Thursday, October 1, 2009

Unity within the Great Tradition

Kevin DeYoung is co-author of of Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be and so felt constrained to review Deep Church by Jim Belcher, a book which proposes a "third way" between the traditional church and the emergent church. He found much more to agree with than he anticipated. A few quotations from a much longer, good and informative review that summarizes and responds to the book:
.... The heart and soul of Deep Church is Belcher’s dream for traditional and emerging camps to find unity in the Great Tradition and not blast each other over second-tier differences (67-68). Chapter 3, “The Quest for Mere Christianity”, is the most important chapter in the book for understanding what Belcher is aiming for with his third way. On the one hand, Belcher wants to avoid the fundamentalist error of seeing every other kind of church as heretical and suspect. On the other hand, he also wants to avoid the liberal error of seeing theology as infinitely malleable. Belcher’s vision is for the traditional church and the emerging church to find common ground in the consensual tradition summed up in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed (54ff.).

Second-tier doctrines are not unimportant. Many of them are weighty, and individual churches will come down in different places relative to these doctrines. But binding all churches together is a tradition of orthodoxy. It’s the Great Tradition, then, that matters most, not our respective traditions. For the Great Tradition unifies us and ought to arouse our greatest passion. Belcher's book is a winsome plea for a return to Mere Christianity and the humility and unity that goes with it. ....

.... In the end, the thing I liked most about the book is also my biggest criticism. Belcher’s way, despite its few differences in shape and tone not a genuine third way but the traditional way mediated through Tim Keller. ....

Deep church is essentially traditional doctrine with a softer edge and more cultural engagement. That's not bad. It can be very good if done faithfully. But I don’t think it is a third way. Very few of the extremes of the traditional camp rejected by Belcher are footnoted or attributed to any leader in the traditional church. Consequently, I don't think he is rejecting the traditional church as much as a bad experience of it. ....

Deep Church confirms again that there are very serious problems with some of the theology coming out of the emerging church. It also confirms again that hide-bound, legalistic, unfriendly, uncaring traditionalism is not the way to go. If you need a refresher on either of these two points, this book will do the trick. Jim Belcher has given us an insider's and outsider's look at the most controversial church movement of the last decade. And though I have some disagreements with the book, in the end, he reaffirms the importance of the faith delivered once for all for the saints. And that’s a very good thing. (more)
DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed: Deep Church: A Third Way?

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