Quotes and Excerpts from:

"A New Kind of Christian"

 by Brian D. McLaren

Jossey-Bass; 1st edition (March 28, 2001), A Leadership Network Publication


See also The Story We Find Ourselves In

Emerging "Christianity" - Part 1: Breaking Out of the box


Brian McLaren is "the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in the Washington-Baltimore area and the author of two previous books on contemporary Christianity, including The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix.

Backflap: "The author reminds us that this is but the beginning of the journey, and 'whatever a new kind of Christian is, no one is one yet... but every transformation has to start somewhere. For all who are searching for a deeper life with God and more honest statement of authentic Christian faith, A New King of Christian will open the way for an exciting spiritual adventure into new territory and new ways of believing, belonging and becoming."

About Leadership Network: "The mission of Leadership Network is to accelerate the emergence of effective churches by identifying and connecting innovative church leaders and providing them with resources in the form of new ideas, people, and tools. Churches and church leaders served by Leadership Network represents a wide variety of primarily Protestant faith traditions that range from mainline to evangelical to independent. All are characterized by innovation, entrepreneurial leadership and desire to be on the leading edge of ministry.

Brian McLaren [from Rick Warren's website: www.pastor.com]

"Nature, tortoises and evolution figure prominently in McLaren's book, The Story We Find Ourselves In. It's a sequel to his popular, but somewhat controversial, A New Kind of Christian. Both books are written in an unusual narrative non-fiction style - using fictional characters, rather than sterile discourse, to incarnate theological truths...." [But many of those "truths" are contrary to Biblical truths]

"McLaren is... a key figure in the 'emerging church'...

"What can nature teach us? Two key lessons are diversity and interdependence. Both will characterize the future church, in McLaren's view."

[In the next paragraph, notice the emphasis on CONVERSATION -- especially with those who hold contrary beliefs and values. Implying dialectical uncertainty rather than "divisive" certainty, such conversation (dialogue) is key to today's global transformation:]

Interdependence, though imbedded in nature, is foreign to the Western individualism so ingrained in American (U.S.) Christianity. That's why McLaren's 'new kind of Christian' often uses words like 'journey' and 'conversation' to describe Christian life beyond the postmodern divide. Conversation implies Christians can learn a lot by interacting with - and listening to - the world, especially non-Christians. 'Their questions are an essential facet of our discipleship,' McLaren says. 'They change us.' ...

'Certainty is overrated,' McLaren declares.... 'History teaches us that a lot of people thought they were certain and we found out they weren't.'... [Despite the postmodern hostility toward certainty, God's Word and values are true, certain, unchanging and right. See God's eternal, unchanging Word]

McLaren first bumped up against postmodernism much earlier than most seminary students or pastors. 'In graduate school in the '70s, postmodernism was first hitting the academy through literary criticism. I was exposed to deconstructionism and postmodern thought. I remember thinking, If this kind of thought catches on, Christianity is in real trouble.'


While many pastors and church leaders have written books that describe this spiritual transformation, the message of Pastor Brian McLaren carries more weight since he is an acknowledged leader in this movement. Some of his articles are posted at www.pastors.com, a website founded by Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.  McLaren's book, A New Kind of Christian, is written as a semi-fictional dialogue, so that readers can experience the thrill of questioning old truths and discovering new truth through the dialectic process. Notice how the introduction touts the postmodern worldview while raising doubts about Biblical faith:

"I realize, as I read and reread the Bible, that many passages don't fit any of the theological systems I have inherited or adapted. Sure, they can be squeezed in, but after a while my theology looks like a high school class trip's luggage--shoestrings hanging out here, zippers splitting apart there....

"I read what other people who are having similar experiences are saying, including people writing outside of the religious context -- like this from Peter Senge: 'In any case, our Industrial Age management.... our Industrial Age way of living will not continue.... It's not sustainable in ecological terms, and it's not sustainable in human terms. It will change. The only question is how....'

"Doesn't the religious community see that the world is changing? Doesn't it have anything fresh and incisive to say?...

"I meet people along the way who model for me, each in a different way, what a new kind of Christian might look like. They differ in many ways, but they generally agree that the old show is over, the modern jig is up, and it's time for something radically new.... You begin to wonder if maybe you're at the front edge of something -- if your tentative and anxious steps 'off the map' are actually the beginning of a new adventure into terra nova, new ground, fresh territory."[3, page xiv-xv]

"...if we have a new world, we will need a new church. We won't need a new religion per se, but a new framework for our theology. Not a new Spirit, but a new spirituality. Not a new Christ, but a new Christian."[3, page xvi] Emphasis added

Something new and fresh! That's an ongoing quest of the Church Growth Movement. Leaders like Rick Warren may not stray as far from God's guidlines as Brian McLaren, but they know well that the diverse seekers want something more contemporary than the old gospel that has opened eyes and changed hearts for the two millennia. As Pastor Warren wrote on page 325 in The Purpose-Driven Life, "I have deliberately used paraphrases in order to help you see God's truth in new, fresh ways." [emphasis in the original]  Are our leaders forgetting that the freshness comes when the Holy Spirit breathes God's life-changing message through those treasured old words? [See Psalm 119:11]

