Book Review: Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)

Book by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Review by Stephen Rodgers

Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck is a very thoughtful, well-researched, and eminently readable text on the “emergent” church (although the authors acknowledge a distinction between emergent and emerging, they relegate such distinctions as beyond the focus of the book). The book is written in a tagteam effort by a pastor from Michigan (DeYoung) and a sports magazine writer (Kluck). The two alternate writing their chapters, with DeYoung providing solid theology with an emphasis on footnotes, and Kluck providing solid theology with an emphasis on experience and sarcasm. And while you’ll probably favor one over the other, they’re both worth listening to.

It’s obvious that the authors spent years preparing for this book. The bibliography alone ranges for almost a dozen pages, and they frequently quote speeches, conferences, and classes that they attended—many offered by several of the more well-known voices in the emergent movement. This is not a one-sided polemic out to sucker-punch a straw man. While they deal with such topics as the journey/destination paradigm, the value of propositions vs. dialogue, caricatures of both emerging Christianity and Modern Christianity, orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy, disputed doctrines as penal substitution and the wrath of God, and the role of (postmodern) culture, they are just as likely to fire a salvo at the more traditional forms of Christianity as the emergent ones if they feel that either has strayed from Biblical teaching. As one author writes, we “need to know that decisions can (and should) be made based on Scripture and not just experience.”

What I found to be suspiciously timely was the final chapter, which, I admit, I read approximately two hours before this article was due. My procrastination notwithstanding, it blew my mind. Entitled “Eavesdropping on Asia Minor,” DeYoung briefly categorizes and identifies the traits present in the seven churches from Revelation, paying special attention to Pergamum and Thyatira as examples of the emergent community, and Ephesus as indicative of the more Reformed/strict orthodoxy community (sound familiar?). He then uses that as a springboard to highlight not only the weaknesses that Christ condemns, but the practices that He commends. And while those weaknesses are clearly visible in many emergent communities, so are the virtues. There is room for improvement on both sides.

In conclusion, if you’re interested in learning more about the emergent church movement, this is a must-read book. It manages to be informative without falling into academia, humorous without becoming insubstantial, and seeks not so much to attack or vilify a movement as it does to educate and promote thought. The hope, however, is clearly that all such reasoning would not be based upon experience, culture, “success” criteria, or a never-ending societal dialogue, but rather the authority of Scripture as the very Word of God.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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