Essay: Brian McLaren the Postmodern Prophet

McLaren

Reforming the Modern Church

Brian McLaren is a polarizing figure, typically treated as either prophet or anti-Christ and rarely anything in between. The reason for this seems pretty obvious: McLaren is not one to mince words, proclaiming that it is now time for “a new kind of Christian(ity).”[1] This should not be mistaken to think that he wants something else to replace Christianity, though; rather, it is just that he feels Christianity needs some reforms and renewals. In particular, these reforms must be practical, and he even cautions against allowing the movement to only lead “to a reformation in our thinking and talking” because if it stops there, “it is not a new kind of Christianity at all… just a variation on an old kind.”[2] In many ways he suggests radical changes, but in other ways they are completely in line with the majority of Christian concepts of orthodoxy throughout history.

There are clear exceptions to this rule of McLaren being in line with Christian orthodoxies throughout history. Interesting, those he disagrees with in any meaningful ways are modern frameworks because at the heart of this need for change is the new philosophical worldview of post-modernism. McLaren acknowledges that modernism and Christianity are not the same thing and should not be the same thing, which tends to be at the root of many of his critics’ complaints. For McLaren, this isn’t a step backward as many claim, nor is it even a lateral step, but it is the logical next progression as the world continues to mature and so does the church. Just as Christianity adapted its forms to modernism, it is now time to adapt to post-modernism. Post-modernism is not anti-modernism – it is the next step after modernism, as put this way by Neo to Dan (who some think represents McLaren) in A New Kind of Christian:

There is something after the modern world – a postmodern world. To speak this way, we have to stop thinking of modern as “now,” and we have to distance ourselves from the “now” we have grown up in and think of it as a “then,” a period in the past…

This is where the prefix post- is so helpful. Think of post- as applied to the word pubescent… to be postpubescent means to have passed through puberty, to have been changed by it, and by virtue of having experienced it, to be now different, to be postpubescent: no longer a child; now an adolescent. Similarly, to be postmodern doesn’t imply being anti-modern or nonmodern, and it is certainly different from being premodern (though it is similar in some ways). To be postmodern means to have experienced the modern world and to have been changed by the experience – changed to such a degree that one is no longer modern.[3]

Along this same theme, in A New Kind of Christianity, McLaren paints broad strokes of human history and the various quests that we have been on as a species: survival, security, power, independence, individuality, honesty (where McLaren sees much of his own work), and then ubuntu (which translates roughly to something like togetherness, peace, or unity) with the assumption that there are even more yet to be seen beyond that. In his usual fashion, however, McLaren is quick to caution for those in the later quests to not ridicule those on the earlier quests:

In short, we in the indigo zone [the quest for honesty] – just like those in the earlier zones – want to transcend and distance ourselves from everyone in earlier zones. And in so doing we resist our transcendence into the violet spirit of ubuntu, which seeks to close distance and be joined with others… Our quest must transcend itself, rising from an indigo quest for honesty into a violet quest for reconciliation, integration, and ubuntu. And entering a new zone is never an easy thing.

An ubuntu or violet faith will require us to stop seeing the earlier ranges as inferior, wrong or bad. Rather, we must see them as necessary. Each offers something essential to the larger human quest.[4]

For those who criticize McLaren’s statements that in some ways are indeed radical from a modern perspective, this may be the most important concept of his work to consider. While McLaren will gently prod those in earlier zones to continue to move ahead, he only speaks of those people as less mature (in its most insulting form) or as equally necessary (in its least insulting form). Yet there will always be those offended anyway, largely because they do not really pay attention to these assurances and instead focus on some of the specifics that their modern mind disagrees with.

Ecumenical conversation is one major aspect of this move toward postmodernism, as much of McLaren’s thought is really more a combination of various emphases within Christianity than they are anything particularly new. McLaren is often considered the single most influential leader of the “emerging church,” which is sometimes defined primarily as a conversation at the centre of the different quadrants of Christianity.[5] He refers to this idea as “a generous orthodoxy,” gladly identifying himself with essentially all of the branches of Christianity, even praising certain things about those which he also most regularly criticizes. He calls himself both conservative (a group he often criticizes) and liberal, although he goes beyond that to a post-modernist understanding which rejects such dichotomies.[6] He calls himself a fundamentalist and Calvinist (another pair of groups that he often criticizes) although he does some creative redefinition of those terms: the fundamentals for him are love of God and neighbour rather than the usual five doctrines defined as such in the early twentieth century, and he is Reformed in the sense that he is always open to change, which is something that is usually not associated with contemporary Reformed churches but is captured in the common phrase “Reformed and always reforming.”[7] He repeatedly draws on various Protestant traditions, as well as Catholic and Orthodox aspects, such as his look at ancient spiritual disciplines in his book Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices.[8]

