Item description for The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything by Brian McLaren...
Overview McLaren, named as one of "Time" magazines "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America," is back, this time to lead readers on a journey that will prove to be as unsettling and groundshaking as it is thrilling and life-changing.
When Brian McLaren began offering an alternative vision of Christian faith and life in books such as "A New Kind of Christian" and "A Generous Orthodoxy, " he ignited a firestorm of praise and condemnation that continues to spread across the religious landscape. To some religious conservatives, McLaren is a dangerous rebel without a doctrinally-correct cause. Some fundamentalist websites have even claimed he's in league with the devil and have consigned him to flames.
To others though, Brian is a fresh voice, a welcome antidote to the staleness, superficiality, and negativity of the religious status quo. A wide array of people from Evangelical, Catholic, and Mainline Protestant backgrounds claim that through his books they have begun to rediscover the faith they'd lost or rejected. And around the world, many readers say that he has helped them find-for the first time in their lives-a faith that makes sense and rings true. For many, he articulates the promise of what is being called "emerging Christianity."
In "The Secret Message of Jesus" you'll find what's at the center of Brian's critique of conventional Christianity, and what's at the heart of his expanding vision. In the process, you'll meet a Jesus who may be altogether new to you, a Jesus who is... Not the crusading conqueror of religious broadcasting; Not the religious mascot of partisan religion; Not heaven's ticket-checker, whose words have been commandeered by the church to include and exclude, judge and stigmatize, pacify and domesticate.
McLaren invites you to discover afresh the transforming message of Jesus-an open invitation to radical change, an enlightening revelation that exposes sham and ignites hope, an epic story that is good news for everyone, whatever their gender, race, class, politics, or religion.
"Pastor and best-selling author McLaren revisits the gospel material from a fresh-and at times radical-perspective . . . He does an excellent job of capturing Jesus' quiet, revolutionary style."
--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
"Here McLaren shares his own ferocious journey in pondering the teachings and actions of Jesus. It is McLaren's lack of salesmanship or agenda that creates a refreshing picture of the man from Galilee who changed history."
--Donald Miller, Author of "Blue Like Jazz"
"In this critical book, Brian challenges us to ask what it would mean to truly live the message of Jesus today, and thus to risk turning everything upside down."
--Jim Wallis, Author of "God's Politics" and editor of "Sojourners"
"Compelling, crucial and liberating: a book for those who seek to experience the blessed heat of Christianity at its source."
--Anne Rice, Author of "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt"
Citations And Professional Reviews The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything by Brian McLaren has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Publishers Weekly - 01/30/2006 page 63
Library Journal - 02/15/2006 page 121
Christian Retailing - 04/03/2006 page 11
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Studio: Thomas Nelson
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.52" Width: 5.38" Height: 0.89" Weight: 0.78 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2006
Publisher Thomas Nelson
ISBN 084990000X ISBN13 9780849900006 UPC 023755025128
Availability 0 units.
More About Brian McLaren
Brian D. McLaren is a Christian thinker, author, and activist. A former pastor with a background in literature, McLaren is the author of over a dozen books, an Auburn Senior Fellow, and board chair of Convergence (convergenceus.org).
Brian McLaren has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything?
The Kingdom of God is here! Mar 23, 2007
Incredible inspiration, showing us how God is pursuing creation, using us in the process! I recommend it to both believers and unbelievers.
The Secret is out! The Kingdom is Now! Mar 21, 2007
Thank you, Brian, for your colorful and simple reminders that the real message of Christ is beneath and beyond all that gets called "church" today. The kingdom that Christ came to introduce, implement, and fulfill as well as make accessible to all who believe is here and now, up and down, in and out all that we call life. Christ is still speaking and continues to reveal himself in new, fresh and exciting ways. Begs the question, "What new wineskins does he have in store for his New Wine today?" Whether wise virgin and sleepy disciple, it is in our calling to "watch and pray". Now.
Provocative? Annoying? Or is there perhaps a third reading? Feb 26, 2007
Why 2 stars instead of just 1? Well, there are some interesting points and his style is entertaining at times.
Brian McLaren starts off with a number of questions...ok...probably more questions than necessary to "provoke" his readers into a response...or at least to get them to start thinking. On page 4, I do like a question that indeed ought to be a recurring theme in the life of everyone who claims to be a Christian and that is:
"What if his [Jesus] secret message had practical implications for such issues as how you live your daily life, how you earn and spend money, how you treat people of other races and religions...?" The question goes on of course, but I choose to focus on the first part of that question, and that is, what if the actual true Gospel message of Christ...not some "secret.," some esoteric hidden knowledge...was so important and so crucial to your understanding and outlook on life that you allowed it to sink down deep into your soul and change you, transform you into a new creature?
