Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Kind of Christian? (Prt. 1)

I am reading Brian Mclaren’s A New Kind of Christian as it seems to be important to the “Emergent Church” conversation. I have to be honest in that my reading is jaded by having seen Mclaren on TV and also having read a review or two prior to my reading. I would also like to say that one possible response to this review is that I just do not get it and I would like to affirm that; I do not get it. But it is not that I do not get what Mclaren is saying, I do not get how people can be so consumed by what is said. Another argument is that I was not supposed to read the book as a theology dissertation, that would be so modern of me, but as a story. However, even stories carry the author’s presuppositions and theology as does A New Kind of Christian.

Mclaren lets us know from the begging that this story tells much about his disgruntlement with where he was in his ministry. So I take it that in this story he is both NEO, even though he is supposed to represent those that have guided him, and Dan since one side is where he was and the other is where he is going. What I intend to do is to give brief thoughts on some chapters. These thoughts came as I read and represent the initial thoughts and not some over thought out response. The more I thnk about what I read the more concerned I become.

So here goes.

That Mclaren refers to himself of being sick of being a pastor and almost sick of being a Christian (ix) says to me he did have issues to deal with as we all do at one time or another. But to be sick of being a Christian says that maybe he had a misunderstanding of what a true Christian was. He gives three possibilities but he seems to leave off a fourth which would be to simply to re-evaluate what he considered a Christian and a Pastor to be and see if his sickness was caused by a wrong understanding. This may be part of his third possibility but his third possibility seems to assume he needed to move on.

On page xiv in point 5 he refers to a needed conversion to having a 21st century faith but I would say the goal is to have truth faith, a faith that transcends time. Why is it assumed that because there is a problem today that we need to move forward, maybe we need to move back? I am not necessarily saying this is what we need but it needs to be an option.

Ch. 2
The idea that faith is related to ones time period may be how things are but it is not because of the faith but because of misunderstandings. Scripture does not speak of a changeable faith, with regards to time, but speaks of a faith from an unchangeable God. So the idea we need to move on from modernism as a world view does not necessitate Christianity changing because modernism is passé. Just as likely is that Christianity needs to re-evaluate cultures effect on it and corrects it’s course.

CH. 3
Modernity is pictured as an aggressor and that postmodernity is an asylum from this aggression but the true story is that Christianity needs to be the asylum and not any world view (other than a true Christian World view). Just because Dan is pictured as feeling comfortable with the thought of postmodernity does not make it the haven it is being portrayed as. Truth is that I am sure that the decadence of many periods in history felt comfortable for some people but that did not make it right.

CH. 4
The whole idea that Dan was shocked by a past teacher saying there was not Christian world view and now feeling it was right does seem to show a path that the book is heading. The fact that we can not know all things and that people can be influenced by the age they are in does not mean there is no absolute truth and that Scripture cannot be interpreted apart from ones culture. If the idea that the Christianity of modernity was on the way out may be true but that just says that Christianity should not be tied to a culture position but rely solely on scripture. So I would say this is all the more reason to avoid molding how one lives out ones faith to the times.

CH. 5
To see the divisions between groups such as Catholics and protestants on the road to disappearing neglects or maybe foresees the minimalizing of theology. In many ways this is seen in the politicization of belief in that many times the theological differences between groups is minimalized to save some cause. Even so called conservative Christians tend to go this route and rationalize the greater gain is in saving something, except the gospel.

Neo uses the picture of Luther seeking change (41) but I would say that Luther sought change of culture through scripture while Neo seems to want culture to change scripture. There also seems to be a move to divorce the Holy Spirit from scripture (42) and thus ones feelings of being “moved by the spirit” trumps all things.

Well that is where I will stop for now. I will say that the book does make me ask the question of whether modernity has influenced my views of scripture and thus what being a Christian is. This only means, though, that I would need to correct beliefs and not take on the cultures change. If scripture denies the culture so should we.

More to follow.

Grace and Peace,


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