02 May 2008

Wow. Wow. Wow.

by Phil Johnson

'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? [197]
  • 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. [75]
  • 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. [186]
  • The Jesus-versus-theology mantra is centuries old, and it makes no more sense and no more converts today than a hundred years ago. [109]
  • [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. [143]

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.

Phil's signature

PS (for those who have already asked, and others who will ask): Yes, I heard these guys get a little bit snide about John MacArthur (at Greg Koukl's prompting) on "Stand to Reason" last week. But I want to be fair and evaluate their book on its own merits. It's worth noting that Kluck writes disapprovingly of people who make "jokes at the expense of people like Thomas Kinkade," but he himself occasionally falls into (in his words) "the irony and cynicism that infuse almost any interaction with almost any person under age forty-five." In fact, on the same page where Kluck looks askance at snooty Kinkade jokes, he refers to Donald Miller as "the male Anne Lamott"—and then tries to soften the snarkiness of that remark with an apologetic end note (p. 144). It seems it's really hard to keep cynicism out of the conversation—especially when the conversation is about a movement that is so thoroughly cynical.

Hey, who am I to complain? I'm not even under 45, and I've got to admit that "a little bit snide" is a besetting sin of mine.

For the record, however, (and this is for Koukl's benefit, too): If you're going to criticize someone else's "tone" and "stridency" and failure to "relate," it's probably a better strategy to get well past that and into a totally different context before reaching for expressions like "death warmed over" and "unintentionally hilarious" to describe the physical appearance of a fairly dignified pastor.


DJP said...

What a great review. You've bumped that book up in my list.

For you to praise style and content so warmly is high praise indeed.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I downloaded the 2 free book chapters at the website www.notemergent.com and I was blown away by the brilliant analysis of DeYoung and Kluck. I fully echo PJ's "Wow, wow, wow" praise.

I also interacted with Dan Kimball over at Justin Taylor's blog about the book. It was a bit frustrating because he's rather oblique. Which I guess is to be expected since that seems to be the modus operandi of the emerging church.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Here's my interaction with Dan Kimball about "Why We're Not Emergent" on Justin Taylor's blog:

Kimball on "Why We're Not Emergent"

Rick Frueh said...

I just hate it when a book review frames the book with such attractiveness that I am surely going to buy it.

Phil said, "However, I don't think this is a book the Emerging movement is going to be able to brush aside with a facile wave."

Now that is satire I can enjoy!

candy said...

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.

True in so many ways, not just in the Church.

I'm sorry, but I think Kinkade deserves a little snideness. He went over to the dark side of kitsch a long time ago.

I'm putting these books on my "to buy" list for sure.

philness said...


I could have sworn Cent first gave us the 411 on this fine book either here or at his site. I'll gamble to say here.

Mark said...


Thanks for the review. I've been wondering about the "not emergent" book.

I am about 1/3 of the way through Wells' new book and it's great!

First, I am going to finish "Do Hard Things" today as I review it before giving it to my daughter.



donsands said...

Thanks for the review. I just began reading: Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be.
It's great reading right out of the gate, and even before the gate.
One of my pastors gave me his copy he received from T4G, which was one of 14 other books he received.
What a generous conference, and serious about edifying the leaders of Christ's Church.

Kim said...

I think I need to read this book and let a young friend of mine read it afterward. A young friend quite taken with Donald Miller.

Andrew Jones said...

true. i did brush it off with irony. but i do intend to read the book and respond to it. scot mcknight recommends i do.

interesting the suggestion that emerging church start using "and" and avoid the "either-or" dichotomy because . . .

and this is IRONIC again . . sorry

but it was said exactly like this back in 1970 in the book entitled "The Emerging Church" by Larson and Osborne.

"Whereas the heady polarities of our day seek to divide us into an either-or camp, the mark of the emerging church will be its emphasis on both-and."


"The word "and" will be a often-used conjunction in the emerging church"

now you have to admit - thats ironic!


Nash Equilibrium said...


I appreciate the tip-off on the book. I even more appreciate the fact that you are able to fully separate the authors' pokes at your boss, from the book they've written. Bravo to you.

Revivalfire said...

Cheers man! P.S I wish I'd stumbled across your blog as a new Christian at theological college! It could have offered a solid theological alternative to the liberal drivel that continualy fowed in the place!


Bryan Riley said...

It seems like most of the people I know who are a bit edgy are the ones who have long since figured out it is common to be both/and and not either/or. It seems to me that there are those on the fringes of whatever label you like to use that seem to think it is all either/or, but it seems God is all about reducing apparent (to human finite minds) paradoxes to truth at the cross.

