predict a coming cultural exile for the church in the West, one that is marked by prevailing cultural irrelevance. But we ought to consider what that means from a biblical perspective. In the Scriptures, exile is always a direct result of the rebellion of God's people, and its stated goal is, among other things, to cleanse God's people of their home-grown injustice and rebellion. This is clear throughout the prophetic corpus of Scripture, but can be clearly seen in the parable Isaiah tells in Isa 5:1-7. For Isaiah, the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem is triggered by their own "wild grapes"--the oppression and exploitation of the poor and the weak in their midst.

The restoration from exile comes on the condition of repentance (Lev 26:40-42; Deut 30:1-10; Jer 29:13). In this way, the city of God will be transformed through exile into the city it was always meant to be, a city of righteousness and faithfulness (Isa 1:26). The people's injustice is the trigger of the exile, and their repentance is the goal of the exile (this is true in the New Testament too, see 2 Pet 3:9).

A cursory read of the biblical prophets shows the priority placed on the people of God for whom exile is a future, present, or past reality, depending on the historical setting of the prophet. Yes, there are multiple oracles against nations, but they are relatively few in comparison to the extensive amount of time and energy directed by the prophets towards God's own people. The prophet Amos was perhaps the most provocative as he rebuked Israel for longing for the "Day of the Lord." The Day of the Lord would be the day when God would set all things to rights, correcting injustice in the world and restoring the faithful. Amos argued that Israel  should not be surprised to find themselves subject to judgment, not blessing, when that day comes:

       Woe to you who long
                for the day of the Lord!
       Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
                That day will be darkness, not light.
                                                        Amos 5:18

Instead of obsessing over the failures of their neighbors, the prophet implores, Israel ought to turn inward. The proper response is not to decry the Assyrians or the Babylonians but to reflect humbly on their own grievous failure and repent.

As the prophet Jeremiah discovered, that is the kind of teaching that gets you thrown in a cistern.

Of course, biblical history shows that both the apostates and the righteous remnant go into exile. For the former group, exile represents condemnation, but for the latter it represents discipline that leads to restoration. We may exhibit a dangerous presumption if we do not inquire as to which group we belong, remembering that the righteous are marked by their repentance.

To be sure, the biblical exile provides vivid imagery. While I am not saying that exile is inappropriate for the current situation of the church in the West, we should be aware of what such imagery implies. If we invoke the notion of exile today, we should be ready to accept that we are indicted by implication.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Star Wars in Three Frames

A compilation of Star Wars-themed dalliances that have shown up on the interwebs.

Star Wars in real-life scenes (one of these is a bit risqué, so fair warning and apologies).

Star Wars in Thomas Kinkade.

And Star Wars without the suspension of disbelief (#twilightoftheidols).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Biblical Inerrancy and the Greener Pastures Fallacy

I have a post over at the Christward Collective that deals with a few issues involved in the somewhat intramural discussion going on about the doctrine of inerrancy in evangelical biblical scholarship. The discussion is worth having, but we need keep a little intellectual and historical perspective.
 I wholeheartedly support the idea that each new generation should confirm the doctrine of Scripture and its authority in the Christian life. Yes, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Augustine, Calvin, Hodge, Bavinck, and Warfield, but at the same time our young pastors and scholars need to be personally impressed with the central role of Scripture as God's unique revelation in this world and that impression needs to be based on both tradition and rigorous personal study. So it is important for us to engage with the challenges to scriptural authority that arise and to revisit and renew our own views of how these challenges relate to the Christian life. It is not enough just to lay hold of tradition, but rather we ought to desire a living faith that is rooted in and blossoms from tradition but is applied in the present life.
Read the rest here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Emotional Apologetics

Today I was reading a year-old review of a two-year-old book that is still relevant and should have more impact than it has had (the book, I mean, though the review is helpful as well).

