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“A New Kind of Christian” and a tough lesson learned(ing).

May 6, 2009

newkindchristianRecently, after a kind friend purchased the book for me, I read Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian.  To be honest, I would have never read McLaren’s work on my own, and that’s the lesson that hit me hard, which I will discuss below.  Briefly, however, I would like to give a very brief overview of the book and provide a few quotes to hopefully whet your appetite.

A New Kind of Christian is the fictional dialougue between a struggling pastor and a newfound friend who helps him explore his faith.  I resonate strongly with the pastor’s frustration with the current state of his faith and the difficulty of guiding his congregation in this midst of his struggling and doubting.  Now, I’m not a pastor and have no congegration to “influence,” but almost every issue the pastor was questioning, I have questioned or am searching currently.  Knowing how political many churches are, I empathized with his struggles (the pastor’s name is Dan by the way).

His friend (Neo…hmmm…I wonder if that was purposeful 🙂 ) shares with him that as we move into a “post-modern” age, the church will have to grapple with the changes.  He likens this shift to the shift from the Anicient Era to the Middle-Ages or the middle-ages to the Enlightenment Era.  In each of these shifts, the church had to find “new” ways to exist and be useful.  Now, I understand the taboo-ness surrounding the whole Post-Modern debate, but the fact of the matter is that we have made a huge shift from the Modern to the Post-modern and for the church to ignore that would only hurt it in the end.  So Neo helps Dan explore issues that would surround this shift.  Here are just some of the topics that they cover:

What is the gospel?  Is it only to get individuals saved?  Or is it more world-encompassing?  Jesus’ gosple was the gospel of the Kingdom.  What does that look like?

Are “quiet times”(by the way, I HATE that phrase) in the way that we’ve done them, a.k.a. “read your bible and pray” the best ways to be transformed by the Holy Spirit?  His answer doesn’t do away with the Bible or prayer, but considers more how they are done.

How should the church function?  Is it primarily a place to get “individual needs” met (in fact the whole idea of individualism is addressed pretty strongly) or is it a community of believers that have become servants to the world?

None of these issues are new for me; however, the fact that almost everyone of them I have wrestled with and the knowledge that this guy wrote about them when I was still in high school is pretty huge.  In the end, I agreed whole-heartedly with almost all of his questions and answers.  Here a couple of  impactful quotes:

“The conservatives are against reinterpreting ancient wisdom in light of contemporary fads or moods…fearing that we’ll be left with a kind of jellyfish spirituality if the liberals have their way.   Meanwhile, the liberals are against pitting faith against honest scientific investigation and turning faith into an anti-intellectual enterprise…they’re [liberals] against the privatization of faith.  They feel that conservatives have retreated to the private sphere, worrying only about their own personal salvation, leaving the world at large to go to hell ecologically, culturally, in terms of social justice, that sort of thing.  So I think we have to begin by saying that both sides are against something worth being against.  They both have a point” (48-49).

“He said that he had been raised, as I had, to believe that the central story of the Bible was about saving individual souls…First, it smacked of selfishness.  Would God want a heaven full of people who wanted to be ‘saved’ but didn’t necessarily want to be good?  If we pitch the whole story as, ‘Do you want to go to heaven or hell?’ he said, we run the risk of attracting people who want salvation from hell without necessarily wanting salvation from sin.  This would be a story about being chosen for elite privelege, not sacrifical service” (82-83).

“How much energy do we modern Christians put into condemning sexual sins compared to avoiding the judgmental, Pharisaical attitude of those with rocks int their hands?  Who killed Jesus, adulterers or Pharisees?  I’m not trying to minimize adultery-believe me, I know how terrible it is.  I’m just saying that our modern preoccupations don’t seem very informed by the gospel” (99).

Anyway, it was in the end, and incredible book, and that leads me to the lesson that I learned and am learning.  Before reading A New Kind of Christian, I had known who Brian McLaren was for awhile.  I knew of him as “the Emergent guy” or the “Post-modern” guy.  From others, I accepted the label.  If you would have asked me if I had read McLaren, I would have said something like, “No…I hear he has some good stuff, BUT, he’s a little too ‘post-modern’ to me.”  In other words, I labeled him and judged him before I even knew what he believes or stands for.  Talk about being Christ-like!  😦

After, I finished reading, I was floored about how much his thoughts and beliefs resonate with mine.  I haven’t read all of his stuff, but from this book, I was encouraged greatly about the explorations of my faith.  As I finished the last page, all I could do was stare up at the ceiling and think of how much I’ve judged Christian leaders without really knowing what they’re about.  I’m incredibly thankful for this book and for McLaren’s commitment to truth.  Some say he denies it or relativizes it; I say he’s honest about his search for it.

