(Do any of you read about 10-20 books in parallel? For me it's normal, though I get the feeling it's just as inefficient as trying to multi-task half a dozen activities in work.)
When I got back to it recently, it was well worth the read.
Books by Christian authors - the non-fiction tomes anyway - tend towards being dry. Reading them feels like making a pilgrimage, doing penitence, rather than an enjoyable act that might inform, challenge and stretch.
McLaren sets out from the start to engage with his readers. He makes his points - serious and sometimes controversial - points by telling a story. The two main characters - Dan (based loosely on the author) and Neo (a teacher at Dan's daughter's school - meet up at a local gig (by the Amish Jellies), get talking, and continue to meet up to talk over a period of months.
Their lives and past experiences are slowly unravelled as the chapters describe their journey, exploring the issues that they face.
(While I write, the guy sitting in the next seat on this late night squeasyJet flight to Gatwick has opened up his laptop, but not to do some work, or watch a DVD, but to play Lara Croft Tomb Raider with the sound off. How his hands darted across the tiny keyboard.)
Dan is a pastor, struggling to keep running around the hamster wheel he finds himself on. He's started to question the stock answers he has been using to convince others over the years.
Can the doctrines and theological positions he has grown up with - and been coached in while training at the seminary - be so simply explained? Black and white issues turning grey. Yet Dan recognises that his doubts, and his possible conclusions, may be less than agreeable to his congregation who will hear a heretic preaching and not a prophet.
The book’s title comes from Neo’s suggestion that we need a new kind of Christian. Not one worshipping a different God, not one with a different Jesus. But one with a different way of relating to the world, able to engage with a changed world. (You could call it post-modern.)
There's so much in the book that challenges and jars with traditional thinking (ie, thought out a long time ago and passed on with little new thinking). Some quotes as examples. I’ll probably come back and explore some in future posts.
“I wonder,” [Neo] continued, “what would happen if we approached the text [Bible] less aggressively but even more energetically and passionately. I wonder what would happen if we honestly listened to the story and put ourselves under its spell, so to speak, not using it to get all of our questions about God answered but instead trusting God to use it to post questions to us about us … What would happen if we just trusted ourselves to it—the way a boy opens his heart to a girl, the way a patient trusts herself to an oncologist.”
"[Other religions aren’t the enemy of the gospel, in my mind, and more than Christianity is the enemy—though of course sometimes it is."
More to follow on another day.