Francis Spufford's authorial intentions in his book Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense will come across as decidedly modest to many Christians of the evangelical ilk.  In the preface, he sets out his less-than-Everestian goal,
What I want to assert...is the [Christian] religion's imaginative legitimacy, its rightful (and for that matter inevitable) but nonexclusive place in the domain of what we all dream, hope, conjecture." (xii)
I have long felt that the imagination is the aspect of human life and experience least engaged by the modern church. Apologetics, which should include any defense of the faith, has traditionally been limited to merely empirical or logical argumentation, but the area of human imagination has been woefully neglected by many modern apologists. This might explain the recent shift toward more liturgical traditions and the mystery, history, and formality those liturgies smuggle into our corporate worship. It may also explain the reoccurring popularity of authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as proponents and pioneers of Christian imagination, authors who have yet to be surpassed in typical Christian estimation.

Into the void, Spufford sets out to create space in which he can describe the attraction of the inner Christian experience, and he does it well. I applaud him, mostly for his solid performance in this book, but also for the fact that his project contradicts the modern habit of depicting Christianity and Christians in the worst light possible, one that often does not really fit reality. Perhaps the church is full of sex-obsessed prudes who lack one iota ("yod" to you Semitists) of tact and compassion, but if so, then just about every Christian community I have ever experienced around the world is an outlier.

What is more unfortunate is that well-intentioned Christians often perform a sort of collective "repentance" for crimes depicted as uniquely Christian, when most believing communities I have experienced show no such criminal tendency.

In Unapologetic, Spufford does not provide us with the definitive work on the imaginative legitimacy of Christianity, but he does open a door that I hope many more will enter.

Back to the review I was reading today. Wesley Hill in CT, writing last October. A good teaser:
A few weeks ago I was sitting with a friend, watching a trendy new sitcom that featured a Christian character. Five minutes into the episode, my friend said, "She fits all the stereotypes, huh?" The character was uptight, more concerned about what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms than about the plight of refugees in the Horn of Africa. When we turned off the TV, I said, "Shows like that make me wonder if the writers know any actual Christians."
Not that Christians are never holier-than-thou or hung up on sex. But things aren't so simple for most of us. Along with smug feelings of moral superiority, we also experience shame. We're trying to live up to our ideals for sexual behavior, but many of us are also fretting over how best to support aid efforts in Haiti—or our neighborhoods. While we're worrying about justice, we're also asking ourselves how to have hope despite heartache. The question is, how do we invite outsiders to walk a mile in our shoes? How do we describe what belief feels like from the inside? 
That's the question driving Francis Spufford's book Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense (HarperOne). Rejecting the need for yet another defense of Christian ideas, Spufford tries instead to paint a picture of what it's like to be a believer. He describes how emotions that are "deeply ordinary and deeply recognizable to anybody who has ever made their way across the common ground of human experience" are precisely the emotions that make up the Christian life.
Read the review here, pick up the book here.

P.S. This book is not an exhaustive "apologetic" nor is it necessarily conservative in its theological outlook. Spufford is no theologian.  As with any book, I suggest you read it with a well-disposed spirit and a critical eye.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Being in the city for the first time is a singular experience. It just happens that the book I am reading, Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, includes a section on the Huangpu waterfront famously know by the Indian loan "The Bund." Mitchell ruminates on the city's electric glory, decadence, and history. In the voice of his character, the novelist Crispin Hershey, he describes the scene:
The Shanghai Bund is several things: a waterfront sweep of ornate Toytown set pieces along the way; a symbol of Western colonial arrogance; a symbol of the ascension of the modern Chinese state; four lanes of slow-moving, or no-moving, traffic; and a raised promenade along the Huangpu River where flows a Walt Whitman throng of tourists, families, couples, vendors, pickpockets, friendless novelists, muttering drug dealers and pimps...

Shanghai, last night, 2014

The sun disintegrates into evening and the skyscrapers over the river begin to fluoresce: there's a titanic bottle opener; an outsize 1920's interstellar rocket; a supra-Ozymandian obelisk, plus a supporting cast of mere forty-, fifty-, and sixty-floor buildings, clustering skywards like a doomed game of Tetris. In Mao's time Pudong was a salt marsh, Nick Greek was telling me, but now you look for levitating jet-cars. When I was a boy the U.S.A. was synonymous with modernity; now it's here. So I carry on walking, imagining the past: junks with lanterns swinging in the ebb and flow; the ghostly crisscross of masts and rigging, the groan of hulls laid down in Glasgow, Hamburg, and Marseille; hard, knotted stevedores unloading opium, loading tea; dotted lines of Japanese bombers, bombing the city to rubble; bullets, millions of bullets, bullets from Chicago, bullets from Fukuoka, bullets from Stalingrad, ratatat-tat-tat-tat. If cities have auras, like Zoë always insisted people do...then Shanghai's aura is the color of money and power. Its emails can shut down factories in Detroit, denude Australia of its iron ore, strip Zimbabwe of its rhino horn, pump the Dow Jones full of either steroids or financial sewage...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Wandering Gospel

