I have followed McLaren, and read his early books, for a number of years as he headed, whether intentionally or not, the ‘Emergent’ movement. I have been very concerned at the steady decline in McLaren’s orthodoxy over the years. One of the more conservative Evangelical ‘supporters’ of McLaren has been Scott McKnight of Jesus Creed. Not anymore. McKnight reviews McLaren’s new book, which has finally pushed McKnight over the edge. McLaren, I fear, is a visual example of what is happening to the Emergent movement – it has slipped out of biblical, historic Christianity. I always felt that while the initial momentum of the emerging church – to ask questions and challenge how the church does things – was not a bad thing, the questioning continued, to the point of even questioning the fundamentals of the faith – which was simply wrong. It appears the emerging movement forgot to stop questioning and start to build a biblical theology. The Church is a non-negotiable MUST of Christianity. To criticize or question the church is fine, even helpful at times. But then, you MUST quit complaining, agree your theology based on the historic faith and climb back into the boat. It is theologically impossible to leave the church – it is the body of Christ on the earth. McLaren is an example of one who has not climbed back into the boat – and quite simply he is drowning. And it appears his new book shows this clearly and while I have not read McLaren’s new book McKnight has and he ends his review with:
Unfortunately, this book lacks the “generosity” of genuine orthodoxy and, frankly, I find little space in it for orthodoxy itself. Orthodoxy for too many today means little more than the absence of denying what’s in the creeds. But a robust orthodoxy means that orthodoxy itself is the lens through which we see theology. One thing about this book is clear: Orthodoxy is not central.
Alas, A New Kind of Christianity shows us that Brian, though he is now thinking more systemically, has fallen for an old school of thought. I read this book carefully, and I found nothing new. It may be new for Brian, but it’s a rehash of ideas that grew into fruition with Adolf von Harnack and now find iterations in folks like Harvey Cox and Marcus Borg. For me, Brian’s new kind of Christianity is quite old. And the problem is that it’s not old enough.