August 30, 2005, 7:45 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

The September edition of Next-Wave has gone live, which includes as its “cover story” an autobiographical piece by none other than Brian McLaren. I actually read this over the weekend on the Emergent Village website. Interestingly, the same day I read it, I finished D.A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, which obviously mentions McLaren more than a little bit.

I’ve tried to avoid reading book reviews on Carson because I wanted to read it with an open mind, without too many subscripts running. Overall, I have to say I was disappointed. I did expect to disagree with him and his critiques of the emerging church, but honestly, I expected a heartier effort on his part. I found his descriptions of postmodernity shallow and simplistic. I almost felt like he didn’t have a command of the theories and thrusts of the philosophy – at least not enough to be writing his own book length critiques. He takes some shots at Stanley Grenz, who’s Primer on Postmodernism was my first in depth exposure to the thought. He would have done better to learn more from Grenz before pulling up short, as he appears to have done. And then, of course, he goes off on Brian McLaren – at length.

I actually found some of Carson’s critiques to be helpful and insightful, even if not profound. But there’s just way too much broad-brushing – as though McLaren is the unquestioned pope of this movement/conversation. Clearly, this thing is about more than just the one guy.

The main beef I have with the book is that Carson shows his lack of understanding of his topic by his insistence on making linear, foundationalist arguments in an attempt to expose a non-linear, post-foundationalist mode of thought. I would have liked for him to be clever enough to find a postmodern approach to debunk postmodernism. Add to that the fact that this movement/conversation has never simply been about postmodernism. Many of us all along have noted the significance of the socio-cultural shift, without buying into all the precepts and epistimology. We recognize it for what it is, and then get on task with missional theology and ecclesiology.

I’m starting to sound like an academic now, so I’ll stop. I am still looking for the first good book that will put us in check. I mean that – we need a book like that. I guess I’ll give Carson some credit for trying, and for meaning well. He does display a somewhat generous spirit at times, which is more than I can say for some of Carson’s own critics.


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