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Book Review: Why we’re not Emergent

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Years ago at a zoo in my home state of Colorado I pulled the tail of a large, male lion. His furry, gently swinging appendage was sticking through the bars as he slept. It’s almost as though it was whispering to me, “Hey Greg, grab me and see what happens. Come on dude it will be fun.” Sadly, I listened to that little voice in my head (not the Holy Spirit) and suffered the consequences.

I remember the moment of seizure. I remember watching in shock and awe as that huge lion jumped up, turned around and roared loudly just a few feet from my face. In that singular instance my life flashed before my eyes and I almost lost control of my bodily functions. It was the single most terrifying moment of my existence. My hair felt blown back by the hot air of the angry cat who wanted to eat me. For seconds after I was frozen, locked in a death stare with with the king of the beasts.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I just read a book that reminded me of that incident so many years ago. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck have pulled the lion’s tale. They have dared to stand up against the teachings of many in the Emerging church in a well written and powerful book that I believe every youth leader and pastor should read.

I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered this book off of Amazon two weeks ago. To be honest I thought it would likely be full of anger, retribution and the tongue-in-cheek, tit-for-tat sarcasm that we’ve come to expect from many of the pro-reformation, anti-Emergent boys. But when I finally got this book in the mail, tore to shreds the brown cardboard package around it and read the back cover, I began to realize that this book was going to be different. It’s tone was polar opposite from much of the villainizing vitriol I’ve read from many in the ready, fire, aim fundamentalist circles who are just looking and longing for the next thing to hate.

Actually the authors of this book, both of whom could visually pass for poster children for the Emergent movement, were quick to point out what they agreed with in the Emerging world of Christendom. They applauded their compadres’ focus on serving the poor, trying more experiential ways of worship and, of course, being more like Jesus. As I read through the first few chapters it seemed like they felt the pain of their Emerging friends and were equally tired of the big program, big church, big budget approach to 21st Century mega Christianity. They, like their blogging buddies, seemed to long for something deeper, more authentic, transformational and missional in the way church is done in the postmodern world.

But (you knew a “but” was coming) there was much that these writers were concerned about when it came to the beliefs of many of the lead influencers in the Emergent movement. Suffice it to say that the authors had more red flags than a Communist rally. These red flags include the marginalizing of core doctrines of the historic Christian faith, the questioning of the knowability of truth, the more-than-hints at universalism in many Emergent circles and the refusal to take seriously the literal, impending, eternal reality of hell for all those who reject the Lord Jesus as their Savior.

This book communicates hard truth without ever being mean spirited. I did sense a certain sadness in many of the words of these young writers though. Kevin and Ted seemed to be genuinely concerned for those who had bought hook, line and sinker into the Emergent movement. They also seemed to care for many of the Emergent leaders themselves. I could sense that they were rooting for these Emergent leaders to get more centered in Biblical orthodoxy so they could be more effective at reaching this postmodern world with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This book has footnotes galore. This dynamic duo is not randomly accusing in a non scholarly way. They give countless quotes straight from the pens and mouths of many of these ministry leaders and influencers. This is a very well researched, well written book that was entertaining, informative and inspiring at the same time.

If you have ever struggled with how you feel about the Emergent movement, but didn’t want to just throw rocks with the angry-at-everything fundamentalists, I think Why we’re not Emergent…by two guys who should be is for you.

Thank you Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck for writing this book. You have done a service for the body of Christ. My prayer is that it will be talked about over lattes for years to come.

But be warned. You have officially pulled the lion’s tale.

Enjoy the roar.

Unlikely Fighter

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The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

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