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A new kind of Christianity

6 March 2010

A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That are Transforming the Faith A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That are Transforming the Faith by Brian McLaren

I haven’t read Brian McLaren’s book A new kind of Christianity, but I have read a couple of favourable reviews of it, from people I know (at least to the extent that I’ve read their blogs, and they’ve sometimes read mine), so I’ll look out for a copy and hope to read it.

Anglican bishop Alan Wilson says on his blog Bishop Alan’s Blog: Discipleship starts with 10 Questions

You may find his answers disturbing, but I challenge any who care about following Jesus today not to profit from asking these questions. However you answer them, they supply an agenda for anyone wanting to follow Jesus honestly and authentically. Read this Book.

And he posts the ten questions, so I thought I would try to answer them before I read the book, and see if my answers change after I read it. And just so I can’t cheat, I’ll post my provisional answers here. They aren’t carefully worked out, they are just the things that occurred to me after reading the questions. I suggest that others who haven’t read the book might like to try a similar exercise, whether they intend to read the book or not.

Brian McLaren’s Ten questions

1. What is the overarching story line of the Bible?

God made the world good. Evil enters. God becomes man in order to restore the world and renew it.

2. How should the Bible be understood?

We cannot understand the Bible, it stands over us.

3. Is God violent?


4. Who is Jesus and why is he important?

The incarnate Son of God. He is important because he trampled down death by death and gives life to those in the tombs.

5. What is the Gospel?

The good news that Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

6. What do we do about the Church?

Do? Nothing.

We are called to BE the Church.

7. Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?

Probably not.

It’s even more difficult than finding a way to address economic systems without fighting about it. Socialists and free marketeers see the world differently. Those who think we can control economic forces will probably never see eye to eye with those who think we should be controlled by them and similarly, those who think we can and should control our sexual urges will probably never see eye to eye with those who think we should be controlled by them. Anyone for a shower?

8. Can we find a better way of viewing the future?

Better than what?

There’s a blog title that gives me “stuck tune syndrome” (STS) whenever I see it. And the words to the tune are these:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know, I know he holds the future
Now life is worth the living just because he lives.

I can’t think of a better way of viewin g the future than that.

9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?

With love and respect, since they are created in the image and likeness of God.

10. How can we translate our quest into action?

In whatever way God shows us.

With the caveat that if we believe God is showing us the way, we should check it out with our spiritual father/mother, because of the danger of prelest (spiritual delusion). It’s too easy to become just another spiritual loose cannon.


Anyway, those are my answers, for now. What are yours?

I will also add that I find the questions a little disappointing. I’m not sure that those are the questions we really ought to be asking — well some of them, at least. I can think of other questions that are more important. One of the things I have found interesting about the “emerging church” people is that they often seem seem to be asking the right questions, even if I don’t always agree with the answers. But I’m not sure that these are the right questions. But perhaps I should put that on hold until I’ve read the book.

The reviews are here Bishop Alan’s Blog: Discipleship starts with 10 Questions and here: ANKoXy: An appreciation: Sound and Silence.

And here’s another from someone I don’t know at all: Treehouse Monastic.


I suggested to those who used to participate in Synchroblogs that they engage in a similar exercise — try to answer Brian McLaren’s ten questions before reading his book, and then see if their answers change after reading it. So here’s the list of those who have done so — more to be added as they come in:

28 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 March 2010 4:07 pm

    Interesting. The two reviews that I’ve read so far (also on blogs) have both said, ‘this time McLaren has gone too far’. I guess we’ll just have to read the book!

  2. 6 March 2010 5:38 pm

    Definitely some wrong questions, and some right ones asked the wrong way. I think you did fine answering them, but I don’t even find them the least be “authenticating” in my journey following Christ as they are presented in this list.

    Following Christ authentically involves staring my sin in the face and then turning away from it toward him and into a mode of living that empties rather than exalts the self. Leaving God to give grace to the humble and all that. Brian exalts the self and particularly the impulsive self that is enslaved to sin.

    Honesty starts with the truth about myself, that I am sick with sin (a cracked eikon) and need to be healed. Brian, for the few good things he says, is still in the land of “I’m OK, You’re OK” childishness. I’m not against being positive, but as you point out other people are not “OK” they are the image and likeness of God. Profound mysteries made by and for the glory of God and his delight. So whether we are talking about ourselves in our fallen nature or talking about others rightly as little-Christs either way, “OK” just doesn’t do it.

