Book Review: Truth and the New Kind of Christian

Truth and the New Kind of Christian 

Over the last few years, I have begun to see the name Emergent Church tossed around a lot in Christian circles.  I really desired to learn about this new view on being a Christian and what this looked like in light of scripture.  These desires led me to Truth and the New Kind of Christian by R. Scott Smith.  I originally was planning on buying the two most interesting works of the founder of the Emergent Church movement Brian McLaren which include A Generous Orthodoxy and The Secret Message of Jesus and comparing them to scripture.  I then came upon this book by an Assistant Professor of Ethics and Christian Apologetics from Biola University who had done the research for me.  Smith does a very good job of using quotes from the works of Brian McLaren and Tony Jones, an Emergent Church youth leader, to summarize the views of the Emergent Church.  The Emergent Church line of thought is developed fundamentally out of McLaren’s experiences with the church.  He has, like so many others that I have talked to, been burned by the church.  He was tired of the American churches judgmental nature and apathy that it led him to form this new idea of an Emergent Church.  There are several good things that McLaren sets out to do in his ideas which I am very attracted to.  He desires for everyone to live out what they say they believe, become more missions-minded, communicate the gospel to people in culturally relevant terms, experience God as a transcendent Being who is also holy, building community with other believers in order to seek God together, and living a “generous orthodoxy” that puts the great commandment of loving God and loving people into action in everyday life.  Every one of these things are very good things that would not only revolutionize the church but would bring Christians as a whole back to a place where we were actually living out the gospel message and impacting our world in the process.  The major problem with the Emergent Church, as pointed out by Scott, is the fact that all these ideas are, according to McLaren, supposed to happen within a postmodern worldview.   There are several key problems with the postmodern view that when applied to Christianity become even bigger problems.  Postmodernism is based on the assumption that the real world exists but we can only know about this world by talking about it and derive the meaning in the world via our conversations about the world.  This means that we cannot get an accurate picture of the world through our conversation which forces us to deny that absolutes can exist in the real world.  This makes morality up to me and forms the basis of the relativistic moral attitude that we see.  This moral relativism makes living life illogical.  As Scott reminds us, in order for you to say that morals are relative forces you to say that Mother Teresa was no better than Adolf Hitler.  This leaves us in a world where we do not want to be.  So, when this philosophy begins to be applied to the church you are left with no absolute right and wrong so therefore there is no basis for moral actions.  This leaves you in a world where you can do what you want because no one can tell you it is wrong.  This clearly contradicts the foundation for morals that is contained in the Bible.  Another problem is that in order to interpret the world around you must use the language.  So once this is applied to the church, you must become part of the biblical community and learn the language and by that you learn about God.  God is not someone Who you can know of by looking at “the heavens who declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19Open Link in New Window: 1), but rather you become a part of the community and learn the language which then translates into a knowledge of God.  This presents several problems considering that man is fallen, and therefore is left with a fallen view of God.  This also changes the face of evangelism permanently.  According to McLaren, you cannot tell others about what Christ has done in your life and about the forgiveness and grace that Christ gives us at the cross, but you must invite them into this community where they can experience it for themselves via the language that the community presents about the unknowable real world of which God is considered a part.  I think that the Emergent Church raises some good things that we should seek to develop in our churches, but a worldview change to postmodernism does not need to be accepted and used in order to bring these changes about.