Item description for Don't Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough by Michael E. Wittmer...
Overview Evangelicals who reject the narrow fundamentalism of previous generations are in danger of over-correction. Don?t Stop Believing is an urgent call for both right practice and right belief. Our concern for social issues must not diminish the core doctrines of our faith. We must not stop believing.
Publishers Description Must you believe something to be saved? Does the kingdom of God include non-Christians? Is hell for real and forever? These are big questions. Hard questions. Questions that divide Christians along conservative and liberal lines. Conservatives love their beliefs and liberals believe in their love. Each pushes the other to opposite extremes. Fundamentalists imply that it doesn t matter how we live as long as we believe in Jesus, while some Emergent Christians respond that it doesn t matter what we believe as long as we live like him. Theologian Michael Wittmer calls both sides out of bounds and crafts a third way that retains the insights of each. He examines ten key questions that confront contemporary Christians and shows why both right belief and right practice are necessary for authentic Christianity. Here is an urgent reminder that best practices can only arise from true beliefs. Genuine Christians never stop serving because they never stop loving, and they never stop loving because they never stop believing."
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.1" Width: 5.84" Height: 0.7" Weight: 0.6 lbs.
Release Date Nov 27, 2008
Publisher Zondervan Publishing
ISBN 0310281164 ISBN13 9780310281160 UPC 025986281168
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More About Michael E. Wittmer
Michael Wittmer is currently Professor of Systematic Theology at GRTS in Grand Rapids, MI. He is the author of Heaven Is a Place on Earth, Don't Stop Believing, The Last Enemy, and Despite Doubt. He and his wife, Julie, live in Grand Rapids, Michigan with their three children: Avery, Landon, and Alayna.
Reviews - What do customers think about Don't Stop Believing?
shallow book Apr 28, 2010
This book does not seriously analyze any of the issues that it purports to address. Wittmer's book has chapter titles like "Is it possible to know anything?" "Is the Bible God's True Word?" With these titles, I expected serious scholarly analysis. Instead of rigorous analysis, Wittmer has the following facetious conclusions:
(1) "As with God's existence, I cannot prove that the Bible is God's Word, but then again I do not have to. John Calvin wrote that Scripture is self authenticating, by which he meant that 'it carries with itself its own credibility in order to be received without contradiction, and is not submitted to proof or arguments'.... Just as snow is obviously white and sugar is undisputably sweet, so those who read the Scripture should recognize that it is the Word of God." (2) "Is my foundational belief in God a desperate stab in the dark? No, for I do not merely wish that God exists. I know it. AND SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE. Despite the arguments that skeptics raise about God's existence, the apostle Paul declares in Romans 1:18-20 that everyone knows there is a God, and any who claim ignorance "are without excuse." (emphasis supplied) (3) "My Christian structure of knowledge from the last chapter is an example of weak foundationalism, for although I cannot prove my belief in God or prove that Scripture is God's Word, I am permitted to start there."
These are just a sampling of the gems that Wittmer has to offer. If this kind of circular nonsensical reasoning makes sense to you, buy this book. If you are looking for serious, scholarly, even-handed treatment of the issues, then look elsewhere.
Helping to unravel the apparent Christian identity crisis. Jan 31, 2010
Let's say for instance, you decided to invite five of your Christian friends over for coffee in order to engage in conversation about spiritual things. Each of these five friends has a different story of how they came to faith and none of them attend the same church or is even part of the same denomination or church network. The coffee is made, the treats are out and the agenda is set. You've written a series of questions out on cards and placed them in a basket on the coffee table. The idea is that you will pass the basket around and each person will choose a question. In turn, each guest will answer the question on their card and then the group will engage in up to five minutes of discussion before moving on to the next question. Once introductions have been made and your guests are settled, you put your ice breaker activity into action. It looks like Jennifer will go first. Her question is, "Will non-Christians go to heaven?" She very quickly answers with a confident, "No, only those who believe in Jesus Christ will enter the kingdom of heaven." While you agree with Jennifer's answer, it turns out not everybody else does. Bill says, "God is a loving God and since He can't be inconsistent with Himself, He wouldn't send anybody to hell, therefore everybody will be going to heaven." Sam jumps in and says, "I agree with Jennifer, but want to point out that it is unnecessary for us to worry about those destined for hell, because their conscious torment will be only temporal and not eternal." Thus ended the first discussion and it was on to the next question. As the ice breaker activity progressed, each question brought more of the same. It seemed that no two people had exactly the same belief on any of these spiritual questions. While it seemed to last forever, the tension-filled evening eventually came to an end. Your guests thanked you for your hospitality, but you wonder if any of them will want to come back any time soon. What began with such high hopes left you in the depths of despair. You certainly didn't think that your Christian friends could have such a wide range of beliefs. You can't help but wonder who's right and who's wrong. Are your friends truly Christians, are you? Without a better alternative, you drop to your knees in prayer, hoping that God will show you a way through this darkness....
