Most helpful critical review
36 of 49 people found the following review helpful
I simply believe the premise is flawed
on 3 May 2010
I am not a Calvinist. Like Mclaren I am charismatic and non-Reformed. I gave it 2 stars (instead of 1) because I felt the book, like Tim Keller's "Reason for God", addressed good and valid questions that people are asking today. I gave it 2 stars because I believe the premise of the book is faulty. Please let me explain:
Mclaren basis the entire book on one historical premise: that the Church, at the time of Constantine, imported neo-Platonism into Christianity and Christian faith has been defunct ever since. He says that Platonist ideas such as atonement, hell, just-war theory, a literalistic view of the Bible and the exclusivity of Christ are all ideas foreign to Christianity but were Greek and Roman ideas brought in by Constantine and others. Throughout the book he refers to traditional Christian belief as the "Greco-Roman story line" which he contrasts with his version of Christianity which he presents as true Christianity.
IF Mclaren's understanding of history is correct, then this really is a revolutionary book. Everything I have ever read and learned about this epoch of Church history however, leads me to believe that Mclaren's premise, and therefore all of his conclusions which he extrapolates throughout the book, are incorrect.
Now, that could mean that all the book I have ever read on the subject are wrong. But if that is so, then Mclaren needs to write a much larger book just to establish his premise is valid. The book does not attempt to explain why other branches of Christianity which grew up outside of the Roman empire or outside of the range of Greek thought (Ethiopian, Syrian, Indian, etc) also held to these beliefs. He also needs to explain why the early church fathers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, who lived before Constantine, also embraced many of the views which Mclaren says is foreign to Christianity. These are questions Mclaren does not address in great, if any, detail which he should if he hopes to convince those who are historically minded.
Outside of his premise he then address relevant questions about God and violence, pluralism, the authority of the Bible, etc. He promotes an idea in which the view of God "evolves" through out the Bible from primitive to advanced. For example he writes of Noah and flood in chapter 11, "a god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship". Mclaren sees God's judgments on humanity as "violent" and therefore primitive. In order to maintain his evolutionary view he then tries to take the violence out of the of the book of Revelation saying that it's not about Jesus coming back to punish the wicked but it is rather an allegory about pacifism triumphing over militarism by turning the other cheek. That is an exegetical long shot. I do not think he gave it enough time and space to make me think that it is a possible or a valid reading of the book.
As in other books, he does a good amount of evangelical bashing, though he usually does it in a way that seems nice. Yet, when he is done I can not help but want to think of conservative evangelicals as redneck idiots.