A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey
Brian D McLaren
Category: Emerging Church & Postmodern Faith
It's easy to get lost in the post — but it's supposed to happen to letters, not people. Christians, of no fixed abode (see Hebrews 11:13-16) but so often with a fixed mindset, seem to be especially susceptible. Postmodernism, postevangelicalism, postchristianity. Dirty words, and with that many syllables, it's hardly surprising there's a mess when they hit the fan... but by then it's usually too late to run and hide, you're already lost.
A New Kind of Christian, as the subtitle tells us, is a tale of two friends on a spiritual journey. But it's more than that: it's also a description of the author's own spiritual journey. McLaren isn't writing pure fiction: he's taking us into his own story.
Dan's a white pastor, an evangelical, and he's having a crisis: he thinks he's lost the plot, thinks he's losing his faith. Neo's a black school teacher and he helps Dan on his journey into postmodernism: out of the rock-solid and rigid certainties of Dan's thoroughly modern evangelicalism into a more fluid, dynamic way of thinking. Dan's terrified: he thinks he's turning liberal. But he discovers that Christian liberalism is as lost in the post as he is. The old categories don't fit: to survive means becoming a new kind of Christian. Will he make it? Will you? Will I?
This book is, quite simply, brilliant. McLaren uses his story both to explain postmodernism and to equip his readers — that's you & me — to handle it. Pushing my analogy to breaking point: the lid's clean off the box, Pandora's pets have escaped and we've got to learn to live with them. There are still plenty of people trying to put the lid back on, to shove the monsters back inside, to hand the parcel back to the postman or postwoman, get it into the sorting office.
They don't seem to realise that the postman and postwoman are part of the problem. They've kicked the box around until it burst. The sorting office won't accept it: you've got to get it sorted yourself, outside the box — and Dan & Neo's conversations will help you do that. All kinds of issues are discussed: infallibility and biblical interpretation, morality, evangelism, the nature of truth, spirituality, other religions...
If you're an evangelical feeling lost in the postmodern era, take heart: you are not alone. And for God's sake and your own, read this book. It won't save you from the journey — but it will help you survive it.
Phil Groom, October 2004
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.Jossey-Bass | Order from www.christianbookshops.org