19 March 2008

The Most Basic Questions

by Frank Turk

I've taken up three hobbies lately, all of which will probably vie for the honor of actually killing me. The least of these hobbies – but the one which is likely to be the most fun for the most people – is my new blog called "GiMP University", through which many of you have already clicked through to. Let me know if there's a particular technique or final product you'd like to learn how to create.

The second hobby has resulted in a sort of avalanche of free books. Some of you have noticed that I've been on a book review tear lately, and it's because if I'm going to read two books a week I figure somebody ought to benefit from it – like me. If I read them and review them, and publishers want reviews for their books, I can often get the best books out there for free.

Mostly, it's because I'm a member of TeamPyro, and we get 3000-ish hits a day, and blahblahblah. My hat's off to Phil for inviting me and to Dan for being the smart one in our group that causes readers to return.

Anyway, I'm sort of on a tear right now through books which are or ought to be useful to pastors since I spent 2007 beating down the average church-goer for wanting to leave his church. Next week, DV and the creek don’t rise, I'm going to cover D.A. Carson's new book about his father's lifetime of ministry, but this week I'm going to review a book by a couple of young guys you may have never heard of before.

Kevin Deyoung is a young pastor in Michigan who has previously written a book about practical complementarian theology, called Freedom and Boundaries; his writing partner is Ted Kluck, who has written a couple of books about football and a book about guys who fought Mike Tyson.

Together, they have turned out Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), published by Moody Press. It's technically in pre-release right now, so you can't buy it yet, but let's talk about the "you" here before we talk about "should buy this book".

You are just this guy (or woman) who reads blogs, and maybe some books, but you're not working on your Th.D. and you can't read Greek or Hebrew. You watch a little TV because, well, it's fun and enjoyable, but it's not a lifestyle for you – you don’t schedule your life around "Lost", and you haven’t lost any sleep over the fact that SciFi is about to start the last season of Battlestar Galactica, and you wouldn't care if I printed spoilers right here. You read the Bible, attend church, and you have this fear of something called "emergent church" because, it seems, their Bible is missing some pages or something.

Or you may be a person who has listened in to the "emergent conversation" over coffee at the local bean-ista, or maybe at Barnes & Noble. "Church" for you is something that people do when they can't figure out how to live like Jesus, and for people who prefer to read dead Presbyterians more than they prefer to read the Sermon on the Mount. For you, chatting in someone's living room about the mystery of God is way more interesting and edifying than thinking about the problem man's vain reasonings pose for man when he's faced with the God who talked to Moses and wrote a Law in stone with His finger – as if God actually has a finger.

Listen: if these two versions of "you" are two points on a line, and the actual "you" falls in between these two points someplace, you need to read this book. The brainier, academically-inclined professorial types have already read D.A. Carson's Becoming Conversant with Emergent, and also everything by David Wells on American Culture, Postmodernism and the Church. The rest of us have been waiting for a book by someone with an I.Q. below the boiling point of water to speak simply, plainly, and clearly about what's at stake in the "emergent conversation", and why someone who shares many of the concerns of the Emergents would choose to do something besides, well, what the Emergents are doing.

Without boxing pastor Deyoung in, I'd call him one of the better examples of the so-called "young Calvinists" out there. He obviously has a robust faith, something which is not a "mere Christianity" but a robust philosophy that hinges on a real Christ, a real Jesus who isn't far away from us in time and space but speaks to us through Scripture. And he's a serious thinker – not someone seeking to score cheap shots or create unnecessary controversy. And he's sort of the anchor in this book – the guy who keeps us faced toward the real issue, which is "Is Jesus real, and can we know Him?"

Ted Kluck, on the other hand, is sort of an interesting bird. He comes across as a very level-headed guy who has a very pleasant, anecdotal style of writing; he does really nice things with common-place events like the death of one of his childhood Sunday school teachers, or a conversation which takes place in a diner. And at one place, he calls Donald Miller "the male Ann Lamott", which I think he means as a compliment, but I thought that was exactly right – for better and worse. The thing with Kluck is that exactly where you think he's going to sort of duck into an "emergent" brain-storming alley about mystery and poverty and candles, it turns out he is actually turning on the street light of thought about the problems or questions at hand; he answers a little more deeply and a little less, um, adolescently and demonstrates to the reader that the call to faith is not merely a poetic notion.

And we're blogging here, so rather than turn out a 10-page paper on this book, I'm going to give you what I think is a taste of what's inside, and leave it up to you to actually buy and read this book.

First, from Pastor Deyoung:
I understand that the emerging church is only addressing certain areas of inquiry that they deem are most crucial. That's their prerogative. But at some point in the conversation it would be nice if they would share their convictions on something other than community, kingdom living, and mystery. The emerging church will grow irrelevant to the very culture it is trying to reach if it can't answer with some measure of clarity, however tentatively, the most basic questions that face every human being.
And also from Ted Kluck:
I am struck by the fact [while reading Peter Rollins' book How (Not) to Speak of God] that what is billed as sort of unchecked creativity has produced ten liturgies that are remarkably similar in look, feel, and purpose. This is not a critique so much as an observation that Ikon may be more like its traditional counterparts than it would like to think. At the beginning of the tenth liturgy we are reminded by Rollins that Ikon "has no substantial doctrinal center ... just as a doughnut has not interior, but is made up entirely of an exterior.

