CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

A review of Truth and the New Kind of Christian. By R. Scott Smith.

May 4, 2006

Crossway, 2005.

It has always been a temptation for the Christian church to slavishly copy the latest trends of the day. While there is a place to present an unchanging message in new forms and expressions, it is decidedly unwise to simply seek to be relevant, at the expense of truth and good doctrine.

One new movement in American Christian circles is the emergent – or emerging – church movement. While a relatively new and somewhat diverse group, this movement can be described as a critique of the traditional way of doing church, and a call for the need to embrace much of postmodernism in order to be more effective.

One of the main books by a leading figure in this movement, Brian McLaren, is the 2001 book, A New Kind of Christian. Thus the title by Smith. He offers here a critique of the emergent church movement in particular, and postmodernism in general.

In short, argues Smith, while we have made mistakes in the past, and while postmodernism is not to be totally rejected, we pay too heavy a price in uncritically accepting and adopting postmodernist ideas.

Especially of concern is the postmodernist attack on the very concept of truth. Smith argues that the Christian community dare not give up on the concept of objective, propositional truth. To do so would be to abandon the distinctives of the Christian gospel altogether.

While there are a number of good Christian critiques of postmodernism, and at least one excellent book-length treatment of the emerging church movement (D.A. Carson’s 2005 volume, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church), this is one of the few books to nicely bring the two subjects together in a single, readable volume.

Smith is to be commended for his irenic yet forceful critique of the dangers of this latest trend to bewitch the Christian church.

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