I was pleasantly surprised to read this concession which Brian McLaren posted on his website. While there remain many outstanding questions, perhaps not all is lost.
Dear friends and sojourners:
The publication of any book worth its salt brings a certain amount of blowback from those who have a vested interest in defending the traditional ways. It is difficult not to take such opposition personally, but I have found that if I can separate the criticism from its critical source that there often remains a grain of truth which is profitable.
The critics of A New Kind of Christianity have been particularly vociferous, and yet their demeaning tone has not entirely disqualified their criticisms. I have learned from their critique, and in the spirit of Christian charity, offer these changes to ANKoXy. If I had to write the book again, I would:
1. Give an argument for its thesis. It probably is not sufficient to say that my main idea (that the traditional creation-fall-redemptive narrative is Platonic) just popped into my head. I wouldn’t tolerate this absence of argument from Pat Robertson or James Dobson, and I vow to do better next time.
2. Explicitly say that Jesus is God and that he bodily arose from the dead. Especially since I identified my new kind of Christianity with John Crossan and Marcus Borg, the burden of proof is on me to allay readers’ fears and say that my friends are wrong on this point. It’s also not enough for me to say afterward that I “oblige the creeds,” since liberals often say as much. I am reminded of W. Robertson Smith, who when accused of denying the deity of Christ, replied “How can they accuse me of that? I’ve never denied the divinity of any man, let alone Jesus!” At any rate, I wrote two chapters on the identity of Jesus and never got around to explicitly saying that he is God. And I should have.
3. Provide more orthodox answers. I am right in saying that my book repeats the questions that many are asking, but I wish I had done more than merely repeat their questions as the new answers. There must be a way to encourage honest dialogue while also helping people to find the truth they need. I’m open to suggestions.
4. Made more of Jesus. In my quest to welcome the marginalized I may have marginalized Jesus. My critics have asked if my view of salvation requires Jesus or would Gandhi work just as well. That is a good question, and I’m still working on it.
5. Gone to seminary. This is the hardest admission to make, as I frequently criticize theological education as perpetuating an irrelevant and anachronistic vision of God and the Christian life. I still believe this, but just as I serve as a consultant to churches, so there may be a place for educated professionals who can guide us in theology. Given the mistakes I’m now copping to, it probably couldn’t hurt.
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