Brian D. McLaren
Some days I can hardly contain my emotion when I check my emails. Today a reader wrote in the early hours of the morning: he couldn't put down A New Kind of Christian until he finished it at 2 a.m., weeping because he felt understood. Both "paid" and "amateur" Christians say the book helped them in profound ways. They often say the book disturbed them, yet in spite of the discomfort, they—almost always—say thanks, often using those little emoticons the Internet is famous for, as if to be winking or smiling through the pain of being stretched in their thinking. Very seldom is heard a discouraging word.
Not quite so here in Books & Culture. While Tony Jones expressed appreciation for the book, Andy Crouch offered some gentle critiques ("Let's Get Personal," January/February 2002), and Mark Dever's piece ("Reform-ed or Deformed," March/April 2002) judged the book downright bad.
I found Andy Crouch's reflections stimulating in too many ways to cover here. Just one example: Crouch wondered, as have several others, if post-September 11, "postmodernity" may be over or nearly so. For some, this is a deeply held wish, understandably so if they associate postmodern with all that is nihilistic, relativistic, dark, dank, and otherwise distasteful in contemporary culture. My understanding of the term is less jaded, so I am not disposed to wish for postmodernity's quick demise—especially because I think it offers more space for Christian life and mission than modernity did. (And if that statement seems incredible to you, that's a good reason to read the book.) Actually, I sense the world becoming more postmodern in the wake of September 11, not less, shown nowhere more succinctly than in a striking passage from President Bush's speech to Congress after September 11: "This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom." That sounds like something beyond standard modernity to me. Bush doesn't ...