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Emergent critics

Books | David F. Wells and others show the flaws in the market-driven church

Issue: "Bleeding economy," Oct. 18, 2008

Tough-minded theologian David F. Wells wants wavering evangelicals to have The Courage to Be Protestant (Eerdmans, 2008). He emphasizes what in these pages we call "biblical objectivity," the idea that even though we are fallen sinners we can know many things about how the world works. Wells criticizes the "emergent church," which tries not to sound arrogant, for under-using Scripture: He states that God "wants us to know. It is not immodest, nor arrogant, to claim that we know, when what we know is what God has given us to know through his Word."

Wells also worries about an emphasis on "self" in churches that are market-driven and have fallen into "a new Pelagianism. That is the heresy that denied original sin." His subtitle, Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, rightly advertises this book as one to give to evangelicals who care about truth and are looking for critical analysis of those latter two categories.

Wells wrote the foreword to a book that could be the perfect gift to those headed toward emergent-cy rooms. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck's Why We're Not Emergent-By Two Guys Who Should Be (Moody, 2008) is an articulate critique of writing by Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others. The emergent churches are one response to felt needs, but one reason "throwing out babies with bathwater" has become a cliché is that it summarizes so often our natural responses to discontent.

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At a more basic level, some searchers are wondering whether God created the universe. Hugh Ross, in Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Baker, 2008), shows how scientific fact points to God and His creation of a home for mankind. For example, the gas giant planets-Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune-act like gravitational blockers that absorb or deflect potential colliders such as asteroids and comets. If they weren't exactly where they are and of the size they are, Earth would be pelted and its orbit would be disturbed.

Similarly, if the moon were smaller, Earth's rotational axis would be unstable, our days would be longer than 24 hours (creating massive day-to-night temperature extremes), and tides would not be powerful enough to cleanse coastal seawaters from toxins and enrich them with nutrients. And if we weren't in a dark part of the galaxy, we wouldn't be able to see that the heavens declare the glory of God.

Atheists who hate what they think of as Christianity but are suffering through some dark nights of the soul could benefit from Michael Novak's No One Sees God (Doubleday, 2008). It's a soft-tossing Catholic book that doesn't have precision theology, but its lyrical moments can resonate with those beginning to doubt the verities offered by best-selling atheists.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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