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Stirring up the Waters of Faith
on 21 September 2005
There's no doubt that McLaren is controversial, especially in the Christian community in his home country. They see him as a stirrer, someone making trouble, leading the church to the edge of spiritual bankruptcy, holding out a dangerous and relativistic message. "God is for you, so it doesn't really matter what you believe". For sure, it's a pretty hollow charicature.
On the other hand, McLaren really is a stirrer - in the same way that fish die in an aquarium where the water is not oxygenated, the author understands that there is a type of stagnancy in much modern Christian thinking. All the important questions are perceived to have been asked, the answers have ben provided, so it's really just a question of who's in and who's out. And of course, if you are a protestant evangelical, the chances are that your particular tradition has had up to 500 years to define exactly who is out, with ever increasing degrees of theological hair-splitting.
McLaren's key thought is that removing the message of Jesus from the constraints of a modern worldview and allowing it to breathe again in the relatively unconstrained emerging postmodern culture, allows for a deeper and better understanding of what it means to live collectively as Christians.
Or to put it another way, Christians have spent so long worrying about the purity of our beliefs, the quality of our Orthodoxy, that we have in many instances become sub-Christian, in that we have forgotten HOW we must put our beliefs into action (Orthopraxy). The New Testament was written decades after the death of Jesus and is in many ways, the theology that emerged after reflecting on the mission that had happened. But somehow it has become a flat, historical record of detached 'truth' used to identify and judge outsiders.
McLaren seeks to synthesise the very best theological elements from the traditions and movements in the book's title and make us aware, that all these benefits are open to us, rather than forcing ourselves to chose and defend the merits of one tradition over another. At heart is the direction that the church may move in and he hopefully charts a new form of ecumenism that is not based on down-playing our differences, but recognising the wonderful character of God that unites us.
I found this a very thought provoking and encouraging read. We need more people like McLaren who reflect the generous character of Jesus in their work and writings.