Saturday, January 01, 2005

Out with the old, in with the something else that sucks just as bad

More Thoughts on Brian McLaren
A Companion Piece to Jake's review of A Generous Orthodoxy

A couple of months ago, Jake asked me to read a couple of books, then engage the texts from a critical standpoint to really understand the intentions and the methods of their respective authors. And I tried, but I couldn't. Mostly, because I can't stand crap.

There are two reasons I read. One is purely mechanical, for informational purposes. This type of reading kind of sucks sometimes, but it's good to know things. So it's got to be done.

The other reason I read is because I like the English language. Some writers just have an incredible grasp on words, and how to connect them with economy and clarity and a voice that is all their own.

I pick up Brian McLaren every once in while for the first reason. I want to know what the Emergent Church is, not because I'm desperate for a new tradition, but because I want to understand why so many evangelicals are so excited about his writings. But, to be totally honest, he doesn't say anything to me. Generous Orthodoxy is an argument without form or substance. It's not knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It's a thought experiment that goes nowhere.

As a writer, McLaren wants so badly to be in the second category. I can sense it, because I feel the same way. He writes not just to make a case, but because of his love of English and of God. But his language is flat, his ideas don't connect, and his words don't propel me from sentence to sentence, desperately wanting to know not just what he will say next, but how exactly he will say it.

In the end, I can't read McLaren. I don't have the discipline to read a book to simply understand a man or his "movement" without having something invested in what's at stake. And I can't read books whose authors love English....but not enough to know when to stop writing.

I think we evangelicals would be better off if we'd just pick up Bonhoeffer, Buechner, Manning, Yancey and Lammot -- and fall in love with authors who hide their points amongst the tall grass of poetry and grace. When Jesus spoke, it was never easy to understand. But it was beautiful and it was startling and it was vital. It was divine revelation hidden among the mud and the clay of planet earth. It wasn't a silly attempt to be everything to everyone. It stood out and said, "Everything else is dung."

I don't see the Emergent Church as offering of this. But to be fair, I don't see many other churches offering this either. We don't need new whats-its and whos-its. We don't need to hear about how we're on the verge of a new epoch in human thought. And we desperately don't need to surf the trends of armchair philosophers. We just need to preach Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Resting not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. In the majesty and bloody guts of the Gospel story.

(And I've got more. If you want to hear me complain about free Christmas-gift subscriptions to Relevant Magazine, read on.)


At 1/01/2005 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bonhoeffer wasn't poetic.......was he?

At 1/02/2005 7:24 AM, Blogger Dusty said...

I am not sure about Bonhoffer...However, I would have put Nouwen on that list, oh, and LaHaye and Jenkins...If you have not heard of the Left Behind Series, you totally need to go start reading it...simply brilliant!

At 1/04/2005 10:18 AM, Blogger Eric Snider said...

It is so hard to be so painfully hip and anarchic at the same time. From various things I have read about Emergent, it faces that difficulty. If you get the humor in this, Emergent reminds me of what I saw two years ago. A properly "uniformed" twentysomething (black tee shirt, hipster hair) driving an SUV, with the following written across the rear window: "Subvert the dominant paradigm."


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