Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why we're not emergent: A review

I had an odd pre-relatio nship with this book. I was going to buy it, then i wasn't then. Then i was...then i definately wasn't. Then i did. It caught me blindsided, i think it weas the suprise of finding something worth reading in my local 'Christian' bookshop, hidden among Shame Lynch and Don Piper. It's co-authored by two guys, one a Pastor, one a sports writer, from East lancing, Michigan, near what i guess you could call the emergent heartland of Grand Rapids. So these guys are well placed to know what they're talking about. It was also cool to read a book by two different people, as i'll expand on later.

Why i liked it.

The biggest reason i liked it is because it's really clear and communicative about the Emergent issues, without being too philosophical. I'll be honest, even though Carson's book on the Emergent church has been near the top of my 'to read' list for a while, i'll probably never actually get onto it. The beauty of this book is that it's written at a popular level, for people, like me, who feel they should know more about the Emergent church, but don't. So good for them1

I also liked the fact it was co-authored. The two men writing have very different but complimentary styles. DeYoung, the pastor, has longer, more involved chapters about the ecclesialogical dangers of Emergent, whereas Kluck writes about meetings he's been to, books his read (or at least pictures he's looked at!), and how hard he found the whole thing. Also he occasionally quotes from wikipedia. I liked this very much.

It's clear this book is opposed, and worried about the Emergent church, but it's tone is never less than loving, and it's concerns clearly voiced. It never becomes a polemic. A danger we all need to be wary of when trying to critique a movement. And it's very good looking...well done Moody press, who'd have thought that red, orange and green would work so well!

What i liked less.

Not much really. I found some of DeYoung chapters hard to read, although thats probably more to do with him than me. And there was always another Kluck chapter with an obscure film quote or american football analogy around the corner. What impressed me most is how they've both clearly engaged with a great deal of Emergent material.

So what?

I'm really pleased i read this book. It's a gentle but serious introduction to the Emergent church, and the positives and pitfalls therein. I think it really reinforced in my mind the great tragedy of the Emergent Church movement. So many of the questions they ask are no good, even necessary to think about in twenty first century Christian life. Concerns about megachurches, marketing over preaching, dry ice and light shows over exposition, and loveless but orthodox evangelical churches are well founded. These are problems that must be addressed. The problem is that too many Emergent types seem to go the other way. They won't stand firm on Biblical truth, they don't trust the Bible, they won't talk about hell, they hardly mention sin. A relationship without boundaries is meaningless. I think Jesus is very much about who's in and who's out. Very much indeed. Yes, we must love what God loves: justice, social action, a concern for the oppressed and the marginalised, the environment, but ought we not to hate what God hates as well?

I think the biggest thing i learnt from this book is that the Emergent movement isn't all that 'new'. Much of it is just classic liberalism dressed up a bit, some of it is just modernism plus. It's almost definitely not as breathlessly exciting as many people seem to think it is. In twenty years in could just be a footnote in history, but one that the Evangelical church has learnt much from...i sort of hope so.

Oh, and read the epilogue as well...it's aces!

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