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Book Summary: Why We’re Not Emergent

October 30, 2009

516r8iyughl1Emerging out of the contemporary paradox of cultural relevancy and reformed theology, Pastor Kevin DeYoung and friend, sportswriter Ted Kluck respond to the growing segment of postmodern Christianity known as the emergent church.  From the outset DeYoung and Kluck submit that one can be young,  passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, and reared in evangelicalism and not be an emergent Christian. In fact through out the pages of Why We’re Not Emergent, the authors argue that it would be advantageous for readers to join their abstinence.  Through the pastoral erudite perspective of DeYoung and the profound cultural wit of Kluck, these writers layout the theological implications of subscribing to the movement known as the emergent church.  In negating the viability of said movement, they propel an orthodoxy closely associated with reformed tradition.



Introduction 1

Still Submergent after All These Years (Kevin)

Primarily seeking to articulate and categorize the “church” under investigation, Kevin DeYoung introduces the book.  The amorphous nature of the conversation–procured intentionally–is nevertheless defined (but not limited to) by an affinity toward U2, Guinness evenings, Mac laptops, Henri Nowen, Jim Wallis, Bryan McLaren, Rob Bell, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, candles, couches, finger painting, indie rock, ancient-future, egalitarianism, narrative theology, and play-doh, along with an aversion toward D.A. Carson, George W. Bush, The Left Behind Series, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, CEO salaries, consumerism, linear thoughts, propositional truth, and hierarchies.  DeYoung uses such articles as not only a definition for the elusive group, but a test case as it were for readers to survey their own lives and decided if they too belong within the parameters of the emergent movement.

Introduction 2

Maybe–the New Yes (Ted)

Chiming in, forming the book’s secondary introduction, Ted Kluck admits that Why We’re Not Emergent is an attempt to join the conversation of the emergent discussion.  Through sarcastic banter and smart caricatures the author balances a sharp critique and an acknowledgement of brotherhood before sweeping simple brush strokes of his personal theology.  By highlighting the necessity of truth, a virtuous God of consequence, a Savior in the man Jesus Christ, and a Holy Word that is prescriptive and vibrant, Kluck insists peace can be found in a world of maybe.  A world that he claims the emergent church is comfortable to accept.

Chapter 1

Journey: Are the Pilgrims Still Making Progress? (Kevin)

The Christian life is about the journey not the destination. Reacting to such a postulation, DeYoung offers two initial critiques of the emergent movement.  The first problem with the emergent journey is that it undermines the knowability of God.  Rooted in the understanding that God’s knowledge of himself is archetypal, perfect, and infinite and conversely human cognition of God is ectypal, dim, and finite the emergent response is a loose grip on theology.  However personal knowledge is impossible without abstract, rational understanding, the author suggests.  The mysterious immensities of God should not lead to jettisoning responsibility for our beliefs, but rather remind us of our finitude. Additionally, the journey confuses uncertainty and humility as congruent ideas.  The author is quick to remedy the false dichotomy by refusing to concede that one must know something omnisciently in order to know something truly.

Chapter 2

Rebel Without a Cause: What is Worth Submitting to? (Ted)

Fighting with the growing practice of repainting and reframing the faith, Kluck responds to the proclivity of the emergent movement to avoid concreteness.  From his perspective the author sees an exchange of definitive doctrine and corporate fidelity for hipness, relevancy, and passivity.  He calls on the example of a Jim Stark (James Dean) to support his thesis, that believers need something in which to believe.

Chapter 3

Bible: Why I Love the Person and Propositions of Jesus (Kevin)

Propositional truth is a battleground of the post-modern mindset.  The necessity of specific biblical propositional truth is defended over and against an idea of the Word that is above propositions, beyond inerrancy, and behind the text.  Arguing that emergent thinkers are neglecting the truth claims of Scripture, DeYoung highlights three specific propositions from Jesus: faith in Christ (Jn 8:24), life in Christ (15:7), and joy in Christ (17:3).  Each propositional truth is based on a particular articulation of reality; found in the authoritative, trustworthy Word of God.

Chapter 4

Thank You for Smoking: On Dialogue, Futurism, and Hell (Ted)

Tolerance is the enigmatic ally of the emergent discussion.  However, Kluck sees this friendly view of tolerance as a dangerous exaggeration that blurs the lines of faithful and faithless.  Using D.A. Carson as a guide, the author highlights the epidemic that views the idea of tolerance as simply a refusal to say someone is wrong.  Tolerance, in the emergent mindset, is that place where everyone is right to be authentic.  Kluck submits that the authenticity of the bible negates such a reality; for instance, although it is divisive, hell exists and awaits those not found in Christ.

