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The Last Word and the Word After That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 10. Mai 2005

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Pastor Dan Poole returns with another personal and theological crisis in this final installment of McLaren's A New Kind of Christian trilogy, which again features fictional characters engaged in nonfictionish theological dialogue. This time around, Poole has been granted an extended leave of absence from his conservative church as it investigates what it believes to be his liberal theological leanings, especially regarding the doctrine of hell and salvation. In rather predictable fashion, Poole finds himself questioning his own beliefs about hell and God's goodness, and just as predictably, Poole's friend Neo gently shepherds Poole away from the traditional doctrine of hell by pointing out that salvation is not just an individual matter but a communal one as well. Once Poole reaches some personal level of understanding about these doctrines through his reading, the church committee miraculously clears him of all charges and, after some emotional meetings, asks him to return to the pulpit. In the end, Poole finds comfort God's goodness and love, but by then readers may have been disappointed by the book's flimsy characters and simplistic insights. Although McLaren has justly earned a reputation for provocative postmodern theological observations, this doesn't live up to his standard. (Apr.) (Publishers Weekly, March 28, 2005)


"Brian McLaren has written a remarkable book on hell and the grace of God. And it is one hell of a book! The book is a narrative account, offered in a winsome conversational mode, that traces his thinking from a flat, closed, literalistic notion of God's wrath to a relational articulation of alienation and reconciliation. McLaren's work will be of immense help to those who are rethinking fundamentalist, literalistic ways of God that, in his judgment, have little to do with the Bible itself. The last word in the horizon of this book is hell, taken as ultimate divine punishment.  The pastoral power of this book is that after that word, there is still the word of divine grace and forgiveness that overrides all the threat. This is a bold book that evades none of the hard questions. It evidences yet again why McLaren is an emerging voice to be taken seriously concerning new modes of church and new practices of faith."
--Walter Brueggemann, minister, United Church of Christ; professor, Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia

"With the passion of a Reformation broadside, Brian McLaren's The Last Word and the Word after That goes for popular Christianity's theological jugular: hell and damnation. Pained by a corrupted gospel that promotes exclusion, oppression, and violence, McLaren's fictional Pastor Dan deconstructs dangerous understandings of eternal life and points toward the joy-filled possibility of Christian community shaped by a radical biblical vision of God's love and justice. In a time when some churches have been co-opted by fundamentalist political-theologies, this prophetic tale of a new kind of Christianity serves as a much-needed challenge and corrective."
--Diana Butler Bass, author, Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community

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HASH(0x8e754108) von 5 Sternen We Report, You Decide 13. November 2005
Von Robert W. Kellemen - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
In "The Last Word and the Word After That," Brian McLaren completes his "New Kind of Christian" trilogy. Since McLaren describes his writing as "creative non-fiction" readers of this review are hereby warned--if you don't want to know how his narrative ends, stop reading now. I'd hate to spoil the plot for you. . .

"The Last Word" arrived today after lunch. I fully intended to return to my sabbatical Church history research, but couldn't resist reading the back jacket, then skimming the book, then reading the introduction. The next thing I knew, the afternoon was over and so was the book. In other words, agree with him or not, McLaren can write. His narrative is compelling and gripping.

I found myself hunting for tissues when reading about Pastor Dan, his wife Carol, and the spiritual abuse that they suffered at the hands of their church board. I also found myself hunting for scissors at the biased portrayal of those who believe in a literal hell (more on this to come). And I found myself searching in vain for any closure to the discussion (I know, that's his point and his style, but still . . .).

If you want permission to think deeply about God, life, judgment, grace, and doctrine, then "The Last Word" will be a breath of fresh air. If you want to be given the research and resources necessary to intelligently ponder the doctrine of hell, then "The Last Word" will leave you wanting.

McLaren clarifies that his book is not truly about hell, but about what kind of God we believe in and what kind of purposes this God has for His creation. Still, for the first half of the book, his characters explore the doctrine of final judgment. Through their journey, McLaren provides a fair introduction to the more commonly held views about the final judgment, as well as introducing his own provocative perspective.

McLaren offers the caveat at the beginning of the book that "The Last Word" will purposefully under-represents the "traditional" view of hell as literal and eternal. Unfortunately, it not only under-represents it, it tends to misrepresent it. Three main characters hold to the traditional view. Carol represents the, "I don't want to think too deeply about it; I just want to love God" characterization. Gil epitomizes the, "I'm a cruel fundamentalist, ignorant Bible-thumper" depiction. Chip portrays the, "I'm a recovering fundamentalist; please be gentle with me while I find my brain and soul" caricature. The reader is left to assume that for the past 2000 years of Church history no thinking, loving Christian has ever held the "traditional" view of hell.

