This series of posts will review Brian D. McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity.
Although McLaren does not characterize it as such, I view this book as a sequel to Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence, in which Tickle argued that we are in the midst of an upheaval in Christianity on par with The Great Schism and The Great Reformation. Tickle argued that, about every 500 years, the Church goes through a giant “rummage sale” – a process by which it re-examines its closely-guarded beliefs and dogmas, often deciding to abandon some in lieu of embracing others.
In The Great Emergence, Tickle introduced one dogma, in particular, that she believes is characteristic of our current “rummage sale” – that of scriptural authority. However, she believes that other questions are in play.
In my mind, McLaren picks up where Tickle left off. McLaren, who has been a “pastor to pastors” for the last few years, has met and conversed with Christian leaders all across the globe at conferences and speaking engagements. During that process, he says, he has discovered that there are certain issues that are at play at the heart of this emerging, global transformation of Christianity. They are…
1. The Narrative Question – What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
2. The Authority Questions – How should be Bible be understood?
3. The God Question – Is God violent?
4. The Jesus Question – Who is Jesus and why is he important?
5. The Gospel Question – What is the Gospel?
6. The Church Question – What do we do about the Church?
7. The Sex Question – Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
8. The Future Question – Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
9. The Pluralism Question – How should followers of Jesus relate to peoples of other religions?
10. The What-Next Question – How can we translate our quest into action?
I’ve been an avid reader of McLaren for years, and I expect his answers to be exciting, thought-provoking, and generous toward those who hold other views. My plan is to devote a post to each question.
In the meantime, at the beginning of the book, McLaren provides a short, liturgical prayer for meditation. I think it is worth including as I move into my own review and reflections on the questions. It goes like this:
Lord, we acknowledge that we have made a mess of what Jesus started. We affirm that we are wrong and Jesus is right. We choose not to defend what we have done and what we have become. We understand that many good Christians will not want to participate in our quest, and we welcome their charitable critique. We acknowledge that we have created many Christianities up to this point, and they call for reassessment, and, in many cases, repentance. We choose to seek a better path into the future than the one we have been on. We desire to be born again as disciples of Jesus Christ. Now grant us wisdom and guide us in our quest, and create something new and beautiful in and among us for the good of all creation and to your glory, Living God.