At the beginning of the year, I started what I called the re-reading project, an attempt to diversify my reading a bit in 2014 by re-reading one previously enjoyed book each month.
A few weeks back, I decided to take a trip back in time to 2008, to the days when men’s capris were (strangely) in fashion, and Rob Bell was still considered a Christian by the average evangelical. The purpose of this trip? To re-read Why We’re Not Emergent by then unknown authors Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.
Why re-read a book tied to a movement most consider dead and buried? Even though the movement itself might be dead, the emergent mystique is alive and well, even if everyone eschews the term “emergent” (it is so early 2000s, after all…). The biggest difference is that the lines are clearer: today’s “progressives” are yesterday’s “emergents,” but more willing to be forthright about most of their beliefs. (And many of yesterday’s emergents have felt the freedom to start doing the same.)
But the same intellectual snobbery and cynical questioning remain—even as those who portray themselves as outside the cultural mainstream find themselves marching lockstep right along with the world. To these attitudes, Why We’re Not Emergent still has so much to say to us. Here are sixteen timely quotes that still offer necessary challenge to the thinking of progressives and conservatives alike:
- “It’s some combination of pious confusion and intellectual laziness to claim that living in mystery is at the heart of Christianity.” (37-38)
- “Arguing for the inherent uncertainty of knowledge causes problems when you write books trying to convince people to believe or behave in certain ways. That is to say, radical uncertainty sounds nice as a sort of protest against the perceived dogmatism of evangelical Christianity, but it gets in the way when you want to prove a point.” (41)
- “For every fundamentalist who loves the Bible more than Christ, I’m willing to be there are several emergent Christians who honor the Bible less than Christ did.” (81)
- “Doctrine was to die for because it was the heartbeat of Paul’s saving message about saving historical facts.” (113)
- “The problem lies not in emerging Christian seeking the truth, but in their refusal to find and call out falsehood.” (119)
- “God is greater than we can conceive—but what about the 1,189 chapters in the Bible? Don’t they tell us lots of things about God that we are supposed to do more with than doubt and not understand?” (123-124)
- “I would rather take a beating than argue (dialogue) on message boards all day, where people are brave and full of convictions without actually being brave and full of convictions.” (138)
- “Is the best corrective to domineering CEO pastors really bewildered Dorothy leaders? How about shepherd or teacher or overseer or herald?” (160)
- “At times I feel as if the emergent church is like that friend who goes off to college as an eighteen-year-old, and for the first year or so when he comes home feels like he has to quote Nietzsche just to impress you with his newfound intellect.” (172)
- “If my mother-in-law’s suburban crowd…is on board, then it [the emergent movement] is as mainstream as mainstream can be.” (177)
- “Too often emergent leaders force us to choose between salvation by following Jesus’ example or salvation that doesn’t care about good works. But this is another false dilemma.” (203)
- “Call me old-fashioned, but it doesn’t fill me with hope or warm feelings to hear my pastor…suggest that he may be, and probably is, wrong about all of this.… I want to believe, and do believe, that people can known things and still be humble.” (228)
- “…I’m really glad that we have a pastor who, instead of being ‘with it,’ is committed to being with God.” (235)
- “Doctrinally minded evangelical Christians like me would get more out of emergent critiques if they recognized that there are just as many undiscerning, overtolerant Pergamums and Thyatiras in North America and the United Kingdom as there are loveless Ephesuses.” (241)
- “We may think right, live right, and do right, but if we do it off in a corner, shining our lights at one another to probe our brother’s sins instead of pointing our lights out into the world, we will, as a church, grow dim, and eventually our light will be extinguished.” (244)
- “A therapist-Christ does not evoke an ardency of soul that wishes to be annihilated, emptied of self and filled with Christ and made pure with a divine and heavenly purity. We need a Christ from above.” (250)
The movement might be dead, but the mood isn’t. And although some of the examples might be a bit dated, Why We’re Not Emergent is still a helpful corrective.