I must say that I operate out of a very similar paradigm as Brian. The paradigm shift I went through to get here has been as drastic as the ‘born-again’ paradigm shift I experienced two decades ago. As a matter of fact, you could say that I have been ‘born-again’ … again!
Like Anne Rice, I could easily say that, in the name of Christ, I am no longer a Christian, if by christian you mean Protestant/Evangelical orthodox; the orthodoxy that flows from a ‘Constantinian Shift’ Theology. [Constantinian Shift: Hebrew/ Early Christian faith’s marriage with Greek philosophy/thinking and Roman’s power/politics].
In one generation, what it meant to be a Jesus follower did a 180°. For example:

Pre-Constantine, to be christian meant you were anti-violence/ pacifist – persecuted, in part, for a refusal to pick up arms.
Post-Constantine, one could not be part of the Empirical army if they were not ‘a christian’.

To top that off, at this point in history, we have Christians starting to kill other Christians for their differing beliefs. Creedal Christianity gave birth to death and violence within Christianity that results from the us vs them mentality it produces; from crusades and heretic hunts to God hates fags!

The way I see it, it is out of this Constantinian Shift that most if not all our modern theology/understanding of God is birthed. This is the prime filter through which we understand God, interpret the scriptures and interpret our spiritual experiences.

In the above video, Scott is operating more out of a paradigm that is the result of this Constantinian shift. Brian [and myself] are trying to operate fro somewhere else.

The protest-ants have no problem saying that the catholic “institutional church” had been traveling down a wrong path; but God forbid if the question of whether they are and have been on the wrong track is put forth to them. That is when they pull out the ‘H’ word. The image of a fork in the wrong road is a great metaphor for the issues that just don’t make sense to me any more: heaven/hell; universalism/ exclusivism; Calvinism/Arminianism; liberal/ conservative. Call me a heretic, but these issues and many more of the fundamental stuff, are, in my mind, obsolete and irrelevant. They deal with questions and issues that are only relevant on the  road modern Christianity finds it self on. I have repented (done an about face) and am looking for the fork in the road that our modern Christianity missed in the distant past. My goal is to take the ancient, pre-Constantine faith and bring it in to the modern/ post-modern era. And I don’t expect it will look very churchy to many.


Thanks for your gracious response, John. Just to clarify: I am seeking to distance myself from a vicious, violent, and as you say, monstrous image of God. Nobody thinks they hold such a view, and I imagine that nobody consciously does.

But … I wonder if we can try to imagine what it felt like for Jews during the pogroms in Europe to have Christians call them “Christ-killers,” to burn, kill, and exile them … I wonder if we can try to imagine what it felt like for the Native Americans in our own history to be called savages and Canaanites (thus placing them in a category for “biblical genocide”), and then to watch our ancestors systematically steal their lands, relocate them to reservations, eradicate their culture, and so on. We could similarly try to imagine what it was like to hear the gospel from the same people who were colonizing … Then I wonder if we can imagine what it feels like today to be Muslim, or Hindu, or gay, etc., and become the focal point of fear, rage, distrust, fury, disgust, and so on … again, in the name of God and “Jesus.” I wonder if we can imagine what women feel like when the Bible is used to tell them to be quiet and do what they’re told … again, knowing that you probably don’t do this, but a lot of men still do, and even more used to do so even a few decades ago …

On top of my intellectual and spiritual responsibility to interpret the texts wisely and responsibly, I feel an ethical responsibility to interpret the texts with “the other” in mind. Perhaps that will help you understand where I’m coming from.

I don’t think the 6 line narrative (as I described it) is biblical – you may. You may not think that narrative – as I described it – is common; I do. You may not think the Christian faith has portrayed a monstrous image of God to the world very often; I wish that were true but don’t believe it is. I imagine you think that eternal conscious torment can be held without producing the ugly social consequences it has for “the other” in the past; that’s not a risk I can take. But If you share my concern that in the present and future we don’t portray – in word and deed – a monstrous image of a violent God to the world, then we can work together on behalf of “the other,” and I’m glad for that.
a comment(#78) by Brian McLaren on a post by Scot McKnight (emphasis mine)

I only wish I could be so succinct. This is the third post by Scot in a very heated dialogue on Brian’s portrayal of Christianity’s God and gospel in his new book, ANKOC.

