Book Review

"Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be" by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Annette Gysen
Kevin DeYoung
Friday, January 1st 2010
Jan/Feb 2010

I first heard the battle cries of the emerging church several years ago when I attended a conference for Christian publishers; although a publisher myself, I didn't fully comprehend this at the time. A coworker and I sat in on a session led by two thirty-something publishing professionals: a woman who was a writer and a man who was an editor for a well-known Christian publishing company. Their message to us editors was that they no longer wished to "do church" the way their parents had. They wanted something more authentic, relevant, and relational than was typically on offer in American churches. Pressing things, if the church didn't give them what they wanted, they insisted that they would just go "do church" elsewhere. The message to Christian publishers was this: If we continued to publish books the way we had been, they weren't going to buy them. Shocked at their sometimes whiny ranting, my coworker and I rolled our eyes (admittedly in a similarly immature fashion) and jotted messages to each other: "It's not all about you." Afterwards, as we discussed the session, we imagined that this too would pass.

The complaints registered by these two Emergent church leaders exploded into a theological movement that has the past few years captured the hearts and minds of many evangelical Christians. What a relief that two more voices have emerged from Generation X who write and insist in Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be that a Christian 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, the authors argue, it is far better not to be.

Kevin DeYoung, a pastor in East Lansing, Michigan, and Ted Kluck, a member of DeYoung's congregation, have done a great service in examining the ideas of the emerging church and sensitively showing why being Emergent is not the answer. The two authors alternate chapters, with DeYoung addressing the emerging church from a pastoral, theological perspective and Kluck offering a layperson's on-location observations about the emerging books he reads, churches he attends, and lectures he hears.

I highly recommend this important book. In a thought-provoking, biblically sound way, DeYoung and Kluck point out some of the theological issues at stake in the writings of Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis, Sex God), Brian McLaren (A New Kind of Christian), and Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz). Most importantly, DeYoung and Kluck explain that Emergent church theology is guilty of sometimes regurgitating the ideas of nineteenth-century Protestant liberalism, especially in their understanding of the truth and authority of God's Word and the possibility of real knowledge of God. DeYoung writes:

I know that some in my generation have a hard time with truth claims. But I'm convinced that there are just as many of us–Christian and not–in our postmodern world who are tired of endless uncertainties and doctrinal repaintings. We are tired of indecision and inconsistency reheated and served to us as paradox and mystery. Some of us long for teaching that has authority, ethics rooted in dogma, and something unique in this world of banal diversity. We long for Jesus–not a shapeless, formless, good-hearted ethical teacher Jesus, but the Jesus of the New Testament, the Jesus of the church, the Jesus of faith, the Jesus of two millennia of Christian witness with all of its unchanging and edgy doctrinal propositions.

These authors have done their homework. They've studied the literature of the Emergent writers and quote them at every turn, pointing out–from Scripture, which is also quoted at every turn–the mistakes in their thinking. It is also an enjoyable book to read, as it makes difficult concepts easily accessible for the lay reader. If there is a flaw, it may be the authors' occasional attempts to sympathetically assess the Emergent leaders' intentions. I think it would be better to avoid discussions of motives and let these writers' words speak for themselves.

This is an excellent book, one that all Christians would benefit from reading. Emerging Christianity does ask some valid questions, ones that should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, their own answers draw from sources other than Scripture. Like Jude in the New Testament, DeYoung and Kluck remind us that our comfort in life and in death is the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

Friday, January 1st 2010

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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