DJP said...

Revivalfire — Perhaps we could suggest that this is the perfect present from parents to their grad-school-bound kids: a laptop whose browser is administratively locked on Pyromaniacs as its home page.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Not a bad idea, locking it on Pyro.

As a logical response to Revivalfire's observation, I propose that Phil's next book review, be for the book "Beet" by Rosenblatt.

Mike Riccardi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Riccardi said...

Re: the either/or vs. both/and thing, call me Captain Obvious but I think it depends on what you're talking about. Obviously, as the guys stated in Phil's excerpt section, one does not have to know everything about God to say they know something about God. That's an either/or distinction that shouldn't be made.

But Bryan, Andrew Jones, et al. are right too, that I've heard the "either/or" thing decried by postmoderns and emergers for a long time... and consistently. We'll say something that makes distinctions, draws lines in the sand, and creates boundaries, and in the name of tolerance, inclusivism, and "unity" they'll say, "Why does it have to be either/or?"

The difference is, there are some things where it's one or the other. Christ is the only way or He's not. The Gospel is sufficient to save in its own context or we need to help it along with a little contextualization.

Again, call me Captain Obvious, but the either/or-both/and thing all depends on what we're talking about. Neither side is always sounding one note.

Staci Eastin said...

My husband brought this book home from t4g. I started it Wednesday and finished it yesterday. I generally read fast, but this book I swallowed whole.

I'm the same age as most of the emergent leaders. I think their observations on why people my age are letting themselves to get sucked into this are spot on.

Really, the entire book is excellent. I underlined something on nearly every page.

Bruce Mills said...

I have been reading this book over the past week and I heartily agree with everything you have written in this review.

Also, I went to the website of DeYoung's church, University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI, and listened to one of his sermons. He is as equally gifted as a teacher of God's Word as he is a writer.

FX Turk said...

Yeah, now that Phil has blogged this book, you can re-read my review and recommendation and see if we're on the same page.

Anonymous said...

I am currently reading this book, and I have said "wow" about every 30 seconds. I am in their age group and should also be "emerging" or "emergent" or whatever. But I am in full agreement with the praise you have heaped upon this book and its authors, and not in the least bit surprised by the responses coming from emerg*** circles. I would love to meet these 2 guys and give them a hearty hug and handshake for giving this book to the body of Christ. It is so needed.

greglong said...

Enjoyed T4G.

Loved this book...thorough yet concise, bold yet temperate, with both systematic and narrative content.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

You know it's a good book when both Phil Johnson and Frank Turk give it a major thumbs up.

With Mark Driscoll repudiating radical emergers and DeYoung and Kluck exposing the fatal shortcomings of the emerging church, there is hope that the tide is turning.

Mike Riccardi said...

I know this wasn't the point of the post, but Koukl worries me when he makes statements about agreeing with MacArthur's ideas but wanting to identify with Pagitt because of his look.

It shows that the part of him that is "identifying" with Pagitt is his worldliness -- his flesh. And it's ironic for him to critique MacArthur for not relating, because all MacArthur has been saying this time is that he doesn't want to appeal to unbelievers in their fallenness. So, unlike Koukl, I don't think it's time for MacArthur to do take off his suit and slip into jeans and a t-shirt, nor do I think it's time to replace MacArthur with Keller on these shows.

I almost felt a little sad for MacArthur because of these comments. Ya know... it's one thing to be critiqued for your preaching the Word that God gives you. It's another thing to be criticized for your appearance. Then I got over it when I remembered MacArthur's Resolved '07 message. Not many wise, noble, or strong, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.

I pray that the truth, and not our flesh, will always be our grounds for 'relating' to someone.

Rick Frueh said...

BTW - about the "apply to forehead poster"...

never mind.

Bryan Riley said...

Many people who might identify with some aspect of the emerging church are exclusivists. It seems the label "emergent" only carries a negative connotation for conservative Christians - like "liberal." But I have found many bible-believing, Jesus is Lord and the way, the truth and the life, people who might consider themselves a bit emergent.

I don't guess I know enough about it all to really understand what the label means; although, it seems that often when I dig for more information about a label I find that it rarely fits and the alleged differences are more semantic than substantive.

Jugulum said...

Disclaimer: I haven't read the book yet. I listened to the STR interview, and read this review. I'm basing my reaction on those.

Andrew Jones,

You're correct. The authors' "suggestion that emerging church start using 'and' and avoid the 'either-or' dichotomy" is entirely ironic. It was intended irony. They're pointing out irony that they see in emergers' approach--involving false dichotomies that are quintessentially modernistic.