Other characters, presented with much more color-with mind and soul, life and personality-offer a composite view of what the final judgment might really be about. In the eyes of these favored characters, "hell" is not a literal place of eternal torment, but a motivational warning about a coming final judgment in which every human being stands stark naked before God to give an account of how well or how poorly she or he loved God and others and thus contributed or not to fulfilling God's shalom kingdom purpose of reconciliation. Though the intricacies of this view are difficult to summarize, at times they seem to border on a mingling of justification by works and justification by faith. After all, McLaren says that he is "post-Protestant."

Though I, and much of Church history (majority and minority report), happen to disagree with Neo's proposal about the nature of hell, one of his insights represents brilliant philosophy, accurate theology, and practical spirituality. Neo explains that when we do stand before God, because God is timeless, His judgment of us will be based upon and integrate together every nano-second of our existence. Assuming this is to be applied to Christians who are judged, not regarding entrance into heaven, but for rewards, it is a potent caution against a believer who might think, "I can wait until near the end of my life, reform, and then God will judge that mature, final me." No. God's evaluation of our Christian pilgrimage covers the entire journey. It is required of us that we walk faithfully and lovingly (though not sinlessly) day by day, even second by second.

The second half of "The Last Word" offers "The Word After That" which reads and feels like a separate book altogether. McLaren somewhat abruptly shifts from eschatology (the "doctrine" of the last times, especially of the final judgment) to ecclesiology (the "doctrine" of the Church). His characters speak of and participate in "deep ecclesiology."

One of the greatest gifts in the entire book is found here as McLaren shares the "five queries" that his spiritual formation group ponders together. They are well worth repeating: "How is your soul? How have you seen God at work in and through your life since we last met? What are you struggling with? What are you grateful for? What God-given dream are you nurturing?" As one of his characters would say, "That dog will hunt!"

This section also includes two questions worth repeating. They are questions that arise when we look at salvation not only as individual, but corporate: "If you were to live for another fifty years, what kind of person would you like to become-and how will you become that kind of person? If Jesus doesn't return for ten thousand years or ten million years, what kind of world do we want to create?" As another of his characters would say, "That'll preach!"

Overall, for a narrative of the story of life on planet Earth, McLaren's story-line sometimes rings a little Pollyanna. Do all, or even most, church conflicts end so perfectly for the "good guys"? I understand that McLaren's final vision for history moves toward reconciliation, but in this life?

By this tidy ending, and by what happens to and is said about "the good guys" and "the bad guys," an implication seeps out: "Anyone who disagrees with the outcomes of these theological probings is a witch-hunting, Pharisaical, hyper-fundamentalist, harsh, heretic-burning, unloving, unthinking, arrogant loser." That can feel a little like reverse spiritual correctness. As with the doctrine of final judgment, is it possible that thinking, loving Christians could actually disagree with the thought processes of the book in a thinking and loving way?

The same overly positive story-telling can be found throughout the trilogy in how people respond to Neo. As some "seeker" reviewers have noted about the first two books in this series, they would love to dialogue with Neo and don't think that they would "cave" so fast, or be nearly so enthralled.

Again, there seems to be a message here, a point being made by how people fawn over Neo. "This new kind of Christian stuff is incredible. It is so intelligent, so sensitive, and so unique. Brilliant. One in a billion." That doesn't quite convey the epistemological humility that post-modernism relishes.

So what do I REALLY think? Is McLaren a breath of fresh air and a post-modern Reformer? Or is he a little leaven and a post-modern heretic. Or something in between? Or neither? Or both?"

In the genre and spirit of "The Last Word and the Word After That," I'm not telling. Develop your own interpretation. Construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct your own view of McLaren and "The Last Word and the Word After That." That's certainly what Brian would want you to do. It's also what the Bible calls each of us to be-Be Bereans who use God's Word to evaluate human words, including "The Last Word and the Word After That."

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," "Biblical Psychology," "Martin Luther's Pastoral Counseling," and "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction."
177 von 197 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x8e59b06c) von 5 Sternen A dangerous book--in a good way 19. Mai 2005
Von Tom Hinkle - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This is the third book in McLaren's trilogy of narratives involving Pastor Dan and "Neo," here called by his given name Neil. Thankfully, this book drops the near-worship of Neo that was so irritating in the previous volumes.

