The Last Word and the Word After That by Brian D. McLaren

This is the final installment in McLaren’s fictional trilogy promoting his pathway to a new kind of Christianity, adhered to by a new kind of Christian. McLaren is the leading spokesperson for the emergent church movement which is essentially a postmodern mode of Christianity.

McLaren apparently believes that, in order to create a new kind of Christian, certain central doctrines must be deconstructed—which, in everyday terms, is to gut them of their meaning and redefine them according to one’s own preference. In this case the doctrine on the cutting floor is hell. The traditional view of hell simply cannot be tolerated in a postmodern world which prizes tolerance and plurality. But getting rid of hell proves quite testy; to do so McLaren must also deconstruct the gospel. To deconstruct the gospel he must deconstruct Scripture. To deconstruct Scripture he must vilify conservative (dare we say it Fundamentalist) Christians. To vilify conservative Christians he must condemn the Reformation and the Reformers—and on and on we go.

By the time McLaren is done, we have a new kind of something all right, but it’s not Christianity. As a matter of fact even McLaren is not sure where this thing lands. Still, in the introduction McLaren admits,

“This book, in a sense, attempts to deconstruct our conventional concepts of hell in the sincere hope that a better vision of the gospel of Jesus Christ will appear…. What will appear beyond the deconstruction remains to be seen. Perhaps something better will emerge—that is my hope and prayer, but the outcome is by no means certain even now that I have finished writing this book” (pp. xvii-xviii) (emphasis mine).

Just what the world needs, two thousand years after Christ walked the earth: a new kind of Christianity that can offer only the hope that someday we will discern what the “real” gospel is.

McLaren flirts with universalism, redefines the Kingdom of God, accepts Lesslie Newbigin’s missional philosophy and embraces N. T. Wright’s new perspective. What more could anyone hope for in one small volume?

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