Brian McLaren, pop icon of the Emerging Church movement, has recently published a book entitled Everything Must Change, in which he attempts to make the case that if people really believed in the Secret Message of Jesus, everything must change. Now, to anyone who’s studied the Bible, our response should be something on the order of “duh…” However, while I’ve only read reviews and discussions of the book (I did read and review “The Secret Message…”), I question whether McLaren’s “everything” is accurate, or if how he’d like them to change is correct. I also question whether his personal “evangelical” context is shared by many people (it doesn’t appear to be in my circles) and whether his Anabaptist leanings are coloring his exegesis. Maybe some day I’ll read it (if I can find a cheap used copy somewhere).
McLaren has written some very good books in the past, but he’s not a theologian by training (not that I am), and I think it shows. He draws a lot from people like Dallas Willard and NT Wright (my personal favorite), and other than wanting to know McLaren’s agenda, I’d suggest skipping McLaren and going straight to Willard and Wright. My sense is from McLaren’s books that lead up to “Everything…” is that he’s reacting to an evangelicalism that avoided any real material consequence of faith, and while some conservatives reacted by doing the political thing, he’s taken the leftist route into a type of social gospel.
I tend to look at things a bit differently (as if you didn’t know by now); rather than the route McLaren takes, my approach is simply this: The kind of God you believe in determines how you live your life. The converse is also true: How you live your life reveals what kind of God you believe in. There are, indeed, personal, financial and political implications for our theology. Certainly the 70’s pre-trib “it’s all going to burn” thinking resulted in a lack of concern for both society and the environment, and in that context, if you accept a more orthodox theology, then yes, everything (or nearly everything) should change.
Greg Boyd is a pastor from Minnesota that I have been impressed with (although I don’t share his “open” theology), especially in his thinking about pacifism. I have not been impressed with most pacifists’ theologies, as they usually seem to start with pacifism and work backward. Boyd, on the other hand, really seems to be willing to go wherever the Bible leads him (hopefully it will lead him away from “openness” someday!). He’s recently written a series of posts that are worth checking out, starting with this post that takes loving your enemies to today’s extreme. The follow-up posts take a very interesting approach to the issue of heresy.
These are very important questions that we need to answer:
- What kind of God do I believe in?
- What kind of salvation to I believe in?
- What does it mean to love God and my neighbor?
- How do these answers impact my daily life?
- Must everything change?
For some, extreme pacifism is one answer; for some like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there are other answers, and there are certainly other issues to consider. The Gospel is offensive; if we allow ourselves to deal with it (or it to deal with us) we will undoubtedly be challenged, regardless of where we currently stand (or sit) on any issue. It’s easy to look at the church or American Christianity (if we can call anything that) and point to what must be changed. It is another to look at ourselves and see what must be changed.