Friday, October 19, 2012

McLaren Review at Englewood Books

My review of Brian McLaren's book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (Jericho Books, 2012) is now available online at The Englewood Review of Books. (A shorter review combined with my review of Eboo Patel's book Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America will be published later at the Evangelical Channel at Patheos.) My thanks goes to Brian and Jericho for making a review copy of this book available and for the opportunity to begin a conversation over its ideas, and to Chris Smith at Englewood for the publishing and allowing me an extended word limit to engage the subject matter.

The review brings my background in theology, missiology, and dialogue to bear on the subject matter. This involves a summary of McLaren's thesis on hope for a reformulation of Christian faith identity related to other religions, and an interaction with the major elements of the book including evangelicalism and critical self-reflection, Christological hermeneutics, pnuematological considerations, liturgy and Christ's resurrection, missions and the commonwealth of God, competitive superiority and religious supremacy, and a new way forward for Evangelicals.

Here is a sample from the review that I hope will stimulate conversation in the Evangelical community:
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? purposefully draws upon the fact that the title sounds like the introduction to familiar jokes. But McLaren uses this a rhetorical strategy in order to provide a thought provoking discussion related to his agenda for the church’s reformulation of various areas of theology and praxis. The subject matter should not be understood as a treatise on interreligious dialogue, but instead as addressing pre-dialogue considerations. The central thesis McLaren advances relates to what he labels “Conflicted Religious Identity Syndrome,” which he defines as a part of the Christian’s faith identity that involves the extension of hostility or opposition to the other as enemy in regards to those in other religions (19). He expands on this idea with these words:
"Our root problem is neither religious difference nor religious identity nor even strong religious identity. Our root problem is the hostility that we often employ to make and keep our identities strong – whether those identities are political, economic, philosophical, scientific, or religious." (emphasis in original) (63)
McLaren hopes that Christians will consider a change of their identity, moving away from the extension of hostility to one that is ”strongly benevolent toward people of other faiths, accepting them not in spite of the religion they love, but with the religion they love” (emphasis in original) (32).

1 comment:

Steve said...

Good review of a good book that I also read. Thanks!