A New Kind of Christianity

Some closing remarks from Brian McLaren’s latest book that I’ve been reading:

As we near the five-hundredth anniversary of the day when Martin Luther came out of the closet so that all would know what he had been thinking in secret, it is time, I propose, to reinvigorate the dialogue by having many of us come out of our closets and admit we have been asking these and other important questions in secret. We must stop being ashamed of our questions, and we must stop pretending to be content with unsatisfying answers. Instead, we must let our questions and our fresh readings of Scripture become passageways out of the thought-boxes and mental stages and cages that can confine us. We must let our questions be the picks and shovels of a Spirit-inspired jailbreak. Once free, we can launch an exodus and continue our adventure, our quest for truth in the wild, unmapped places, asthe biblical story beckons us to do.

Doing so is scary. We don’t want to betray our heritage. We don’t want to prove unfaithful to the faith that has nourished our souls and formed the communities to which we belong. Yet we must realize what being faithful and true to our spiritual forebears really requires. It’s not simply a matter of repeating again and again what Luther and the other Reformers said. Rather, true fidelity means we must do what they did. Like them, out of love for the truth, we must dare to precipitate a change, to foment a kind of gentle and hopeful revolution, to give birth to a new generation of Christian faith. By transcending and including, we must now rise to a new zone on the spectrum – to turn a page and open a new chapter by vulnerably exposing our previously secret thoughts, and by tenderly, reverently listening to one another as we do so.

Yes, we have a past, to be sure, to which we must show proper honour and with which we must maintain proper continuity. That past should always have a vote, as G. K. Chesterton famously said when he defined tradition as ‘the democracy of the dead’. But I would add that the dead should not be given excessive veto power. As part of our inheritance from the past, we have been entrusted with an ongoing mission, and that mission requires us to be loyal, yes, to beloved tradition, but no less to the beloved present world in which we serve. And perhaps our greatest loyalty should be directed forward, to a beloved future which we are co-creating with the Spirit of the living God. To be loyal to the God who was without being loyal to the God who is and to the God who is to come would be only 33% infection with a new kind of Christianity.

~ Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity

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11 thoughts on “A New Kind of Christianity

  1. Hi irishanglican,

    well, Jesus Christ may be the same yesterday, today and forever, but our knowledge and understanding of Him, as well as our relationship with Him, may not be! 🙂 And it also doesn’t mean He can’t do new things too…

    All the same, I have tremendous respect for all the Christian traditions, including the Anglican Church. In fact, some of my greatest Christian role models come from there! 🙂 i.e. John Polkinghorne, Alasdair Coles, Alister McGrath, N T Wright, the Archbishop Rowan Williams, to name a few!

  2. eppurouv3,

    Well as an Anglican, and presbyter myself, I am close to the Ecumenical Councils. And stay bound within that sort of “fence”and protection of God’s nature. We have so much in our Incarnate and Trinitarian God!

    Alister McGrath is a friend indeed! And Tom Wright also, but I reject the NP. I am not a Rowan fan myself, not personal, but certainly theological. I am both Catholic & Reformed. A Calvin “Calvinist”!

    Best..
    Fr. Robert
    D. Phil., Th.D.

  3. Being a non-theologian, I wouldn’t know much about Rowan’s theologies – I admire him for his efforts to engage Islam and to build a bridge between the two faiths, not to mention other Christian groups (although many will blame him for the divide that’s splitting the Anglican church at the moment). I find that I’ve tended to agree with his views whenever he’s spoken in public on the socio-political, environmental issues.

    As for Tom Wright- well he’s my favourite New Testament scholar! His works on the historical Jesus and Paul have greatly influenced my own theologies.

    Alister McGrath and John Polkinghorne have played a huge role in helping me reconcile my faith and my vocation as a scientist.

    Anyway, nice meeting you, Fr. Robert! Looks like you have an interesting blog, which I believe I will be reading often to learn some theology from one who studies it!

