Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In his introduction, Brian McLaren explains that A New Kind of Christian began as a work of nonfiction, born of his own crises and conversations as pastor of an evangelical church attempting the leap into postmodernity. His lively insights and genial style struck a nerve at the beginning at the twenty-first century, and A New Kind of Christian generated two sequels, The Story We Find Ourselves In (2003) and The Last Word and the Word After That (2005), establishing McLaren as the figurehead of an adventurous movement calling itself Postmodern Christianity, or the Emergent Church.

McLaren’s musings fit well into the venerable tradition of Christian reform, calling the faithful back to the centrality of Christ’s charity and denouncing false accretions that have pushed it to the margins of Christian life. He is preceded in his critique of unreflectively modernized Christianity by a number of major theological thinkers, including Blaise Pascal, John Henry Newman, Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevski, and Romano Guardini. The “postmodern Christian” critique is fully new, however, insofar as it adds particular concern for current tendencies in secular philosophy and popular culture. It also gains a very distinctive flavor from its immediate context, a local conversation probing the thought patterns of American free-church Protestants as well as, less directly, liberal mainline Protestantism.


(The entire section is 506 words.)