I have read about half of Brian McLaren’s published books. Some have moved me and some have left me puzzled and have not proven entirely helpful. Brian is an eloquent man, a good thinker and a serious Christian. My personal relationship with Brian has included both private and public conversations. He has always proven to be vulnerable, gentle and receptive.
When Brian’s well-known book, Generous Orthodoxy, was published I read it with great interest. I even required a grad class of mine to read it as one of our texts. There is much in it to like. There is some in it to question. I think Brian intends this, at least so far as I understand both his thinking and his writing style. Eventually, I decided to devote a serious group of review articles to this book that were published in our quarterly journals. (The journal is no longer published, sadly. It suffered the fate of most print journals during the last five years or so. If you want to do some searching you can find this journal online for free.)
One of the things that impressed me so much about Brian was his complete willingness to encourage these reviews and to personally engage with them. He later reflected positively on the tone of these critiques. I was pleased because I thought we accomplished a real service without attacking (and dividing) the church or Brian's ministry.
Well, I recently picked up Brian’s new book, Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words (HarperOne, 2011), at my local library. I have read about half the book as of today. I heartily recommend it and believe it is one of Brian’s best books to date.
Brian, like any author, writes from within his own life journey and perspective. He grew up in a fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren context. This showed in his earlier work. In this book there is nothing of the old style and a great deal that is old, or ancient, in the best sense. This is by far the most ecumenical of Brian’s books. He draws from the whole Christian tradition—Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox—to give us a simple, readable and compelling account of learning to live in God’s presence moment-by-moment. He leaves old debates aside, uses nothing remotely like polemical theology and in general gives us a great book on how to slow down and know God. The book is wise, clear and easy to read.
Brian McLaren, like him or not, is a committed ecumenist who seeks to build bridges with all Christians. His evangelicalism has been roundly attacked from many quarters but the result is a wiser, more mature and deeper thinker who still has a lot to say to the church, all of it.
Thanks Brian! I am willing to be misunderstood once again by saying so but I do believe your journey reveals a genuinely hungering soul joined with a deep love for Jesus, the Jesus who saves and loves those who truly seek him. You live with real grace and this book reveals how God has helped you to do it.