A New Kind of Christian is the best known and most popular book in a new genre of Christian literature, which is unashamably postmodern (see also our review of Blue Like Jazz). By this I mean not just that it is written for a postmodern culture (it is), in a postmodern form (the story format connects well with the postmodern mindset), or occasionally slips into postmodern error. This book is straight-in-your-face postmodern philosophy with a thin veneer of Christianity spread over it. It is a call for God’s people to abandon modernity and what McLaren believes to be a Christianity built on the foundation of modernity. McLaren will not accept for a moment the possibility that conservative evangelicalism, which is surely laced with modernistic tendencies, might possibly be resting on the foundation of infallible, unchanging Scripture. No, McLaren is willing to throw the baby (biblical Christianity) out with the wash (modern influences) and start all over with a new kind of faith, one which he admits does not yet exist.
More specifically, McLaren rejects absolute truth, authority, theology, objectivity, certainty and clarity. He embraces relativism, inclusivism, deconstructionism, stories (to replace truth), creative interpretation of Scripture, neo-orthodoxy, and tolerance. Possibly the motto of postmodern Christianity is found on page 61: “The challenge today is not whether you are right but whether you are good.”
I found one of the most contradictory statements to be “maybe postmodern is postanalytical and postcritical” (p. 56). While this comment fits perfectly with a postmodern worldview, it contradicts virtually the whole book which is highly analytical and extremely critical. Ultimately postmodernity is a self-defeating philosophy which cannot even live up to its own tenants. Chuck Colson has written recently that the secular world is already growing tired of postmodernity—ironically just as evangelicalism is becoming fascinated with it.
Brian McLaren is actually the leader of a new movement termed “The Emerging Church.” A New Kind of Christian is the most popular book from this movement so far, earning Christianity Today’s Award of Merit.
For more on the emerging church, read our Think on These Things publication coming out in the Spring of 2005.