______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

The Secret Message of Jesus September 28, 2012

“What if the core message of Jesus has been unintentionally misunderstood or intentionally distorted”

The Secret Message of Jesus:
Uncovering The Truth That Could Change Everything

Yet another powerhouse of insights from Brian McLaren!
Reading books like this make one amazed at how far off track “Christianity” really has become.
Reading books like this also give one hope for getting back on track.
Of course, we’ve lost much of what the original audience understood, but there was a lot that they didn’t readily understand either.
Jesus predominantly taught in parables, rather than outlines and bullet-points. And he almost always answered a question with a question. Not the best choice if your goal is to communicate facts.  It is, however, the perfect choice if the goal is interactive relationship.

I’m not going to give a chapter by chapter review here, but I will tell you about a few of them.

Let me start toward the end with a “bonus chapter” called “The Prayer of the Kingdom.”
This is a wonderful exploration of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  It really puts the words of Jesus into context, giving then a fresh vitality, and making them as relevant as ever.  It frees this prayer from being just a repetitive tradition, and helps us see its truly revolutionary nature.  Understanding the proper applications of this prayer, we see it as a crucial part of Jesus’ “secret” message.

Chapters 19 and 20 view “The Future of the Kingdom,” and “The Harvest of the Kingdom.”  We find out the true purpose of the “warnings and promises” of the prophets.  There’s talk of the book of Revelation, and how “neither the Bible nor the teachings of Jesus are intended to give us a timeline of the future.”  We also gain a new perspective of the “harvest” metaphor which Jesus employed.

Early on, we look at “The Political Message of Jesus.”  So much of Jesus’ speech used terminology to directly address and refer to the political (and religious) structure of his day.”  Brian believes that the message of Jesus “has  everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular.”  One of the interesting tidbits here is that Roman emperors would send out messengers to announce their “good news,” and proclaim that “Cesar is Lord.”  Again, we miss so many of the pertinent references that Jesus’ audience readily understood.  We also realize that “the Jewish people probably felt about their occupiers the way Palestinians generally feel today about the Israelis.”

“The Jewish Message of Jesus” reminds us that Jesus was a Jew.  To understand his message, we must understand the Jewishness of his message.  The Jewish people said very little about any kind of afterlife.  Their concern was how we act in this life.
They did expect the Messiah to set up a kingdom here and now, in this life.  They just were not aware of the kind of kingdom he was going to establish.  It wasn’t the dominionist theocracy of church and state they expected.
Another way He tried to set them free from many of their misconceptions was through his “You’ve heard it said…But I say to you” speech.

In “The Medium of the Message” we see the power of the parable.

“The Open Secret” shows us how “the message of the Christian church became a different message entirely from the message of Jesus.”  This chapter also looks at “Christianity” vs. “Paulianity,” and whether or not there really is any substantial conflict between the two.

With “The Language of the Kingdom” we discover the urgent political, religious, and cultural electricity that charged the language Jesus spoke with.  It was then “contemporary and relevant; today, it is outdated and distant… If Jesus were alive today, I am quite certain he wouldn’t use the language of kingdom at all.”

Elsewhere in McLaren’s book we rethink the meaning of “repent.”
We observe the “sad adventure in missing the point” that the church has taken.
We learn to “abandon the bad idea that some people are ‘clergy’ and others are ‘laity.'”

All in all, the secret message of Jesus wasn’t intended to be kept secret.  It has been lost, suppressed, distorted, and misunderstood for (as we read in appendix 1) a variety of reasons.

Ultimately, we are challenged with what kind of lives shall we then live.
Will we keep the secret, or be part of the reality it was meant to bring about?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


From the product description:

In The Secret Message of Jesus you’ll find what’s at the center of Brian’s critique of conventional Christianity, and what’s at the heart of his expanding vision. In the process, you’ll meet a Jesus who may be altogether new to you, a Jesus who is…

Not the crusading conqueror of religious broadcasting;
Not the religious mascot of partisan religion;
Not heaven’s ticket-checker, whose words have been commandeered by the church to include and exclude, judge and stigmatize, pacify and domesticate.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.



– Each of us not only prays, “May your kingdom come,” but we also become part of the answer to that prayer in our sphere of influence.

– The secret message of Jesus has far-reaching implications for the widest range of subjects — from racism to ecology, from weapons proliferation to terrorism, from interreligious conflict to destructive entertainment, from education to economics, from sexuality to art, from politics to technology, from liturgy to contemplation.