I have a post up at the "Leadership Journal" of Christianity Today about an experience one recent morning before a class overseas. The post originated in a few lines in my journal that evening, but I am glad it developed into something that could find a home at LJ.
I am standing on a terrace looking across a valley at a small madrasah just about to begin its school day. The children line up begrudgingly, boys pushing one another as boys seem to do everywhere around the world. The girls too act like girls do everywhere, talking in huddled circles, glancing outward, and then talking again.
The dishes from breakfast clink in the kitchen behind me. The remnants of the local breakfast staples—cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, hard-boiled eggs, and bread—are scraped into a trashcan or kept for later depending on their condition.

Read the rest here.

UPDATE: to get to a copy of the article behind the pay-wall, try this.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jerome in Life, Text, and Art

Since it is International Translation Day today, the Paris Review joins in the global festivities with an engaging consideration by Damion Searls of the great father of translation, St. Jerome himself. 

Jerome's skills and opinions in the field of biblical translation have long been known, but he was also a polemicist (he described the heretic Pelagius as “a very stupid dolt weighed down with Scottish porridge.") and figure head of a growing cult of personality that blossomed during the Renaissance.

He was born in 331 or 347 in the town of Stridon, possibly in what’s now northwest Croatia; its only mention in history is Jerome’s comment that he was born “in the town of Stridon, now destroyed by the Goths.” He was also by far the crabbiest of the Church Fathers, as befits a man who earned sainthood by scholarship and rigorous asceticism, not working with people. As important a theological polemicist as he was a translator, he fired off letter after letter, volume after volume, from his library in Palestine, written in elegant classical Latin studded with choice insults. To someone who questioned his translations, he countered: “What men like you call fidelity in transcription, the learnèd term pestilent minuteness”; a heretic, Pelagius, was “a very stupid dolt weighed down with Scottish porridge.”

Yet strangely, Jerome is also one of the most admired saints, even most loved. Maybe it’s not so strange, given the overlap between antisocial scholars and reputation-makers. Three early fourteenth-century forgeries purporting to be by Jerome’s disciples and colleagues, describing his last hours, death, and numerous miracles, were runaway hits in the original Latin and, appropriately, in Tuscan, Sicilian, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Catalan, Danish, and English translation. (Some four hundred manuscripts and thirty-six printed editions are known before 1501.) By the early Renaissance, Jerome was the object of widespread popular devotion, speeches every September 30 giving thanks for miracles, and the adoration of his brother and sister scholars.

In art, St. Jerome became the most popular theme in Renaissance Christian painting after the Annunciation. He was usually shown with a book or two, his red cardinal’s hat, and a lion, because when a lion limped into his monastery courtyard and the other monks fled, Jerome welcomed the beast and called back his brothers to wash and treat its injured paw. They took out the thorns and tamed the lion. (This is an old story, one of Aesop’s fables and probably mis-assigned to Jerome—in Latin: Hieronymus—from the life of the similar-sounding St. Gerasimus.)

Italian artists invented another, even more popular motif around 1400: Jerome penitent in the wilderness, beating his ascetic breast with a stone. This allowed Christian painters to glorify the male near-nude, as they often did with St. Sebastian; and the wilderness setting, along with Jerome’s passing mention of “having nothing but scorpions and wild animals for company” in the desert, let painters indulge in naturalistic portrayals of animals: not just lion, but badger, cheetah, otter, squirrel, goldfinch, heron (three kinds), partridge, snake, snail … One zoologist/art historian has identified sixty-five kinds of animal in Renaissance paintings of Jerome, not counting the imaginary dragon, harpy, and unicorn, and the humdrum, “plot point” animals: camel, donkey, sheep.
Read the rest here, including a bit about Jerome's insistence on a high Mariology.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Conflict of Interest and the New Journalism

File this under notable miscellany.

