what if? no. really…what if.

February 19, 2010

I think I’ve read each book that Brian McLaren has authored. I’ve certainly reflected on a few of them on this blog. Between his books, and hearing him speak, and even a brief conversation or two, I’ve always been drawn to his genuine, and generous, spirit.

While McLaren has garnered plenty of critique (and that’s putting it mildly), I have appreciated his posture and willingness to bring difficult questions into public dialogue. And through all the critique, it has seemed to me that most of his work has been about asking questions while implying, or sometimes gently suggesting, a few challenging answers. He’s done a lot of asking, “What if?”

There is a shift in McLaren’s newest book, A New Kind of Christianity. There are reviews around the internet and few are fully embracing McLaren’s latest work. Most suggest that he has gone too far as reviewers distance themselves. My take, as the title of this post suggests, is that the gentle proddings of his “what if?” questions have become a more assertive “what if…” set of suggestions, or as he would say, responses.

I want to read this book as an open and expanded understanding of Chrsitianity — one that will broaden and challenge my own thinking. It certainly seems like the quote I posted from his introduction last week invites that very thing.

But, in his most assertive book, Brian isn’t just inviting an expanded understanding of Christianity. In this book, he states that he is looking toward something different than most North American evangelicals have experienced. He suggests that those, like me, who try to stand with one foot in what we have known as orthodoxy, while broadening our views of Christianity, will be unsuccessful.

I guess it must be that I don’t take things as far as he does, because I don’t agree with him on this point. In the last five years, I’ve grown to a broader and richer understanding of the Christian faith than I’ve ever had, while still standing firmly within a creedal understanding of Christianity. I have authors like NT Wright, Dallas Willard, and even, um, Brian McLaren, to thank for this.

I’m not entirely sure what Brian was hoping for in this book. Time will tell what he accomplishes, but those who read should read with discernment. Of course, those who read any book should read with discernment.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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