In The New Christian, Tony Jones (a specialists in the emerging front)acts as a Christian weather reporter who is reporting the US Evangelical forecast. Tony’s forecast was seasoned with academia, research, and personalized experiences. Tony puts language and articulation to the emergent “conversation”. He dispatches 20 themes that the emerging front exhibits. These 20 dispatches are not doctrine/dogma of the emerging movement, but rather emphasized theologies. Tony argues that theology reasoned discourse about God, religion, and spirituality. Literally, “words about God,” from the Greek logos (word) and theos (God) (47).
What I could not get enough of:
1) Tony described the idea of eschatological hope. We are living in a “not yet”, but “already” posture. We are excitedly and patiently awaiting Jesus’ 2nd coming while presently participating in the work of Jesus here on earth as it is in heaven. Tony suggested that we interpret the Bible in such a way that Jesus brought good news and there’s more good news to come; even on Judgment Day. The goal is to see through the “Left Behind Series” rhetoric and to see Jesus coming through the clouds to finally reconcile the world.
2) Tony had a real personalized touch throughout the book. He wrote in a warm and welcoming tone. I felt as though I was literally talking with Tony throughout the book (No I am not a psycho). Tony used a variety of personal stories. Also at the end of each chapter he devoted a few pages to a relative situation applying to the chapter’s themes. The section is called: Dispatches from……
3) I loved that Tony communicates the Gospel as a big and contextual task. To try to freeze one particular articulation of the gospel, to make it timeless and universally applicable, actually does an injustice to the gospel (98). Jesus’ message and ministry are ultimately about reconciliation (78).
4) I enjoyed how Jones in a warm friendly tone sticks it to John Piper. I can tell Tony had fun with critiquing Piper’s movement. In a sense, Piper is the antagonist character in The New Christian. One of the best lines in the book was when Piper directly told Tony that he should not preach.
5) Tony illustrations were remarkable. I had three favorites.
First, in dispatch 14 Tony talked about embracing paradox and he went on to say: I just think, if there are paradoxes in physics, then why shouldn’t there be paradoxes in theology, too?
Second, Tony told a story about his baseball umpire career. In his opinion, umpires who are legalistic and memorize the rules are not great umpires. Umpires who interpret the rules and live into the rules have an experience and wisdom that make a great empire. To be a great umpire you need experience (151). Essentially, we as Christians need to become better interpreters of God’s word and who God is. Tony is asking: what is your theological experience? Are your theological theories T’s crossed with experience?
Third, was the story about the small group member Carrie. Carrie was participating in a Bible study group of eighteen-year-olds and they were reading the story of Joshua and Jericho. Carrie said during one of the meetings: “At this point in the story, God seems a lot like Hitler.” “He’s just going around killing anyone who’s not from the race of people that he likes best. Isn’t that what Hitler did? (122) I never thought about the perception of God being like Hitler. It makes complete sense. God killed thousands and so did Hitler.
What I needed more of:
1) I really wanted more content in the truth dispatch. Tony argues that emergent’s believe that truth, like God, cannot be definitively articulated by finite human beings. (151) Tony’s opposing audience members think the emerging movement is layered not in absolute truth, but relative truth. Truth is such a difficult task and volumes upon volumes have been written about truth. However I liked how Tony painted the paradigm of truth. Some take faith over reason and others take reason over faith.
2) I needed more cool graphics on the pages. To truly be a “postmodern” book there needs to be many distractions on the pages. But seriously I thought the book cover jacket is the coolest jacket ever. Tony nice job hiring a great graphic designer!! I tried not to judge the book by the cover.
Bottom line: I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast and easy read. Tony has dropped a ticking bomb on Evangelical America and I am not sure some Evangelicals will know how to handle the blows. We may need another book from Tony in the next couple of years to do the cleanup work.
Other youth ministry book reviews:
Marko. Youth Ministry 3.0
Chap Clark. Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers
Mike King. Presence-Centered Youth Ministry
Chris Folmsbee. A New Kind of Youth Ministry
Mike Yaconelli. Getting Fired For the Glory of God