In the book Reforming or Conforming?, editor Gary L. W. Johnson brings together biblical scholars to show that the emergent or post-conservative movement is not something new, but rather a reintroduction of the liberal theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher and others. These liberal theologians were trying to accommodate Christianity to the thinking of the Enlightenment of the late 18th Century, whereas the emergent church is trying to accommodate Christianity to the thinking the current post-modern culture. The contributing authors are precise in making their case, demonstrating the connection while being careful to recognize the differences as well.
The book is made up of an introduction plus twelve chapters by thirteen different Reformed scholars, each one focusing on a point of emergent theology. Beginning with the introduction, Johnson shows the reader the similarities between the views of the emergent church and the Liberal Theology of the 18th century. Each successive chapter critiques a singular issue held by some of the leaders in the emerging movement, including hermeneutics, salvation, hell, and atonement.
The authors are careful to clearly articulate the views of the leading proponents of the movement and then refute them with precision and clarity. The main proponents are names like Brian Mclaren, Rob Bell, and Doug Pagitt. Through the course of this book, the works of these renowned emergent leaders are tested in the light of Scripture, with deficiencies exposed. Reforming or Conforming? does require its readers to have a substantial theological understanding, expecting them to be familiar with personalities such as Friedrich Schleiermacher and Carl Raschle. The reader is asked to deal with complex theories of the humanity of Scripture and Theological Methodology. Therefore, I question the value of this book actually reaching those who have fallen into the emergent movement.
Regardless, Reforming or Conforming? is a must-read for every pastor. Today, pastors are faced with an increasing pressure to accommodate to the new postmodern culture and this collection of essays provides much-needed answers in this challenging time. – Brad Keller, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Thirteen Reformed scholars take on postmodern evangelicals and provide a solid, biblical critique of their ideas. While self-described “post-conservative evangelicals” enjoy increasing influence in the evangelical world, they represent a significant challenge to biblical faith. Popularizers like Brian McLaren (of Emergent Church fame) trade on the work of scholars like Stan Grenz, John Franke, and Roger Olson, whose “innovations” represent a major makeover of traditional and historic evangelical theology. This is especially the case with the doctrines of Scripture, the atonement, and the character of God—all of which stand at the center of evangelical Christianity.
In Reforming or Conforming?, scholars such as John Bolt, Scott Clark, Paul Helm, and Paul Helseth join editors Gary Johnson and Ron Gleason in analyzing and critiquing the ideas of those who promote postmodernism as a positive force in theology. Pastors, laymen, and college students will find this book a helpful resource in understanding and refuting postmodern evangelicalism. Includes a foreword by David F. Wells.