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.
Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.