– We are invited to begin living now the way everyone will someday live in the resurrection, in the world made new…[a future] that has in some way, through Christ’s resurrection, been made present and available now.

– God’s ultimate dream: Not the destruction of this creation, but the destruction of dominating powers that ruin creation.

– What if Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion–but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– What’s crazy is thinking, after all these millennia, that hate can conquer hate, war cure war, pride overcome pride, violence end violence, revenge stop revenge, and exclusion create cohesion.  The kingdom of God never advances by or through war or violence.
(For a really good example of the futility of revenge, and the myth of redemptive violence,  Check out “The Hatfields and McCoys.”  One top-notch mini-series.)

– The [prophet’s] purpose is not to tell the future but to change it.

– Trying to read [Revelation] without understanding its genre (Jewish apocalyptic) would be like watching Star Trek thinking it was a historical documentary.

– I think of Jesus in his parables.  He seems more interested in stirring curiosity than in completely satisfying it.

– This idea — that the kingdom of God is about our daily lives, about our way of life — may lie behind the tension people feel between the words religious and spiritual.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The Greek phrase John uses for “eternal life” literally means “life of the ages… a higher life that is centered in an interactive relationship with God and with Jesus.

– But the kingdom of God raises the level of discourse to a higher plane entirely.

– Faith that counts, then, is not the absence of doubt; it’s the presence of action.

– Church and state with their sacred theologies and ideologies, like all other human structures of this world, will – given the chance – execute God so they can run their own petty kingdoms.

– The church no longer saw the demonic as lodged in the empire, but in the empire’s enemies.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There has to be a third way that is different from permissive, naive inclusiveness and hostile, distrustful exclusion.
Purposeful inclusion [is when the kingdom of God] seeks to include all who want to participate in and contribute to it’s purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose it’s purpose. To be truly inclusive, the kingdom must exclude exclusive people; to be truly reconciling, the kingdom must not reconcile with those who refuse reconciliation, to achieve its purpose of gathering people, it must not gather those who scatter.Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Is God Violent? A brief “Q” & “R” With Brian McLaren July 27, 2010

Your chapter on whether God is violent or not was helpful. However, this is something that I really continue to struggle with…the biggest issues I have are how violent and at times selective God seems to be…why does God put evil spirits on people and harden people’s hearts…

First, it’s so good you’re reading through the whole Bible.  It’s dangerous, I think, when we only hear the Bible in little tiny chunks that fit into sermons. We miss so much of the big sweep … and we miss many of the big tensions as well, as you’re seeing now.

On God putting an evil spirit on Saul, or hardening Pharoah’s heart, etc., theologians deal with this in a number of ways. What has been most helpful to me is to realize that in the ancient world, there is little consciousness of intermediate causality. If lightning strikes, God (or the gods) did it – because there’s little understanding of intermediate causes like atmospheric convection, heat transfer, cold fronts, static electricity, and the like. I suppose calling natural disasters “acts of God” continues this tradition.

If people in the Bible see things in a certain way – no intermediate causality – does that obligate us to reject any other explanation? I’d say no. Just as we no longer feel obligated to say the sun circles the earth – even though this is clearly the language of the Bible, reflecting the “world view” of the time – I don’t feel obligated to ignore intermediate causality when I interpret Biblical language and thought forms and seek to be guided by them in today’s world. I might also add that sometimes, the biblical storytellers seem to be trying to “save” God … If Pharoah hardens his own heart, it sounds like God isn’t omnipotent. So they say that God hardens Pharoahs heart, thus solving that problem, but creating another. (In their day, the danger of giving Pharoah too much credit may have been worth the risk … but today, making God responsible for evil seems like the greater risk.)

We – all of us – do the same sort of thing today, again and again – trying to solve one problem and unintentionally creating other ones. That’s one reason I recommend reading the Bible as a library, and not giving any single text the final word … as if it were an article in a constitution.

On Saul getting a bad rap, yes, I agree. The Bible presents human beings with much more maturity and nuance than we often do … We (especially we Americans) love to paint the world into simple good guys and bad guys, forgetting that the bad guys have a lot of good, and the good guys a lot of bad. If some Biblical passages seem “primitive” to us in terms of intermediate causality, they’re often far more mature and nuanced in terms of human nature than many of our modern preachers are.

Again, if we let the Bible be a library, then we can let various authors/storytellers have their perspectives and vested interests. Part of our job as wise readers is to discern those vested interests, and take account of them in our interpretation.

