Growing up in a world where ‘Theos’ was revered and Jesus was explained away, I find it refreshing to read how Brian turns the tables to show how Christ is the pinnacle of the Christian revelation of God – which should be obvious, but it’s become obscured in our ‘Constitutional’ reading of the Bible. One of the best ‘side effects’ of seeing Sacred Scripture as a community library is that it allows the native brilliance of Jesus shine and take his proper place at the center of Christian ideas of God, love, redemption, and living in the world.
In fact, I’d venture to say that the ‘new’ in a new kind of Christianity is the proper emphasis placed on the newness of God’s New Covenant, God’s new heaven and earth realities that are being birthed through grace and kindness – Gospel realities that are the air we breathe in God’s new creation ecology.
Hear this come through in Brian’s passion for the centrality of Christ in our understanding of God:
The Quaker scholar Elton Trueblood approached the Bible this way. One of Trueblood’s students told me that he often heard his mentor say something like this: “The historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God. It is far more radical than that. It means that God is like Jesus.” In other words, the doctrines of the incarnation and deity of Christ are meant to tell us that we cannot start with a pre-determined, set-in-stone idea of God derived from the rest of the Bible, and then extend that to Jesus. Jesus is not intended merely to fit into those pre-determined categories; he is intended instead to explode them, transform them, alter them forever and bring us to a new evolutionary level in our understanding of God. An old definition of God does not define Jesus: the experience of God in Jesus requires a new brand definition or understanding of God.
Trueblood’s insight, in my opinion, is the best single reason to be identified as a believer in Jesus, and it is an unspeakably precious gift that can be offered to people of all faiths. The character of Jesus, we proclaim, provides humanity with a unique and indispensable guide for tracing the development of maturing images and concepts of God across human history and culture. It is the North Star, if you will, to aid all people, whatever their religious background, in their theological pilgrimage. The images of God that most resemble Jesus – whether they originate in the Bible or elsewhere – are the more mature and complete images, and the ones less similar to the character of Jesus would be the more embryonic and incomplete – even though they may be celebrated for being better than the less complete images they replaced.
This is why we cannot simply say that the highest revelation of God is given through the Bible (especially the Bible read as a constitution, or cut and pasted to fit in the Greco-Roman six-line narrative). Rather, we can say that, for Christians, the Bible’s highest value is in revealing Jesus, who gives us the highest, deepest, and most mature view of the character of the living God.
– A New Kind of Christianity, pages 114-115
As I’ve noted here and here, I think that many readers will find in ANKoC the seeds of a wiser, more loving approach to Christian living – because it points a wiser, more loving, Christ-like God who is worthy of all worship and service.
If you’re reading along in the book – or waiting to get yours in the mail! – be sure to download the two free bonus chapters on Bible-reading and eschatology. Also stay tuned for the ten-episode Brian McLaren channel we’re launching with TheOOZE next week! And if you want an opportunity for your circle of friends, fellowship group or Sunday School class to discuss ANKoC personally with Brian, we’re hosting a sweepstakes where you can do just that. And finally – feel free to follow the unfolding blogosphere conversation over at ViralBloggers.com.