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Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  416 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
A careful and informed assessment of the “emerging church” by a respected author and scholar

The “emerging church” movement has generated a lot of excitement and exerts an astonishingly broad influence. Is it the wave of the future or a passing fancy? Who are the leaders and what are they saying?

The time has come for a mature assessment. D. A. Carson not only gives those wh
Paperback, 234 pages
Published May 5th 2005 by Zondervan (first published May 1st 2005)
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Jacob Aitken


The book is an honest critique. Nothing more, nothing less. Carson begins gently and then pulls no punches.

The Problem of Definition

So what is “emergent” or “postmodernism?” This is an annoying question because at any moment in the critique, someone can say, “Yeah, but that’s not our position.” Emergent is easy enough to define. Most of the emergent guys write books with emergent in the titles, so we can assume that is their position. Postmodernism on the other hand, is a thorny pro
Feb 21, 2014 Naomi rated it really liked it
"The gospel of the Kingdom invites us into a large, all-encompassing story; the stories of Adam and Eve, Israel, and the church were always intended to be lived in. Living there is a huge privilege. Choosing to live outside God's story has serious ramifications (a wasted life and hell come immediately to mind)." [p. 22]

"We want to learn to live faithfully in a fragmented world." [p. 33]

"Evangelism is disciple making and is bound up with conversation, friendship, influence, invitation, companions
Aaron Kleinheksel
Jan 20, 2014 Aaron Kleinheksel rated it liked it
This book is a very thorough examination of the modern "Emerging Church" movement spearheaded by such men as Brian McLaren. D.A. Carson does his usual superlative job presenting the Biblical arguments for true Christian Orthodoxy in opposition to the mostly warmed-over ideas of early 20th c. Christian liberalism marketed by the so-called "Emergent Christian Conversation."

This book misses 2 more stars primarily because while D.A. Carson is a very intelligent academic of the highest caliber, his
James Tyler
Feb 21, 2010 James Tyler rated it it was amazing
A fantastic analysis of the Emerging Church.
Marc Baldwin
Jul 28, 2013 Marc Baldwin rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in theology
There's probably not a lot that I can add to what has already been written about this book, both good and bad, so I'll try to keep my comments brief.

This was a difficult read for me, both because of the contentiousness of Carson's arguments and the level of theology at which it is written. I normally don't take three months to read a book, but there was a lot to digest.

This book could have been titled, "Why Emergent Thinkers Are Actually Heretics Who Are Going To Hell". But he would not have so
Jul 23, 2011 Kurt rated it it was amazing
I have never enjoyed a dense philosophical text as much as this one. Carson does an amazing job in this book with a penetrating analysis of some of the foundations of the emergent church (I use the term "foundations" deliberately, as postmodernism can be characterized by anti-foundationalism). Carson uses the term "epistemology" (how we know what we know, if anything) in enough contexts and with such a teaching gift that I think I understand its meaning after years of quietly refusing to admit m ...more
Jul 28, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it
I slowly ruminated on this book (just a chapter or so a week) right alongside another title: Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World", by David F. Wells. Both works are provocative and call into question a lot of the assumptions made by churches and writers in their attempts to reach post-moderns, while affirming them at other times. The main critique I've read about this book is that he picks on his critics unfairly without ever actually entering into personal dialogue with any o ...more
Nov 22, 2011 Ruth rated it it was amazing
The fallacies of the more radical wing of the Emerging Church movement are evaluated with clarity, passion, exegetical competence, and grace. Above all is Carson's glorious, ironclad commitment to the truth of the Gospel.

Besides all of that, Carson writes extremely well. Favorite phrases: referring to both conservatives and liberals as having been "snookered by modernism"; saying that MacLaren's points are often alternately "right, wrong, and silly"; and giving credit to MacLaren credit for "rem
Geo Philips
Dec 30, 2013 Geo Philips rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, church
This is often quoted as the standard evangelical appraisal of the emergent movement. However, it is not a comprehensive look at all the various strands of the movement; Carson devotes his attention to the views of the major thinkers in the movement. Brian McLaren gets a lot of attention (you can read some of McLaren's responses on the Internet) amongst others.

