First of all, I like McLaren's straightforward, accessible style. It seems to me that a lot of the time, one of the reasons that some of these ideas seem so threatening to those in evangelical circles is because despite the fact that these ideas have been around for a while, they have too often been communicated in a code comprehensible only to theologians, and thus have not been given a lot of air time among everyday Christians (of course, it could possibly also be because everyday Christians, whatever that means, don't give a damn about theology, but let's discuss that later). But McLaren said all this already, didn't he.
Anyway, his mentions of Chesterton make me think that, on the other hand, there have been those saying these things in a fairly clear manner for some time now, but they have by and large been ignored, or maybe skipped over, rather than rejected outright. I say that thinking about C.S. Lewis. At times, reading Lewis, I have wondered how the guy avoided being bbq'ed by the evangelical community that seems to love him so much, because of some of the ideas he promoted. Even in some of his most widely read works, Lewis makes statements that I would assume should have landed him in the "evangelical heretic" category. I blogged about this before, but I wanted to quote it again, because I think it is pertinent to the discussion. I notice that already critics over at Amazon are saying that McLaren's ideas open the door "too wide". Well, it seems that he is in good company. Lewis in Mere Christianity:
...But there is another way of demanding results in which the outer world may be quite illogical. They may demand not merely that each man’s life should improve if he becomes a Christian: they may also demand before they believe in Christianity that they should see they whole world neatly divided into two camps – Christian and non-Christian – and that all the people in the first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in the second. This is unreasonable on several grounds.
(I) In the first place the situation in the actual world is much more complicated than that. The world does not consist of 100 percent Christians and 100 percent non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of goodwill may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christs birth may have been in this position. And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together. Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judgements about Christians and non-Christians in the mass...
Add to that the scene at the end of The Final Battle where you have some who thought they were enemies of Aslan finding out that they were indeed on his side, and you have some pretty challenging ideas.
Ok. That is only one initial thought, but enough for now.