The Secret Message of Jesus

I just received my copy of Brian McLaren's new book The The Secret Message of Jesus. I am really looking forward to reflecting on McLaren's gift here. It seems that I share a similar trajectory that he does in attempting to imagine a post-Colonial expression of Christianity within our North American context. Much of North American Christianity still upholds particular Constantinian habits that need to be challenged and subverted. One of those habits is racial Constantinianism..i.e. the maintenance and sustenance of a hegemonic white male Christian discourse and ecclesiology that posits itself as "norm" and "standard" for theology and praxis. The aesthetic production and grammar of North American Christianity is completely, if not almost entirely borg-a-fied with what I call the symbolic universe of ecclesial whiteness. Of course this has been a matter of ecclesial and theological habit…an unconscious habit that we have inherited from half a millenia of being church locu imperii (on the scene of empire).

Thus far what I have read (just the intro and ch.1) McLaren presents a hopeful trajectory for future theology and praxis for North American Christianity. More later…


17 thoughts on “The Secret Message of Jesus

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  1. Hey man,

    Hope your daughter is feeling beter now. Looking forward to your thoughts on SMOJ. Brian was in Birmingham last week and Greg and I got to hang with him for a while….did some excellent stuff on inter-faith dialogue. Looking forward to the next time we can make that lunch happen.


  2. Ken,

    Hey man! It was great meeting you and Greg. I was bummed that we didn’t get a chance to get some CUE! Deborah is doing a whole lot better. We didn’t leave B’ham until Sunday and she didn’t return to school until the middle of the week. But she is fine now…running around all over the place…gett’n on my last NERVE!

    You guys still owe me some CUE!


  3. I agree with the real problems you cited within the Church, but I don’t really get the appeal to Arrested Development (rap proof text?). It seems that postmoderns, EC’ers, etc are good at identifying problems, but overtly ambiguous and shamelessly secular in an attempt at a solution…if a solution (many times completely replaced with “conversation”) is offered up at all.

    And I’m not knocking you or others on this point, I am just struggling to find someone offering real, tangible solutions to these problems without throwing out absolute truth.

  4. evangelium,

    Arrested Development bring out, in song/rap, the oftentimes lack of cultural engagement. In the context of the song Speech, the lead MC of AD, is referring to the black church…at least a particular portion of it. I’d study black church history, tradition, and culture to get the full gist of what he’s saying.

    As far as giving ‘secular’ solution. Could you site an example of that. I’d like to hear your thought there. And how do you define secular?


  5. YOu know, bro, I read your post three times, and as intelligent as I thinkI am, and my professors believe me to be, I did not understand a word of what you typed. Should I therefore assume that this blog is not for regular folks, but only for highly educated intellectual elites?

    I am only a student at SDSU, so perhaps I am too intellectually challenged for your posts.

  6. Delwyn,

    I try to mix it up from time to time. Not all of my post are like this. If you notice this blog can go from light-hearted content to what I’m thinking about. Do you need a synopsis of what I have said here?

  7. by secular, i mean apart from scripture. for an example, read anything by brian mclaren.

    brian, like postmodernegro, accurately conveys many problems facing the church today, but offers secular solutions (cooperation, even collaboration with buddhists, hindus, judaism as a solution to mutual anathematizing-see a generous orthodoxy), or no solutions at all…particularly (since you asked. im seriously not trying to stir it up here) his infamously evasive responses to how to handle homosexulaity in the church. i can supply direct quotes if necessary.

    now i know he’s just one man, but he is the preeminent voice of the EC, and the subject of this post (secret message of jesus).

  8. evangelium,

    Thanks for your response. I have never heard that definition of ‘secular’ before (i.e. something apart from scripture). Where did you get that definition from? Within scripture? I’d like to know the reference. Thanks.

    As far as your comments about McLaren being secular and appealing to secular solutions my response will be predicated upon you providing a reference from within scripture regarding a definition of secular as being ‘a part from scripture’.

    Where does the scripture say, “being secular is doing something apart from scripture”?

    I’m looking forward to your response. I appreciate in advance your patience with me. I am the constant student. Teach me.

  9. Hey,
    My first time here. Nice blog. I’m a bit intrigued by this definition of “secular,” too. In my experience, secularism has most infiltrated churches with a hyperdependency upon Scripture. When Scriptures are viewed as a “rule book” with answers to every problem, whether it be social, ecumenical, political, etc., then we have secularized the Scriptures by simply enveloping them within a secular worldview.

    The opposite of secular is spiritual/transcendant. It is the refusal to have all the answers. It is the ability to trust in a Spirit and thus a spiritual existence not fully explainable by human knowledge, even human knowledge about the Bible. It is adherence to Mystery. Think this sounds weird? Read Patristics. You’ll find it to be the overwhelming mindset of the premodern Christian Church.

    I don’t know everything McLaren stands for, but it appears he is trying to help people recapture the Divine Mystery which was so integral to the Faith of the first few centuries, before the Const. shift pushed the Church in a direction which would one day make Her much more vulnerable to the Enlightenment and Modernism. Thank God, postmodernism (for all its deficiencies) has forced us moderns to look again at the faith of the early Church.

    Again, nice blog.

  10. i wrote a long response to your request to a clear definition of my use of ‘secular,’ and for some reason it didnt post.

    the crux of the response was that secular might not have been the best word to use since i was using it in a secular/sacred context vs. its more popular philosophical and/or social usage.

    so i am going to recant and just say “apart from scripture.”

    if this suffices, let us then move onto the content of my original post.

