Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Going to Hell with McLaren...or at least to renew an institution. Which is worse?

Some people seem to think Brian McLaren is not only a heretic, but passive-aggressive..
even headed to hell.

From my take on, and brief experience with Brian, he might laugh and agree with at least two out of those three. I'll bet he even enjoys the "Going to Hell with Brian McLaren" Facebook group (He's probably a member!)

McLaren comes off so charitable with critics...and man, does he have them. I have even been honored to be named alongside him (and Len Hjalmarson and Bono...great company!) in SP's hall of heretics.
But he's also got to offer what he sees as the truth..tough spot.

His new book, "The New Christians: Ten Questions That are Transforming the Faith" just arrived from Ooze Viral Bloggers, who also offered a conference call last night to bloggers not fortunate enough to get/steal one of the review copies.

I haven't read it all yet, so will just post a few thoughts now.
Suffice to say I will be drawing from it, maybe even walking through it with our "One After 909" boys.

Okay, I too am a harry tick....but I'm not planning on going to hell.
You'll have to decide for yourself how you see McLaren addressing disagreement; for some history and assessment, see Len's links.

Here on the Viral Blogger site is a summary of the Ten Questions the books deals with, and some good reviews. See also reviews on Amazon.

Random notes:

  • I am intrigued by the potential for a "participatory eschatology" (20). See his older quote on eschatology that clinches the case that he is a hellbound heretic among those who prefer "endtime pornography" (Not McLaren's phrase).
  • I love the phrase "something real and something wrong" in today's Christianity (37).
  • It is good to ask large questions like "Where did the (traditional, usual) six-lined narrative" of Scripture come from? The charts surrounding this are helpful. "What we call the biblical story line isn't the shape of the story of Adam, Abraham, and their Jewish descendants. It's the shape of the...Greco-Roman narrative"(37)

I much appreciate Chapter 21, "Living the Questions in Community."
As one who in a former life "belonged" to both the "ecclesiolae in ecclesia" subsets of my mainline denomination (evangelical and charismatic), I enjoyed his take on "How can we help [our open church or denomination] experience transformation and change?" (Lest you actually start trusting too much in institutiuonal church by reading McLaren, this section should be balanced with Eugene Peterson's hilarious account of his annual "sex and drugs" church report)
A. Get a consultant
B. Build new parastructures to foster new approaches to faith rather than trying to bend existing structures toward that end.
C.Expect to bring in a new day with new people...qutes Kuhn: "Almost always the [people]who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field of the paradigm they change."...
D. Add, don't subtract....for example, supplement founding documents with something newer (and shorter!)
E. Develop a theology of institutions:
"..a lot of us have foolishly identified institutions as the problem, as something to be eradicated, not realizing that our anti-institutionalism only serves to create new institutions by accident. The accidental institutions are all the more unhealthy for being reactionary and invisible (to their founders, at least) rather than reflective and visible."
F. Preach the Bible. I know, I know...some are shocked to hear him say that.
Of course, you need to hear what he says elsewhere in the book about how we have been guided by a "constitutional" model as opposed to the preferred "collective library" model of the Bible.
G.Employ experiential learning. I love this section, and have used a lot of what he has previously said on this as I teach preaching.. "Yes, preachers must preach towards the desired future drawing from Scripture, but many won't 'get it' until they also go through an 'abductive experience'...that helps them see in a new way. Mission trips often create these experiences by exposing people to a world of great do vision visits (where you visit another church to experience what they're doing..."
H.Keep your short-term expectations low, and long-term hopes high.
Quotes an old African proverb: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Final note:

Partly because of all I went through in the aforementioned denominational experience,
here's what I posted on Mac's facebook when he asked what questions his friends might ask McLaren on the conference call (Mac was booked for it, and said if he had time he might be able to ask Brian our questions... haven't seen his report yet, or if he actually asked my question):

If not too late, my question might be:
"I loved the beginning of the 'Sex Question' chapter..may be best chapter intro of our day. In light of all the great stuff you say about 'fundasexuality,' is it ever appropriate for us as leaders to ever say 'the practice of homosexuality is a sin' ? And is this your biggest frustration that people keep asking this question? And that people criticize you for not coming out and saying it? What would it take for you to 'come out' on this issue?

Of course, if he actually answered that, it will be the first time ever, and the heresy hunters will be linking big time to my blog once I post his answer (:


"A New Kind of Christianity" review part 2: Greco-Roman fridge repair and loud farts

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