A bit later on page 4, McLaren also asks, "what if the message of Jesus was good news--not just for Christians but also for Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, new agers, agnostics, and atheists?" Ah yes, it is good news for the world but alas the world does not receive Him. 1 John 5:10 (If we have faith in God's Son, we have believed what God has said. But if we don't believe what God has said about his Son, it is the same as calling God a liar. Contemporary English Version-CEV).
In chapter 2, McLaren basically states that whatever he, you or I believe or understand, we can only perceive it, whatever the "it" is, through our own "interpretive grid." So, is he saying that we cannot overcome our own bias? That we can't know truth? He regularly alludes to that "fact" in this book. So somehow, there is truth, people can be on a journey or a quest to "uncover" the "truth," but if anyone claims or holds to the idea that the truth is knowable must be insincere and lacking humility. I'm sorry but, I don't buy it. I think the author is biased to have such a view.
On page 39, McLaren states: "In conversation after conversation, then, Jesus resists being clear or direct." At the end of the next paragraph he continues this theme with: "Frankly, few experts seem to even notice this pattern of unclarity, of hiddenness, of secrecy-and those who do tend to offer answers that don't ring true, for me anyway." Jesus used a method of teaching that was very clear and direct to the hearers. He spoke using stories that people could easily relate to and identify with; he spoke in colorful, vivid language that provoked thought. Jesus isn't "hiding" anything. As God incarnate, Jesus uses story and what Brian McLaren identifies as "hidden" messages to provoke his audience into thinking for themselves, to come to an understanding of who He is. As a matter of fact, there are times where, although Jesus uses a parable or metaphor, the message is very clear indeed. Think about how Jesus told his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.
On page 51, the reader will stumble across perhaps a bit of McLaren's philosophical (postmodern) outlook in that our current/ present reality is constructed, that our worldview is a set of beliefs, images, metaphors, ideas etc. that "we inherit and construct." He states that "As we go through life, many of us find it next to impossible even to want to question our inherited worldview, while others do exactly that: we sometimes experience radical conversions out of one worldview into another." So, anyone who would like to disagree with such a statement would be a person NOT willing to question their view? Or is it only applied to those who disagree with such a statement of truth? Indeed, we all ought to experience a radical conversion from one worldview to another and that is the conversion from the philosophies and ideas of this world, into the mind of Christ through His work on the cross at Calvary.
The first 2 paragraphs on page 52 are basically a complaint against modernism (of which there are valid issues and concerns with modernism), however, in this, McLaren argues that we in the "Modern West" are stuck, trapped if you will, in 17th Century thought patterns.
On page 65, I am sure that it is not the author's intent (or at least I pray it is not his intent) to imply that Jesus' rebuke of Peter with "Get behind me, Satan" is due to Peter having revealed Jesus' "secret identity" as the Christ.
Another troubling point arises on page 66 in his discussion of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit where McLaren states that "This kingdom [the Kingdom of God] represents a counterforce, a countermovement, a counterkingdom..." Stop there for a moment; did McLaren just say that God and the Evil One balance one another? They cancel each other out? Is this the Star Wars version of God's truth? He is pretty repetitive in his writing...he does say that God's Kingdom has an evil counterpart. He also refers to the Holy Spirit as a "new force."
McLaren frequently draws on material from Dallas Willard and other modern mystics. While there is beauty and mystery in the Christian faith, modern mystics such as Willard, are reintroducing (or perhaps just repopularizing) gnosticm into our churches.
Every once in a while a moment of clarity, a moment of truth, actually rings forth and one such nugget is found on page 84 with his discussion of what kind of a job the "shepherds" or pastors have done: "We may have instructed them [the people in their care] how to be a good Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, or Methodist on Sunday, but we didn't train, challenge, and inspire them to live out the Kingdom of God in their jobs, neighborhoods, families, schools, societies between Sundays." That is a true statement in a lot of our churches, however, it is not the case in ALL churches. Part of the problem, in my humble opinion, is a lack of focus and emphasis on sound teaching, verse-by-verse, from the pulpits. McLaren does attempt to lay out some practical advice as to how one might go about putting their faith into Action on pages 86-87. I am drawn to the story he shares also about Carter, the taxi driver in DC on page 89.
Another moment of clarity comes on page 109, where McLaren writes: "If you say you believe his [Jesus] message, but you don't seek to practice ir, your faith is a matter of words only; it's not substantial, not real. Faith that counts then, is not the absence of doubt; it's the presence of action."
