Friday, February 26, 2010

Scot McKnight on Brian McLaren

Here is a review of Brian McLaren's new book, A New Kind of Christianity, by Scot McKnight in Christianity Today. He begins with the following two sentences: "Brian McLaren has grown tired of evangelicalism. In turn, many evangelicals are wearied with Brian." He goes on to say: "If evangelicalism is characterized by David Bebbington's famous quadrilateral—that is, biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism—then Brian has poked and, to one degree or another, criticized, deconstructed, and rejected each."

But, according to McKnight, McLaren is going much further in this book than simply challenging Evangelical distinctives. He is moving beyond orthodoxy itself. McKnight notes that McLaren has adopted an old way of reading the Bible, namely, the 19th century evolutionary approach of liberal Protestantism and then says:
"Reading the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ is indeed the way to go. But to use Jesus against the God of Israel he worshiped and prayed to and loved and obeyed pits us against what Jesus himself is doing.

One must also ask the root question: How do we determine what is less or more "mature"?

In particular, the evolutionary theory of God contains another fatal flaw. It's not the fact that it was tried out in the 19th-century Religionsgeschichtliche Schule ("history of religion school") of Germany and has been shown inadequate (though it finds an occasional admirer in folks like Karen Armstrong). And it's not the fact that the category of "evolution" is about as modernistic and imperialistic of a category I can think of. No, the singular flaw is this: The flow of the Bible is not neat. It doesn't fit into an evolutionary scheme. There are as many mercy passages in the Old Testament as there are grace-and-love passages in the New. What's more, passages about God's grace stand side-by-side with passages about God's wrath (e.g., Hosea 1-3; Matt. 23-25). The evolutionary approach doesn't work because that's not how Scripture's narrative works. There is wrath in Revelation and there is covenant love in Genesis. And Jesus talks more about Abba and hell than does the rest of the Bible combined."

McKnight pulls no punches in this review and if this is what McLaren's friends think of his book, one wonders what those who have been suspicious of him all along will say. McKnight ends the review as follows:

"Alas, A New Kind of Christianity shows us that Brian, though he is now thinking more systemically, has fallen for an old school of thought. I read this book carefully, and I found nothing new. It may be new for Brian, but it's a rehash of ideas that grew into fruition with Adolf von Harnack and now find iterations in folks like Harvey Cox and Marcus Borg. For me, Brian's new kind of Christianity is quite old. And the problem is that it's not old enough."

1 comment:

Gordon Hackman said...

Hi Dr. Carter. I enjoy your blog. I made a comment regarding your previous post on Brian McClaren's new book, but it doesn't seem to have ever been approved. I'm not sure if it was received or not.

Anyway, the gist of my comment was that I've grown weary of emergent (like Scot and others. I attend a church with loose ties to emergent, too.) and especially what seems to me like the mealy-mouthed equivocation that constantly comes from people like McClaren and his defenders. It seems that they constantly make statements that call into question orthodox Christian belief, and then when someone points it out they say that the critic doesn't really understand them or is being mean spirited or some such thing.