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Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Book Discussion - The New Christians
Sorry for the delayed book discussion this month, I've been kinda out of touch online since my son was born a month ago. But it's the summer, so laid back is all good right? :)

Anyway our book club selection for this month is Tony Jones' The New Christians. If you don't know Tony is the national coordinator of Emergent Village and so is in a great position to tell the story of this new movement called the emerging church. And telling that story is just what he does in this book. From its beginnings as a young leaders attempt to do generational ministry, The New Christians describes the formation of emergent, its main influences, and the ways it has manifest over the years.

So as we start this discussion I want to ask a few basic questions -

- how aware are you of the emergent movement and its history?

- what manifestations of the movement have you encountered?


Much has been said regarding differences of opinions as to what the "real" version of emergent is. Some say that Tony's perspective is just one of many. Given that emergent isn't a denomination, but an organization and conversation, such differences are perhaps to be expected. In light of that, did the story of emergent told in The New Christians resonate with you or did it seem outside your particular experience? Do you think emergent will ever be a cohesive group or is the diversity present in the movement something to be valued and upheld?

Next week we will explore some of the characteristics of the new Christians that are described in the book, but I hope that we can explore the larger issue of the movement as a whole this week.

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posted by Julie at 5:12 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


9 Comments:


  • At 7/16/2008 03:25:00 PM, Blogger Robin M.

    I enjoyed the New Christians, and I learned a lot from it.

    I'm waiting for a book about the emerging church written by someone who isn't post-evangelical. Who doesn't assume that readers are in their own process of overcoming a fundamentalist background or upbringing. I find the emerging church conversation an opening to become a Christian, in a way that resonates with my reading of the Gospels and my own faith tradition. But I'm not escaping evangelical culture through the emerging church, I'm learning to claim Jesus as a serious guide for the first time. And I haven't read much about that yet. I'm hopeful though.

     
  • At 7/17/2008 04:00:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Robin that's an interesting point. I do think many of us post-evangelicals would say that we are learning to claim Jesus as a serious guide for the first time as well. I know that there has been some stuff on the EC written from a post-mainline perspective (or more accurately a fringe-mainline), but little for the new believer. Some of McLaren's works are geared that way, but they are about the EC.

     
  • At 7/18/2008 09:32:00 AM, Blogger katsmith007

    I am very intrigued by the question: "Do you think emergent will ever be a cohesive group or is the diversity present in the movement something to be valued and upheld?"

    It seems to me that at least part of the felt need for Emerging Church expression is a desire to break out of boiler plate theology and status quo church practice. I'm perplexed at the notion that anyone in the Emerging Church movement might pursue "cohesiveness" as a good in and of itself. It seems to me that the diversity we see grows organically out of each time, place and unique call of God to the gathered body.

    One of the things I really appreciated about Tony's book was the fact that he describes new expressions of faith without trying to retro-fit them into a theological framework he (or anyone else) has already signed off on as "emergent."

     
  • At 7/18/2008 10:51:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I don't think Tony is entirely "post-evangelical" himself. IIRC, he got his start in the mainline world.

    In fact I appreciate how his book expressed a critique of the mainline as well as evangelicals. And already I've heard some mainliners howling about that. Seems they're okay with emergents criticizing the "conservatives", but don't like it too well when we say that we're not entirely at home with the "liberal" side of things either.

     
  • At 7/18/2008 11:09:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    I'm perplexed at the notion that anyone in the Emerging Church movement might pursue "cohesiveness" as a good in and of itself.

    I think that some people (myself included, at one time) can be uncomfortable in situations where there are a wide variety of opinions and there isn't a sense of the unity that can come with shared beliefs.

    Seems they're okay with emergents criticizing the "conservatives", but don't like it too well when we say that we're not entirely at home with the "liberal" side of things either.

    I wonder why?

    I'm suspicious of any religious group that seems to agree entirely with a specific political party. (Unless the political party was founded by that religion, I suppose. :) )

     
  • At 7/18/2008 01:12:00 PM, Blogger jerald&leslie

    Readying Tony's book was very encouraging to me, as I've grown very disenchanted with the Westernized version of church. I am on one of those readers who is in the "process of overcoming a fundamentalist background and upbringing. And, being at a point where I'm ready to toss in the towel on church (not God!!) altogether, it was a glimmer of hope for the future! I'm excited to "join the conversation" when the author (Tony) and two others pass through doing the "Church Basement Roadshow"!!

     
  • At 7/18/2008 02:26:00 PM, OpenID jessicaschafer

    I'm only a few chapters into the book, but I'm really enjoying finding out more of the history of Emergent and the movement in general. I resonate with Tony's perspective quite a bit. I've been reading emergent blogs for over a year and its great getting some more context on where everyone came from.

    I go to an emerging church (www.nexuschurch.com) and while we're not the only faith community exploring alternative forms of worship, we're definitely one of the only ones in our area pushing theological boundaries. It seems like emerging "methods" are becoming more and more acceptable, but that the theological freedom is still seen as suspect.

     
  • At 7/18/2008 04:51:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    "I'm suspicious of any religious group that seems to agree entirely with a specific political party. (Unless the political party was founded by that religion, I suppose. :) )"

    Me too Lydia.

    Though I should clarify that by "conservative" and "liberal" I was referring to conservative and liberal Christianity (i.e. evangelicals vs. mainline), not to politics per se.

     
  • At 7/22/2008 07:01:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    When I read New Christians I thought Tony fairly accurately reported on the pulse of "things emergent" in terms of perspective and theology (or flux thereof). Things aren't the same as they have been, and to many people, in Christian bubbles, this will be a shock. To others, esp, those who study history, culture and philosophy, this book is not big news. Where Christianity is emerging is rather predictable, I think.

    One interesting thing I caught, was how Tony defends his position and privy to being a relativist, (justifying it for him and us all.) Sure it clear up rather messy problems, but it's more likely untrue. I do think he's a partial relativist, (how fun?) He ever so quickly uses rather absolute strokes for claiming,

    "“The truly infinite God of the Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.” p 235

    What relativist should care about that? Non sequitur.

    I liked his use of real examples in the back. This book left many more questions than answers, much like the feeling of getting an entree taking away when only halfway eaten by an inferior wait staff. But it did show he understands and embraces paradox!! (In culture, Christian and his own mind.)

    I would have liked to see him really tackle the issues more deeply and take on some troubling question lobbed at EC, but he settled for the indirect approach too often, a story here, a script there, a paradox to suffice for a resolution scattered about. It only takes you so far, and then you want to chew on something. You want to believe. You want to know that there might be maybes, but so many maybes just feels like applesauce (sic) after awhile.

    It's a tough topic, so in a way, perhaps it's not such a bad bunt.

     

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