Monday, January 09, 2006

Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus Intro

Last week, I received an advance copy of Brian McLaren's book due out in April called The Secret Message of Jesus (TSMOJ). I wanted to give some thoughts on the book and I figured that I would take the next few Mondays and put down some thoughts.

One of the things I'm very excited about is that the entire subject of the book is on the Kingdom of God, a subject that has been of extreme interest to me in the past 18 months as I see it as the primary message of Jesus. I'm not really excited about the title of the book, because it kind of seems like one of those things to entice people to pick it up, but I guess that's the point of marketing.

I'm also very excited that another favorite book of mine, Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp, is quoted twice in this. I think Lee is a great guy and thinker and I would be excited if his work got some more exposure, but I think his family would like the royalty checks... I will go ahead and confess to the readers of mine from Otter Creek that I will be teaching a class on the Kingdom this summer and "borrowing" a lot from both Mere Discipleship and TSMOJ.

I'll talk about the intro here and it's important to note that McLaren starts out most of his books the same way. He introduces himself and his ideas and then directly address his potential readers. McLaren loves to imagine. You might say that he's a dreamer, and he's probably not the only one. He asks a lot of "What if?" questions in his books. In one of my favorite parts of the introduction, he makes the following statement:

Think about all the people who have explored the Gnostic Gospels in recent years, hoping to get a better, more radical vision of Jesus and his message. What if the problem isn't with our accepted stories of Jesus (the stories given us by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John rather than these alternate accounts) - but rather with our success at domesticating them and with our failure to see them in their native wildness and original vigor? What if, properly understood, the canonical (or accepted) Gospel of Matthew is far more radical and robust than the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, or the canonical Gospel of John is far more visionary and transformative than the apocryphal Gospel of Peter - if only we "had eyes to see," as Jesus says?
In calling this the secret message of Jesus, McLaren is NOT putting himself up as some kind of Gnostic Guru, figuring out secrets that no one else ever has. In fact, he's kind of popularizing and rethinking the work of people like N.T. Wright. What he is doing is asking questions that a lot of people have been asking over the last decade or 20 years or so. And he's giving answers that make sense in the Biblical light and some I'm not sure about as well, but we'll get to those later as we get into the actual text of the book.

I've really enjoyed what I've read so far and I think this is one of those books that people could read to really change some thinking, to get us out of Churchianity and into following Jesus.


TCS said...

Ok, I am jealous, but then again if I read non-stop between now and when the book comes out, I would not get through the books on my stack to be read.

Phil said...

Yeah, but as you'll notice, I shifted some stuff to the bottom of the list to do this.

Amy said...

Thanks for the inside info on the book! It sounds refreshing - love the thought of foregoing "churchianity" and rather following Jesus. Is that your phrasing or McLaren's?

Phil said...

You know, I may have seen it somewhere before, but I don't remember it. If you Google "Churchianity," you get 50,000 hits, so it's definitely not something unique to me, but in this context I'll totally claim it.

jettybetty said...

So, I may have to fly to Nashville every weekend for class huh ;-) ??

I've just finished A Generous Orthodoxy and am tyring to figure out something about the emergent movement. {I think I must be really slow or something}

I will look forward to reading the new book in April!

TCS said...

Yeah, I see. I finally got Velvet and at the rate I am going will pass you in finishing it. Look forward to hearing more on Secret.

Phil said...

jettybetty, what are you trying to figure out about the Emerging church deal? Just the general concepts? What people are thinking? Is it heretical?

Oh, and you don't have to fly. I fully expect to post my notes here on the blog.

Tony Arnold said...

Great about the notes Phil. That means I don't have to attend! :-)


Call Me Ishmael said...

I'll break out my decoder ring.

Phil said...

Hi Ishmael. Welcome in.

In looking over your blog, it seems like you have some issues with McLaren and the Emerging Church/conversation/whatever. Could you go into some of those?


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