The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

Overview

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...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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)
Publishers Weekly

Jones (The Sacred Way) provides the single best introduction to the Emergent Church movement, of which he is a prominent leader. The mainline denominations are dying, and the hyperindividualism of evangelicalism is unsatisfying, so many young evangelicals, Jones explains, have decided to recreate church for postmodern times. Jones credits Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianwith raising important questions about sounding the Gospel in an era beset by questions about foundationalism, epistemology and how to read Scripture. He passionately defends the emergent movement from criticism. In particular, critics are wrong to claim that emergents don't really believe in the Bible; emergents passionately love the Bible, says Jones, but also know that finite human beings cannot definitively articulate truth. The strongest sections put flesh on these theoretical bones by taking readers into actual emergent churches, like Jacob's Well in Kansas City, Mo., where the pastor draws on Catholic practice, engages the visual arts and sees the church's job as assisting people on their "pilgrimage" of faith. Jones's writing is brisk and conversational, but the book gets poor marks for design. Call-out boxes, pull quotes and frequent font changes, which might be thought to appeal to a younger audience, in fact make for distracting and disjointed reading. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

A doctoral and research fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary, Jones currently serves as the national coordinator of Emergent Village, a nonprofit organization of the Emergent movement, an ecumenical and postmodern form of American Christianity. The Emergent movement values inclusion; rejects the secular/sacred dichotomy, finding God active in all of life; believes friendship and reconciliation to be more important than doctrinal agreement; and gives greater weight to the biblical call to community than to the democratic assertion of individual rights. It values orthopraxis (doing the Gospel) over orthodoxy (believing the Gospel) and often engages in social and/or political activism without attaching to a particular political party. Here, Jones analyzes the movement in 21-sentence dispatches that describe its chief characteristics and follows each dispatch with narrative illustration and discussion that successfully help clarify and amplify the movement's features. Highly recommended for public and seminary libraries.
—Carolyn M. Craft

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470455395
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/20/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Tony Jones (tonyj.net) is the author of many books on Christian ministry and spirituality, including The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life. He is a theologian-in-residence at Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis and a doctoral fellow in practical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Tony is a sought-after speaker and consultant in the areas of emerging church, postmodernism, and Christian spirituality. Tony has three children and lives in Edina, Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

"A LIVING WAY: Emergent Visions".

Series Foreword.

PREFACE.

INTRODUCTION: What Is "Emergent"?

CHAPTER 1: Leaving the Old Country.

"Church Is Dead".

Signs of Death–and Life.

The Problem on the Left.

A Case Study: Go Where I Send Thee.

The Problem on the Right.

A Case Study: Don't Ask Us About the Chickens.

The Real Problem: Left Versus Right.

Caught in the Crossfire.

Dispatch from the Blogosphere: Musings of a Postmodern Negro.

CHAPTER 2: Dispatches from the Frontier of the American Church.

An Allegory.

An Alternative Ending.

Geological Musings.

What Exactly Is Emerging?

The Beginnings.

"The Bible Is Propaganda".

The New Kind of Christian Effect.

Meanwhile, Across the Pond.

Then till Now.

The Church's Choice.

Dispatch from the Rocky Mountains: Katie and Kristen.

CHAPTER 3: Who Are the Emergent Christians?

Hunches and Intuitions.

Influencing Culture or Influenced by Culture?

An "Envelope of Friendship".

An Emergent Voters' Guide.

Dispatch from I-35: The Terrific Tale of Trucker Frank.

CHAPTER 4: The Theology, Stupid.

Dartmouth Days.

What, Exactly, Is Theology?

Theology on the Rise.

Going Deep.

Skiing the Slippery Slope.

So, a Biblicist and a Relativist Walk into a Pastors' Conference.

The Expurgated Lectionary.

Dispatch from Seminary: Legalisms of the Left.

CHAPTER 5: After Objectivity: Beautiful Truth.

The Thrill of Interpretation.

Reading the Whole Bible.

"Sonny, It Ain't Nothing till I Call It".

Truth (a.k.a. God).

After Objectivity: Dialogue.

Beautiful, Messy, Incarnational Truth.

Paradoxes.

Dispatch from the End of a Three-Mile Dirt Road: Recovering "Church".

CHAPTER 6: Inside the Emergent Church.

It's a Great Day at Jacob's Well!

Wikichurch.

Tightly Knit: Journey.

Binitarians.

The People's Liturgy: Church of the Apostles.

Time to Rethink Seminary.

MyChurch: A Paean to Solomon's Porch.

EPILOGUE: Feral Christians.

APPENDICES.

Appendix A: "Emergent Village Values and Practices".

Appendix B: "A Response to Our Critics".

Appendix C: "Disastrous Statements".

NOTES.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.

THE AUTHOR.

INDEX.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 23, 2012

    interesting but...

