The Story We Find Ourselves In – A Review

I’d better get to this before the memory of the book begins to fade away. In A New Kind of Christian, Brian McLaren introduced us to his primary fictional characters of Dan Poole, a pastor who was considering quitting the ministry until meeting and befriending Neo (an acronym for Neil Edward Oliver), a high-school teacher of science. It is primarily a dialog between the two around the impact of postmodernity on faith and church life. This book has proved to be highly controversial as the review on Amazon demonstrates. It seems you can’t shake the foundations of historical orthodoxy without getting harangued in the process. Maybe I need to read it again, as I did not detect anything which directly contradicts conservative evangelical thought (it does however question its tradition). I did read it after moving into my present perspective as represented by the blog, so I’m definitely biased. As such, this is not a review that applies the rules of critical analysis, rather it is simply a gathering of my thoughts after having read the book.

McLaren brings the characters of the first book and introduces two people who become central to this story – Kerry, a friend of Neo suffering from cancer, and her son Kincaid. In the context of Kerry’s relationship with Neo and subsequently with Dan’s family, we are treated to an array of questions and answers to issues that plague Christian and non-Christian alike. McLaren moves on from postmodernism to a summary of the scriptures – “The Story We Find Ourselves In”. Evolution vs. creationism, atonement and afterlife are but a few of the topics discussed. This I would see as more problematic to the conservative, as the views are those you would expect from the moderate. I found the dialogue to be tantalising and informative, particularly as I’ve struggled to see how evolution can fit in a model of God as author of creation. The thoughts in the book are not complete, but are merely a starting point for further dialog and exploration.

What has made these books all the more enjoyable to me is the fictional narrative style. It’s not always terribly engaging, sometimes struggling to remain a story (more so for the first book than the second). I reckon this has something to do with the fact that McLaren is not a novelist, rather a pastor by vocation. Yet the book is still immensely readable, a book which I could not put down.

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