Does any of this sound at all familiar to you? Yeah, me too. As I encounter friends, acquaintances, and sometimes complete strangers out in public, I am finding with more regularity that there is less and less consensus on what it means to be a Christian. This apparent Christian identity crisis is precisely what Michael Wittmer is exploring in Don't Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is not Enough.
The groundwork for what the reader can expect to find in this book is laid out in the introduction and first chapter. This book takes a look at some of the key questions that are being asked in Christian circles today. Wittmer asks and then answers a new question in each chapter by contrasting the views of postmodern innovators on the one hand and conservatives on the other. He concludes each chapter with a third view, "eliminating the extreme views of each party and uniting them around a biblical center" (Wittmer, 2008, p. 13). The main concern Witter is trying to get across in this book is that both the postmodern innovators and conservatives must be careful not to err on the opposite extreme in attempting to repair what they perceive as the mistakes and abuses that transpired amongst those who came before them (Wittmer, 2008, p. 19).
Chapters two through eleven asks the reader to consider the following important questions:
* Chapter 2: Must you believe something to be saved? * Chapter 3: Do right beliefs get in the way of good works? * Chapter 4: Are people generally good or basically bad? * Chapter 5: Which is worse: Homosexuals or the bigots who persecute them? * Chapter 6: Is the cross divine child abuse? * Chapter 7: Can you belong before you believe? * Chapter 8: Does the kingdom of God include non-Christians? * Chapter 9: Is hell for real and forever? * Chapter 10: Is it possible to know anything? * Chapter 11: Is the Bible God's true word?
Chapter twelve brings it all together by helping the reader to better understand how much of the disagreement we see in Christian circles today is rooted in the liberal and conservative disagreements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wittmer closes the chapter by suggesting a possible third way that brings together the ethical concerns of the liberal and the conservative's concerns for the historic doctrines of the Christian faith. Wittmer sums up this third way well in the following question, "Rather than emphasize beliefs or ethics, can't we agree that following Jesus demands both faith and practice?" (Wittmer, 2008, p. 176). Taking the time to seriously consider this and the many other questions posed throughout this book will give the reader an opportunity to examine their own beliefs and will hopefully bring them to a more Biblically sound understanding of their faith and the practice that should naturally follow.
Being more towards the middle to conservative side of the spectrum, I can't say that my beliefs were necessarily stretched and challenged by this book. I would expect those who are at either extreme of the spectrum, postmodern innovators (i.e. emergent) on the one hand and conservatives on the other to be more challenged by this work. For me, the dialog that emerges between the competing views in each chapter was very insightful and helpful. Should you want to explore Wittmer's sources a bit deeper, there are forty two pages of notes towards the back of the book. The book ends with discussion questions and case studies for each chapter, which would make this book ideal for a small group or Sunday school setting. My rating for this book is four out of 5 stars.
Michael E. Wittmer is professor of systematic and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and is also the author of Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).
Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by Zondervan.
Challenging Conservatives and Postmoderns May 15, 2009
The emerging church may have mostly died, but not their questions. Their questions and perspectives show up on blogs and among the usual suspects - but they also show up among our kids, in the most conservative of circles, among people who have never read a Brian McLaren book in their life.
A lot of these questions come from a new cultural mindset that is sweeping through the church. A new generation is trying to correct the mistakes and blind spots of earlier generations, and the just see things differently. I saw this in a young crowd recently. The crowd was young and somewhat conservative, but had serious questions that didn't fit the conservative mold.
How should we respond? We could dismiss these concerns and questions, but this would be wrong. They are important questions. A lot of people have them, and we can't wish them away. Besides, many of their concerns contain insights that we need to hear.
We need to face these issues, and that's where Don't Stop Believing by Michael Wittmer comes in. Wittmer is a professor of systematic and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is conservative, but he understands the questions. "I am caught in the middle," he writes. "This book attempts to bring both sides together, eliminating the extreme views of each party and uniting them around a biblical center."
Wittmer tackles the tough issues: tolerance, deeds vs. creeds, original sin, homosexuality, the legitimacy of other faiths, hell, truth, the meaning of Jesus' death, and the truthfulness of the Bible, and more.
What I like about Wittmer is that he deals with the issues honestly and thoughtfully. No cheap shots. No casual dismissal of legitimate questions. No straw men. There are times that I am surprised by his positions: I think he is going to get his conservative evangelical credentials revoked! But those are the exact areas in which I think he is right. Conservatives have blind spots that need to be corrected too. Wittmer ends up challenging both conservative Christians and postmodern innovators to learn from each other.
Wittmer argues that we need to keep believing the classic, orthodox doctrines, and he explains why. But we also need the concern for ethics and justice, as well as the willingness to question and think through issues, that postmodern innovators embrace. We need both belief and practice.
"Let's stop the pendulum and embrace both sides. God commands us 'to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.' Genuine Christians never stop serving because they never stop loving, and they never stop loving because they never stop believing."
This is the second really good book I've seen from Wittmer, and I hope there are more coming.
If you are struggling through any of these issues, or in ministry among people who are, then you can really benefit from this book.
