Brian McLaren’s new book

Guest blogger in the backyard: Jarrod McKenna

Forge has said of Brian McLaren that he is “one of the most influential leaders in the Western Church” today. Brian McLaren has been amazingly supportive of my work and EPYC.

Today in the mail I received an opportunity to bless this brother back. His publisher has sent me his newest book “Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope” to review before it’s released later this year.

In the mean time here is a review of Brian’s last book a brilliant popularisation of some of the biggest theological influences on me (N.T. Wright, John H. Yoder, Walter Wink, Walter Brueggemann and my mentor and professor for biblical ethics Dr. Lee Camp) called “What Emerging out of the Emerging Church”.

Below is a short clip of Brian reading from his new book and Brian’s thoughts what Our Peace Tree Community and Empowering Peacemakers (aka EPYC):

Brian McLaren“In my travels around the world, I see a lot to inspire cynicism -including a lot of shabby religious stuff I’d rather not even give examples of. But I also meet people who inspire hope and courage in me -emerging young leaders who “get” Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God, and who are living it and giving it away. They see the integral nature of mission – that it brings together God and humanity, humanity and creation, grace and nature, contemplation and action, evangelism and social justice, faith and politics, the making of disciples and the making of peace. Jarrod McKenna and friends are beautiful examples of this new breed of emerging integral leaders. I thank God for them. May their tribe increase!” Brian McLaren

link to video []

27 thoughts on “Brian McLaren’s new book

  1. Are you really into Walter Wink?

    His views on human sexuality are contrary to Scripture ? And his handling of Scripture is undermining of its Authority (maybe there are two Walter Winks)

    And Bruggeman denies the historical relability of large slabs of Old Testament Narrative?

    Should I be worried?


  2. G’day Gav

    As someone who has found some of Brueggemann’s work really interesting and dare I say it even helpful, is it not possible to have questions/disagreements with some of his perspectives too – or do certain perspectives disqualify all other thoughts/insights?

    Personally, I like NT Wright’s take on it – he often said to his students something like this, “I’m certain some of what I’m about to teach you is wrong – your job is to work out which bits!”



  3. Hamo – what if you read the book and don’t like it?

    “Bruggeman denies the historical relability of large slabs of Old Testament”

    I’d consider that a plus for Bruggeman.

  4. Hence you are the friendly athiest with a jaded experience of Catholic Christianity …is that right Grendel…I don’t want to misrepresent you ?


    PS: Broady, I am all for reading other flavours!

    You just need to remember that you are eating fruit from a poisonous tree! An anti-supernatural reading of Old Testament narrative is a false reading on Scriptures own terms ! The God of the Bible is big enough to do such things… If he can create the universe from scratch with a word, providing manna in the wilderness is a snack! Brueggeman is stimulating but his antisupernaturalist reading of OT narrative undermines his conclusions.


  5. Gav,

    I think that anyone representing the Bible as an accurate historical record is making a mistake. That is not to say that events in the bible do not indeed reflect events that happened – the the emphasis and magnitude are altered because the bible is a religious text – not a record of history. Those who participated in the authorship of the book we now know as the bible were not writing history, they were writing what they felt was the word of God or expressing events in ways they felt gave glory to God.

    The way you approach such writing is inherently different to writing history.

    Actually I don’t have “a jaded experience of Catholic Christianity” I had a pretty good time growing up as a Catholic, what I don’t have is belief that the underlying tenets are true. I could still pass for a Christian in a crowd if you measured only by behaviour.

  6. It is not about opinion it is about logic.

    If the Scriptures are self consciously supernatural and a authentically Christian World view has a supernatural scope. Then to take a naturalist reading of Biblical histroy relegates theology to anthropology. You either kill God off and relegate him to the figment of human imagination, or you gag God render him as transcendant and unknowable. The God of the bible is neither of these. The God of the Bible has made himself known through his Word. Jesus took the historical character of Old Testanment narrative seriously, and I think it seems wise that we should too! Of course The Old Testament it is not all narrative, some poetry, some law, some apocalayptic, some prophetic, But where there is historical narrative we ought to read it as historical narrative ! Gav.

  7. Hmmm… I need to disagree Gav! 🙂

    Logic does not prevent conflicting interpretations of the same text.

    In fact you could argue that ‘logically’ different people with different backgrounds will inevitably read scripture differently.

    To claim your own perspective as the biblical one is very dangerous. (See Rob Bell in VelvetElvis for some good thoughts on this)

    I wonder when a person’s view becomes poisonous? How much would a person’s view need to differ from yours for them to be poisonous?

  8. i reckon some of my views on things are definitely contrary to scripture… i.e., depending on who you ask to define scripture 🙂

    i mean, gandhi seemed to recognise and accept the wisdom and authority in Christ’s teachings, and his intepretation of the sermon on the mount, was clearly proven in his own writings, but most importantly (where many of us “chrisitians” fall down) validated in his daily life – but i’m guess he would fall into the “poisonous” genus too.