With the continuing decline of the traditional, conventional media, and the rise of public relations, think tanks, and the decentralizing new media, notions like conflict of interest in journalism are terribly complicated and possibly quaint. Here is a story in the Washington Post by Erik Wemple on Harvard's Safra Center and how it is dealing with the perception problem related to conflict of interest (spoiler alert: create new entities that partner "alongside" the entity being distanced from).

On May 1 of last year, the Safra Center became something more than just a freestanding center of contemplation. Lawrence Lessig, the Safra Center’s director, launched an organization named Mayday Citizens’ SuperPac. According to one account, the idea behind Mayday was to get behind “candidates who want to reform campaign finance.” A laudable goal, perhaps, but also one that puts Lessig, who is also a Harvard University law professor and an influential thinker on technology, in the national political maw.
Even though Mayday is a creature of Lessig’s and not tied to the Safra Center, the political agenda of the center’s director created a perception problem for Williams and other Safra fellows. It’s here that Ron Suskind enters the picture. Author of several books, including the Obama White House-upending “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” Suskind started as the senior fellow at the Safra Center in the fall of 2012.
As Suskind tells it, this year he began having discussions with Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow about focusing academic resources to the study of what the author calls the “public narrative.” Having written volumes on the U.S. financial meltdown (“Confidence Men”), the war against terrorism (“One Percent Doctrine”) and education/opportunity (“Hope in the Unseen), Suskind had become fascinated with how “narratives” are forged. “The people at Harvard recognized that I was essentially shaping through the reportage public narratives,” says Suskind.
Voila! Suskind is now supervising the Safra Center fellows under the aegis of something called the Project on Public Narrative. In due course, this organization will grow into something bigger under the slightly different title, The Center for Public Narrative, which will be affiliated with Harvard Law School (as is the Safra Center). Though the title is a bit highfalutin for the plain language-adoring Erik Wemple Blog, the implications for people like Williams relate to ethical insulation: Under Suskind’s “narrative” tutelage, Williams no longer reports up to the super PAC-piloting Lessig; the Project on Public Narrative, says Suskind, is structurally “alongside” the Safra Center, meaning that Lessig doesn’t make hire/fire decisions or spending decisions.
The idea is to avoid the perceptions that flow from Lessig’s work with Safra and with Mayday. “For the first day or two when and after the story runs,” says Suskind, referring to the projects of his fellows, “it’s important for Brooke [a fellow and journalist] and others that they have a solid and airtight structure when and if the institutions [criticized in their stories] start to play the games they play.”
Other than showing how perception can play a role in shaping organizational structure, this story (as well as general public perception) operates under the assumption that the associations of the person who writes/contributes to a story influences the outcome of the story. This is especially interesting since we are talking about an industry that has historically espoused a "just the fact, mam" approach to history-writing. In some spheres, authors still have authority.

Secondly and tangentially, I just like the idea of a Project on Public Narrative. Public narratives are important, and we do well to make ourselves aware of the narratives that communities are working with, particularly when the community is our own. I hope this project will provide more than mere "ethical insulation" as Wemple puts it.

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Family Worship Part Two: Timing and Manner

I have a second posting on the topic of family worship over at the Christward Collective (a great site by the way). The first post focused on the theological groundwork for family worship, but this one offers some practical advice about how to keep everyone involved, interested, and edified.

My wife and I have found that experimentation is the key to finding the right rhythm and approach for our family time. In this post, I talk about some of the practices that have come out of that experimentation, including play-acting, memorization, story-telling, and so on. When your gathering includes five girls, aged ten years to seven weeks, variation and a certain tolerance of controlled chaos become a necessary skill-set.

