Conversations on Being a Heretic

Scot McKnight recently interviewed Brian McLaren about several topics Brian raises in his book A New Kind of Christianity. Here’s the link to the interview video. Here’s the link to the notes by Brian McLaren.

About the claim that Brian never seems to state clearly what exactly he himself believes regarding a particular point, Brian says:

When I read a book, or listen to music, I’m not always asking “What do they believe?” I’m asking, “What do they have to say to me?” I’m not requiring them to agree with me (and me to agree with them) for me to be stimulated by what they have to say. To me, there is a peculiar problem in a lot of religious readers where their approach is, “I don’t care what the person might have to say to me. I want to know if he’s right.” And, so they go into the reading and discussion experience with an assumption that they are already right, that they already see things the way they should be. And they’re going through with a checklist. The experience of that for a writer (and for pastoring and preaching), is when you’re in the presence of those people is that it feels like an inquisition. They’re doing a kind of constant heresy hunt. My personal feeling is that there is a place for that. But maybe we could say, “those who live by the sword die by the sword,” i.e., “those who live by boundary maintenance die by boundary maintenance,…those who live by heresy hunting die by heresy hunting.” It is interesting that people read a book that way. To me, that’s a significant problem.

Regarding “provocative ambiguity,” there is some dimension of that. Soren Kierkegaard said,“It is very hard to use indirect communication when you’re talking to someone who is held in the grip of an illusion.” Because if you tell a person who is so absolutely certain, they have absolute certainty that they’re right, when they’re not right, if you tell them they’re wrong, they just assume you’re wrong. Sometimes when talking to people in an illusion, you have to use indirection. Flannery O’Connor said, “With people who can’t see very well, you have to use very large and strange characters.” I also think that in other places, I’m not trying to pass someone’s test, I’m actually trying to challenge them to think. And sometimes the ambiguity does help with that.

And about the perception that Brian has abandoned the “A Generous Orthodoxy:”

I would never ever say that the faith of the historic church should be put behind us. To me, the faith of the historic church is exactly what we should keep; dependence on God, openness to the Holy Spirit, connection and confidence in God. But I do think there are dimensions of our faith after 2000 years that we may need to go back and look at and say, there seems to be a problem there. And this issue, what I call the “Greco-Roman narrative,” I think really deserves a second look. And some people are going to say, “No it doesn’t. That’s inherent to the faith.”

Just to give you an example. To me, the essence of that narrative, that way of looking at the world — e.g., “we’re the insiders, we’re the chosen, we’re the elite, we’re the elect, we’re the saved…they’re the lost, they’re the non-Christians, they’re the damned, they’re the other, they’re the outsider.” — that dualism, and that way of looking at an “us” vs. “them” approach to the world, that I think is inherent in that, it might be avoidable. But historically, it has repeatedly resulted in oppression and violence, and horrible things that are opposed to the way and things of Jesus Christ. I think that narrative is complicit in a whole series of atrocities that Muslim people know about, that Jewish people know about, that the Native Americans know about, that African-Americans know about, that women know about, that the LBGT communities know about; it’s like everybody sees it, but us. I really do think that’s a problem. I guess the way to say it is, I think that narrative has been the ungenerous thing that has been wrapped up with orthodoxy, and I think we would be both more orthodox and more generous to articulate the faith apart from that narrative.

The interview lats for about 18 minutes. Have a look (or read the notes) and be encouraged to think, again, outside of the square of modern Christianity and religion.


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