Must everything change? Last year Brian McLaren published a book entitled Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. Presently McLaren is traveling about the country on an “Everything Must Change” tour. I read his book last fall. I’ve debated ever since whether or not to respond, and, if so, how.
I’ve read most of McLaren’s books. I particularly appreciated his “New Kind of Christian” trilogy. I thought he had some important things to say in “Generous Orthodoxy.” I’ve seen him speak on a few occasions. I’ve listened to or read a variety of interviews. I’ve seen him in action in some small group discussions at the Emergent Village gathering in Glorieta, NM. I even chatted briefly with him on a couple of occasions (for probably a sum total of less than two minutes.) I’ve also been around Emergent stuff going back to 1998 and while McLaren does not speak for Emergent or the emerging church in any formal sense, he is unmistakably a significant informal leader who shapes the direction of dialog.
Everything I’ve seen suggests to me that Brian McLaren is a nice guy, with a big heart, and an active mind, who is seeking to follow Jesus. I knew when I cracked the cover of “Everything Must Change” that there would be parts of the book where I would have significant disagreement. However, based on past experience, I expected to read an informed and “generous” presentation of views. Frankly, I was disappointed. I found the book to be uncharacteristically polemic. His reflection on problems was thoroughly ahistorical, thereby distorting the context and trajectory of present circumstances. As to economic matters, I found the analysis to be a neo-Malthusian politically progressive retread of Niebuhrian Chrisitan-socialist thinking so ubiquitous in Mainline Protestant academic circles.
Some are critical of the book because they perceive McLaren has abandoned susbstitutionary atonement, or distorted some other doctrinal point. For the record, I embrace the New Perspective on Paul. I think the idea of opposing/transforming the empire are valid characterizations of key aspects of the church’s mission. I think the idea of looking at things in terms of a “framing story” is a useful lens. I do think McLaren overreaches with some of his biblical analysis but these are not my primary concerns. My primary concern is related to his characterization of the state of world affairs, especially as it relates to what he calls the “prosperity wheel” in his presentation of the issues.
Against my better judgment, I’ve made a decision to make a lengthy response to this book in the form of a series posts. I will be honest in letting you know up front that there are statements in this book that I find downright exasperating. I promise to do my best at being irenic in tone but I can’t promise I'll be entirely successful. (The Kronicler has a Karnal sarcastic streak a mile wide.) The spirit is willing but ....We will see. :)
What I propose to do is to give you some of my personal context . Then I will devote a few posts to my understanding of the world situation. After that, I will engage McLaren’s book. I’m not going to do a chapter-by-chapter review but rather I will lay out his basic thesis and then focus primarily (but not exclusively) on his handling of the prosperity issue. I can’t promise that this will be done in an uninterrupted stream but I do expect the posts to come on a fairly steady schedule.
Anyway, that is what you can expect for the next several posts at Kruse Kronicle, along with the usual news aggregation. Discussion is welcome. Flaming (me or others who comment), not so much. :)