  11. gavin,

    I assume this was the substance of your post:

    “brian, like postmodernegro, accurately conveys many problems facing the church today, but offers secular solutions (cooperation, even collaboration with buddhists, hindus, judaism as a solution to mutual anathematizing-see a generous orthodoxy), or no solutions at all…particularly (since you asked. im seriously not trying to stir it up here) his infamously evasive responses to how to handle homosexulaity in the church. i can supply direct quotes if necessary.”

    What offered ‘secular’ solutions, from me and Brian, are you talking about specifically? From me I’d like to know specifics so I can address them in kind. thanks.

    As far as the homosexual responses are concerned. From what I know McLaren was attempting to deal with homosexuality pastorally. I don’t recall the ‘controversy’ being about laying down some theological tour deforce regarding the bible’s view of homosexuality. The article I assume you are mentioning was a pastoral deal. Unless you know something I don’t know.

  12. its not an article, but if i’m not mistaken, im referring to chapter zero (absurd) in “A generous orthodoxy.” McLaren also (during the Gay Panel portion of a Generous Orthodoxy conference in 05) formulated a points system in which one must get enough points to speak on the issue. here it is:

    10 if you have considered and studied the relevant biblical passages
    10 if you have actually read the six passages about homosexuality in the bible
    20 if you have read other passages that might affect the way you read those six passages
    5 if you have read one or more books that reinforce the position you already hold
    25 if you have read one or more books arguing the opposite position
    10 if you have spent three hours reading websites showing a variety of views
    50 for every friend you have who’s been through an ex-gay ministry
    50 for every friend who’s been through an ex-gay ministry that didn’t work
    50 for every friend who’s gay and in a long-term committed relationship
    50 for every friend who’s gay and not in a committed relationship
    50 for every parent you’ve listened to whose child is gay

    When you have 3,000 points, you can speak on the issue.

    this, to me, is a clear example of dealing with the issue apart scripture (though he does suggest that we read scriptures on the issue to get some points). i dont need to read books that advocate a position other than that of scripture. that is ridiculous. if you or other readers of your blog reply, “well thats a great idea!” then there’s not much use in discussing. i am aware of the mistreatment of homosexuals by so-called christians, and i think it is appalling, but scripture is clear that it is a sin. we should love our neighbors (which means everyone) and our enemies. scripture is also clear about that.

    i could go on. tony jones, in a recent post on the emergent blog, suggested that churches proactively seek to marry non-christians in their churches in an effort to be “missional.” this is making a provision for a clear violation of scripture about being unequally yoked. “what fellowship does light have with darkness?” this seems to be another example of a solution to ineffective evangelism apart from scripture. and then there is the emergent “anti-doctrinal statement (see emergent blog). seriously, i cant make this stuff up.

    too many people, in my opinion, are applauding mclaren for the questions he asks (and he does raise some good questions), but dont much care what he thinks about doctrine, scripture, hell, homosexuality, etc.

    im chasing a rabbit now…sorry.

  13. gavin,

    Thank you for presenting your observations on these matters. I pray God-speed on your journey with the Lord.

    I think discussion surrounding homosexuality and what constitutes ‘secular’ are important. However, right now I have been concentrating on the othe secularity that is taking place in the church…such as racism and the absence of serious discussion on poverty. I think racism to be a more significant problem than homosexuality in the church. Racism is more pervasive than homosexuality. Not to play the numbers game but I find it interesting that there is little discussion on racism in the church. The point of departure seems to be homosexuality, as important as this topic is. I want to know your theological position on racism and what you are doing to combat it in your community and in your church? These are questions I am more interested in. Am I changing the subject here? Yes I am…cause I find conservative ‘bible-believing’ Christians more willing to use homosexuality as a litmus test for one’s Christian faithfulness…but NOT how they view race and other issues like poverty. Those that go down the rabbit hole regarding homosexuality and speak not of race are ‘secular’ as well.


  14. i am certainly not trying to use homosexuality as a litmus test for true christian faithfulness, and if my rhetoric gave the impression that i intend to make homosexuality in the church the main issue, then let me be clear: this is not the case at all with me.

    i agree with you completely on the issues of racism and poverty. i am near militant with members (young and old, though i have only had to confront older members so far) on this issue. i am unapologetic about admonishig any believer who is a racist to fear for the destiny of their own soul b/c love of neighbor, regardless of race, is such a foundational issue of discipleship and one of the simplest, most recognizable fruit of the Spirit.

    my feelings about the issue of helping the impoverished are also strong on several fronts. first, there are gaping deficiencies in the Church’s responsibility to help the downtrodden and outcasts. second, and on the opposite side of the issue, i see the EC leaders trying to make this the main issue. this is a main issue for believers, but until a person experiences true conversion, this issue is no more significant than a Muslim donating money to Compassion International.

    While I realize you are speaking to issues INSIDE the Church, there are some disturbing tendencies towards a social gospel within the EC, no less with McLaren himself.

    Yes, there is much secularization in the Church. I deplore the trend of worship consumerism, church-as business with pastor-as-CEO, homogenous rightwing subcultures, Starbucks-in-the-lobby, God-wants-to-make-you-rich, watch-out-for-that-creepy-homeless-guy sort of Christianity. It is rank, Western, Enlightened, modern, progressive, and yes, SECULAR Christianity, which is not the faith of the NT. So you and I are probably more on the same page than you realize by my previous comments.

    However, this does not make some of the postmodern and/or EC tendencies any less troubling. It can be a slippery slope.

  15. I’m looking forward to get my hand on my copy ASAP. A friend of mine started to read it before passing the book to me. I told him to finish it first since it was helping his faith once again. Because he felt what Brian wrote affirmed some of his own thoughts in an accesible way. As for me, it’s once again about –> attempting to imagine a post-Colonial expression of Christianity within our Malaysian context. 🙂

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