I’ve just finished Brian McLarens “A New Kind of Christianity”. I’ll get straight to it:
ANKoXy is seminal. Radiant, packed with promise, extraordinarily incisive. It is a work of profound deconstruction and even more profound rebuilding. It takes particular care with the devils found in detail, while managing the sort of overview only angels might enjoy. It gathers from the most erudite minds in history, and delivers, without dumbing down, something for everyone.
This is a work for the 21st Century, complete with generous pipes leading from the well of history, especially the history of Christianity, and in holding together tremendous, age old tensions, it manages to purify the aquifers of Living Water of toxins that have been running rampant through our blood for 1600 years.
Many people will write many words issuing from McLarens swathe of theses. I won’t do that here; I want this not be to a review as much as an appreciation for what he has achieved. There are a few small problems, I grant (not defining “death”, p 49; some fuzziness around the 3D narrative, chap. 6; and pejorative use of “tribal” chap. 11), but their import is totally eclipsed by the singular integrity of ANKoXy.
But this integrity is not merely “systematic”: it is more the wholeness of the fruit of its own liberation, brimming with clarity, packed with sparkling and practicable ideas, and thoroughout maintaining focus on the central issue – The Love of God and how to experience and share it – while hosting a veritable library of current topics. And rather than further talking about cliches like “post modern” and “emergent” (3 or 4 mentions only) with which his name has come to be associated, Brian McLaren rather shows us aftermath of emergence. It is a land of fruitfulness, regeneration, and of transformation. No, more: it holds the potential to completely transfigure Christianity itself.
McLaren can be positioned on a passionate quest for the radical centre. He avoids the reactionary tendency, by living the questions, by a life discipline of “repenting” – becoming pensive again (rather than being filled with shame) – and by viewing the good of all in the light of God’s overarching purposes. Though challenging, and certainly revolutionary, Brian McLaren could be described as the ultimate conservative, learning from and following in the best in Christian tradition (particularly when stripped of the problematic framework picked up in the 4th century).
For me, the two standout achievements of ANKoXy are the description of the “Greco-Roman” narrative shape, and the reframing of the bible as an inspired library as opposed to divine constitution. And on top of these architectonic foundations, whole new continents of faith can emerge.
As a South African, I am deeply moved his embrace of Ubuntu – the African philosophy of community – as a good word to describe the mature stage of this quest. But more than that, Brian has managed an incredible feat of inclusivity, as the wonderful tome of footnotes attest, in showing us just what shared life is about. In them a dazzling array of sources, resources, references and anecdotes which underscore not just the depth of “A New Kind of Christianity”, but the authors life as lived as well.