A New Kind of Christianity

Review of Brian’s McLaren’s new book A New Kind of Christianity

by Tim Challies

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote about Brian McLaren and got in trouble. Reflecting on seeing him speak at a nearby church, I suggested that he appears to love Jesus but hate God. Based on immediate and furious reaction, I quickly retracted that statement. I should not have done so. I believed it then and I believe it now. And if it was true then, how much more true is it upon the release of his latest tome A New Kind of Christianity. In this book we finally see where McLaren’s journey has taken him; it has taken him into outright, rank, unapologetic apostasy. He hates God. Period.

“It’s time for a new quest,” write McLaren, “launched by new questions, a quest across denominations around the world, 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.” McLaren frames the book around “Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith.” They cut to the very heart of the faith, foundational in every way. He asks:

  • The narrative question: What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
  • The authority question: How should the Bible be understood?
  • The God question: Is God violent?
  • The Jesus question: Who is Jesus and why is he important?
  • The gospel question: What is the gospel?
  • The church question: What do we do about the church?
  • The sex question: Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
  • The future question: Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
  • The pluralism question: How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
  • The what-do-we-do-now question: How can we translate our quest into action?

His purpose, he insists, is not to answer the questions, but to provide responses to them. Answers indicate finality, responses indicate conversation and openness. “The responses I offer are not intended as a smash in tennis, delivered forcefully with a lot of topspin, in an effort to win the game and create a loser. Rather, they are offered as a gentle serve or lob; their primary goal is to start the interplay, to get things rolling, to invite your reply. Remember, our goal is not debate and division yielding hate or a new state, but rather questioning that leads to conversation and friendship on the new quest.” But that is mere semantics. Whether answering or responding (whether saying tomato or tomahto), what McLaren does through these ten questions is to completely rewrite the Christian faith. His “gentle lobs” rip the very heart out of the faith.

At the center of his remix of the faith is the claim that most Christians look at their faith through a flawed Platonic, Greco-Roman lens instead of through a biblical, Jewish lens. “God’s unfolding drama is not a narrative shaped by the six lines in the Greco-Roman scheme of perfection, fall, condemnation, salvation, and heavenly perfection or eternal perdition. It has a different story line entirely. It’s a story about the downside of ‘progress’—a story of human foolishness and God’s faithfulness, the human turn toward rebellion and God’s turn toward reconciliation, the human intention toward evil and God’s intention to overcome evil with good.” This Greco-Roman God, the one that most Christians believe in, is a “damnable idol … defended by many a well-meaning but misguided scholar and fire-breathing preacher.”

McLaren plays the all-too-typical “everyone else has it wrong” card. It turns out that most of us (all but a handful of enlightened intellectuals, as it happens) have been reading the Bible through the distorted lens of a Greco-Roman narrative. This narrative produced many false dualisms, an air of superiority and a false distinction between those who were “in” and those who were “out.” These three marks of false narrative have so impacted our faith that we can hardly see past them. But Brian is willing and eager to play Moses, leading us out of the Egypt of our own ignorance and into the Promised Land of the new Christianity.

… continue reading at Challies.com

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