Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Posts Tagged ‘Emergent Church

Best Links of the Week

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World Magazine has a piece entitled, “Farewell Emerging Church, 1989-2010.”

NPR Podcast analyzing assets acquired by the Federal Reserve. (HT:  Phill Graham)

Companion piece to an NPR, All Things Considered program on a Hedge Fund called Magnetar.  Explains how this Hedge Fund made tons of money on credit default options by perpetuating the housing bubble.  (HT:  Phill Graham)

Big Hollywood piece on the U.S. 2010 Census challenging the wisdom of giving out race information, as well as, questioning the meaning of the word ‘race’.

Non-Government personal income fallen 3.2% under Obama presidency.

WSJ article on the shortage of medical doctors already problematic.  A lack of Biblical warrant, innovation, quality control, expediency, and a lack of fiscal incentives for the brightest students are my five major concerns of Obamacare.

In a rather strange story, retail store Hobby Lobby evangelized in their Easter ads.

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Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

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No Place for Truth by David Wells

These books represent the best analysis on the present status and recent history of evangelicalism.  This list is meant to be informative and not to be alarmist or disconcerting.  I think the classic Dicken’s line, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times‘ will apply the Christ’s church til He return.  It is implicit also in this list that works commending a Christian worldview, like Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, are must reads.  I have also omitted more esoteric debates including books on open theism, federal vision, new perspectives on paul… etc.  The purpose of this list is zoomed out than those specific issues.

1.  No Place for Truth by David Wells  [e, p, s]

How modernity crept in and screwed up evangelicalism.  Absolute classic.

2.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll  [y, l, e, p, s]

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that it is so scarce and scant.  You may also want to read Os Guinness’ Fit Bodies Fat Minds, addressing evangelicalism’s intellectual laziness and preoccupation with the temporary.

3.  The Democritization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch  [e, p, s]

Fascinating analysis of the democritization of Christianity in America.  His historical analysis is keen and well-researched.

4.  Christianity and Liberalism by J. Greshem Machen  [e, p, s]

This classic work delineates the liberalism of the early 20th century as being a completely other faith than the historic orthodox Christian faith.  86 years later it is still relevant.

5.  God in the Wasteland by David Wells  [e, p, s]

Wells continues where he left off in No Place for Truth, by challenging evidenced consumerism in evangelicalism.

6.  The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells  [e, p, s]

The title is a play on Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Tillich’s work was a classic in early 20th century Protestant liberalism.  Wells draws connections between the emergent movement as really being a form of rehashed 20th century era liberalism.  Wells is also scathing on the level and abuse of marketing in modern evangelicalism.  As far as Wells goes, his Above All Earthly Pow’rs s also a worthwhile read:  in terms of analysis Pow’rs is to post-modernity what No Place for Truth was to modernity.

7.  The New Shape of World Christianity:  How American Experience Reflects Global Faith by Mark Noll  [e, p, s]

I am surprised by the lack of press for this book.  Noll examines the history of Christianity in America and draws parallels in key growth areas (Southern hemisphere and the East).  Noll is actually rather positive amid the torrent of bad press on what American Christians are exporting.  This is an important work because we are good to be reminded that American evangelicalism is not the height of church history.  Further, the church is Christ’s and she will prevail.  I think Noll has his fingers on the pulse of what is going on and what is next, we would be wise to listen to what he has to say.

8.  Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden  [e, p, s]

This is a must read if you seek to understand our history.  Also an important work is Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray.

9.  Reclaiming the Center:  Confronting Evangelical Accomodation to Postmodern Times by Various Authors  [y, l, e, p, s]

Various heavyweights chime in on the necessity of remaining faithful to the preaching of the Word and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you like this work, I suggest also Os Guinness’, Prophetic Untimeliness:  Challenging the Idol of Relevance.

10.  Christless Christianity by Michael Horton  [y, l, e, p, s]

This books has caused a bit of a stir.  You can read John Frame’s book review here.  I have yet to read the book, but I thought it a worthwhile mention to engage in present dialogue over the status of the Gospel in evangelicalism.  From what I gather, Horton has guys like Joel Osteen in view when he speaks of a Christianity without Christ.

11.  Young, Restless, and Reformed by Colin Hansen  [y, l, e, p, s]

This book is an important first look at the growing demographic of young Reformed folk.  This is an area that needs further analysis and hopefully a good work will come soon.

12.  Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges  [y, l, e, p, s]

Bridges is 100% right when he highlights several sins that evangelicals strangely tolerate:  gossip, anger, pride, jealousy, anxiety, and selfishness to name a few.