Although not a scholarly work per se, I do appreciate the research behind it, just as I appreciate a sermon that shows solid research and is not just a bunch of half-baked ideas based on unrelated scriptures taken out of context and strung together. There is a simplified synopsis of the possible origins of the belief in hell. There is the interesting idea that Jesus was using the Pharisee's doctrine of hell and turning it on its head. There is a helpful table on scriptures from the Gospel that indicate either hell or some type of judgment that people have often contrued as hell, and boils them down to the actual point. If you think that Christianity needs the threat of hell to win converts, this might be considered a dangerous book. Even more dangerous are the hints that evangelical and reformed Christianity might have it wrong, and that the book of Romans has been misinterpreted over the years to support a concept of cheap grace while devaluing works. If there is a fourth volume to this "trilogy" (I know that's an oxymoron), that may be a fleshing out of the concept, as one character put it, that salvation is by grace but judgment is by works.

However you come down on the issue of hell (and if you read this as the narrative that it purports itself to be, you'll notice that not all characters agree, particularly the pastor's wife), it's important not to miss the main point: that the preoccupation with heaven, hell and the afterlife has resulted in an unfortunate de-emphasis of the quest for justice and God's righteousness here on earth. A serious reading of the teaching of Jesus will lead to the inescapable conclusion that his main concern was the Kingdom of God breaking in to the here and now, and not just the sweet by-and-by.

Although I consider this by far the strongest book of the trilogy, it is not perfect. There is a superfluous character named Pat early in the narrative who must have been borrowed from Julia Sweeney's character on Saturday Night Live, except Sweeney's Pat didn't write awful poetry. The issue of homosexuality in the church is not the point of this book and could be dealt with better in some of McLaren's other writings. The narrative itself has an almost unbelievably happy, sappy ending. And most irritating of all is in the chapter where McLaren quotes scholarly works on the doctrine of hell. He actually INVENTS phony sources for some of the quotes. I was scrambling trying to find the original quotation, only to read in the ending commentary that he made these up. That borders on dishonest, and is almost insulting to the serious reader.

I must add this, also. I am very distressed to notice that the watchdogs of fundamentalism are on constant alert, giving helpful votes to reviews that just give a scripture passage and don't review the book at all, and giving non-helpful votes to thoughtful, serious reviews, all based on the star rating (and actually that pretty much go unread, I suspect.) Remember that the votes are for "helpful" and "not helpful," not "I agree" or "I disagree." Keep that in mind, Einsteins.
26 von 29 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x8e6d3444) von 5 Sternen Still processing this book... 14. Juni 2005
Von Nathan Eanes - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
As my title says, I am not sure what to think of all the doctrinal points this book raises. Part of the confusion, of course, is that McLaren doesn't answer nearly all of the questions he asks. Therefore, it was slightly frustrating to be left with so many questions (although, on the positive side, it strengthens our analytical and research skills, rather than just spoon-feeding us readers.)

In defense of this book, I have to begin by saying that I think many of the negative reviews were based partly on the fact that readers assumed they knew McLaren's opinion just because he questioned things they (and even I) considered orthodox. In other words, it seems that many people simply assume that McLaren, by wondering whether the "orthodox" beliefs about hell are really biblical, is bashing these beliefs. You see, I'm not sure the book is that cut-and-dry. We need to take it for what it's worth: a book that gets us thinking about whether American fundamentalism (which, like it or not, is really the basis for many modern evangelical beliefs) is really as biblical as we've been brought up to believe.

This brings me to my next point, which also has to do with readers who, in my view, are reading certain incorrect things into McLaren's writing. "A new kind of Christian," which has become one of this author's catch phrases, has, I think, been radically and dangerously misunderstood by most of McLaren's critics. Nowhere in his writing does he seek to destroy the Bible or Jesus. In fact, he seeks to understand the historical and theological context of the Bible's writers and subjects. This is offensive to many conservative evangelicals, who understand the Bible as a codebook on doctrine whose every word was literally dictated by God. McLaren seems to understand the Bible as divinely inspired but also highly historically situational, which throws a wrench into the fundamentalists' works. Therefore, "A new kind of Christian" is not something that seeks to destroy the orthodox ways of being a Christian, but rather tries to do two things: First, make Christianity relevant and understandable to people in our society. And second, bring a greater understanding of what the early Christians, those before the Roman Empire's near-fatal corruption of the Church, believed and lived. Of course, many American evangelicals have little understanding of the early Church, and they seem to believe that what they've been taught is truly "orthodox." Until we're willing to accept that we may, in fact, not know the ultimate truth about everything, we'll never become as humble as Jesus clearly called us to be.
32 von 37 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x98c59bac) von 5 Sternen a great book - I'm saddened by the unChristian reactivity 28. April 2005
Von Michael Howes - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
McLaren's newest book is arguably his best. He does a great job of bringing out into the open one of the great unanswered (unasked!) questions of Western Christianity: when we invite people to become followers of Jesus, why do many demur, fearful that becoming a Christian will make them a worse person? For many spiritual people who would not self-identify as Christians, and for many Christians, increasingly ashamed, not of Jesus but of the unChristian behavior of fellow Christians that makes the Gospel unappealing, McLaren's book is a great gift. He probes an area many will find uncomfortable - the way in which culture shapes religious expression, including the record of that expression in Scripture.

