I recently finished the book The Secret Message of Jesus. It was a fun read, and was more brilliant as it went along. Especially thought provoking was the subversive motif of hiddenness and secrecy. In the acknowledgements he acknowledged Dallas Willard and NT Wright as inspirations for the book. And then I remembered Dallas Willard discussed "hiddenness" and "conspiracy" in his book THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY. Which is something I am hoping to read sometime soon.
There were several other thoughts that McLaren had in his book, or inspired in me. Here are some things that made me think.
Where is our energy going in the church?
Miroslav Volf's book on Christian community talked about the themes of exclusion and embrace. McLaren touches on this a little bit in his book as well. Many churches today work hard at trying to defend their boundaries. When they do this their energy is expended toward EXCLUSION.
It is very difficult to push out and pull in at the same time. Your momentum either moves out or moves you and others in. Often times the evangelical church relates to the world around it like an inexperienced sumo wrestler. We wrestle around thinking we are trying to keep ourselves and our churches centered. To do this, we think it best to try and push the opposition out. And soon we find that we have spent so much time at the periphery of what our faith is about that we are stumbling just to stand still and keep grounded.
Instead, in churches, we need to keep returning to the center of our faith. The most important and central things in following Jesus. What would happen if we spent more time focusing on sharing God's grace, living in love with our neighbor, passionately apprenticing ourselves to Jesus? What if our energy was spent pulling people into the family of God, instead of defining who is in and who is out by theological tidbits?
Narrow exclusion and naive inclusion
McLaren uses these two terms to discuss how people misunderstand the way of Jesus. More conservative folks want to draw boundaries tighter and tigher especially when it comes to who is a part of the family of God. This is part of the reason I am not a part of the churches of my upbringing. I had no room to think or grow and learn.
But liberal churches err on the other side with naive inclusionism. Assuming that everyone is on the Way, that everyone is ready and willing to get on the path to God at one point or another. This is also not consistent with Scripture or love. Some people want to get as far away from doing what is right, from truly loving, from being connected to God as they possibly can. And there comes a point when God's love and God's grace means nothing if we are not free to reject it.
Promises and Prognostications
In speaking of eternity, end times, and salvation and the like, McLaren finds it helpful to distinguish between promises and prognostications. Promises are about God being faithful in a relationship with us, and vise versa. God keeps his promises to us--especially the promises which are clearly stated in Scripture. But often we try to make God's promises prognostications, especially in regards to the end times stuff. We do this by making the Word of God into an instruction manual, or make the book of Revelation a book of history in fast forward. God's word is about his love and faithfulness, but that doesnt mean we need to turn the raw, poetic, untamable Word into a farmers almanac.
As you can tell from my writing, I am still thinking on some of the things in the book. David Cho, does this help answer some of your questions?
What thoughts do you have?