I’m leading a group here in the Diocese of Arizona that’s reading through Brian McLaren’s newest book. At the beginning of the week I posted a critique of his criticism of the Graeco-Roman world view and its effect on reading the Bible properly. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to have the reaction I had.
So McLaren has posted a response to the critics.
“1. I would encourage people who are critical of the chapter (4) dealing with Plato and Aristotle to be sure to read the lengthy endnotes for the chapter, especially notes 1, 2, 3, 5, 14, and 17, where I address some or maybe most of their concerns. I noticed how some of the criticism paraphrases exactly the kinds of provisos and qualifications I offer in notes 1 and 2, which made me think the commenters hadn’t seen those notes. Perhaps I should have included these provisos in the text itself. At any rate, in the notes (and at points in the text itself) I try to make it clear that I’m dealing with some of the popularized ‘isms’ associated with these great philosophers, not with their rich and nuanced thinking itself, which I also acknowledge could never be reduced to a simple or formulaic summary. If someone is seeking a thorough understanding of these philosophers themselves, I imagine Nathan would be a good source of information. My purpose was to offer some explanation for how a certain narrative alien to Jesus and his gospel may have come to frame Jesus and his gospel. Whether my proposed explanation is valid or not, this narrative still arose from somewhere, and still deserves some attention, and, I think, questioning.”
Read the full response here, there’s a great deal more.
To which I respond, “fair enough”.
As I’ve gotten further into the book, McLaren’s left this particular line alone and if following different ones. At the moment he’s pointing out that our sense of what it is to properly interpret scripture is highly culturally conditioned. He’s listing the horrific ways that the Bible was used to justify human slavery in the southern U.S. As I read these sections, there’s not much to disagree with. It’s pretty standard stuff and represents much of what was being discussed, taught, debated, etc at Yale when I was a student at the Divinity School there back in the late 80’s.
I still think McLaren could strengthen his argument against the traditional Reformation reading of the Bible by saying it no longer makes sense to us in the 21st century rather than by dismissing the sources that the Reformers used to make their argument. But, that’s a nuance and not a dismissal of the main point.
… More as I get further into the book.