The conclusions won't surprise you but this book will make you smarter as to the philosophical assumptions of the emergent movement and th
Aug 08, 2007 Vangelicmonk rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Post-Modern Emergent/ing Church
Shelves: theology
I did not plan on being part of an Emerging Church, but that is where God wanted me. I would not change anything in the world for the experience. This book helped me. Coming from an Evangelical perspective it helped me better appreciate the good things of the movement and to be better informed about the extremes of the movement. It helped me be less "reactionary" about some subjects and authors and better informed about discussing those topics and issues. I am no longer part of the Emerging Chur ...more
Danny Bennett
Aug 10, 2011 Danny Bennett rated it liked it
Shelves: theology-bible
I am very glad I read this book as a contrast to everything else I've been reading. He brought up some good points here and there. I especially liked the last chapter that began to discuss how truth and experience could go together. At the same time, he had a lot of faults. While he accused a lot of emerging thinkers of creating straw man arguments, I think he falls to the same criticism at times. I also think it's interesting how both Carson and McLaren both condemn reductionism and praise Ches ...more
Apr 27, 2007 Heather rated it liked it
Having been curious about the philosphy and practice of the emergent for quite sometime, I finally got around to reading this book. I've heard D.A. Carson speak several times and I have always been very impressed with his way of thinking and I trust his theology is Bible-based. I found this book to be a balanced approach to the movement that helped me better understand the major movements of thought throughout history, explore postmodernism, and grasp the reaction of the church to the movement o ...more
Nov 29, 2007 Dennes rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Carson, I believe, does a good job at explaining the diverse "movement" and acknowledges it's strengths while not overlooking it's weaknesses. He's fair to describe the whole thing and tries not to generalize too much. I recommend this book to anyone who would like to try to grasp what some well known authors are trying to say about how to live in a post-modern society but this book reminds us that there are biblical thruths we must stand by and not compromise. We need to remember bot ...more
Daniel Hendon
Jan 10, 2014 Daniel Hendon rated it liked it
I have a lot of respect for D.A. Carson. Unfortunately, he is not that conversant with the emerging church and had to reach outside the emerging and/or emergent movement. I look forward to reading more by D.A Carson, but am unimpressed with this particular book.
Jul 27, 2008 Doogiehurley rated it really liked it
Very intellectual, and very focused on one specific topic--albeit a topic that should be very important to any Christian in the evangelical and confessional community. Carson gets a bit "scholarly", but this is still a great read that addresses some serious problems that face the Christian community as it continues to delve into a postmodern quagmire and "over-tolerance" within the confessional church. In short, Carson addresses the problems where the church has gone to a liberal extreme.
Jan 20, 2008 Brett rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Here Carson offers a mostly evenhanded response to the Emerging Church Movement (or Conversation) and its association with postmodernism. Taking a balanced approach, Carson highlights both what the “Confessional” Church needs to learn from the Emerging Church, and vice versa. Carson’s criticisms are at times overdone, seemingly missing the forest for the trees, but is generally accurate and well stated. Carson also includes a useful Biblical reflection on truth and experience. A-
Oct 09, 2012 Sean rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the "emergent" movement is past its prime, but in its wake there's still likely to be found a vast number of evangelical churches remaining sympathetic to emergent thinking. Carson is very careful to give attention to legitimate concerns of the emergent movement, as well as to where it goes wrong. His concluding chapter, where he lists many of the scriptures suggesting that truth can be (confidently) known, is almost worth the entire book's price.
Stuart Elliott
Aug 04, 2010 Stuart Elliott rated it it was amazing
Engaging analysis, and Biblically solid. Carson does not mess around but tries to show what our basis of truth is, why it is important to maintain these truths, and why they should be central to engaging the culture in a way that is mindfull of the Gospel. While the Emergent movement raises some great questions about important issues, Carson shows that their answers fall short of Biblical truth.
Tyler Hurst
Mar 19, 2013 Tyler Hurst rated it really liked it
This and DeYoung/Kluck's book on the emerging church are essentially the final authorities on the subject. That is both because they are good and the emerging church is now dead and passé. It is a good book what its relevance still is may be minimal now, though like Machen's work, I can imagine an increasing importance if another surge of liberalism/neoliberalism returns in a few decades.
Jan 15, 2014 Vaclav rated it really liked it
when the emergent church topic was hotter i have informed myself with this excellently balanced book!
Darius Teichroew
Dec 04, 2007 Darius Teichroew rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in a relatively even-handed analysis of the Emerging church movement
Shelves: christianity
Carson does a superb job of showing the reader both the strengths AND the weaknesses of the Emerging church movement. Perhaps he could have spent slightly more time on the positives, but considering many authors within the movement have already done so, it was probably unnecessary for him.
Aug 13, 2011 John added it
An excellent read! D. A. Carson evaluates the Emergent Church movement and is even-handed dispensing both the pros and cons, with the latter overwhelmingly tipping the scale. A must read!
Aug 06, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it
Very good work by Carson. The Emergent Church is a big elephant in the room in Christianity now days, and Dr. Carson does a fantastic job of exposing many of their flaws.
Apr 19, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology-bible
This was a very helpful book in getting a handle on the Emergent Church movement. Of course, I'm partial to Carson, even though I don't buy his Calvinism.
Apr 16, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it
This book is not quick reading but an important reading considering the Emergent Movement is sweeping the country. An important read!
Walt Walkowski
Feb 10, 2012 Walt Walkowski rated it it was ok
While I find Carson's analysis and critique fairly informational, I would not describe this book as an easy read.
Michael Brown
The dangers of "post-modernism". Interaction with several books and authors especially Brian McLaren.
Mar 06, 2012 Brenton rated it liked it
Not as thorough and scholarly as you would expect from Carson. Reads like a lecture manuscript.
Apr 07, 2013 Ivan rated it really liked it
Clear, helpful, and biblical critique of the Emerging Church.
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D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1978. Carson came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he also served for two years as academic dean. He has served as assistant pastor and pastor and has done itinerant ministry in Cana ...more
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