James Joyce said...

"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"

A friend was recently telling me how his daughter had suffered with "irritable bowel syndrome" for many years until she met up with a health practitioner who told her that IBS is just a symptom, not the disease. He then diagnosed that her symptoms were caused by an allergy to gluten. Once the gluten was eliminated from her diet the IBS went away and this young woman's life has been transformed.

It strikes me as strange why there is an emergent focus on treating the symptoms of suffering and brokeness, instead of offering the life transforming cure for the disease of human sin and rebellion.

Thanks for the review Phil. I'll have to pick up a copy....after I finish reading my fresh copy of A Tale of Two Sons.

Bryan Riley said...

I just saw this quote as I read the website excerpt and found it quite good:

"In the music scene it's really cool to search for God. It's not very cool to find Him."

I also appreciate the way they spell out that they believe they are lovingly addressing/confronting Christian brothers and sisters. It does look like a book I'd like to read.

As a support raising missionary, if any of you who have worried I may be slipping into Postmodernism really want to "bless" me with a great read, feel free. :)

Mike Riccardi said...

"In the music scene it's really cool to search for God. It's not very cool to find Him."

"...always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

steve said...

Wow. The best and most enthusiastic book reviews I've ever seen on PyroManiacs. More are always welcome.

Had I gone to T4G, those are the first two books I would have picked to read, too. They were both on my "must buy" list before 2008 began.

I ordered five copies of Why We're Not Emergent from Moody Publishers. I too am proud Moody published this book.

I haven't gotten Courage to Be Protestant yet. But your review has made me more determined to get it sooner rather than later.

Carol Jean said...

"I don't think it's time for MacArthur to do take off his suit and slip into jeans and a t-shirt, nor do I think it's time to replace MacArthur with Keller on these shows."

The pastor of our church does this between the "traditional" and "contemporary" services. Well, he slips off the jacket and tie, anyway. I always feel a little embarrassed for this 50-something gentleman. Isn't this whole contemporary thing supposed to be about authenticity? Which is the REAL Pastor X?

DJP said...

Well, Carol Jean, if he's like this 50-something man, they could both be him. I prefer dressing casually, but have no problem donning a suit to preach.

I'm ambidecorous. Maybe he is, too.


Solameanie said...

The effectiveness of this book will be able to be judged by the loudness of shrieks coming from the "Village."

The keening and caterwauling will begin along the lines of "Those two young guys just don't understand us!"

Anonymous said...

Thanks Phil, this book's near the top of my next-to-read stack.

And re: Wells' new book, The Courage to be Protestant. Agree, I'm halfway thru it now and it's the best and most readable of all Wells' works I've read to date. I posted a few thoughts on it a few days ago, particularly related to the whole concept of "contextualization.".

Strong Tower said...

djp- you're biambient too!

Dave said...

Someone needs to tell that lady there's a lizard on her head. (just kidding)

I've had WWNE on my radar (and Amazon wishlist) for a little while, but have been holding off buying it (i've been on a "buying stuff" binge lately, which i'm trying to put a stop to). Unfortunately, reviews like this only stoke the fires, and aren't helping my self control!

Thanks for your input, sir. I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

candy said...

Chuckle. ambidecorous. Dan. You certainly have a way with words.

Phil. Who is Liz?

Mike the Bible Burgh Host said...

I have given this book a start, along with about 7 others . . . don't know how guys like you and Al Mohler get all that reading done.

Your comments, Phil, have prompted me to put this book a little higher on the priority list. Maybe what we should do, since the "emergents" are so hard to pin down, is to classify them like "hot sauce" . . . the hotter, the more liberal and rridiculous . . . do you think 10 categories will cover it?

Excellent work . . . have a safe and godly trip!

Chris said...

Thanks Phil...for making me go out and drop some 45.00+ tomorrow on a few copies of this book, as there is clearly no doubt that I'm going to love it after reading your review and everyone else's comments! When I feel this way about a book, I must give copies to people!! I especially like the predictable shrugging away from this book and doublespeak from the key EC players, as they naturally wouldn't be very excited about the lies they peddle being exposed!

Jason Alligood said...


Thanks for this. I too was excited when our Youth Pastor made me aware of this book. I was even more excited when I ordered it and saw it was published by Moody (I am a grad as well.)

Not sure the Mac comments on Kokul's show had anything to do with anything. Seems like these guys should be on the same side of the fence, but anyway.

Look forward to reading this one after I get done with my six month stint in Wells' Above All Earthly Pow'rs!

Thanks again!

frankfusion said...

