Christianity's Dangerous Idea, by Alister McGrath

I am mostly finished with Christianity's Dangerous Idea by Alister McGrath, but not done yet. Its an enjoyable read about Protestantism - its origins and distinctives, in particular the dangerous idea that anyone can read and understand the Bible for themselves. Yesterday I was reading it in a park in France when some guys invited me for a beer and the next thing I knew I was explaining my book to French Catholics. It made me feel very PROTESTANT.

Picture 11-4

Its a good book and suitable for students. Alister covers the usual suspects and touches on worthy missions background to Protestantism's expansion but he also offers some unique insights - like the rise of the Bible belt in USA and how Anglicanism ended up north rather than down south. Interesting.

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Top 3 Books of 2008

Here are my top 3 books from 2008. I have read them all twice.


1. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by N.T. Wright.
I had a gut feeling it would be the best book of the and guess what? . . I was right as usual. Even Scot McKnight agrees with me. Eschatology was a big topic in 2008 and Wright puts forward some fresh thinking and a hard core challenge to take the resurrection of Christ seriously.

2. The Great Emergence, How Christianity is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle
Reviewed here on the blog, many months before it was released - I just couldn't wait. Great panoramic view of the last 4 decades and our current emergence from a publisher's point of view.

3. GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn, by Carl Raschke.
I reviewed it here. Carl Raschke points to where we are in this postmodern shift and explores our challenge in confronting a the challenges of globalization, the internet and "Islamism".

Runner Up - The New Conspirators by Tom Sine which is one of the best books on the emerging church movement ever. Actually, it could easily be one of the top 3 books.

Reforming or Conforming? Chapter 7

Church and Community or Community and Church? by Ronald Gleason
From the book Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church

This chapter by Ronald Gleason and Phil Johnson's chapter, were the best ones in the book for me so I am responding to them before the others, in case I dont get to the whole book. Both men have some history with the emerging church conversation and have done their homework. I have chatted to both by email in the past.

Ron Gleason sees evangelicalism sliding down a slippery slope over the past 4 decades, characterized by these landmarks:
1. A glaring lack of and disdain for the historical Christian tradition
2. A thirst and desire for "tangible" religion
3. A hunger for genuine community and relationship.

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Reforming or Conforming? Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - The Doctrine of Scripture: Only a Human Problem, by Paul Wells. From the book Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church

Paul Wells discusses the divine-human relationship to Scripture and offers four models - witness, accommodation, the analogy between Christ and the Bible [incarnational] and the servant form of Scripture. Treatment is given to scholars who's names begin with "B" - Bavinck, Brunner, Barth, Berkouwer, Barr and special treatment for Bloesch. I know what you're thinking . . . . Where the heck is BRIGGS? Well, Charles Briggs gets treatment in the book's Introduction, along with Bave. Oh yeah - Clark Pinnock and Peter Enns also gain a mention from Wells also.

Key thought: "The doctrine of the humanity of Scripture cries out for a fresh approach that will liberate it from the self-destructiveness of modernism and postmodernism."

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Reforming or Conforming? Introduction

Introduction by Gary L.W. Johnson.
From the book Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church
MP3 with Gary Johnson in which Gary talks about the book and what lies behind it and the emerging church movement that he calls "a radical reversal of the reformation".

Picture 17-1Gary Johnson kicks this excellent book off with a quote from Carl Raschke on the church embracing 'postmodernity" and immediately makes a connection with liberal theologician Friedrich Scheliermacher, Far too soon, I think. Raschke explains what he means by "postmodernity" in his later book "Globochrist: The Great Commission takes a Postmodern Turn, 2008". In this book, Raschke, who shared a Belgian ale with me last year in the Netherlands, and is a wonderful fellow, prefers the word 'globalization' as a worthy successor to 'postmodernism', pointing out that no one can refuse to be 'postmodern' in this sense of the word. I think Carl would add that dimension to this conversation if he could.

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New Atheism - Reposted

UPDATE: I am reposting this because the old one got messed up and didn't come up properly. Also, there are some new articles worth reading like Madeleine Bunting, and ZMag. There are also some books including a critical response to New Atheism by John Haught and a more cynical response by my friend Becky Garrison called The New Atheistic Crusaders and their Unholy Grail.

ORIGINAL POST (2006): The New Atheism is making a splash. Here is the skinny.

Last year I read a good history on the key figures of early atheism. Its called God's Funeral by A.N. Wilson (1999) which gets its title from a poem by Thomas Hardy. It was interesting and informative but there was no expectation that atheism would make a comeback and honestly, i wondered whether i was wasting my time reading the book. Now its 2006 and New Atheism has become a hot issue on the blogosphere with its fundamentalist intolerance for faith and Christianity.

Richard DawkinsRichard Dawkins' new book The God Delusion is part of that conversation. I was tempted me to part with £16 last week but after thumbing through the book, i didnt think it a serious reason to part with my money. Alister McGrath agrees, calling it his "weakest book to date" [Wikipedia] You can always read the free essay by Dawkins released the same day as his book called "Why There is Almost Certainly No God.

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Compelled By Love: Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation on TSK today.

Today I have special guests Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation on the blog to talk about their book Compelled By Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living. The website for the book is worth a visit.

TSK: Ed and Philip, thanks for the book. I think it’s fantastic that you point to love as motivation for mission. I hope the book does really well. I have a few of Ed's books on my shelf - Breaking the Missional Code and Perimeters of Light: Biblical Boundaries for the Emerging Church. They are both very accessible books, accessible to a wide audience. I guess Compelled by Love follows in that style. Your conclusion reminds me of Milfred Minatrea's excellent book, Shaped by God's Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches. He also worked for the Southern Baptists, as did we all. Do you think the challenge of love is a unique contribution by the Southern Baptists to the global missional conversation?