McLaren is a leader who is unashamed of these post-modern and ecumenical views even as they result in a significant backlash from many other powerful men (they are almost always men) within American Christianity. This paper aims to show that while he may deviate from conservative Evangelicalism on key points and even directly challenges many aspects of this particular Christian subculture, he does hold to essential agreement with the bulk of Christian orthodoxy throughout history. McLaren even points out the sad irony that:

The most strident criticisms have generally targeted things I either a) never wrote, or b) explicitly rejected. In other words, in nearly all cases, I agree to some degree with my critics in what they attack, but I strongly disagree that what they attack is actually what I’ve written.[9]

On a personal note, I found this very true. I had repeatedly heard McLaren spoken of in cautious tones. Then as I read some of his works, very little of it surprised me; nothing seemed to be outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity and very little even seemed to be outside the bounds of conservative Christianity (in the theological sense, not the political sense which he does clearly challenge). In this way, I realized that he is very much in line with other prophets throughout history: not really outside of the faith in any way but rejected regardless because of consistently offering a challenge to established religious authority and its frequently-close ally, political authority.

To accomplish this goal of presenting McLaren as a post-modern prophet – calling for a renewal within Christian thought and practice rather than an undermining of it – this paper will examine McLaren’s thought much like an abbreviated systematic theology. To do so is a little deceptive; McLaren’s thought is fundamentally post-modern and thus systems of theological thought are acknowledged as unproductive at best and damaging to the grand narrative of Christianity at worst. Regardless, McLaren’s grand narrative of Christianity can be analysed for its three central themes: the always-underlying question of revelation and authority particularly as found in the Bible, followed by the centrality of Jesus and his message of the Kingdom of God.

The Bible and Revelation

Many modernist systematic theologies would begin with this same question of authority because the priority is on establishing how we know propositions. McLaren frequently summarizes this attitude which is one of his most common criticisms of modernity:

I grew up being taught that the Bible was an answer book, supplying exactly the information modern, Western, moderately educated people want from a phone book, encyclopedia, or legal constitution. We want to know exactly when the earth was created… and how… along with how it will end…

We wanted a simple, clear, efficient, and convenient plan for getting to heaven after death. Between now and then, we wanted clear assurance that God didn’t like the people we didn’t like, and for the same reasons we didn’t like them. Finally, we wanted a rule book that made it objectively clear, with no subjective ambiguity, what behaviors were right and wrong for all time, in all places, and among all cultures, especially if those rules confirmed our views and not those of people we considered “liberal.”[10]

McLaren also begins with understanding the Bible in some of his works, but always takes a very different tact than modern systematic theologies. For example, in A New Kind of Christianity McLaren begins with questions related to the Bible. While in a modernist systematic theology, these questions would be things like authority of the Bible, inerrancy, infallibility, and whether to default to literal or mythological understandings, the first question from McLaren is “What is the overarching story line of the Bible?”[11] This simple question choice as the starting point demonstrates the major difference between a modernist and a post-modernist theology: the Bible must be able to provide a story which can be related to on a personal level, not a list of propositions or rules. It could be summarized this way:

Ironically, our style may become more like Jesus – even more like the Bible in general – as it becomes characterized by parable, story, conversation, proverb, poem, image, and surprise. All of which are a far cry from three points and an application, “tell them what you’ll tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them,” et cetera. If we’re not careful, in fact, we may actually rekindle others’ fascination with this wild and wonderful book called the Bible – and in the process rekindle our own fascination, too.[12]

How McLaren then goes on to answer this question of the story of the Bible is probably the element of his theology that is the most challenging and may be the most meaningful shift from the majority of historic Christian thought and not just modern Christian thought. Represented in a very simple six lines, this story goes like this:

We start on the left with absolute perfection in the Garden of Eden. Then comes something called the Fall into original sin, “the Fall” and “original sin” (like “absolute perfection”) being terms that are never found in the Bible, but are fundamental to Catholic and Protestant faith as we know it. The bottom of the trough, in which we are now living, is a state of condemnation we could call the fallen world, human history, or life on earth. Next comes an ascending line, which we might call salvation, redemption, justification, or atonement (depending on our tradition), leading us to the top line on the right, known as heaven or eternity… Of course… many people [who did not receive salvation]… face eternal conscious torment [instead].[13]

