The Story We Find Ourselves In The Story We Find Ourselves In
Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian

Brian D McLaren
ISBN 9780787963873 (0787963879)
Jossey-Bass, 2003
£16.5

Category: Emerging Church & Postmodern Faith

This is the second volume in McLaren's New Kind of Christian series. Here Dan and Neo, the two main characters introduced in the first volume (A New Kind of Christian), along with several newcomers, take on the thorny subject of evolution, of origins and — perhaps more importantly — endings. Rather than tackle the questions head on via a conventional "Science versus Faith" apologetic approach (for that, see Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator), McLaren weaves the issues into an ongoing conversation between his characters, taking us on a tour of the Galapagos Islands. On the islands he introduces us to a team of scientists working there and to a new church emerging amongst the islands' tourists — with Neo acting as tour guide on a cruise ship.

The story begins with a badly written email, a request for help from Neo to Dan on behalf of a friend from the islands, Kerry Ellison, who has cancer and is returning to the USA for treatment. Dan and his wife, Carol, take Kerry under their wing. Kerry explains how she met Neo and relays several of their conversations. For Kerry, evolutionary theory explains everything — until Neo brings God into the equation. But instead of dogma about a world created in six days, Neo presents a story of a world still emerging, of creation as evolution in progress — the story we find ourselves in.

The story unfolds looking at issues of life and death, of human relationships and destiny, of emnity and reconciliation. September 11th 2001 — the nightmare of the terrorist attacks that destroyed New York's Twin Towers — takes place in the middle of the story, recalling the horror of the day and responding to it with a hand of friendship extended from a Christian community to a Muslim community.

McLaren's narrative approach to theology allows him the flexibility to bring in various subtopics, with one chapter (Ch. 20, "More Than Even All the Windows Can Show") looking briefly — but with remarkable clarity — at theories of atonement. It's a conversational style which makes these books far more accessible than many other attempts to address similar serious theological issues. I have rarely come across books that articulate so clearly the way that I've been thinking myself over the past 20 years: the entire series is well worth reading - but be aware: if you're a Christian, particularly if you're from a conservative evangelical background, some of your fellow believers will think you've lost the plot just when you think you've discovered it. Others from less conservative backgrounds will wonder what all the fuss is about — but that's another story. For me personally, reading these books has been like having my spirit set free, a sense of liberation: as Wesley's famous hymn puts it, "My chains fell off, my heart was free!"

For a less favourable appraisal of McLaren's writing, see D A Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church or, if you prefer something more dynamic, see Leonard Sweet's The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives.

Like him or not, McLaren's writing is outstanding, putting theology within reach of a postmodern generation. If you've got more questions than answers — and can live with even more emerging — this is a book you'll want to read at least twice. Make sure you don't miss volume 3, The Last Word and the Word after That.

Phil Groom, July 2005

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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