This is a comment from Chuch Weise from Dutton United Reformed Church. Mr.Weise was commenting on the Emergent Church movement in response to a question concerning the Reformed response to this movement. His comments are quite helpful so I am (without permission) giving it to all of you.
In my opinion the best resource available is a book by D.A. Carson called "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church." He does a good job providing an honest critique of the movement and particularly McLaren's book "A Generous Orthodoxy." I would also recommend reading McLaren's book as well as Rob Bell's book "Velvet Elvis" to get an understanding of where they are coming from. Both end up saying things you would expect to hear from Robert Schuller. Neither seem to have much theological training.McLaren seems to want to define Christianity in the beginning of his book with the Nicene Creed but then critiques Calvin later on for executing Christians who disagreed with him. The only person I know of that Calvin had some part in the execution of was Servetus who was anti-Trinitarian.
It is interesting that McLaren's harshest criticisms in the book seem to be directed at Calvinism. He seems to be very positive towards the other groups he refers to. McLaren even spends some time apologizing for those horrible masculine pronouns in the Bible.
Bell's book is heavily influenced by the teachings of Ray Vanderlaan and I think the Reformed community in general needs to be very careful in how it uses Vanderlaan's material. Bell claims that when Peter is rebuked by Jesus for his lack of faith it is not for lack of faith in Jesus but lack of faith in himself. This is one of the things lifted from Vanderlaan. I don't think Bell has any real training in Hebrew but he almost leaves the impression that you can't have any understanding of the Bible without it. He seems to think that the Talmud should always be read back into the Bible.Bell does bring up some important issues, such as the need to study the Bible in community but he does not provide any real guidelines in how to do that.
Keith Mathison's book "The Shape of Sola Scriptura" addresses the same problem but deals with the issue in a more in depth and Biblical way.Both McLaren and Bell seem to be mostly writing about themselves which is common in evangelicalism. Everything is related to some experience they had or how they feel. McLaren claims to be writing in the spirit of Chesterton but Chesterton was very harsh towards such self-centered people who couldn't tell you about anything except in relationship to themselves. When I read McLaren and Bell it reminds me of reading Plato. They are good at showing real problems in evangelicalism but when it comes to providing solutions they don't really have any reasonable ones.
I hope that the movement causes Reformed Christians to look back to the 16th Century Reformers and embrace the ancient traditions that the Reformers did. The more Reformed Churches start looking like evangelicalism, the more their members will be easy prey for the emerging church movement. The Reformed Churches should also recognize the need for a strong community of believers. Church can't just be a place you go to twice on Sunday.It's important to realize who these people are reacting against. They are both critiquing evangelicalism but both still working within and evangelical mindset. They are not the root problem, the evangelical paradigm is. Their methodology is no less Biblical than the common evangelical one. They are starting to question things in evangelicalism and that is good and hopefully will lead to dialog with the Reformed community.
Grand Rapids, MI