    Yet to be unwilling to learn from him as a man who deeply discerned and responded to the eternal truth of Christ, seems simply to be an unecessary exclusion, based on a very thin sense of personal authority and judgement.

    In saying that, i recognise that i sustain a daily ritual of invalidating people based on my own thoughts, prejudices and biases – most of these have to do with whether i like them or not, agree with them or not, have had a cup of coffee or not 🙂

    all in all, i guess i disagree pretty strongly with you Gav, but recognise that’s got nothing to do with the price of milk either.


  9. I find some brilliant inspiration in the writings of Christians and non-Christians alike.

    I find truth in these writings

    I also find truth in the Bible. I also believe the Bible is truth.

    I find that beyond my belief in these statements it really does get hazy, because I am human and a tad imperfect – no really!

  10. I am trying to keep a couple of these threads of discussion together. Here are a couple of random responses to continue discussion …

    1. There are some issues that are black and white according to the Bible. Gospel issues, that to contradict them is to contradict central teaching of the Bible, and Christianity. Likewise there are grey issues on which even Christians are free to disagree. We need to work out which is which and this is not always easy. But “False teaching” is a category that Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John as contributors to the New Testament all have fiercely strong views about. How do you take seriously the injunctions against false teaching if ideas are merely a matter of opinion? How do explain 2 Peter 2, 1 John 2:18-27, Galatians 1:6-9, or Jesus in the Sermon on the mount, Matt 7:15-23….etc

    2. You are right to point out my opinion is irrelevant but how do you handle Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount about false teaching ? Is that just his opinion ?

    “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

    Bad fruit comes from a bad tree and ought to be “thrown into the fire” that is just the opinion of Jesus not Gav.

    3. In the light of the Sermon on the Mount subjectivism collapses under the weight of it’s own meaninglessness. Is God dead or mute?

    4. Human writings make us wise for life under the Sun and stir the soul. The Scriptures make us wise for Salvation. You won’t find that kind of truth anywhere but the Bible. That is what is unique about the Bible.

    5. Is it not sinfulness and hard heartedness that are the root cause of some different interpretations not faulty logic but a faulty heart…the heart that refuses it’s creator.

    Hamo, Broady, Grendel, Otherendup (and other viewers) I think it is time for a group HUG!


    PS. Unfortunately I am away for a few days to respond further. Throw me to the lions!

  11. Sorry Gav, the Lions all went vegetarian so marytrdom will have to wait!

    Your point about good/bad fruit is welcome as it opens up the possibility of examining Gandhi in that light also – did his actions and teachings bear good fruit or bad?

  12. Gav raises valid points IMHO. Certainly this is just me speaking but, in observing this conversation and others like it, I wonder in all our efforts as ‘experimental’ missionaries’ to convince people to like God and His Son if we are no longer concerned with inspiring our neighbours to respect or fear God and His Son?

  13. I agree Gav raises some good points Lance, but I don’t agree with them all…

    Is exploring our theology and making sure we are following God as revealed in scripture rather than the God we have inherited of the same order as what you suggest?

    Seriously – how do we learn if we don’t explore and experiment and question?

    Given that in 2000 years of Christian history we have often got things wrong and needed reformations etc, how do those things happen unless people ask questions and seem (apparently) disparaging of the inherited tradition?

    How would you go about things?

  14. I’m not sure the people I know that are experimenting missionally are trying to convince people to like God and his son – that sounds like the seeker-style services many of us ran away from.

    i think this has more to do with recognising God in the shards of his glory that are scattered throughout all of creation, including other people, other theologies and other religions.

    Just because some one has captured a glimpse of the Truth, does not mean they label it correctly, or even recognise it consciously – but that doesn’t make it any less True.

    To choose to stay within the modern western version of the church and its modern western interpretation of the ancient scriptures is to ignore the centuries of theological change that has continued to occur within Christianity, and will continue to change for centuries to come.

    Do we think what we believe about God, let alone what we call Him, changes who he really is? The changes reflect the incomprehensible nature of Yaweh, and our finite attempts to contain the fullness of Him within our little fragile minds.

    Pete Rollins captures this stuff beautifully in “How (not) to speak of God” – brilliant book on the limitations of our language and our ability to comprehend God and how to celebrate and rest in this tension.

  15. “I think this has more to do with recognising God in the shards of his glory that are scattered throughout all of creation, including other people, other theologies and other religions. ”

    Matt, I think that is one of the most profoundly beautiful expressions of Christianity I have ever read.

  16. Amen to that Grendal!

    It’s an amazing when people not just talk about the gospel but do it in ways that reflect the gospel. Where grace, mercy, nonviolence, humility and love are not just ideas about Jesus but palatable experiences of him.

