A Missing Piece to the Puzzle
McLaren describes in detail how he thinks our world operates and then contrasts it to the completely different alternative "framing story" that Jesus lived and preached. One key thing that I think he fails to really take into account is the power of Islamic ideology, or the "framing story of Islam", as he would likely call it. I am not convinced, as McLaren seems to say, that terrorism is a response of the poor to the unjust and oppressive wealth of the rich. I am no expert, but I have been convinced that it is more than simply that. Yes, North America may be dominated by a capitalistic, progress-oriented outlook, but other worldviews must be reckoned with as well. I am sad that McLaren has missed this in his analysis, because I think the gospel looses none of its power in the context of the Muslim world.
The Kindom of God
One of the things that really bothered me when I was memorizing the gospel of Matthew for Bible Quizzing was this concept of the kingdom of God. John's message was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt3:2) The first thing recorded about Jesus' ministry is that he "began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'" (4:17) What exactly is this kingdom, I wondered, and if Jesus talked about it so much, what does it look like today?
McLaren does a good job of answering this question. He argues that this kingdom is here on earth, right now. Even though we are still living in the 'already but not yet', as followers of Christ we are too be concerned with kingdom business now, on this earth. Two interesting points:
- We are to work for justice. McLaren writes,
In light of Hebrew grammatical construction, it is highly possible that when Jesus says, "Seek first God's kingdom and God's justice," he is not saying two things, but one: God's kingdom is God's justice--both of which are included in another of Jesus' appositives for the kingdom, which he had stated a few moments earlier: God's will being dome on earth as it is in heaven (6:10). When that happens, justice comes. (p.219)I find that this view really resonates with much of the Old Testament.
- The the good news (gospel) about the kingdom is not only for individuals. He says a "shrinking gospel" is losing its relevance:
Sadly, in too many quarters we continue to reduce the scope of the gospel to the individual soul and the nuclear family [...] it's all about personal devotions, personal holiness, and a personal Savior. (p.244)His discussion has a lot to do with the concept of "collective sin", such as wars or unjust labor practices which indirectly support when we go shopping. Yes, Jesus saved each and every one of us individually, but McLaren calls us to broaden our horizons when it comes to the mission of the church. Something to really think about.