Good Job. I've been blogging through it chapter by chapter and interacting with a lot of the ideas. And I have to admit, these guys are good! And I didn't know I COULD LAUGH as hard as I did during some parts. I hope to hear more from them. And to respond to Andrew Jones, I had not read a critique or the EC,and when I started to read the books and web-sites, I couldn't help BUT see and either/or mentality. It's obvious. I even started an either/or thread on my blog as a result of what I saw.

Andrew Jones said...

i guess in the emerging church there is both "and" occasions and also "either/or" occasions

[look at me - i am not adding either/or to this arguement]

but i think people get hung up on the "postmodern" term - which can tend to lean towards the "every judgement is neutral and equal" and not push the idea that some judgements are wiser than others.

then they project that postmodern bent on the emerging church because some author said they were "postmodern"

we are not called to be postmodern or emerging or emergent but we are called to be faithful to the One who called us and faithful to proclaiming the gospel of Christ in a postmodern culture.

does faithfulness call for "and" or "either/'or" or "both of the above"??????

probably both. but maybe EC is better known for the "ands" and the inherited church is better known for the "either/ors"

may God keep us from extremes.

"It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes"
Ecclesiastes 7:18

Andrew E. Courtis said...

Thanks for the review Phil, it is very helpful!

Will your lectures in Italy be available download? I'm sure many of us would love to listen to them!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Look at the comment threads at these 2 Justin Taylor blog posts, one concerning Tony Jones and one concerning Dan Kimball:

(1) Tony Jones

(2) Dan Kimball

I have no doubt there are keen theological differences btw Tony Jones and Dan Kimball, but there seems to be a remarkable similarity between the two Emergers in terms of obfuscating and/or sidetracking the discussion towards vacuous trails that lead nowhere but which give the false impression of depth and erudition.

I wonder if "clarity" is a bad word to emerging church folks.

Bryan Riley said...

Let me say I haven't spent time at Kimball's site or read his books. I don't keep up with all this "stuff" as much as some of you apparently do. But, is it really that they attempt to lead no where or be vacuous or is it possible that they realize that the world's weapons of argument are not how we are to fight as representatives of Jesus and His Kingdom?

Look at Kimball's Church's website - at their core beliefs. It is solidly about Jesus and what it is to be Christian.

Perhaps Kimball asks this question: Will we ever illuminate the darkness and blindness of the world by our clever arguments or by words that state what we believe? Or must we wage against the world system through the weapons God provides in the heavenlies?

I don't know his heart and can't speak for him at all, but it seems like we often forget that spelling out right doctrine doesn't save - not even the one spelling it out. Jesus does.

DJP said...

How does faith come, Bryan?

Bryan Riley said...

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

We must hear the message - the message of Christ. The Cross is the message. Of all the religions ever dreamed up, none ever has God dying for His creation. The Truth alone reveals that amazing act of love.

Faith comes by hearing the message of Christ and Christ crucified. If someone doesn't preach that, then they are believing the lies of the enemy. But I am not aware of Dan Kimball failing to preach that.

DJP said...

First, you responded with Scripture. That's a good response.

Second, I'm neither saying, thinking, nor implying anything about Dan Kimball.

Third, I'm responding to this from you:

"Will we ever illuminate the darkness and blindness of the world by ...words that state what we believe? Or must we wage against the world system through the weapons God provides in the heavenlies? {P}...spelling out right doctrine doesn't save - not even the one spelling it out. Jesus does."

Your own answer to my question indicates that you seem to have erected a false dichotomy.

Bryan Riley said...

Dan, I think I might understand why you question what i wrote, but we know that the devils believe in God and shudder. We know that someone can say all the right things about God, read their bible daily, preach, teach, do a whole lot of stuff, but if they don't place their faith in Christ, they aren't saved. God, in His grace, through faith in Christ, alone saves. And even that faith isn't from ourselves.

So, my point is, when we focus on "right doctrine" we are misplacing our focus. Jesus called us to Himself and to His kingdom. Jesus and His rulership must be our focus. I'm not sure that when we fight each other about "our beliefs" that we aren'ts trying to make our beliefs, our doctrine (and ultimately ourselves) the Kingdom rather than submitting to the Kingdom of Christ. The Kingdom of God is not a matter of words, but of power. The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking (natural) .. it is righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. In both of these passages Paul is referring to a way of life, not a matter of words.

Bryan Riley said...