Pointing out that some “dare to question” certain details of this story, he also argues that rarely has anybody deviated from the central narrative of fall leading to redemption for some and damnation for the rest. He claims that the central story line of the Bible is not this six-line narrative which has been taught at least since the work of Augustine, arguing that this alternate story line is actually the Platonic story rather than the biblical Hebraic and Christo-centric one. The reason for this is that we read backwards through various interpreting theologians until we get to Jesus, instead of forward by seeing Jesus and interpreting his followers through him. The interpretive lens, as he sees it, should instead be reversed, viewing everything else both before and after through Jesus.[14]

This leads to an interesting scenario for those critics of McLaren. In true Protestant fashion, they want to dismiss him as ignoring the Bible, therefore heretical and, at best, worthy of extra caution when approaching his teachings. However, McLaren is in no way dismissing the Bible – just the dominant Platonic narrative projected onto the text which he no longer sees as lining up with what is in the actual writings. He tells this story in A Generous Orthodoxy:

A friend of mine recently confessed that he was unhappy with my theological direction over the last few years. I asked what concerned him, and he replied, “Well, still have a high regard for the Bible.” I told him I was stung by his remark because it implied that I didn’t…

I have spent my entire life learning, understanding, reappraising, wrestling with, trusting, applying, and obeying the Bible, and trying to help others do the same. I believe it is a gift from God, inspired by God, to benefit us in the most important way possible: equipping us so that we can benefit others, so that we can play our part in the ongoing mission of God. My regard for the Bible is higher than ever.[15]

As with most of the other criticisms levelled against McLaren, calling him unbiblical is not a justifiable one. He may reject the modern questions about historical accuracy and scientific plausibility, and he may reject the 6-line narrative, but the Bible is still consistently forming the basis for his understanding of life in general and Christianity in particular.

With this established as what he disagrees with, there is still a large hole to be filled for how he does interpret the Bible. If “the Bible… simply is not a constitution,” then McLaren would instead “like to propose that it is something far more interesting and important: it’s the library of a culture and community.”[16] Unlike constitutions, libraries don’t always give a clear answer and don’t always even agree with the other authors chosen to be included in the library. They’re messy, containing shades of gray, and that makes this model of the Bible challenging for the modern mind (conservative or liberal) to understand. At the centre of this community library is the figure of Jesus and he becomes the key interpretive lens for understanding the biblical story in a new way.[17]

Jesus

This may seem like a simplistic argument, but the primary reason that McLaren should not be considered an anti-Christ is because of the centrality of the Christ in his teaching. If you want to use the literal biblical definition of anti-Christ – “whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ”[18] – it is pretty clear that he is not in any way against the Christ nature or any other traditional views of Jesus. When the Bible is not treated as the starting point in his works, it is almost always the figure of Jesus who takes that position. In Finding Our Way Again McLaren describes the problem of the name Jesus, which is really more a problem of how notable Christians use his name:

The name of Jesus seems to be used… as a kind of club with which to intimidate believers and nonbelievers, or as a kind of membership card by which some are included in a different kind of club – the Christian club. “Jesus” becomes the password that gets them access, regardless of their character, while others are excluded, equally regardless of character.[19]

Elsewhere, McLaren takes a similar approach: pointing out the wide variety of interpretations of Jesus he has encountered even amongst different Christian groups.[20] He always concludes with the same idea:

An uncomfortable feeling has showed me that the portrait of Jesus I found in the New Testament didn’t fit with the image of Christianity projected by religious institutions, charismatic televangelists, religious spokespeople in the media – and sometimes, my own preaching. Sometimes the discomfort has come when I realize that Jesus’ teachings and example don’t fit neatly in the categories of my theology.[21]

Even though he is regularly rejecting certain cultural ideas of Jesus, McLaren not only continues to affirm orthodox beliefs such as Jesus’ divinity, in many ways he seems to take them far more seriously than those he critiques. The doctrine of incarnation is a primary example as McLaren points out that this belief has some radical consequences that have often been continually ignored by modern thinkers. After challenging predetermined concepts of what God “should be” which often have far more to do with the god of Greek philosophy (“Theos”) than the God of the Bible (Yahweh), he calls for a view of God based on Christ:

