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Someone at another blog talked about Brian McLaren. Last time I took my kids to the library I borrowed the one book of his they had at the library: The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian.

Impressions as I read or part 1 of a multi-part review-

From the preface:

As with A New Kind of Christian, this book has plenty to turn some readers into critics. If you think that you might be such a reader, please know that I'd rather not disturb you. My preference would be for you to return the book unread to the store where you bought it for a full refund. What the heck?

The story is told in the first person, as a pastor (Dan) who is asked by another pastor (Neo) to pick up a woman coming to his area for cancer treatment. The woman (Kerry) tells her story growing up as the daughter of a minister (lot of clergy-types in this book) who lost her creationist faith during her college education. Telling her parents about this gives an interesting quote:

But they weren't ugly or harsh about her loss of faith, and she never felt that their love for her was threatened by her rejection of almost everything they stood for.

Rejection of almost everything they stood for? Sheesh. It's not like she became a drug dealer or a murderer or a prostitute or something. She did, however, end up becoming a biologist.

The story then goes into Kerry meeting Neo, who talks to Kerry about theology. For the daughter of a minister, Kerry seems pretty naive. Neo gives fairly standard liberal Christian theology about God. The sheer chutzpah involved in the following left me with my jaw on the floor (referring to creation narratives):

Kerry interjected, "Well, I'm glad you acknowledge that your story isn't the only one, the only way, if you know what I mean. Because I think we're way beyond anybody claiming to have the only truth."

"Actually," Neo replied, taking his turn with the binoculars, observing the honking and thudding still ongoing in front of them, "if you get a feel for this story we find ourselves in, I think you'll come to realize that it has room for all the other stories too. It doesn't exclude them, or mock them, or despise them. I believe it's the story in which all other stories can find themselves too."


"Wow," Kerry said. "I wondered what you meant earlier when you said that even other religions have a place in the story. So you see other religions as...part of creation, because they are creations created by creative creatures."

Neo chuckled and said, "That's a bit better than I said it, really."

It seems to me that he is claiming that saying 'other religions are created fictions' is different than saying 'my religion is the only truth.' My mind boggles.

He takes shots at naturalism several times. From the preface:

...a powerful global economy (including an entertainment industry with too little conscience) that reduces every sacred thing into a profane commodity, and every sacred person into a materialistic consumer (and thereby threatens to remove the sacred from out lives much more effectively than scientific naturalism ever could).

From later on:

As they resumed their descent, Kerry asked Neo how he would contrast his Christian version of the creation story with the alternatives presentd in other religions. "Hmmm," he said, pausing to think for a moment. "There's a very popular story that says the universe came into being by itself, and that everything that has happened has happened by accident. In this story, which arose most forcefully in modern Western civilization, there is no God, no Being beyond our beings, no Creator. In this story, we can be at the top of the food chain and every other chain; no one is around-as far as we know-to challenge our claim to being the Supreme Beings. There is much in this story to flatter our pride, and this story probably has fueled technological advancements more than any other. It explains so much. In fact, you could say that this story seems to explain everything about everything except one small detail."

"Which is?" Kerry asked.

"Which is human experience-joy, sorrow, outrage, grief, hope, longing, wonder, love-the awareness that you're alive and that you're going to die and that both of those facts matter to you and mean something to you. And certainly you'd have to include overtly spiritual human experiences as well. So, even though it explains so much, this secular story marginalizes so much of human experience, and in the end, I think that this secular version can become a dangerous perversion of the true story.

Once again Christianity is the true story, contradicting his earlier denial, and once again the cardboard cutout of a skeptic just lets it go.

Finally, and this is admittedly projection, I'm also amazed that the skeptics have not asked the first and most important question that I would have asked. When Neo starts telling all this, no one asks him HOW he knows this. Or at least no one has yet.

Another scientist (supposedly with a Ph.D. in ornithology) and skeptic, even more cardboard cut-out and much less thoughtful, is just AMAZED at Neo's biblical interpretations after his previous night of drinking and womanizing:

"Marciel tells me you're a man of God," Glenn said, almost mocking, but not quite. "Every Sunday she invites me to La Aventura. She says you're a tour guide by day, and a spiritual guide by night. She says you can give me a guided tour of God."

Neo smiled. "There's a certain crossover of skills, I suppose. But the way I see it, you're already doing God's work yourself. You just might not realize it."

"Heck, no, I don't think so. I certainly wasn't doing God's work last night," he said, laughing. "I bought me a bottle of tequila down at the Havana Bar, and a young chica from town helped me finish it. I think we did a little of the devil's work last night."


Insert some wildly liberal Biblical interpretations by Neo...

There was a long moment of silence. Glenn broke it. "This is amazing, most reverend Neo. I mean, I've always made fun of those stories before, but now, listening to you, I realize what a philistine I've been. They're...awesome."

The book got thrown across the room around this point (page 57 of 198.)

To be continued.
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