I just finished listening to the audio version of Brian McLaren’s, The Secret Message of Jesus. I have read all but one of McLaren’s books and this is by far his best work yet. I know McLaren has generated some intense controversy. But I think it’s because many people try to read him as a theological spokesperson for the Emerging Movement rather than as a “pastoral artist,” generating brisk and imaginative vision for authentic life with Christ.
Please don’t misunderstand me. By contrasting theologian and artist, I’m not saying that one is more intelligent or valued than the other. I’m simply saying that theologians are often read for concise technical argumentation resulting from intense research and study. McLaren is obviously an intelligent guy, who has done a fair amount of research and study. But he uses these things more like a painter uses a palette and brush or a songwriter uses melody and chord progressions. Like a brilliant storyteller, McLaren creates beautiful images of God’s kingdom that are accessible to the average person interested in Jesus’ teachings and life. There were several times I had to rewind so I could listen again and again in wonder to how he phrased things.
McLaren does such a great job unshackling the ideas and implications of Jesus’ message from the restraints of religious language. He has taken the message of Jesus’ revolutionary kingdom message, which has been held hostage for too long to popular, yet distorted evangelicalism, and released it with fresh and invigorating life back into the world for a new hearing. Like any good artist, McLaren’s work both inspires me with new perspective and challenges me to find my own creative voice in the conversation.