The Quaker scholar Elton Trueblood approached the Bible this way. One of Trueblood’s students told me that he often heard his mentor say something like: “The historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God. It is far more radical than that. It means that God is like Jesus.” In other words, the doctrines of the incarnation and deity of Christ are meant to tell us that we cannot start with a predetermined, set-in-stone idea of God derived from the rest of the Bible [or from Greek philosophy] and then extend that to Jesus. Jesus is not intended merely to fit into those predetermined categories; he is intended instead to explode them, transform them, alter them forever, and bring us to a new evolutionary level in our understanding of God. An old definition of God does not define Jesus – the experience of God in Jesus requires a brand-new definition or understanding of God.[22]

Like so much else of McLaren’s thought, it seems like it shouldn’t be that radical of an idea. He is holding to what is often considered the most important doctrine of Christianity – that Jesus is God – and taking that to its logical conclusion. I feel like the majority of his critics would be in complete agreement with every step of the argument – Jesus is God, therefore God’s character is like Jesus’ – until they get to a specific point where they want God to be something different than Jesus exhibited and taught, like having a god who condemns the people they condemn or re-asserts their right to power. Then they work backwards and argue that God isn’t really like Jesus, even though that means in practice denying their own core theology of the divinity of Jesus.

Beyond this, McLaren doesn’t spend a lot of pages discussing who Jesus was/is in the metaphysical sense. As with most others in the emerging church movement, he is not particularly concerned with doctrine except when it enables people to live out a better life of love. He does show some traces of modernism in terms of how he looks at the historical figure of Jesus, although he again uses that starting point in a different way and not for its own sake. When examining Jesus’ message in The Secret Message of Jesus he begins with two key aspects of context: 1st century Judaism and the Roman Empire, establishing Jesus as both an irreligious and political figure. Many of Jesus’ teachings make the most sense within his Jewish context, as a Rabbi and prophet, while also retaining his divinity: “although many of us believe Jesus was much more than a prophet, it’s certain he was not less.”[23] This is a really interesting point to ponder for many, particularly in the affluent Western world since we are the ones in power and thus the people typically opposed by a prophet. This prophetic voice cannot be detached from either its religious or political dimensions, both of which can be summarized by what McLaren believes is Jesus’ core message: the coming of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God

Like many prophets before him, Jesus included, McLaren emphasizes the very real and earthly Kingdom of God. This is a third major category that conflicts with a lot of modernist thought but ultimately is not really that far off from many other Christians throughout history. After the war in Iraq began, McLaren quotes a pastor he heard on the radio saying that “the teachings of Jesus are personal. They have nothing to do with politics and foreign policy” to which McLaren responds with saying that he has:

become convinced that although Jesus’ message was personal, it was not private. I’ve been convinced that it has everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular – including economics and aid, personal empowerment and choice, foreign policy and war.[24]

Neither is this Kingdom an after-life Kingdom as often taught by many modern churches. McLaren is pretty blunt about this: after asking “What could Jesus mean by this [the Kingdom of God]?” he answers his own question with “One thing is sure… He did not mean ‘Heaven after you die.’”[25]

While this is clearly a challenge to the ways that we in the affluent West are used to thinking about it, it also isn’t really that far from what we believe in theory. When pressed in the abstract, most Christians – even modern-era Christians who saw/see the after-life as the main point of the Gospel – would agree with the statement that Jesus’ teachings were also meant for living here on earth. Much like with the doctrine of incarnation meaning that Jesus shows us God’s character, it is typically only when specific choices are faced that we tend to find ways out of this idea. So again, McLaren is not actually unorthodox in any way – he just calls others to follow through on what they say they believe. In the process he does de-emphasize the after-life but he doesn’t even explicitly disagree with those traditional concepts.[26]

As McLaren continues to discuss the Kingdom of God in a variety of ways, the real challenge to his critics seems to be not that Jesus has something to say about the world before death, since they would generally agree to that in theory. The challenge comes from the fact that the things Jesus says (or at least that McLaren claims that Jesus says) disagrees with how Jesus has been used politically by these critics. For the past 50 years in the United States, and to a lesser extent in some other parts of the Western world, Jesus has been largely monopolized by right-wing politics. Jesus has been invoked as on the side of wars – even ones that have little justification through Just War Theory – even though it is hard to argue that Jesus allowed room for violence in any way and definitely not in unjust ways. Jesus has been used to promote greed in the capitalist framework even though care for the poor is a consistent theme through Jesus’ teachings and elsewhere in Scripture. In general, as Adam Taylor puts it in The Justice Project: “Somehow in the minds of many Christians and non-Christians alike, Jesus had become pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American.”[27]