Helpful Introduction to the Emergent/Postmodern Movement May 12, 2009
I'm guessing that many who will read this review will be younger evangelicals who are aware of the Emerging Church movement. Many are intrigued with the idea of doing church differently. We've awakened to inadequacies in the church our parents raised us in. For people like us, the generational appeal of the Emergent movement is strong. Polarizing doctrines along with the conservative-liberal divide turn us off. A welcoming community of large-hearted lovers of Jesus sounds both authentic and attractive.
This desire for authentic Christian fellowship is not wrong by itself. Doing church in new and tantalizingly different ways isn't either. Luther, Wesley and Moody attest to that. Yet the newness of the Emergent movement is often all that is needed for it to earn sharp and stinging conservative rebukes. Such smug dismissals only prove the point of these "postmodern innovators", as Michael Wittmer dubs them. Conservative Christians today are infected with a rampant modernism that assumes it has arrived. With everything figured out, conservative Christianity has no room for postmodern Emergent craziness.
Put me down as one conservative who doesn't think we're above criticism. I tend to see the Emergent movement as reacting against some very real deficiencies in some versions of conservative Christianity. Before reading Don't Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough, I wouldn't have been able to articulate all of this exactly. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was that seemed right about the Emergent phenomenon. With Michael Wittmer's book, however, I'm much more equipped to think through the all the ramifications of the postmodern innovations so popular today.
Wittmer isn't afraid to listen to the postmodern innovators. Listen and learn. From what I can gather from reading the book, Wittmer hails from a staunchly conservative background. I wouldn't be surprised if he is intimately familiar with independent Baptist fundamentalism like I am. From such a background it is easy to see how many of the Emergent criticisms would hit home.
Postmoderns claim we conservatives often love the sinner's soul more than his body. We aim for conversions more than lasting social change. We care more about deathbed conversions than good works and justice. Our churches are not welcoming and inviting to the unchurched, and our world-view comes off too cocky and self-confident. We have everything figured out and don't struggle with doubt or pain. We care more about scientific and logical proofs for inerrancy than we do for the Bible's overarching themes and meta narrative. We're too quick to distance ourselves from the world than be friends to publicans and sinners.
There's more. Must you believe something to be saved? Are people good or bad? Is Homosexuality acceptable biblically? Doesn't penal substitution turn the cross into divine child abuse? Does Hell really last forever, and would a loving God really send anyone there? Is it really possible to know anything for certain? These questions and more are raised, and carefully dealt with in Wittmer's book.
As one can see, with the Emergent movement, valid criticisms and sincere questions often get muddled together with a more radical revision of the fundamentals of the faith. In light of how many postmodern innovators are quick to embrace full fledged inclusivism (the idea that people will likely be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ), and their lack of owning up to virtually any non-negotiable beliefs, it is easy to see why many dismiss the movement as a whole, out of hand.
The strength of Wittmer's approach lies in his patient hearing out of both sides. He sketches the conservative view and the postmodern reaction. Then he paves a middle ground that holds to a high (conservative) view of Scripture while appreciating insights from the postmodern position. He argues for a both/and approach which often does more justice to the Bible than either extreme. While he ends up defending conservative doctrines, he is not afraid to challenge conservative methods and motifs.
Such a discussion could easily become tedious and overly philosophical or theological. Wittmer's writing style is so clear and lucid that with the help of illustrations and personal anecdotes, he makes the discussion fun to read. His many charts help convey his point even more clearly. The diagrams capture the discussions well, summarizing the perspectives of each side along with his middle ground approach.
Postmodern innovators and Emergent church leaders are not likely to change course as a result of this book. What I hope happens, is many a young evangelical is equipped and encouraged to opt for a conservative Christian approach that aims to both believe and live life here on earth well. As Wittmer puts it: "Genuine Christians never stop serving because they never stop loving, and they never stop loving because they never stop believing."
If you are looking for a helpful introduction to the postmodern/Emergent church discussion, look no further than Don't Stop Believing. And if you are concerned for a friend, or even for yourself, about the doctrine-is-optional appeal of postmodernism, pick up this book. You will be challenged, and encouraged in the faith.
Good book! Mar 31, 2009
In this book Wittmer walks through a series of tough questions facing the Western protestant church trying to find a middle way. Not a boring and nerdy book on obscure theology, it is funny, readable, and relevant. I found answers to questions I didn't realize I had. I appreciated the charitable, humble, and honest attitude of the author.
Wittmer points out the good, bad, and ugly of both the old-skool conservative and the uber-cool emerging crowds, explaining the issues objectively. For the most part, I think he's successful, although he tilts toward the conservative crowd. I found it hard to disagree with his clear Bible-based reasoning.
I recommend this book to anyone who wonders about what it's like to live as a true-believer in this century without selling out or being a weirdo. Its broad appeal makes me wonder why Zondervan choose to market this book though its academic arm rather than push it into the 18-34 market. Perhaps they can do another edition targeted to a younger and less scholarly market.