Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, And A Revolution Of Hope Paperback – Oct 2 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. McLaren, a leader in the emerging church, issues a salvo of arguments for radical hope in the face of profound dilemmas. The prolific author and pastor identifies the earth's four deep dysfunctions that have created a suicide machine: crises in prosperity, equity, security and spirituality. What could change, he asks, if we applied the message of Jesus—the good news of the kingdom of God—to the world's greatest problems? Here McLaren builds on the theme of his 2006 book The Secret Message of Jesus—that bringing about the kingdom means transforming the world we live in—to propose that we create a hope insurgency. Using a close reading of the Gospels to challenge conservative evangelicals' emphasis on individual salvation, not to mention end-times theology and, by implication, the prosperity gospel, McLaren argues for establishing a beloved community based on justice, peace, equality and compassion. McLaren's conclusions are not new, but his ability to be clear and persuasive—and get the attention of a segment of America's Christians—are exceptional. While his critics will find yet more material for challenging McLaren's views, his supporters will consider this book a riveting call to a new conversion. (Oct. 2)
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About the Author
Brian D. McLaren is an internationally known speaker and the author of over ten highly acclaimed books on contemporary Christianity, including A New Kind of Christian, A Generous Orthodoxy, and The Secret Message of Jesus.
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The 'Suicide machine' is the metaphor McLaren says 'captures the way the world's most serious problems are linked in a vicious, self-reinforcing circle' (52). These suicidal systems are the following: dysfunctional prosperity system (culture of affluenza), dysfunctional security system (invisible hand of the market requires the visible fist of the military), and the dysfunctional equity system (sharing the cost and story of prosperity and equity) (55-56).
The 'Kingdom of God' is the metaphor McLaren uses to describe the alternative, transforming framing story that has the potential to bring life instead of death. The Kingdom of God is the divine vision of justice and peace communicated in Hebrew and Christian scripture. For McLaren, the Kingdom of God offers the best framing story: 'a story in which God provides through creation's natural systems, a story in which we acknowledge our creaturely dignity and limits within those systems, a story in which we celebrate our kinship with birds and flowers, with season and toil' (139). This story is a story where peace is achieved through collaborative efforts at 'justice, generosity, and mutual concern' (159).
McLaren believes that Jesus' message and ministry challenged the dysfunctional, destructive status quo of the Roman Empire in his life. McLaren writes: 'Jesus' creative and transforming framing story invited people to change the world by disobeying old framing stories and believing a new one: a story about a loving God who, like a benevolent [leader], calls all people to live in a new way, the way of love' (274). McLaren also believes Jesus' challenge to the old story and offering of a new story is just as relevant for our lives today.
For McLaren, Jesus' message is relevant because it invites us to live a new and better life right now. Not something we must wait for, but something God invites us into in our daily lives. And this better life we can live now is 'live a life dedicated to replacing the suicide machine with a sacred ecosystem, a beautiful community, an insurgency of healing and peace, a creative global family, an unterror movement of faith, hope, and love' (227).
Ultimately, McLaren's book is about how Jesus' message of the Kingdom of God can offer us a way to discover hope and 'abundant life' in the midst of a world in crises.
Also recommended: For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future (John Cobb and Herman Daly).
According to McLaren, we live in a societal system consisting of three subsystems: the prosperity, equity and security systems. These are all guided by a framing narrative. The world was made in such a way that these should function in perfect harmony as they are guided by God's framing story, but unfortunately they have become misaligned so they no longer function as they should. When the framing narrative is destructive, this system can go suicidal, ultimately self-destructing. This is society as we know it now--a society that is completely suicidal. And this is the problem Jesus came to address. Having thought long and hard about the world's problems, McLaren says this: "Our plethora of critical global problems can be traced to four deep dysfunctions, the fourth of which is the lynchpin or leverage point through which we can reverse the first three." These three crises are linked in a very tightly integrated system that functions as this "suicide machine."
Jesus, says McLaren, stepped into this dysfunctional system and proposed an alternative in both word and deed. Jesus' solution was to confront society's suicide machine, to redraw and reshape the framing narratives by proposing a radical alternative. He says Jesus' message, His good news, is this: "The time has come! Rethink everything! A radically new kind of empire is available--the empire of God has arrived! Believe this good news, and defect from all human imperial narratives, counternarratives, dual narratives, and withdrawal narratives. Open your minds and hearts like children to see things freshly in this new way, follow me and my words, and enter this new way of living." Jesus took that message to the cross, an instrument of torture and cruelty that He used "to expose the cruelty and injustice of those in power and instill hope and confidence in the oppressed."
McLaren's utter disdain for Protestant theology is evident throughout, but perhaps nowhere so clearly as in his rendition of Mary's Magnificat, rewritten in such a way, he says, that it can now be consistent with traditional theology.
