Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Emergent? Not so much.

My dad actually recommended this book when we were browsing in Barnes and Noble a few months ago. It seems like lately I've been reading only fiction - my favorite thing to do on a lazy weekend is just get lost in a good story. But my dad insisted that I would love this book and in fact bought it for me (so I felt like I had to read it).

I was really, pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it - and how much I agreed with what it had to say.

Like almost everyone else in America, I devoured Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz when it was first released, and even went to hear him speak twice. I had sort of convinced myself that we could be best friends. Sure, there were a few sections of his book that I disagreed with, but I had never read a book by such an engaging (young!) Christian before.

I was living in Nashville at the time that I first started reading Miller, and soon was caught up in the "new style" church. You know - coffee in the sanctuary, hymns replaced by U2 anthems (which I really do like - there are some killer U2 songs that I've always thought belonged in church), ridiculously good-looking praise band teams, but mostly - I was intrigued with the notion that it was okay (even encouraged) to pretty much abandon the stodgy sort of church I had grown up with and embrace this "we don't have all the answers, but we sure are asking the questions" type of Christianity.

After BLJ, I read Miller's other books and enjoyed them, even though there was a nagging voice in my head saying that I should re-think some of his views. Same thing with other emergent writers like Brian McLaren and Erwin McManus. Some of what they say pretty much blatantly disagrees with Scripture, even if it does sound cool and funny. As much as I wanted to jump on board with the emergent church (after all, their conversion rate is astounding - their approach to witnessing is bringing people in by the thousands. Maybe because they are so accepting. But I digress.), I couldn't shake my theological differences.

A few months ago I bought Velvet Elvis and Sex God by Rob Bell. And that's when my problems really began.

Don't get me wrong - I like Rob Bell. He's cool. He's laid-back. He tells a great story and makes me think about Christianity in a way I haven't before. I love the Nooma videos. But I felt like Velvet Elvis (especially) just asked a bunch of questions and gave no definitive answers. It made me feel like Bell and his posse wouldn't really like me or my friends and our need to know why. In almost every chapter Bell exhorts embracing mystery - mystery is what Christianity is about. It's all a mystery. It's okay to not know anything. Hmm.

And when he says things like this: "The Bible is open-ended. All we can do is tell people what we think the Bible means - give them our version" it makes me want to shout "What?" The Bible is open-ended? I'm pretty sure the Bible is pretty darn clear in what it says. Bell seems to think that most everyone (pre-2004 or so) who "interpreted" the Bible was misinformed and wrong. He even goes so far as to say that Scripture alone is a nice thought, "but it is not true."

I can't be cool with that.

As I was reading Why We're Not Emergent, I found myself thinking "Yes! That's what I meant!" over and over. All of the beefs I had with emergent leaders like Erwin McManus, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Leonard Sweet, and yes, even my dear Donald Miller, were expounded upon.

This book wasn't about bashing these men - in fact, DeYoung (a minister in East Lansing, MI - same town as Mars Hill, Bell's church) and Kluck (a former sports writer) actually affirm the good and true things that emergent leaders are preaching. But they don't shy away from taking issue with false teaching, and I admired that.

Here are some of the gems that I underlined while reading:

"None of us ever infinitely understands God in a neat package of affirmations, but we can know Him truly, both personally and propositionally."

"There is the possibility of certainty, because God has spoken to us clearly and intelligibly." YES. Because God is NOT the author of confusion, after all.

"In our world of perpetual squishitude, why offer people more of what they already have - vague spirituality, uncertainty, and borderline interpretative relativism? Why not offer them something hard and old like the Law in which we delight, and dare to say and believe 'Thus saith the Lord'?"

"Don't the 1,189 chapters in the Bible tell us lots of things about God that we are supposed to do more with than doubt?"

In answer to McLaren's ambiguous but obvious belief that God is a tolerant dad who wouldn't send anyone to hell if they're really, really good (seriously - he basically says this in his book The Church in Emerging Culture) and that any church that talks about hell is intolerant (and that seems to be a recurring complaint in emergent literature - intolerant! Intolerant! Villagers, light your torches!), DeYoung says "The early church was important because it was intolerable, and it was intolerable because it was intolerant. Not socially intolerant or coldhearted or obnoxiously abrasive, but intolerant of any salvation but the cross, any God but theirs, and any Lord but Christ." Booyah.

Ok. It's obvious I liked this book. Get it. Read it. Tell me what you think.

Song I'm digging today: "Colors" by Amos Lee

While I like almost every song on this CD, "Colors" is my favorite. It always makes me think of the terribly and wonderfully sad movie "Splendor in the Grass." I love the thought that when you're not with the person you love, the world is just a little bit grayer and everything is just a little sadder.

Best line: "Your mama called, she said that you're downstairs crying/Feeling like such a mess/Yeah, I hear you in the background bawling/What happened to your sweet summertime dress?"


twentyfiveyears said...

Ok, now that you've read the book that dad bought you, you can next read the book that I bought you: "Your Money Counts." I'm expecting a blog from you about my book too

Anonymous said...

You have to remember to let me borrow that book the next time I see you.