Some Excerpts from “A New Kind Of Christian” by Brian McLaren
You can’t talk about this sort of thing with just anybody. People worry about you. They may think you’re changing sides, turning traitor. They may talk about you as if you came down with some communicable disease. So you keep this sort of thing like a dirty secret, this doubt that is not really a doubt about God or Jesus or faith, but about our take on God, our version of Jesus, our way of faith.
Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there’s a new way of being a Christian. Not a new Spirit, but a new spirituality. Not a new Christ, but a new Christian.
Conservative Christians in the United States just 150 years ago used the Bible to defend slavery. How can you be sure that some of your ironclad interpretations today aren’t similarly fueling injustice?
If you have an infallible text, but all your interpretations of it are admittedly fallible, then you at least have to always be open to being corrected about your interpretations.
So the authoritative text is never what I say about the text or even what I understand the text to say but rather what God means the text to say. So The real authority does not reside in the text itself, which is always open to misinterpretation. The real authority lies in God, who is there behind the text or beyond it or above it. Our interpretations reveal less about God or the Bible than they do about ourselves. They reveal what we want to defend, what we want to attach, what we want to ignore, what we’re willing to question. Conservatives look at the Bible the same way medieval Catholics looked at the church and pope: infallible, inerrant, absolutely authoritative. What if the issue isn’t a book that we can misinterpret with amazing creativity but rather the will of God, the intent of God, the desire of God, the wisdom of God – maybe we could say the kingdom of God.
The whole notion of authority as so many people conceive it is thoroughly modern. Second Timothy doesn’t say, ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is authoritative.’ It says that scripture is inspired and useful. That’s a very different job description than we want to give it. We want it to be God’s encyclopedia, God’s rule book, God’s answer book, God’s scientific text, God’s easy-steps instruction book, God’s little book of morals for all occasions. The only people in Jesus’ day who would have had anything close to these expectations of the Bible would have been the scribes and Pharisees.
When we let go of the Bible as God’s answer book, we get it back as something so much better. It becomes the family story; a cosmic history, a book that tells us who we are and what story we find ourselves in so that we know what to do and how to live.
Think of a math book. Is it valuable because it has the answers in the back? No, it’s valuable because by working through it , by doing the problems, by struggling with it, you become a wiser person.
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Here’s a little more.
[we] send you back into the fifteenth century. Nobody could possibly believe that you could be Christians…
If you told them you didn’t believe in the pope and you didn’t accept that kings ruled by divine right and you didn’t believe that God created a universe consisting of concentric spheres of ascending perfection, and if you let it slip that you agreed with Copernicus that the earth rotated around the sun, you would surely be tried as heretics and perhaps burned at the stake…
To the Christian culture of medieval Europe, none of you today could be considered real Christians. True, you might say that you believe in Jesus and that you follow the Bible — but that would sound like nonsense to them if at the same time you denied what to them was essential for any reasonable person to accept: the medieval worldview, which was the context for their faith.
That brings me to an important question for you to think about: Is it possible that we as moderns have similarly intertwined a different but equally contingent worldview with our eternal faith? And another question: What if we live at the end of the modern period, at a time when out modern worldview is crumbling, just as the medieval one began to do in the sixteenth century?”
— Brian McLaren in “A New Kind Of Christian”