Dan, I appreciate your response, also. it was very gracious and it helped me understand your point by giving me the correct context. I'd note that my original statement that you questioned was in the context of someone writing some things that appeared to me to be unwholesome and unedifying toward someone who appears to be a brother in Christ. In that context I thought it important to try to remember that cleverness of words and "right doctrine" don't save. I can really be clever with my words and methodologies to try to evangelize others, but if God doesn't illuminate the darkness for those others... well, it's not very useful. It seems the Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. I don't have to try to sell the field; it will sell itself when people see the treasure.

Rich Barcellos said...

Did you get to meet Ulfo?

Strong Tower said...


So when are you going to stop using doctrine to convince others to stop using doctrine?

When you present Jesus, which Jesus do you present and how do you do that without doctrine?

Is a statement like: Do not be unbelieving, but believe, doctrinal or neutral, that is without meaning. And if the later, what does it mean to present the gospel of meaninglessness?

I can really be clever with my words and methodologies to try to evangelize others, but if God doesn't illuminate the darkness for those others... well, it's not very useful. It seems the Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. You have already said this in reference to the simply word preached. So, I am wondering what's the beef. If it is worthless without the gift of faith first given, it matters not the intricacy of the argumentation.

I don't have to try to sell the field; it will sell itself when people see the treasure. How can it be avoided? The moment you open your mouth, are you not trying to sell what you believe. And as you have already said, if faith comes by hearing, what does it mean for people to see the treasure except that they have been sold on it?

We agree that the value of the object is not within man to understand, that understanding is given by the Spirit through the preaching of the word. And Scripture says that somethings are hard some, things are easy, and though it is not with man's wisdom it is still a wisdom spoken by those who are mature and not children in understanding. The Word is not without power, but we are speaking of the Word of God, and that surely is not without cleverness of speach: "Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. Thus putting to silence the wisdom of the world through a cleaver device; a doctinal riddle.

We are given weapons to tear down every argument lofty thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. They are weapons of war and Paul makes it clear that it is doctrine where the battle takes place within and without the church (Ephesians). As Jesus said the kingdom is taken by force and forceful men are those who take it.

Strong Tower said...

"We believe...through our sin (failing to live by God’s guidelines and moral standards), we break our intended relationship with God and we experience the sad consequences of that broken relationship, both spiritually and socially. However, because of God’s love for us, He sent His Son, Jesus, to rescue us from those consequences, which is the “good news” (the gospel). Our broken relationship with God is restored through Jesus’ death on the cross, a perfect act of redemption for each of us. We receive the free gift of forgiveness and are spiritually reborn through repenting (changing our mind and heart) of our sin and placing faith in Jesus alone."

Such is the Pelagian/Semi-Pelagianism of Dan Kimball's church. Surely, why would anyone impugn the brother's faith, Bryan? Does Dan ever use cleaverness of speech to defend this, hmmm?

Of course the typical emergent does not want to discuss this. You know, if you're ignorant you cannot be held responsible for your leaders, now can you?

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Just how vital is doctrinal truth?

Bryan Riley said...


I have no clue what to say. I have no argument with Kimball's statement (I assume that's what you've quoted). Perhaps you do.

I've never said doctrine isn't important. I've asked myself (out loud and thus to others who read it) to examine what the writers of the NT called doctrine really meant by their use of the word.

I believe that when you try to call people to a set of beliefs you are making the set of beliefs God. I believe when you call people to the Cross of Jesus Christ, you let God be God. I think dying to myself includes dying to my right to be "right" sometimes.

Out of the mouth flows what is in one's heart. This isn't about words that teach someone what to believe; this is about what's in one's heart. A preacher could preach doctrine you believe in for 50 years, never having been a Christian at all, and they would be judged hell bound regardless of all the "great words" of "doctrine" they spoke. What matters, as Jesus taught time and time again, was what was in the heart. And a heart can't be made righteous apart from the cross of Christ.

And then as to people who really are Christians there is always 1 Corinthians 13 that tell us about doing all kinds of great things without love.

Strong Tower said...

So, when are you going to stop using the doctrine of the Cross?

"I think dying to myself includes dying to my right to be "right" sometimes."

No one is speaking of your right to be right, but of the Scriptural command to be right.

I think you had better go back and read that scripture about the leavening of the Pharisees again. What Jesus was saying is that the fruit of the lips has to line up with the tree that produced it. You said: "This isn't about words that teach someone what to believe; this is about what's in one's heart." But that Scripture is explicit that it is about: "for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." And of course it matters what is in your heart, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, and if it speaks what is true but decieves the hearer as to what is in the heart, then the speaker's condemnation is justified. But, that has nothing to do with the person whose heart is right. They are are required to speak the same truth. And by that they are justified. You might not like the idea, but right doctrine is requisite in salvation for no man can say Jesus is Lord (truthfully) except by the Spirit in him.

