I get really confused when I hear the term EMERGENT. This book helped me to clear a lot of that up. EMERGENT is essentially the latest form of liberalism. In fact, it is so liberal that it’s extremely difficult to nail down a firm definition. Kevin DeYoung writes, “Defining the emerging church is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.” Emergent Leaders often refuse to take a stand on controversial issues like Hell, Original Sin, Atonement, Exclusivity of Christ, Authority of Scripture. Their silence speaks volumes.
The Emergent Movement intentionally moves away from DOCTRINES in favor of having a CONVERSATION in which key elements are discussed and in some cases redefined. WHY WERE NOT EMERGENT is a book that seeks to enter the “conversation” from an Evangelical point of view. DeYoung points out, “There is a time for conversation, but there is also the possibility of certainty, not because we have dissected God like a freshman biology student dissects a frog, but because God has spoken to us clearly and intelligibly and has given us ears to hear his voice.” (p.41)
In not taking a stand, Emergent Leaders are making incredible statements with damaging implications. All throughout the book I found myself (in relation to the Emergent Point of View) writing in the margin, “Tickle.” The Bible says that the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears TICKLED, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Some of the “ticklish” points that DeYoung and Cluck bring out in the book:
1. Truth is not a destination… it’s a journey
2. The Christian life requires less doctrinal reflection and more personal introspection.
3. God is too big to understand.
4. Truth is too mysterious to know with certainty.
5. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.
6. We need to trust God more than our beliefs (doctrines) about God.
7. We worship the Word made flesh, not the words on a page.
8. The Bible isn’t the Word of God, but simply contains the Word of God.
9. The authority is not in what I say the text says, but in what God says the text says.
10. Spirituality is hot and religion is not.
11. The Gospel is an event to be proclaimed, not a doctrine to be preserved.
12. The question is not, do I believe in God?, as much as does God believe in me?
13. A better question that who’s right is who’s living rightly?
I walked away from the book with the idea that the Emergent Church believes that as long as you’re sincere it doesn’t matter what you believe. This is RELATIVITY packaged in a new way, “What’s true for you doesn’t have to be true to me and what’s true for me doesn’t have to be true to you.”
It was surprising to hear Rob Bell’s interpretation of Jesus statement in John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the life… nobody comes to the Father, but through me.” According to Bell, “Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality. This kind of life Jesus was living, perfectly and completely in connection and cooperation with God, is the best possible way for a person to live. It is how things are… perhaps a better question than who’s right, is who’s living rightly.” (p.201)
DeYoung describes one of the biggest differences between Emergent Christianity and Evangelical Christianity, “Being a Christian (Emergent)… is less about faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only access to God the Father and the only atonement for sins before a wrathful God, and more about living the life that Jesus lived and walking in His way. (p.120)
Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck take turns writing the chapters of WHY WERE NOT EMERGENT. DeYoung is more the scholar and Kluck is more practical with his observations. You can probably get the main message by just reading the chapters DeYoung wrote, but I found that the chapters Kluck wrote gave my brain a rest in between DeYoung’s chapters. Each chapter was heavily footnoted and both authors back up their points solidly with Scripture. Both authors also point out that their intention is not to demonize or question Emergent’s love for Jesus, but rather to point out some serious flaws in their thinking.
FTC Disclaimer. I received this book free in exchange for a unbiased review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”