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Reforming or Conforming?: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church Paperback – September 9, 2008
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About the Author
Gary L. W. Johnson is adjunct professor at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Suzanne, live in Arizona and have four children.
Ronald N. Gleason, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Yorba Linda, California, holds a PhD in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary.
David F. Wells (PhD, University of Manchester) is the Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In addition to serving as academic dean of its Charlotte campus, Wells has also been a member of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and is involved in ministry in Africa. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including a series that was initiated by a Pew grant exploring the nature of Christian faith in the contemporary, modernized world.
John Bolt (PhD, University of St. Michael’s College) is professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the author of several books and the editor of the four-volume English edition of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics.
Paul Helm is a teaching fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, where he was previously the J. I. Packer Professor of Philosophical Theology. Before going to Regent he was professor of history and philosophy of religion at King's College in London. His books include Eternal God; The Providence of God; Faith with Reason; John Calvin's Ideas; and John Calvin: A Guide for the Perplexed.
Paul Kjoss Helseth is Associate Professor of Christian Thought at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota and the author of numerous scholarly articles.
Guy P. Waters is assistant professor of biblical studies at Belhaven College. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Mississippi and have two children.
Greg Gilbert (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of What Is the Gospel?, James: A 12-Week Study, and Who Is Jesus?, and is the co-author (with Kevin DeYoung) of What Is the Mission of the Church?.
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Top Customer Reviews
'The Reformed have always been uneasy about the post-WWII evangelical alliance that brought together so many ministries and viewpoints into a working relationship around a small core of commonly held beliefs. The church set about selling itself and its gospel...and the major casualty was biblical truth.'
I have eagerly anticipated another book edited by Gary L W Johnson for some time now, the reason being that much of what he addresses is current and, in some cases, well-timed advance warning. Purpose driven by the popular motives of personal well-being and self-image, emerged a pomo (post-modern) 'gospel' that many unassumingly have been duped into, exempt of sacrifice, personal or divine, and which at some point in time, must still contend with the gospel of historic Christianity. Johnson presents the magnitude of the problem in his Introduction. Apologetics, as the exceptional BB Warfield presented it, has to do with evidences that unbelievers are faced with in their coming to terms with salvation and a sovereign God. These authors direct their attention not to such, but to so-called 'believers' and 'emergent' leaders within the Western church and therefore classical apologetics must be adapted to redress error within the church, through use of polemics (another Warfield forte), inviting a degree of difference. Under Johnson's leadership, differ they most certainly will!
Paul Wells, The Doctrine Of Scripture
'The question is as to whether postmodernism, whatever that might be, is of such a nature to require of evangelicals a new paradigm for this doctrine, different from the one called for by the results of Enlightenment rationalism. We think not.' p 27 'Post-conservative' evangelicals ought to be denied their demand for a radicalized Schleiermachian evangelicalism, especially given their disengagement with the doctrine of Scripture - but are they? In our times the entourage of errantists hold 'the Bible is described as a mediate, not a direct, source of revelation, a position very different from that of Warfield, who made inspiration the final act of revelation.' p 43
Paul Helm, Review Of Franke's 'Character of Theology'
The non-foundationalist scheme lays heavy emphasis on reworking everything theological in an attempt to come up with their own results, desperately hoping their distinctives are able to rise above old Princeton presuppositions. Senior Reformed spokesman, Paul Helm, brings commanding Christian scholarship to bear as he sets out to deconstruct John R Franke's 'instable' paradigm shift: 'In common with many contemporary Christian revisionists, Franke turns his back on foundationalism.' p 94 After scrutinizing Franke's confused jargon, one is sorely reminded of the apostle Paul's assertion: 'the world did not know God through wisdom', whereby the apostle surely meant a point in redemptive history BEFORE Christ, after redemption only to see wisdom as 'the foundational character of God's revelation in Jesus Christ.' p 100 Blatant anti-confessionalism as Franke advocates, assumes too much to be accurate in his acrimony, and his modifying the content of the historic gospel sends a strong message that Franke is a modern false prophet with 'another' gospel.
