Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Pseudo Review of Tony Jones' "The New Christians"

While this book has been around for a year or so, it's safe to say that the "new Christians" are still, well, relatively new. I hadn't had an opportunity to read Tony Jones' book until yesterday. I'm glad that I finally picked it up. This is an excellent, thoughtful introduction to the emergent Christian movement. Jones weaves the impulses, intuitions, values and concerns of postmodern Christianity around the story of the "birth" of Emergent Village. It's a good balance of auto-biography, theological/philosophical reflection, and testimonies ("dispatches") of Christians who are learning to practice and sustain their faith differently from what has been modeled to them in the era of "crusades" and mega-churches. Jones defines emergent Christianity as "an effort by a particular people in a particular time and place to respond to the gospel as it (once again) breaks through the age-old crusts. And it's the shifting tectonics of postmodernism that have caused the initial fissure" (p.37). Some of those who vigorously oppose movements like emergent Christianity may simply not recognize that emergent Christianity is not a capitulation to culture, but is a Gospel-informed response to the questions, concerns and presuppositions embedded within the culture of postmodernity. Of course, some might argue that emergent Christianity is not grounded on the "Gospel," as they understand it. But it would be difficult, on the basis of Jones' book, to make the case that what impels the New Christians is a hetero-Gospel. Rather, what the reader discovers here is a critical response to the particular way that culture and Christianity have been conflated in the evangelical church during the twilight of modernity. And, as Jones' persuasively argues, it is precisely their adherence to the Gospel and their allegiance to Jesus which drives them to do faith, church and witness differently. Emergents do not wish to be either liberals or fundamentalists (both of which are captive to modernist epistemology), but faithful Jesus-followers in their particular context.

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