I don’t think I agree with McLaren but…

I haven’t read A New Kind of Christianity but I’m guessing I might find myself among his critics.  I can see where people are concerned but I’m not sure why some people seem to be taking his adventuresome theology so personally.  I found my first post where I started to sense personal disconnect with Brian McLaren.  7 years ago McLaren was floating ideas like progress being the fall of human kind and the bible being one story or perhaps a library of stories we find ourselves in. 

We all have our stories.  While driving home from work with a friend we reflected on a meeting we were in together.  In this meeting we shared some sober thoughts about the church.  My friend is more traditional than I am but I connect with his desire to return to substance.  At the heart of things I think we have very similar values.  As he shared he talked about how we all reflect our stories. In such meetings I try very hard not to come across as the “house church” guy even when other people in room echo thoughts I had years ago.  Undoubtedly my opinions are shaped by my larger story and I don’t know how much I can step outside that.

Brian McLaren’s life story is different from mine.  I didn’t grow up surrounded by the peculiar brand of fundamentalism found in the United States.  Nor have I endured the kinds of unfair criticism that he has.  Undoubtedly it has a polarizing impact.  If I were hounded by a tangibly angry group of people with a particular idealogy it would make it that much harder for me to hear what they say.  McLaren’s educational background is in English, not theology.  Is it a stretch to see how he might see the bible as a library of stories?  McLaren reflects his story just as well reflect ours.

In dialogue McLaren exudes an irenic conciliatory tone.  This seems inconsistent with his penchant for planting improvised explosive theological devices (ietd) and then expressing concern about how the way people react leaves little room for dialogue.  I think some people overreact though.  I’ve created an entire website dedicated to refuting the claims of one author who teaches a particularly obnoxious theology and I never engaged in some of the tactics some bloggers have used against McLaren.

McLaren is just a man that writes books.  Books that put forth ideals and positions that colour outside the lines of the traditional interpretations of orthodox Christianity.  He has been doing this for a long time.  It isn’t hard to see the trajectory here.  Why are people so much more upset now than before? In this latest book he poked his finger in the eye of the religious establishment.  That, even more than bad theology, seems to get people upset with him.  Frank Viola did the same thing and received the same reaction. 

I believe McLaren is overreacting to the absurdities and excesses of American evangelical life.  In doing so he has swung away from an understanding of God that has empowered and enabled me to have a life giving relationship with God.  If I ever do read his book it will be with a discerning eye but I imagine I would find good things to reflect on.  In the past McLaren’s critique has been worthwhile. 

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