Tagged: Brian McLaren

Gender - Male and Female Gummy

Diversity in My 10 Most Influential Books

There’s been one of those viral challenges going around Facebook asking for your 10 most influential books. Here’s mine, not counting the books of the Bible:

  1. Repenting of Religion by Greg Boyd
  2. Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland
  3. The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle
  4. A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren
  5. A Nonviolent Atonement by J. Denny Weaver
  6. The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey
  7. God and Empire by John Dominic Crossan (even though there were some sections I really didn’t agree with)
  8. Scripture and the Authority of God by N.T. Wright
  9. Christianity’s Dangerous Idea by Alister E. McGrath
  10. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

The last 2 took a while and on any given day could probably be interchanged for some others like Boyd’s God of the Possible and McLaren’s Everything Must Change, but for the most part, this is what I’m looking at for my core book influences.

The Last Word and the Word After That by Brian McLaren

On the surface, The Last Word and the Word After That by Brian McLaren is primarily about Hell. It is a major theme and the most concrete theme of the book, but in typical McLaren style there is much more to it than that, especially in the narrative-driven A New Kind of Christian trilogy which this book concludes. I had not read the first two books (I’ve skimmed through the first) so I can’t speak too much to the narrative, but I am loosely familiar with the story of Dan Poole who some say broadly represents McLaren himself. Dan has already begun to move from a modern conservative faith to a postmodern faith through these other books and this concluding book brings many of those thoughts and their implications to a head.

Ethics and Justice - Holding Hands Across the World

Essay: Brian McLaren the Postmodern Prophet

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.

Better to Plant New Churches?

This is a really intriguing article from Brian McLaren on Patheos essentially saying that seminary prepares students much better for planting new churches than it does for being placed in a stagnant existing one. It is part of a series on the future of the seminary featuring a variety of different thinkers. I have yet to read the other articles but from the titles you can see that there is a lot of different ideas represented. Here McLaren argues that seminary is not the problem – the churches are. In fact, the seminaries are often providing students exactly with what they want from their churches but aren’t getting. I would probably testify to this general statement. I’ve been a part of some good churches, but I felt like I needed more. I didn’t decide to do seminary because I wanted to be a pastor. I came because it seemed like the next step for my own growth that churches didn’t seem able or willing to provide.

What Next?

All done this great book and I applaud those of you who have actually read my entire summary of it.  This last post will look at the final question which is essentially: so what are we going to do about it?  McLaren has worked through a lot of big questions that the church needs to be looking at right now as many of us try to figure out a new kind of Christianity.

The main thing McLaren develops in this final section is his way of speaking about progression in the church.  He talks in terms of the colours of the spectrum for his seven stages of what we quest for.  The first zone is the red zone for survival.  The second is the orange zone for security.  The third is the yellow zone for power.  Fourth for the green zone of independence.  Fifth is blue for individuality.  Sixth is indigo for honesty.  And now we are on the verge of the seventh, violet, the quest for ubuntu.  If you aren’t familiar with the term ubuntu, it is an African term that means something along the lines of “oneness, unity, togetherness, interconnectedness”.

Sexuality, Eschatology, Pluralism

This one will cover a lot of different ground but I’m not sure I have a lot to say for any of them that I haven’t said elsewhere, so I’m still going to stick these three very different questions into one post.

Question 7: Sexuality

The majority of the chapter – and it was just a single chapter for this question, albeit a fairly long chapter – deals with the current controversial issue of homosexuality.  If you click on the tag for homosexuality you’ll see a few posts I’ve done on this before.  Interestingly, I did largely tackle the issue from a conservative viewpoint, using what McLaren would call a constitutional reading (although not a literalistic reading) of Scripture.  I came to a different conclusion of why I don’t think homosexuality is a sin but I actually did it through that semi-conservative epistemology.

Jesus, The Gospel, and The Church

I’m going to lump these three together because they were actually fairly short reads and didn’t throw a whole lot of new ideas out there that hadn’t been introduced in the first three questions. I think the rest of the book is much shorter sections.  Something I didn’t really expect is how much McLaren builds from one chapter to the next.  On the one hand that means that if you reject some of his earlier stuff – particularly the first three of a Jewish rather than Greco-Roman reading of the Bible, a library rather than legal reading of the Bible, and a re-picturing God through a nonviolent revolutionary Jesus rather than the other way around – then you’ll likely continue to reject his later stuff.  On the other hand, it really a powerful, logical and internally-coherent systematic theology.  I’ve also written on my definition on What is the Gospel? before so I don’t really need to respond to his section on that once again here and I’ve written a fair bit about the Church.

Question 4: Who is Jesus and Why is He Important?

I don’t think McLaren really said that much new here.  He primarily talked about how we all have different ideas of who we want Jesus to be and we really pay attention to those.  

The Violence of God

As a pacifist I’ve looked into this question before, but I love the fact that it is becoming a more common conversation in the emerging church.  In its simplest form: is God violent?  The big theme here is progressive revelation, which is a controversial one amongst Christians for reasons I touched on in A New Kind Of Christianity Question 2: Biblical Authority – basically because most Christians view the Bible as a legal constitution which means that every word must agree and that every word is equal legal authority over us.  Therefore saying that one part of the Bible is a more complete picture of God than another isn’t easy to swallow.  McLaren argues and I agree that every word of the Bible is not equally mature but rather that the culmination is in Jesus.  To put it in another way that most Christians throughout history have often affirmed but not necessarily practiced: Jesus is the complete Word of God, and the Bible is not the Word of God in the fullest but it helps point us to the Word of God.  If you’re a regular reader you may have noticed I do not refer to the Bible as the Word of God because I think it creates that confusion that the Bible is on par with Jesus, although most Protestants historically have done exactly that in practice even if not in doctrine (see my post Which Trinity Do You Follow?).


Biblical Authority

The more I read of this book the more I love it and the work of Brian McLaren in general.  This one more than the previous I think could easily be the kind of stuff that gets him in a lot of trouble with reactionary conservatives.  Here’s his core idea:the Bible is not meant to be a constitution; it is meant to be an authoritative library.  People from the modern era tend to divide into two extremes: either the Bible is absolutely literal and the words are perfect no matter how you interpret them, or you dismiss the whole thing as just interesting literature.  But why can’t you have authoritative literature that isn’t designed strictly as a rule book?  I’m sure you can see why this would cause a lot of problems for both liberals and conservatives, but I really appreciate his attempt to break down that dichotomy.

McLaren points out a lot of obvious problems with viewing the Bible as a constitution.  As a legal document it is supposed to be internally consistent, saying the exact same thing all the time.  It quite obviously doesn’t, sometimes in seemingly meaningless factual differences like the number of men in an army, but other times in pretty drastic ethical questions like how to treat your enemies.  


The Bible’s Narrative

The first of the questions proposed by Brian McLaren as necessary for a new kind of Christianity for the emerging church is: what is the overarching story line of the Bible?  I found this section very interesting because I’ve heard some of the ideas but never really put together in such an effective way.  Whether you directly hear it this way or not, the storyline of the Bible is generally summarized like the chart on the left.  It conveniently fits within just 6 lines.  First, there is Eden, which of course was perfect.  Then there was “the Fall” to Condemnation.  The offer of Salvation came, through which some go back up to perfect unchanging Heaven, and others go even farther down to the “eternal conscious torment” state of Hell or Damnation.  The big question: is this actually the message of the Bible?