Saturday, August 14, 2010

LHP Review: A Reformed Response to the Emergent Church

DeYoung, Kevin and Ted Kluck. Foreword by David F. Wells. Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be). Chicago: Moody, 2008. 256 Pages. Paper. $14.99. (LHP)

DeYoung, Kevin and Ted Kluck. Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. Chicago: Moody, 2009. 234 Pages. Paper. $14.99. (LHP)

"You 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, 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 (publisher's website).

"Visit also"
"For the Study Guide:"

I am grateful for the courage of the authors and publishers to come forward and challenge one of the "sacred cows" of modern Christian publishing. Trendy books on liking Jesus (but not Christians) have large sales, but undermine faith in Christ. Why is this a cool thing?

I'm not emergent, either, though some in the LCMS are dabbling. Doctrinal exploration is good, and a healthy exercise for every generation of Christians. Questioning solid, Biblical truth is not good and is beyond counter-productive. I appreciated the positive reference to my church body, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (191) and the Augsburg Confession (151).

I like Christians rediscovering ancient practices and reclaiming them for a new day. I mind when they are divorced from their original meaning and context. My impression of emergent practice is that it is their guiding form, rather than a non-existent or still-emerging content.

DeYoung and Kluck are too Biblically-informed to be sucked in by mere appearances. They will inform their readers on the where and how and why fundamental Christian teachings (hell, law, person and work of Christ, etc.) are questioned and even denied by the amorphous emergent so-called movement. Any true movement of the Holy Spirit would never doubt God's Word or run down the Bride of Christ.

This first book goes hand-in-hand with a wonderful second book.

"Authors Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck present the case for loving the local church. Their newest book paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold. It provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the 'leave church' books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs" (publisher's website).
Why We Love the Church could have had another subtitle: "Jesus Does." Jesus loves His Body, the Church, and gave Himself for it. The Church is at the same time sinful and holy because it is made up of sinner-saints. This book is a great companion to Rod Rosenbladt's famous essay:

DeYoung and Kluck have as their intended audience the committed, the disgruntled, the waffling, and the disconnected (15). They hope to help the first group reach the other three groups so that they may not fall away. They return the focus of their readers to the gospel (33-35), sometimes meant in the wide sense (the whole of the teaching of God) and sometimes in the narrow sense (the forgiveness of sins as a gift because of Christ's death and resurrection). The Church sometimes needs to see where it has unnecessarily sinned against its own.

They ask important questions for the potential church leaver (85). Yes, there are references to decision theology (156), but most Lutheran readers will focus more on the beautiful oak tree of the book's content than obvious differences between Lutherans and other evangelical Christians.

This book is a necessary antidote to Barna, Palmer, Sweet, and too many others to name. I personally look forward to more from Kluck and DeYoung.

The following summarizes the positive impacts of both books as a set:
If I could leave you with one thought, it's this: Go. Go to church. Don't go for the coffee, the presentations, the music, or the amenities. Don't even go for the feelings you may or may not get when you go because, no offense, these felings may or may not be trustworthy most of the time. Go for the gospel. Go for the preaching. Go to be near to God's Word (196).

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.