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Reading Criticism

June 6, 2008

I have been reading the book Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.  It is a good, entertaining read.  However, I am not one who is interested in joining the Emergent movement, am not moved by its claims, and do not have anybody I know personally in that group.  So why read a response to it?

I believe that reading a response from a more orthodox perspective is helpful in other ways.  Put simply, looking at how people respond to movements you disagree with helps clarify positions that you would not have seen clarified normally.  A statement of faith, or a book laying out the merits of a position on its own is very good, but opposition often clarifies what is not clear.  One of the reasons I am liking this read is that the core orthodox doctrines are defended clearly, with a particular response in view.  An example of this is the authors’ defense of propositions in Christianity.  The Emergent leaders do not like propositions, preferring to keep everything vague.  A normal statement of faith type of book takes this for granted: after all, it is a book of propositions, and the author typically doesn’t take time to defend their existence.  It has been good to revisit a well argued case for why Christianity is based on propositions about Jesus, and that it isn’t just a book of tips on the best way to live, but a book about the only way to live.

Another advantage of reading response books is to read how a good defense is made.  I may never encounter anyone interested in the Emergent church.  However, I will encounter people interested in some position I disagree with, and reading books like this help us to see how to go about making a winsome response to these positions.  After all, 1 Peter 3:15 says that we should always be ready to give a defense for our faith in a gracious manner.  This is something the authors excel at: they defend the orthodox Christian faith without coming across as mean-spirited.

Reading this makes me want to read J. Gresham Machen, who also wrote a defense book, Christianity and Liberalism.  Well, I guess I’ll get to that after I cut into some of the other books I have on my long list.  

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