    This is an engaging window into a new world of religious thinking, and certainly reveals much about the culture of questioning everything - except that certain things, like the Trinity of Persons in God, are still accepted as dogmatic mysteries. I was disappointed that Jones in describing this movement did not refer much to the metaphorical and symbolic character of Biblical language in addressing such mysteries, even though these are all neatly explained in the 18th century works of Emanuel Swedenborg.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    Straw Man Argument Abounds

    Tony Jones' book "The New Christians" is an outstanding history and overview of the Emergent Church movement. Jones is obviously a compelling writer. He also brings up many important things to consider for the future of the Church. But it was hard for me to read past the negative and inaccurate characterization of Mainline Christianity in general and the United Church of Christ in particular.

    In the first chapter of his book, Jones attempts to set up a dichotomy between conservative Christians (via the Southern Baptist Convention) and liberal Christians (via the United Church of Christ). He then implies that these two denominations represent the extremes of Christianity. The SBC being at the far right and the UCC being at the far left. Jones also says that this SBC-UCC dichotomy represents "Conventional Christianity" that has grown stagnant, ineffective, and irrelevant. He then suggests that the Emergent Church represents a "New Christianity" that is fresh, capable, and relevant. The implied message is that the Emergent Church is the movement that has been able to transcend the conservative-liberal dualism and form something radically different. It's the classic straw man argument that misrepresents other perspectives.

    One of the problems with Jones' argument is that it's an oversimplified description and false dichotomy. For example, Jones commented on "the silly television ads from the liberal United Church of Christ." This comment is a misunderstanding of the purpose and meaning of the commercials. The "bouncer ad" (which Jones mentions) was one of many different ads used in the UCC's TV ad campaign. All the ads have different themes and ways of communicating, so it's not possible to describe them with one simple, flippant description. As Bill Moyers says, we must "beware of the great oversimplifiers." Nuance is always important because things are always more complex than our initial impressions reflect. Plus, for Jones to name something as "silly," is dismissive, unhelpful rhetoric for Christian dialogue.

    As another example, Jones said the UCC was a "notoriously left-leaning denomination." This label is a gross misrepresentation of the UCC, since the denomination is represented by a vast array of theological perspectives. The UCC is a postmodern denomination that is made up of a diversity of the polities, theologies, perspectives, and peoples from many different contexts: Evangelical, Reform, Congregational, Frontier Christian, Black Church, Rural America, Feminist, Womanist, Queer, etc. So, the UCC is a multiform denomination that seeks unity in it's diversity. It's not an ideological denomination that imposes any one agenda. It's not accurate to label the UCC as a "notoriously left-leaning denomination." A better description might be to label it a "notoriously 'big tent' denomination."

    Real life is too complex for clear-cut labels. But somtimes we need to use labels in order to make sense of things and engage in conversation. The important thing is to use labels in a careful, prayerful, and mindful way. And to realize that all labels fail to perfectly describe anything or anyone perfectly. So, the flippant way in which Jones used labels in his book was inaccurate and unproductive. It ultimately undermined his own commitment to postmodern theory and theology.

    In the end, this book was a disappointment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting But Biased

    Tony Jones' book "The New Christians" is an outstanding history and overview of the Emergent Church movement. Jones is obviously a clear and compelling writer. As a postmodernist, he also bring along a nuanced perspective in much of his book. But, as in all writing, there's criticisms to be given. One criticism for his book is that Jones' comments about the Mainline/Old-line Church are inaccurate. Jones' comments communicate a non-nuanced, unrepresentative, and negative view of Mainline Christians in general and the United Church of Christ in particular.<BR/><BR/>In the first chapter of his book, Jones attempts to set up a dichotomy between conservatives (e.g. Southern Baptist Convention) and liberals (e.g. United Church of Christ). He then implies that these two perspectives represent the extremes of Christianity. Jones also says that the SBC-UCC dichotomy represents "Conventional Christianity" - and the Emergent Church represents "New Christianity." The implied message is that the Emergent Church is the rational movement that has been able to transcend the SBC-UCC dualism. The problem with this argument is that it's an oversimplified perspective and false dichotomy.<BR/><BR/>For example, Jones commented on "the silly television ads from the liberal United Church of Christ." This comment is a misunderstanding of the purpose and meaning of the commercials. The "bouncer ad" (which Jones mentions) was one of many different ads used in that campaign. They all have different themes and ways of communicating, so it's not possible to describe them with one simple description. As Bill Moyers says, we must "beware of the great oversimplifiers." Nuance is always important because things are always more complex than our initial impressions reflect. Plus, for Jones to name something as "silly," is dismissive, unhelpful rhetoric for Christian dialogue.<BR/><BR/>As another example, Jones said the UCC was a "notoriously left-leaning denomination." This label is a gross misrepresentation of the UCC, since the denomination is represented by a vast array of theological and political perspectives. The UCC is a postmodern denomination that is made up of a combination of the polities, theologies, perspectives, and peoples from many different contexts: Evangelical, Reform, Congregational, Frontier Christian, Black Church, Rural America, Feminist, Womanist, Queer, etc. So, the UCC is a multiform denomination that seeks "unity in diversity," not a denomination that is so easy to label. <BR/><BR/>Real life is too complex for labels. But we need to use them in order to make sense of things and engage in conversation. The important aspect is using labels in a careful, prayerful, and mindful way. This book tosses around labels too freely, especially for a person who claims to be leading a postmodern movement within Christianity.

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    Posted June 22, 2010

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