Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The New Christians

Tony Jones, the national coordinator of Emergent Village has a new book out called The New Christians: Dispatches From the Emergent Frontier. I picked it up at Barnes and Noble 2 weeks ago and didn't expect to read it right away. I had other books ranking higher on the priority list. but then I made the mistake of starting it. I found that I couldn't put it down and few days later I was done.

The book is part history, part theology, part memoir. Tony starts by telling the story (at least, his take of the story) of how the emergent conversation began. The initial meetings, the conferences, the people involved, Tony gives you a broad look at the emergence of emergent 10 years ago. Chapters 3-5 look more at what the emergent churches are, their DNA, what makes them unique. Chapter 3 attempts to answer the question "Who are the Emergent Christians?" and includes 3 characteristics of emergents based on a number of interviews Tony conducted himself. Chapter 4 is about theology, and how emergents relate to theology. Chapter 5 is about truth, and how the EC relates to truth.

Chapter 6, the last chapter in the book, is an interesting look at 4 emergent churches, each different and unique, to give the reader some concrete examples of emergent churches. He also takes a closer look at some of the elements, including a look into "Wikichurch", which is so interesting that it is alone worth the price of the book.

I have said before that if one wants to be inteligible about the Emergent conversation, s/he must read and be familiar with the ideas presented in Scot McKnight's article on the topic. I must now amend that statement, and add that The New Christians also belongs on that list. All future writing on the Emergent conversation will have to take this book into account. It is a great read, regardless of what you think of the emergent movement, and will inspire you to think while setting the record strait regarding what you have heard about it.

NOTE: Scot McKnight has used the term "Emerging" to refer to the movement as a whole and "Emergent" to refer to those who identify with Emergent Village. I asked Tony which of these groups he was writing about, and he says that he rejects the difference in language and uses "Emergent" to refer to the whole movement. Thus, the book is about the movement as a whole, not only Emergent Village.

That being said, let me offer a scattering of quotes to wet your appetite.

"The soil of that growth is deep and complex, a melange that includes the advent of "new media" (blogs, email, social networking sites, podcasts, webcams, instant messaging, and so on) dissatisfaction with politics as usual, the postmodern turn in philosophy, and cracks in the foundations of mainline and evangelical Christianity. Emergents--and I consider myself one--think that this movement is but one manifestation of the coming dramatic shift in what it means to be Christian." pg XVIII

"We are not becoming less religious, as some people argue. We are becoming differently religious." pg 2

"The emergent church cannot be separated from the postmodern situation in which it was born." pg 38

"Emergents are unwilling to blindly accept the underlying assumptions of the stories they've been given." pg 40

"There is no ideological requirement to join, just a shared commitment to robust, theological dialogue about issues that matter." pg 82

"[E]mergents have pursued a faith that spurns easy answers." pg109