  3. 6 March 2010 8:08 pm

    Generally speaking, it’s important not to take a theologian at face value, but to understand the underlying theology. Brian McLaren has a very distinctive theology. Once understood, one knows what he’s going to say on any given subject. In my view, a useful key to understanding much (post)modern theology (including McLaren’s) is an old book, The Phenomenon of Man, by Teilhard de Chardin.

  4. Darrell permalink
    6 March 2010 8:22 pm

    My question: Have any of the monks of the Holy Mountain of Athos reviewed Brian McLaren’s book?

    • 6 March 2010 9:30 pm

      I doubt that it’s had time to reach the Holy Mountain yet, and I suspect that Brian McLaren’s writings are a little bit too much like the beginner’s class for them. To judge from things I’ve heard him say and other books of his I’ve read, they are aimed mainly at certain kinds of Protestants, who are still clinging to things that the monks of the Holy Mountain abandoned long ago, if indeed they ever held them. That’s probably why some of the questions sound tangential or irrelevant.

  5. 8 March 2010 3:12 pm

    Steve, like your answers, and agree on McLaren. I probably won’t be buying it simply because they’re not questions I’m struggling with.

    • 9 March 2010 2:12 am

      Yes, I agree with David Dickens — that some are the wrong questions — they seem to scratch where it’s not itching — while others may be the right questions, but asked in the wrong way. I suspect that may be because McLaren has a particular, and rather narrow, audience in mind.

  6. 9 March 2010 7:19 am

    What are the right questions–the ones you’re really struggling with? I’m a lot more interested in them than in these questions, which seem pretty sophomoric and pretty damn precious!

    • 9 March 2010 8:13 am


      Now that would be a good topic for a synchroblog — come up with some questions that we are asking, or ought to be asking.

    • 11 March 2010 8:05 pm

      How many people here have read the book? I’d hope some, given the strong opinions voiced. But even then, it appears that “one knows what he’s going to say on any given subject”. My response has been quite the opposite, that McLaren is a man of deep insights, of very interesting ideas, or freshly interpreted – contextualised – old ones.

      McLaren is pastoring and fielding the questions of the people looking to him, not as an act not of some infantile indulgence, but of deep heartfelt service to those God has given him?

      Dimissive, haughty, ignorent… that’s the taste left in my mouth.

      • 11 March 2010 8:26 pm

        Forgive me Nic.

        I did not intend to dismiss Brian as a person, but rather to point out the glaring problem faced my him and all of us living in the postmodern era. The problem is so large it overwhelms. You are correct that he addresses the contextualized issues. My challenge is that the context itself is flawed. This isn’t a dismissal of him. I have friends within the emergent Church movement that have positive personal opinions of Brian. I trust their judgement. Brian is a more moral person than I am, but he’s in the wrong fight and his teaching (Socrates mastered the art of questions as instruction long ago) is ultimately harmful because it never confronts our true illness.

        Sincerity does not save. Christ saves. Coming from a very sincere sinner (myself) I am aware of just what a mess I am in.

        • 12 March 2010 8:06 am

          David, thank you for responding, and doing so graciously.

          I see where you are coming from. For you sin and fallenness is absolutely key to salvation, and central to the message of the gospel.

          I no longer read the bible with that emphasis. I do not deny sin, or the need for grace, or the centrality of Christ, but my starting point is not sin, but goodness.

          Matthew Fox in his 1983 “Original Blessing” is in its way similar to ANKOXy – I compare the two here:

          As a postevangelical, it took me about two years to make the transistion from a sin based theology to a grace based one. If I may be frank, I believe you are speaking from within a “sin based” paradigm; Fox calls it “Fall/Redemption” and McLaren the “Greco-Roman narrative”.

          Its a complex issue and I do not think one comment on a blog is going to have much effect, but here’s to some sort of ongoing conversation….

          “Brian exalts the self and particularly the impulsive self that is enslaved to sin”

          • 12 March 2010 8:29 am

            I’m not sure I have a systematic approach here. I would say I have some guideposts set by what little I understand in the tradition vouchsafe to me.

            I don’t see sin as a legal concern, but an illness (some might say addiction) unto death, or if you prefer unbeing and it’s philosophical symptom nihilism.