For those not familiar with Brian’s 6 line narrative, it is:

  1. Eden/perfection,
  2. Fall,
  3. History/condemnation,
  4. The offering of salvation,
  5. Heaven/return to perfection or
  6. Hell/eternal punishment

Another commenter states: “a real atonement also requires things like real[punitive] judgment”

I ask, “Why?”

“to address the systemic and individual evil rampant in human reality”

How about the systemic and divine love and forgiveness rampant in God’s reality as revealed in Christ.

Why cannot God JUST forgive? Why must the Almighty “come in Wrath to destroy the Devil and evil men”? This same God who will smite his enemies requires me to love mine. This same God who will allow some to be consciously tormented eternally – either through His ‘good will’ or by sitting back and letting it happen seems to require more from me. Besides, forgiveness that is the result of Christ’s work on the cross is no forgiveness at all, it is appeasement. We have Christ dieing on the cross to appease an wrathful God.

I struggle to believe that our theological beliefs and doctrines have no effect on our attitudes or actions. This “conventional soul-sort” theology can’t but help lead us to an us/them mentality. I am not putting a morality value judgment on this us/them, however, taken to the extreme we see the actions against Jews, native Americans, gays and Islamic people as Brian pointed out in his above comment.

Scot’s posts and the resultant comments have been relatively civil in the often divisive McLaren War resulting from his new book.

Today we have Nick and Josh with a podcast interview with Brian McLaren about his new book A New Kind of Christianity.

In my interactions with more fundamentalist friends, I’ve noticed a trend. These friends insist on the existence of absolute truth. They also insist that this absolute truth is knowable and that it’s accessible through the Bible. The more they insist on speaking about absolute truth, the more they seem closed off to what others have to say about what they regard as truth.

As we go forward in these turbulent times, we need to keep some things in mind. I think ALL sides need to keep open minds. I believe that those of us who are ‘heretics’ are just as likely to close our selves off from others’ input as we claim that our opponents are doing towards us.

Thomas Kuhn (1962) noted that in historical retrospect, science is done paradigmatically. It goes through seasons of ‘revolutionary’ science, punctuated by stable periods of equilibrium or ‘normal’ science.

Hans Küng (1988) asserted how paradigm change in theology (see diagram to right) has produced four constellations of macro-theology within Christianity (Ancient, Medieval, Reformation, Modern) in distinction from its founding Kingdom paradigm in the first-century. Küng argues that a ‘contemporary’ paradigm in Christianity beyond these prevailing thought systems is forming in our time.

… We must lead the church from the future, not just the past.

More and more I am hearing of the tension between the different paradigms that plague Christendom. No where is this more evedent than within the reviews of Brian McLaren‘s new book A New Kind of Christianity. I hope to be picking up my copy in the next day or two, so look forward to my version of a review. The very fact that this book is raising up such a whirl wind of discussion/ debate [attack?] leaves me to think that this is a much read book for any one who is in a position of influence.

that we haven’t really taken seriously enough what it means to call Jesus the Word of God. We’ve made the revelation of God in Jesus less formative than Deuteronomy 7, a bad reading of Rev 19, etc.

Is much of evangelicalism guilty of Bibliolatry? I say we tend to interpret Jesus through our image of the scriptures, rather than let our image of God through the revelation Jesus interpret the scriptures.

A New Kind of Christianity

Brian asks ten questions that attempt to integrate our inner lives with our outward actions:

  • The Narrative Question: What Is the Overarching Storyline of the Bible?
  • The Authority Question: How Should the Bible Be Understood?
  • The God Question: Is God Violent?
  • The Jesus Question: Who is Jesus and Why is He Important?
  • The Gospel Question: What Is the Gospel?
  • The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?
  • The Sex Question: Can We Find a Way to Address Sexuality Without Fighting About It?
  • The Future Question: Can We Find a Better Way of View the Future?
  • The Pluralism Question: How Should Followers of Jesus Relate to People of Other Religions?
  • The What Do We Do Now Question: How Can We Translate Our Quest into Action?

from zoecarnate

Love this Brian!

We need not a new set of beliefs, but a new way of believing, not simply new answers to the same old questions, but a new set of questions. (17-18)

From A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (available February 9, 2010)

The future belongs to those willing to let go, to stop trying to minimize the change we face, but rather to maximize the discontinuity. William Esu writes,

A new form of congregational life is dragging Christians kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. The self understanding, focus, corporate culture, leadership, organizational styles, and strategies are radically different from those experienced throughout the twentieth century. The future church offers new opportunities and problems and requires a new mindset…

Brian McLaren, church on the other side: exploring the radical future of the local congregation