So what? or The What-Do-We-Do-Now Question

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This is the tenth and final 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 What-Do-We-Do-Now Question: How can we translate our quest into action?

The final question that McLaren presents us with is really not a question that the Church is asking but is the question that the movement he is calling for needs to ask. This full out application, how do we move forward in light of the answers given to the previous nine questions?  To answer this question McLaren turns to historians to help frame his answer.  Specifically he calls on the macro-historian to help us understand where we are in the human quest.  He labels each movement of humanity with a color of the rainbow.

  • The Red Zone: The Quest for Survival: This is where all humanity begins.  We have a need for food, water, shelter and look to the gods or God to provide this for us.
  • The Orange Zone: The Quest for Security: We look to the gods of God to be our Warrior, Protector, Provider in relation to other clans. Current example: Current examples: Prosperity Gospel Churches and Pentecostals.
  • The Yellow Zone: The Quest for Power: We developed city-states and needed God to ordain them as good to keep the people in line under the authority of kings and emperors. Current examples: Fundamentalists and Hyper Calvinists.
  • The Green Zone: The Quest for Independence: We found the earthly kings to be oppressors and so we needed God to become a judge who mandated laws and punishment.  Current examples: Those developing systematic theology.
  • The Blue Zone: The Quest for Individuality: Thanks to law and judgment based on rationality we are now free to pursue God’s “blessing” on our plans and salvation became individualistic. Current example: Mega-churches.
  • The Indigo Zone: The Quest for Honesty: We realize that through our rampant individualism we have done great harm to the creation and one another in the name of God and we call for an honest re-assessment. Current example: Emergent Church Movement.
  • The Violet Zone: The Quest for Ubuntu: Once we have come to the place of honesty where we are humbled we begin the seventh quest for healing.  This is the peace, shalom, or ubuntu: embracing one-anotherness, common-goodness, and interconnectedness.

In light of this, McLaren argues, that we need to have “indigo” Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and others come together to create a “violet” zone where healing and unity can take place.  This zone,

“…challenges us, then, to learn to see in a completely new and unpracticed way, to forgo seeing previous stages in the old dualistic terms of good/evil or right/wrong.  As we get acclimated to the violet zone, we learn to see all previous zones as appropriate and adequate for their context, just as we consider infancy, childhood, and adolescence as appropriate and adequate in their time, not bad, evil, or wrong.  Similarly, the new stage into which we are growing isn’t right; it’s simply appropriate and adequate for the challenges we now face. (237)”

To support this religious evolutionary mindset McLaren argues from 1 Corinthians 13:11-14:1:

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11–14:1 ESV)

It is here that McLaren sees Paul calling for an evolution in our understanding.  He argues that Paul is calling for a consistent move away from exclusive faith to an inclusive faith because in so doing we find greater wholeness and ubuntu.

Reflections

I appreciate McLaren’s desire to bring some closure to the discussion.  I am thankful that in this chapter he has laid his cards on the table and allowed us to fully understand his presuppositions. I also think that his use of other disciplines is warranted and appreciated.  It is always helpful for us to think through our faith from the macro-historical level.

I read this chapter and my breaking heart finally broke.  I found so much in this work that I appreciate but this heart broke me because in it I found that McLaren was not calling for a new kind of Christianity just an old kind of religious pluralism.  I felt as though I was reading John Hick from nearly fifteen years ago. McLaren could have just pointed us to a Newsweek article on how we are all becoming Hindus and made it easier on himself.

The treatment of 1 Cor 13:11-14:1 does not do justice to the passage and ignores it’s immediate context. The problems that the Corinthians had was in-house.  This passage is in connection to the worship service and is followed by chapter fifteen’s description of the resurrection and its centrality to the faith.

Conclusion

To close these posts I want to say that I recommend a reading of McLaren’s text.  The reason is that it provides a good dialogue partner.  McLaren raises many questions that need to be answered.  In the near future I will seek to give my own perspectives on these ten questions.  Some of the answers are better than others.  Some of the pendulum swings are necessary and good.  However, at the end all of this is left wanting because Jesus the crucified and resurrected God the Son is strangely absent.  His uniqueness is set aside in the name of “peace”.  Yet Paul in his letter to the Romans is quite clear, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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