I am so torn over this book. As another reviewer mentioned, there are a number of things that I found myself in violent agreement with; there are other things - generally the intellectual buttresses supporting the conclusions - that I thought unsound and contradictory.
I did not know anything about Fitch one way or another going into the book; I am no sycophant or axe-grinder here.
As simply as I can understand it, Fitch's concern is over a Church that is increasingly irrelevant as it unwittingly became bound to certain methods (and method itself) that resonated during the era of "modernity." As, according to him, we are in a transition period between modern and postmodern, the modernists with their emphases on method are no longer relevant to the postmodernists, with their emphasis on... uh... feelings? impressions? beauty? and other such 'state-of-mind,-man' intangibles. The Church needs to learn that it's a brave new day with new sorts of people who think completely differently than the old sorts of people. The answer is not a new method, but to not really have a method, but learn to communicate and reach postmoderns, and do so without a method, but, well, by following suggestions contained in the book which sound an awful lot like methods, but they aren't methods, they're how the Church always was supposed to be, but everyone has forgotten it, and it's taken postmodern thought to show us.
If that sounds confusing, well, you are probably just too much of a modernist.
Anyway, gentle ribbing aside, let me get right to some brief reactions.
The Good: Fitch condemns a lot of stuff that needs condemning. The lazy, self-indulgent, hyper-individualist tendencies of large swathes of the modern Church are called out. Absolutely fair. Fitch is probably the only modern author I'm aware of who makes a compelling case against "parachurch" organizations and the complacency they breed in local churches. He points out the fact that in many churches, 1 Timothy standards for elders strangely seem to give way to the monied and studied (by secular standards).
The Annoying: Toot toot! All aboard the broad-brush express. Fitch often gathers all of evangelicalism up in the word "we," and it really got me thinking - what churches has he been spending time in? Evangelicalism is a huge, huge tent - it is so big that it simply can't be handled as one entity. There are huge, Christianity-lite sorts of megachurches on one end, and small simple groups like Orthodox Presbyterian Church on the other. The "we need to" started wearing on me after a while.
Also Annoying: Fitch constantly was citing a small bevy of postmodern philosophers who have clearly captured his imagination. This actually led to:
The Dangerous: "Expository preaching reinforces the idea that meaning can be distributed as one more of the many goods and services available." Okay, no. Chapter 5 was really where this book fell on its face in terms of contradictions. Fitch proposes against propositions, exposits against exposition, overthrowing his own position. The bottom line here is that Fitch is more postmodern than historically Christian in his analysis, because the Scriptures are themselves propositional in nature. Perhaps Fitch would like to inform the Almighty that He really should have *demonstrated* His Word rather than wrote it in stuffy, dry propositions that are so difficult for postmodern people to relate to.
All that is not to say the Church should not demonstrate love and charity in its ranks - of course it should! But preaching of propositional truth from Scripture is paramount because it is the primary means God uses to change individual minds. Like it or not, community is comprised of individual minds and individual minds must be changed individually. If Fitch simply said that expository preaching is the beginning of the Church's "sermon" - it is more than that, but certainly not less - then all would be well and good. Certainly there is such a thing as a dry repetition of facts. But really, what is dry? The facts, or the hearers? I'd say the latter. Both hearing the preached Word in its context AND an emphasis on taking those principles and manifesting them into charity in the community is needed.
All in all, I still give the book 3 stars because it calls out a lot of things that I do believe need calling-out. I think Fitch is a guy who clearly loves the Lord and loves His Church. I think he's wrong on a lot, and right on a lot. I was left feeling like I just read Ayn Rand at the end of it - a lot of tiresome philosophy that maybe 9 people care about who write in each others' books, and some good conclusions, but with indefensible premises to support them.
- Paperback: 266 pages
- Publisher: Baker Books; Annotated ed edition (5 April 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080106483X
- ISBN-13: 978-0801064838
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 454 g
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