Question #5: “What Is The Gospel?” (McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity”)

In this series of posts we are taking the questions Brian McLaren addresses in “A New Kind of Christianity” one by one.  The method will be to ask the question, look at how McLaren believes Western Christianity answers the question, how McLaren answers the question himself and lastly how I would answer the question.  In this post, we will address the 5th question McLaren mentions in the book.

The Question:  What is the Gospel?

Western Christianity’s Answer:  Western Christianity’s answer, McLaren believes, would come mostly if not solely from the Book of Romans.  The Gospel according to Western Christianity is justification by grace through faith.  The Gospel according to Western Christianity is about how to escape earth and get to Heaven.  The Gospel is about avoiding Hell.  Ultimately, the Gospel is about me, me, me.

Brian McLaren’s Answer:  Brian McLaren wants to say that the Gospel is about the Kingdom of God coming to earth.  He emphasizes that what Jesus preached and talked about in the Gospels was the Kingdom of God being at hand.  McLaren then goes through the Book of Romans, which has so often been used to propound the “Gospel is about me” mindset, and he shows how he sees the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in it.  McLaren’s interpretation is as follows: Continue reading

Book Review: Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking On Water: Reflections On Faith and Art

“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.”  So says Madeleine L’Engle in her marvelous book about art and faith.  Why is there nothing secular that cannot be sacred?  Because God created everything.  Evil created nothing.  All that exists either is good, or can be good.  Those things which seem evil are only good things that have been perverted.  Continue reading

Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus Chapter 3

We are reading through Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus and analysing it in some detail.  We will pick up where we left of with Misquoting Jesus–Chapter Three.

Throughout Chapter 3, Bart Ehrman gives us a quick history of the different texts and manuscripts we have of the New Testament, and how these manuscripts have affected translations of the New Testament.  The first fact that we ought to look at is that by Ehrman’s own admission, we have 5700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  Some of these manuscripts are partial manuscripts the size of a credit card, some are collections of more than one book, and a few even contain the whole New Testament.  Continue reading

Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus-Chapters 1 & 2

We are reading through Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus and analysing it in some detail.  We will pick up where we left of with Misquoting Jesus–Chapter One.

In the first chapter, Ehrman gives an introduction to Judaism, Christianity and then Christian Scriptures.  While there are not many controversial ideas in this chapter, at least when compared to the last, Ehrman still makes one significant mistake that someone of his stature should know better than.  In the process of explaining Jewish history, Ehrman makes the statement that just as there was only one God, “so, too, there was only one Temple…they (Jews) could perform religious obligations of sacrifice to God only at the Temple in Jerusalem.” (p. 18)

This simply is not true for at least one major reason: The Jews, Judaism and Jewish sacrifices predate the Temple.  Continue reading

Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus–Introduction (Answering the Critics #3)

We are going to take a more in-depth look at Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus than we have in our other “Answering the Critics” posts.  We will take the book one or two chapters at a time.

Bart Ehrman begins his Misquoting Jesus in a very different way than one might expect—with an introduction which tells the story of Ehrman’s interactions with the Christian Church as he was growing up.  Continue reading

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (Answering the Critics #2)

Our discussion of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion will focus on Chapter 4, “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God”, because this contains the central argument of the whole book. Dawkins sums up his argument in 6 points leading to a conclusion. These are provided below, not in exact quotes, but translated into language that one can understand without having read the first half of Dawkins’ book.

  1. One of the greatest challenges to human intellect is to explain the improbable, complex appearance of design which we observe around us.
  2. It seems only natural for humans to attribute the apparent design to a Designer.
  3. We must not attribute this apparent design to a Designer because it would lead to a “who designed the Designer” problem. If we conclude that a Designer designed the universe because we observe the universe to be complex, then surely the Designer is more complex than what He/She designed. If complexity shows that something was designed by a Designer, and the Designer of the universe is complex, then who designed the Designer of the universe? (This fallacy is called the fallacy of infinite regression).
  4. Darwinian evolution, that is, evolution through small degrees, has explained the illusion of design.
  5. We do not yet have a theory which explains the appearance of design in physics, as Darwinian evolution does for biology.
  6. Even though it is true that we do not yet have a theory to explain design in physics, the weak theories we do have are still better than the theory of an Intelligent Designer.

Conclusion: There almost certainly is no god.

There are a number of problems with Dawkins’ 6 statements. A number of them are questionable at best. For the moment, though, let us assume Dawkins’ statements are accurate. Even if all of them are true, there is a sort of bait-and-switch going on here. Throughout Dawkins’ argument, he is talking about Intelligent Design. In the conclusion, though, a switch happens. Dawkins no longer talks about Intelligent Design–he makes the jump to say that there is no God. It does not make sense to make a whole argument about Intelligent Design, and then end with a conclusion that is about the existence of God. In short, Dawkins’ conclusion does not follow from the premise. One cannot make an argument about Intelligent Design, and then follow it to a conclusion about the existence of God. Continue reading

Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great (Answering the Critics #1)

The main idea Hitchens presents throughout God Is Not Great is the question “If God is good, how can his followers do evil things?”  Indeed, Hitchens raises an interesting question here.  We all have examples of people who claim to be religious, who claim to be moral, who claim to believe in a good god, who also end up doing something evil.  So Hitchens raises the question, “If God is great, how can his followers do evil things?”  The implied answer to Hitchens question is the title of his book-god is not great.

Isn’t Hitchens jumping to conclusions here, though?  Might there be any other number of reasons why people who claim to follow a good god do evil things?  Right off the top of our head we might offer the suggestion that not all those who claim to be following God are truly following God. Continue reading