Friday, June 29, 2012

Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)

This was a book that made its way onto my to buy/to read list ever since Middo reviewed it here. If you've ever been curious about the emerging church movement, this is a great book. Of course, the movement dislikes being 'labelled' or 'defined', but the two authors, Kevin DeYoung (a pastor) and Ted Kluck (a journalist), note a number of characteristics about the movement that both encourage and concern them.

Here's some of the blurb:

You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism, and not be an emergent Christian.  In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren't.

The emergent church is asking good questions and dialoguing about good things: community, caring for the poor, loving Jesus.  Co-authors Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck care about these same issues.  They should be all over this movement.

But they're not.  And here's why - they do life founded upon orthodox beliefs about God, propositional truths about Jesus, and the authority of Scripture.  Many do not.

Some of the areas which concern the two authors are:
  • The prominence of emerging church leaders (or talkers/dialoguers as they see themselves) in the world of Christian literature and blogging.  They seem to write about their confusion, how we can't REALLY know anything about the Bible.  I agree that we need to approach the Bible humbly and with questions, but it is NOT a book that is completely vague and unclear.  God has revealed Himself and we can understand Him.  DeYoung writes in the introduction:
    It's one thing for a high school student to be in process with his theology.  It's another thing for adults to write books and speak around the world about their musings and misgivings.  I agree there must be space for Christians to ask hard questions and explore the tensions in our faith, but I seriously question that this space should be hugely public where hundreds of thousands of men and women are eagerly awaiting the next book or blog or podcast arising from your faith journey....You're no longer just a conversation partner.  You're a leader and teacher.  And this is serious business (James 3:1). (page 17).  Ultimately the authors are concerned about a movement that seems to involve a lot of talking and asking questions, but not a lot of serious pursuit of answers to those questions (maybe it's not cool to have answers).
  • The infatuation with the 'spiritual journey', but not so much with the destination.
  • The dislike of authority, leadership and doctrine in the church.
  • The reluctance to teach about hell.
  • The focus on Jesus as bringing peace, but not wrath. 
    The emergent church emphasises a way of life and following Jesus' example, no doubt because they feel those twin aspects of the kingdom have been buried beneath altar calls and saving souls.  Fair enough, as long as they don't overreact and make the kingdom little more than a plan for world peace. (page 184)
One thing that's very important to keep in mind is that the book is American, and is discussing the emerging church in the American context.  I don't know how relevant it is to Australia, although I have met Christians who, out of frustration with their local church, seem intent on not just changing the style of church, but throwing the gospel out with it.  This is what the authors are reacting to.  They don't have issues with changing the style of the church service.  In fact, they are enthusiastic about different ways of reaching out to people and for the church to be called back to its main mission.  But they do want churches to remain focused on the cross.

I really enjoyed this book.  The authors take turns in writing chapters and the book has a lively, chatty feel.  At times it feels more like a blog than a book because it's like they're thinking aloud.  They're blunt, but engaging.


bettyl said...

That sounds like a book I might enjoy reading.
As for all those 'questions' we all have along our faith journey, I just wish that everyone would remember that God said, 'ASK!!' He has given me more answers than I bargained for but the bottom line is that HE answers!

Middo said...

Glad you enjoyed my recommendation!

Sarah said...

What are you doing visitng blogs during your honeymoon? hehe