Sunday, June 15, 2008
McLaren, Brian (2008), Finding Our Way Home: The Return of the Ancient Practices, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson
Brian McLaren never ceases to amuse me because he keeps on popping up in unexpected places and writing/speaking of unexpected topics. This time, he is speaking of the ancient spiritual practices or spiritual disciplines of the ancient church. However, I am not surprised because I see the coming convergence of the ancient-evangelical future church movement, the missional ecclesiology, and the emerging church movement.
I find McLaren’s thesis for this book important for all Christians, if only they will stop criticising him long enough to listen to what he has to say. It was in the first chapter that he dropped the bombshell. He was telling a story about him conducting an interview with Dr. Peter Senge (father of systems theory and author of The Fifth Discipline). Senge was saying that in any bookstore, the best selling books will be on how to get rich and the second will be on Buddhism. Why Buddhism? Senge replied “I think it’s because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief.’ (p.3)
McLaren went on to explain that what is important is not either/or but both/and. Christianity needs a system of belief and a way of life or else it is not relevant. It will not give to what people are searching for today. McLaren suggests that we (Christians) have to rediscover our faith as a way of life, shaped and strengthened by ancient practices (p.6).
In any discussion about the ancient practices, one usually comes to the contemplative versus the active life or the Mary/Martha conflict. McLaren’s solution was rather simplistic in that he lumps it all in a circle and place it in heaven and earth. What he did was to repeat what Ignatius of Loyola was teaching the Jesuit during the counter-Reformation times of Martin Luther: the sacredness of the everyday life. This was also the teachings of other Christian mystics such as Margery Kempe. Recently discovered by the Protestants, it is now strongly advocated by Richard Foster, Diana Bass and Phyllis Tickle. The way of the Christian life is to be both active and contemplative at the same time.
As in other McLaren’s books, I learned a number of new words to the English language such as ‘open-source spirituality’ which McLaren use to mean Christians learning and mentoring from each other; ‘faithing our practices’; ‘otherliness’ (mean love); and this memorable quote from Doug Pagitt “preaching without speeching.”
This is a good introductory book to Christian spirituality and Christian spiritual disciplines. It is highly readable, written in McLaren’s conversational style with lots and lots of stories to illustrate his points.
My other postings on Brian McLaren can be found here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.