Read it here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Peter Berger's Many Altars

The accomplished sociologist of religion Peter Berger has a new book entitled The Many Altars of Modernity, and a related blog post, in which he argues that secularization does not offer the best description of current trends in global religious observance and affiliation. According to Berger, secularization is primarily a creature of the West and has achieved varying levels of purchase even there (think Sweden vs. Texas).  Rather, he argues, the more viable theory is pluralization, the reality that faith cannot be taken for granted but is merely one conscious choice among many.
There is an underlying assumption here, shared by religious conservatives and their progressive antagonists (they just differ on what to do about it), and indeed (still) widespread both in academic and popular assessments of the contemporary world: that modernity means a decline of religion and its concomitant morality. Without dissecting this concept any further, this is what is meant by the concept of secularization; for our purposes here we can mean by secularism the idea that secularization is not just a fact, but one to be applauded and promoted. But is it a basic fact of our age? It is certainly a fact; but is it the fact by which our age is to be defined? I think it is not. It is not equally dispersed globally–strongly so in Europe, not at all in Nepal, somewhere in between in Texas. However, what is much more universally dispersed is a fact mentioned by John Paul II in his address to the Latin American bishops: that “faith is no longer taken for granted”. Rather, faith must be based on an individual decision.
The Pope of course hoped that people would choose the Catholic Church, others chose Pentecostalism, or a relaxed agnosticism, or even a militant atheism. And this is why I think that it is not secularization but pluralism that is the clue to understanding the situation of religion in the contemporary world. What I, in collaboration with some colleagues, have been trying to develop is a theory of pluralism, to take the place of the secularization theory which used to be dominant when I started out as a sociologist of religion and which is now hard to maintain in the face of global religious turbulence.
Here are some key propositions of such a theory: eventually to provide a paradigm for religion in a pluralist age. (Of course I cannot develop the full argument here. If the idea tickles you, read my book. Some of it, I promise, is fun.)
Pluralism affects the faith of individuals, the character of religious institutions, and the way in which the state relates to religion. Therefore, the theory must span the psychological, institutional and political dimensions of the pluralist phenomenon. The individual lives with a diversity of worldviews and values, between which he must choose. Faith is no longer a matter of fate, but of decisions that may be reversed. It follows that religious certainty is hard to come by. Faith is typically tinged with doubt.
So far so good (though he goes on to offer an unnecessary criticism of the Reformed doctrine of sola fide). This revision does seem to corroborate with a general sense of the state of affairs we see emerging around the globe. Why the decline in numbers for Christians in the West? Because Christianity is no longer the unmarked religious affiliation in the West. It no longer pays to be a nominal Christian.

I am interested that Berger, however, still promotes a kind of secularization, but here the secular is merely the middle space in which adherents of different faith systems can meet and interact without violence or hostilities. This is a considerably depleted specimen, one that is marked by a thin pragmaticism.
Even a state that defines itself in strictly religious terms must leave space for the secular discourse if it wants to participate in the modern world. Saudi Arabia, while it makes sure that Islam governs every sector of society, cannot allow its pilots to fly airplanes according to sharia or its hospitals to consult fatwas while surgery is being performed. Religious freedom and some degree of separation between the state and religious institutions may be deemed to be morally desirable, but may also be functional for political stability—not a minor fringe benefit.
The movement from secularization theory to pluralization theory is not altogether new, but Berger clarifies the new arrangement rather well. I would add to his conclusion that religious systems that have a sophisticated and broad teaching on how to engage peaceably with those outside the religious community will fare particularly well in the pluralistic society.

Lastly and obviously, sociology can tell us where we are, but it can only make best guesses as to where we are going. Sociological conclusions are true until they are not (think the previous theory of secularization). History is too full of remarkable and unanticipated turns of event for us not to enter into this discourse with a strong dose of humility.

By the way, during my reading of the post, an ad for www.mormon.org popped up.

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The mysterious parcel

Just received this slightly distressed parcel from Germany. What could its mysterious contents be? 

How about a few copies of "Constituent Postponement in Biblical Hebrew Verse."

Easy, people, there should enough for everybody.

UPDATE: The print version of the book can be purchased here, while a digital copy can be purchased here in a few weeks.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Open Letter to the Disenchanted

A great post by a perceptive mom and recovering teenager (who isn't?) at Tales from Shangri-La. It's really an open letter to thoughtful high school students in suburbia. If only I had such vision in my wandering years.

It opens,
Dear Friend,

You are caught up in a hundred little deaths of your soul these days. You are forced to sit through classes which are beneath you.