Instead of using Jesus to support these existing systems, McLaren uses Jesus to challenge them, saying this about how the dominant narrative of the world fits with the Kingdom of God:

We are in the early stages of a radical reassessment of Jesus. More and more of us realize how religious communities can be complicit with imperial narratives and edit their version of Jesus to fit their narrative. More and more of us understand Jesus’ life and message as being centered on the articulation and demonstration of a radically different framing story – one that critiques and exposes the imperial narrative as dangerous to itself and others.[28]

This is the centre of McLaren’s concept of the Kingdom of God: vastly different and opposed to “the imperial narrative” which has dominated most of history. This imperial narrative is the same thing that he also calls “the suicide machine” – a very powerful phrase in itself – and is fuelled by the three interlocking systems of prosperity, security, and equity.         The prosperity system, which is the drive to not only survive but to be as happy as possible, fuels capitalism as we feel the need to consume as much as possible. Then the security system is needed because:

Of course, when some individuals or groups of people have a bigger share of desired products and services than others, jealousies arise. Sometimes those jealousies erupt into violent attempts to steal some of that prosperity, or at least to interrupt another’s monopoly of the means of achieving it.[29]

This security system could be in the forms of violence or in the forms of other coercive means of control. Finally, the equity system then aims to distribute the costs of the security system as well as the prosperity as much as possible, although it tends to be the least developed and often is given secondary status to the other two desires.[30]

This envisioning of the Kingdom of God also works itself out to eschatology. This has always been a fascinating but very confusing sub-discipline of theology to me because there really is little discussion of it within the Scriptures themselves and what is there is shrouded in poetic language with no unambiguous answer of “what it really means” (in the modern sense of that phrase). While many moderns use interesting (to put it gently) interpretations of biblical apocalyptic visions to conclude when and how the earth will be destroyed, McLaren tends to set aside all of these theories. Dispensationalism draws a particular amount of ire – not because of its shaky biblical foundation but because of its consequences:

If the world is about to end, why care for the environment? Why worry about global climate change or peak oil? Who gives a rip for endangered species or sustainable economies or global poverty if God is planning to incinerate the whole planet soon anyway?… Why waste energy on peacemaking, diplomacy, or interreligious dialogue? Aren’t these simply endeavours in rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?[31]

It is a very valid point: whether intentionally or not, dispensationalism (and any other eschatology that depends on God destroying all the bad people and suddenly making things right, in contrast to the slowly-developing “mustard seed” Kingdom language of Jesus) inevitably encourages a disregard for this world. At worst it is treated as something to be conquered through force, and at best it is treated as something secondary to just get through until it is time for the real Kingdom.

The eschatological picture painted by McLaren is very different. In some ways it is not even fair to call it an eschatological picture, because that would largely rely on a modernist framework of finding “the answers” of how and when the world will end. McLaren essentially ignores all of that, and is more interested in the question of how our theory of the end of the world effects how we live today, with the underlying concept that it is likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy one way or another. Rather than a precise plan already laid out that will be carried out by God’s will and his alone, McLaren asks for a “3-D eschatology” where God and the universe are in relationship with each other. McLaren argues that:

Conventional eschatologies, whether premillennial, postmillennial, amillenial, preterist, and so on, tend to argue about different arrangements or lengths of the lines in the Greco-Roman narrative…  [Instead,] in a participatory eschatology, when we ask, “what does the future hold?” the answer begins, “That depends. It depends on you and me. God holds out to us at every moment a brighter future; the issue is whether we are willing to receive it and work with God to help create it. We are participating in the creation of what the future will be.”[32]

He continues with discussions of the idea of “the second coming of Christ” which he points out has no biblical basis. The closest thing which is biblical is the word “parousia,” which essentially means “presence.” Rather than a second physical coming, however, McLaren understands this to mean that Jesus has remained present with his followers through the Holy Spirit ever since. In that sense, the Kingdom of God has been present since Jesus. It isn’t fully mature yet because his followers are to continue that work, but it is here and waiting for us to act it out. This creates a beautiful understanding of the world now: it is a part of the process to bring about something even better. Eschatology is not to encourage us to look forward to the world’s end so we can be whisked away to somewhere else as we watch our enemies be destroyed. [33] Above anything else, this call to live the Kingdom of God, based on the teachings and example of Jesus as found through the story of Scripture, forms the heart of McLaren’s work.

