Further reflections on his book Everything Must Change
[First I am inclined to remind you, reader, that I write these reflections as a former "disciple" of McLaren and having now read all of his books save two. What I share in this post is a consistent issue in all of his writings, some more obviously than others. I also write with much empathy and compassion for his position and his passion that has drawn him away from what can be most accurately described as orthodoxy. Thus it is not out of malice, but with a heavy heart that I write.]
About six years ago I first read the book More Ready Than You Realize by Brian McLaren. At the time I was very discouraged with the church, finding that the theology taught encouraged apathy about the problems in our community and for sharing the love of Christ with our neighbors. It seemed that something was desperately wrong and McLaren’s book came as not just a whiff of fresh air, but more like a wormhole had opened into a whole new world where the inspiring message of Jesus bore the power that it should having come from the Son of God.
The Sinfulness of Sin by Ralph Venning
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First published in 1666, The Sinfulness of Sin was written in the time of the Great Plague of London. Originally titled Sin: The Plague of Plagues, the book bolstered a demanding statement. It suggested that beyond any other human pain, even death, sin is the most serious of all epidemics.
I have to admit, this book has sat on my shelf for nearly two years because I feared its truth. The darkness of sin, while ever-present, is often veiled in the monotony of life. Sin is our default setting; sin often seems so reasonable. Just as Adam and Eve, we too often seek our own way and try to create a world that feels comfortable for ourselves, even though as we do we shun God’s law and what he knows is best for us.
Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life by Jimmy Davis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
No photograph compares to standing on the floor of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, looking up at the sun-filled rose window. Those gothic churches were built to invoke majesty and awe, a small taste of the glory of the One it was fashioned for. Not only in ornamentation and height, but the floor plan, laid in the shape of the cross, recalled for the worshipper the object of our faith.
In his book, Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life, author Jimmy Davis takes the intention and design of these old church buildings and makes it an analogy for the life that we are called to live as those who have been purchased by Christ. With pointed autobiographical illustrations and practical suggestions, Davis tells the old, old story of the saving work of Christ as the reason, motivation, and ability we have to live such a life. As we fix our eyes upward on the object of our faith and spread our arms out to those around us, we form a picture of the cross and thereby become living symbols testifying to the power and majesty of Christ.
The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World by Richard Stearns
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
What does it look like to live as a Christian? Being a Christian means that we are assured of our salvation through nothing more than the atoning work of Christ on the cross, yet in the Bible we are challenged to live for Christ who died in our place.
The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? is a book by Richard Stearns who serves a the president of World Vision in which he tells his own story of being a Christian, but living a life that did not reflect his faith in terms of his acts of charity to others. He points out passages in Scripture that show that the life of the Christian is different and that we should be producing fruits that are in line with that change. Admittedly, in telling the story of his life as a Christian, Stearns acknowledges that he is not a theologian. As I critique his book, keep in mind that while I appreciate his challenge I am not especially thrilled with how he comes to his conclusion. Is there a hole in the gospel or is there a worm in our fruit?
Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I do not know where people have gotten the idea that life is supposed to be easy. Perhaps it is from fairy tale endings that we begin to believe that there is an answer out there that will take all the pain away, that life should make sense, and that things will all work out in the end. Christ himself fully embraced the painful death that he would face and spoke of it often. The Gospel of John records one such instance with these concluding words:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 ESV)
Jesus meant that we are not only to find our identity in him and the work that he would do, but that we are co-heirs with him as his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:5-19).