This sensitivity to vested interests in the Bible helps us, I think, when looking at political issues today. There are upsides and downsides to this or that immigration bill, tax bill, energy bill, whatever. People usually simply take sides – fer it or agin it. But the Biblical library teaches us that there’s a higher perspective, where we can learn to see both the upsides and downsides of all sides … That way, even if we are for something, we won’t be naive about its downsides, and vice versa.


Read The Full Q & R in context.  CLICK HERE.

Read About, and Purchase, “A New Kind Of Christianity.”  CLICK HERE.


My Review Of “A New Kind Of Christianity” March 11, 2010

“I am a Christian who does not believe in Christianity as I used to, but who believes in Christ with all my heart, more than ever”
— Brian McLaren –

Some people read material to find the good in it.  Many read material, especially if they think it will challenge their perceived “rightness,” to find the bad in it.

If you read “A New Kind Of Christianity” to find fault, you will find it (as you will with any book).  But if you read, not out of fear of challenge, but rather with the embrace of challenge, you may find a well of new life flowing from its pages.

This book is far different, and I believe better, than “A New Kind Of Christian” in both style and substance.  I’m glad I read the previous work, but if you can only read one, this is the one to read.

In his new book, McLaren covers what he calls “Ten questions that are transforming the faith.”  He talks about things like, what the Bible is and isn’t, and how we should approach it;  the nature of God, and how the Bible, starting with Genesis, expresses a maturing understanding of God, culminating in Jesus;  the true “gospel” of Christ, as opposed to the gloom-and-doom we have tragically called “good news;” the reality of the kingdom of God in the here-and-now; how we relate to people of other religions; the future; and, of course sex.  (OK, I read the sex chapter first.  What can I say?)

I found the sections on how we got where we are very interesting; the whole “Greco-Roman” thought patterns that we don’t even know we have.

The “God question,” and the “Jesus question” are of extreme importance.  It becomes clear that, though Brian has very little use for what we have called Christianity, his awe, love, and commitment to Jesus are only increasing.  That’s very much where I’ve been for a number of years now.  It’s great to read of others on the same, or similar, journeys.

He does a great job of clarifying what the gospel of Jesus really is, and how that ties right in with what the kingdom of God really is, and the vital importance of knowing each.  Those beliefs have direct consequences in how we treat others, and in how we treat this home that God has asked us to take care of.

Chapter 15 contains the best treatise on Romans I have ever read.  This chapter could be worth the price of the book.  Very often, I’ve seen Romans in contradiction to the Gospel.  I thought this chapter really clears that up.
Of course, many of  teachings of the four gospels, as wonderfully explained in “The Naked Gospel,” are, indeed in opposition to many teachings of the epistles.  But that’s another book.

Brian takes a look at how we view the future.  Both Greg Albrecht and Bert Gary have a good deal to say on this subject, especially in how we look at the book of Revelation.  Much of all this focuses on Jesus’ repeated teaching that the “kingdom of God is with you,” and how that kingdom is expressed.

In Chapter 17 Mr. McLaren tries to find a way we can better address the issue of human sexuality without fighting about it.  Many people still seem the best way to speak to those with whom they strongly disagree is via a shouting match.  Wow, talk about proving the definition of “insanity.”  He ,as expected, addresses homosexuality and shares some very insightful and, in my opinion, very practical information.  One chapter doesn’t really do the subject justice, but he’s not attempting to provide all the answers.

There are a couple of ideas that seem to spread through all the chapters.  One is what Brian refers to as “the Greco-Roman narrative.”  The other is a call to find a new way of reading the Bible.  (The latter of the two is a much larger and more thorough look at some of the themes Bert Gary and I dealt with in our joint article for PTM, “Does The Bible Really Say That?”
This new way of reading (or approach to) the Bible involves replacing the “constitutional” reading with the “community library” reading.  Of course, you’ll need to read the book to see those ideas really fleshed-out.

The “thought police” are already screaming “heresy!”  That is to be expected.  The church has a long history of suppression.  I read a lot that I often don’t agree with, but I’m not afraid of thoughts or different ideas.   Many people are scared to death of new ideas.  This is often with good reason.  Their views are often so rigid, that if one “card” of their house is removed, the whole thing comes tumbling down.  As one teacher once said “If you don’t believe in a literal six-day creation, then you don’t believe in the cross of Christ.”  Gee, I thought I could separate my ideas.  Anyway…

This book goes in my list of the 5 (maybe 3) most important books I’ve ever read.  I do have to be careful.  As McLaren said, “I gradually learned to simply share with those who either “got it” or wanted to get it and not to bother – or look down upon – those who didn’t.”

