Reforming Or Conforming? Introduction, by Gary Johnson (a Review)

I believe that this book is so important that I am going to have to review each chapter by itself. I will seek to obtain a balance in whetting people’s appetites for more (and thus not giving everything away, making purchase of the book superfluous), and yet giving people an idea of what questions and issues the book addresses, so that people can have an idea of whether the book would interest them.

The introduction is by Gary Johnson. As we have come to expect from him, the writing style is punchy, with no holds barred, and yet scholarly throughout, which makes the jabs all the more devastating. “Evangelical” Christianity as it capitulates to modern culture is shown to be irrelevant, since they are always behind the times. This is my favorite quotation from the introduction (unfortunately not Gary’s comment, but oh well): “Consider it axiomatic that when church leaders finally catch on to a trend, it’s over. The Counterculture movement of the Sixties ended at Kent State, yet trendy campus pastors were still doing bad folk masses with out-of-tune guitars way into the Seventies and Eighties. So it is today with Postmodernism. the buzzword is on everyone’s lips in church circles, while in university English departments where the whole Pomo (Postmodern) thing began, other theories like New Historicism have taken over. I contend that Postmodernism is now fading away and is rapidly being supplanted by other cultural forces” (F.W. Bave, The Spiritual Society: What Lurks Beyond Postmodernism?, quoted by Johnson, pg. 21, footnote 15). My comment on this, then, is that this book is intended to give the death blow to the Emergent Church Movement, which it certainly does for all rational people. The book is intended as a call to return to the Reformational principles, which are hardly out of date, but which offer deep resources to counteract the cultural relativity that seems to be sweeping the churches in the name of “reaching out.”

The introduction itself traces (rightly) these problems back to the Enlightenment, and back through such characters as Briggs and Barry Taylor. Surely, Gary must have been laughing his head off (if he wasn’t weeping) at this nonsensical comment from the latter: “If then we truly find ourselves in a new situation, one in which the old ways simply no longer suffice, what then of the future for Christian faith? I have already raise the notion that there may not be a future for “Christianity,” the religion of Christian faith. I mean no disrespect to historic Christianity when I make this comment, nor do I seek to simply dismiss centuries of faithful service, worship, and theology” (quoted on page 18).

1 Comment

  1. andrew said,

    January 4, 2009 at 6:31 am

    hi Lane. Hey – are you going to continue the series on this book? I just read the book and might do a chapter by chapter like you have started. i will look around to see how far you got.


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