As someone from the seminar stated, in typical McLaren fashion, most of us left excited, challenged and utterly confused – which is what Brian likes. Pluralism – how in the world could any of us be considered pluralists? Are we? Well, according to the definition of pluralism – we are (and should be) pluralists in some ways. First off, pluralism is a condition in which distinct ethnic, religious or cultural groups are present and tolerated. This is simply a stated fact. Yes, these are diverse groups amidst us, this is just how it is. Secondly, pluralism is the belief that such a condition is desirable or socially beneficial. I would agree with this. I don’t know that I would necessarily want EVERYONE around me to be like me (socially, economically, and/or spiritually/religiously). I do believe that I am a pluralist in this sense. Finally, pluralism is the belief that no single explanatory system or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life. Here is where the line will be drawn for many of us. Do we believe this? Do we believe that Christianity can account for all the phenomena of life – if so, then we are not pluralists. But if we believe that Christianity can NOT account for all the phenomena of life – welcome to pluralism.
McLaren then went on to talk about the issue that I (used to) find the most troubling: the issue of the metanarrative. It seems to me that as Christians, when we say that our story is “the story” (rather, we should say “God’s Story” is THE story, because, as McLaren likes to mention all the time, when we say “our” story, what story/version of Christianity are we really talking about), we’re saying that our “story” is the metanarrative. Now, postmoderns have a general incredulity toward metanarratives (thanks Lyotard – or was it Derrida – oh well) – they don’t like the stories that like to beat up other stories. McLaren says that our story, GOD’s story, is in fact not a metanarrative, but just a big story (mega-narrative – not a phrase he’s really latched onto, just used for lack of a better term). Our story is the story that embraces all other stories – the Christian story is the one that welcomes, embraces, redeems all other stories. So, in the name of Jesus, we can say that we need to embrace the story of Buddhism – to look for what is Good, True, Beautiful and Right about Buddhism. In doing so, we are truly showing respect (not disregard, rudeness, or a false imperialistic confidence) for the other stories that God may in fact have the power to work through. McLaren quotes David Bosch, who writes: “We cannot point to any other way of salvation than Jesus Christ; at the same time, we cannot set limits to the saving power of God – We appreciate this tension, and do not attempt to resolve it.”
McLaren then went on to quote extensively from Bosch’s “Transforming Mission” (while also recommending Miroslav Volf’s “Exclusion & Embrace”), and he presented the Eight Perspectives from Bosch:
1. Accept the coexistence of different faiths – willingly, not begrudgingly.
a. Christian mission must be dialogical.
b. The seven formative factors in theology – experience, revelation, Scripture, tradition, culture, reason and dialogue with other religions.
c. “One-way, monological travel is out, as is militancy in any form.”
2. Dialogue presupposes commitment, not the sacrifice of one’s position.
3. We assume that dialogue takes place in the presence of God, that God is an unseen partner in our dialogues, with something to teach all participants. (Acts 10,11)
4. Missional dialogue requires humility. Apologetics often requires apology.
5. We realize that each religion is its own world, requiring very different responses from Christians.
6. “We affirm that witness does not preclude dialogue, but invites it, and that dialogue does not preclude witness but extends and deepens it.
7. The “old, old story” may not have been the “true, true story,” and so we must continually rediscover the gospel.
8. We must live with a paradox: “We cannot point to any other way of salvation than Jesus Christ; at the same time, we cannot set limits to the saving power of God – We appreciate this tension, and do not attempt to resolve it. (McLaren went on to mention that it’s okay if you hold this view in private – but you get into trouble when you put it in a book.)
Thoughts? Is anyone really starting to worry about me now – ? Hopefully not, it’s only Day 1.