Book Review: Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)

I came across this pastor named Kevin DeYoung about this time last year after a friend of mine (who also happened to be my boss) recommended one of his books to me. I read the book (Freedom and Boundaries) and began to regularly listen to his sermons online. I thorougly enjoyed all of these things and was often challenged by what he spoke about week to week. Thus, when his new book came out, I knew I wanted to get it. Not only that, but he was writing on a topic that has interested me greatly over the past year. The book is entitled Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)and Kevin coauthors it with Ted Kluck, who is a member of DeYoung’s church in East Lansing, Michigan, and who has written several books himself and also is an at-large writer for the likes of ESPN the Magazine.

I finished this book several days ago but wanted to take time to process it before I wrote a review for it. Kevin and Ted write alternating chapters in the book, with Kevin providing much of the theological expertise (he said he’s read thousands of pages regarding the emerging church) and Ted provides a lighter type of writing, from a layperson’s perspective. Together, I think they complement one another nicely.  From the introduction, the reader learns that it is the intent of the book to share the shortcomings of the emerging church in a loving manner. And I think they do accomplish this. But they are VERY critical of the emerging church. They take shots at just about everybody involved in this movement . . . Peter Rollins, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Spencer Burke, Donald Miller, Leonard Sweet, Steve Chalke, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, McLaren some more, then Rob Bell some more, then Peter Rollins some more, and even some more directed at Tony Jones. Let’s just say criticisms were prevalent throughout this book.  A quote from Mark Driscoll, a pastor in Seattle who has distanced himself from the movement, sets the tone for the rest of the book: “The emergent church is the latest version of liberalism. The only difference is that the old liberalism accomodated modernity and the new liberalism accomodates postmodernity.”

DeYoung pokes fun at the emerging church for the emphasis on blogging and the emphasis on the journey. He is also critical concerning truth claims and the position of the Bible. In short, Kevin is quite modern. Kevin criticizes Rob Bell’s scholarship (see Ray Vander Laan), Brian McLaren’s inclusivism (some in the emerging movement are also critical of this), Tony Jones profane statements (Aren’t we all getting a little tired of those?), Pete Rollins’ faith community IKON for not having a doctrinal center (IKON is not a church and is not supposed to replace church), and Spencer Burke for leaving the church altogether (I, too, do not think this is the best thing for anybody, no matter how disillusioned one may have become).

I guess I was a little disappointed that Kevin and Ted didn’t interact with the emerging church. Instead, the nit-picked at much of what the emerging church is doing, saying in turn, that somewhere along the line, they have gotten it right and the emerging church has gotten it wrong. But I do think they raise some points that those involved with the emerging church must be cautious of. Because of that I would recommend the book to those interested in the emerging church. However I think it would benefit those who have read a lot of emerging church literature the most. For me, as a tweener between traditional denominations and emerging churches, it really did not convince me at all that I should seek becoming a pastor in the traditional denominations. It still left me on the fence. I don’t think Kevin and Ted argued their side well enough to have one jump ship from emerging to traditional.

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