The Secret Message of Jesus (Chapter 1)

Troubling Questions About Jesus

Indeed.  The key question offered by McLaren in this chapter, in my opinion, is this:

What if Jesus' secret message reveals a secret plan? What if he didn't come to start a new religion-but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world? p.4 

A revolution? a new world?  I'm feelin' this.  After reading people like Robert Bellah and others who have named the pervasive individualism of American culture such a question is a refreshing question for those of us who see the gospel as much more than a me-and-Jesus trip.  And not just a 'moral' revolution…but a revolution that encompasses all of existence…an alternative redemptive vision of reality and how one lives within it. 

Take a snapshot of the global scene. Terrorism. Religious strife. War. Global Capitalism. Environmental changes.  A Christianity that is captive to individualism and the public/private and sacred/secular split will be vulnerable to other stories that do not have this vision of God's new world at its center.

Indeed.  The problem is that Christianity is a 'religion'.  Religion, to me, seems to connote a set of held beliefs and doctrines…with some practices.  An interior reality…a matter of one's individual disposition before God.  Or in more popular forms of Christianity a 'private relationship with God'.  I know in latin the word 'religion' means much more than this but for some reason in America 'religion' has come to mean something staunchy…a set of dogmatic beliefs.  I often hear people say things like, "keep your religion" to yourself.  Recently, I was listening to some old Arrested Development.  Speech, the lead MC, has a song titled Fishin' 4 Religion:

The reason I'm fishin' 4 a new religion
is my church makes me fall asleep
They're praising a God that watches you weep
and doesn't want you to do a damn thing about it
When they want change the preacher says "shout it"
Does shouting bring about change ? I doubt it
All shouting does is make you lose your voice
So on the dock I sit in silence
staring at a sea that's full of violence

In Speech's words we hear a native desire for 'religion' to be something much more than a 'shout unto the Lord'.  Looking out into a world filled with violence and brokeness one gets the suspicion that the gospel is calling us to something more than just a shout and a praise.  Mind you…a shout and praise are good things…but there is a new world that is calling for our attention.  A new world that is beckoning for us to give concrete expression in our everyday existence.  The gospel calls it the Kingdom of God.  I share Brian's suspicion here.  For me, it is a nagging suspicion that will not be satisified by televangelists, human potential seminars in gospel drag, rigid moralisms, etc..

I want a revolution!  Why?  Because I believe Jesus rose from the dead!


15 thoughts on “The Secret Message of Jesus (Chapter 1)

Add yours

  1. Nice post. Yes, it is amazing what happens when we move away from “Shine, Jesus, Shine” to beginning to explore who Jesus was and what he was about.

    As you know, folks have been doing this for years and the scholarship that Brian is discussing is nothing new but has existed since the beginning of… Jesus.

    Parts of the church have been having this conversation for thousands of years now, but it is just finally being considered by the evangelical church. It’s time.

    One reason I support Brian’s work is because he is brining something much needed to a part of the church that has been closed off to for so long.

    Nice post and observations.

  2. I like your blog man. I linked to it a while back from Rhett Smith’s blog, then I found you again today through a link on a local emergent blog here in west MI called Already not Yet.

    I just left a comment for someone not five minutes ago, telling them that I needed to listen to Arrested Development’s Children Play With Earth sometime again soon. so now I’m puting every Arrested D song on my computer on to play.

    I think I would like to read thi McLaren book soon. I’m hearing a lot about it.

    A “political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world” seems accurate to me.

    However, I am wondering if you think that “religion” or “doctrine” are intrinsically bad or good things. Are they for the most part strictly a human endeavors or are they God ordained functions in human life that we just always seem to mess up?

    I don’t know if you even reply to strangers on your blog but anyway I like it I’ll stop back again.

    Oh Raining Revolution is playing right now!
    Wayne Bowerman

  3. Anthony,

    My friend and roommate from Covenant Seminary, Anthony Bradley alerted me to your website. I think it would be good to talk sometime. Email me. I am here in Charlotte, planting and pastoring a church that has been inked as “emergent.” I didn’t know that a black man could be the senior pastor of an “emergent” church. Anyway, love your broad exploration of the issues of revolutionary Christianity.

    I think that if believers of Jesus Christ would see their vocations and general participation in the broader community as more than secular ventures, secondary, spiritually, to their personal Bible studies or weekday church meetings they would see that as they work in society, as transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ… they are part a revolution. It is a revolution that is seeded by what I would describe as friendly, loving but “viral” Christian revolutionaries…rising to the occassion and occupations of their “ordinary” days as holy, powerful, and transforming.
    This would mean less time in the church building or structures during the week, (though not completely cutting off fellowship) and more time for and in the world.
    Jesus’ people should be “whole” wheat and natural without any fear driven Christian culture preservatives.

    Howard Brown
    Senior Pastor
    Christ Central Church

  4. Anthony,

    Thanks for this. Already it is proving to be a more telling review than most that I have read so far.

    I’d love for you to reflect more on the “religion” & “doctrine” question that Wayne raised. I think I know what you are answer will be, but I believe it would be good to muse on it.

    I am pinching my pennies to buy this one. Thanks for the review!


  5. wayne and jamie,

    I do not believe that ‘doctrine’ or even ‘religion’ are inherently bad things. My concern is the narrative of a-politicized individualism that these things are often situated within. I believe doctrine is useful if it faithfully guides us in participation in the missio dei.

    Religion or ‘that which binds’ is a good thing if it seeks peace, justice, love in God’s broken world…or if its equips us to continue the work of the Son here and now.

  6. Brother Brown,

    Amen! I agree that the revolution has to be envisioned has a whole-life affair that should pervade all our comings and goings. I am looking forward to visiting Christ Central Church.


  7. Anthony,

    I hear you. Great answer. I bit the bullet and bought the book this evening.

    By the way, I REALLY appreciated you input I heard on the Volf podcast. Good on ya!

    Other good news- we were informed that my wifes visa was going to be delayed a further 3 weeks minimum, so I wrote some letters to gov’t officials. 3 days later we had it in hand. Praise God!


  8. Great thoughts! Glad you are enjoying this read. This book has changed so much of my thinking and caused me to repent (rethink everything), specifically how I have treated Jesus like a fad… pretty common among Christian folks. May Kingdom Come in you, among you, and around you! Peace.

  9. Ant,

    The phrase gospel drag was striking. Didn’t Jesus come so that our human potential could be fully manifested? You write, “A new world that is beckoning for us to give concrete expression in our everyday existence. The gospel calls it the Kingdom of God.” SO, what do you think has been holding the kingdom up all this time and what’s the way towards seeing it manifest itself? Doe Byran touch on that?

  10. Ant,

    Yours is the only blog I know of that can be static for 3 weeks yet still receive increasing amounts of comments! What’s up with that? LOL

  11. “I want a revolution! Why? Because I believe Jesus rose from the dead!”

    Right on.

    This reminds me of something I was struck by in chapter 1 – McLaren really believes. His first sentense begins, “What if Jesus of Nazereth was right…”

    He believes Jesus matters – and that he should affect the way we live our lives. The sentence after the section you quote also resonates with me:

    “What if his secret message had practical implications for such issues as how you live your daily life…”

    What an idea! Jesus was right and his message affects how we live our lives! Unfortunately, this is all too radical for most of Christianity.

    Thanks for your thoughts on Ch. 1 – I am currently reading the book for a second time right now. I think there is much of value.

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