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New Horizons

January, 2009: The Authentic Church

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Sincerely Yours: The Marks of the True Authentic Church

A youth minister was illustrating how we are fallen image-bearers to a high school group. He began by pulverizing various small "sinful" clay figurines. Then he tried to end the lesson dramatically by producing a samurai sword and a life-size figure of a head. After winding up, he brought the sword swiftly toward the head, only to stop the blade suddenly just inches from the victim's neck.

But much to his surprise (and horror), the blade snapped off the handle and went flying, barely missing several kids' heads, and placed a deep gash in a whiteboard across the room. Naturally the illustration was a huge hit with the class, but it deeply unsettled the minister, knowing that a dreadful accident had barely been averted. What he had not considered was that the sword was not authentic. An authentic samurai sword would have had tempered steel that extended the whole length of the handle. But this sword was a "genuine replica," with subpar metal set into the wood handle by only a few inches. Had the sword been authentic, the near accident would never have happened. (On the other hand, the advisability of a youth minister seeking to illustrate points of theology by wielding a samurai sword is another matter.) Read more

Why We Are Not Emergent

Have you ever wished you knew more about the so-called emergent church? Maybe you were listening to a fellow believer rave about the latest emergent book and, though your inner theological warning light was blinking madly, you just didn't know how to enter the fray in a thoughtful, helpful way. So you smiled weakly and wished there was something you could read!

Well, your wish has come true. Put Why We're Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be) (Moody Publishers, 2008) on your reading list. The two guys are Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. DeYoung, a good friend of mine and the pastor of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan, tackles the theological issues with chapters on the knowability of God, the authority of Scripture, the importance of doctrine, modernism, and the real Jesus—one who brings peace, but also promises wrath. Kluck, a member of DeYoung's church and a sports writer by trade, writes with a "man in the street" style, interviewing various pastors, scholars, and friends, while thoughtfully questioning the underlying dogmas of the emergent crowd: dialogue, story, community, and hip pastors. Read more

Christianity and the Emergent Church

In her best-selling book, The Great Emergent, Phyllis Tickle argues that a sweeping change is occurring in Christianity. Much like the Protestant Reformation, the church is cleaning out her attic, and what will remain is the emergent church.

According to Tickle, the Luther-like leader of the great emergent is Brian McLaren, and his 2005 book, A Generous Orthodoxy, is the ninety-five theses of the movement. McLaren presents a new way for the church that avoids the pitfalls of so-called conservative dogmatics and liberal indifference. McLaren's goal is to deconstruct Christianity and to rebuild it in a fashion amenable to our postmodern culture—a kinder, less heaven-looking, more socially transforming faith. The church must lower its voice about absolute truth and certainty and follow the example of Jesus in dealing with man's most pressing problems (hunger, climate change, communicable diseases, consumerism). Read more

Not New, but Improved

Dear James,

On one level, I'm glad you wrote with questions about what you're hearing in Christian doctrine class. But, on another level, I wish you hadn't written, because to hear what some professors say about Reformed theology is to hurt my jaw when it hits my desktop. Read more

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