Chapter 8 “Why I’m a liberal/conservative”?

April 26, 2007

When I imagine what a generous orthodoxy can become, I ralize I must seek to honor both conservative and liberal heroism. And when I do, I want to consider myself both liberal and conservative. I must learn from their mistakes, and when I do, I don’t want to be boxed in either category. Instead they can look up for a higher way and look ahead to the new fields of opportunity and challenge that stretch from here to the horizon, where the terms post-conservative and post-liberal may be helpful for a while, and then the whole polarizing vocabulary can be” (140)

So far I’ve stayed on the side of criticism against McLaren. I began the comments for each chapter pointing the negatives but he needs to be commented for what he says and not for what I think he says (which proves to be very different). First I appreciate his inquisive nature. He is neither condemnig the liberal nor conservative, neither praises them. He says that he “must learn from their mistakes”. McLaren acknowledges that neither of them have the right answers all the time. Each of them have their good points and neither of them have all the right points. Instead, he proposes, for a third option “for a higher way”. This third option he strongly believes that it’s the better option.  Having said this, I don’t think he clarifies what this third option looks like.  It sounds very good, but I wonder in a practical sense, what do both liberal and conservatives need to forgo? I wish I could hear more of that in this chapter.


Chapter 7: Why I Am Post/Protestant?

April 24, 2007

This is one of the chapters that I tend to agree more with McLaren. So far his comments seem to say the least, questionable, but I liked some of things he said. He begins with a historical description of how protestantism came to be:

“The dominant meaning of protestant relates to the verb it contains: protest. Protestants began in the 15 and 16th centuries-first as a succession of disorganized and often erratic uprisings within the Roman Catholic Church, and then as a concerted and far-reaching revolution (called the Reformation) outside of Catholicism” (123)

Even though I more or less knew the history of protestantism from Martin Luther (the one that protested against the Roman Catholic church) for advocating a salvation based on works, he was the one that said “it is only by faith alone” according to the book of Galatians.  I agree with the main point he makes in ch. 17:

What if we were to redefine protestant as pro-testifying, pro meaning “for” and testify “telling our story?” What if Protestants switch their focus from protesting what they’re against to telling the story about what the’re for? (127)

I cannot agree more to this. Even in my relations with other pastors, I remember conversations that I had with other pastors in which our attention had diverted from reaching people for Christ to who has the best theology or doctrine. I think we lose power in sharing the gospel because we spend all our emotional and intellectual sources in things that do not get anywhere. I too believe that we need to stop sharing what we “don’t believe” and start sharing what we “do believe”

Chapter 6: Why I am an Evangelical?

April 12, 2007

There are two ends of the spectrum for Brian McLaren. On the one hand, he dislikes being labeled as “evangelical” with big “E” in the political sense of the word (right wing), but at the same time, he does not want to completely abandon that title Evangelical which can also signify people who (a) highly respect the Bible (b) emphasize personal conversion, (c) believe that God can be known and experienced with something like intimacy (d) want to share their faith with others.

Chapter 5: Why I’m Missional?

April 5, 2007

Before I quote McLaren I got some off the topics comments. Why does McLaren have his own picture in the book cover? Let’s be honest! Everyone, deep inside, wants to be recognized but people who read this, especially Christians, can wrongly perceive his message: what are his intentions? Does he want publicity? Having said this, this word “missional” is all over. A few weeks ago I finished the book “The Missional Church” by Guder. I think I even heard Tim Keller write about the Missional Church.   What’s strange is that even though I respect Tim Keller a great deal, I really don’t understand what the missional church is all about. From my initial impressions, it seems that it’s another one of those Christians fads that comes and goes. In this sense, I share in the cynicism of McLaren (Vineyard, Campus Crusade, Simple Church, etc). I remember when one professor from Trinity said that he is still waiting for a movement that will have a long-term effect. You can tell if something has long-lasting effect by the number of years that it lasts. If this “missional church” thing last only for a couple of years and then disappears, you will know that it was a passing bye type of hurrah. Having been critical of this, let me remain objective and quote McLaren at his own words.

What does McLaren understand by “Missional”

Missional faith asserts that Jesus came to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to everyone, especially the poor. He came to seek and save the lost. He came on behalf of the sick. He came to save the world.His gospel, and therefore the Christians message, is Good News for the whole world. (110)

Like in the other posts, McLaren doesn’t commit to either view while inevitably making himself compromising his convictions. For example, when he says:

But my mission isn’t to fiture out who is already blessed or not blessed, or unblessable. My calling is to be blessed so I can bless everyone! (113)

It sounds like all-embracing, understanding and non-exclusivistic statement, but he avoids the greater issues of the Scriptures, which is that the Bible is clear on who is saved and who is not: John 3:16, John 1:12, Eph. 2:8-9. Those who believe in Jesus will be saved. The message of the Bible is a threat to non-believers. It stands and falls on the claims made by Jesus Christ in John 14:6 that “He is the WAY, the Truth and the life”.   

Chapter 4: Jesus: Savior or What?

