This review is part of a blog tour taking place today. More reviews, questions, and challenges here.
The emerging church may have mostly died, but not their questions. Their questions and perspectives show up on blogs and among the usual suspects – but they also show up among our kids, in the most conservative of circles, among people who have never read a Brian McLaren book in their life.
A lot of these questions come from a new cultural mindset that is sweeping through the church. A new generation is trying to correct the mistakes and blind spots of earlier generations, and the just see things differently. I saw this in a young crowd recently. The crowd was young and somewhat conservative, but had serious questions that didn’t fit the conservative mold.
How should we respond? We could dismiss these concerns and questions, but this would be wrong. They are important questions. A lot of people have them, and we can’t wish them away. Besides, many of their concerns contain insights that we need to hear.
We need to face these issues, and that’s where Don’t Stop Believing by Michael Wittmer comes in. Wittmer is a professor of systematic and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is conservative, but he understands the questions. “I am caught in the middle,” he writes. “This book attempts to bring both sides together, eliminating the extreme views of each party and uniting them around a biblical center.”
Wittmer tackles the tough issues: tolerance, deeds vs. creeds, original sin, homosexuality, the legitimacy of other faiths, hell, truth, the meaning of Jesus’ death, and the truthfulness of the Bible, and more.
What I like about Wittmer is that he deals with the issues honestly and thoughtfully. No cheap shots. No casual dismissal of legitimate questions. No straw men. There are times that I am surprised by his positions: I think he is going to get his conservative evangelical credentials revoked! But those are the exact areas in which I think he is right. Conservatives have blind spots that need to be corrected too. Wittmer ends up challenging both conservative Christians and postmodern innovators to learn from each other.
Wittmer argues that we need to keep believing the classic, orthodox doctrines, and he explains why. But we also need the concern for ethics and justice, as well as the willingness to question and think through issues, that postmodern innovators embrace. We need both belief and practice.
Let’s stop the pendulum and embrace both sides. God commands us “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” Genuine Christians never stop serving because they never stop loving, and they never stop loving because they never stop believing.
This is the second really good book I’ve seen from Wittmer, and I hope there are more coming.
If you are struggling through any of these issues, or in ministry among people who are, then you can really benefit from this book.
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