The first instalment of Brian McLaren’s trilogy recounts a lively and intimate conversation between fictional characters Pastor Dan Poole and his daughter’s high school science teacher, Neil Oliver. They reflect together about faith, doubt, reason, mission, leadership, and spiritual practice in the emerging postmodern world.
A New Kind of Christian offers a tale of hope and spiritual renewal for those who thought they had to give up on faith, God and church.
I was intrigued by the New Kind of Christian series. I’ve been told that I should read it, that it would cause me to reevaluate some of my positions and that it would get me to reconsider where I stand within my own theological framework. When SPCK republished this popular and controversial trilogy, I was keen to get my hands on it!
I must admit, I enjoyed reading the book. Granted, I did find it hard at first to get into it, but once I weathered that, I was fine. I’m definitely more theologically minded than philosophically minded (though the two go together somewhat) and so talk of modernism and postmodernism can sometimes get quite complicated for me. But one must understand and get to grips with these terms if they are to fully benefit from the trilogy by McLaren.
I like the style in which the “story” is set in place. It’s not really a story- it’s a spiritual journey in progress and I think this is conveyed well throughout the book. In terms of the content, I am more than aware that these books have caused immense controversy in the Evangelical wing of the church. Bearing with that, I am cautious to say what I agree and disagree with in the book. I believe the book to be a well intentioned piece of literature in order to get people to ask questions in order that their faith may be strengthened. I certainly do not believe in blind faith or indoctrination. Because of that belief, I feel that books like this one are important.
Throughout the book is a conversation between two friends who find themselves in a different world to what some of the saints who have gone before us found themselves in and how this different world relates (if at all) to Christianity, and whether the message of Christianity is static or evolutionary. I have my opinions on this, but as I said, I’m not going there.
Whatever evangelicals think of this book, it is helpful insofar as it asks us not to take stuff as red until we have properly examined it, tested it, and tested ourselves. I think for those who have been disillusioned by the Church or Christianity in the past would find this book interesting, though not necessarily helpful. Of course, with this sort of book, historical beliefs, “orthodoxy” and theological/doctrinal positions that have been held for centuries are brought under the intimidation light and taken apart and, to a certain extent, remoulded or put back together again. This process can be painful for many Christians and there are plusses and minuses as to how helpful this can be.
I finished the book feeling that the book had raised questions for me about what Brian McLaren was actually saying rather than what he was thinking out loud, if you get my meaning. And maybe the book isn’t supposed to be an answer to what Brian McLaren believes, but one does get confused when someone throws a theological hand grenade into a room of Christians wanting to get closer to Jesus and then end up losing him in the shrapnel and smoke, waiting for it to clear so he becomes visible again.