So, Brian, if you ever, by some fluke in the universe,  happen to stumble across this blog, thank you for writing A New Kind of Christian.  Thank you for presenting ways in which the Church can remain faithful to Christ and the gospel, but explore new ways of doing so.  I apolgize for not giving you the chance to share your faith with me.

Blessings.

www.anewkindofchristian.com

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. bjhulk permalink
    May 6, 2009 5:15

    The gospel of the Kingdom of God is the Holy Spirit. The whole purpose of jesus Christ coming was to preach the gospel of the Holy Spirit. There are actually thirty some names used for the same thing. Heaven is also the spirit of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. All those who belong to Jesus will be in heaven with him. It simply means that they will all have the same spirit in him.

    God chose all the people of faith before the foundations of the world and then created them in the spirit of Jesus Christ. This spirit is also the Holy Spirit so when they are born in the flesh on earth and receive the Holy Spirit, they are in the Kingdom of God. When any saint with the Holy Spirit preaches the gospel, it is the spirit that is preached and those who belong to him will hear this voice of the spirit and know that it is their God and will start to follow him.

    This is not the gospel that is being preached today and all of Christianity has been deceived by it. This started at the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church when they adopted the gospel of the Kingdom of God as their church. They believed the Kingdom was the Catholic church and they still believe this lie today. Without a good role model, the prostestant churches went with a gospel of Jesus’s death for our sins and his resurrection from the dead. So where’s the Holy Spirit involved in this gospel? The Holy Spirit is the Rock that we are supposed to build on and it isn’t even in the gospel they preach today. Do you think Satan is clever or is it because no one listens to God?

    God bless you,
    Brad

  2. May 6, 2009 11:34

    Christian Japanese today felt very sorry for the war they did to China. That was long time ago.They didn’t do it, it was in the past..would God or anyone blame them today? I guess not..

    Would churches today should be as same as centuries ago? I guess not..but the core. Then question is what is the core?

    I was wondering if a new kind of Christian and Christianity in local context today would somehow be related?

    whatever “quiet times” means.., it doesn’t a routine..it has to do with heart desire and passion ( for me) and it should better be good for others after spending that “quiet times”

    man..,I wish you were here..so many questions I’ve had.

  3. jonathangroover permalink*
    May 8, 2009 2:57

    Brad,

    Thanks for the comments. I like to think of the “kingdom of God” is simply that…the reign of the King, in all his “triune-ness.” I think when we place more importance on one member of the Trinity than the rest…we face serious problems. But you’re certainly right about the Holy Spirit getting the raw end of the deal for most of history. Thankfully, I think that is changing.

    Ja,

    The core is the ministry, life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus. All of these things provide the basis for our “ministry” in whatever way we are called.

    Passion is crucial to any devotional time. I’m glad your thinking and growing! 🙂

  4. bjhulk permalink
    May 8, 2009 3:41

    The Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God is the central issue of God’s plan. There is no triune God. There is only one spirit of God and he lived in Jesus Christ and all those who received his Holy Spirit. How can you possible believe God is three different persons? Without the Holy Spirit included, people will never know God because he is God. This God lived in Jesus Christ the man as the Holy Spirit and this is what Jesus came to preach about. He preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God, which is the Holy Spirit. By preaching this spirit, the voice of the spirit would be heard by those who were chosen to be in the Kingdom that would cause them to have faith in the Lord. Through this faith, God will work out his repentance of sins and forgive them so he can be readied for the Holy Spirit.

    This Kingdom of God with Jesus and all his saints in it, will reign over the new world after this one is destroyed with fire. All flesh will die, including the flesh of the saints, and everyone will get new bodies to live forever.

    I’m beyond thinking, the Lord does all the thinking for me. I just write down the words.

    God bless you,
    Brad

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