Spring is a time of predictable occurrences. The swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. The blooming of the cherry blossom trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The first car washing, preceded by the first bird droppings on said car.
Add to that list the annual book/article/television special that “re-examines” the life and ministry of Jesus.
This year, National Public Radio has chosen the Lenten season to examine A New Kind of Christianity, the new book by provocateur and erstwhile evangelical leader Brian McLaren.
Despite the book’s title, there is nothing unique about McLaren’s views. At the root of McLaren’s “new Christianity” is one of the oldest heresies in Christendom. There is a heavy flavor of Gnosticism in McLaren’s works, with an emphasis on “new revelation” available to a select few (an earlier book of McLaren’s is The Secret Message of Jesus), the idea that there is there is a “divine spark” within all people, and that crucifixion was unnecessary for salvation, but merely allows God to empathize with the downtrodden in society.
While the content might not actually be “new,” it is fair to say that it is “different”—to the point where one might question if “Christianity” is the correct term for it. “[McLaren] denies the Fall, he denies original sin, he denies human depravity, he denies hell. And that is just in the first few pages,” says blogger Tim Challies.
Of course, Mr. McLaren is entitled to his opinion on Jesus, Christianity, the Church, salvation, or any other topic. What is annoying is how these media pieces always seem to find their way to the public just as Christians prepare to walk the Via Dolorosa with Jesus, remembering his death and resurrection. It’s almost become a cottage industry—I suspect that the Jesus Seminar would be broke by now were it not for the Time and Newsweek folks knocking on their door every year about this time for a quote, or for the convenient release of A New Kind of Christianity or The Gospel of Judas, requiring someone to hit the talk circuit to elucidate.
I guess when it comes to “a new kind of Christianity” or the “faith of our fathers,” I’ll take that ol’ time religion.