However, I did pick up one and read it. Well, its not the whole Bible, it was just one book: Luke. In his paraphrased translation, "The Voice of Luke: Not Even Sandals," Emergent leader Brian McLaren offers his rendition of the biblical Gospel. I just had to give it a read. I knew he would offer a few unique retranslations (like translating Savior as Liberator throughout the text and translating baptism as ritual cleaning), but I was most interested in how he dealt with the here and not yet reality of the Kingdom of God and what He did with Jesus' preaching of the gospel and the cross.
The Kingdom of God is central to understanding McLaren's deconstructive theology. To not understand what he means by the phrase is to fail to understand what he believes. He has said repeatedly that the message of Jesus could be summed up as, "the Kingdom of God." I agree with him. The problem, however, is what we mean and how we interpret Jesus' understanding of the Kingdom of God.
It should be said and pointed out here that theological liberal movements usually emphasize the present reality of the Kingdom over its future hope. Both Schleiermacher and Rauschenbush did this. Schleiermacher introduced the world to Protestant liberals while Rauschenbush became the poster child of the social gospel. McLaren, in his understanding of the Kingdom, has joined their ranks. This does not mean that he rejects the future hope of the Kingdom, but that he without a doubt overemphasizes the present reality to the point that many miss the future hope aspect of his theology. In fact, McLaren seems to want to write off the future hope of the Kingdom. By fundamentally rejecting the doctrine of hell (or at the very least deconstructing it to the point that no one knows what he believes about it) and by criticizing Christians for caring too much about heaven, eternal life, and judgment, McLaren is guilty of preaching only the present reality of the Kingdom.
I found this fascinating in this translation of Luke's Gospel because Jesus emphasizes both aspects and yet the devotional comments throughout this book are only on the sections centered on the present reality. Though he says things like heaven and judgment throughout, McLaren does not clarify or go any deeper than simply mentioning them. An example of McLaren's emphasis on the present reality of the Kingdom is found in chapter 4 of Luke which happens to be the same chapter where Jesus quotes Isaiah and says that He has come to liberate the captive and help the poor (an important passage to Emergents, McLaren, and social gospel proponents):
The essential message of Jesus can be summed up this way: 'the kingdom of God is available to everyone, starting now.' when Jesus refers to the kingdom of God,He doesn't mean something that happens after we die, far off i heaven; He equates the kingdom of God with God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven. so the kingdom of God is life as God intends it to be -- life to the full, life in peace and justice, life in abundance and love. Individuals enter the Kingdom when they enter into a relationship with the Liberating King, when they trust Him enough to follow His ways. But make no mistake, the Kingdom is about more than our individual lives; it is about the transformation and renewal of all God has created. it may stat with our individual responses, but it doesn't stop there. -34
You can see where he is going. It is amazing the silence McLaren gives on the texts that are clearly regarding the future hope of the Kingdom.
I also was interested in seeing how he treated the cross and resurrection. In Emergent theology, the cross and resurrection are not as central as more Reformed theology and this is one of the major problems I have with the movement. Unless we understand the cross and resurrection as being propitiatory and expiatory, then the teachings and says of Jesus do not set Him apart from anyone else. Notice how McLaren defines the phrase "Son of Man" in Luke 24 shortly placed after the resurrection:
In this way, 'Son of' suggests 'new generation of' and 'Man' suggests 'humanity.' Jesus is Himself the new generation of humanity (a second Adam, a new beginning), and the community He creates will also share this identity (a new creation, a new humanity in Christ). -164
I'm afraid he misses the point. Jesus is not just a new generation of humanity, He is the God-man. Yes He is the 2nd Adam, but in the sense that from the 1st Adam we got sin, but through the 2nd Adam (Jesus Christ) sin is propitiated. McLaren just misses it and one can see the present reality again. The cross and resurrection, as laid out in his rendition of Luke's Gospel, is about creating a new humanity for the here and now. Certainly we become new creatures in Christ on account of the cross and resurrection, but it is much bigger than that.
Overall, I found this to be a telling and interesting read. There were times where McLaren just translates and refrains from commenting. Those moments seemed to me to be the moments that contradicted much in his and Emergent theology. But where it concerned Emergent interests (like Jesus' teachings on money and religion) McLaren was there to "continue the conversation."
On will not find anything new here except the pick and choosing from the Red-Letter Christians. They want some of what Jesus said, but not all of it. On one final note, I was struck that as an Emergent work, there was no green or red letters. How did they miss that?