  4. eppursimuov3,

    Nice to chat mate. I wish I had more time to blog, I am a bit older (60), so blogging came some late for me, as the computer really, save use of Word, etc.

    My father was a scientist, physicist and also a serious amateur astronomer. I have good memories of that whole life and world (Ireland and England, 50’s and early 60’s)
    Also WW2 RAF pilot, that breed is gone almost, (RIP dad). Father was a moderate R. Catholic.

    In reality, I am a year older than Rowan (he was born in 1950; 49 for me. For what that’s worth. Again, he and I have such very different backgrounds and upbringing. I was a RMC (Royal Marine Commando, officer..over 10 years). And I have always had a conservative base and mind-set, in both the biblical-theological, and the political. As raised RC I guess, with my father’s path too. Anyway, I say all this, as it might help to see and understand my theological place and positions some.

    Best!

  5. hi Fr. Robert,

    interesting background there, especially your father’s interest in astronomy and his work as a scientist.

    You are right, our theological positions are often determined by who we are and where we come from. As for me, being born in South-East Asia in a predominantly Muslim country as well as being exposed to various eastern mystic religions from a young age puts me in a different position. I grew up in the Methodist tradition, though I also have relatives who are R. Catholics. I remember joining them for prayers when I when I was little… with rosaries and all. Brings back memories…

  6. eppursimuov3,

    I spent a few years (mid 20’s and the noviciate) with some English Benedictines (England). So I too have some other experience, and memories also. Though I had some military combat time both before and after. I am really still somewhat R. Catholic friendly (but not without criticism). And I have read lots of John Wesley myself, (always an Anglican I might add).

    So what do you make of the ‘young earth people’? And what do you think of James Ussher? Friendly questions..

  7. Hi Fr. Robert,

    Well… I think what James Ussher did to calculate the date of creation based on biblical genealogies was in itself a great intellectual achievement for his time. It was a view held by many other intellectual giants of his era, including Isaac Newton himself (who did his own calculations). However, this idea would ultimately be proven wrong by modern science. 🙂 As a scientist, I would say the ‘young earth’ view is untenable in light of all the scientific evidence for an old earth and the common ancestry of life. There is no doubt that ‘young earth’ ideas are doing great harm to education and science. And I would like to add here that I actually started out as a strong supporter of Young Earth Creationism in high school, but reading more about evolution and biology in general has convinced me otherwise! Not only that, I have since come to the conclusion that young earth creationism is not only bad science, but is bad theology as well! I’ve written about the theological side of it here:

    https://eppursimuov3.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/extreme-faith-healing-and-creationism-different-name-same-underlying-theology/

    Having said that, as a Christian, I would say that this issue of young Earth vs old earth is a non-essential. To borrow what someone else said: There is no command from God that we should get the age of the Earth right, but rather, the command is to love God and neighbour (including those who disagree with us about the age of the Earth!).

  8. The problem with your position will always be, does the Bible and Creation even need modern science to help or “prove” God’s Word and or Creation? I am myself an old earth creationist, but the Young Earth does has merit from the “biblical” text at least. But I am not a scientist, and science and theory is always changing.

  9. I agree that my own position on this is not without its problems… it’s something that I still struggle with and am still trying to work out on my journey as a Christian and a scientist. I guess every worldview has its own issues to deal with.

    However, I have never looked at science as a means to prove the Bible’s accuracy or to prove God’s existence. Rather, like Alister McGrath says, the question is about whether science is consistent with our faith and vice versa.

    yes, science and theory change all the time.. but for now, an old earth and evolution stands as the best scientific picture we have of our world 🙂

    1. Yes, I have chatted with Alister McGrath, he is always the scientist, and a great one! But as a conservative I struggle still with the Biblical Text on Creation. But then I love too the man James Ussher, the Archbishop was simply a great scholar for his time, and always a biblicist. I am drawn to the Text first before science. I know the two are really not in opposition, but there are always real tensions therein.

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