What the kingdom is all about Feb 19, 2007
"The radical revolutionary empire of God is here, advancing by reconciliation and peace, expanding by faith, hope and love - beginning with the poorest, the weakest, the meekest, and the least. It's time to change your thinking. Everything is about to change. It's time for a new way of life. Believe me. Follow me. Believe this good news so you can learn to live by it and be part of the revolution." (The Secret Message of Jesus, p.32-33)
I liked almost everything about The Secret Message of Jesus. I liked the casual, creative and/yet humble tone. I liked the borrowing from N.T. Wright's work on the historical Jesus, reemphasizing the Jewishness and political-ness of Jesus (and how "to be unpolitical was to be irrelevant" in 1st cent. Judaism). I liked the firm location of Jesus within the Jewish story of the covenanting, rescuing, authentic people-producing Creator. I loved the targums scattered all over the book, like the opening one above from the lips of Jesus Himself. And of course I welcome the challenge for the church to be all it was meant to be.
Not too heavy on theology, sprinkled with contemporary examples and stories and filled with questions, I get the impression McLaren wrote SMOJ so cell-groups could study it all year round, chapter by short chapter.
Which is fine because the books addresses such 'Gospel 101' yet indispensable questions like: Why did Jesus speak most often in vague and easily misunderstood parables? What was the purpose of his miracles? How did the kingdom he wanted to inaugurated compare/contrast with existing kingdoms? How can we get a grip on the Sermon on the Mount, that radical "kingdom manifesto" as McLaren calls it? What did Jesus mean by asking people to repent and be born again?
"Once you can trust God to 'make a save', it's a lot easier to admit your own misdirection." (p.108, the summation of an interesting story involving a hockey-player unknowingly attempting an own goal!)
McLaren shows us a Jesus whose intention was not to steam-roll over His opponents' arguments, creating a beyond-doubt intellectual edifice for His new kingdom. Violence of any kind wasn't the way.
Subtlety, an embodied narrative, powerful symbols, daring vulnerability and radical selflessness (don't even think this word fits) was used to inspire rethinking (McLaren's substitute word for 'repenting') and subvert entrenched prejudices and oppressive values (which are usually extolled as the way things 'should be').
"Human kingdoms advance by force and violence with falling bombs and flying bullets, but God's kingdom advances by stories, fictions, tales that are easily ignored and easily misunderstood. Perhaps that's the only way it can be." (p.49)
There are also some very moving examples (from Tony Campolo hosting birthday parties for prostitutes, from a cab driver organising redeveloping projects in Africa, etc.) of how one can be effective agents of the kingdom wherever and whenever opportunities arise.
I think we need more books like SMOJ and writers like McLaren, giving just the right amount of Biblical grounding and depth (unlike many non-evangelicals or 'Christian/inspirational' writers), isn't not overly contemplative (like Philip Yancey or Dallas Willard perhaps?), nor too glitzy and high-techy (like how Leonard Sweet can get at times) nor half-demand a theological education of its readers (like over 80% of evangelical writers out there with a Ph.D).
Not that one is expected to agree with McLaren entirely on everything he writes. Even an enthusiastic recommender of the book like meself can find one or two pages to side-note with a question mark, such as McLaren's (drawing on Dallas Williard's) take on the 'tear out your sinful eye' section in Matthew 5:29-30, which I felt was dealt with better by writers with a more coherent structure of Matthew 5-7 (e.g. Gushee & Stassen, 2003).
McLaren also doesn't miss the opportunity to discuss issues like the Just War and Pacifist perspectives on war (I'm no pacifist but McLaren has definitely got me pondering), new models/language for the kingdom of God (Dream, Network, Dance, Party - lovely stuff), the mainly preterist interpretation of the book of Revelations (heads up, fans of N.T. Wright, Greg Boyd, etc.) and life (or longing for glorious life) after death, where he draws heavily from C.S. Lewis''weight of glory' theme.
Read SMOJ (more than once!) if you're looking to jump-start waning interest in Jesus and his agenda, if you suspect you need to focus a little less on the abstract dogmatic stuff and work on making a kingdomly impact on your everyday world, if you'd like some sparkling new vocabulary to reach your listeners (all numbed with Christian jargon).
Most importantly, don't keep the secret to yourself.
I liked it! Feb 17, 2007
I generally dislike books that claim to unveil a "secret". Brian didn't as much unveil a secret, but he reopened a set of truths that generations have twisted to a false meaning. I enjoyed the book, and enjoyed finding that Jesus plan and methodology were far more effective than I had thought. Our religiosity gets in the way of what Jesus was really trying to do.