You worry about bringing people to doctrine, so what is your answer when people ask you who God is. Surely you do not shrug your shoulders and say "Depends". Which is a nice offer to the incontinent, but for those who appear earnest, wouldn't you give them doctrine?

You seem to think that what is argued over doctrine is a some requirement to implicit faith. It is not. But Jesus' requirement is that we speak Truth. It therefore matters what our apologetic is to the eternal degree. To say that you are bringing people to the Cross, or to Jesus, or to God without defining them, that is, without giving doctrinal reasons to believe, is to deny the Gospel of Truth. It might sound all soft and touchy feely, but as a preacher/teacher of the Gospel you are required to speak as an oracle of God, not as some *gent whose confession is, "Who knows?". For that would put you in the position of the 50 year old who speaks truth, and does not know it to be so.

Kimball's church doctrine throws you for a loop? You cannot see anything wrong with the denial of original sin? It does not strike you odd that it is the RC position his church holds, one that we, the protestation, reject? That which drove the nails at Wittenberg?

I am beginning to understand...

Bryan Riley said...


This discussion appears to prove that words don't matter.

May "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father ... give [us] the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that [we] may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of [our] heart[s] may be enlightened in order that [we] may know the hope to which he has called [us], the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bryan Riley: "This discussion appears to prove that words don't matter."

The Bible is comprised of Divinely Inspired Words. The Bible is also referred to as the Word of God. Jesus is referred to as the Word of God. Consequently, it is quite disappointing to read a comment whereby a Christian states that words don't matter in a dialogue.

Doctrine (Strong Tower): Words Matter

Opposing Doctrine (Bryan Riley): Words Don't Matter.

Strong Tower said...


Kimball seemed to say that there was an Emergent Position. I thought it strange that he would say: "Orthopraxy needs to matching with one's orthodoxy." As if emergnats had an orthodoxy. Elsewhere he infers that there is some overarching apologetic. He does have "an orthodoxy", which is expressed in his church's confession. But, then comes the jello effect. They are willing to tell you what they believe until you ask them what it means. Then if you hold them to account for what they tell you it means they get mad that you believed they really believe it...

In reading the comments you linked I thought it disingenuous that he would say that he was not taking them to task when it appears he did. And as far as calling Pagitt his good friend? To the conscientiously heretic sensitive, that would be a faux pas, but not to Kimball?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Strong Tower,

I don't know much about Dan Kimball. All I've heard is that he's not as bad in terms of being an Emerger as Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren. People like C. Michael Patton regard Dan Kimball as a "good" emerger.

With regards to Bryan Riley, I think he's somewhat confused about doctrine, "love", and salvation.

Bryan, think of 2 x 2 matrix. On one axis we have Correct doctrine and Incorrect doctrine. On the other axis we have Heaven and Hell. Got it?

So one square we have Correct doctrine leading to Heaven. Yay!!! In the square next to it we have Correct doctrine leading to Hell. (I think this is what you're concerned about.) Then we have a square with Incorrect Doctrine leading to Heaven. (Again, you seem to think that this is the case). Lastly, you have one square with Incorrect doctrine leading to Hell.

Got It?

Okay. What many Christians will stipulate is that there are more people in these 2 squares (Correct Doctrine leads to Heaven and Incorrect Doctrine leads to Hell) than in the other 2 squares. Doctrine matters for the vast majority of people.

For me, if someone holds wrong doctrine and is still heaven-bound, then I'm clapping halleluah! God is Good!! And if someone holds correct doctrine and is still hell-bound, then that's sad news.

But the overall point is that correct doctrine matters. How can anyone read the New Testament epistles and come to any conclusion that correct doctrine did not matter to the apostles? Or if any Christian reads church history, they'll have to conclude that correct doctrine matters. Creeds were crafted and martyrs sacrificed because souls depended on standing up and affirming correct doctrine.

Correct doctrine matters. Souls are at stake. To pooh-pooh correct doctrine and the spiritual warfare that's required to stand firm in faith is utterly disappointing to witness in the Emerging Church and their leaders.

Furthermore, doctrine is required to distinguish between biblical, holy, sacrificial love and the media-influenced, worldly cultural Satan-counterfeited "love" that's widely believed by postmoderns.

So to even understand, practice, and to live out Gospel Love, you still need correct doctrine. Bryan Riley, if you have time, please read or re-read Psalm 119.

Peace in Jesus,

Truth Unites... and Divides

Bryan Riley said...

