Sunday, July 06, 2008

Why We're Not Emergent

Props to two young guys for writing a helpful corrective to the extremes coming from the emerging-church movement. I have read most of the guys that DeYoung and Kluck interact with in their book (from McClaren to Bell to Padgitt to Miller to McManus to Jones), and their critique is fair and compassionate. They are careful to not be hateful, but to be direct and firm, in their response to the major writers and themes from their works. DeYoung is young pastor of a Reformed Church in Michigan, and Kluck is a sports writer who is a member of his congregation. They write a very engaging, well-written book, with DeYoung writing the theological critiques of the movement and Kluck writing insightful observations from his time with emergent people and places. They alternate chapters throughout the book, which makes for a great change of pace during the reading and provides for two completely different views of the emerging church, though from the same perspective. Tag-line from the book:
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 would argue that it would better if you weren't.
Besides the great biblical corrective that DeYoung gives to the emergent leaders, he also is well versed in church history. I really appreciated his long view of the church and his call to emergent leaders to not repeat the mistakes of Christian "reformers" throughout the history of the church. Here's the money quote:
I wish emergent leaders could see that what they critique is much older than they think and what they affirm is rarely as new as they imagine.
Beyond this, I most valued DeYoung's pastoral view of the implications of the changes that emergent leaders are making in their theology-proper. When we begin to discard the historical view of God passed down to us from the Scriptures and church history, we should expect drastic changes in the life of the church. Once again, DeYoung hits the nail right on the head: theology matters. If our view of God becomes so fluid that anything that anyone says has the same weight in explaining God's character and nature, we have lost the distinctiveness of our Christian faith and will soon lose the distinctiveness for our Christian living.

In their final chapter, the authors challenge church leaders to read and wrestle with all seven letters to the churches in Revelation. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book, calling churches with dead orthodoxy to life and calling churches with tolerance for everything to love what Jesus loves and hate what Jesus hates. I would close with their pressing words from David Wells:
God rests too inconsequentially upon the church...His Christ, if he is seen at all, is impoverished, thin, pale, and scarcely capable of inspiring awe, and his riches are entirely searchable...It is God that the church needs most - God in His grace and truth, God in his awesome and holy presence.

1 comment:

GLMeece said...

I added this book to my Amazon wish list a number of months ago, but haven't gotten it yet. I believe I heard one of them on Greg Koukl's program.

My main take on the whole Emerging Church thing is - I like many of the questions, but am disappointed with the non-answers. I think the pull-quote you used is about as telling as it gets. I do get the impression that a lot of people in Emerging circles (and even more so with Emergent™) think they are the first ones to deal with many of these issues about how to do church, etc.