McLaren the Prophet

With book titles like A New Kind of Christian, A New Kind of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy, and Everything Must Change, and as somebody who proudly proclaims that he is “emerging” (which necessitates something to emerge from that isn’t good enough), it is easy to imagine that McLaren is wholeheartedly disregarding the historic faith and making up his own. This paper has aimed to show that this is not the case. While there are certain points on which McLaren rejects modern-era Christian thought, he never disrespects it, at worst seeing it as immature and at best as a necessary stepping stone for spiritual growth. This might seem like he is simply putting on a good front to avoid too much trouble, but avoiding trouble seems to not even be a consideration for McLaren, as evidenced by the provocative choices for book titles.

Like many other prophets, he holds to the core beliefs of those before him but also brings them to life in new ways for a new context. Like many of the other prophets, his most bitter opponents come from those in power, religious or political. Like many of the other prophets, his concern is primarily one of justice and creating a new social reality called The Kingdom of God. Like many of the other prophets, he has handled a lot of criticism – some of it warranted, but much of it not – particularly from those in some form of power that he is challenging. Whether you like him or hate him, it is hard to come up with a case for branding him as a heretic from the Christian faith. Instead, the best succinct description for McLaren is that he is a post-modern prophet.

Bibliography

McLaren, Brian D. A Generous Orthodoxy. ePub. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

—. A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey. ePub. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

—. A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith. ePub. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins e-books, 2010.

—. Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.

—. Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices. ePub. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

—. The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything. ePub. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2006.

McLaren, Brian D., and Tony Campolo. Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel. ePub. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

McLaren, Brian, Elisa Padilla, and Ashley Bunting Seeber. The Justice Project. ePub. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009.

Tickle, Phyllis. The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008.

Footnotes

[1] Brian D. McLaren¸ A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001)

Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, (Toronto: HarperCollins e-books, 2010)

[2] McLaren, New Kind of Christianity, Chapter 20

[3] McLaren, New Kind of Christian, Chapter 2 – Entering that Awkward Age, or Does Jonah Eat Bagels?

[4] McLaren, New Kind of Christianity, Chapter 20

[5] Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 6. The Gathering Center and the Many Faces of a Church Emerging

[6] Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 8. Why I am a Liberal/Conservative

[7] McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy, Chapter 12. Why I Am Fundamentalist/Calvinist

[8] Brian D. McLaren, Finding Our Way Again: the Return of the Ancient Practices¸(Colorado Springs: Thomas Nelson, 2008)

[9] McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy, Epilogue

[10] McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy, Chapter 10. Why I am Biblical

[11] McLaren, New Kind of Christianity, Chapter 4

[12] Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), Missing the Point: The Bible – I Love the Bible

[13] McLaren, New Kind of Christianity, Chapter 4

[14] Ibid.

[15] McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy, Chapter 10. Why I am Biblical

[16] McLaren, New Kind of Christianity, Chapter 8

[17] Ibid.

[18] 1 John 2:22 (NIV)

[19] McLaren, Finding Our Way Again, Chapter 4

[20] McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy, Chapter 1. The Seven Jesuses I have Known

[21] Brian D. McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything, (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2006), 1. Troubling Questions about Jesus

[22] McLaren, New Kind of Christianity, Chapter 11

[23] McLaren, Secret Message of Jesus, 3. The Jewish Message of Jesus

[24] Ibid., 2. The Political Message of Jesus

[25] Ibid.

[26] Claiming a negative is always dangerous, so I would qualify by saying that he does not reject traditional views of the after-life in anything I have been able to find from him – there may be something out there but I didn’t come across it. In either case, the point that after-life is not an emphasis remains the same.

[27] Adam Taylor, “2. Just Son: What Does Jesus’ Message of the Kingdom Have to Do with Justice?” in The Justice Project, eds. Brian McLaren, Elisa Padilla, and Ashley Bunting Seeber, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009)

[28] Brian D. McLaren, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, (NashvilleThomas Nelson, 2007), pp. 154-155

[29] Ibid.55

[30] Ibid., 54-56

[31] McLaren, New Kind of Christianity, Chapter 18

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.