    Matt I too think this is beautiful. You’ve managed to name the uniqueness, yet the unmonopolisability (Did I just invent a word? ;)), of the God revealed in Jesus. Lets pray that our lives will embody the beauty that’s felt in Matt’s words. This beauty that through Jesus will one day flood all of creation.

  17. “Very briefly, fundamentalism can be understood as a particular way of believing one’s beliefs rather than referring to the actual content of one’s beliefs. It can be described as holding a belief system in such a way that it mutually excludes all other systems, rejecting other views in direct proportion to how much they differ from one’s own. In contrast, the a/theistic approach can be seen as a form of disbelieving what one believes, or rather, believing in God while remaining dubious concerning what one believes about God (a distinction that fundamentalism is unable to maintain)…”

    Rollins, P. (2006). How (not) to speak of God. p. 26

  18. Fair point, Hamo. I suppose we are wrestling here. But, for the wrestling to produce blessing, we must wrestle within certain boundaries.

    In seeking, we must acknowledge what God has allowed us to find. I must believe that God is who he said he is. I must believe that Jesus is who he said he is. And, since I was not an eyewitness to these claims of word and deed, I must believe that those claims are recorded in “God’s Word” historically and accurately. Otherwise I’m guessing more than I should and that ‘s like wrestling someone who poured baby oil all over himself.

    otherendup, please notice that I said “our” efforts in reference to experimental efforts. I am not interested in returning to “modern western interpretation”. I am only disciple making as Jesus taught.

    I also appreciate your reference to Shekinah. But, isn’t our tasks as Jesus followers not just settling to find the shards but to help put the shards together as well?

    In response to your quote on fundamentalism, I quote Jesus, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Apparently Jesus didn’t believe that all roads lead to life in abundance. There are fundamentals to learn. I guess the rub is which are fundamentals and which are not.

  19. “…i blurted out that i thought the notion of evangelical identity was a non issue, an issue from a bygone era, a defensive posture and something i didn’t relate to even though i appreciate the heritage i have. it’s about being part of a tribe. i said that for me being a disciple of christ in the global and historical body of christ was enough. i didn’t need or relate to the narrower construct. and something i have learned through cms is that we really only know who christ is as we see his many faces and representations round the world. so rather than defending ourselves from others as we know what’s right (or think we do!) we should be celebrating the diversity and richness they bring to the table. the take on truth that evangelicalism has had really doesn’t seem to respond well to postmodern insights of our embeddedness that requires minimally humility about truth claims. even something like penal substitution that evangelicals get so hot and bothered about is a western understanding of the cross shaped by our context. i read a chapter recently in a book from a missionary in japan who pointed out that the legal substitution makes no sense in shame based cultures and they have to read or open up the meaning of christ’s death in very different ways. as you can imagine that was an interesting start! of course part of the debate is about language – what do we mean by evangelical and some people want to reclaim or reform it? but for me it’s a term whose shelf life has run out as is the term liberal for similar reasons. and i’m not even post evangelical because i don’t even construct identity in relation to it…”

    from jonny baker’s blog yesterday (

  20. these other “voices” that I’m bringing into the dialogue seem to better capture my thoughts, in a way that i often can’t construct faithfully through my own language. And I thought they might be of interest to others too 😉


  21. Lance you wrote” “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Apparently Jesus didn’t believe that all roads lead to life in abundance.”

    I totally agree with you here. What’s interesting for us is to look at this in the context of Matthew’s gospel. What has Matthew just spent 3 chapters saying that Jesus is saying is the “narrow road”? What are the things we would do if we were on it? I really love that you keep bringing us back to Scripture. I think if we can be brave enough to read it in context it has the power to take us beyond “verse wars”.

  22. found this at the churches of christ WA blog…

    Stephen Curkpatrick here with a brief reflection that may be useful for congregation …..

    “Christians are often surrounded by diverse religious beliefs and practices. This is not new. Christians are also in various forms of evangelical dialogue within human culture. This dialogue is about good news. Its expressions are as varied as human needs and paths of life, while the good news relates to a shared reality for all humans—each person is unique and living with a horizon of death with its subtle impact on life.

    The good news of God’s demonstrative love in Jesus Christ invokes dialogue with any person, whatever their cultural or religious allegiances. This may occur in deeds that are experienced as good news, which is later declared and heard in words; it may occur in words that enlighten the desire for good news, leading to transformation of a person’s deeds.

    However it begins and with whatever words and deeds it is expressed, evangelical dialogue transcends culture and religion as good news that God, in the initiative of disclosure and love, invites every person into a communion of grace and life. Jesus Christ is the focus of this disclosure; the Holy Spirit is its transforming possibility for any person.

    In reality, evangelical dialogue is not between Christian faith and any religion but between the gospel of God and human beings.”

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