A New Kind of Liberalism: Review of Brian McLaren, “A New Kind of Christianity” -- By: Christopher C. Peppier
Conspectus 11:1 (March 2011) p. 187
A New Kind of Liberalism: Review of Brian McLaren, “A New Kind of Christianity”
McLaren BD 2010. A new kind of Christianity: ten questions that are transforming the faith. London: Hodde[r] and Stoughton.
Brian McLaren has recently published his most definitive work to date, in which he comes closer than ever before to clearly stating what he believes. The book is subtitled, Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith, and the book is structured around two sets of five of these questions. He doesn’t state that the design is intended to contrast with the Ten Commandments, but the connection seems obvious—Ten Commandments on two tablets, versus ten questions in two ‘books’. McLaren states that the first book contains the ‘profound and critical questions that are being raised by followers of Christ around the world’ (xi). The second set of five are, according to McLaren, ‘less profound or theologically radical’ (xi) and are more practical in nature. Each of the ten questions will be dealt with individually, but first, a couple of general comments.
Firstly, most of the questions are valid topics of interest. Today’s generation might well be asking them in their own way, yet, they are questions every generation has posed in some form or other. However, there is presumption in the subtitle—I don’t think that the answers given, or the way the quest is being conducted, are in fact transforming
Conspectus 11:1 (March 2011) p. 188
the church. The vast majority of church theologians and leaders today have asked these questions, but their answers have yielded, in the main, what we refer to as Evangelical Orthodoxy, and not a new kind of Christianity.
Secondly, McLaren contends that most people view the Bible, and God’s overarching plan, through one particular pair of theological spectacles. This does not seem to be true on the scale he proposes. In any event, we all, including McLaren, look through one or other set of ‘spectacles’. He also claims that most people read backwards—from the church theologians back to the scriptures. Again, this is an incorrect assumption. His contention is that we are seeing the Bible through the eyes of others, and not through the illumination given by the Spirit. This underlying dichotomy sets up an unhelpful tension. As a critic, I am automatically positioned as one who is reading through out-dated and distorting spectacles. This makes it hard to interact with McLaren’s observations without being written off as theologically myopic. Notwithstanding, I will attempt as fair a response as possible, to McLaren’s ten contentions.
2. Summary and Evaluation
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