Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Must Buy . . .

If you call yourself a Christian, or are in any way interested in it as a religion, then A New Kind of Christianity is a must buy!

First, I will make my appropriate disclaimer: I am a huge Brian McLaren fan, and he seems to espouse a view of Christianity that Phyllis Tickle calls "orthonymy" , or "right harmony/relationship" (see The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why - another must buy, which pairs beautifully with A New Kind of Christianity).  As this authoritative structure makes most sense to me, I am generally in agreement with a lot of what Brian says (though this book more than any of his others has me unsure of his conclusions, but I find them to be fascinating nonetheless).  So with that in mind, you can dutifully take my words with a proverbial grain of salt.

Brian is very clear about what this book is not.  It is not a book of answers for all of the major questions facing Christians today.  But it is a very insightful, relevant, propitious, and succinct conversation-starter for what ails us as a society trying desperately to make sense of the world around us, as we've outgrown the modernist answers that worked in centuries past.  What Brian is a genius at is seeing the abstract picture, and cogently re-painting it for the masses.  He adeptly weaves current scholarly thoughts ranging from fundamentalist to ultra-liberal (think Jesus Seminar leaning) into a coherent, past-future understanding of the Gospels, and the Christian faith.

Something else Brian adamantly says the book is not: "right".  It's not an attempt to say "Ahhh, this is what we've missed all along, and now we've finally gotten Jesus' message correct; we have arrived", despite what some of Brian's critics (like Kevin DeYoung and Scot McKnight) have asserted. (Those 2 reviews are actually some of the more gracious ones, and I think both raise some very good questions worth discussing - I only wish they asked them in a slightly more graceful tone which garnered discussion, as opposed to dismissive ignorance and vitriol by some of their "followers" and colleagues.)

In short, Brian has once again shown me - through his thoughts and his humility - that there is perhaps something powerful and meaningful to this man we call Jesus, and to the Way in which he called humanity to live.  He makes me want to understand the mystery that surrounds the Man, and be enveloped by the "Kingdom" of which he spoke.

Oh yes, and to my friend Christina, who specifically asked me to write about what Brian says about the so-called "Second Coming of Jesus".  No, he does not at all deny the second coming, but he does place the verses that speak of it in what I think is their proper context.  I would summarize it, except that I don't think I could do justice to it.  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around his poignant thoughts, and the many ways in which Scripture seems more harmonious to me than ever before.

Go buy the book.  Read the book.  Highlight it, ear mark it, and take copious notes.  And maybe, read it all over again, just to properly imbibe these thoughts.  Your mind will churn and crank, and you (perhaps your spirituality?) will be better for it.

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