A little later, Brian McLaren describes -- through the mouth of his leading character "Neo" -- what many postmodern leaders see as changing mental "Models" or worldview. Ponder his quotes from The Discarded Image, apparently the last book written by C. S. Lewis. But first he gives an interesting description of the dialectic process. The proper Hegelian (and Soviet) dialogue doesn't allow a participant to argue a point from his own point of view. Instead of taking a stand on God's unchanging Word, you are trained to let go of your own convictions in order to empathically (or emotionally) enter into the convictions of the other members and, in the process, question and criticize your own beliefs in light of the new suggestions:

"Most modern people love to relativize the viewpoints of the others against the unquestioned superiority of their own modern viewpoint. But in a way, you cross the threshold into postmodernity the moment you turn your critical scrutiny from others to yourself, when you relativize your own modern viewpoint. When you do this, everything changes. It is like a conversion. You can't go back. You begin to see that what seemed like pure, objective certainty really depends heavily on a subjective preference for your personal viewpoint. In this next quote, Lewis makes exactly these very postmodern moves and emphasized how one's subjective posture affects what one sees and 'knows objectively.'... Listen to Lewis in his own words:'[3, page 35]

"There is no question here of the old Model's being shattered by the inrush of new phenomena.... When changes in the human mind produce a sufficient disrelish of the old Model and a sufficient hankering for some new one, phenomena to support that new one will obediently turn up...."[3, page 36] [4, 221]

"We must recognize that what has been called 'a taste in universes' is not only pardonable but inevitable. We can no longer dismiss the change of Models as a simple progress from error to truth. No Model is a catalogue of ultimate realties, and none is a mere fantasy. Each is a serious attempt to get in all the phenomena known at a given period, and each succeeds in getting in a great many. But also, no less surely, each reflects the prevalent psychology of an age almost as much as it reflects the state of that age's knowledge...."[3, page 37]  [4, 222]

'Lewis concludes his book with a fascinating prediction...

"It is not impossible that our own Model will die a violent death, ruthlessly smashed by an unprovoked assault of new facts -- unprovoked as the nova of 1572. But I think it is more likely to change when, and because, far-reaching changes in the mental temper of our descendents demand that it should. The new Model will not be set up without evidence, but the evidence will turn up when the inner need for it becomes sufficiently great. It will be true evidence.' [3-page 37]  [4, 222-223] Emphasis added

"What Lewis imagined to be 'not impossible' some generations away--the death of the modern model or worldview--turns out to be happening just a single generation after he wrote...'[3-page 37]

McLaren didn't complete the above sentence but his point was made. Two paradigm shifts have occurred in the last thirty years, and the years ahead promise to be more wrenching than any previous time. The world's hostility will surely be aimed at those who continue to walk in "the old paths, where the good way is...." Jeremiah 6:16. [See "Dealing with Resisters"

Brian McLaren endorsed the book The Seeker's Way: Cultivating the Longings of a Spiritual Life, by Dave Fleming, who wrote the following:

"My walk through the labyrinth before my visit with Alan [Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral] would become, for me, a metaphor for my questions about the sacred mundane. When I entered the back of Grace Cathedral, I knew I would find a labyrinth. I was familiar with the work of Lauren Artress, a canon at the cathedral who has an intense passion to help people discover the transformative potency of the labyrinth. Feeling certain that these moments would be infused with the sacred, I knew this was a labyrinth I wanted to walk.
      "I was alone in the cathedral. Great, I thought. ... No one else is here. I can share this moment with the Mystery by myself. Off came my shoes." 50

"Finding Meaning. Early in our conversation, Alan and I talked about what we through it meant to be a seeker. 'Seekers,' he said, 'live in the rhythm of holding and letting go.' This idea connects to this longing to move from activity to meaning. Part of the seeker's way is to discern, in the action, what we are to hold and what we are to release. There is no manual for this. [Actually, we have God's guidelines in the Bible] It requires us to live awake and alert." 52

"We could say that when we find the sacred dimension we will find ourselves, and when we find ourselves, we will find the sacred dimension." 54 [Pantheism? "God" is in and through all things?]

"The conversation of Seekers. Beyond honoring all people, seekers are interested in traveling the spiritual path with others, both those who share their beliefs and those who do not. If there is one thing we need in the twenty-first century, it is people from different traditions who make community while maintaining their diversity. For too long the only conversation many people have had with those of different faiths is about conversion. We really must get beyond this..... I am not about to pronounce judgment on one who feels called to share his faith in order to invite another to consider that faith tradition.... Seekers enter relationship with others, not to convert them but to travel the road together as friends and seekers of the Mystery.
      "Even within a tradition , it is sometimes hard to converse with those who not agree on what the tradition is and should be.142

      "I am most attuned to the ridiculous infighting that goes on in Christianity over things like doctrines, appropriate versions of the Bible, and social issues. Christians who say they are marked by radical love, end up despising each other and verbally attacking each other over these differences.... Perhaps a good starting point for this renaissance in conversation should be the six longings (and others) that are important to life and spirituality. I would encourage seekers to truly listen to the faith stories of others in order to celebrate them, learn from them, and enhance them through their own stories. I also would encourage seekers to allow others' diversity to take them deeper into their own convictions and beliefs for the purpose of reformation and purification of those beliefs and convictions. This is what my Muslim friends are teaching me. .... My hope is that seekers will listen to each other's insights and allow those insight to shape their hearts." 143

[The last two points, especially, illustrate the dialectic process]

More will be added