April 4, 2007

This chapter is pretty similar to the previous one. What I learned the most is from a small footnote at the end:  

          The “Personal Savior” gospel arose in part to solve an important problem: when Christianity was seen as the civil religion of the west, people considered themselves Christian simply because they were German or Danish or Italian or American. They saw themselves as generic Christians without personal commitment. The “personal Savior” gospel arose, in part  at least, to encourage personal commitment: one made a personal commitment by believing in Jesus as their personal Savior. Sadly, like most solutions, the “personal Savior” solution then went on to create new problems. (101)

It’s quite intriguing the history behind this, at least in part. I always thought that this was something that the Bible taught of making a personal commitment to Christ. It was Jesus himself who asked Peter: “Who do YOU think I am?” Considering that McLaren’s observations are valid, what is the other part that he doesn’t mention. In other words, If “personal Savior” arose from a social problem, what is the other reason why we came to value Jesus as our “personal savior”.  Mc. Laren seems to disagree of Jesus being seen as “personal Savior” based on the historical fact, but he doesn’t acknowledge the Biblical foundation of what a “Savior” means.

 Through out the years, as I read the Bible and pondered the meaning and message of Jesus, and as I learned the ways of Jesus through spiritual practice, I became less and less comfortable being restricted to the “personal Savior” gospel. More and more I shifted my reasoning for being a Christian to a belief that Jesus is the Savior of the world…” (101)

 I do agree that through out the years, we have diluted the term “Savior” but still I don’t see the point that McLaren is making. He seems to repeat the idea from the previous chapter. Why does he have to write a whole chapter based on a single term.  

Chapter 3: Would Jesus be a Christian?

April 3, 2007

If the real Lord Jesus were to knock on our door as revolutionary King/Master/Teacher, I think we’d look through the peephole and judge him an imposter, since our “Buddy Jesus” as Savior is already sitting on the couch inside, watching TV with us, thumbs up and grinning, “meeting our needs” very well, thank you very much. Our domesticated, romanticized, spiritualized Jesus has become for us the orthodox Jesus, so an alternative one looks unorthodox, unfamiliar, maybe even dangerous and deserving of…what? (88)

Again I feel that McLaren is calling for a middle ground, what he calls “Generous Orthodoxy”. He does it in the following way. He first defines the term “Lord” in 3 different ways:

  1. Lord suggests “authority and kingship” (81)
  2. Lord suggests “a master in relation to a servant or slave” (83)
  3. Lord means “a master-teacher or rabbi” (85).

His cynicism lies in the fact that all these 3 terms are antiquated or do not have any relevancy to the world that we live in (slaves: we don’t have any; kings: no kings in US; teacher: perhaps but not really). On the other end of the spectrum, Americans have made a “Buddy Jesus”, or an American Jesus. They interpret Jesus as how they want Him to be. I don’t know if McLaren states this in ch. 3, but he implies that “he’s not satisfied” with the kind of Jesus (Lord) that the Bible talks about and at the same time, he is not pleased with how we made Jesus, less that who he is.  He does say that “he is cynical, that he needs to repent”, but I’m a bit befuddled by his overall point. Is he really calling for a middle ground type of Jesus?  Is being relevant to today’s world more important than understanding Jesus for who He really is? These are all just questions that leaves me thinking!!! 

Chapter 2: Jesus and God B

March 31, 2007

McLaren starts off his chapter with the reasons why he chooses not to use the name Jesus too much, although he can’t help it sometimes. I was curious to know why he titled “Jesus and God B” and towards the end of his chapter he reveals his curious terminology “God B”. First in order to be a “God B”, there needs to be a “God A”.

For them, God could no longer be conceived of merey as “God A”, a single, solitary, dominant Power, Mind, or will, but as “God B”, a unified, eternal, mysterious, relational community/family/society/entity of saving love.

Think of the kind of universe you would expect if God A created it: a universe of dominance, control, limitation, submission, uniformity, coercion. Think of the kind of universe you would expect if God B created it: a universe of interdependence, relationship, possibilty, responsibility, becoming, novelty, mutuality, freedom.  (76)

I’m not comfortable with compartmentalizing God and trying to figure him out in clear and well-defined terms: “God A” or God B” or God Z.  I remember taking a class “Contemporary Gospel” a couple of years ago. One of the things we learned that is for Americans, we have a tendency to believe in a Jesus that fits our culture. Some of the Jesus we became to believe is: Jesus as our friend, “feminine Jesus” and others. In other words, Jesus is whoever we choose Him to be. Recalling from what I learned in the class, Jesus is whatever I want Him to be. He’s not the creator, the Savior, the Redeemer, the Coming King.  Underneath of our discontent with knowing who God is, there’s a sense that we want to figure him out.  I dont’ know if that’s what McLaren is doing exactly but he states at the end of that paragraph: “I find myself in universe B, getting to know God”.  Perhaps the key is in the last phrase “getting to know God”. I completely agree that we get to know God in different ways.  Some get to know God since they are in their mother’s wombs. Their parents are Christians. Their gradparents are too. Their Christina lines goes 5 or 6 generations downs. Others like “C.S. Lewis” come to know God at a later time in their lives. But here’s what I’m saying. Let’s not put nicely human categories or names to make us feel better. After all, isn’t that McLaren’s purpose for this book: embracing all differents aspects of our faith, or dimensions? Didn’t the prophet Isaiah summarized best In Isaiah 55:8-9 by saying: ”

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,”
       declares the LORD.

  “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
       so are my ways higher than your ways
       and my thoughts than your thoughts

Paul also shares this insight in not fully figuring out in Colossians 2:2

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ

Words such as “ways”, “thoughts” and “mystery of God” or gospel reminds us that God needs to be God and like Habakkuk said: “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him“. (Hab. 2:20)