've mentioned in the comments, but probably not in a proper blogpost, that I'm in Italy this week for my annual stint teaching theology to a group of mostly bivocational pastors. It's a grueling week—40 hours of doctrine, with as much Q&A as we can pack in. And lots of pasta.
Anyway, just before leaving home last week, I grabbed two of the most interesting-looking books from my stash of T4G loot. All the books, frankly, look great, so I chose two that more or less seemed to go together—David Wells's The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, and Kevin DeYoung's and Ted Kluck's Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be.
I read the former book on the plane on the way over, and it's just about the best David Wells book ever (which is saying quite a lot). I intend to write a review of it one of these days soon. In the meantime, be sure to get it and read it. You will not be disappointed.
But what I want to talk about today is Why We're Not Emergent. I started reading this book after my first good night's sleep in Italy; then I finished it in the early-morning hours Thursday, when (owing mainly to time-zone confusion) I couldn't sleep at all.
I'm really stoked about this book. It's the best, most even-handed, most interesting, most insightful, most well-written analysis of Emerging trends yet. DeYoung is a thirty-something pastor in a college community, and Kluck is an engaging sportswriter who has written for several publications, including ESPN Magazine, The Door, and Cigar Magazine. Their writing styles are markedly different, but both men are superb writers with a stunning knack for making points powerfully and succinctly.
I'm especially proud that Moody published this book. I began my career in 1976 with Moody Press (now Moody Publishers), and Moody has been involved in one way or another in every major turning point in my ministry. This book is edgier, meatier, more serious, and more significant than you might expect from Moody on a subject such as this. In fact, Moody sometimes seems to avoid controversial topics altogether. But this is a rousingly bold book produced with impressive flair and a suitable style for the subject matter. I'm fairly certain this is the first Moody book ever to include the word "poo" in a century and a half since D. L. first started the Colportage Association. I'll let you read the book to find the context for that. It didn't offend me; but it left me saying, "Wow."
In fact, I think I said wow at least once in every chapter of this book. No matter how little or how much you know about postmodernism and the emerging church, you will find this book informative and thought-provoking. I'm pretty sure I have read more material on both sides of this issue and spent more hours thinking critically about it than the average evangelical lay person. But I found myself repeatedly being challenged with new facts, fresh ideas, and arguments I hadn't considered before. I gained a clearer perspective even on some of the very aspects of Emergent thought that are most familiar to me.
The book rings all the right notes, at just the right tempo. DeYoung's style is very careful and a little more academic. His documentation is thorough and helpful. But his presentation flows like a breeze. His logic is crystal-clear and easy to follow. He is frugal with words and measured in his tone while being straightforward, definitive, unapologetic, and unequivocal. It's really no wonder he is not Emergent. His mind is too focused to enjoy wandering in the self-indulgent haze of postmodern ambiguity.
Ted Kluck's chapters are equally crisp, but with a less formal, more narrative style. Some of them read like scrapbooks of thoughts assembled thematically, but the points Kluck makes are often powerful, and occasionally breathtakingly so. The two authors make a fine team. Their disparate styles dovetail well, and their message is as unified and clearly focused as their styles are dissimilar.
Here are a few typical excerpts:
- Granted, there is no place for giddiness concerning God's wrath, but isn't there a place for passionate, blood-earnest warning? Isn't it biblical to move past agnosticism about hell and implore people on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20)? Could it be that our evangelism languishes, our preaching loses authority, and our congregations lose focus because we don't have the doctrine of hell to set our face like a flint toward Jerusalem? 
- The main problem in the universe, according to many emergent writers, seems to be human suffering and brokenness. Make no mistake, suffering and brokenness are a result of the fall, but the main problem that needs to be dealt with is human sin and rebellion. . . Christians don't get killed for telling people that God believes in them and suffers like them and can heal their brokenness. They get killed for calling sinners to repentance and proclaiming faith in the crucified Son of God as the only means by which we who were enemies might be reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10). [194-95]
- But why do intrigue and search have to mean the end of all certainty? McLaren is guilty of a very modern error, insisting on either-or when a both-and is possible. There is a place for questions. 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. [39-40]
- I'm convinced that a major problem with the emerging church is that they refuse to have their cake and eat it, too. The whole movement seems to be built on reductionistic, even modernistic, either-or categories. They pit information versus transformation, believing versus belonging, and propositions about Christ versus the Person of Christ. The emerging church [needs to] discover the genius of the "and," and stop forcing us to accept half-truths. 
- I just cannot understand how the gospel as a call to become a disciple for the good of the world is richer, grander, and more alive than a gospel that announces God's grace, forgiveness, and the free gift of salvation. . . . If heaven and hell are real and endure forever, as Jesus believed them to be, they ought to shape everything we do during our short time on earth. 
- The Jesus-versus-theology mantra is centuries old, and it makes no more sense and no more converts today than a hundred years ago. 
- [Regarding all the angst and shame about the church's track record when it comes to the arts:] I'm still a little unclear as to the reason. Is it because churches aren't displaying art on their walls? Neither are insurance companies, but nobody is up in arms about that. My hunch is that there is this feeling that churches aren't adequately "supporting" artists (musicians, writers, visual artists) in their midst. However, I don't exactly see churches "supporting" software designers, salesmen, or farmers either. That's not the church's purpose. And it seems that the artists who are making the most noise about "not being supported" are the ones who may not have the talent to really cut it in the marketplace anyway. I don't know of any working artists (musicians, actors, writers, painters) who complain that their church doesn't "support" their efforts. Art is tough. Making a living at art is tough. It's tough on families and marriages. That's simply the nature of the game. 
Ted Kluck is a better writer than Donald Miller and a much more clear-headed thinker. I hope he will continue to write books aimed at the Christian market.
If Kevin DeYoung is half as good a preacher as he is a writer and analyst, his church is indeed blessed. We shall be hearing more from him.
Incidentally, I googled to see what kind of response this book is getting in the blogosphere's "emerging conversation." It's not particularly encouraging so far. Our long, lanky Kiwi friend brushed it off with irony. Dan Kimball found the book "interesting," and while assuring us that he "always want[s] to be very open to criticism or listening to people who may have concerns"—yet (without being the least bit specific) he "did express that at certain times I felt they painted a one-sided perspective of what 'the emerging church' believes about something when there are also other views within it." Kimball also said he had shared with DeYoung and Kluck "about some places where they wrote some things about friends of mine in the book whom I felt that they misunderstood by what they wrote about them." (Not a particularly helpful analysis, but it's "vintage" Kimball.) And Mike Morrell tried to make a few rather superficial points against Why We're Not Emergent, then invited the authors to further dialogue at the Ooze—i.e., on his own turf.
However, I don't think this is a book the Emerging movement is going to be able to brush aside with a facile wave.