This post is part of the "Don't Stop Believing" blog tour.
My journey for years has been filled with legitimate questions about theology, the church, and beyond. Many of the churches I served didn’t receive these questions well. I had no vindictiveness, no animosity, just honesty. These were questions I was encountering in talking with everyday friends in and outside of the church. They might not have expressed these questions verbatim, but it was rooted in the very questions I was wrestling with.
My journey was encouraged by Brian McLaren’s book, A New Kind of Christian. It was here, for the first time, that I had not felt alone in my thoughts and questions, and furthered a quest to discover who I am. Not only that, but to honestly dialogue with others asking the same questions.
What I was pursuing was what I heard Brian saying as a “third way;” somewhere in the middle (or beyond) the two polarities of conservatism and liberalism. Lately, I’ve felt that much of Emergent Village (and maybe the emerging church movement in general) has been floating toward liberalism. While there is some good postures liberalism promotes, there are some that don’t.
So what now? Will it forever be this way? Is there any hope? Michael Wittmer’s, Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough is the “third way” that Brian McLaren is looking for.
Wittmer addresses critical questions postmodern innovators (his term for those in the emerging church movement with a liberal bend) raise; questions such as the relationships of belief and practice, salvation, atonement, hell, and the inerrancy of Scripture. What will surprise many is that while Wittmer proclaims to be conservative, his conclusions will invite conservative and liberal firing squads. They will be challenged at the questions he raises.
Even more, Wittmer proposes a third way in each of these questions. For example, with the atonement, Wittmer combines Christus Victor, Penal Substitution, Moral Influence, and Example theories in a way that makes sense. This is not as ambiguous as Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement; it is an explanation that reveals the beautiful purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Another strength of the book is it’s meticulous use of Scripture, tradition, and research. One would expect nothing less from Wittmer; he is a professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. The book gives enough footnotes for further research and study, delving into the process of Wittmer’s conclusions.
Finally, I have had the privilege of sitting under Dr. Wittmer in two of his theology courses. He is known as the “both/and” guy. Not only does he articulate a third way to express these questions, he truly lives it. Wittmer has been integral in addressing my questions, vocation, and postures. He is man who truly lives what he preaches.
Therefore, I wholeheartedly recommend Don’t Stop Believing. Wittmer is a theologian with the talent of communicating deep truths to the everyday person. This, along with his other book Heaven Is A Place on Earth, is on my top 10 must read books of all time. You would be doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t read each of these books. Even more, there is an opportunity to further the discussion on Wittmer’s blog and the Koinonia website.
My hope is that these texts will bring some clarity, and continue to push the church to be Christ to this broken world that so desperately needs Him.
A final note: you can buy DSB relatively cheap (under $11) in the GRTS seminary bookstore if you live in the Grand Rapids area. Check our site for hours of operation, and hopefully I'll see you there!