part two: what hit you the hardest?

i'm falling down on the job here--michelle, thanks for jumping in here.

i'm wondering if we could just have a shout out for the biggest takeaway idea/thought you had from part two? we could call it highs and lows. the idea that resonated with you most forcefully and/or the one idea that left you scratching your head, thinking, "hmmmm...i'm not so sure." maybe we could add one more category in light of this recent article. at any point did you think, "this isn't anything new"? from there we'll have a posting frenzy from our contributors, highlighting the points of greatest interest. sound good?

i'd love to hear from as many of you as possible. let's see if rss is keeping this thing alive after all! :)


Rick said...

As far as something "new", I don't know if Brian has said anything "new". My journey has been that I am realizing that for most of my life I had only been exposed to one brand of Jesus and deep inside me there were questions that my brand failed to answer adequately. I think it is a matter of EXPOSURE in many ways.

For me, it required me to risk leaving the comfort zone of my background and to trust that God is with me. That hasn't always been easy.


Chuck said...

I just finished the book this morning - great read. I'll probably reread it right away, since for some reason I was going too fast to highlight. Nevertheless, here are my responses to the high/low moments:

High - the same concept rang loudly for me in two different places, essentially inverting the relationship between theology and mission/community. I believe in chapter 5 or 6 the notion was presented that mission should drive our theology. This was probably best developed again in the final chapter, "Why Am I Unfinished", using the systematic sheology approach of James William McClendon. In his 3 volume work, "Systematic Theology", he started with "ethics" rather than "doctrine". And doctrine was much more about the practices of reflection, discussion, articulation, verses a set of propositions. McClendon is definitely now on my "must read" list. I'm sure my expectation that doctrine comes first is a holdover from my upbringing, so it was refreshing to have that brick knocked down so eloquently.

Low - I've read most of Brian's books, and I think a concept that bears more in-depth coverage is the rational behind his approach to creation "theology". Let me say at the outset that Teilhard de Chardin is one of my primary influences, so I don't have a problem with a narrative that focuses on an evolutionary development versus the "one-shot original sin" approach. But I feel that Brian frequently stops short of developing this understanding, resorting instead to "look at the beautiful world around us". When I look at creation, I can't help but see natural turmoil and destruction (birthing pains, perhaps) as well as beauty. I feel we over-romanticize our presentation by appealing to the "look at the stars in the sky" approach. Those stars are really huge furnaces full of violent energy rather than the pristine, quite view we have. A wholistic, emergent "theology" needs to be able to embrace it all, even if it doesn't claim to understand it all.


Will said...

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book, and so far my experience has been like Rick's. Nothing has been particularly revolutionary. Brian's great strength is his ability to say clearly and concisely what so many of us are feeling.

Like Brian, and like so many of us, I have been through many different phases of my faith. So maybe what has hit me the hardest is the sense that this is the more normal experience. That staying in one place, experience the same kind of faith over and over again, that is not the norm.

Paul said...


I find it interesting how you feel that Brian has "stopped short of developing this (creation 'theology'), resorting instead to 'look at the beautiful world around us'."

I think that he actually devotes a lot of his time in 'The Story We Find Ourselves In" to Creation/Anthropolgy. I guess how I took that book, he is basically saying "It makes sense that a creative being's (that is, God) ultimate creation would be one that creates itself." Granted he doesn't fully develop that idea, but for me, that concept redefined my creation 'theology'. I took that as the notion of a creation creating itself essentially referring to the evolutionary process. Brian spent about half of that book on those aspects.

I think the beauty of creation also lies in that "natural turmoil and destruction (birthing pains, perhaps)." What I mean is, there is new life (or creation) that emerges out of that turmoil - a child from birthing pains for example. Stars, 'huge furnaces full of violent energy', actually provide the energy we need to sustain our 'pristine, quite view'. This all spells out redemption to me . . . I think this is what Jesus did when he died too, that was a horrific event, but look what emerged out of it - something redemptive.
I think I'm beginning to feel that for God, redemption and beauty are synonimous.

How does this stuff sound to you? Do you think that with this approach, maybe we can have a more wholistic approach to Creation, seeing both the 'good' and the 'bad' as opportunities for redemption? (I know I haven't mentioned anything about how sin plays into this, but maybe this is a good starting point for dialogue about what Creation 'theology' looks like).

