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The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier Paperback – 24 Apr 2009
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"This intelligent and informative book is the only insider story from one of the leading lights of the more progressive wing of the emerging movement, the former national coordinator of Emergent Village." – Christianity Today (October 2009)
What the "Emergent Church Movement" is all about-and why it matters to the future of Christianity Following on the questions raised by Brian McLaren in A New Kind of Christian, Tony Jones has written an engaging exploration of what this new kind of Christianity looks like. Writing "dispatches" about the thinking and practices of adventurous Emergent Christians across the country, he offers an in-depth view of this new "third way" of faith-its origins, its theology, and its views of truth, scripture and interpretation, and the Emergent movement's hopeful and life-giving sense of community. With the depth of theological expertise and broad perspective he has gained as a pastor, writer, and leader of the movement, Jones initiates readers into the Emergent conversation and offers a new way forward for Christians in a post-Christian world. With journalistic narrative as well as authoritative reflection, he draws upon on-site research to provide fascinating examples and firsthand stories of who is doing what, where, and why it matters.See all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
A little about Tony Jones, Tony has been at the forefront of the emergence for most of its existence and until recently was the national coordinator for the emergent village. He went to seminary at Fuller Seminary and is getting his Ph.D. from Princeton, he writes like a down to earth academic. Speaking to the normal everyday Christians who have never had a class in theology class, but every now and then he likes to drop his knowledge and you will have to break out your dictionary to look up a word or you have to scribble down the name of some obscure theologian so you can look them up later. Basically I am trying to say that Tony comes across as an everyman's theologian. A guy you could go have a beer and talk baseball just as easily as you could discuss the early church father's views on the doctrine of atonement.
As I mentioned above I see this book as being the best primer on the book shelf to the emergent movement. In fact if you want the full treatment, get Phyllis Tickle's book "The Great Emergence" to tell you why the emergent movement is here and then get this book to fill in the details of what the movement is.
In the book Tony starts off by giving some background on his own personal story and where he is coming from and how he got where he is now. Then Tony gives his take of the story of how the emergent movement evolved and began from a few young pastors and theologians. Then we get a description of the kind of people that are drawn to the movement and why they are attracted to this new form of Christianity. Next Tony really shines as he lays out much of the theology of the emergence, and while it is no way a doctrinal statement or comprehensive description of what the movement believes, it is more like what they don't believe and what they are open to. He also spends a good amount of time addressing the idea of truth and dispelling the idea that this is just relativism dressed up in trendy clothing and cool haircuts. Finally we get an inside view of several church's that Jones feels fall inside this movement, a nice cross section of what is going on in various emergent churches across the country.
All in all I really enjoyed this book. I came in as a person who has had the thoughts of an emergent for the past few years I just didn't know it. This book helped me see the others who feel/think about Christianity the way I do and understand how others got to this place. So if you are interested in this movement, (Although I don't think "Movement" is a good word for it) or are just looking for something new in Christianity then I think you may like this book.
First, to be completely narcissistic, I enjoyed reading Tony's story of his journey into Emergent because it echoed so much of my own experience. I know that he has received criticism for not being inclusive enough of various forms of emerging thought in this book, but he makes it clear in the book that he is telling the story of his own experiences, the groups he has encountered, and the friends he has made. He gives snapshots of where he has encountered the conversation and summarizes the trends he is witnessing. Some people may not see themselves reflected in this book, but for those of us who have trod similar paths as Tony, it is affirming to have part of our story told. This book represents our reality - from the questions, to the conferences, to the online emphasis, to the conversations.
I also like that Tony isn't afraid to tell the truth about the messy parts of Christianity and emergent. The messy parts exist and many in this conversation have experienced pain because of them. So I appreciate Tony's willingness to say that yes Emergent has critics, yes there have been falling outs, and yes some people have refused to play ball with us. It's reality and hiding from it won't help resolve differences. And it's high time, imho, the truth was told that its not just emergents causing the problems.
I appreciated the way Tony dealt with the issues of homosexuality and women in ministry. Instead of dealing with each as "issues," he just told the stories of real people. He was inclusive and affirming in practice while not alienating in dogma. Of course this could just mean he pisses off everyone on both sides of these issues, but I thought he was fair in how he approached such controversial topics.
I enjoyed his affirmation of how popular culture shapes our reality. There are streams in the emerging church that refuse to condescend to popular culture. One often feels like one needs to apologize for watching TV or for listening to mainstream music around other emergents. I liked how Tony used popular culture as metaphors and as keys to understand the forces shaping the conversation. I prefer this thoughtful engagement to the snobbishly turning up of the noses I often expect in emergent circles.
There were of course other stories and ideas throughout the book that I enjoyed, just as there were a few things I questioned and a couple of things that I found annoying (the layout). But this is a good book, well worth the read. If you want to know more about emergent, understand where it came from, or just hear the stories of real people who are a part of it - read this book.