Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mclaren calls chapter one troubling questions about Jesus and early in the chapter he asks, "What if the core message of Jesus has been unintentionally misunderstood or intentionally distorted? What if many have sincerely valued some aspects of Jesus message while missing or even suppressing other, more important dimensions?"...Studying church history seems to answer Mclaren's question in the affirmative. Of course Christians have unintentionally and intentionally distorted the message of Jesus. Mclaren goes on to ask if we wouldn't want to know what Jesus secret message is particularly if "his secret message had practical implications for such issues as how to live your daily life, how you earn and spend money, how you treat people of other races and religions, and how the nations of the world conduct their foreign policies"...and if you aren't convinced how important these questions and answers are than Mclaren attempts to attempts to make his point clear when he says, "it is tragic for anyone, especially anyone affiliated with the religion named after Jesus, not to be clear about what Jesus' message actually was"...Christians have been thinking and writing about the essence of Jesus message and mission since the death of Jesus and throughout the centuries Christians have expressed their opinions in a variety of different ways. Some have expressed it in terms of Loving God and loving our neighbor....others in terms of the Kingdom of God...and some suggest it is all about living in right relationship with God which was made possible by faith in the death and resurrection in Jesus...I applaud Mclaren for asking the question and I do think he is correct to suggest that the church can be co-opted by such things as consumerism and nationalism...and...I would add moralism, political idealism, traditionalism, sentimentalism, and escapism. I am not sure whatever Mclaren identifies as the secret message of Jesus is something radically new and has not been said many times before but I suspect Mclaren probably already knows that to be the case. For me, figuring out the secret message or essence of Jesus teaching has never been the problem but I find the particulars of what that means to my life the real challenge because it most often requires imagination, creativity, willingness to adapt, discipline, and sacrifice, the kind of things that are not generally reinforced in many of our organizations and institutions......I also can help speculating what role experience plays in the matters of the heart. We can read about what Jesus said in this text or that but unless we experience and do what it is we are supposed to do than I can't help wondering if all our talking is a lot of "sound and fury signifying nothing"...I am looking forward to finding out what the "secret message of Jesus" is all about but in the meantime I'll try to follow where my heart leads me in regards to my own little sphere of influence I have in my life....

2 comments:

Dave said...

McLaren bites off a big mouthful in titling his book "Secret Message of Jesus." After all these centuries of close scrutiny and analysis, it's kind of audacious to claim that there are undiscovered secrets in Jesus' message! But I can see how people who've been fed a certain conventional view of things could still have a new epiphany, so I'll cut BMc some slack.

Don't be too disappointed though if the eventual "secret message" fails to knock your socks off! Still, it's a good book worth reading and especially discussing. I've enjoyed the chances I've had to talk about McLaren's books in a few different groups over the years. One thing that he does have a gift for is writing stuff that is accessible to a broad cross-section of Christians, including those who are a bit more on the progressive/liberal side of evangelicalism, a small group, admittedly, but one that really needs the encouragement to speak up more clearly!

Bilbo said...

My sentiments exactly Dave...Personally, I don't expect to learn anything I haven't heard before, but I do want to keep an open mind. I'm just excited to a part of a group who is willing to discuss something besides affirmation a particular brand of Christianity, if you know what I mean. I was greatly encouraged by the discussion group last week. It seems the folks at the Congregational Church I am now attending are all over the map theologically and after talking to the pastor she and everyone else seems quite content to live with the various perspectives and tension associated with a wide difference of opinions. It's quite refreshing to see a more inclusive spirit in action. I never thought I would see such happenings in Bakersfield....Regarding Mclaren...I think Mclaren consciously, or subconsciously is writing for the next generation of Christians who seem somewhat disallusioned by the faith of their parents and the Evangelical subculture at large. Personally, I don't care but I do appreciate the fact that "he" is trying to create dialogue and that is more than I can say for the vast majority of other Christian leaders and churches I am familiar with....