A New Kind of Christian: A Review -- By: David A. Mappes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 161:643 (Jul 2004)
Article: A New Kind of Christian: A Review
Author: David A. Mappes


A New Kind of Christian:
A Review

David A. Mappes

David A. Mappes is Assistant Professor of Bible, Cedarville College, Cedarville, Ohio.

In his book A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey1 Brian McLaren gives a provocative and controversial assessment of the evangelical church today and how the church should engage postmodernity.

To develop his thesis McLaren uses the vehicle of narrative and dialogue between a burned-out evangelical pastor (named Dan) and a high school science teacher trained in philosophy who is a former pastor (named Neo). Neo, the postmodern philosopher, convinces Dan, the burned-out pastor, not to abandon the ministry but to become postmodern in his thinking. The creative narrative approach makes the book entertaining and easier to read than a philosophical treatise addressing postmodern theories. This narrative form also makes the book more difficult to evaluate. At times it is difficult to ascertain what McLaren is actually proposing through Neo and what components are simply part of the story and plot. McLaren does ask his readers not to identify him fully with any of the characters (p. xviii). Neo, however, is clearly portrayed as the new kind of Christian that McLaren proposes. Perhaps a more profitable and honest dialogue could have occurred with Neo (the fresh, energetic Ph.D. philosopher) if McLaren had portrayed Dan as a bright, fresh, properly trained pastor with a Ph.D. in theology or philosophy.

McLaren’s thesis is that modernity has so impacted evangelicals and liberals that both groups must leave modernity and adopt a new (postmodern) belief and practice. McLaren writes, “Either Christianity itself is flawed, failing, untrue, or our modern, Western, commercialized, industrial-strength version of it is in need of a fresh look, a serious revision” (p. xv). Elsewhere (through Neo) he

says, “All that we currently understand being a Christian to be has been conditioned by our being modern. All of our theologies. .. are basically modern, having been created in the modern world” (p. 21).

Again Neo says, “You have a modern faith, a faith you have developed in your homeland of modernity” (p. 13). McLaren (through Neo) claims that “the modern version of Christianity that you have learned from your parents, your Sunday school teachers, and even your campus ministries is destined to be a medieval cathedral” (p. 38). Neo argues that the “Bible didn’t seem to save the Western church from getting into bed with modernity. It seems like we see the Bible through whatever lens we get from ...

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