Kevin DeYoung's Bunker Mentality

Earlier today Bill Kinnon posted a pair of links on Twitter on the topic of the missional movement in Christianity. I want to focus on the first link, that of Kevin DeYoung decrying the term missional as a “misfire.” In reviewing the book Missional Renaissance, DeYoung briefly mentions that, sure, some churches might need to be more missional before launching into what has become his all-too-customary assault on those who criticize the institutional church. He commences his jeremiad against Missional Renaissance thusly:

“For starters,¬†Missional Renaissance is too full of familiar anti-church-as-we-know-it cliches that resemble slogans more than substantial arguments. The blame Constantine motif needs more nuance and research or it needs to be dropped.”

Huh? The Constantinian turn has probably been one of the most well-researched events in the history of Christendom. Anyone who reads or knows anything about church history probably knows the various opinions on this matter – including those that are very critical of Constantine (they are particularly likely to be found in the Anabaptist tradition). Since this is a popular-level book, author Reggie McNeal likely did not have the space to fully develop a critique that would push beyond the scope of his actual subject matter. What DeYoung probably really means is “I wish that, in the course of his research, McNeal read and agreed with pro-Constantian turn arguments.”

As for the knock that McNeal is sloganeering and not actually presenting actual arguments, DeYoung provides absolutely no evidence for this. He seems rather content to keep his readers unaware of what exactly he dislikes about McNeal’s book. Actually I now realize that I have quote more of DeYoung’s in the post that you reading now than DeYoung quoted of McNeal’s book.

DeYoung goes on to say that the church was “more than a ‘way of life’ for the first 300 years of its existence.” Why calling Christianity a “way of life” is a horrible thing is never explained. Most of what one reads in the New Testament seems to imply that Christianity will – however you explain it – change the way in which one lives. For DeYoung this appears to be a threat to the institutional structure of church which is apparently really, really important to him.

I have yet to read anyone involved in the missional church movement insist that they are anti-institutional to the extent that DeYoung implies that they are Рfrom his description they are all anarchists. Actually they are more radical than anarchists, since anarchists actually do form limited, voluntary institutions, such as bike repair shops. Many of them seem less committed to preserving institutional super-structures, titles, and positions that DeYoung so clearly cherishes, prepared instead to have less formalized structures of Christian community. Unfortunately for DeYoung, it seems as though he cannot stomach any serious critique of the institutional church in North America circa 2010. Instead he feels compelled to defend a structure that is surely at least partially culturally contingent. (How else does one explain all the various forms of church organization that have developed in different times and places?)