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on 19 October 2013
I found this book a gripping read, with very useful information in the footnotes. He argues for a more credible and useful approach to the Bible than what he calls the 'constitutional approach' to the Bible (the tendency in evangelical circles to see it as a doctrinal and rule-based book). He shows how throughout history many evangelicals have often been on the wrong side of the argument (e.g. those that argued that slavery was biblical) and that they may well be on the wrong side of current debates around human sexuality. He shows how fundamentalist fascination with the 'end times' is based on a misunderstanding of scripture. He argues for an inclusive faith based on working to establish the Kingdom of God (as proclaimed by Jesus) in the here and now , a mission that is fuelled by the confidence that the Kingdom is based on what is eternal. Within its scope it is brilliant, a book that would indeed transform the faith if only it was read widely and with an open mind. It wonderfully dismantles fundamentalism and challenges the limitations of conservative interpretations of Christianity. Brilliant as it is (and my summary has not done justice to its brilliance), there are a number of limitations of scope that have held me back from giving it five stars. First, Brian says little that liberals have not recognised decades ago (and that I realised a couple of decades ago). The main difference is that Brian avoids getting caught up in issues around the literal nature of miracles etc, exactly what the historical Jesus said, which New Testament letters were genuinely written by Paul etc - the kind of issues that Bishop Spong addresses in books such as 'Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism'. He seems to believe that compared to the issues he has raised, the kind of issues biblical scholars debate in their books are relatively minor. He is probably right on this, but not everyone will see it that way. Certainly his dismantling of fundamentalism might be more effective if he emphasised more the contradictions in a literal reading of the Bible. Second, many of the problems he identifies are transcended if one approaches Christianity from a mystical perspective - to the mystic it is obvious that Christianity is about the journey of dying to the ego, and and discovering the Source of life that makes awareness possible, rather than being about rules and theological doctrines. A mystic approach, to me, explains better what Christianity has to offer (saving us from the ego identification with separation, and finding our true selves in the eternal Wholeness) than the liberal build-a-better-society approach that Brian seems to propose (not that the two approaches are mutually exclusive, but a lot of what Brian proposes could equally be proposed by a compassionate humanist). Third, he does not challenge the ego's need for security in the way that Peter Rollins for example, does in 'Insurrection' and 'The Idolatry of God', Sooner or later the exploration of transforming the faith has to address whether Christianity offers security or instead dismantles the ego's need for it. The answer to this question will determine the shape of Christianity in the decades and centuries to come. But these limitations of scope are a minor issue in what is an excellent challenge to the Christian community. Whereas some evangelicals have - in response to emerging challenges - simply tried to add some modern rhetoric and greater compassion for the poor on top of their belief structures, Brian invites the believer to let go of what they have been clinging to, so as to advance into new territory (territory which, I believe, is not really new but a genuine expression of the kingdom/ realm/ system / society proclaimed by Jesus 2,000 years ago).
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on 18 August 2012
I am part of a theological ale drinking group of clergy that meet on a Sunday night in a pub over a pint or sometimes two of real ale.

When we suggested reading A new Kinda Christianity I almost refused on the grounds that my Evangelicalism had all but told me that Brian MacLaren was the anti-christ and deeply dangerous, to be avoided at all costs.

I had previously read a Generous Orthodoxy and found myself agreeing with him on the questions he was asking and also his observations. I then found myself warm to his possible direction of travel. But when it came to conclusions he then does a quantum leap into Liberalism...... too far sorry.

So this book was more of the same. Some of it hugely liberating and really helpful to me. I had been more and more conscious of the philosophical problems of the Augustinian Platonism that I had grown up with and was the bed rock of classical reformed evangelicalism. Especially the slightly (well quite a lot really) dodgy hermeneutical method and world view I had bought into for the last 26 years.

So Brian's book was well all pretty de-stabelising really... however what was exceptional about this book was that it left me believing in the Bible, Jesus, and the way of Kingdom of God being really good news to the world.... more than I had before.

However to my chagrin he then does His quantum link thingy and I go D'oh !!! Why do we have to go here ... So would I recommend it yes.... I think so.... yes, but not to everyone and not without reservations ...... if you are a reasonably mature believer and are able to go where the Bible takes you and stop there.... Then I would say yes read it.... As to Brian he isn't the baddy he is painted to be. On the contrary He is clearly a brother and a genuinely born again lover of Christ and man of God ... and the rest.... the conclusions if you can go there then fine personally not sure I can..... but well, Brian time will tell... Thanks for writing this, at least you are asking the important questions.
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on 15 March 2010
I recently went to a conference (Faithworks 360) and heard Brian McLaren talk. While the talk was more concise than the book (obviously) it was just enough to give me a hunger to read more.

I can barely put it down (i'm about halfway through). I don't find reading non-fiction books easy as, with 2 young children, i often only read to go to sleep, yet i've found myself curling up with this book like a good novel. The style of writing is both massively informative and warmly informal, drawing you into a web of hope and challenge.

There are times when it can become a bit 'listy' saying similar things repetitively...but then it is a recognised preaching technique (tell them what you're going to say, say it and say it again) and as i like what he's saying it's not yet got annoying, though i can see how it could do. This same inclination to preach does gloss over huge areas of accademia, but throughout the book this is acknowledged and comprehensive notes at the back give you further scope for reading and exploration.

There's nothing in here, so far, that i haven't felt and explored myself at some time or other. They really are 10 questions i feel compelled to explore and have had niggling at the back of my mind forever...

