Book Reflection: The Secret Message of Jesus

Category: By Christian
I can't help but wonder what the general perception of Brian McLaren would be within churches today if The Secret Message of Jesus was the first book he released. Evangelical Christians tend to get a little freaked out when reading McLaren. It's only natural, considering that McLaren often challenges theological constructs that Evangelical Christians hold near the core of their worship. There have been times when I've thought..."I see you workin' bro, but I'm not sure I can go there with you." It's just hard to deal with someone shattering your paradigms of creation or hell without getting a little worked up, I guess. Fair enough. I tend not to get totally wigged out though, because in seminary I have opportunity to read the real theological whack jobs. Shoot, I've probably written a paper or two that someone out there thinks borders on heresy.

In my mind, if you want a Cliffs Notes version of the seminary education I have had up to this point, then I suggest reading McLaren. He does a great job of setting the context of the world that Jesus lived in and does it in a way that all of us can understand. The fact of the matter is that we are so far removed from the world of Jesus that we often project our own cultural values onto Jesus' teachings in a way that leads us away from the heart of his message. This idea rubs some people the wrong way because they think we should be able to just sit down with a Bible and understand it adequately enough, but I politely disagree. I really think that the lenses through which we view the world can really taint our theology, even when our hearts are in the right place. Our Capitalistic whatever it is that we are living in today is leaps and bounds away from the culture that Jesus lived in, and so I would contend that understanding context helps immensely in interpreting Scripture. Perhaps a better title for the book would have been The Forgotten Message of Jesus, but that probably wasn't sexy enough for the publisher.

The chapters are short, which allowed me to read them as devotionals, but they are also deep. Better than any other author I have read, he makes the differences between the Sadducees, Pharisees and the like very clear. There will be times when you'll probably wonder where he comes up with some of this stuff, and if you find yourself interested in such questions then follow the footnotes and go down whichever rabbit trail you find interesting. It's not so much that McLaren is saying anything new in this book, but he is saying it in such a manner that brings it to the pews in a way that has not been done before to my knowledge.

If you read nothing else, read chapter 15. I read it twice in a row because I found it to be so energizing in regards to how Christians are supposed to interact with the world. You could probably read the chapter standing in the bookstore, but I will warn you that it will probably compel you to purchase the book. Thus, make sure you don't forget your wallet. And if you have never read McLaren before, please start here and then tackle some of his other books. I'd be interested in knowing what you think of his writings in that light.

1 comment so far.

  1. Broken Artist 10:37 AM
    I started reading the Secret Message of Jesus this summer but then put it down, with really no reason for doing so. I need to pick it back up. I am in a hermenuetics class right now, and we are talking about the very thing that you have problems with: "Just read the Scripture and do it." While there is good energy in that, it is extremely flawed. Does that mean that I should go pluck out my eyes right now? Of course not, that's absurd. I have found Rob Bell to be tremendously helpful in this historical context area, and also a brilliant French historian's book called Palestine At the Time of Christ. It is by Henri Daniel- Rops. It should be required reading for all Christians, although I am sure there are very good books that are similar to it.

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