Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Reading Rundown

I've been reading a lot of Brian McLaren in the last month. I appreciate his mind and his outlook, not to mention his remarkable grace in writing and dealing with sensitive matters. Let me give you a quick blurb of my opinions about the books I've recently read of his.

A New Kind of Christian

I read this a few months ago, but I should really start with this to pave the way for the rest of what I'm going to talk about. This was a cutting edge book written right at the time the Emerging ChurchMovement was being born. The book is about the shift from modernity to postmodernity.

I should mention, each of the books in this series is written in narrative form. I've read other books like this too, where it is written in narrative but the point is the material the characters talk about rather than the story itself. This method can tend to be really dry and cheesy as far as the story goes, showing very obviously that the narrative needs to get out of the way for the "material" that the author wants to share. This trilogy is not like that at all. McLaren is very good at writing story and makes the story important. He pulls you into the characters and their lives, emotions, and feelings.

In A New kind of Christian, a pastor (Dan Poole) is fed up with the ministry and the fundamentalist, simplistic rut that his church is stuck in. He starts making plans to quit and get another job, when he meets a guy who goes by the nickname "Neo", who begins to help him see a shift that is starting to happen in the world and in the church. The book is the story of several months in Dan's life as he goes on this mental and philosophical journey with Neo. It is a great book. It is one of those I want to reread sometime soon.

The Story We Find Ourselves In

About a month ago, I jumped back into the series and read this, book two in the New Kind of Christian Trilogy. It involves telling the story of God in the Bible and how he works in our lives. It deals with evolution (how a person can be a Christian and embrace evolution) among other topics. It is my least favorite of the trilogy, but still worth reading.

The Last Word and the Word After That

The last in the series, but a very good book. The book is primarily about Hell, but dabbles a bit in talking about homosexuality as well. It involves the same characters (Dan, Neo, and others), and Dan's search to find out what he really believes about Hell, and whether Hell is the point. There is a great look at the history of the different beliefs about Hell predating Jesus, and what Jesus' audience would have had as a context when he talks about Hell. It is a very interesting study.

In addition, the narrative part of the series really hits a fever pitch in this volume. You go on a very hard, emotional ride with Dan in this book. I don't like this quite as much as A New Kind of Christian, but it is definitely a close second.

Generous Orthodoxy

In Generous Orthodoxy, you see Brian for who he is. After reading the trilogy above, it was nice to have him just come out and say it, if you know what I mean.

I love the idea of the book, that we should embrace all of these different streams of Christianity for the good that they bring to the table, rather than fight about the differences. The book is good, but the primary arch, this theme that he continues throughout, is the greatest contribution that the book makes. After establishing this point and telling a bit of his testimony, Brian begins going through a number of movements one by one, taking out what he admires about each one (streams like liberal/conservative, protestant/catholic, Calvinist, Emergent, unfinished, etc.).

It is a pretty good read, worth a purchase.

Next on my plate is They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball and Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf. In a few months I may go back to McLaren, and if so the next in line would be The Secret Message of Jesus followed by Everything Must Change. Anybody read any of these?


Chip Burkitt said...

Nick, I don't know how you find time for all the reading. <sound of hand slapping forhead> Oh, wait. Now I remember. You don't have kids yet.

I've been reading Your Inner Fish, about the evolution of the human body. It's been slow going because—you guessed it—I have kids.

mark said...

Evolution and our fishy past, explains hiccups. :)