One of the most shocking things I encountered while reading Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity was the subtle assertion that Moses was a superstitious idiot. Or maybe he was throwing stones at Peter.
The thesis of the book seems to be that Christianity needs to outgrow primitive ways of understanding God and the Bible. We need, according to Rev. McLaren, to gain a higher understanding of Scripture that shows God to be in line with our advanced understanding of concepts like peace and the basic good of humanity.
Tied up in that thesis is the thought that we know more than those ancients, and our experience of the world is vastly different from theirs. While I agree that humans have discovered some things that are far beyond the scientific advancement of Moses, I heartily object to the fact that he would any more readily believe that a man could raise from the dead or walk on water than I would.
While he might not have had the formula for gravity figured out, you can bet the Apostle Paul would be just as surprised to see someone levitate as you or I would. And while King David lived in a far more violent culture than contemporary America, he still could understand “more advanced” concepts like peace and non-violence. To assert otherwise, as Rev. McLaren does, is downright astonishing.
Either he’s never read anything by “primitive” people like John Owen, or he ignored the fact that the guy was brilliant. You can’t explain away his worldview by saying that God was only showing him as much as his primitive little brain could handle. Because his brain was neither of those things.
At one point in the book, in a striking reversal of his thesis, he lumps all of contemporary Christianity in with post-300 AD Catholicism. So, JI Packer is right on par with Pope Urban II. Or John Owen is on the same level as Constantine. Billy Graham actually had more in common with the crusades than just his choice of names. Which is it, Rev McLaren? Is more education and enlightenment the key, or are the modern theologians just as lost as Augustine?
He would answer “yes” to both of those questions. The key is advanced understanding, and we’ve been stuck in a 1500-year rut as Christians. Now we’ve got courageous leaders like John Dominick Crossan, Brian McLaren, and Marcus Borg to lead us into true knowledge. Pretty heady stuff. He paints himself as a new Martin Luther in the book. But then it reads more like he sees himself as the new Jesus, come to save us from our sins (namely, seeing our sins as sinful).
He’d like us to think he’s just being meek and mild Brian. But his chronological snobbery asserts otherwise. What do you think?