Saturday, April 08, 2006

Book Review: A New Kind of Christian

A New Kind of Christian is a breath of fresh air and is, in one word, brilliant! The author, Brian McLaren, offers a fresh view of what Christianity needs to be in a postmodern context. Picking up on the postmodern fondness for story, McLaren presents his ideas in a fictional dialogue between a burnt out pastor and his daughter's science teacher (an ex-pastor). Through their dialogue, they explore many of the pressing contemporary issues and perceived problems with Christianity - oppressive organisational structures; rigid systematic theologies; narrow exclusivism; mechanical approaches to spirituality; rule-based faith; biblical literalism; and many more. Judging from the list of issues above, you may think the content of the story rather dry and intellectual. Far from it. Although McLaren is no literary writer (he admits as much), the dialogue between the two protagonists will resonate with those who are feeling fed up with institutionalised Christianity and are yearning for an authentic relationship with God that is consonant with the real world we live in. Essentially, McLaren's point is that, if Christianity wants to survive, it has to change and, in many ways, get back to the original intent of the Christian story - a real relationship with God and with each other. Like all books worth reading, there is something to offend everyone - conservative and liberal - as McLaren argues that it is time to get over these black-and-white dichotomies. Any book that starts with:
Sometime in 1994, at the age of thirty-eight, I got sick of being a pastor. Frankly, I was almost sick of being a Christian.
has to be read! If you only read one book this year, make it this one. It's a refreshing drink in a dry desert.

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