            Someone once said, “I will not call God just. I know nothing of God’s justice, only his mercies.”

            My concern is that personhood exists within the context of relationship and participation, not exalted individuality. Brian doesn’t share that view and can’t (precisely because he is a 21st century figure). That’s what I mean by him being contextually potent, but having the wrong context.

            As a side note, I’ve never liked the emergent term “conversation”, it is too detached for me (I know you don’t mean it that way). I prefer community. Unless you and I belong to one another and exist in communion for quantity-time (quality-time is a myth) I doubt it’s possible to bridge the gap of our misunderstanding (and objectification) of each other.

            I mean that as a confession, not an accusation.

          • 12 March 2010 3:26 pm

            How do you substantiate the view that Brian doesn’t share your views about relationship and participation? You are suggesting that he places individuality above these things, but in the light of his writing, this makes no sense.

            I see him to be deeply critical of this ages individualism, and his proposal has everything to do with the core value you are espousing: Community.

            I think we will find that we agree to a much larger extent than you believe.

            Where do live, move, or otherwise have your being?

          • 12 March 2010 5:07 pm

            I would much rather be shown to be wrong in this than defend being right. I’ll have to investigate further. My limited experience (though through close friends) creates some preconceptions that would need to be corrected. Perhaps you could give me a good reference to get me started.

            To answer your question: in Him who will be all in all.

            I wrote on another blog just yesterday: Everyone has a relationship to the Church, some relate in a more healthy and functional way, some dysfunctional. That doesn’t mean I believe in an invisible Church, but you might still … tolerate (*heh*) the subtle point.

            But you are correct, we are all His offspring.

      • 12 March 2010 3:09 am


        As you can see in my post, your review was one of those that made me think I should read the book, though I haven’t been near a bookshop since reading the reviews, so no, I haven’t read the book yet. I still hope to. But since his questions are doing the rounds, I think it’s still legitimate to try to answer them, and even to question them, even if one hasn’t read the book, if just for the same of comparison.

        • 12 March 2010 7:56 am

          I agree Steve. It is quite legitimate to ask having not read the book – I’m not asking for some sort of qualification in order to participate. But we need to take care – in my reading of this thread, I thought people were firing off pretty loosely.

          In fact I like your approach, that of asking the questions that ARE in your parlance “itching”. (BTW this is exactly what I think Brian is trying to get us to do).

          Actually, I related very strongly to only 3 or 4 of the 10, but took the others to be coming from a deeply, and selflessly, conversational POV, with the interests of others coming first. Even so, McLaren managed to hold my attention in the most pedestrian chapters.

          So count me in on asking MY OWN set.

  7. 9 March 2010 8:44 am

    So…that’s just what I did after I wrote this comment!

  8. 9 March 2010 4:20 pm

    I respect all of you, as you are wonderful intellects. However, I think you make it so complicated. My answer to all these questions is simply: Jesus loves you this I know.

    There’s simply no argument that will take this fact from me and there’s nothing you can do to take this fact from you (you being every human).

  9. 11 March 2010 3:34 pm

    Hey Steve,

    For some reason my email keeps bouncing on that Synchroblog list email thingamagik, but here is my contribution if you’d like:

  10. 13 March 2010 9:44 pm

    Steve, I wanted to emphasize that if you read the book or listen to Brian talk about the book he points out that as he has traveled around the world these are questions that he keeps hearing over and over again…except for the first one which he felt was necessary to throw in to explain some of the answers he gives to the other questions. Brian has gone on to say that he is answering these questions in hopes that we can move on to what he considers more important things. So, although you might be disappointed in these questions if Brian was the one asking them perhaps you may have a different perspective knowing that other everyday people are the ones these questions belong to.

  11. 13 April 2011 2:44 pm

    Brian Mac has left the building. He is not even giving us a single fundemental to agree on. How can there be fellowship if his arguements are all relative.?
    These are just my sentiments, he want answers but takes away the Book we are supposed to base them on. Does not make sense.


  1. Beth Patterson : I’m probably way off base
  2. A New Kind of Christianity: My Answers to Ten Questions « Ryan Peter Blogs and stuff
  3. Asking the right questions « Khanya
  4. Ryan Peter. » A New Kind of Christianity: My Answers to Ten Questions

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