Thursday, January 17, 2008

Brian McLaren and Ahistoricism

John Wilson has written a brief critique of Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change in Books and Culture. I thin k it's fair-minded and makes a few good points.

The point that especially struck me is Wilson's insight that McLaren's work tends towards being ahistorical in the sense that, I now exaggerate to make the point, no one in Christian history has got the Real Jesus thing right since the early church. Until now. We, viz., McLaren and a few others, are understnading Jesus correctly.

Wilson writes: "McLaren is particularly misleading when he's suggesting, as he does quite emphatically at times, that somehow the church went off the rails early on, and that only now are (some) Christians beginning to understand what Jesus was really saying. While McLaren occasionally adds nuances and qualifiers, this ahistorical account runs through the book. In this respect, his message is oddly reminiscent of the ahistorical narrative of church history that dominated the evangelical/fundamentalist churches of my youth. Between an idealized first-century church and the present moment, when the preacher was calling on you to make a decision for Christ, there loomed a great wasteland—all those centuries in which the church failed to heed the plain words of Scripture."

I feel certain that Wilson is right about this. He's not harsh toward McLaren. He just points this out. I think I have at times been guilty of this. So Wilson's counsel serves as a good corrective for me, too.