Sunday, 13 January 2008

Afraid of disappointment?

One of the stand-out issues for me reading 'Christian' or theological books has been that I can never relax and just accept or receive the teaching that comes through the book. It probably stems from on-line experience over the last 5 years, but I find myself reading with a suspicious and critical eye, especially when the book makes some reference to emergent theology. Brian McClaren's A Generous Orthodoxy was a prime example, where I just got sick of sorting wheat from chaff after a couple of chapters and could face any more. It's still sat here by the PC, untouched for more than a year.

There's also a HUGE swathe of books available with dreadful titles by authors I've never heard of (or worse, some I have). What on Earth do you buy if you want to educate yourself?

I have a strong interest in 'Church': how it works and why it should. It was natural therefore at the conference last weekend that I should spot a book that produced both hope a dread in me. Hope, because I'm interested in making the Church (and especially our church) better, and dread because it was by an unknown - to me - author (Ray Anderson) and had the title An Emergent Theology For Emerging Churches.

First skim made it look good, so I bought it (you knew that already) plus another book by Derek Prince, also about the church, that I considered would at least provide a counter-balance to this work.

I read the foreword and my heart fell - it was full of slightly icky mutual admiration by Brian McClaren. But I wasn't going to bin £9 worth of book just for that, so I pressed on. I have so far covered the introduction ONLY. This is not light hearted read, although someone like Fern might skim through. I have no formal theological training, and in addition, my eyes and head are out of practice reading anything of substance. So it's taken 2 mealtimes (we usually all read at table) to get to the start of the book proper. Thus far he's reminded me why I was emergent (and now consider myself post-emergent, although I'm still emergent in his terms) and in his comparison between the churches at Jerusalem and Antioch sounds like he's going the same direction I am.

And so I'm here at the start of the book.

There's a slight reluctance to get stuck in, as the start has actually been pretty good. My biggest fear is that he's going to turn into a liberal and the whole thing will go sliding down the pan. One of my strongest objections to the on-line EC community has been a liberal theology that seems to have been *almost* universally embraced. I am hoping that he will be sound and the theology described in this work will be careful, considered and reflect a biblical theology interpreted form the context of our present society, rather than the whims of society imprinted upon the theology as it feels is so often the case. I keep hoping that someone will uncover some deep spiritual truth somewhere with clear biblical backing, but all it ever turns into is wishful thinking and self-deception.

There's another issue too: Anderson is in California, and American Christianity seems to have little resonance with the rest of the world.

But I will press on. If anything exciting drops out then I'll blog it. Should you hear nothing then either the book is pap or I'm just too busy.

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