Paul Kjoss Helseth, The Mythical Evangelical Magisterium Reconsidered
Old Princeton's opposition to the rise of theological liberalism has often been misrepresented as an unwillingness to remain teachable. The worst maligning charge laid at the Reformed church's door is often construed to be that the Holy Spirit is not present in our meets. But do these charges ring true, or does it only serve the ends of those who promote the openness of personal experiences over objective revealed truth, due to their inferior epistemology of the Holy Spirit? '...for there to be faith, liberals conceived of doctrines as little more than expressions of an ineffable religious experience for a particular time and place.' p 131 The feelings and postmodern beliefs of Franke are weighed against the 'details soundly discovered' of the great Warfield - and found wanting of credible historical substance. Helseth asserts: 'when the Spirit takes believers ever more deeply into the objective contents of God's Word, the history of Christian thought continues to unfold.' p 134
Greg D Gilbert, Brian McLaren's Approach To The Doctrine Of Hell
Reformulating the doctrine of Hell has the unavoidable consequence of minimizing the wrath of God - and negating the exigency of atonement. 'Moreover, McLaren's deficient rethinking of hell seems to have sprung from his deficient rethinking of the gospel, and there is the most serious problem. For in the end, his struggle to be rid of the traditional doctrine of Hell is finally only a symptom of his having misunderstood the gospel of the kingdom.' p 246 So what does McLaren's fanciful mind think of the kingdom? Eternal kingdom life is not to be had in heaven, but 'an extraordinary life to the full centered in a relationship with God.' McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything p 37
Guy Prentiss Waters, An Emerging Rereading Of The Ministry Of Jesus
McLaren's meteoric rise to fame can only mean one thing: gross distortion of the Word to Gen Xers. Will Waters confirm my suspicion? Heading into hostile territory early on, Waters examines the affinity McLaren has for NT Wright, and a plethora of wacky expressions he uses to present his religion. Ah, here we go: 'Absent from McLaren's description of the fall is the guilt, or obligation to divine justice, that Adam incurred for himself and his ordinary posterity in his first sin.' p 199 As a consequence of the denial of the doctrine of human depravity, 'when McLaren defines the human plight chiefly in terms of breach of relationship, we are not surprised to see the redemptive solution defined primarily in terms of remedy of that breach.' p 199 Brian McLaren is one of the high-ranking cohorts of the modern false apostles, selling a high-octane, world-domination gospel with no bad news, to which the 'good news' must be juxtaposed.
One who is informed to the tragedy that is the 'pomo' gospel knows that it is the received gospel of the apostles that the church in history has sought to define and defend, as observed by notable heresy trials in its history. In the formative church the apostles rejected and corrected false ideas of God found in their own contemporary culture, through regulative doctrine - are we no longer to regard their example as authoritative?
Best chapters are by Phil Johnson and Ron Gleason who both have some knowledge of the EC. Many of the suggestions are good and the authors quoted in the book such as Chris Wright, DH Williams, NT Wright, offer good direction for the emerging church.
But it does have some serious drawbacks:
The book only really deals with authors connected with Emergent Village, which is one of the emerging church movements in the USA. It ignores leaders who have not published, ignores those movements outside of USA (Pete Rollins excepted). It deals with many books and authors that are not accepted widely inside the emerging church (Burke's "Heretic's Guide" for example) It doesn't deal with the the criticisms pointed at Reformed church stream and it doesn't really offer a better way of doing ministry. The book hints at the missional emphasis of emerging church but fails to define it properly. It also makes the emerging church movement seem like a theological movement which is not the case.
It also focuses on the subject of postmodernism which was quite relevant a decade ago but it would have been better to deal with cultural factors that emerging church people are dealing with (and Carl Raschke is writing about these days) such as emergent theorgy, network theory, complexity, globalization and the impact of new media on church and mission in the global emerging culture.
However, it is still one of the best and well thought through books on the subject and I hope it is read and responded to.
"Faith Undone" by Roger Oakland is probably a more perceptive book although Oakland's conclusions are a long way from my own, as well as the authors of this book which is more scholarly and at least appreciative of the emerging church's attempt to be faithful to the gospel.