Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Themelios Vol. 33.2 now online

Editorial D.A. Carson

A Crash Course on the Emerging Church

I was recently awakened to the existence of a movement known as the emerging church. It seems to have been around for a while, but I just hadn’t noticed it!

So, in order to better understand it I did some research and I thought that it might be useful to list some of the resources, both on-line and offline that I found helpful (which I read in addition to the primary sources). First of all I should point out that the “emerging church” comes in a wide range of shades and colours. Some parts of the movement (or conversation as insiders prefer) fall within the bounds of what has historically been defined as evangelical Christianity and some do not. Most of the material listed below relates to what is called the “liberal” emerging church by some, i.e. that which is outside of the bounds of Christianity as defined by the New Testament.


I found two books particularly helpful. D.A. Carson’s 2005 work Becoming Conversant With the Emerging Church (Zondervan, ISBN: 0-310-25947-9) is a great place to start. I have always appreciated Carson’s careful scholarship and this is particularly evident in this volume as he sketches out the history of the movement and identifies its strengths and weaknesses. The second book is Why We Are Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck [Moody Publishers, 2008. ISBN: 0-8024-5834-3). This work brings Carson’s work up to date and includes more of the significant contributors to the movement.

On-line Articles and Book Reviews

A Review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian by Mark Dever.

Telling the Story of a Pluralistic Kind of Christian: Review of Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian by Keith Miller.

Wandering Orthodoxy: Review of Brian McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy by Jeremy Rein

"A Generous Orthodoxy"--Is It Orthodox? Albert Mohler

Recovering Ancient Church Practices: A Review of Brian McLaren, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices by Michael A. G. Haykin. This article by the Professor of Church History at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is particularly revealing. Haykin concludes that the “ancient practices” that Mclaren promotes actually originate from the period of the late Middle Ages! Thanks to Jeff Downs for this link.

Nothing But the Blood by Mark Dever. This article contains a brief critique of Scot McKnight's work on the doctrine of the atonement:

Many critics of substitution get around this "problem"—that such language and imagery is found everywhere in the Bible—by downplaying its importance or reinterpreting it in ways that I believe do violence to the plain meaning of the text. Scot McKnight, for example, in his recent Jesus and His Death (Baylor, 2005), does lots of careful work with the Gospel text. Nonetheless, he assumes that the last phrase in Mark 10:45—"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many"—reports not Jesus' original words but Mark's theologizing. And while admitting that the idea of substitution is strongly suggested here, he finally rejects it.

Further, McKnight uses Christ's words to interpret Atonement passages in Paul, Peter, and Hebrews—even though the Epistles provide the most sustained discussions of Christ's Atonement. He again acknowledges that such passages might carry along with them "the notions of penal substitution and satisfaction," but in the end says, "[they] need not." Thus he goes to what seem to be great lengths to avoid the plain meaning of these passages. At one point, he says that Jesus is "both representative and substitute," but his interpretation so transforms the idea of substitute as to rob it of its traditional theological meaning.

MP3 audio

Evaluating a Complex Movement by D.A. Carson. Carson helpfully summarises his book (mentioned above) and then provides an update. Perhaps the most insightful comment in this talk is the quote from Douglas Moo to the effect that the emergent church is making those matters that Scripture treats as of secondary importance and makes them primary and takes the matters of primary importance and makes them secondary (see 1 Cor. 15:3-8). One might further argue that the "liberal" emerging church takes what Scripture treats as the primary issues and discards them as unimportant or just plain wrong.

Mark Driscoll at Xenos on the Emerging Church. This is probably the best short summary I have found so far. Driscoll speaks with an inside knowledge of the movement (conversation!).

Finally I should reiterate that this is broad movement and needs to be carefully evaluated in the light of Scripture. I hope that these resources will help others to do this.