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Posted May 27, 2012
For many young evangelicals like myself, the rise of the Emergent church held out the promise of connecting evangelical Christianity with a postmodern world. I personally watched it with a mixture of skepticism and hope though I have never fully engaged. Jeremy Bouma, author of Reimagining the Kingdom, has a little bit different story. He was, for a time, fully engaged in the Emergent movement/conversation and identified with himself with it. As he learned more about Emergent theology, particularly as represented in the works of Brian McLaren and other advocates, he began to realize that the movement was not about re-articulating the truth of the Gospel to a new generation, but about reimaging the gospel itself.
In Reimagining the Kingdom Bouma demonstrates one way that Emergent in general (and McLaren in particular) are reimagining and redefining the message of the gospel. He does this by tracing the use of “Kingdom of God” language in the heavy weights of liberal Christianity (from Schleiermacher to Tillich) and then connecting it with the same language in McLaren. What he discovers, and what the reader discovers along the way, is that McLaren’s “Kingdom” theology is really nothing new. It is simply a repackaging of liberal theology for the postmodern thinker. In that theology, our human problem is reimagined as an external constraint instead of an internal rebellion. Jesus is reimagined as morally but not metaphysically God. And salvation is reimagined as being found in the emulating Jesus’ life as opposed to being found in Jesus’ atoning sacrificial death and resurrection.
This is an important book for anyone interested in the theology of the Emergent church, its language, and its potential impact on evangelicalism. For those who are considering identifying with the movement, the book serves as a warning. For pastors or Christian leaders engaged in the conversation it provides important historical background that clarifies the roots of this “new” theology. For myself, as a pastor, though one not particularly involved in the Emergent discussion, it was a reminder to continue teaching the basics of the gospel message, the reality of sin, and the hope of salvation in Christ alone.
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Posted May 17, 2012
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