I went to see Brian McLaren tonight with a friend at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids. He was on a book tour for his new book in Phyllis Tickle's series on Ancient Spiritual Practices called Finding our Way Again. He didn't talk a whole lot about the book, but instead talked for a bit about his last three books (The Secret Message of Jesus, Everything Must Change, and this new one) and the kernels of thought and heart that have produced them. You can tell that McLaren is passionate about change in the world in which we live more in line with the Kingdom of God. It's always great to hear McLaren, not because he's super-inspiration or charasmatic, but because he opens up the Scriptures often in a new way and his questions are challenging. I also am particularly fond of his almost fearless (now) prophetic words towards the secular culture and towards the church, particularly the evangelical church. He answered the typical questions I figured he'd get like "What do I say to my conservative friends who don't like you or think your dangerous" and "what do you really think of hell and the afterlife." The second one, he really danced around and I wasn't fully satisfied with, but he consistently went back to his reading of Scripture through the lens of the inbreaking Kingdom of God in peace, love, generosity, and goodness. Here are a couple highlights for me (paraphrases):
"The evangelical church is not meant to be a chaplaincy to secular capitalistic consumerism."
"If you read the passages of the bible literally about some things, you have to read it literally about others." His example here was the story of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, in which he says, "If you read this passage literally, it seems like the way to get to hell is by being prosperous, and the way to get to heaven is to be a poor beggar with nothing."
McLaren also talked about what the Gospel is and how it relates to things like penal substitutionary atonement and he also responded to Driscoll's comments (although Driscoll was unnamed) attacking McLaren - the jist being that McLaren's Jesus is too soft and sissy, and Driscoll's Jesus who appears again in on a war-path of violence against his enemies. McLaren was excellent on this point and gracious to his detractors as always. I'm not going to sum it up except to say that McLaren is thinking about writing a book that responds to the misunderstandings of his critics. On this note he talked about exclusivism, inclusivism, and universalism in terms of salvation - and I think I'll try to post on that next.
Overall it was an uneventful but stimulating discussion as always. McLaren speaks today at Mars Hill, in case you're interested.
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