This is the eighth post interacting with Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity. Please remember that I cannot reproduce the book in these posts. I will do my best to summarize without being overly simplistic or reductionistic. Each post will be two parts. The first will be a summary of McLaren’s discussion and the second will be my reflections.
The Future Question: Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
McLaren now sets to go to work on dispensational eschatology in his third question regarding the application of a new kind of Christianity. He paints a humorous and relatively accurate picture of the dispensational premillenial understanding of eschatology. McLaren sees in this understanding of the eschaton the inherent willingness to destruction and war because Jesus is coming back and will be setting the world right through massive bloodletting in the war of the apocalypse.
If this is the old way of understanding the future, then what is the right way? We are to understand the eschaton not from a perspective of a “fixed end point toward which we move, but rather a widening space opening into an infinitely expanding goodness. (195)” We are to reject the “soul/sort” universe where people are eternally sorted into eternal bins marked “redeemed” or “damned”.
No, the future is un-doomed (195). Jesus, by inaugurating his peaceable kingdom brings resurrection, liberation, reconciliation, and salvation. Judgment is the forgetting or destruction of things which are deemed unworthy and the good things of a person’s life will be saved, remembered, brought back for a new beginning.
McLaren argues for what he calls a “participatory eschatology” where we participate in God’s work and we anticipate it’s ultimate success (20o-201).
Anytime that the predominant dispensational premillenialist view of the eschaton is brought into question I am grateful. This understanding of Christ’s return is damaging and does violence to the text. It indeed brings about the concerns that McLaren highlights. Much of what is said in answering this question is to be commended.
I do find that there are two key problems that need to be highlighted (McLaren also does a poor job of handling the term, “parousia” but responding to that would make this post too long!). First, the issue of judgment from McLaren’s perspective is problematic in that it does not take into account the text. It is not that someone foisted the idea of “soul-sort” onto the text. Jesus describes the time when when he will sort the sheep from the goats. This is not simply a “forgetting” of the things that Jesus did not appreciate. This is a casting out from his presence. McLaren simply goes too far and is wrong.
The second problem is greater than the first. The second problem is that there is no sense of an actual end a “telos” if you will. The eschatology that McLaren proposes does not include an ending of time where we see a real redemption of all things. We do not see any understanding or description of the life to come. What we do have is a works based, faithless, evolutionary understanding of Christian religiosity.
I would encourage McLaren to spend some time reading and understanding fully amillenialism. This perspective handles his concerns and remains true to the biblical text.