"McLaren has been hailed widely as one of the most significant religious leaders of our time. In articulating his longings and disquiet with the status quo, he strikes a chord with many,"---Christian Century. Startling reassessments of the Bible, authority, God, Jesus, the gospel, church, sex, pluralism, and the future. 319 pages, softcover. HarperOne.
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I know this is marketed as a "Christian book," but despite that, and despite the title, it departs from the Bible so far as to make me think the author is trying to design a new religion based on focus groups of unbelievers.
He certainly has no affection for doctrines that have been part of Christianity for two millennia. First off, he denies the Fall in Genesis – as in, not just denying that Adam and Eve literally existed, but denying that the Fall (teaching that all human beings are sinful, seeking their own way instead of God’s way) is a necessary belief for Christians. (Karl Barth, a much deeper thinker than this author, said the Fall was the one Christian doctrine that could be proven by reading the newspaper.) In short, he doesn't really seem to believe in sin, so in this scheme of things, Jesus isn't really a Savior.
Second, the author asks, Can we find a better way to address sexuality without arguing about it? Bluntly, the answer is No, we can’t. If the author had bothered to read the Old and New Testaments (something that would be very useful to anyone suggesting a radical overhaul of Christianity), he might notice that sexual morals were very low in ancient times – that is, the Israelites and Christians were surrounded by cultures that tolerated a disgusting level of sexual immorality – not just consensual, no-strings sex, but exploitive, degrading sex. Is our situation today different? No. But people of God are still called to a higher standard. That is not easy to do, and we are human. But if we’re doing what the Bible and Christian tradition call us to do, we can’t help but argue with our sexualized culture. This author has many fans who claim to be evangelicals, but his approach to sex is typically liberal – he would prefer to ignore the subject, since it sets Christians apart from non-Christians.
Third, the author puts himself in the position of the Gnostics who wrote their pseudo-Gospels, not to mention the founders of a thousand sects and cults over the past 2000 years: I’m here to tell you the REAL meaning of Christianity, which you aren’t getting in your churches. I’ll grant there is plenty of reform needed in the churches (like, for starters, stop conforming to the godless culture). But this author doesn’t seem to want constructive reform but, rather, something that bears only a passing resemblance to Christianity.
I have to wonder why people like the author remain in the church. Do they enjoy making a profit from the conservative Christians that they look down on? Do they enjoy the notoriety they get in doing radio and TV interviews, appearing to be the cocky “rebels” flirting with danger? (Obviously there is no real danger in offending Christians, though there is an ultimate danger that Jesus warned about.) Think how much the church would gain if its attention-seeking radicals left the church and started their own sect.
This very mischievous book could lead many faithful people astray. The author is on the record saying he does not believe in hell, so apparently he can do what he does without fear of punishment. Stand by for an update.