Posted originally on Jonathan’s blog…
Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, drops tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 9).
I received a free advance copy from the publisher late last week and have been devouring it every chance I get (which with two toddlers at home hasn’t been that often).
In it, McLaren offers the top 10 questions he’s been hearing from people about the Christian faith as well as 10 responses to those questions (as opposed to answers — which are simply statements — which lead to hate and debate… he expounds much more on this in the first couple chapters).
So far I’m loving everything I’ve read. I won’t say I agree with everything yet (especially since I haven’t the full book yet) but what I’ve read is definitely in line with a lot of other things I’m reading and thinking as of late.
I’ve dog eared numerous pages already but I want to share a few thoughts from the first few chapters…
McLaren shares a prayer that Rev. John Robinson gave before the pilgrims set sell from Holland to the New World (America) on the Mayflower:
I charge you before God and his blessed angels that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth from my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word.
The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw. Whatever part of His will our God has revealed to Calvin, they (Lutherans) will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they where left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented. For though they were precious shining lights in their time, yet God has not revealed his whole will to them. And were they now living, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as they had received.
McLaren shares that this is an attitude of a man on a quest. He realizes that there is much to be learned about God and that there is a “futher light” to be embraced, where more and more of God is revealed.
I have to continue asking my question, “Can we really know and understand all there is about a God who is fully mysterious and ‘unknowable’?” (Job 38-41) Seems illogical to think we can.
I remember when Probe Ministries came and did several classes on apologetics at our church back in the day and they offered a simple illustration that’s stuck with me ever since.
Using a white board they explained that the white board represented ALL the knowledge in the entire universe, everything anyone could possibly know.
They then asked several people to come forward and to shade in, or make dots representing what they felt was their own knowledge and understanding in comparison.
Eventually the board would look something like this:
As you can see, some were a bit prouder about their knowledge, others stayed towards the humble side of things.
The Probe representative went on to say that no matter who you ask, no one will ever claim to know everything about everything.
And thus, those who deny the existence of God are jumping to the wrong conclusions because God may be waiting for them just outside their colored area (their understanding and knowledge) and in an area of knowledge they’ve yet come to understand. So essentially, until you know everything about everything you can’t logically deny the existence of God.
As I read McLaren’s book and refer back to my own questions, I have to wonder, what if we took that same white board and asked a slightly different question, “Color in everything you know and understand about God.”
How much would you color in? Would the board look any different?
Yet, in our faith we’ve often become so locked into our doctrines and dogmas that we’ve left no room for questions or differing views in our understanding of God (myself included).
I think that point goes right in line with what McLaren is hoping to address with his book.
One of the overarching questions he asks is, “What would Christianity look like if we weren’t afraid of questions?”
Rather than welcoming questions and doubt (see the story of Thomas after Jesus’ resurrection – John 20:24-30) we’ve come to understand and accept Christianity one way — our way.
We’ve come to see Jesus through the eyes of Paul; and then Augustine’s view of Paul’s view of Jesus; and then Aquinas’s view of Augustine’s view of Paul’s view of Jesus; and then Luther’s view of Aquinas’s view of Augustine’s view of Paul’s view of Jesus and so on and so on.
And ultimately, many of these views were shaped by Greco-Roman culture and philosophy, as opposed to the Jewish tradition and narrative that’s so vital to Scripture.
McLaren is hoping we’ll look at each of the 10 questions and responses he offers through a different lens, through the biblical line of Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and John the Baptist.
And in that mind, he suggests we pray with the spirit and attitude of John Robinson:
Lord, we acknowledge that we have made a mess of what Jesus started. We affirm that we are wrong and Jesus is right. We choose not to defend what we have done and what we have become. We understand that many good Christians will not want to participate in our quest, and we welcome their charitable critique. We acknowledge that we have created many Christianities up to this point and they all call for reassessment and in many cases, repentance. We choose to seek a better path into the future than the one we have been on. We desire to be born again as disciples of Jesus Christ. Now grant us wisdom and guide us in our quest and create something new and beautiful in and among us for the good of all creation and to your glory, Living God.
I agree. And look forward to continuing my quest not only with this book, but for many many years to come.