A New Kind of Christianity by Brian D. McLaren

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McLaren continues to redefine the Christian faith in this latest effort, which follows up his book Everything Must Change.  Under McLaren’s pen Christianity as defined in the Bible is now totally unrecognizable.  Without question McLaren has walked away from biblical Christianity, so much so that even Scott McKnight writes a semi-negative review in Christianity Today (March, 2010).

A New Kind of Christianity is structured around ten questions that the author constantly fields at his lectures (pp. 18-23) leading to the proposal of a new thesis (the 96th, tacking on to Luther’s 95 theses):

It is time for a new question, a quest across denominations around the world, a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith.  

The book is filled with McLaren’s trademarks: extreme and bizarre straw men (pp. 6-7, 212), distorting Scripture beyond recognition (e.g. pp. 48-52, 57, 88-106), advancing a liberal social/political agenda (pp. 67-77, 106, 135), proclaiming that the kingdom of God is the gospel and justification by faith is a misunderstanding of Scripture (pp. 135-142), stating that Scripture is not the final authority but a springboard to conversation and a higher ethic in the future (pp. 105,111,115), accepting homosexuality (pp. 180, 276), setting forth an eschatology that denies the Second Coming and places the future in our hands (pp. 193-198), redefining inclusiveism so that it borders on universalism (pp. 203-216), and recommending missional living that amounts to saving the planet (pp. 216-226).

These and other diatribes are mere rehashing of McLaren’s earlier works.  What is crystallized in this volume is why a new Christianity is necessary.  It is McLaren’s contention that every 500 years or so the Christian faith has a “rummage sale” in which it dumps the old ways and adopts new ones.  At this particular “rummage sale” the Age of Belief is being replaced with the Age of the Spirit (pp. 11-12—see the 96th thesis, p. 18).  The reason this deep-shift in Christian thought is necessary is because theologians over the past 2000 years have made five fundamental mistakes:

• They have interpreted the Bible through the lens of a Greco-Roman narrative via Plato (pp. 34-45, 263).  Thus, the God of Christianity is the Greek Theos rather than the Hebrew Elohim (pp. 42-47).  In other words, Christians have not been worshiping the God of the Bible, but the god of Greek philosophy.

• They have interpreted the Bible as a legal constitution rather than a library of culture and community (pp. 78-83).

• They have read the biblical narratives too literally resulting in an opinion that God is violent instead of seeing these stories as the evolving and maturing understanding of humans concerning God (pp. 99-106).

• They have a flattened view of Jesus (p. 161).

• They have a domesticated understanding of the gospel (pp. 161, 216-226).

Of these five accusations the first is foundational.  McLaren’s hypothesis stands or falls on the premise that believers have misunderstood Jesus, Paul and all of Christianity since virtually the beginning because they adopted a Greco-Roman approach to Scripture.  Yet McLaren’s theory is so reductionistic as to be laughable, and he admits that even Platonian scholars differ widely on what he taught (p. 263).  Based, therefore, on one shaky and highly subjective premise McLaren seeks to prove that Christianity, as we know it, is fatally flawed and must be replaced by his new and improved version.

So much more could be said but I refer you to an excellent and more thorough review by Kevin DeYoung, co-author of Why We’re Not Emergent: by Two Guys Who Should Be at www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/…/files/…/Christianity-and-McLarenism.pdf.

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