A New Kind of Christianity: My Answers to Ten Questions

A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith

This is part of a synchroblog, started by Steve Hayes.

Brian McLaren is a well known writer and activist from America, and he has been labelled by many as a ‘leader’ of the Emergent Church / Emerging Church movement. I have enough experience with the Emerging Church movement to know how diverse it is, but we can say he is a leader in thought for many within this movement (not all, though!).

I’ve read some of his work before and enjoyed it, but haven’t agreed with him on many things. His latest book “A New Kind of Christianity” is really getting people going, because it’s the first time he provides more answers than questions, apparently. I haven’t read it and I don’t think I will any time soon as it doesn’t really speak out to me.

Nevertheless, Steve Hayes has drawn out the ten questions McLaren puts forth in his book. The answers to these questions McLaren seems to believe will change Christianity, ushering in a “new kind” of Christianity and subsequently transformation of our world.

I’ve read some reviews of the book and some are praising it as the best thing ever and some are slating it as the worst thing ever. What I have read, though, I think hardly deserves the kind of merit many are giving it. In fact, I’m not convinced McLaren’s answers are that new at all and frankly some of them disappoint me. But I’m just gleaning that from reviews – and both praise reviews or slating reviews have led me not to want to read the book any time soon.

Anyway, here are the questions along with the answers I would give:

1. What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
Jesus Christ and his redeeming of mankind.

2. How should the Bible be understood?
Through Jesus and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

3. Is God violent?
Yeah, sometimes He is. And He is good too. Violence does not equal malevolence. He is the Lion and the Lamb. It’s all about who it comes from.

4. Who is Jesus and why is he important?
Jesus Christ is the saviour and healer of the world in every respect and this is why He is important.

5. What is the Gospel?
The good news that Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins and is sovereign over all so that we could have eternal life and all of creation could be restored.

6. What do we do about the Church?
We keep being the church, which is to love all even when it’s tough. And I mean when it’s tough on us or tough on them.

7. Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
Yes and no. We address it in love and reality. Male and female is how God created. Sexuality is not a choice, it’s a gift. Sexuality does not sit outside of gender. There is no such thing as a third or fourth gender, there are only two. It’s a fallen world. Homosexuality is a part of that fallenness, not a part of the redemption process. I’ll fight for my viewpoint because I believe in love, and I believe this is how we really love.

8. Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
I’m not really sure what’s wrong with the old ways of viewing the future. People will always have an opinion, but the Gospel and Christianity is pretty clear (and has been for all of its centuries of existence) that good will win over evil and all will be restored and made new.

9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
Stop calling their own beliefs a religion, for starters. And stop making it one too. We can relate peaceably without becoming pluralists. Above all, we can love as by this they will know that we are His disciples.

10. How can we translate our quest into action?
With the power of the Holy Spirit (something, it seems, is actually missing from a lot of the Emerging conversation).

I think that some of these questions are great! And some of them aren’t so transformational and I find them irrelevant or irritating (like the sexuality question – how will that bring any real change to our world?)

I need to say a few things here for some of my Emerging friends who may read this. Firstly, I’m all for inclusiveness but not for pluralism. I don’t believe pluralism and inclusiveness is the same thing. I also don’t believe that Christian Universalism (that God will save all men in the end, some will be punished but their punishment won’t last forever) and pluralism is the same thing.

I’m a little unstoked by the fact that so many people can’t seem to be inclusive without becoming pluralistic. The Gospel is inclusive to the max, for those that want in. Those that want out are given the choice to stay out. Those that don’t even know anything about it still have an idea of right and wrong, and God is the great judge. I’ll leave all judging up to Him but will keep telling people that they can have in if they want.

I’m unbelievably happy that God is the judge, to be honest. He is violent and peaceful at the same time. He is the Lion and the Lamb. He is a violent warrior who stands up for His people and defends them, and He is the gentle saviour who invites all to get onto His team through simply asking Him and turning away from what the enemy is doing.

I think this is highly relevant and see no need for a “new kind of christianity”. I see more need for us to understand properly, both in our minds and our hearts, the real and authentic Christianity that has always been there instead. I see more need for us to ask God to fill us with His Spirit so we can be empowered. I see a need for more humility and less philosophy, as well. I also see a need for more change of heart than change of thinking, too.

That’s the end of my rant that hopefully is edifying in some way.

See the other blogs on this synchroblog:

Khanya: A New Kind of Christianity.
The Evening of Kent: Ten questions that might transform something.
The AnteChurch: Synchroblog: A new kind of Christian?
Beth Patterson : Lenten reflection 5: I’m probably way off base.
HeadSpace by Lainie Petersen – Dusting Myself Off and McClaren’s 10 Questions.
Phil Wyman: Answering McLaren’s Questions Before Reading the Book
Wrestling with Angels in Strange Places: A Roadmap of my Devout Stumbling Towards the Truth

10 thoughts on “A New Kind of Christianity: My Answers to Ten Questions”

  1. Thanks Stray; Well I don’t see it as a “rant”, but your post is very high level and as such comes over a little dismissive of the whole point – to delve into what may at first appear obvious questions (especially to us (post)evangelicals).

    McLaren’s work is in the messy detail of it all, and there seems to be tendency in many current spiritual circles to equate simplicity with spirituality and complexity with cerebral humanism.

