Brian McLaren – Are you a heretic?

I love Brian McLaren. After my burnout, someone bought me a copy of A New Kind of Christian, and it was just what I needed. I’d started to rethink what I had inherited in terms of my paradigms and philosophy. I needed new ways for tough times, and McLaren offered me some new ways to think. It’s all fairly controversial stuff for conservative evangelicals, but adventure is part of my ethos, and what’s an adventure without dabbling in a little danger?

He was recently interviewed by Scott McKnight to try and clarify Brian’s position on key issues that has led some to brand him a heretic. Here’s the video and my response to it.

I totally get what McLaren is saying in this video. Instead of answering some of the the questions in a yes/no fashion, he’s trying to say that the question itself arises out of a mindset or paradigm that is asking the wrong questions.

He’s taking umbrage with the philosophy behind the question, which is the very thing he’s trying to change. I love it! He’s turning the heat up on the paradigm that asks the question. He knows the other paradigm as well as his new paradigm, so he’s fluent in both. It would be easier to answer the question, but not as useful. The conversation would be so much better if the questioner was also fluent in both.

If McLaren answered yes/no, that would enable dogmatic Christians to definitively write him off as wrong, never to listen to him again rendering his role in the kingdom as a thinker, provocateur, trail blazing, paradigm pioneer ineffective. There’s something greater than knowing right from wrong (the promise of satan in genesis) – McLaren wants people to think! But most Christians don’t want to. As he says, they just want to first know if an author is right, then they’ll listen or read their book.

I love his analogy to listening to music. I don’t give a toss what an artist believes in or if a musician is right, I’ll listen to his music if it sounds good and I’ll buy it and enjoy it.

Finally, I love his thoughtfulness and tone. He’s not antagonistic or defensive, he embodies what he advocates – that conversations about what we believe , rather than defending what we believe is the answer to being able to engage all people in meaningful dialogue and relationship, rather than having Christians bang on from one side of a very high, self-erected  wall at “non-christians” on the other, who either aren’t really listening or worse, listening and hitting back.


3 Responses

  1. This guy – Brian McLaren – articulates the thoughts that I’ve been struggling to say for so long. He’s absolutely dead-on when it comes to the paradigm of thought that he describes after the first question: the constant search for heretic thought behind every speech. And he illustrates so well the whole dynamic of understanding that the image of God is in everyone, whether they will it or not. Therefore the atheist, the agnostic, the unchurched, the homosexuals, the divorced, the poor, all have God’s DNA in them. If you scratch the surface of almost any person you’ll find a gem not consistent perhaps with how they were raised. You may find a kindness that modern sociologists would suggest should not be there. You’ll hear the music they create and realize there’s an otherworldliness about it, a triumph of spirit that they didn’t know was in them.

    Once you get out of the rigid dogmatic “my way or the highway” type of ultimately anti-Christlike thinking, you discover a field of wonder. You can’t help it. And it so very liberating.

    Man, I have GOT to read some of his books. This is just amazing.

  2. Yeah spot on WS…. when we have this perspective, we’re not so fixated on who’s in and who’s out, but rather that we have more in common that we have different. This engenders conversation rather than yelling matches and arguments over theology, philosophy and ideas. It’s no wonder the world doesn’t want to listen to Christians!

    I’ve read A New Kind of Christian, and The Secret Message of Jesus and loved them. Of course conservative evangelicals like to write him off as liberal, but I’d prefer to say he was post modern, or emergent.

  3. Read also Richard rohr’s everything belongs (or almost anything by him), rob bell’s “Jesus wants to save christians”, steve chalk’s “the lost message of Jesus”… My theology started shifting before burnout, and the disconnect between conservative evangelicals and a culturally impacting gospel contributed to my disillusionment and thus burnout. I once preached that the hero of the parable of the good Samaritan was the man best up on the side of the road because he aroused compassion in the Samaritan simply because he identified with being broken, lost, unclean (& is Christ). I was ‘corrected’ by the elders for re-interpreting scripture. The hero is the Samaritan Bobby, good works are what please God. Odd how felt drawings of childhood persist. I did not suggest that the Samaritan is the non-Christian in today’s context, although he is

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