Monday, December 17, 2007
Book Review: Everything Must Change
Last month I read Brian McLaren's latest book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. Now, it's no secret that I'm a big fan of pretty much everything Brian has written so far, and this book is no different. In my opinion it is an excellent diagnosis of the problems facing our world today, as well as a brilliant application of the message of Jesus to these issues - demonstrating that the gospel is just as radically subversive today as it was 2000 years ago.

Of course, as he did in he previous book, The Secret Message of Jesus (to which this book ought to be considered a sequel), Brian is arguing that the gospel message of Jesus has broader implications than simply where we go when we die (what Brian describes as the "conventional view"). However, Brian doesn't wholly reject the conventional view. I've pointed out before that Brian has reaffirmed that he still believes in "the need for saving faith, for forgiveness, for hope beyond death, for the pursuit of orthodox articulations of belief, for overcoming the damning effects of sin, for rejecting wholeheartedly the idea that we can be saved by our own efforts or through religion, and so on." However, Brian suggests that either this is not the main point of Jesus message, or at least is only part of the total picture. Instead he suggests an "emerging view" which sees the gospel as a message of hope for the whole world, both before and after death, with a goal of seeing God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven. In this view Jesus didn't just come to save us from the "legal" consequences of our sin (i.e. punishment in Hell after we die), but from sin itself - i.e. from the destructive consequences of human evil and injustices in this world. As Brian says,
"Through [Jesus'] life and teaching, through his suffering, death, and resurrection, he inserted into human history a seed of grace, truth, and hope that can never be defeated. This seed will, against all opposition and odds, prevail over the evil and injustice of humanity and lead to the world's ongoing transformation into the world God dreams of." (pp. 79-80)

Furthermore, Brian suggests that we can have a role to play in this transformation. He goes on to say:
"All who find in Jesus God's hope and truth discover the privilege of participating in his ongoing work of personal and global transformation and liberation from evil and injustice. As part of his transforming community, they experience liberation from the fear of death and condemnation. This is not something they earn or achieve, but rather a free gift they receive as an expression of God's grace and love." (p. 80)

However, Brian's main point in this book is not simply to critique conventional views of the gospel. Instead he suggests that this more robust, emerging view provides a "framing story" (akin to a worldview or metanarrative, but without the negative or totalizing connotations) that has the power to challenge the destructive framing stories which have led to the numerous crises facing our world today. After surveying several lists of the top global crises (e.g. the UN Millenium Development Goals, the Copenhagen Consensus, Rick Warren's PEACE Plan, etc., which list things like extreme poverty and hunger, disease, lack of education, war and violence, environmental degradation, and global warming, among other problems. Brian suggests boiling these issues down into three interlocking societal "systems" of Prosperity, Security, and Equity, which he says have become dysfunctional and even "suicidal". Most of the rest of the book fleshes out the different ways these systems have become dysfunctional. (Most of Brian's discussion can be boiled down to the diagram below.)

A common criticism of the book I have read so far is that Brian doesn't provide much in the way of specific, pragmatic solutions to these problems. However, I think that critique misunderstands the purpose of the book. Brian's first concern is in regards to our framing stories. He suggests that the solution to all of these problems is ultimately a spiritual one - that is, what we need first and foremost is a new vision for how the world could be, i.e. a new framing story - and that is what the majority of the book is spent addressing. In terms of the diagram above, the central wheel, the one that turns all the others, is our framing story, and if that is off, then the whole machine will be off. This book is about the ways in which Jesus' message can provide a framing story that will enable the machine to function in the way it was intended to.

That being said, I was personally wishing for a few more practical suggestions as well. My hope is that Brian will come back to this in an upcoming book (as he tantalizingly hints at in one of his many footnotes). Perhaps he can complete this current "trilogy" with the "so what do we do now?" book; though when I was talking with him recently about his upcoming Everything Must Change Tour, he expressed his hope that the Tour would be the place where those practical discussions could start. And perhaps that is better in the long run. If everything really is going to change, it's going to have to happen in the context of relationships, conversations, and communities committing together for practical action; not just by reading one more book. Hopefully this current book will simply serve as a catalyst to actually get people in motion.

BTW, for far more in-depth discussion of the book, I'd highly recommend checking out the recent "Must Everything Change" series on Scot McKnight's blog.

Labels: , ,

posted by Mike Clawson at 5:30 PM | Permalink |


At 12/19/2007 12:40:00 PM, Anonymous Ron

There's also this:

A good way to start moving into "part three"...


Links to this post

Links to this post:

Create a Link