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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

McLaren, continued

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St. Louis ArchOk, so I've been gone for awhile.  You may notice, I blip on and off like a bad TV that's been hit by lightening.  True.  When busyness hits, I go underground - at least on the blogosphere.  I wish it weren't so because it's wonderful to write for no other reason that to write, process, and share.  Anyway, this week in September is the busiest week of my year and September is generally the busiest month.  But this summer in general was just plain busy. There are a couple new books I'm reading, or almost done with.  The first is GloboChrist: the Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Rashke.  If you'd like to read an excerpt, click hereTall Skinny Kiwi has been blogging about it, and I hope to engage it a bit in the coming weeks.  I'm pretty much done with it.  I'm also half way through Andy Crouch's new book Culture-Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling.  Both are good books, and I've enjoyed them both.  Lots to say about Crouch's book.  Raschke's is provocative, interesting, sometimes overstated, and just OK.  I'm going to be starting Gordon MacDonald's book Who Stole My Church soon as well as Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church with one of my youth pastors.

On to McLaren.  I wanted to share a quick metaphor that McLaren used when he was talking about The Gospel and salvation and Kingdom.  To truncate it a bit, Brian was talking about what I've mentioned before about the message from many that the penal substitutionary theory of atonement or receiving Jesus as one's personal savior is the Gospel.  Someone in the audience had questioned him about where he stood on this theory, etc. as the Gospel.  McLaren used a metaphor in which he said something to this affect, "People want to talk a lot about going to Florida and what I think about Florida and how to get to Florida, when I thought we were going to California."  I didn't really like his metaphor, although I thought it raised some important issues.  When you talk to people (like me... and Brian) about the Gospel, our view is wider than the theory of substitutionary atonement or receiving Jesus as Savior.  However, when many people here that, they think we've forfeited the gospel.  I would argue that we are actually saying that the Gospel is more than that, not less.  And for sure, Christ's work on the cross as our substitute to atone for our sin and rebellion against God is key, and core to the Gospel.  However, it is not itself the gospel. 

So, I have an alternative metaphor.  Think for a moment about the St. Louis Archway.  It was originally built in the '60's to commemorate Thomas Jefferson and the Westward expansion of the Americas.  So, imagine with me that the Arch were the actual gateway to the the West, that you would have to pass through the archway to get to the western frontier.  And let's say that the Eastern United States was ruled by a different king and under different rules than the Western United States.  So, let's say you live in the east, and friends of yours have told you about the King and Kingdom of the West, how different it is, how much more humane, how much healthier, etc. it was.  So, you head West from your home in Washington DC and you come to the St. Louis Archway.  You take pictures; you go to the top of the Arch; you even take the helicopter ride.  Then, you settlt there on the banks of Illinois just to the East of the Mississippi river, or maybe you cross over and you set up your new home on the western banks in St. Louis, Missouri.  But, you never go West (young man).  You never see the sprawling Iowa and Nebraska plains, the deserts of Nevada, the mountains of Idaho, or the California coastline.  Even so, you think you've travelled West. 

That's the metaphor I think of when we truncate the Gospel to a theory of atonement, to a sinner's prayer (which much of the time is misunderstood while it's happening), or being born again (not in the biblical John 3 sense - which is more like the West , but in the contemporary sense like the banks of the Mississippi).  Those are all gateways, are all part of going West, but the Gospel is about the King and his Kingdom that are both coming and have come.  And as CS Lewis said, we must go "further up and further in" to experience the beauty and wonder of the place Aslan has prepared for us. 

I'm certainly interested in the St. Louis Arch and getting across the Mississippi, but I also really want to see the Rocky Mountains, the Snake River, the Tetons, the Black Hills, the Grand Canyon, the vineyards, and pacific coast beaches.

After McLaren's talk, my friend and I had the highlight of the evening when we stopped at one of my favorite places:  Traverse Bay Pie Company.  If you're ever near one, you have to stop and have at least a piece of pie, but don't go alone.  Make sure you have a good conversation partner along.


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