Today I came across a review by someone who’s clearly not a Christian but is at least to some extent familiar with Christian belief and the Bible. The review is of emergent church leader Tony Jones’s The New Christians. I thought it was very interesting that this person finds many of the same problems with the movement that (non-emergent) Christians do. Here are some exerpts:
Really, what the emergent church seems to be (if there really is such a thing, since the author never does give a working definition of it) is a bunch of disillusioned people trying to reconcile their Christian faith with human experience. As such they aren’t much different than the Christians who have had seriously questioned their faith throughout history.
In fact, and unfortunately, he was not conclusive about anything at all. He writes and writes but avoids conclusions, he makes no points, or when he does, he quickly retracts them or qualifies them to the point that they are not falsifiable. He revels in ambiguity and fluff.
Not only this, but he repeatedly contorts the bible to allow for dubious postmodern, existentialist interpretations. In my experience this is certainly impossible (and downright dishonest!) without compromising the original intent of the authors. And if one does that, then what is the point?
Jones seems to want to make the Christian faith somehow existential. For instance he says “the Christian faith is a journey -a Way- not a destination.” Personally I think he may have barrowed that idea from Basho or some other poet or philosopher. You certainly don’t find it in the Christian scriptures. You find that Jesus is the “Way” but the destination is always the main focus in the New Testament.
Jones complains that critics of the Emergents fail to see the movement as a whole, or are too quick to generalize. Yet he is also reluctant to give us anything TO criticize. In some places he seems to enjoy this state of ambiguity, and even practically admits that criticizing the movement is like “nailing Jell-O to a wall” (sorry I can’t remember the page reference).
In the appendices there is a response to certain criticism made by D.A. Carson in his book “Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church.” I expected a rebuttal of some sort. Now I have not read Carson’s entire book, only selections of it at the store, but from what I saw he was spot-on and his arguments valid, or at least apparently valid, enough to warrant a worthy rebuttal. McLaren, Jones, et al, response addressed nothing. Jones complained they were caricatured and misrepresented (without explaining how), the response consisted of merely affirmed that they really do believe in Christianity (without explaining how), and an offer of friendship to their critics.
Perhaps the new generations of Christians, those conversing with the postmodern world, have felt the need to retreat to ambiguity and contradiction. I understand why this might provide relief – there is a feeling of freedom in that, in not being pinned down. And this attitude itself is great. But I am not convinced that it belongs logically in the Christian faith. I do not see how one can claim to be Christian and also claim to live with this attitude of openness to the possibility of being wrong. Belief in God seems an all or nothing thing. At least that’s the way the bible portrays it. Somewhere in McLaren and Jones, et al, something doesn’t mesh. Either they, deep down, don’t truly believe in God, or they, deep down, are closed on this level to commutation. They can’t be both, can’t they?
That is a lot of text from someone else’s book review…I just found it pretty darn interesting.
BTW, I’m almost finished reading Why We’re Not Emergent…By Two Guys Who Should Be and have found it an interesting read as well. I’ll post a book review of it here at some point.
But don’t hold your breath…about a year ago I said I’d post a book review of the Martin Luther biography I read on my old blog. Yeah, still haven’t done it.
Leave a Response »