Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Joe's Bookshelf #2

It's been a while since my last entry of this sort and it is high time for another one, since I've got a backlog of probably a dozen books to post about. Anyway Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) is one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time. The authors, Ted Kluck and Kevin DeYoung, provide a helpful critique of the dangers and problems of the Emergent/emerging church movement. The movement is hard to classify and engage with because, when pressed, so many of its adherents want to argue with you about terms (emerging or Emergent? "movement" or "conversation" and so, irritatingly on...) or absolve themselves of any connection to anybody that is part of the movement when it suits them apologetically ("Well, I like Brian McLaren, but I don't agree with him about everything."). What makes the book so appealing is that it engages with those in the "emerging conversation" on their own terms and is written, in many ways, like a book by Donald Miller or Brian McLaren, but minus the theological fluffiness and unwillingness to make the hard choices that must be made to remain authentically Christian.

Kluck's chapters are usually written in the sort of highly conversational "story" type way that should be right up the average "emerging" Christian's alley, while DeYoung (Kluck's pastor) writes with a more studied, theological emphasis. Both contribute to a meaty critique of the major issues raised by the emergence of the emerging church. Among their criticisms are:
  • Many in the emerging "conversation" seem to feel that dialogue is an end, not a means, thus they are content to engage in it for its own sake. In this way, they are like the Athenians on the Areopagus, "who spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas" or those the NT describes elsewhere as "ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth."
  • Often the emergent cultivate ambiguity on issues about which God has spoken clearly, such as homosexuality and the authority of the Scriptures over a believer's life. Truth has become "truth" for far too many emergents. Truth can be more than propositional, but it is never less than propositional. Indeed, it cannot be.
  • The emerging desire to draw a distinction between Jesus and Christianity, or even between Jesus and the apostle or between Jesus and the OT. It's a failure to realize that without the OT, there is no Jesus worth mentioning. Without the apostles, nothing is known about Jesus or his teaching. Without Jesus, there is no Christianity. While the emergents may not like every aspect of who Jesus really was or about the "movement" he founded, that's more a problem with them than with Jesus. There simply is no Jesus worth mentioning sans doctrinal formulations, propositional truth, rationality, and Truth. After all, Jesus got crucified for stating in propositional, hard categories some truths the Jewish religious leaders disliked. Jesus didn't start conversations for the sake of conversations, but to help people find Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, apart from belief in Whom there is no salvation.
  • The emergents' tendency to focus on the way something is said rather than the truth of what is said. That is, when you talk to emerging Christians, often they will say "Well, so and so is just so nasty in how he says things" as if 1) that constitutes a refutation of what was said; and 2) harsh criticism doesn't count.
This is a great book, and at risk of sounding like I'm gushing over it, I really do think every Christian between age 16 and 40 should buy a copy and read it multiple times as it will help your brain deflect a lot of the mushy headed substitute for thinking that seems to be in the air within Christendom these days.


tie.crawler said...

Hey Joe! I've heard that's a really good book, and it's on my shelf to read. But before I get to it, I'm trying to read the representative stuff from the emerging/Emergent movement itself. I don't want to fall into the trap of only reading stuff about the movement written by people outside the movement. Emerging/Emergent guys have a lot of good stuff to say, but there's even more stuff that's not cool.

Anyway, now I can't wait to read the book!

Horn herd mom said...

You forgot to mention that we actually know one of the authors. Ted Kluck grew up in my hometown and we went to church together.

The Bullhorn said...


I agree with you. It's important to have primary knowledge of some of these authors. That said, and at the risk of being crass, I've been around enough pastures to be able to recognize manure when I see it. I don't have to personally examine each pasture patty's consistency, diameter, content, etc. before I am able to confidently announce that yes, this is a cow flop. False teaching is similarly easy to recognize without personal examination in every case.

Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen said...

Hey Joe!
I also LOVED the book! I am recommended it to everyone to read. I have currently given it to Alex L. to read because he was interested about the topic and movement.

I also agree with you concerning not having to examine every "manure" pie as you put it. Anyone who denies the fundamentals of the faith need no more study than that to know at the very least they are abandoning the faith.

I recently went to a conference called "Together 4 the Gospel" (T4G) with a lot of good preachers and speakers and this topic was covered. The way Ligon Duncan defined it was "Liberalism in a new suit."

They aren't new, they are just bring out what had already been brought out 100-60 years ago for a new generation and philosophical bent(Post-modernism opposed to the prior liberals that catered to modernity).

I had the joy of having Kevin DeYoung speak in chapel at Moody, as well as, talking with him at the T4G conference. He is a really neat guy!

Bill Allison said...


Just got it... and before I could read it... 17 year old snatched it up... ; )

Will give it read when I get it back!

DEEPLY appreciate you.