Last month, when we were in Kentucky for the Together for the Gospel conference, we were blessed with 14 free books hand whenever we walked back into the conference room. These books were hand picked by the hosts, all important for specific reasons. Any time someone offers me a free book, I’m going to be excited and accept it with open arms. But one of the books peaked my interest more than others, and was actually on my Amazon.com wish list (found here for anyone wishing to be generous). That book was “Why We’re Not Emergent” by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. The first time I heard the title of the book, I knew it must be an interesting read. Don’t judge a book by its cover, but this one gives you a pretty accurate understanding on whats inside.
You won’t recognize either of the names, but the title itself should spark interest. Kevin DeYoung is a young pastor outside East Lansing, Michigan, and Kluck is a friend and lay member who is a gifted journalist. Both these men realize that they are the prototypical target for the Emergent Church movement. But they have resisted the movement for Biblical reasons and this book is an explanation of what they see as being wrong about the movement.
DeYoung and Kluck take turns authoring chapters and bring their own style and perspectives. DeYoung approaches the chapters from a pastoral/theological perspective, biblically addressing issues and problems he sees in the movement. Kluck approaches his chapters as you expect a journalist would. He interviews Emergent personalities, critics, attends emergent ‘churches’, classes, and reads through blogs and books.
Through every issue they address, you can tell that they are humble and desperately try to accurately represent the emergent personalities. Something that is refreshing about this book is that you can tell that this critique is from a loving heart to correct the church. It is written by two young men who love the Church and would do what God calls them to do to see Her grow and be biblically effective. While they are critical, everything is done in love.
DeYoung and Kluck admit the difficulties doing a book on the Emerging Church. The movement is difficult to characterize because none of the writers claim to be ‘the voice’. Instead, they all claim to be singular voices, not speaking for the masses. And when they do speak, it is more centered around what they are critical of and don’t believer, rather than what they do. DeYoung and Kluck hold their feet to the fire, letting them know that when they are the speakers at every conference, always recommend each other’s books, and are the main voices on the most influential blogs, then they are assuming the responsibility of being the leaders.
The authors do a wonderful job at confronting the philosophical errors that are the foundation of their ‘belief structure’. The emergent personalities write volumes about how we cannot know a perfect God through limited language, but that is how God chose to reveal Himself through His Word. “They allow the immensity of God to swallow up the knowability of God.”
The most troubling thing coming out of this movement is a redefining of the Gospel itself. Lost amid the postmodern blabber about the limit of language and the narrative dialogues is a clear definition of the Gospel. In a desire to make the Gospel more relevant to the present culture, the language has been jumbled and they have given birth to a pseudo universalistic Gospel.
By far my favorite chapter is chapter 9, written by DeYoung, entitled “Jesus: Bringer of Peace, Bearer of Wrath”. DeYoung brilliantly and biblically presents the Biblical Jesus and a misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. The topic of Hell and wrath is almost completely ignored, and they only present the teachings of Christ that really agree with their already existent presuppositions.
As far as weaknesses go, I would have to say that the format they have chosen does provide some awkward transitions. The writing styles of the authors are pretty different, one being more conversational with various pop culture references, while the other is more theological and pastoral. The various perspectives are welcomed and helpful, but sometimes offer awkward transitions between chapters.
Another weakness the book has is a failure to clearly distinguish that Brian McLaren lies outside Christian Orthodoxy and has many heretical views that other emergent figures don’t necessarily hold to. They did admit that what one person believes another may not, but when they were presenting heretical views, the most extreme view would often be McLaren. My concern would be that some loving Christians would believe that all emergents believe what McLaren espouses, but that is often the radical fringe.
The final concern I have with the book is the inclusion of many questionable references to movies that are pretty inappropriate. I realize the way Kluck naturally writes would include many of the pop culture references, but the mere mention of a movie without warning can be understood as a recommendation. For two guys who strive so strongly for clearly presenting the truths of the Word of God, they can send a mixed message with what is appropriate or inappropriate.
In all, these two young authors do a wonderful job at lovingly critiquing these brothers in Christ. Their warnings are clear and concise. These men, mostly pastors, cannot get away with teaching heresy by just casually saying that they aren’t scholars. Unfortunately, I don’t recall God given a pardon for heresy because someone wasn’t a scholar. The problem is going to be when people are sick of hearing soft words and want a teacher to say “Thus says the Lord”, then people will move on. In the mean time, they are going to produce masses of Christians who look down their noses at doctrine and theology and then grow dry in their shallow faith.