A New Kind of Christian [book] by Brian McLaren.

I am way behind with my book reviewing.  Years behind, it would appear.  I live in hope that I’ll be catching up soon, but I’m not sure how realistic that is.

Background – chat with my parents about church and life and lots of stuff.  Also, wondering about the shape of and vision for the church generally.  And this book was lent to me.

New Kind of ChristianIt’s not my copy, and the handwritten comment in the front of the book is ‘Enjoy and celebrate this excellent piece of heresy’.  Now, this comment was made tongue in cheek, but illustrates one view of this book (and other books like it).  There can be a temptation to throw it out, labelling it as heretical.  But I don’t think it’s quite so clear as all that.

The book is written as a series of conversations and communications between two individuals, with some accompanying ‘storyline’.  One individual is a pastor, the other a high school teacher.  Their interactions consider the societal landscape and the place of the church in this.  There is much talk of modernity and postmodernity.  There’s some helpful stuff on what distinguishes one from the other.  The book then serves as a challenge to move the church from a modern to a postmodern approach to things.  This will scare some and worry others.  The pastor, Dan, takes the role of the one being encouraged to move forwards, with the guidance, encouragement and challenge of the high school teacher, Neo.  The pastor writes in his journal:  “I’m scared.  The kinds of things I’m thinking will surely be considered heresy.”  Neo encourages Dan to recognise that the Christianity of which we are a part is not simply Bible-based, but is also shaped by the foundry of the Modern Age in which it has been hammered out.

I think the book helps to clarify a lot of stuff that I’ve been thinking about.  There can sometimes be a danger (perhaps this is particularly true in some evangelical circles) of worrying more about winning an argument than being God’s ambassador.  There’s some stuff that I’d probably question – some ideas about eternity seem a bit hazy, but that may be partly because I’ve only read it through once (relatively quickly) and not really delved fully into some of its conclusions.

On the whole, though, I’d say it was a really great read.  It’s wonderful to see that people are looking to press forward; not leaving scripture behind, but leaving behind some of the things that have, through the age of Modernity, been welded onto scripture.  It’s written by an American, presumably mainly for an American audience, so you’ll find things like characters saying ‘I sure am’, where ‘I am’ would suffice 🙂

There’s also a lot on ‘spirituality’, which is obviously an area in which I am interested.  It’s nice to see spiritual disciplines being bigged up in books.  Maybe I should drop Brian a line…

Further comments are welcome!  Particularly if you’ve read the book, but that’s not necessarily a requirement 🙂

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2 Responses to A New Kind of Christian [book] by Brian McLaren.

  1. The heretic ;-) says:

    I’ve read the whole trilogy twice now and I still find that all three books really contain valuable thoughts, as long as one doesn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. I find the book’s interpretation of Hell, Sin and Salvation especially interesting.

    Oh, and in my opinion the American perspective is not only visible in the grammar of the book, but also quite a bit in the way, modern Christianity is presented to the reader. While reading the book, I was wondering whether we ever had that kind of modern Christianity in Germany at all. Maybe in some Pentecostal churches which are strongly influenced by American churches/organizations. Overall, I would say that even the most modern evangelical churches in Germany have always been “more postmodern” than what is presented in this book as being modern.

    P.S.: The book was a gift not a loan. Feel free to pass it on.

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