Monday, March 1, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity - A Summary from the Blogosphere

Summation/conglomeration of Blog postings on Brian McLaren's new book, "A New Kind of Christianity." From the class, and soon to be conference: Theology after Google. Another summary can be found by Jon Visitacion.

First off - my thoughts - not unlike editors of certain canonical books I am the redactor so I get to insert my theological spin using everyone else's.  Brian has positioned himself in a tenuous place.  If I may totally oversimplify: on the right he may be criticized as a heretic.  (Which I was, by the way for giving a favorable blog post.)  On the left he may be criticized as "too late" or not radical enough.  But here's the deal - Mr. McLaren has been at this for a long time.  These criticisms are pase.  The grey area is precisely where Brian likes to be.  Brian is very clear that he is putting forth the questions that people are already asking.  At this, I think, he is spot on.  His responses to these questions may not be to everyone's liking - but just putting forth the questions and getting people to discuess is fantastic.  Brian never claims to be constructing or systematic theology for the 21st century.  Though there is some substantial fodder to get that project underway.

So On With the Questions...
The Narrative Question - Is there a monolithic theological narrative that dominates the canon of sacred scripture?  If so, is it necessarrily imbued with the theology of Augustine and Aquinas (Plato & Aristotle).  If not, how do we respectfully and reverently read sacred scripture?  I took a stab at this from a youth ministry perspective.

The Authority Question - How do Christians appropriately read the Bible? James Kang offers compelling thoughts in his blog. He lifts up the long tradition among mainline protestants of wrestling and studying the Bible and not settling for a surface level literalistic reading.  James also pushes forward with a question.  What would it mean to read the Bible 2.0?

The God Question - Jae Seon Seo gives a nice historical perspective here. Brian succinctly articulates four aspects to the nature of God (as humans understand it) that have changed - 1 - monotheism over henotheism, 2 - ethical social justice over ritualistic/cultic sacrificial, 3 - God of the universe not just of a tribe, 4 - immanence over transendence (qualified version).  Brian also suggests that the four Gospels are the most important parts of the Bible.  As a Lutheran I sympathize with this, as Luther had a nuanced understanding of what the "Word of God" meant.  It means God's particular revelation through Jesus Christ.  Yet, I believe that the Word of God is present and revealed in all of sacred scripture, so I cannot fully get behind the proposed metaphor of how to read the Bible.

The Jesus Question - Mr. Charles Dorsey blogged here.  He asks the question (this is something Charles does a lot), who is the 'Real Jesus'?  By asking this questions Charles raises the issue of casting Jesus in one's own image - which is idolatry.  Brian adresses this in his book too. So who is the real Jesus?

The Gospel Question  - What's the good news? An ontological salvation from a state of total depravity?  Or the proclomation that the Kingdom of God is at hand?  Whence faith?  McLaren is unclear if faith is defined as a specific belief in Jesus Christ.  Or if Jesus Christ makes possible faith/trust/fidelity in God in general.  Romans is at the heart of this argument.

The Church Question - Minho Chung posted his blog here - which has generated quite a bit of conversation.  Everyone (including myself) is weighing in on what is the church, what needs changing, why does it need changing, etc.

The Sex Question - Bob Rhodes posted his blog here.  Lots of interesting thoughts and conversation on this topic.  Brian challenges the reader and the church and Christianity to participate in conversations about sex without condemning.  From a youth ministry perspective, this is really important.  So much is at stake for a person's identity and life outcomes by the choices they make.  The conversations need to happen, and they must happen in a safe space.

The Pluralism Question - Two posts on this topic: Ruth Marston and Rev. Jan Chase.  Ruth gives a nice summary of the pluralism conversation along with some thoughts inspired by Brian's book.  Rev. Chase compares "New Christianity" to "Old Christianity" before it partnered with Roman Empire.  She talks about the oneness of God.

The What-Do-We-Do-Now Question - Angelina Duell writes her blog on this topic here, then here, and finally here (with other commentary on the book here.)  McLaren outlines a progression or evolution of religious thought.  There is also a notion that change will come from young people.  Angelina raises some questions about assumptions made about young people and "formal training" as well as questions about this linear view of human progression.

So there you have it. The major questions of "A New Kind of Christianity."  Feel free to post your own questions or thoughts.  Thanks, -Wes


Ruth said...

I like the idea that McLaren is bringing these difficult questions so that we can talk about them more. This is such a wonderful conversation starter and I really appreciate McLaren taking the risk to put his ideas out there on these very touchy conversation pieces.

Charles Dorsey said...

I just want to say that I enjoyed your summary. It is humorous and clever...I certainly look forward to having this conversation tomorrow

crazyrabbit said...

I think there are some common elements among all students' postings about this book.
1. Brian raises good questions but they already have been there for a long time, looking for answers
2. Brian does not suggest fully concrete answers to each question set, but mainly asks.
3. There are a few who totally agree with him. Why? Are we already bored at that kind of asking? For me, it is very interesting point. Many modern Christians might be fed up with too much 'a new kind of Christianity.'