I didn't realize, given the context of our discussion, that I needed to say words (and interpretations) OF MAN.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

TUaD: "Bryan Riley, if you have time, please read or re-read Psalm 119."

Bryan Riley: "I didn't realize, given the context of our discussion, that I needed to say words (and interpretations) OF MAN."

Well, if you don't want to give your words (and interpretations) of Psalm 119, well then.... that's up to you.

Bryan Riley said...

TUaD - thank you for showing how important context is.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bryan Riley - Thank you for showing us how deeply you misunderstand the purpose of theology and doctrine (and even the Bible itself!) with your statement: "I believe that when you try to call people to a set of beliefs you are making the set of beliefs God."

Bryan Riley said...

TUaD, it seems to me that if you believe what you just wrote about me you would try to encourage me and not be sarcastic with me. Even if I were being sarcastic in my last comment, which is not what I was trying to be, then a Christian response would not be in kind - it would be to gently correct in love and truth. you did ask me to read (or re-read) Psalm 119, as though you weren't sure if I ever had. You did so because you took out of context something I had said. I LOVE PSALM 119. I LOVE GOD'S WORD. I live by it every day, read it, study it, memorize it, teach it, ponder it, meditate on it, and pray that I will grow in my knowledge of it by the Spirit of God every day. I shouldn't need to say that. I wouldn't care so much about this if I didn't. I love the Lord my God. I'm sorry if my words in some way persuade you to believe otherwise. But, as we've noted, the words of man often get in the way of Truth.

Please feel free to comment again here if you want, but I am done here. I think we've more than wondered off topic, but we have proven a great many excellent points, none of which are about your, or my, faith in Jesus Christ or character or love for the Word of God.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bryan Riley,

I'm delighted to post again. Here's yet another statement that you make which I think needs further clarification: "But, as we've noted, the words of man often get in the way of Truth.

Such a statement seems to make an equivalency argument between the words/doctrine expressed by historic evangelicals such as TeamPyro with the words/doctrine expressed by the leaders in the Emerging Church.

To this, I say a thousand times "NO!" It's like making a moral equivalency argument between a Palestinian homicide/suicide terrorist and an Israeli soldier. One is better than the other.

Not all doctrine is the same or equivalent. There is correct doctrine and there is incorrect doctrine. Correct doctrine matters. Eternal souls are at stake.

What gets in the way of Truth are hardened hearts unwilling to listen and to think about the Truth and to accept the Truth because of an unthinking acceptance of a postmodern epistemological approach to Scripture and to doctrine as espoused by the Emerging Church.

Strong Tower said...

Finally Bryan, you need to read the next post by Phil and think, that when you are admonishing people not to be sarcastic and causticly bitting and unloving, that you don't do it yourself.

But, I would also ask you to review what it means to be gentle, because from a biblical perspective, when you take up the law as you did to try to direct your brothers into the righteous path, don't cry foul when they carry a bigger stick. You have offered yourself as a teacher. I suppose you would have corrected Jesus' use of sarcasm and his less than gentile manners when handling his opponents who included his disciples.

What it is exactly that is being said about the emergent jello gauntlet, is that they think it is fine to throw it down until someone calls it jello and stomps on it. Then the argument shifts to why someone should not be so mean as to don their jellow stomping boots as if the only legal way to wage a war is by emergent rules of engagement. They become what they think they are denouncing; dogmatic. The point, as has been said before, is to win, not to fight to a draw. Or so that is the way the Bible puts it. It is war and the war is a war of doctrine and in the end Truth wins. It builds strong towers against enemy assaults. It is red meat for soldiers who do battle. It is the armor we must put on.

So, please spend time. Read, and not just through the rose colored lenses of the effeminate Christ paradigm. Think of him as a man under control, gentle and strong, compassionate and passionate, riding a donkey and yielding a whip, a shepherd and a warrior mounted upon a white steed. He's not a mythical creature singing a siren's out of some obscure fogginess, but the perfect image of God whose sharp clear sword flames glistening with anger as it burns with jealousy for his bride. Any sweet talking stranger approaching his bride is immediately suspect and prey.

And yes we have gone away from the discussion of Wow. But it was not we who went there, you did. We were just more than happy to accomodate.

Check this out.

Cindy Swanson said...

Thanks...I'm really glad to know about this book. I know at least one person--a young man--who has already become really disillusioned with the emergent movement, and I know he'll find it very interesting.

And Phil, you? snide??? :):):)

Josh Caleb said...