Chuck said...


Thanks for the comments. I agree wholeheartedly with all you pointed out. I guess I've just hear a lot of folks lately essentially say "when I look at the stars I know God exists", and go on to dwell on the peaceful, serene qualities they percieve from their vantage point. I appreciate Brian's efforts at getting evolution/anthropology more accepted in the general Christian discourse. But I just felt that in both his "fiction" books the characters dwelt entirely on the constructive, beautiful side of the picture. The notion of a God that would leave some things up to "chance" and "natural selection" is drastically different than the typical image folks like to postulate. It is a notion I embrace (don't understand or always like it, though) and want to see further fleshed out.


Tommy Stunz said...

I’ve spend quite a bit of my time as a follower of Jesus around people who have no mystery in their belief in God. They believe they have most everything (including God) figured out. Their theology is nice and neat and in their view has no holes in it. You are called a heretic if you have questions – especially if your questions point out the holes in their theology. Or you are a pagan if your view of God leaves room for mystery and paradox.

The biggest “takeaway idea/thought” for me was not written by Brian McLaren, but by Chesterton – quoted by McLaren:

“Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess players do …Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea, reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion… The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” (Pg149)

Too many times I've tried to get heaven into my head, where now I think it will help just to try to get my head into heaven. “Why I am Mystical/Poetic” is a chapter I have gone back to more than once.

Natala said...

My intent was to be totally in these conversations, but a few chapters into the book, I thought that our pastor would be helped by the book much more than I would right then,so I gave it to him,and I am waiting for my new copy to come in.
What I have been taking away, is that it's ok to expierence faith in different ways, it doesn't have to be in a box.
So as soon as my new book comes back in, I will be sure to participate more.

Jim said...

I guess the thing that struck me is that the different Jesus' that Brian describes are just facets, beautiful, perfect facets, of the one true God Man. I, like others, have been searching for the words to say what I have been feeling over the years, and Brian has finally said it for me. I realize that this is the urge to grow, to discover, what God has in store for each of us if we are willing to grow, and not just curl up in a corner, content with our little religion-in-a-box.

Thanks Brian.

Jim said...

I guess the thing that struck me is that the different Jesus' that Brian describes are just facets, beautiful, perfect facets, of the one true God Man. I, like others, have been searching for the words to say what I have been feeling over the years, and Brian has finally said it for me. I realize that this is the urge to grow, to discover, what God has in store for each of us if we are willing to grow, and not just curl up in a corner, content with our little religion-in-a-box.

Thanks Brian.

BGower said...

I have read A Generous Orthodoxy and I have a lot of feelings about it. I look at being “generous” as how I have always practiced my Christianity. But I have also seen a difference between how I practice and how Christianity is practiced in the church. I believe this is because when we are faced with ecclesiastical questions, we become clouded with systems and internal structuring. These questions are products of a tradition of church development that goes beyond Christ’s command to love. The Tradition is not good or bad, it’s more of a historical reality. An example of a question we might ask when focused on the church is: “who is appropriate to serve in positions of teacher, elder, and pastor? Women, Youth, Homosexuals?” Values of love, service, compassion, and tolerance take a second step to tradition, and church order. I have no problem being generous in the “world” but I find it difficult when forced to deal with Church politics, and ecclesiastical order. Is Church Structure a barrier to being Generous?

Levi said...

The chapter that struck me most was Chapter 5 "Why I am Missional" or whatever the title was. His thoughts on how late-modern churches view salvation and mission definitely with me and my experience. I think that a missional idea of salvation is a needed correction to my fait tradition anyway.

DaNutz said...

On a general level, all of Mclaren's books have freed me to explore outside the bounds of my fundamentalist upbringing without feeling like an atheist (many liberal Christian writers have left me feeling without faith at all).

On a more specific note, the concept that the kingdom of God is NOT limited to the church or even Christianity. This is something that I hear throughout his writings.

Like others have posted here, I too wish he was more detailed in his views of evolution or of the afterlife, but I think he is intentionally open ended. That goes back to "a new kind of Christian" and the fact that he intends to be more post-modern in his writing style. The modern thing to do would be have a bulleted list of his theological statements and that would defeat his purpose.