Mark Coppenger on “Blue Like Jazz”

I read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz several years ago after finding that so many of my students were enamored with this hip new book that was taking the evangelical world by storm. At the time, the “emergent church” was all the rage among a certain sector of evangelicals, and folks were trying to sort out how the author Donald Miller fit within that whole discussion. In any case, my students loved the book and were talking about it, and I felt almost obligated to read it. So I did.

I didn’t much care for the book. I thought it was irreverent in all the wrong ways. At the time, I started to write a review of the book, but then decided against it. There were already many helpful reviews appearing, and so I let it go. But the one review that I still remember to this day is the one delivered by Dr. Mark Coppenger at a school of theology lecture at Southern Seminary in 2006. There is a written version of the review, but I still think the audio version is worth listening too. This is classic Coppenger, and it is a spot-on critique. You can read a summary here, download the audio here, or listen below.


6 Responses to Mark Coppenger on “Blue Like Jazz”

  1. Chris Brauns April 17, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Thanks, Denny, for pointing to this review. I wrote a review of another Miller book for Reformation 21 several years ago, found at: .

  2. Joshua Wooden April 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    I read Blue Like Jazz as a graduating senior from high school. At that point in my life (I was born and raised in an Evangelical home), the book came at the right time for me. I felt like I could breathe again. I haven’t read it since, and I don’t know if I would agree with everything it says, but Miller has hit a nerve with people my age, and instead of rushing off to write negative reviews, why don’t you just ask your students why it appeals to them? You might still disagree with the book while still gaining some useful insight into a culture increasingly disillusioned with certain aspects of Evangelical culture that has nothing to do with what the Bible says and at times clearly contradicts what it says.

    I’m not going to respond line by line to the review; suffice it to say I agreed with some of it, disagreed with some of it, but most of it just misses the point and misreads the culture. Over and over again I found myself saying out loud, “This guy just doesn’t get. He’s not listening.”

    A book like “Blue Like Jazz” raises more questions than offers solutions. The question I have is, why don’t some people even want to ask the questions?

    The review’s defense of was typical. The rhetoric was typical. The ideas – typical.

    It wouldn’t kill any conservative Evangelicals to read books like this with an aim to understand rather than criticize. And for the record, as someone who liked the book and would recommend it – I vote Republican.

    But I’m curious (because frankly, I don’t remember everything the book said), what parts of the book did you find irreverent?

  3. Joshua Wooden April 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    Oh, and I do have to point this out.

    “A British politician once observed that if you weren’t liberal before you were 30, you had no heart, but if you were liberal after age 30, you had no brains.”

    British politics has little to do with American politics (including what divides conservatives from liberals). The rhetoric is poorly applied. Moreover, it completely vindicates that, to some extent, Donald Miller’s critiques of conservative Evangelicalism were partially correct. In the end I find the review somewhat ironic, because it highlights the very things Miller was attempting to critique and correct in his book.

  4. donsands April 18, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    It seems that the Emergent crowd has died down a bit. And there’s such a mixture of views in that crowd, Miller is less like a Rob Bell, and yet different than a Mark Driscoll and a Dan Kimball.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Joshua Wooden April 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm #


      I think that’s – it didn’t really have much fire before that (a lot of them were burnt out on church to begin with).

      Both Scot McKnight and Mark Driscoll define that their are different strands within the movement, and so Driscoll really has nothing to do with Bell, McKnight has nothing to do with Driscoll or Bell, and makes a distinction between “Emergent” and “Emerging”. You can see Driscoll’s explanation on YouTube and Scot McKnight’s explanation on his blog (Jesus Creed).

  5. donsands April 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I forgot McKnight. That’s a good word Josh. Thanks.

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