I am reminded of what goes on in seeker-friendly megaplexes all across the country on Sunday morning – slickly produced music, followed by multimedia clip, followed by drama, followed by ambiguously thought-provoking/inspirational message with a minimum of Scripture at its center.
Get this book; read this book. It frames the issues both for the Emergent church and for the larger body of Christ in such a way that both side get rightly challenged and called to action for the sake of our Lord and Savior.

Oh yeah: my last new hobby. The last hobby is, um, ... it's a TeamPyro podcast. Details to follow.


S.J. Walker said...

TeamPyro podcast?

OOOOh. I don't know, probably not. But I might possibly have prevailed a Pyro to the punch with that.(my annoying alliteration astounds me)

Again, I am likely wrong.

VcdeChagn said...

Nice graphic (snort)

Sounds like a good book. I hope CBD has it because I need to place an order before their free shipping expires (Challies' new book, some homeschooling stuff for my oldest, two copies of the Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome..and whatever else I can find that I won't have time to read)

John MacArthur may have an IQ of 200 but he writes very accessible books that are easy to read and thoroughly articulate the needed points. I think his Truth War book as well as Reckless Faith (thanks Phil for pointing that one out) say what needs to be said as well.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

A couple of weeks ago I went to the www.notemergent.com website and downloaded the 2 pdf files by these guys.

It is most excellent!!!

Their critiques of the postmodern emerging movement are spot-on. I heartily echo Frank's recommendation based on the two excerpts that I read.

S.J. Walker said...

Thanks Frank,

Do you know when it will be out?

FX Turk said...

Ships April 10, 2008.

Al said...

The rest of us have been waiting for a book by someone with an I.Q. below the boiling point of water to speak simply, plainly, and clearly about what's at stake in the "emergent conversation",…

Some in Celsius and some in Fahrenheit…

(I had to use spellchecker on the word ‘Fahrenheit’ and I think that puts me squarely in the Celsius camp.)

al sends

Stefan Ewing said...

I've known about this book's coming out for a while. I really like the idea of "two guys who should be Emergent" writing a book explaining why they're not—it may resonate more with certain readers than stuff by heavyweights like Carson (who nevertheless deserve full credit for the yeoman's work they've done).

As TUAD mentioned, there's downloadable material from the book available from the book's website (scroll down to the bottom of the main page).

Savage Baptist said...

The brainier, academically-inclined professorial types have already read D.A. Carson's Becoming Conversant with Emergent, and also everything by David Wells...

I haven't read anything by David Wells, but I have read D.A. Carson's book.

Do I have to turn in my "Official Redneck" card?

frankfusion said...

I've been looking for ward to this book. The emergents already have interviewed these guys. I might add, how do you get these books ahead of time? I'm still trying to figure it out. And kudos on the podcast.

FX Turk said...


it's like magic, dude, except it doesn't involve any dead people or false gods.

Drew said...

I spent a lot of time on your gimp university blog. Thanks for doing it.

Oddly enough, some very basic stuff, like bucket fill, still gives me problems.

I'm getting better and better though.

Carol Jean said...

I've got 3 16-year-olds here tonight working on a web site for a National History Day contest. I read them what you said about GiMP U (I shared the site with these techie kids a few weeks ago) and they said, "Tell him to post something new! We've read everything there already!" Their project is on Rockefeller. I suggested maybe they could make Rockefeller's eyebrow go up and down - really freak the judges out : ) They said they already know how to do that anyway. Tough audience.

Maybe you can post something really snazzy and impressive with a pendulum theme...but you didn't hear that from me.

NothingNew said...

I read DA Carson's book on the 'Emergent Church' and enjoyed it thoroughly. This book also looks very interesting, considering some of my family/friends would not be able to make it through Carson's critique of postmodernism in his book.

Sometimes I think the nonsense related to our postmodern and entertainment-centric culture is not actually rooted in a new way of (postmodern) thinking, but in fact it's caused by the 'absence' of rational thinking.

Theophilus said...

shucks, Al beat me to it.

It took me a second to remember that you guys use Fahrenheit.

Thanks, Al for doing the spell-checking for me. *L*

Nik P said...

Thanks for that review, Frank.

When I read and hear about the Emergent Church movement (I can't really call it a "Church" - I think they'd resent that) I wonder when it will spill over at our part of the woods in the UK and Europe in general.

I find the Emergents' teaching far more insidious and destructive than, say, the Seeker-sensitives which never really crossed over the Atlantic. But I also think it has better infiltrating capacity.

Back to my point: I was wondering when the Emergent Movement will reach our shores - and then I listen to most of the teaching that comes out of the UK Anglican front, and I can't help but think "THEY'RE HERE".

When a vicar told me that he had no problem with Brian McLaren's theology, and enthusiastically covered his sermon with a "NOOMA" video, I realised that the Truth War has begun here as well. And I'm sure it will be embraced by most so-called evangelical denominations here too. Make no mistake: European Evangelicalism is as fad-driven as in the US.

Let us pray that the God's Word and the Truth will prevail so that our Lord is glorified and not blasphemed.

NothingNew said...

One of my good old friends who lives in Bakersfield let me know last week that all the "Emergent Church" stuff at his local Barnes and Noble had it's own section titled-
'New Church'

sdCorinne said...

Thanks so much for recommending this book! I find it awfully difficult to concisely explain my beef with Emergent to my peers who are ignorant of it or embrace it. Lord willing this might help!!! God bless you.