This last volume in the trilogy that began with the award-winning A New Kind of Christian tells an intriguing fictional tale that raises urgent questions about hell--and about our view of God. What God do we believe exists? What kind of life should we live in response? How does our view of God affect the way we see and treat other people? And how does the way we see and treat other people affect our view of God? As Pastor Dan Poole and his friends and family grapple with these pressing questions, readers will find themselves moving beyond the tired rhetoric of denominational and theological categories to a view of their relationship with God that is more truly biblical, more faithful, more inspiring, more sensible, more evocative, more robust, more healing, more global, and more transforming.
McLaren, founder of the Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland, has become a
prolific and award-winning author on the meaning and practice of Christian
spiritual life in the 21st century. He was also named one of Time magazine's
25 most influential evangelicals in America. Following A New Kind of
Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In, this is his final book in a
trilogy that aims to follow the struggles of fictional pastor Dan Poole, who
wrestles with the rigid beliefs of his upbringing, ultimately discovering a
new kind of Christianity based on love and action in community. Though the
characters are fictional, the search for answers mirrors McLaren's own
development. This volume tackles the traditional doctrine of hell, its
spiritual inadequacy, and how Jesus used hell as a symbol for judgment against
the Pharisees, whose condemnation of those who disagreed with them is akin to
the precepts of modern American fundamentalism. This questioning is set
against the backdrop of the abortive heresy trial of Pastor Poole. McLaren
meditates on Christian scripture, finding God's desire for justice in the here
and now to be far more scriptural than the picture of a God eager to condemn
people to fire or annihilation. McLaren clarifies theological debates with
deep love and compassion. Though still based on the view that Jesus alone is
the source of salvation, this work speaks to people of faith in all religions.
Highly recommended for public, academic, and theological libraries.-William P.
Collins, Library of Congress Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Pastor Dan Poole returns with another personal and theological crisis in this
final installment of McLaren's A New Kind of Christian trilogy, which again
features fictional characters engaged in nonfictionish theological dialogue.
This time around, Poole has been granted an extended leave of absence from his
conservative church as it investigates what it believes to be his liberal
theological leanings, especially regarding the doctrine of hell and salvation.
In rather predictable fashion, Poole finds himself questioning his own beliefs
about hell and God's goodness, and just as predictably, Poole's friend Neo
gently shepherds Poole away from the traditional doctrine of hell by pointing
out that salvation is not just an individual matter but a communal one as
well. Once Poole reaches some personal level of understanding about these
doctrines through his reading, the church committee miraculously clears him of
all charges and, after some emotional meetings, asks him to return to the
pulpit. In the end, Poole finds comfort God's goodness and love, but by then
readers may have been disappointed by the book's flimsy characters and
simplistic insights. Although McLaren has justly earned a reputation for
provocative postmodern theological observations, this doesn't live up to his
standard. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
3 of 3 Reviews Showing:
Reviewed by Rick Harrington
(Haverhill), November 29, 2006
I'll be brief: An engaging story, a socially-sensitive author, a hot topic (no pun intended), no clear answers. For the reader who believes in the authority of Scripture, this is a frustrating read: the disolution of absolute truth, the low regard for historical theology, and the uncritical embrace of what is culturally faddish will raise your blood pressure. If you are looking for a book to get you in the thinking process about the philosophical difficulties of Hell, this might help. If you are looking for carefully thought out and well-supported answers, keep looking.
Reviewed by Steven Marquardt
(Portland, Oregon), May 14, 2005
In this third book of the New Kind of Christian trilogy, McLaren does a great job at tackling a difficult subject that the church finds it easy to ignore or become dogmatic about-hell. I just finished the book and I'm not certain that I agree with everything McLaren said, but I am encouraged that he has looked at this doctrine in a fresh way, and raised a number of issues about the traditional doctrine that must be addressed. In addition, I am continually encouraged by McLaren's emphasis on focusing on what God wants to do in the world now. For example, on page 171, it says, "In my way of telling the gospel, what you call the Western way, there were always two key questions: 1. If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain that you'd go to be with God in heaven? and 2. If Jesus returned today, would you be ready to meet God? Jesus is important because he paid for your sins when he died on the cross, so if you die tonight, or if Jesus returns today, you'll be forgiven and can enter heaven. But in this new understanding of the gospel, two very different questions come to mind: 1. If you were to live for another fifty years, what kind of person would you like to become-and how will you become that kind of person? and 2. If Jesus doesn't return for ten thousand or ten million years, what kind of world do we want to create?" Whether you agree with McLaren or not, this book is definitely worth reading.
Reviewed by Peter hamm
(Centreville, VA), May 10, 2005
I really liked McLaren's first two books in this series, which really make a Christ-follower in this current age think about methods, theologies, and conclusions in a fresh new way... But in the latest volume, all of McLaren's "Postmodern Conversationalists" leap to conclusions that are just not believable.
For example, on p. 165 one of his characters argues that the meaning of the Greek word for righteousness is actually closer to the English word justice. That is a preposterous conclusion, and the book has plenty more where that came from. And at the same time, McLaren is just maddeningly effective at not letting you really come to any conclusions whatsoever about what he or his characters actually believe. The concepts are so nebulous that they disintegrate before they're actually described!
No, you won't be able to figure out if McLaren believes in a literal hell when you finish this book. But on the bright side, maybe you'll start thinking about Grace and Love as the "Last Words" on faith instead of "Hell", and that would be some positive imagining. But ludicrous theology taints that message far too much to recommend this book to anybody but the really serious McLaren fan or the person who just HAS to engage in the entire "emergent" discussion, every good and every inane part of it. I say there has to be yet another last word after this one... As I said once before... If I call myself "post-emergent" will somebody give a book deal to ME? ;-)
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