Chapter 5

Doctrine: The Drama Is in the Dogma (Kevin)

Just give me Jesus: a commonly used phrase in the emergent experience.  The seeming beauty of this stand alone phrase is quickly marred by the subversive negation of the need for additional doctrinal pursuits.  Such an overstated simplicity is defended in this chapter with a call back to embracing the wonder and elegance of doctrine.  While pulling readers away from this evasive ethereal ideology, the writer, invites them to a discernible knowledge of God that is rooted in biblical doctrines of proposition.  As a result DeYoung makes a sweeping summary of the void between historic evangelicalism and the emerging movement.  He places historic evangelicalism under the banner of faith in Jesus Christ and the emergent church under a lifestyle that walks in Jesus’ way.

Chapter 6

A Funeral for a Friend: On Churches, Story, and Propositional Language (Ted)

Pulling back for a moment from the sensitive lanscape of “the conversation” Kluck visits his old church.  There they celebrate a man’s life who has made an impact on a little town.  His impact has been possible without an authentic platform of relevance.  Joe’s life was influential because authenticity was something he was, not something he put on in the morning.  Joe loved Jesus, he loved truth, and he loved the Holy Scriptures.

Chapter 7

Modernism: The Boogeyman Cometh (Kevin)

Modernism is the evil antagonist of the today’s Christianity.  The emergent idea has been to move away from pervasive modern concepts in the church that are inhibiting the success of Christianity in the present climate.  Consequently the church must make difficult shifts of modern ministry toward postmodern ministry.  DeYoung argues however that we must refuse dichotomies that unnecessarily force wedges between rationality and faith, truth and experience.  Semantics often drive “the need” of which the emergent post-modernists speak to shift ministries that are more conducive to the times.

Chapter 8

Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Dialoguing for the Sake of Dialogue (Ted)

Some emergent thinkers speak about trying to figure things out or processing certain thoughts.  Kluck doesn’t get it.  The discussion for the sake of the discussion seems to be a prevalent practice in the movement.  Even in areas of seemingly clear cut doctrine, many claim to be in dialogue and avoid the responsibility of taking a stand, claim to choose love over dogmatism.  However, this author retorts that often love is clearest when it is delivered through hard truth.

Chapter 9

Jesus: Bringer of Peace, Bearer of Wrath (Kevin)

The Kingdom becomes a central point of discussion as some would suggest that to join the kingdom one must simply move in practice as apposed to move in status. Emergent thinkers offer a reading of kingdom that invites people to a new way that follows his teachings and follows his messianic way of living.  This is not enough says DeYoung; the kingdom Jesus initiated is concerned not only with this change in practice but also with an acceptance of the victory that Jesus had over sin and death.  This view of King Jesus and his kingdom has lead the emergent cohort into a political square with ambitions to spark “kingdom” initiatives of social justice and clean energy.  Concerned with a new imbalance, swinging away from the Jesus that died for sinners, appeasing the wrath of God toward a Jesus of friendly platforms and smart ideas, DeYoung remains hesitant toward emergent thinkers that would celebrate such a shift.  Celebrate the uniqueness of what Jesus has done and warn against the realities of ignoring his life and work at a status level.

Chapter 10

Real Topeka People: In Search of Community (Ted)

The semantics of the emergent movement are key to its flavor.  Titles such as “associate pastor” are morphed into “Experience Designer,” creating a more holistic and virtuous connotation of one’s actual role.  This transformation of words overflows into services, church names, locations, and music (Kluck describes U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” as the most over-ridden pony in the entire emergent movement).  There is a purposeful feeling and intentional labeling that drives relevancy yet sacrifices the truth of the gospel.

Chapter 11

Why I Don’t Want a Cool Pastor (Ted)

A specific way exists of which an emergent leader carries himself/herself.  Kluck insists there is a hipness in the highly intellectual relevancy of it all and the desire to connect with the world in an intentional light while remaining humbling ignorant.  But if this is cool, then this author demands that his pastor not be cool.  Calling on the examples of common, uncool heroes of the faith the true qualities of humility and knowledge of God.

Listening to All the Churches of Revelation (Kevin)

While focusing on community, authenticity, and inclusion the emergent church has become focused on a specific spirituality of Christianity and has in turn missed a large part of what Jesus came to accomplish.  DeYoung suggests that the emergent church focuses on the ideas the problems of lovelessness and listlessness while ignoring issues of over-tolerance and under-definition.  A whole vision of our strengths and weaknesses must be taken into account when the church is reframed. The closing thesis articulates again the need to know God which infuses such a vision with not only a true view of the illness, but also a vista of its remedy.

Discussion Questions

1.) What about the inherent nature of the emergent movement makes it difficult to discuss?

2.) What is the positive influence of the emergent conversation upon contemporary evangelicalism?

3.) Does responsible biblical exegesis necessitate a conclusion of propositional truth?

4.) What is the relationship between ignorance and humility when it comes to the development of  personal and corporate theology?

5.) How does understanding the kingdom of God influence one’s reception of the emergent church?

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