So, yeah, I recommend this book.  “A New Kind Of Christianity” is really just about getting back to Jesus.  Not the gun-toting, flag-waving, war-loving, earth-abusing, “them”-hating, semi-deity we’ve made God into, but the real Jesus.  The one who really is the way, the truth, and the life.

Buy the book HERE.
A small sample from “A New Kind Of Christianity” —

“I love the Bible.  I’m in awe of it.”  “But my quest for a new kind of Christianity has required me to ask some hard questions about the Bible I love.”

“The slippery-slope argument – that we’d better not budge on or rethink anything for fear we’ll slip down into liberalism, apostasy, or some other hell – proves itself dangerous and naïve even as it tries to protect us from danger and naiveté.  [For one thing] it assumes that we’re already at the top of the slope, when it’s just as likely that we’re already at the bottom or somewhere in the middle.”


To say that the Word of God is in the biblical text, then, does not mean that you can extract verses or statements from the text at will and call them “God’s words.”
We can very easily confuse “The Bible says” with “I say the Bible says,” which we can then equate with “God says.”  Protestants, Pentecostals, Catholics, and Orthodox could all be found proving points by referring to Scripture in exactly the way the pro-slavers did.

Very few Christians today have given a second thought to — much less repented of — this habitual, conventional way of reading and interpreting the Bible that allowed slavery, anti-Semitism, apartheid, chauvinism, environmental plundering, prejudice against gay people, and other injustices to be legitimized and defended for so long.  Yes, we’ve stopped using the Bible to defend certain things once they were “discredited by events,” but we still use the Bible in the same way to defend any number of other things that have not yet been fully discredited, but soon may be.  [We need] a new, more mature and responsible approach to the Bible.
Buy the book HERE.

Christianity entered into a troubling alliance with [Constantine’s] Roman Empire.  In that alliance, unity of belief became politically useful – and enforceable.  The fusion was problematic from the beginning.  The church participated in the identification and execution of about twenty-five thousand people as heretics.  The religion that was ostensibly founded by a nonviolent man of peace had now embraced the very violence he rejected.
Dynamic faith that moves mountains was out; static belief that burns or banishes heretics was in.  Catalytic faith as an agent of social transformation was out; codified belief as a tool of social control was in.  As I ponder what this atrocity has meant in our world, I recall Woody Allen’s statement that if Jesus could see what people have done in his name, he would “never stop throwing up.”

Buy the book HERE.

What we need is not simply a new way of thinking, although our quest leads deep into and through the mind. We also need a new way of ‘being’, a new inner ecology, a new spirituality that does more than make us opinionated and fastidious, but that renders our souls an orchard of trees bearing good fruit, rooted in who we are before God and who we are becoming in God.

“We’ve gotten ourselves in a mess with the Bible.”

“First, we are in a scientific mess.  Fundamentalism…again and again paints itself into a corner by requiring that the Bible be treated as a divinely dictated science textbook.”  “This approach has set up Christians on the wrong side of truth again and again.”  “Many pious people deny our environmental crises by quoting Bible verses and mocking science.  Just as they were the last to acknowledge the rotation of the earth and its revolution around the sun, they’ll be the last to acquiesce to what science is telling us about our growing ecological crises.”

“Second, we are in trouble in relation to ethics.”  “…we are stuck now…largely obsessed with narrow hot-button feuds (eg. abortion, sexual orientation, nationalism, genetic engineering) that end up being little more than litmus tests for political affiliation.”
“In the United States, white Evangelical Christians are the most fervent advocates of government-sanctioned torture and…frequent churchgoing is a statistical indicator of support for torture.”

“Third, we are in deep trouble relating to peace.”   “When careless preachers use the Bible as a club or sword to dominate or wound, they discredit the Bible in a way that no skeptic can.”
“It’s an old and tired game:  quoting sacred texts to strengthen an us-versus-them mentality.”  “In case after case in the past, there is a kind of Bible-quoting intoxication under the influence of which we religious people lose the ability to distinguish between what God says and what we say God says.

—-  Taken from “A New Kind Of Christianity” by Brian McLaren. Buy the book HERE.


“There are two ways to read the Bible, frontwards and backwards.  If we locate Jesus primarily in light of the story that has unfolded since his time on earth, we will understand him in one way.  But if we see him emerging from within a story that had been unfolding through his ancestors, and if we primarily locate him in that story, we might understand him in a very different way.”

—- Taken from “A New Kind Of Christianity” by Brian McLaren.  Buy the book HERE.



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