Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity - A Review

by Dr. Larry Hovis

This book shares a similar title to McLaren's first big "hit", A New Kind of Christian. Since the publication of that book, he has written many others, with his more recent releases challenging traditional thought to greater and greater degrees. This book continues that trend. In the second half of the book, he tackles such challenging topics as homosexuality, eschatology and pluralism. But for perceptive readers, his most radical proposals come in the first half of his book, in which he questions our most basic assumptions about theology and the Bible.

Specifically, he suggests that the overarching storyline which has guided Christian thought since Augustine is not the only way to view Christianity. This storyline develops in six stages: perfection, fall, condemnation, and then choice: hell/damnation or salvation/heaven. He then shows that there is an alternative meta-narrative which, if followed, drastically alters conventional Christian thought. He also argues that Christians have traditionally read the Bible as a constitution, when it should be read as a community library.

I think many free and faithful Baptists will readily embrace McLaren's second point about the Bible, but will struggle a bit more with his first point about the overarching narrative by which we interpret the Christian story. While I'm still thinking through, arguing with, and pondering the meaning of this book (and by no means accept every word at face value), I am grateful to McLaren for his courage to show us what he believes is a "more excellent way" and for doing so with grace and humility."

As a follower of Jesus and a devoted student of the Bible for many decades, I certainly believe that in a unique and powerful way God breathes life into the Bible, and through it into the community of faith and its members, and into my soul. And I certainly believe that the biblical library has a unique role in the life of the community of faith, resourcing, challenging, and guiding the community of faith in ways that no other texts can. It is uniquely valuable to teach, reprove, correct, train and equip us for love and good works, as the apostle Paul says. It provides a kind of encouragement that is central and unique to the community of Christian faith (p. 83).

Larry Hovis is the Executive Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina. For more information on A New Kind of Christianity, click here.

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