Two things make me sad:

1) That some - I don't want to say many - of my sisters and brothers are threatened by McLaren's writings. Is your faith so shaky that a few hundred pages of text can make it totter? Are God and Scripture so impotent that they need your defense? Is your theology so exclusivist that only those who believe as you do are "in Christ"? Please relax. God is not made anxious by any book, and neither should you be as his child.

2) That many of those who review McLaren's writings in this and other places demonstrate a hateful, judgmental and critical spirit that will be useful to the Evil One in his ongoing work of persuading those drawn to Jesus to avoid Christians and church because we're a bunch of spiteful bigots who tear and devour one another. In the words of an insightful nonChristian, "Your fish stinks!"

Repeatedly over the last four years, God has used McLaren's writings to renew my passion for Christ and my commitment to pastoral ministry. I am grateful beyond words for that. I have also known many who have been helped in their apprenticeship to Jesus by McLaren's writing and speaking.

Finally, McLaren is a faithful, compassionate pastor and a devoted evangelist. He seizes every possible opportunity in daily life and in his writing and speaking to winsomely invite people to apprentice themselves to Jesus and begin to follow him. My sense is that he sees one of the main goals of his writing and speaking as clearing away misunderstandings of Christ and Gospel that impede people from following Jesus. The fruit of his life, measured in people who are following Jesus because of his influence speaks for itself.
29 von 34 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x8e59b930) von 5 Sternen Seeking God's truth should be a continuous journey 7. Mai 2005
Von gaelps - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I don't understand how some of the reviewers can give McLaren's book only a one star simply because they disagree with his words. Even if you don't agree with them, the book still deserves at least a couple stars for the way the ideas were presented - in a friendly, inquiring dialogue between friends that any layperson could make sense of. I'm troubled by these one star reviewers who slam the book because they disagree with it. What troubles me more is that these same people are really slamming the book because they don't want the rest of us to think for ourselves. Why are they so threatened by that? Jesus encouraged people to think by presenting His message in parables. Man is not infallible and it was men who came up with the fundamentalist interpretation of God's Word. What's so wrong with questioning this interpretation? Are they so sure the early theologians got it right? The one image I can't shake is how much the fundamentalist reviewers seem to be playing the role of the Pharisees of our day. In the New Testament the Pharisees were the ones most threatened by Jesus' message. They had the most to gain by keeping the status quo and they were prideful of their status. This pride puffed them up and blinded them to the truth Jesus presented to them. Jesus shook up the Pharisees world by including the despised and outcasts in the Kingdom of God. Before anyone makes any assumptions, I'm certainly not calling McLaren Jesus. I do see some parallels though in the ideas he presents and in the response he is receiving from the Religious Right. His ideas are radical but he does not claim to have all the answers in his newest book. He instead invites the readers to search the Bible on their own for that truth. McLaren is simply joining us on our spiritual path and suggesting to us a different fork in the path that we may not have seen before or we were too afraid to go down on our own.

I've always held the traditional views of hell. It wasn't because I couldn't let go of them; I just never questioned the interpretations of those who seemed to be the experts on God and His Word. It never occurred to me that it was o.k. to question these views until I began reading McLaren's books and listening to him speak. What I've found is a man who genuinely loves Christ and who walks in that love everyday. He has honest questions and a strong enough faith to ask them.

I started out reading this book feeling uncomfortable with it but I kept an open-mind and soon found the words making sense to me. They fell in line with what Jesus preached and the words, to me, mirrored the compassion of Jesus. I think McLaren's book is simply encouraging us to think about our beliefs. That's not a bad thing. Jesus' parables were meant to do the same thing. God gave us a mind to think and I don't believe He's going to feel threatened when we use it to question the meaning of His message.

The book echoes the themes of reconciliation and inclusion found in McLaren's previous books. Some don't like his idea of inclusion but I don't believe the Religious Right hold the keys to God's kingdom nor should they pretend they do. I believe McLaren's book presents to non-believers a more loving faith that welcomes everyone no matter who they are or where they are on their spiritual path. This message, like the story of Jesus with the woman at the well, is a loving invitation to the faith rather than the harsh "Got Jesus?".

Even if you don't agree with McLaren's ideas, the book will make you think and that, I believe, is a good thing and is McLaren's goal as well. Seeking truth is something we all should do, believers or not.

Thank you, Brian, for being such a great spiritual guide.
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