Two Views of McLaren’s New Book, Everything Must Change

kinnon —  September 26, 2007 — 5 Comments

Mclaren-BookTim Challies reviews Brian’s new book…and he’s not impressed. (I’m in shock – that’s sarcasm, not scorn.) You need to read Tim’s review while REM plays “It’s the End of the World” in the background. (Or, as a Canadian, you should have Great Big Sea’s version playing in the BG.)

As with McLaren’s previous books, no doctrine is safe. And, in fact, almost every critical doctrine is emasculated, destroyed or redrawn. Nothing is sacred. Yet the problems go even deeper than theology because this book deals also with other subjects such as economics. With McLaren’s willingness to play fast and loose with Scripture, interpreting it as he seems fit with utter disregard for the stream of historic orthodox theology and the context of Scripture, how am I to trust his presentation of economics? If he is willing to adapt Scripture to fit his agenda and to do so at the expense of its most clear and obvious meaning, what confidence can I have that he has not done the same in other areas? What credibility remains? The same can be said of his view of politics, socio-economics and every other field he touches on. He has an agenda and it seems that he will not allow even the truth to derail him as he seeks to fulfill it.

So Tim has McLaren pegged as a liar and Mark Driscoll calls him a heretic. Wow. ‘Tis a great week to be a Christian…or, at least, A New Kind of Christian.

But in another corner of the blogosphere, Hearts & Minds Bookstore owner (and Presbyterian/Neo-Calvinist) Byron Borger says this,

It may be his most complex book, yet, and will stretch readers into some important new territory. Good.

Everything Must Change starts, as many of Brian’s books do, with some casual and, I find, charmingly honest statements about himself, how the book came to be, and inviting the reader to either agree or not. He says that it may seem presumptious, but he has long had two big questions—very big questions—that have burned within him. Since I gave a talk tonight with an amazing group of 30 some college students on 1 Chronicals 12:32 (look it up, if you have to) and talked about Barth’s famous quip about “reading the Bible with the newspaper in the other hand” Brian’s two big questions surely resonate. He asks, firstly, what is the biggest problem in the world? And, next, what does Jesus have to do with that? Not a bad way to drawn this reader in. I hope you fall for it, too.

Let me say that I’m going to trust Byron over Tim. I haven’t read the book, yet, and I wouldn’t consider myself a McLarenite (like that Mike Todd guy in Vancouver) but I have met Brian on a number of occasions and believe him to be a committed Christian who is orthodox in his core beliefs.

And I would remind my brothers and sisters of the quote that is often attributed to Augustine, “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” Would that the “Christian” blogosphere practice a little more charity – me included.

UPDATE: Triple D told me that TSK does have some concerns about Brian’s book. He’ll blog about it soon – TSK, that is.

UPDATE 2: Mak’s post reminded me of my reaction when I read Challies this morning on my phone. It’s like he thinks folk who are part of the Emerging Conversation can’t think on their own. McLaren is their Pied Piper and he is leading them straight into hell. It’s either rather patronizing or it comes from a deep-seated fear of thinking for himself. He either doesn’t give EC folk the credit for being able to think for themselves…or his view of leadership is that one has to follow some man-made leader to be a real Christian. EC folk have made the mistake of following McLaren, apparently.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

5 responses to Two Views of McLaren’s New Book, Everything Must Change

  1. Bill, thanks for this. I notice that McKnight is going to be posting on the new book starting next week as well which I look forward to.

    I read Challies’ review and all that it did for me was to add to my weariness of hearing people describe the “emerging movement” as some kind of monolithic theological monster. First it is certainly not a monolithic movement and second for the most part it doesn’t seem to me to be primarily theological.

    About McLaren, Challies says: “Though it is not quite fair to label him the movement’s leader, he certainly functions as its elder statesman and his writing seems to serve as a guide or compass for the movement. Where he leads, others follow.” I simple do not find this to be the case at all. Do you?

  2. Don’t find it to be the case at all, Brad. And after a two hour interview with Brian this morning (me shooting, Al Roxburgh interviewing) – Brian certainly doesn’t either. He would not identify himself as either an elder statesman (good grief, he’s just 50 – if he’s even turned 50 yet), nor is he the movement leader. I’m convinced that much of the response to McLaren and the EC is fear based. This response can’t deal with the liminal space we find ourselves in and retreats to simple/easy answers. (If it was good enough for Calvin, ’tis good enough for me.)

  3. With all due respect to TSk et al, the thing that gets me is “concerns”. I’ve read a lot of theology, and I can’t think of a book that didn’t have something that I didn’t necessarily agree with. Note my choice of words. I wasn’t “concerned”… I just didn’t agree. We’re all thinking human beings, so I’m going to assume that’s OK. Now suddenly we’re concerned.

    I’m not sure I get that.

  4. Well, actually, TSK said “worries”. I chose to use the word “concerns”. But I think “things I don’t agree with” works much better, Mike. Thanks.

  5. Never mind…


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