I've had the priveledge of getting to know Pr. Kevin DeYoung over the last year or so, attending URC and even having he and his wife for dinner. I would like to heartily testify that both my wife and I have truely been blessed by his preaching ministry in East Lansing! He is a straight shooting Bible expositor and preacher, knowing his congregation, well read and culturally relevant. I can't tell you how many times I've sat under his preaching and gotten the "this sermon had its sites aimed on my conscience"! May God continue to bless him locally and more broadly through this book.

Chris said...

Bryan (and Dan, TUAD, ST):

I usually regret missing the blog for several days, but this time(after reviewing this particular thread of exchanges) I'm actually quite glad I never saw this one in real time, or dove into it, because I can literally feel the frustration comiing through the words of those who are graciously and patiently and thoroughly trying to clarify their position to you, Bryan.

As I've mentioned before, you are a smart guy, so there's no doubt you do not have any sort of cognitive inability to grasp what these brothers are saying to you; rather, this seems to be a matter of the will.

With all due respect (and please do not interpret what I'm about to say as "labeling" you because it is not a label), the only other times I have personally experienced the same degree of frustration we have had with your comments has been in my exchanges with Mormons, JW's, Catholics, New Agers, and, most recently, emergents. Before you say I am labeling emergents as cultists, I am not...; however, if the shoe fits in any dimension of their movement then perhaps this crowd just might eventually and openly throw off the only remnants they have of "inhereted" Christianity.
I make this comparison between discussing things with you and those I've mentioned because you seem determined to challenge every assumption that even hints of "either/or" binarisms. However, Jesus and the apostles and the prophets and the psalmists all understood, lived by, and used the structure of binary opposition to convey Truth. But, such thinking is soooo very unpopular today, so politically incorrect, so exclusionary, and so "elitist" (or so THEY say).

For the sake of clarity, and to help those of us who spend so many words trying to explain things to you, won't you at least admit that you are an ecumenicalist at heart (it is ever so obvious)? Or, to avoid the label, let me word it this way: won't you admit that you more readily embrace an ecumenical (broad road) form of Christianity over one that is narrow and "exclusionary", particularly of the world and its ways?

Andrew Jones said...

EITHER you are an ecumenicalist . . . OR . . he he he!

thats a tricky question. I know the word always triggers the negative bells in the world of fundamentalism.

But sectarianism is a negative word in other circles.

Some people think the reformers started the ecumenical movement by their inclusion (luther included the Hussite heretics) of non-catholics and there unhesitating acceptance of the Christian creeds. To be ecumenical is therefore to follow the desire of Jesus in John 17.

ecumenical is a biblical word - meaning "the whole earth". You can find it in Romans.

Andrew Jones said...

Love to hear everyone's thoughts on this passage from Bishop Neill:

"Schism and disruption followed in the wake of the Reformation and the process has multiplied the number of autonomous units in non-Roman Christianity. Critical observers of this trend have often drawn the conclusion that Protestantism has at its heart a divisive principle by which it is irresistibly driven to complete disintegration. Many Protestants have acquiesced in this view, justifying it on the grounds of an unqualified religious individualism, which, with more rhetoric than research, they have professed to derive from the teaching of the Reformers. On the other hand, those who have really studied Reformation sources have found in them a consistent affirmation of the reality of the one Holy Catholic Church and a clear avowal of the principle of ecumenical unity.

. . . This revival of ecumenical concern accords with the spirit of the Reformers. They sought the renovation, not the disruption, of the Church, and hoped for its reunion. They unhesitatingly accepted the ecumenical creeds . . . "

A History of the Ecumenical Movement 1517-1948, page 29-30, edited by Ruth Rouse and Stephen Neill]

Chris said...


To borrow from Don Carson, "Jesus told us not to cast our pearls before swine; that means we need to figure out who the pigs are". I'll take the liberty to answer that question: those who reject the true gospel and teach other (false) gospels are the swine we are warned against throught the New Testament.

In your inclusionary view of any and all who identify themselves as spiritual, or who believe they are "generously" giving God the privilege of their intellectual ascent to deism, or who appreciate the good moral/relevant teaching of Jesus, etc. I'm curious as to just how large your net, or pen (to continue with Carson's construct) actually is? For example, you are probably familiar with the fine bunch of emergent ecumenicalists, who likewise claim the name of Christ, at the recent "Seeds of Compassion" conference in Seattle? They believe themselves to be "open minded" and/or "evolved" enough to embrace the Dalai Lama and his lies. In other words, their pen is large enough to include just about anyone (swine) who seems progressive enough in their spiritual journey and teachings.

Perhaps at the next ecumenical conference, you can all sing "yellow submarine" together? I mean, The Beatles were devout ecumenicals as well....and ever so spiritual.