You know more about these books, these histories; you understand better than your peers. You are better read than some of your teachers. This is really true, at least in an academic sense.
In other classes you are made to study material you know you will never use. Odds are good you won't need that quadratic formula in graduate school or in cooking your dinner. 
And this is an indignity. You, O Suburban Minion, must abide the endless chores of polite conversation, acrid lunchroom shufflings, leading questions, obvious observations, and endless chores.

You have better taste.

The open letter moves from here to a new vision of adolescent life.  Its worth the time so read the rest here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Summer of Our Discontent

I have a post entitled "What This Summer Taught Us about Humanity" over at On Faith that reflects on three public tragedies of the month of August and how they remind us of three truths about the human experience.

Though few of those who mourned Robin Williams actually knew him personally, many experienced a sort of intimacy borne in part out the of American celebrity culture but also out of his own gifted ability to relate onscreen. We knew him in a way, and we felt a true sense of loss. Even for those like me who could not watch the video of James Foley’s torment, the reality of the video made him known to us in a personal way; we were confronted with his last moments of life, an intimate knowledge to be sure. We have similarly come to know something of Michael Brown’s life and death through the many witnesses retelling the events of that night in Ferguson, Mo., and the many remembrances in the aftermath.

Disparate circumstances and motivations for each death, a similar profound sense of loss. How do we explain it?
Human death is always tragic; it represents a painful loss of life, relationship, and potential. The tragedy is compounded exponentially when the death is unnecessary or avoidable. That deep sense of loss or tragedy is felt as a sickening in our collective gut, an unanswerable grief that nevertheless begs for an answer. 
Despite the disparate circumstances and motivations for the events of August, we experience a similar and profound sense of loss for each one. How can we explain it? 
The holy scriptures attribute this profound sense of loss to a unique and inherent feature of a humanity that is created in the image of God. The creation story of Genesis teaches that humans have dignity because they bear and reflect the infinite glory of the Creator from whom all glory and dignity flow. The Christian gospel compounds the unique dignity of humanity when it teaches that God personally identified with the human race by first becoming a human and then dying a human death in order to reconcile humanity to him. 
As a result, death speaks to a truth that is broader than the individual event. There is a deep wrongness to it, a meaningful wrongness that surpasses the merely naturalistic explanations of solidarity within the species. We are touched with a timeless, expansive glory that makes death seem somehow slanderous, somehow deeply inappropriate.
 You can read the entire post here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Twitter and "intimacy gradients"

As someone who was an extremely late adopter of Twitter (I curiously stumbled in as many were discussing their escape plans), I am still getting a sense of the place. Alan Jacobs describes the platform well in this post on "intimacy gradients," though, of course, I have to take him at his word on the good ole days of Twitter, never having experienced them.
The key concept is intimacy gradients. In a well-known passage from A Pattern Language the authors write, 
The street cafe provides a unique setting, special to cities: a place where people can sit lazily, legitimately, be on view, and watch the world go by... Encourage local cafes to spring up in each neighborhood. Make them intimate places, with several rooms, open to a busy path, where people can sit with coffee or a drink and watch the world go by. Build the front of the cafe so that a set of tables stretch out of the cafe, right into the street. 
That's the passage as quoted in the book's Wikipedia page. But if you actually look at that section of the book, you'll see that the authors place a great deal of emphasis on the need for the ideal street café to create intimacy as well as public openness. Few people want always to "be on view"; some people almost never do. Therefore, 
In addition to the terrace which is open to the street, the cafe contains several other spaces: with games, fire, soft chairs, newspapers.... This allows a variety of people to start using it, according to slightly different social styles. 
And "When these conditions are present" — all of these conditions, the full appropriate range of intimacy gradients — "and the cafe takes hold, it offers something unique to the lives of the people who use it: it offers a setting for discussions of great spirit — talks, two-bit lectures, half-public, half-private learning, exchange of thought."
Twitter actually has a pretty highly developed set of intimacy gradients: public and private accounts, replies that will be seen automatically only by the person you’re replying to and people who are connected to both of you, direct messages, and so on. Where it fails is in the provision of “intimate places”: smaller rooms where friends can talk without being interrupted. It gives you the absolute privacy of one-to-one conversations (DMs) and it gives you all that comes with “being on view” at a table that extends “right into the street,” where anyone who happens to go by can listen in or make comments; but, for public accounts anyway, not much in between. 

Read the rest here