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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Younger Evangelicals by Webber

The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002.  

by Webber, Robert E.

The Younger Evangelicals was a very informative book. The author outlines the younger evangelicals, the emergent/emerging church, and shows how they will lead the Church. He gives a brief background of fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and new evangelicalism before moving into the young evangelicals as thinkers and practitioners. Webber seeks to display the differences found between the traditional, pragmatic and younger evangelicals in each chapter.

I found several elements of Webber's book to be extremely helpful. His charts at the end of each chapter, although very broad, helped me to understand not only the emergent church but also the pragmatic/mega church, and the traditional church. These comparisons clarified his observations in each chapter and allowed me to follow his reasonings.

As I write a response to the book I have to keep one thing in mind, I thoroughly appreciated the book, not because I agree with Webber's conclusions, but because he helped me to understand this new movement. I do not agree with much of what the emergent church holds so dear, and see great harm in many of their modes of worship, beliefs about salvation, denial of truth, and discernment of the the past, however I comprehend the movement better now because of the book.

One thing that I appreciate about the whole movement is their desire to be unified. One idea presented by Mark Driscoll caught my attention. He doesn't endorse Sunday School because he can't see how we are to teach a unified body when we are all split up. I appreciate their pursuit of unity in the body of Christ, causing them to look past race, social status, or age.

One of the areas where I saw Webber was clearly wrong was in his presentation of the fundamentalist mentality of separation. He portrayed fundamentalists are separatists for separatists sake. He believes that their separation "is understandable, but it came at the expense of the biblical mandate regarding the unity of the church" (pg. 29). Clearly, many churches could be convicted of that very charge for separating over non-separable issues, but I don't believe that it properly represents the idea of true fundamentalism. Proper separation is not done against the unity of the church, but in order to preserve it. Without biblical separation from heresy and those who accept heresy, the church cannot be obedient to Christ. They can still be unified with other disobedient believers, but they are not unified with Christ if they fail to obey. This failure to separate is why some of the younger evangelicals are following the same path which has led many believers astray throughout the centuries.

Another overarching theme which I became very wary of was that of the younger evangelical's embracement and absorption of all that has gone before. It is as if they were saying, "if the church of several hundred years ago did this, then it must be beneficial," failing to realize that many of these ideas they are embracing caused other influential leaders in their ideas to leave the church at that time. An example would be their obsession with icons. It was this form of idolatry which helped to cause the split in the catholic church. They fail to see this as they take whatever suits their experience.

Webber conveyed an interesting salvation experience, one which was oddly lacking any idea of sin or sacrifice (pg. 94). He also presented a distorted view of salvation as he linked it to the preservation of the environment (pg. 89-90). Many of these different beliefs were endorsed throughout the book, helping me to understand the movement better.

Personal App: Overall I appreciated the book as it helped me to understand the younger evangelicals in a better way. However, as I understand their views, I am not sure why we call them evangelicals.

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Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8)