Monday, April 5, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren

Whenever I read a book by McLaren I feel like there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that he challenges me. He makes me think about my faith, what I believe and why I believe it. The bad news is that how he presents his case and the conclusions he comes to just irritate me to no end.
McLaren observed that Christianity was in trouble. He sensed that Christianity was pregnant and something was trying to be born. He frames his look at the phenomenon with ten questions.
He speaks to the narrative of the Bible and attempts to strip away the undesirable Greek/Roman influence. As he reviews the first two books of the Bible it was “patently obvious” to him that the stories were not to be taken literally yet it was “powerfully clear” to him that “these nonliteral stories are still to be taken seriously and mined for their rich meaning…”
“Our quest for a new kind of Christianity requires a new, more mature and responsible approach to the Bible.” (P. 76)
McLaren takes an evolutionary approach to God revealing Himself. The Old Testament contains less mature views of God. As mankind progressed, so did God’s revelation of Himself from a violent, tribal God to a Christlike God.
McLaren calls for Christians to promote a “kingdom…that transcends and includes all religions.” (P. 216). This kingdom, he says, is “the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.” (P. 216)
As an evangelical Christian, that really irritates me. McLaren has ignored the holiness of God, ignored the teachings of Jesus on hades, has discounted the sovereignty of God and has emphasized an all inclusive and nonjudgmental “love” of God.
He also irritates me with his footnotes. When he quotes a statistic and lists a footnote, I expect a source. What I found more times than not were additional comments and no source.
At one point McLaren argues for a new look at sexual orientation, arguing that Christians are not doing well in marriage, concluding “divorce rates are startlingly high for Christians as well.” (P. 187) I went to the blog he cited and read the entry. It says frequent church attending Christians have a divorce rate of 32% while all nonChristians are at 48%. The blogger says, “The fact is that church attendance is the single largest factor in reducing divorce rates.” (http://www.wanderingheretic.com/2007/08/22/evangelical-divorcepremarital-sex-revisited/, accessed 4/03/2010) That’s interesting…it seems church going Christians are doing much better at marriage than McLaren would like us to believe.
So that’s the bad news. McLaren’s conclusions are certainly outside the frame of traditional Christianity. The way he proves his case seems to me to be full of holes and includes faulty arguments and conclusions.
The good news? McLaren does have some good points regarding Christians not living up to Christlikeness as we should. He desires that our faith impact our lives. We should be living the gospel.
McLaren makes me think about what I believe and why I believe it. I sure do not believe what he does.
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