Last Word and the Word after That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity

Last Word and the Word after That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity

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by Brian D. McLaren
     
 

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For all those seeking more authentic ways to hold and practice Christian faith, Brian McLaren has been an inspiring, compassionate—and provocative—voice. Starting with the award-winning A New Kind of Christian, McLaren offered a lively, wide-ranging fictional conversation between Pastor Dan Poole and his friend Neil Oliver as they reflected about

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Overview

For all those seeking more authentic ways to hold and practice Christian faith, Brian McLaren has been an inspiring, compassionate—and provocative—voice. Starting with the award-winning A New Kind of Christian, McLaren offered a lively, wide-ranging fictional conversation between Pastor Dan Poole and his friend Neil Oliver as they reflected about faith, doubt, reason, mission, leadership, and spiritual practice in the emerging postmodern world. That conversation widened to include several intriguing new characters in the sequel, The Story We Find Ourselves In, as Dan and friends continued to explore faith-stretching themes from evolution to evangelism, from death to the meaning of life. Now, in this third installment of their adventures, Dan and his widening circle of friends grapple with conventional Christian teachings about hell and judgment and what they mean for our relationship with God and each other. Is there an alternative to the usual polar views of a just God short on mercy or a merciful God short on justice?  Could our conflicted views of hell be symptoms of a deeper set of problems – misunderstandings about what God’s justice and mercy are about, misconceptions about God’s purpose in creating the world, deep misgivings about what kind of character God is and what the Christian gospel is for?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
McLaren, founder of the Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland, has become a prolific and award-winning author on the meaning and practice of Christian spiritual life in the 21st century. He was also named one of Time magazine's 25 most influential evangelicals in America. Following A New Kind of Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In, this is his final book in a trilogy that aims to follow the struggles of fictional pastor Dan Poole, who wrestles with the rigid beliefs of his upbringing, ultimately discovering a new kind of Christianity based on love and action in community. Though the characters are fictional, the search for answers mirrors McLaren's own development. This volume tackles the traditional doctrine of hell, its spiritual inadequacy, and how Jesus used hell as a symbol for judgment against the Pharisees, whose condemnation of those who disagreed with them is akin to the precepts of modern American fundamentalism. This questioning is set against the backdrop of the abortive heresy trial of Pastor Poole. McLaren meditates on Christian scripture, finding God's desire for justice in the here and now to be far more scriptural than the picture of a God eager to condemn people to fire or annihilation. McLaren clarifies theological debates with deep love and compassion. Though still based on the view that Jesus alone is the source of salvation, this work speaks to people of faith in all religions. Highly recommended for public, academic, and theological libraries.-William P. Collins, Library of Congress Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
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)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780470248423
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
04/18/2008
Series:
J-B Leadership Network Series
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
446,218
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"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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Meet the Author

Brian D. McLaren is a speaker, author, activist, and networker exploring the intersection of Christian faith and contemporary life. He has written or co-written over a dozen books, including A Generous Orthodoxy, The Secret Message of Jesus, and Everything Must Change. For twenty-four years he served as the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in the Washington-Baltimore area. He was named by Time magazine as one of America's twenty-five most influential Evangelicals. He is a founding member of emergentvillage.com. See www.brianmclaren.net.

About the Leadership Network

The mission of Leadership Network is to identify and connect innovative church leaders and provide them with resources in the form of new ideas, people, and tools. Contact Leadership Network at www.leadnet.org.

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
McLaren brilliantly tackles a subject that few are willing to address, the issue of Hell. Those that debate the issue (at least in my judgment) tend to fall towards two axioms: (1) We dismiss the idea all together as a mythological conundrum that excuses potential realities, or (2) we offer platitudes of trite answers that come more from a medieval worldview than rooted biblical theology. McLaren¿s narrative medium through Pastor Dan Poole (fictional character) is perfect to deconstruct all of our anecdotal ideas so that we can reconstruct a more biblical construct of God¿s mercy and justice. McLaren illustrates that our system of analysis has led to problematic results. Through Neil (Pastor Dan¿s spiritual advisor) we glimpse into our problematic hermeneutic. Neil says, ¿Much of our hermeneutic is trapped in Biblical text analysis. Meaning that we break down the book, chapter, verse, Greek, Hebrew, etc¿ while we wrestle it out of its greater context of culture, time, history and narrative.¿ To McLaren¿s point, much of our hermeneutic towards a theology of hell has traveled this path. Once we take a larger biblical framework that contextually traces God¿s mercy and justice as our overarching theme then the trivial medieval theology takes a backseat to God¿s biblical justice. ¿The point isn¿t Hell, it¿s justice (pg.71).¿ My favorite chapter may be the one entitled, ¿Party in the Living Room, Torture in the Basement.¿ Dan Poole¿s daughter Jess, is honestly grappling with the issue of Hell, as she knows it, and is at a loss in how to deconstruct certain doctrinal stances. She says to her father, Pastor Dan, ¿I could never be happy in a party upstairs in the heavenly living room knowing that so many people were being tortured in the basement¿¿ I can¿t speak for all, but for most believers I¿ve talked to who have truly tackled the issue of Hell, get stuck here. McLaren¿s excellent narrative help¿s us to reconstruct biblical thought that will help us all land better on our feet; regardless of your stance. Don¿t read ¿The Last Word¿¿ as a cozy fictional novel, but as an engaging text with pen and Bible in hand. If you slow down, read, and wait to judge the book until all is read, then you will service your soul and the Kingdom for all of eternity.