Posted by: Alex | May 23, 2011

Some Final Thoughts on the Younger Evangelicals

One final post on The Younger Evangelicals by Robert Webber before we begin looking at the first of our really major books of the summer- John Piper’s Desiring God!  Excited about reading and engaging that book, its been on my “to read” list for a while now.

Webber I think gives us an overview of the forces involved in the “Emerging” movement of evangelicalism.  In essence, it is a movement rooted in postmodernism which seeks to “live” the gospel by being an incarnational community rather than a group which adheres to a clearly defined doctrinal statement.  As such, hermeneutics and authenticity become exceptionally important to this movement.  In so far as this goes, there are many good points to be said for postmodern evangelicalism.  I think the motivation of the “Emerging” movement- to have a more active, real faith- is right on target.  The idea of incarnational community is extremely appealing to me.  The emphasis on hermeneutics is right up my alley.  The interest in ancient traditions and the exploration of more “liturgical” denominations actually describes me.

However, there are two points at which I can perhaps offer some constructive criticism:

First, it must be kept in mind that in many ways postmodernism is a reactionary movement.  Its critiques of Modernism are ones that I am frequently very sympathetic to, but sometimes I think its solutions go too far in the opposite direction.  I would like to argue that a middle ground can be achieved, a kind of “postmodernism” which is able to be constructive and anchored in more than “reader-response.”  I have hinted at this through my review of Webber’s book and I have expounded on it in more detail elsewhere.

Second, we need to be careful about how we use historical narratives.  Webber has told some wonderful stories with history, but I think he may be guilty of the same mistake I have critiqued Neo-Reformed writers of making in the past, which is assuming that history points to their particular movement and ignoring the diversity of voices that are present throughout an historical tradition.  It is one thing to speak of being “grounded” in an historical tradition, it is another to speak of representing “the” tradition.  In  a way, this tendency in at least Webber’s presentation, and I think likely that of others, is counter to the postmodern affinity for diversity of thought and practice and it undermines the credibility of the movement.

What do you think?  What is your assessment right now of the “Emerging” movement?  What appeals to you about it?  What criticisms might you offer of it?

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