A Book Worth Reading

The organizers, producers, and sponsors of the Together for the Gospel conference showered the attendees with fifteen free books. I’ve finished three of the fifteen – Culture Shift, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, and Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, and I’m one-third of the way through with a fourth – The Courage to be Protestant.

Thus far my favorite of the three and a third which I have read is Why We’re Not Emergent; a book co-authored by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. DeYoung and Kluck are two guys who fit the Emergent demographic of early 30’s, college educated at Christian universities, with a conservative Christian background and upbringing. But they are not emergent.

Don’t feel bad if you’re not sure what “emergent” is, because most of the guys who call themselves emergent are not sure what it is either. Of course, they aren’t sure how to define their movement because they generally loathe definitions. Period. This is a movement that values doubt, ambiguity, and fuzziness over certainty and clear, propositional truth. Emergents engage the Bible, church life, and Christianity from a post-modern perspective; a relativistic approach. This is why ambiguity is cherished over clarity. This is also why the movement is largely dangerous.

Emergents don’t like creeds, confessions of faith, or propositional truth statements. To them theology is fluid, and to systematize it is impossible, unhelpful, or both. Emergents generally have an unwillingness to take stands even on basic yet fundamental doctrines. DeYoung makes a perceptive and true statement in regards to this when he writes:

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 musing and misgivings. I agree there must be space for Christians to ask hard questions and explore the tensions of 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. No matter what new label you put on it, once you start selling thousands of books, speaking all over the country and world, and being looked to for spiritual and ecclesiastical direction, you’re no longer just a conversation partner. You are a leader and a teacher. And this is serious business

I believe the most serious problem with the majority of emergents is their fuzziness on the Gospel. In today’s Christian Post DeYoung commented on this very subject:

More and more emergent books are not placing the substitutionary atonement for everyone’s sins at the center of the Gospel message. So the Gospel becomes this message about a broken world and Jesus as the great example, he died on the cross as an example of suffering for what he believed in and showing how to overcome evil in our own life and evil in the world. Here’s an invitation to follow Jesus and bring about this new world and this shalom. That sounds like a great message but it’s missing the offense of the cross, it’s missing the fact that we can’t obey God’s commands, we need a savior, substitute for our sins. So I see an emergent Gospel that is more law than Gospel. It’s more imperative about what we need to do and not, first of all, indicative statements of what God has done for us.

The book is well-written and engaging, and it’s worth your time, even if you could care less about the “emergent conversation.”

If you are interested in learning more about the “emerging church” I encourage you to follow this link. If you’d like to view some funny satirical images of the emergent conversation then follow this link. I also have three newer videos posted on my VodPod that briefly broach this topic. In one video Ravi Zacharias, Al Mohler, and RC Sproul give their views on postmodernism and the emerging church. In the other two viedos Mark Dever is interviewed my Ed Stetzer.

About Travis

Christ follower. Husband of one woman. Father of three young men. Former 11B. Blessed to pastor the Bible Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, KY.
This entry was posted in Books, Christianity, Culture, Emergent, Postmodernism. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Book Worth Reading

  1. Fresh Dirt says:

    I am continually amazed at the caricature of Emergent that this book and posts such as yours draw. Over and over, Emergent types are described as not being able to define themselves, people who are fuzzy and wallowing in ambiguity, and leaders who have a lack of gospel belief.I hang with many, many Emergent leaders. In my experience, they are rarely fuzzy or ambiguous. They take many stands on many issues– theological and social. I also find it very suprising that you characterize them as not liking creeds or confessions of faith. Emergents often include creeds and confessions in their worship services on a weekly basis whereas most evangelicals and fundamentalists have a huge disdain for such inclusion of creeds and confessions. Also, I find the following quote somewhat disturbing: “It’s one thing for a high school student to be in process with his theology. It’s another thing for adutls to write… about their musing and misgivings.” Our theology should always be in process! Adulthood should bring more and more experiences and perspectives. Such experiences should lead to new questions, doubts, and ponderings. And if such questions are not made public, by what method are we to explore? The last thing I will comment on is the accusation about substitutionary atonement. Most emergents are not against substitutionary atonement. Rather, they seek to expand the conversation about atonement. Many ideas of atonement are found in scripture. Rather than a gospel missing an offensive cross, they often believe the cross is much more offensive than fundamentalists do. Evangelicals believe that only Jesus must take the road of the cross. Emergents believe that to follow Jesus to is for us to take up the cross as well. They do believe it is an example, but they think more of it than that. They believe that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer such a death and to triumphly resurrect in order for us to be able to do so as well. As I have always said on this blog, the emergent belief wants to take in the whole gospel of all of scripture rather than limiting it to the narrow cut and paste method of evangelicals and fundamentalist on their Romans Road.

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