McLaren, The Last Word and the Word After That

It’s been a long time that I have wanted to read the third installment of McLaren’s New Kind of Christian which is about hell and works through the issue in the narrative of a church’s struggle to remain faithful to the gospel, despite extreme pressures to go the fundamentalist route or the extreme liberal route.  It seems that, in the western world, this is a tension that churches and church leaders have to deal with all the time and manage the practices of the church with the theology of the church.

So, in this context, McLaren decides to put some thoughts into the theology of hell.  Who goes to hell and where is hell and why have hell are questions that have to have decent answers for any thinking Christian.  After reading this book I jokingly told a friend of mine that I don’t think I can believe in hell any more!  Of course, that’s not even remotely true, but I do not want to be guilty of just accepting what the traditional views on hell are, without examining the Scriptures and the relevant doctrines and historical theologies (for McLaren, that means a focus on the writings of C.S. Lewis).

So, while I’m still down with the existence of hell, this book can be appreciated by a wide range of different viewpoints and asks amazing questions that will push your thinking futher and your devotion to God further at the same time.

Here’s some fun quotes:

  • p.15, “faith must engage with the culture in which it finds itself but how it can become so excessively enmeshed with that culture that its power is neutralized… If a faith becomes enmeshed, not just engaged, with a culture…people hardly notice – until a wave of cultural change hits. Then, when people want to move on from that fading culture, when they want to be part of the new wave, they feel they must leave behind their faith as well. Their only alternative is to try to disengage their faith fro the fading culture, but this is one of the most painful things a person can do”
  • p. 63, “For the Pharisees, good meant disdaining, stigmatizing, excluding, and avoiding sinners. For Jesus, good meant forgiving sinners and reconciling them to the community… So for Jesus, good is always compassionate”
  • p.129, “I’ve found I can only know so much until I find a community that shares my knowing. If I begin growing very far beyond what my community allows me to know, I need to persuade my community to think with me or else find or form a new community.”

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