11 April 2010

REVIEW - Brain McLaren interviewed on Nomad

I've just listened to the latest Nomad Podcast, an interview with Brian McLaren. The Nomad logo

Like most of the podcasts, this one is an open and friendly discussion. Brian McLaren is a sometimes controversial figure and the Nomad podcaster (Nick) wisely presents difficult questions without becoming personally involved. Phrases like 'some people say xyz' are widely employed and enable hard questions to be addressed without arousing defensive resonses. This is one of the things I like best about these podcasts.

Brain McLaren is often seen as an important figure in the emerging church. He was pastor of a small church for 24 years and during that time heard many questions that needed to be grappled with. Some of them came from non-Christians. For example, 'Does God sanction violence and the destruction of innocent men, women and children?', 'Is the Bible about spiritual rescue or is it about social action?'

McLaren suspects these questions have not been widely tackled because they're sometimes seen as encouraging doubt instead of faith. Religious leaders are often busy and don't have time to deal with questions, and also most denominations have a list of required beliefs and questioning those may be unwelcome.

Some people have become unhappy with internal denominational debates and are finding they can learn things from others with different views. This seems to be a beneficial development. Some people want to deal with the practicalities of church but not get involved with theology. Others want to delve deeply into theology. Yet others wish to be involved in both, to bridge the differences. McLaren sees himself as part of this third group.

He suggests that Jesus' message about the Kingdom is not just about how to get into heaven, but has a great deal to do with Father's will being done on earth as it already is in heaven. Mission is not just evangelism, it involves reaching out in terms of helping the poor, being peacemakers, and so on.

Ultimately, Brian McLaren's desire was to become more Christ-like, and to follow the Master wherever he might lead.

In the discussion at the end of the podcast, the team look at some of the ideas presented in McLaren's latest book. For example, they talk about the difficulties that arise when we view the Bible as recording progress in man's understanding of the Almighty. This may be a way of dealing with some of the difficulties we have about wrath and anger in his character. Is he really like that or is it just how people at that time perceived him? On the one hand we may struggle with such a view of Yahweh's nature, but on the other we want to accept the Bible fully - even the passages we find hard to understand. We can't dodge issues like these. We must think them through and make choices or find a way of integrating both aspects.

The interview with Brian McLaren, the Nomad discussion that follows, and the comments on McLaren's book are all worth hearing and helped me understand some aspects of the emergent church more clearly. It's thought-provoking and challenging stuff, and these are issues we should all have an working knowledge of. Listen to the podcast and decide for yourself.

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