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

by D. A. Carson

Paperback, 2005





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 who may be unfamiliar with it a perceptive introduction to the emerging church movement, but also includes a skillful assessment of its theological views. Carson addresses some troubling weaknesses of the movement frankly and thoughtfully, while at the same time recognizing that it has important things to say to the rest of Christianity. The author strives to provide a perspective that is both honest and fair. Anyone interested in the future of the church in a rapidly changing world will find this an informative and stimulating read. D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of over 45 books, including the Gold Medallion Award-winning book The Gagging of God, and is general editor of Telling the Truth and Worship by the Book. He has served as a pastor and is an active guest lecturer in church and academic settings around the world.… (more)


Zondervan (2005), 256 pages


½ (73 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Squid
This was a researched book, but I am hesitant to call it "well researched." I hesitate to you use the word "well" for three reasons. First, the title is misleading as it communicates a sense of objectivity and even-handedness. I found this lacking as Carson criticises Sweet, McLaren and others in a
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very detailed manner (you could say “well researched” manner) while giving shallow and token kudos to the emergent church and some of the “gurus” he identifies (the not “well researched part). His understanding and empathy with the emergent movement lacks in depth and recognition that people like Sweet and McLaren do not create or even voice the emergent movement; rather, I would say, they ride the wave of it. My sense was that it was not much or a conversation rather a critic. I think a title like “A critical look at the emergent church” would have been more accurate.

Secondly, Carson’s use of inciting language grows tiresome very quickly and hurt what is supposed to be a “conversation” with the emerging church. There are numerous paragraphs that end with an implied “see, told you so.” I had the impression that Carson’s emotions drip off the pages even though I think he is rigorously trying to with hold it.

Thirdly, Carson pits his well researched understanding of postmodernism against McLaren’s two books Generous Orthodoxy and The Lost Message of Jesus. I agree with Carson that there are things in these books that need a second look and much of his criticism is valid. My sense though is that it is an unfair fight. His criticism of Mclaren’s books felt like a professor fighting to make a point with a student. In my mind McLaren’s books are for a wide general Christian (or possibly seekers) audience. Carson writes for a more narrow audience as his approach is more academic. I found that this approach left the impression of a bully fighting unfairly with a smaller child. McLaren is not smaller in his reader ship, but in his academic approach. McLaren needs to be challenged in areas where he lacks depth of explanations (Generous Orthodoxy) but maybe more on his level.

My last comment would be in what was lacking. In the end I was grateful to read Carson. I needed a balance from the McLaren (and others) that I was reading. What I felt really lacked in this book was an in-depth analysis of the rise the emergent church. I think it is something different than what Carson analyzes it to be. I learn plenty from the emergent church movement, from McLanren and other emergent authors, but I don’t see myself leaving my church or my denomination. What about all of us that resonate with the emergent movement, yet feel it has nothing to do with starting a new church? Carson made valid arguments, but did little to paint what the future may look like.
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LibraryThing member theologicaldan
Carson investigates the emerging church and it's most prominent figures, particularly Brian MacLaren. He provides a fair, yet harsh critique of the emerging church "conversation". I'm glad Carson did his research and wrote this book, and hope every christian college student will read it.
LibraryThing member bsanner
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
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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-
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