Kevin DeYoung is an interesting character in evangelical Christianity. Coming from a strong reformed tradition, he is turning heads by becoming involved in big projects with the Gospel Coalition. He considers himself “Young, Restless, and Reformed,” a movement that stems from millennial’s coming into the Church holding onto important tenants such as expository preaching and election.
Interestingly enough, the early 2000’s produced a movement of evangelical Christians that tried to appeal to millennials by producing hip pastors with soul patches, fancy coffee drinks, and contemporary music. Most importantly, they embraced existentialism and shy away from strict doctrinal stances that seem to them an anachronism. This movement was called the “Emergent Church,” and for awhile they posed a great threat to Christian Orthodoxy.
DeYoung partners with Ted Kluck to investigate this movement, what they believe (or don’t believe) and how it is effecting Evangelical Christianity. They admit it is a hard task to undertake. Perhaps this is because emergents are unequivocally mysterious about what they claim to believe in particularly on doctrinal issues. For example, no where can you read Brian McLaren’s stance on homosexuality. Is it right or is it wrong? Emergents thrive on ambiguity and embrace spirituality, not religion. They are big proponents of the social gospel: the thought that making a change in the world by doing is better than sitting in coffee shops debating theology. Theology and doctrine are the enemies to the emergent. What does it matter if you deny the trinity? What does it matter you deny the virgin birth? Shouldn’t Christians be getting out and showing the love of Jesus instead of sitting on their knowledge, their fat, obese intellect, and doing nothing for the world?
DeYoung provides an interesting look at the Church at the very end of the book. He comments on the Churches from Revelation. These Churches were real at one time and had these problems he lists, but the metaphorical nature of the Church can help diagnose problems in our Churches today. He essentially breaks down a swing which is too extreme in both cases: in the first, churches are too intellectual and have little emotion, like the church at Ephesus who “lost [their] first love.” On the other side, there are churches that are seemingly alive with emotion, but are dead in the way of knowledge, to which Christ responds, “I know all the things you do, and you have a reputation for being alive – but you are dead!” Both of these examples contribute to the widening divide between the stuffy churches of yesterday who are content with taking but not giving and the charismatic upheaval seen in recent years, particularly influenced by churches attempting to please millennials in a convoluted way to lull them back to the church, from the opposite spectrum.
Fortunately, the most attended churches today are those who have: 1) a strong position on what truth is, and 2) doctrine and not emotionalism in the sermons. This is encouraging because remember, DeYoung wrote this book in the hay-day of the emergent church. What we have seen since then is a rapid disintegration of the threat of emergents. This is good news, but not all is good: complacency kills, as the Marine Corps preaches, and we need to be on guard and on the lookout for dangers that threaten the truthfulness of Christianity and seek to displace the authority of the Bible in exchange for popular belief.