Sunday, November 19, 2006

Brian McLaren at Soliton Zoo #2

I said in the first post that the McLaren's talk brought oxygen. For me, this was much-needed breathing space. But in the afternoon session you could feel people's tension, as more oxygen created more light and heat.

Light and heat are not always comforting things, esp. when the talk is of hell and the kingdom of God. What I find deeply reassuring in McLaren's work is precisely what others find challenging: McLaren is breaking through multiple hidden boundaries of understanding. For me, that makes fluidity; for others, chaos.

Thesis, simply put: in the West, for a thousand years or so, some of the theological questions we've asked have not been the best ones. At least, our questions have not been the only possible questions (hence, our answers not the only possible answers). To use a music metaphor, we've created a boxed set of greatest hits -- atonement, salvation, hell -- but there are other genres and musicalities to be found.

So, for example, our connection with God isn't: "Hell: Who's going?" or even "Jesus saved X people by doing Y".

It is instead: the kingdom of God is at hand (meaning, right here right now). How will we live in it? How will we regather, reconnect, restore, reconcile the whole of creation?

I realized, as the tears welled up, that I love McLaren because for the time I'm reading his books or hearing him speak, I don't feel alone in this. He writes and says what I don't have words for, but long to.

One of my brothers asked, heartfully, "what happens to sin? What happens to the atonement?" I think he meant, "I have experienced God's salvation in Christ. If that isn't the point, what does that mean for me?" McLaren was warm, and gentle, and did not defend or critique, but opened up a different conceptual box, and examined its contents with us.

During this talk, a listener noted that at least one major denomination has embraces the crazy concept that the earth needs to fall completely apart and be destroyed for the Second Coming to happen. As if God would have us destroy his property in order to hasten our salvation. Those among us from that denomination and its brethren listened, and reflected. Those of us whose roots are elsewhere listened, and reflected.

All that was said, was said with wonder and awe in a room that allowed difference, and humility, and pain, and joy. There is the graciousness, and the Grace.

I was so glad to be there. Sometimes God drives us 314 miles each way just to breathe the air.


cheesehead said...

I don;t know a lot about McLaren, but this makes me want to know more.

(I'm delurking for RGBP Delurking Week.)

Elane said...

Hi Cheesehead -- thanks for visiting (delurking?) my blog.

McLaren's written quite a lot, but if you can hear him in person that's ideal: he's warm and obviously bright.

His book A Generous Orthodoxy is a good starting point, because he explores a number of Christian traditions and places himself within them. This approach tells you a lot about him: he does not see himself as confined to a single tradition, nor does he see the traditions as antithetical to each other.

Enjoy and breathe.


1-4 Grace said...

Wow. Great post. Brian is going to be at the homeletics festival in May, "07.
I just got Generous orhodoxy. I really love his stuff and cna't wait to see him in person.

will smama said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Glad you got to breathe.

LutheranChik said...

Happy Delurking Week! (o)