Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Why We're Not Emergent

Although I now hear less and less about the Emergent or Emerging church, I thought this book was still great. Kevin DeYoung (his blog) and Ted Kluck alternate each chapter bringing their own style to them. Kevin's ones are more heavy on the doctrine and footnotes, and he backs up his theological points with many Bible verses, especially quotes from what Jesus said as to the Emergent person, being like or in a relationship with Jesus is quite important (which I don't disagree). Ted's chapters are more about his experiences reading and writing this book, more of like reading a personal blog. Ted's chapters would really resonate with the postmodern, experiential type people. Both guys write well and are quit funny/harsh at times, picking up some ironies of the Emerging church.

The authors know that tying to define what the Emerging/Emergent church is like nailing down jelly, and so they mostly take aim at specific things certain authors have written. They do point out that some authors and speakers seem to move in the same circles of conferences and they endorse each others books, so there does seem to some overlap of endorsement of some views with some speakers/authors. They thought calling the book: Why We Don’t Agree with Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Rob Bell, and Doug Pagitt, Who May or May Not Agree with Each Other and Who May or May Not Speak for You as an Emergent Christian might not have sold so well. They sate that one of their aims in this book is hopefully that some people will come back at them and state clearer what they do believe. I am unsure if anyone did directly responded to this book, but that would have been helpful for further clarification, to see if these guys did overstate their cases.

They point out that the Emergent church embraces indecisiveness and mystery and hold that the Christian world should be more about a relationship with Jesus and less about doctrinal propositions. But in order to have a relationship with Jesus you still need to know something about Him (which is a proposition) and when death or tragedy strike, you want your minister to be certain on some key issues and not to embrace the unknown.

Emerging churches seem to be pushing against modernity and their confidence in their own reason (which is a good thing), but this book points out that doctrinal rigour is not something that came out of our modern world. Way before the Enlightenment there were councils, creeds and confessions to help support what the church can know about God. Also, within the Emergent books the authors make claims on how the Bible should be really be interpreted (sometimes questioning the status quo) and at that point it should be pointed out that they are making propositional claims, which according to some is one of the devils of modernity.

In one chapter Kluck talks about a funeral service of a small country church he attended while writing this book. He describes how people were born, married and died in the same church, and in their life they didn't travel too far. Everyone knows each other and how they have tacky pot luck meals and prompt people to make decisions for Christ. Some of these things fly in the face of some Emerging thoughts on how to create an authentic community. In actual fact the community that Kluck experiences is more authentic and diverse than some Emergent communities who are mostly aimed at young, white, postmoderns who possible are (or think they should be) angry at the mainstream church.

In the end I got the impression that some (not all) aspects of the Emerging church is really a new liberal/seeker sensitive movement for this generation. It is a reaction to the evangelical/fundamental churches of the old generation, but there is a danger that in running away from the church on the right, in that they may have run too far to the left and created their own sub-culture open to its own criticism. DeYoung ends helpfully with reference to the seven churches in Revelation. The Ephesians church knew it's doctrine but it was unloving and cold, their fault was they did not love what God loved (possibly some Evangelical/Fundamental churches we know today). The Pergamum and Thyatira churches were embracing and tolerant, engaging with culture (possibly some Emergent/Emerging churches we know today). While they loved what God loved, their failed to hate what God hates. The Church needs to heed both warnings.

Overall this was a well thought out book. Those who are already committed to calling themselves emerging or emergent will probably push back the hardest and cry unfair, how they are again a victim to modern thought or that they were misrepresented, but if that happens the book will still have achieved it's goal to help church members and leaders to better define what it is they do believe, and to see if that is actually what the Bible says.

You can read the introduction and the first two chapters on the books website.

Another book by Kevin DeYoung I have reviewed:
Just Do Something

Other slightly emerging books I have reviewed:
More Ready Than You Realize by Brian McLaren
Jesus wants to save Christians by Rob Bell

I have also read, but not reviewed:
Adventures in Missing the Point by Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren (this was alright)
Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives by Mark Driscoll, John Burk, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, Karen Ward (this was quite a good book to see where and how people differ)


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