Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren

In Everything Must Change, Brian McLaren develops the themes introduced in The Secret Message of Jesus to show how Jesus' radical new "framing story" is the solution to the global crises of our day. This book is by far the best by McLaren and is one of the best books I have read all year.

McLaren sees three crises in our world--the security crisis (the growing hostility between the developed nations and the poor, i.e. U.S. vs Al-Qaeda), the prosperity crisis (the unsustainability of free market "theo-capitalism" on our environment), and the equity crisis (the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer). I think McLaren is spot on in each of these crises, and I especially appreciated his analysis of the U.S. Al-Qaeda conflict. He calls the current dominating "framing story" (metanarrative) a suicide machine, meaning that if we keep operating the way we have been, we will destroy ourselves.

McLaren's solution to the global crises is the "revolution of hope"--substituting Jesus' message of the kingdom of God for the suicide machine. McLaren doesn't think that the phrase "kingdom of God" is appropriate for our day, so he substitutes titles like "God's sacred ecosystem" and "God's unterror movement." By convincing people to stop believing the dominant metanarratives and start believing Jesus' metanarrative, we will fuel the fire of the "revolution of hope" and turn around the suicide machine.

All of McLaren's thoughts (in this book) are good.

However, I think McLaren's one-sided view of the kingdom of God will torpedo any success he hopes to accomplish with this needed message. I completely agree that the world has adopted a metanarrative that is self-destructive. I also agree that Jesus' message of the kingdom of God is the message that is needed to turn everything around. However, notably absent in this book is any mention of the church or the Holy Spirit.

When McLaren speaks of "the Gospel," he refers to God's good news that He is redeeming the world. This is half true. McLaren has an axe to grind against most evangelicals that just want to preach substitutionary atonement and self-help sermons. His writings to this point have been a needed wake-up call to social justice. However, in reacting against Reformed theology, McLaren has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. He doesn't address the fact that deep down, people have a spiritual problem. They will read his book, think "That's nice," and then go back to the suicide machine. Apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, no one will set aside the suicide machine to live the kingdom of God. We can't do that on our own because we are infected with the disease called sin. Therefore, we can't throw out preaching of the cross. The Holy Spirit works through that Gospel to regenerate people so that they can live the life McLaren is calling them to live.

If it weren't for the significant disagreements that I have with Brian McLaren about Jesus' message, I would say Everything Must Change is the best book I have read all year. But I do disagree with him on some major points, so I will just say that the book is very good.

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