You 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 I want to argue that it would be better if you weren't. The Emergent Church is a strong voice in today's Christian community. And they're talking about good things: caring for the poor, peace for all men, loving Jesus. They're doing church a new way, not content to fit the mold. Again, all good. But there's more to the movement than that. Much more.
Kevin and Ted are two guys who, demographically, should be all over this movement. But they're not. And Why We're Not Emergent gives you the solid reasons why. From both a theological and an on-the-street perspective, Kevin and Ted diagnose the emerging church. They pull apart interviews, articles, books, and blogs, helping you see for yourself what it's all about.
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Muddled and Outdated
The first thing you need to know about this book is that it's from 2008. That was the same year Tim Keller published his first major book, Barack Obama began his first presidency, and Lecrae released Rebel. In other words, it's ancient history in the brief life of the emergent church. Many of the superstar evangelical leaders critiqued in this book have since faded into obscurity, and newer currents within the emergent church obviously aren't addressed. Some of the names DeYoung and Kluck drop in passing in association with the emergent church are perplexing, and many of the jokey jabs they take at emergent Christians feel like the jokes the Babylon Bee currently makes about young Reformed Christians; a demonstration, perhaps, that some of the impulses that drive young Christians to the emergent movement can be and are being more constructively redirected.
The second thing you need to know is that, although the premise is that DeYoung and Kluck “should be” emergent based on their personal background, DeYoung in particular doesn’t seem like he’s actually attracted by emergent theology at all. In fact, DeYoung is something of a doctrinal hardliner even when compared to other members of The Gospel Coalition, and perhaps most famous now for his seeming belief that refusing to watch Game of Thrones is a fruit of the spirit. So, when it comes to addressing some (in my opinion, legitimate) critiques of traditional evangelical theology and culture, DeYoung brushes them aside. Do evangelicals overemphasize the Atonement and underemphasize (or ignore) Jesus’ teaching of salvation as a kingdom? DeYoung acknowledges as much, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. Not nearly as much as the emergent practice of denying the atonement and waffling about Hell does. Similarly, Kluck spends must of his section mocking the emergent obsession with cultural relevancy, and often misreads a desire to be involved and conscientious as a Christian in the secular world as pointless &quot;dialoging.&quot; Does Kluck really relate to the desire of young Christians to approach their own calling seriously? It sometimes doesn't seem like it.
The final thing you need to know is that DeYoung and Kluck focus almost exclusively on the weird fringes of the emergent church and then infer guilt by association. If you have a background in Christian orthodoxy and common sense, nothing they say will surprise you: of course Jesus clearly teaches that there is a hell, of course the Bible is clear on sexuality, of course God is rightly wrathful towards sin. But what about that middle ground, embodied by everyone from Andy Crouch to N. T. Wright to Tim Keller (yes, they've all been called emergent) that share some (but certainly not all) characteristics with the weird fringes of the emergent movement? DeYoung and Kluck, while rightly condemning the theological absurdities embodied by many theological liberals with the emerging church, never take a faithful, scriptural middle ground seriously. In 2017, that middle ground has effectively been forced on evangelicals, and this book will not prepare you to find it.