    There is no doubt in my mind that life progresses (or evolves) in a wave-like manner – from the simple to the complex and back again. Things in emergent culture are complex / messy / inconclusive at the moment, but much of this complexity is because hard deconstructive work needs to be done.

    Apparently you do not agree that anything needs fixing, and while I celebrate your wholeness here, from where I am I see an awful lot of brokenness, not so much due to the world, as to the Christendom “Theos Machine”, or in Mclarens terms the “Greco-Roman narrative”.

    My quest is driven by the heart’s cry for a “better way”, I am not ultimately wanting to forever discuss theology and philosophy. But until we agree that Christianity is in crisis, there is not much point in discussing “solutions” or ways forward.

    Let’s seek to be spiritual, lets be guided by the Holy Spririt – of course! and amen! to that – let’s seek the simplicity of Christ; but I implore you, let’s not be simplistic.

  2. Pingback: A new kind of Christianity « Khanya

  3. Thanks Nic for responding. You old faithful! 🙂 (It always amazes me how so many people visit but so few respond).

    Anyway, two things. If my post comes off as trying to be simplistic I apologise. I’m obviously not writing a book and am trying to condense everything into a blog post. I agree with you – let’s seek the simplicity of Christ, but not be simplistic, as that isn’t helpful. We need simplicity with depth, which is how Jesus is.

    You said: “But until we agree that Christianity is in crisis, there is not much point in discussing “solutions” or ways forward.”

    This is perhaps where we disagree somewhat. I think to say Christianity is ‘in crisis’ is taking it too extreme. Christianity is reforming and should continue to reform, something the reformers themselves taught us and taught. But the church is too diverse and widespread to claim it is in ‘crisis’.

    Take for instance the amazing reports we hear happening in the eastern world. House churches, in particular, are booming that side of the world. Here in Johannesburg we’re seeing some truly wonderful things happen. Churches are working with government to find solutions to problems; churches are extending themselves into the inner city despite the dangers; there’s a new passion happening and I’m seeing some great stuff emerging.

    I would have probably agreed with you three or four years ago on Christianity being in crisis, because of where I was at perhaps and because there was quite a doldrum period, at least in my own circles. But I’ve since come to realise that actually my experience is not the church’s experience as a whole. Some churches are in crisis, others are flourishing, still others are on the peak of crisis while others are coming out of it. So, if you ask me, it is not in crisis as a whole. We may say it needs to be reformed in many respects, or even better some branches need to be pruned and reformed, but not all of it.

    It’s all a body after all, and I don’t believe the whole body is sick.

    So I’m happy to discuss ways forward and solutions to problems, but I think it’s extreme to say the whole thing is a mess and we need to start from the bottom up again. Many of our solutions to these questions are going to be within our context and the next generation will without a doubt find our solutions irrelevant and out-of-date. It’s inevitable.

    I think deconstruction can work very well for our own personal lives when we’re in crisis, but I’m not so sure as to whether deconstruction taken to a maximum level works well for our Christian theology as a whole. I support diversity in ideas as long as it’s focused on relationship with Jesus and I can see the value in some deconstruction, but we have to be balanced with it. We must stand on the shoulders of giants before us while deconstructing what are clearly secondary issues, formed as doctrine perhaps because of their context (like the doctrine of an eternal hell, for instance).

    So it’s not that I don’t think anything needs fixing, I’m just saying that not everything needs fixing. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Dusting Myself Off and McClaren’s 10 Questions

  5. Pingback: Beth Patterson : Lenten reflection 5: I’m probably way off base

  6. (Copied from my blog)
    Thanks Ryan I appreciate the constructive approach here. I have said it before – you and I are involved in an “interfaith” dialog, or rather maybe an inter-paradigm one. Our “witness” is based on whether we can continue talking despite our at times fundamental differences.

    On aspect of Brian’s book I really like is his question of Jesus: here he asks “which Jesus?” To you this might make no sense, but where I am coming from is critical. See http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xcicfe_brian-mclaren-q4-the-jesus-question_news – Ryan, if you doubt the centrality of Jesus for McLaren, you might well be surprised.

    Anyhow in his book he suggests perhaps 25 descriptors for Jesus.
    What he is suggesting of course is that our views of Jesus are subjective, cultural and entirely bound up in the framework with which we read the scriptures.

    The modernistic approach with its implicit trust in “objectivity” (and its charismatic cousin “revelation”) assumes there is only one view of Jesus. In the postmodern approach however there are a plethora, and we are responsible for understanding our own cultural and religious bias.

    I urge you to read at least chapter 1 – The Narrative Question, all else flows from this.

  7. Simplistic is good! I see that many have taken what a litttle child can understand to a “higher” level of misunderstanding. People fail to live what is clearly stated in God’s word (eg:loving when it is tough for the giver or receiver) and try to find ways that make people feel comfortable about themselves. I, too, appreciate that we serve a Righteous Lion. It is comforting to know He presently and ultimately has the power to conquer evil.

  8. Hmmm, I think there are a lot more than 25 descriptions of Jesus. Perhaps Nick the assumption is not that there is only one view of Jesus; but that there is only one view of Jesus that actually counts?

    It reminds me of something CS Lewis said in “The Weight of Glory”:
    “I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more
    important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us.”

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