Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, and challenged you readers to read it before I reviewed it so we could have an intelligent discussion about it.
Now, I have an obligation to Jim, who sent me the PDF of his book (FCC: take that) to give the book its fair treatment, but since my initial recommendation, Kevin DeYoung, the most vivacious baby-baptizer in the world reviewed the book and got this comment from Jim for his trouble:
This is by far the most thorough review of my book, both in the overview it provides and the evaluation. It is well written, engaging and helpful, pointing out well the areas you agree and disagree on. It provides a good road map for further dialogue on the third way I am attempting to propose. I am grateful that you have opened up the terrain for even more people to read the book and engage in my thesis. So for that I am deeply grateful. I hope your readers will buy and engage its ideas.So Thanks a lot, Kevin. What am I supposed to do now?
Well, there are 8 or 9 words in the book Kevin didn't address, and of course this is the pyro-centric part of the blogosphere so we have that flavor to add to Jim's book about why he's not Emergent. And after I'm done here, you folks will have your normal chance to say your piece.
The place to start is, of course, the most superficial things about the book. The regular readers of this blog will probably look at the blurbs for the book, roll their eyes, and go find something else to read. That, people, would be a massive GBA error on your part. You see: not every book worth reading has been endorsed by RC Sproul, JI Packer and DA Carson, and not every book endorsed by Tony Jones needs to be disregarded (sure: most, but ...).
In that, one of the most important attributes of this book (moving away from the superficial to the subtle) is something about it which I admit I didn't appreciate much until the end: the massive benefit of the doubt Jim gives to the "emerg*" perspective on the issues he covers. Frankly, I felt like his treatment of them was far too deferential and sort of demure -- until I got to the end and realized that he had fairly dismantled the worse elements of the movement without handing them a merciless beating, and left himself plenty of room to adopt their reasonable criticisms to seek out orthodox solutions to those problems.
I didn't realize how well he had positioned himself until the final chapter when he, anecdotally, described the real-world results of his church's vision for "Deep Church". And unlike most reviews, I'm not going to ruin it for you by giving you all the good stuff here: you really must read this book yourself.
Was it all good? No, of course not. Jim writing in the first-person was not an approach I'd recommend as it had several places where I thought it sounded a little condescending only because it was all about what "I" did. I thought his treatment of Brian McLaren was downright congenial in spite of his ultimate concern for McLaren's trajectory. And, of course, his points regarding the upside of presbyterian polity seemed to me to be unbalanced -- especially given his really broad hand of fairness for people who, as he himself admitted in the book, have plainly rejected the historical faith. There's no recourse for the independent church when it has members bringing petitions to the pastor? Really?
So my summary here is not that you must read it to believe it: Jim's book about what he is describing as a "third way" between "emerging" and "traditional" is, in spite of itself, a book which will antagonize your complacency about the church in general and your church in particular. Because Jim obviously loves Christ, and therefore obviously loves his church, he wants others to do the same -- and it's refreshing to read a new book on this subject which isn't calling people to give up on leadership, gathering together, and serious views of worship but is also calling people to love, and serve, and commit because this is actually what Christ has called us to.
Big thumbs-up from me on this book. If you haven't read it, it's your turn to read it. Go buy one and pass it around if you have to so you can find someone with whom to talk about it.
If you have read it, tell me: what was your favorite chapter, you least-favorite chapter, and why?