When you want to make big $$ with a book, pitch it to the largest audience possible. Certainly the author of this toxic book had that in mind, positioning himself (and the potential buyer) as the cool, enlightened thinker who is "beyond categories," neither liberal nor conservative, etc. This passes for wisdom in what is called the "emergent" church. I'll propose a better name: "submergent post-Christian poppycock," for it certainly submerges Christianity (as in drowning). The author claims he accepts the historic creeds of the church (Apostles' and Nicene) and believes in the Bible (sort of). What his religion is based on is (surprise!) "love for all creation," which, as in any religious book written post-1960, is the only thing required of Christians. He is correct: the Bible says a lot about loveâ€”but also a lot about living morally, which requires self-control and self-disciplineâ€”in short, saying "No" to oneself, something that Christian authors over the centuries took for granted. "Love is all you need" is the sentiment of Lennon and McCartney, not of the Bibleâ€”you DO need more than just love. Singing Kum Ba Yah is nice, but the Christian life is a little more demanding than that, and all our individual and global problems will not be solved by a group hug. (When your wife catches you with another woman, see if she'll buy your "love is all you need" excuse.)
Any book like this is bound to make a few valid points about the failings of Christianity. Granted, there is much to criticize. But I hardly think this author's vision of spirituality as "smile a lot and be tolerant" is any closer to Christianity than what you could find in any church.
I was, frankly, horrified that Zondervan, which used to be reliably Christian, published this load of poisonous poppycock. To quote Jesus (a good source, in my opinion), "You cannot love God and money." The book is making money for them now, but wait a few years and watch how evangelicals go the way of the mainlines, i.e., losing members by the thousands, since there just isn't much excitement in getting up on Sunday morning to hear the preacher say "Smile, be tolerant, and recycle." That, in a nutshell, is what the "emergent" church is, an attempt by so-called Christians at getting the approval (or at least the attention) of unbelievers by saying, "Hey, we're not hung up on doctrine or moralsâ€”it's all about love and not leaving a big carbon footprint!" Whatever this is, it isn't exactly a life-enriching, soul-stirring faith. It bears a disturbing resemblance to the watery faith people have when they call themselves "spiritual but not religious."
When I read this sort of tripe, I can't help but wonder: Don't people realize that Bibles are very inexpensive, and that the time you wasted on this sort of post-Christian drivel could be spent reading through one of the Gospels, say, Matthew or Luke, where you would get a VERY clear idea of what Christians are supposed to think or do. Of course, Jesus wasn't as entertaining or clever as our post-Christian "spiritual" authors, since he wasn't trying to make a buck, and he took his message seriously. That certainly isn't true of Brian MacLaren.
A friend of mine heartily recommended this book to me, and I am very glad that I followed his advice. It was encouraging to read a book that has a Christ-centric focus and delves into the similarities between various Christian denominations, rather than the differences. I found it to be an enlightening book, both spiritually and academically, and was encouraged by the loving challenge to move beyond the artificial barriers of denominations and walk the path where the focus of my faith is Jesus and His call to love one another, rather than the dogma of any particular church.