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ďA New Kind Of ChristianĒ Ė Part 1

Book Review

 

Brian McLaren claims to be a post-modern Christian and has written extensively on the subject.  The following is a review of his 2001 book entitled ďA New Kind Of ChristianĒ.  You may ask, ďwhatís wrong with the old kind of Christian?Ē  He will explain.  You may not have read this book, but much of what McLaren and others like him have written is being adopted by many Christians today.  Since I listened to the mp3 version of the book I have no direct quotes.  If you question my accuracy, youíll need to read the book for yourself.   

 

The book is a dialogue between a pastor who calls himself a modern Christian and a teacher who calls himself a post-modern Christian.  The two men meet at a school event and because of the pastorís unhappiness with church life, the two find themselves engaged in a serious discussion about Christians and church.  The rest of the book is a dialogue between these two men that takes place over a period of several  months resulting in the pastor becoming post-modern.   

 

The book is fiction, but is clearly based on personal experience, with a specific message.  Because of the story line, the reader tends to get caught up in the emotional impact of the story.  For example, you feel sorry for the pastor who is going through all sorts of trouble in his church.  You feel good about the warm-hearted post-modern teacher who sincerely cares for the frustrated pastor.  You feel sad for the teacher when his father dies and he has to quit his job and move across the country to look after his ailing mother.  In the midst of these emotions, McLarenís message penetrates your heart but not necessarily your mind, which is a potential problem.  Our emotions can sometimes cloud our good judgment, causing us to accept something we might not normally accept without thinking about it.  Itís a little like an old-fashioned emotional evangelical altar call.    When emotions run high, you head to the altar, but your decision might not be a well thought out commitment to Jesus.  Such emotional pleas canít be found in the New Testament.  As a matter of fact Jesus tells us to count the cost before we decide to follow Him. 

 

Thereís another thing I need to say before I discuss the contents of the book.  For the most part Iím a modernist.  Iím very analytical and methodical by nature, therefore I donít simply accept everything I read or hear without thinking about it.  So this is how I approached this book.  Yet even though Iím mainly modern in my approach to life and thinking, I do believe Iím a bit post-modern by nature.  This makes me somewhat sympathetic to both men in the book.  Like these two men, Iíve had similar questions concerning modern Christianity, but unlike these men, I attempt to find my answers in a different way.       

 

One thing the two men are troubled with is the strong dogmatism found in what they call, and what I used to call back in the 1970ís, ďFighting FundiesĒ.  Fighting Fundies is a nickname given to Christian  fundamentalists who are modern in their thinking.  They can be very dogmatic and aggressive in their presentation of their beliefs.  I donít call myself a fundamentalist in those terms, although in doctrine I probably am to a large degree.  In terms of dogmatism, Iím more to the post-modern side.  I hold to certain firm convictions as a fundamentalist would, but I try to be gracious to those who may think differently than me.  Many fundamentalists in the past have not demonstrated such graciousness, which has turned people off like McLaren.  There may well be a time and place for aggressively fighting for your position, especially in the world, but with other Christians, I donít think itís all that effective. 

 

So like the men in the book, Iíve struggled with modern Christianity on some issues.  Yet unlike McLaren and the two men in the book, I take a different route in finding the answers to our common struggles.  I turn to my critical and analytical  approach to Scripture to find the answers.  The men in the book turn to their post-modern approach to the Bible.  I see the answers in the details of the Bible.  They see the answers, and this is where I find their message unclear at times, in vague Biblical concepts. 

 

The nature of post-modernism in many respects steers clear of precise and well defined statements.  My modern nature tries to be clear, precise, and detailed  in all I say, so no one will misunderstand me.  In my thinking, this is a downfall of the book.  Sometimes I wondered what McLaren was really saying because he tended to speak in vague concepts at times.  I had to ask myself, ďis he really saying what I think heís saying?Ē  Actually, the pastor in the book found himself in the same predicament as me when attempted to understand the post-modern teacher.  One example of this was McLarenís thinking on the next life.  I hesitated to draw any conclusions on this topic because I didnít want to put words in his mouth.  Yet by the end of the book his position seemed quite clear to me.  Itís probably McLarenís intention to be intentionally vague at times.  Thatís part of post-modern thinking, especially in its present transitional phase. 

 

For the modern Christian, there is lots to think about in this book.  You must read or listen carefully.  You need to try to understand what the author is saying without jumping to an emotional conclusion which might be the tendency for some.  Such an emotional response will only cloud your thinking and judgment.  So if you read the book, stay calm and think clearly.  Hear him out before you jump on him.     

 

One last point to make before I comment on the specifics of the book.  The question will be asked, ďwould you recommend this book to others?Ē   I would not recommend this book to a new Christian.  I would not recommend this book to one who has been a  Christian for a long time but is uneducated in these things, of which there are many.  I would recommend this book to those who want to understand post-modern Christianity, but for the most part I would not recommend adopting the message of the book. 

 

        

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