Last Word and the Word after That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianityby Brian D. McLaren
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/i>… See more details below
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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What People are saying about this
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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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.