Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review: The New Christians #2

June 6, 2008

The New Christians Part 1


This post is the 2nd of 6 from Tony Jones new book called, “The New Christians

Chapter 2 starts out with some fiction (Tony is secretly a fan of fiction), an allegory. It serves to set the stage for the lion’s share of the rest of the chapter which covers, warts and all, the friendships which evolved into a movement. But this movement was not started by these friends, packaged tastefully, and then promoted, although it could easily be interpretted that way. Instead, this group of friends got together and began to recognize that there was a common experience among them which had no voice. They wondered if there were others “getting it” (whatever ‘it’ was).

The story goes on sharing how many people were experiencing the same thing in the United States and in the U.K.  

This chapter is a skin of made partly of history, partly of autobiography, partly of fiction, partly of anecdote – a skin wrapped around the response to the problem of the RIGHT/LEFT Christianity denoted in the first chapter.

What is not stated as expicitly as it could have been is the incredible risk taken by many of these emergent friends. Many of these people have cast their lot with a life of church and then turned their back on the bread and butter. Many of these people have families to feed, have rent or mortgages to pay, have to make ends meet. They put it on the line with the institutional support completely evaporated.

I wanted to hear more about the emerging church in Africa, South America, Asia, and Australia. The stories from other continents, if there are any, didn’t make chapter 2 of the book besides a reference to Brian McLaren’s travels to Africa. But that is still an American headed out. I want to hear about Korean emergents, Guatemalan emergents etc. I also want to hear more about women in emergent. Factor out Karen Ward, and there is not much talk of women.  

What this chapter best does is show how something comes out of nothing. How emergence happens – or can happen. It is not a model for how to do it, but rather it is a story that shows that it can be done. People with a passion, an itching, a yearning, with a sense that maybe this church life is getting in the way of your relationship with God, then chapter 2 gives hope that you don’t have to just be suffocated by your denomination. At the same time, you can’t be a little emergent. So far as Jones is concerned, it is full immersion.


Book Review: The New Christians #1

June 4, 2008

This post is the first of 6 from Tony Jones new book called, “The New Christians.”

The first thing I want to say about this book is that it is easy to read. Important words are defined in inset boxes, it is written in digestable chunks, and it is generously sprinkled with relevant stories. Tony can write.

Chapter one presents the reader with the problem with the modern American church. Neither liberal nor conservative churches escape being exposed as flawed. My favorite word in the entire chapter is compost. I liked it so much I created a category on this blog called “Compost Pile,” which will serve as place for posts representing the specific church of Christ compost pile that is rotting in our ecclesial back yard.

Jones’ compost, as best as I understand it, represents the old, stale, entreched, decaying, dying church structures, systems, and organizations. It is the waste that churches decide to keep around because of decisions made long ago, the need to maintain a distinct identity, or the inertia of beaurocratic layers which just can’t be stopped. Each group’s compost is different in some way, but the common theme of spiritual death runs through them all.

Being introduced to the philosophical notion of foundationalism was insightful and worth getting into. He provides a mock conversation which I am sure has been had a million times which does a fine job of showing the problem Christians have with foundationalism.

Jones ends chapter 1 with a dispatch from the blogosphere and how emergent might be something more than an insular theological exercise for educated white people. The inclusion of Musings From a Postmodern Negro is not just a strategic move by Jones, it is a statement to White Christianity and a critique of emergent that there are many voices that must be heard which are not sitting at the same table. Just because Christianity has always been segregated in America does not mean that it has to be that way in the future.  

This book is relevant to members of churches of Christ because our heritage sits smack in the middle of the critique of the conservative wing of Christianity. There are New Chritians in churches of Christ who will find this book a breath of fresh air. Ministers, elders, deacons, professors, and bible teachers in churches of Christ should also be looking into “The New Christians.”

Go to The New Christians #2