Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: A New Kind of Christianity

My friend Alwyn reviewed Brian McLaren's book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith for (posted here with his permission)

The Faith is the Quest is the Tension - is the Faith,
August 17, 2010
This review is from: A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (Hardcover)
A gripping introduction, swash-buckling hermeneutics (they're not exactly going to roll out the red carpet for McLaren at the next Inerrancy convention), wonderful metaphors and charts (McLaren plays his role of cultural popularizer very well; you won't read many better explanations on how the book of Job throws spanner after spanner into the idea that 'everything' the Bible says is true), heavy borrowing from the New-Perspective-of-the-Mosaic-Law and post-foundationalist theologians, lots of touches of vintage McLaren creativity (e.g. on eschatalogy, on 'fundy-sexuality', etc) and a very personal and timely call for Christians to go on a bold yet compassionate quest for, well, a new kind of faith.

McLaren declares that the Christian church is in a mess despite being the custodian of a priceless tradition; there is something wrong in the midst of something real. He locates the chief cause of the problems in perceptive flaws borne of the evolutionary nature of the faith-community's understanding of God's revelations. The writer of Genesis presumably worshiped the God who sent the Flood but McLaren can't find it in himself to do so, almost declaring (therefore?) that the writer of Genesis lied about who God was. So earlier equals wrong-er and/or more deceptive cum deceived. Does that really fly? Wouldn't it be more responsible to ponder the complexity of God's role as cosmic meta-governor, a responsibility no human can shoulder and thus no human mind can fully grasp? Wouldn't it have been more philosophically robust to question how the God-made Flood differs from man-made genocide and how in fact the story of Noah presents wondrous divine mercy and initiative despite a divine right (due to divine governance) to refuse any of the sort?

That said, I'm not entirely pro-anti-McLaren either. I'm at a loss to explain why the likes of Mohler, Ware and Carson pay so little attention to the questions and issues McLaren raises, preferring instead to focus how much he diverges from traditional doctrines. These anti-Emergent folks embody an utter refusal to even look at where McLaren is pointing, they don't want to engage, they don't want a conversation. This is beyond missing the point; it's missing as a way of life.

Still, maybe the problem of Christianity today is less a problem of incorrect interpretations, evolving meanings and developing paradigms (and even less of heresy and apostasy) but one of irreducible dialectic. This is to say that there simply is no such thing as a God's Eye view of Christian/Biblical truth. Christian truth is in essence this phenomenon of opposing doctrines clashing with no clear resolution in principle (let alone in sight). The new kind of Christian has to listen and learn from the old kind and, quite critically, vice-versa too. It's the listening and learning (and admitting and correcting of mistakes) which matter, which makes, which manifests the kingdom.

The day the tension dies is the day there's no longer any uncertainty, no longer any openness, no longer any quest and thus barely any kind of faith at all.

Interestingly, this review has generated a three way conversation. Read about it here


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