"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my personal Savior, for he has been mindful of the correct saving faith of his servant. My spirit will go to heaven when my body dies for the Mighty One has provided forgiveness, assurance, and eternal security for me--holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who have correct saving faith and orthodox articulations of belief, from generation to generation. He will overcome the damning effects of original sin with his mighty arm; he will damn to hell those who believe they can be saved through their own efforts or through any religion other than the new one He is about to form. He will condemn followers of other religions to hell but bring to heaven those with correct belief. He has filled correct believers with spiritual blessings but will send those who are not elect to hell forever. He has helped those with correct doctrinal understanding, remembering to be merciful to those who believe in the correct theories of atonement, just as our preferred theologians through history have articulated."
But the Bible, he says, teaches none of this. Rather, "Mary celebrates that God is going to upset the dominance hierarchies typical of empire so that the nation of Israel can experience the fulfillment of its original promise."
After reframing Jesus and His message, McLaren reintroduces Him through a new lens. This Jesus, as we might expect, is radically different from the one Protestants have known and honored and radically different from the Jesus of the Bible. McLaren continues to systematically dismantle Christian doctrine. "With no apologies to Martin Luther, John Calvin, or modern evangelicalism, Jesus (in Luke 16:9) does not prescribe hell to those who refuse to accept the message of justification by grace through faith, or to those who are predestined for perdition, or to those who don't express faith in a favored atonement theory by accepting Jesus as their `personal savior.' Rather, hell--literally or figurative--is for the rich and comfortable who proceed on their way without concern for their poor neighbor day after day." Jesus "calls them to grow their good deeds portfolios for the common good, especially the good of the poor and marginalized."
McLaren seems particular incensed with the biblical concepts of heaven, hell and atonement. Rather than being eternal realities, heaven and hell become states we create on this earth as we pursue or deny the kingdom of God. Because Jesus' message is not one of sinful men becoming reconciled to a holy God through an atoning sacrifice, those of any creed can seek and participate in the kingdom. People of other creeds may well be participating in it more fully and more purely than ones who claim to be Christians. Men and women of all creeds can be followers of Jesus living out the kingdom of God even if they have never heard His name.
With this book McLaren further draws a line in the sand between traditional Protestant beliefs and the Emerging Church. He declares, increasingly unequivocally, that this Emerging Church bears little resemblance to the church as we know it. This book is, in my opinion, McLaren's first real attempt to reconstruct the "Christian" theology that he has dismantled in his previous books. But what he has rebuilt bears little resemblance to the Christianity of the Bible.
Just one other thing. I've read a lot of McLaren's responses to his critics ... and his defense is often "I didn't say that, they are misrepresenting what I said". Ironically, I think this might be what Jesus would say if He read this book. Several times, McLaren imagines Jesus making statements that surprisingly use the same post-modern deconstructionist jargon as McLaren ... and not-so-surprisingly, Jesus' words, in McLaren's paraphrase, verbalize the Emergent ideology. This book is an "Adventure in Missing the Point".
As I read it, I couldn't help but reflect on some 19th c. theology that I read recently in The Golden Dawn, or Light on the Great Future. What McLaren is asking for is not at all unlike the pre-WWI, pre-Moody, postmillennial wishes for a better world, a successful place for all, a Christianity where everything is done, if not right, as best we can possibly do it. But I think this is naive. The postivists of two centuries ago rode the wave of modernity. Today's postmodern wants to maintian the Positive without the Modern. I won't hold my breath. I see McLaren's outlook as the ultimate in post-postive positivism. You can't resurrect a dead horse.
One thing that McLaren implicitly requests is that Christianity become an initiator of positive change. Some of what he asks for is doable and practical. Some of it we already do, but could do more of and more often. But other matters would require a degree of political ascent, and that's what got us into 1500 years of problems as it was. So, while I appreciate some of his sentiments, I actually don't think he is going far enough with his framework. There is a degree of separation from modernity that will help us. I wish he would consider some additional steps and then evaluate them for more consistency.
Despite his dependence on that unstated theonomy necessary to implement this type of social change, he does confront the Christian with dependence on the current world system. The section on theocapitalism is especially worth the time to read. Nevertheless one cannot help but see that his views are tainted by an overly-optimistic outlook. The secularists, and many of us within evangelicalism, have had quite enough of misused politics. McLaren is proposing another politic, and I don't know that the world is ready for such an alternative. His (apparently) postmillennial outlook is consumed with social justice with a good deal of need for a mechanism to implement it.
I like some of his core principles but am disturbed by his responsiveness first to needs and complaints instead of first responding to Scripture.
Do I recommend this book? Yes. I find his arguments weak but his critique of the church, though it has errors, to be clearly-stated and useful. There is always something to learn from our critics. Brian McLaren's work makes a useful mirror for us to reflect upon, but not to gaze upon.
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