 Images Page Cover CompelledED and PHILIP: I don’t know that our emphasis is unique. But I do think that many in our tribe have a mission impulse because of their love for the lost. And, the emphasis on a love for the lost makes it easy to connect to a missional impulse.
Ultimately, it is hard to get beyond the teachings of Jesus and the totality of scripture without seeing love as the motivation for mission. Now I don’t see it as the only motivation for mission. The increasing emphasis on the glory of God is a healthy thing.
But, the purpose of our book is to emphasize love as central to the missional impulse. A phrase like “compelled by love” – not ours, but borrowed from 2 Corinthians 5 – easily encapsulates this impulse. The whole point of the 2 Corinthians 5 passage seems to be that because of what Jesus has done on the cross, we are going to Be-Do-Live differently. And the underlying reason for that is love.

ANDREW: Do you think love trumps strategy? {I have always thought that loving is more important because if you really love someone or something, you will eventually find a way to do what you need to do. A strategy without love is just noise.}

All You Neede

[image from flickr]

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The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing And Why, by Phyllis Tickle

"While no observer is willing to say emphatically just how many North American Christians are definitely emergent at the moment, it is not unreasonable to assume that by the time the Great Emergence has reached maturity, about 60 percent of practising American Christians will be emergent or some clear variant thereof."
Phyllis Tickle, manuscript for The Great Emergence, How Christianity is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle. Comes out October 2008 so don't take that quote as gospel . . just yet.

This blurb of mine is a little premature . . . but i cant wait.The manuscript arrived last week and I dropped everything to read it. It didnt take long to read - its not a long book - but its a GREAT book and perhaps book of the year, If N.T Wright's Surprised by Hope doesnt beat it. I was asked for a quote for the book (I'm not worthy!) and so . . .

phyllis tickle the great emergenceI cannot speak highly enough of this new book by Phyllis Tickle. Astonishing, in its panoramic scope, cultural insight and lucid brevity, 'The Great Emergence' pinpoints the global emerging church movement within the greater drama of Christianity in a new world. Finding her bearings from previous revolutions and locating our present upheaval within the rhythms of human history, Tickle shows us why The Great Emergence will not die away but will instead inaugurate and define the next epoch of Christianity. This book will raise eyebrows and expectations.

Right. Enough with the official blurb. Its a damn good book. Buy it! It will be on my Top 10 Emerging Church book list.

I should also say that Phyllis's book made me uncomfortable in a few sections with some of her future scenarios but I took these as predictive rather than prescriptive. And her link between the charismatic movement and the emerging church movement made me squirm a little but its a fair observation and one that history will no doubt shed more light.
The book is an amazing work of both artful prose and scholarly accomplishment and I would recommend, as I do with all of Phyllis's books, to buy the hard cover version and show it some respect.

Read on for two more juicy quotes. (Hope the publishers wont mind -Hi Chad! Just these two and I promise i wont spill any more beans . . .)

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The Shack

The Shack, by William-P-Young. Its an Amazon best seller and someone in your church has probably already read it.

Shackbook SmallI hardly ever read books that are hugely popular, especially when they are hugely popular among the Christian population. But The Shack caught my interest. A few months ago in California I saw my friend Elbert glued to "The Shack" and figured the book was probably a good read. When the controversies started on the blogosphere, I decided to buy it. Before I could order it, I found it on my bookshelf along with the other books sent to me for my blog review.I guess I am a little behind on that pile of books to be reviewed.

Anyway, I started reading it and got halfway. Its a good book. It reminded me of the frenzy around Frank Perretti's "This Present Darkness" 20 years ago. We were living in Portland, Oregon at the time. I was a Bible College student and Debbie was a nurse and were among the people absolutely hooked on Perretti's book. Since The Shack is based in Oregon, my old stomping ground for 5 years, it struck a chord and got my attention.

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Michel Serres

Simon Critchley: "Coming from a background in phenomenology, I'd like to ask you about your relationship with modernity."
Michel Serres: "Maturnity! Why do you ask me about that?" (link)

Michel SerresMichel Serres is my favourite French thinker and author and yet only a few of his works are in English. Notably, The Troubadour of Knowledge (some of which is on Googlebooks). I first read Michel Serres in a The Postmodern Bible Reader. It was one of the best chapters in the book - "Meals Among Brothers: Theory of the Joker" which is a mindboggling, fast-paced complex little piece on socio-economic theory drawn from the encounter between Jacob and Tamar. I thought to myself . . . now HERE is a guy who is just as scatter-brained as I, impossible to box up into one category, probably more ADD than me, and yet absolutely brilliant!

I think i liked him so much because i found an author with a mischievous artistic bent who mashed genres, categories, and expectations and who was confident enough to play with structure, bending grammatical rules to create something profound and poetic. Which is why so much of his nuanced writing is untranslatable from the French but when it does make it into English, its amazing and it invites playfulness and creativity into the writing process. Spike Milligan meets Teilhard de Chardin. At my best, when I am writing well, when words flow effortlessly and transcend boundaries, I find myself thinking of Serres.

Jean Luc Marion is also a favourite but he is far more wordy and not nearly as much fun.

Interesting, I was having a chat with Leonard Sweet some years back and Len told me that Michel Serres is his favourite author. Howzat??? Len used Serres's thinking on "third places" in his book Soul Tsunami. Anyway, I found an interview with Serres from 1995 that Wired was going to publish but they chickened out.

I would love to meet Michel Serres, and hope to one day. In the meantime, a blog has been set up for Serres readers which even has a video of Serres dancing in a club . . . club without poles . . in case you were wondering.

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