1. What is the overarching storyline of the Bible?

2. How should the Bible be understood?

3. Is God violent?

4. Who is Jesus and why is he important?

5. What is the Good News?

6. What do we do about the church?

7. Can we find a better way to address the issue of homosexuality?

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

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

10. How can we translate our quest into action?

Having studied at Bible College for 3 years i know there will be many Christians who will find this book more than challenging and upsetting. For them this will not be a comforting book at bedtime. While i have been labelled both liberal and conservative, depending who i'm talking to, for searching for the reality of God in the midst of difficult questions, others have stuck to what they know and have been taught. Reassuringly, this book does not condemn people for not thinking the same as the author, it encourages continued growth "with the renewing of your mind". McLaren puts reasoned and faithbased arguments to open up the discussion and encourage more debate.

This is not anti-Bible...i've never felt from one author more of a love for the Bible and its reading that i get from reading this. He loves the Bible and just as you love a person, you don't love them in a way you think they 'should' be loved, you love them as they would wish to be loved. He reads the Bible as the Bible demands to be read, not as a legal document with one style of writing but as many styles of writing from a growing, maturing culture in relationship with God.

This is not a book of answers. It is a book of Godly questions to encourage further discussion and enrich, potentially, the global community. Therefore, it is not a history book or a social analysis of where we are today. If it were, i wouldn't have read it and i wouldn't feel stronger and more hopeful in my faith and i am closer to God for that.

I look forward to my nightly read so my trashy novels will just have to wait.
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on 19 April 2015
I have studied, history and theology almost all m life. I work in the apologetics field and have become accustomed to reading anti Christian material. The Quran, Book of Mormon, JW books, atheist books, liberal theology. However tnis book has the privilege of being a book I couldn't finish three times because I was utterly and totally appalled at the misuse of history and theology it contains. It is truly the worst Christian book I have ever read. I am still shaking my head at the multiplicity of factual errors it contains let alone the errors of conclusion and interpretation. I am horrified because of the people it will mislead.
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on 29 October 2011
It is rare to find a book that stimulates and challenges your faith as effectively as this book. As the first reviewer says it does not particularly look at areas that have not considered before but it brings them together succinctly.
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on 9 March 2011
This book was so good I read it through twice, straight off. The first chapters (which constitute the Preface), describing the author's growing discomfort with, and then rejection of, the lobbying, campaigning, belligerant, intolerant, fundamentalist Evangelical church, resonated with me, and crystallised some of my own thinking on the subject. I too find their attitudes far removed from the way Jesus treated people in the New Testament.

Many of his comments on the need to reread the Bible in a different light were very helpful and thought-provoking particularly his analysis of how, historically, Bible-believing Christians came to reject slavery even thought some passages can be(and were) used to support it, and how the same interpretative process maybe needs to be applied to other hot theological issues today.

You do not need to agree with all of his conclusions (I don't - at least not yet) to get a great deal out of this book. It has certainly enriched my thinking and is making me reassess the basis for a lot of my Christian viewpoints (not, I hasten to say, before anybody misinterprets me, any of what I would consider fundamental Christian beliefs).

Other authors I have read over the past two or three years successfully deal with some of the issues Brian McLaren raises (e.g. Boyd, Gregory A., Satan and the Problem of Evil, The Myth of a Christian Religion; Alexander, Denis R., Creation or Evolution - Do we have to choose?; Webb, William J., Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis ), but this book covers more ground and has made me reflect more on a wide range of points.

I thoroughly recommend this book.
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on 28 July 2015
Read it! If you have any sort of Christian faith, read it with caution because it will challenge your traditional thinking on many 'pillars' of the traditional christain faith and only read it, if you are open to changing your thinking. For those who decry the author, have you read this book?
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on 12 September 2015
Presents a far more balanced approach to the bible, by understanding the original purpose of the writing and undoing the distorting filters of western thinking that we all use without realising. Extremely helpful and encouraging.
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on 6 June 2014
Highly recommend this book. It highlights some serious issues the church needs to address if we're to see a major breakthrough in the Western culture emerging in this new millennium. If you have been wrestling with issues such as how best to handle scripture, proclaim the Good News and see God, this is a must read. If you love religion, beware, it will anger you.
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on 5 August 2016
McLaren challenges the influence of Plato and Greco Roman philosophy on Western Christian thought. He goes on to discuss Genesis, Exodus and the Old Testament, subtly replacing the philosophy he rejects, with his own World view which is left wing, liberal and appears to be influenced by evolutionary science and post modernist thought. His attack on Greco Roman influence is warranted and is not a recent argument, however his apparent negativity about hermeneutics, exegesis and the relevance of Biblical authorship to modern times is largely unwarranted, the bad cases he quotes, including a support for slavery were just bad biblical interpretation, nothing more. Some of his comments about bible verses clashing are reminiscent of atheist thought, when checking the context of his quoted verses, they generally do not support his case. Generally this is a slipshod, poorly evidenced piece of work but a fascinating insight into one small facet of the emergent church movement. There appears to be an emerging trend of indifferently taught pastors and church leaders seeking their own insights into Christian belief, which are then presented as gems of original thought, arguably this may be one of them, but is interesting nevertheless. I decided to read it after watching a video from an 'emergent church pastor' who boasted of never reading the bible through and who rejected the identity of being a Christian on the basis that it had bad connotations on the Internet. The same church rejects all concepts of theology, hermeneutics, or exegesis, in an attempt to be cool they appear to be fully Pelagian and reject the concept of repentance. McLaren appears to be one of their influences.
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