Feb 17 2010

McLaren’s “new” ideas?

Category: church,religion,theologyharmonicminer @ 11:19 pm

Christianity and McLarenism: a review of McLaren’s new book by Kevin DeYoung

Brian McLaren’s latest book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, is two steps forward in terms of clarity and ten steps backward in terms of orthodoxy. A New Kind of Christianity, more than any previous McLaren project, provides a forceful account of what the emergent leader believes and why.

I think McLaren has strayed quite far from anything recognizable as “historic Christianity”… a fact of which McLaren seems quite proud.

In his introduction to the review of the book, DeYoung lists these points in the book:

The Quest and the Questions

Brian McLaren is on a quest—“a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith” (18). On this quest, McLaren raises and responds to ten questions.

1. The narrative question: What is the overarching story line of the Bible? For McLaren, the familiar story line of creation, fall, redemption, consummation (with heaven and hell as a result) is a grotesque Greco-Roman distortion of the biblical narrative. God the creator, liberator, reconciler is the real story line.

2. The authority question: How should the Bible be understood? Not as a constitution, argues McLaren, with laws and rules and arguments about who’s right and wrong. Rather, we go to the Bible as a community library, where internal consistency is not presumed and we learn by conversation.

3. The God question: Is God violent? Believers used to think so, but we ought to grow in maturity from fearing a violent tribal God to partnering with a Christlike God.

4. The Jesus question: Who is Jesus and why is he important? Jesus is never violent and does not condemn. He did not come to save people from hell. Jesus, says McLaren, is peace-loving and identifies with the weak and oppressed.

5. The gospel question: What is the gospel? It is not a message about how to get saved. The gospel is the announcement of a “new kingdom, a new way of life, and a new way of peace that carried good news to all people of every religion” (139).

6. The church question: What do we do about the church? Churches—in whatever form and whatever we call them—exist to form people of Christlike love. This is the church’s primary calling, to form people who live in the way of love, the way of peacemaking.

7. The sex question: Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it? We need to stop hating gay people and welcome them fully into the life of the church. The “sexually other” may be defective in traditional religion, but they are loved and included in a new kind of Christianity.

8. The future question: Can we find a better way of viewing the future? No more “soul-sort” universe where our team goes to heaven and the bad guys go to hell. The future is open, inviting our participation. In the end, God’s mercy will triumph and all shall be well.

9. The pluralism question: How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions? “Christianity has a nauseating, infuriating, depressing record when it comes to encountering people of other religions” (208). There is not us/them, insider/outsider. Jesus accepted everyone and so should we.

10. The what-do-we-do-now question: How can we translate our quest into action? The human quest for God has known many stages. Those in the more mature stages of the quest should gently invite others to grow into fuller maturity, but without being divisive.

I’m looking forward to more of DeYoung’s review, and I will cover it here as it happens. 

In the meantime, can I suggest that those Christian universities that want to support historic Christian perspectives might want to think twice before inviting McLaren to speak in Chapel to impressionable undergraduates?

Despite McLaren’s claim to be “returning” to the “real Christianity” of the early church fathers, I have the distinct impression that Polycarp would disapprove.  I don’t think he became a martyr for believing in and promoting the social gospel, nor for denying the truth of the scriptures, nor for redefining Jesus as some kind of self-help guru, social revolutionary, and adumbration of Gandhi, instead of the Savior of the souls of humankind from the wages of sin. 

Stay tuned for the next installment as DeYoung’s review continues.

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