A New Kind of Exclusivism

I have to admit I’m a fan of Brian McLaren.

I’ve read most of his books and something about their overarching themes resonates with the way I’m wired. I appreciated the dialogue created in the New Kind of Christian trilogy because it addressed inherited beliefs I had always questioned. I understood The Secret Message of Jesus as being the coming of the kingdom of God and became enthused about its presence here and now in our world. I agreed that Everything Must Change and was excited about the possibilities such a treatise opened up to me. I related to the ten questions (and numerous answers) found in A New Kind of Christianity and thought how Christianity would be a much better alternate reality if it would just wake up and see the simplicity of Brian’s prophetic message.

Along with a raft of other books, articles, and podcasts, I found my understanding of Scripture enlarged and my life as a follower of God in the way of Jesus greatly revitalised.

The problem I have is not everyone gets it! This frustrates me . . . and sometimes infuriates me.

When I hear the fundamentalist language of 50’s Christianity, I cringe. When I read those who espouse an escapist ‘rapture’ theology’ and a violent and fiery end of the world as we know it, I get all tied up in knots. When I see the rampant discrimination in churches against women, gays, and those whose theology is not quite ‘up to scratch,’ my blood pressure rises. When I experience the formula-driven worship of the Hillsong generation, I long for the church to rise above that and seek reality, honesty and vulnerability in its words and worship.

But in the end, I think I’ve fallen into ‘A new kind of Exclusivism’ in my thinking and in my relationships.

I found myself sitting in church the other day with these kinds of thoughts rushing through my head and I realised I’m heading back to where I started and was becoming what I was running from. In drawing up new borders and building new walls, I was simply re-framing my exclusivism in another context. In thinking myself to be somewhat better, more aware, having greater understanding than others, I was in fact creating another ‘us’ and another ‘them.’

Jesus prayed for his followers that they would be one. Looking at their backgrounds, I can easily see how they could fall into the same categories as the wide spectrum of people who inhabit our church structures today: pharisees, zealots, fishermen, tax gatherers, rich and poor, higher and lower status, God-focused and self-focused. Yet, in the power and through the working of the Holy Spirit, they showed what unity can bring about–simply because it wasn’t unity built around one man’s interpretation of the truth, but oneness that was centered in the Truth personified: Jesus. Their oneness turned the world system of their day upside-down and showed what is possible when we humbly submit to one another and to Christ.

So I repent of my new exclusivism amongst all my other sins of pride, jealousy, malice, and falseness (to name but a few), and ask God to help me to live in the way of Jesus every day. It’s not easy, but it is possible. God has already proven that.


5 thoughts on “A New Kind of Exclusivism

  1. Hey Jon…great blog mate… i reckon some things are a constant battle sometimes….Cant believe how Amazing Gods Love is to include us all in his grace and love….and he gets it right every single time!!!!
    Love ya buddy

  2. Good one Jon. Its great to challenge old ideas and mature in our knowledge and experience of God, but it is all worthless if God’s love doesn’t remain the main thing. The challenge is to keep a humble spirit and love as God loves us.

    • As a wise man once told me, it’s all about love and grace (thanks Mr Lenigas!). I have to keep reminding myself that I’m the recipient of a lot of grace–and Jesus said ‘Freely you have received; freely give.’ What a challenge to one who is a stingy grace-giver!

  3. Great sentiment and insight. Yes, this is the path of true Christian humility and fellowship. Its so easy to judge and look down on others rather than love and commune with and accept. I’ve dealt with many of the same issues you bring up here.
    The spirit behind what you’re saying to me rings of a real faith: one that is secure enough to not get into a red faced defense or apologetic for why you’re right and someone else is wrong.
    A strong and loud voice declaring a Biblical ‘truth’ to me does not resonate as well as the one who listens and speaks with humility in caring fellowship.
    I’m glad you wrote this post and I applaud your insight.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ryan. Just by your email address I gather we’d think quite similar things (although they don’t have Grape Nuts over here so I haven’t touched them since I was in College)!
      I guess the most difficult thing we’re called to do as followers of Christ is to abstain from judging. I know I struggle with it a lot and some of my posts tend to slip into this critical or prideful mindset.
      Anyway, thanks for your comment. Grace.

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