13.  Why Johnny Can’t Preach:  The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon  [e, p, s]

Gordon applies Marshall McLuhan’s keen insights to shed light on the dearth of serious bible teaching in evangelicalism.

14.  Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll  [y, l, e, p, s]

I think Mark Driscoll is a very important voice in evangelicalism, moreso than many of my fellow Reformed brethren.  This book is a humorous yet insightful look into the story of the planting of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  There are many lessons weaved into the narrative that are wise and memorable.

15.  Why We’re Not Emergent:  From Two Guys That Should Be and Why We Love the Church:  In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck  [y, l, e, p, s]

The first book is a solid book on the emergent church.  I also wanted to end this list with on a positive note with Why We Love the Church.  Many times we can get so bogged down in self-criticism that we forget to praise God for all the truly good things he is doing in and through the church in America.

What we need is always adherence to the same three things:  orthodoxy, orthopathos, and orthopraxis.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future… Part 6

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Our brief look backward at the roots of evangelism has brought us to the last two decades. I think like almost any period in history there are encouraging and discouraging elements… reason for optimism and reason for pessimism.  For me, the last two decades have been more of a cause for optimism than pessimism.

The main cause for optimism is growth of the Reformed side of evangelicalism, combined with the weakening of the evangelical populist side that had dominated conservative Protestantism for most the 20th century.

There are several factors that have contributed to the weakening of the populist group.  First, the populist group had grown to borrow heavily from the culture-at-large, namely, from consumerism and from the methodology and structure of the corporate (capitalist) business world.  The paradigm of the 150-300 person local church became a thing of the past and the megachurch with slick production, smooth communication, and programs for kids of all ages.  Pastors became de facto CEOs.  Attendees were/could be anonymous.  Community was based on affinity groups based on generation or interest.  Upon first glance, it appears to be what the culture wanted…  Diet Jesus:  little/no accountability (or church discipline), worship where that draws attention away from self, preaching that is heavy on story and light on the challenging words of the Bible.  I am painting a rather pessimistic picture of the megachurch movement here, but I think in many examples it is more than fair.  In my view, this kind of church model cannot be sustained and will either die a slow death or ultimately implode.

Is it bad to pray against classical Dispensationalism?

End Times Charts!

Another factor contributing to the weakening of evangelical populism is the death of classical Dispensationalism.  When Y2K came and uneventfully passed it was the final nail in the coffin of classical Dispensationalism.  Surprise, surprise, God doesn’t follow the Gregorian calendar or your end-times charts.  Between no seminary teaching classical Dispensationalism anymore and Y2K this led people to start thinking differently about the millenia and drinking from different wells, reading a bit more broadly.

I think real Christians want real preaching of the Bible, with real community, and to make a real impact where God has them.  I think this desire has led to a large scale movement away from evangelical populism towards churches with

John Piper

John Piper

expository preaching, church discipline, historic confessions, and smaller size.  These churches are almost unilaterally Reformed in their lineage.  I think the resurgence in Reformed theology is primarily not a Presbyterian movement (that is nothing to diminish the real growth here), but predominantly Baptist.  This is due in large part to the influence of John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll, and several others.  The Baptists have their roots in the Puritans who had deep roots in Reformed Theology.  This resurgence is not without its weaknesses and we shall talk about this later.

One of the more nefarious aspects of evangelicalism in the 20th century was the neglect of the everyday mission field of America.  We have already explored why evangelicals receded from cultural engagement as a equal and opposite reaction against the imbalances of the Social Gospel.  However, evangelicals were equally imbalanced in not engaging the culture with words and deeds.  In the last twenty years we have seen a resurgence in churches caring for the cities that they live in by seeing them as a mission field.  I think the missional church movement has been by-and-large very positive (minus the more radical emergent church voices).

Thrice

Thrice

There has been a resurgence in Christians making diverse solid music, see:  Thrice, Cool Hand Luke, Blindside, Appleseed Cast, Denison Marrs, Reach Records, Reformed Rap, Sufjan Stevens, and Mineral.  In addition there has been a resurgence of Christians making good art, across multiple mediums, see:  Makoto Fujimura, Marilynne Robinson (also here), and Darren Doane.  There has been a resurgence in Christians in academia:  Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, Rodney Stark, Dallas Willard, Phillip Johnson and James Davison Hunter.

This concludes our look at the past of evangelicalism… up next, we will at some potential future trends.

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