Book Reviews

Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren

Everything Must Change is a large diverse work in which McLaren dabbles in everything from economics to politics to the eco-system to Jesus.  The author believes our planet is facing a perfect storm (his words) involving crises of four kinds.  He calls them:

• Prosperity crisis—an unsustainable global economy that is overwhelming the environmental resources.

• Equity crisis—caused by the growing gap between the rich and the poor with respective fear and resentment.

• Security crisis—War and violence is the inevitable outcome of the equity crisis. 

• Spiritual crisis—World religions, including and especially Christianity, have failed to address these issues with Jesus’ “framing story,” i.e. worldview.

It is these four crises that McLaren believes desperately need to be addressed, but Christianity has misunderstood what Jesus wants us to say about these issues.  We need to rescue Jesus from our false understanding about Him and what He taught (pp. 72-73).  Jesus true “framing story” must be discovered and proclaimed.  And what is this framing story?  “The Bible is the story of the partnership between God and humanity to save and transform all of human society and avert global self-destruction”...  “Jesus came to launch an insurgency to overthrow that occupying regime.  Its goal is to resist the occupation, liberate the planet, and retrain and restore humanity to its original vocation and potential” (pp. 94, 129).  These, and other similar descriptions, are what McLaren, here and elsewhere, calls the gospel of the kingdom of God which he believes Jesus initiated when He was on earth.

In order to promote his new emerging agenda it is necessary for McLaren to reject many, if not most, of the major doctrines held dear by the historic evangelical church, for it is these very doctrine, in his opinion, that have caused the global mess in which we find ourselves. McLaren claims:

• Christ’s cross work was not for the purpose of propitiating divine wrath or redemption from sin; it was a nonviolent example for us to follow (pp. 158-159).

• The second coming of Christ is without biblical warrant “for it leads us to believe that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion [therefore] no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly” (p. 144). A new heaven and earth are unnecessary because “good will prevail by peace, love, truth, faithfulness, and courageous endurance of suffering” (p. 146).

• Original sin is not our problem; McLaren fully believes that unregenerate mankind will be able to change society to conform to God’s kingdom (pp. 223, 262, 265).

• The need for forgiveness and salvation from sin are not on the agenda because most, if not all, are already citizens of the kingdom by virtue of having been created in the image of God (p. 223).  The greatest problems facing mankind have to do with physical concerns of the planet, not spiritual issues (p. 46).

• Hell is not a literal place of judgment for rebels against God but starts on earth now when we don’t live for the kingdom of God, as described by McLaren         (p. 146).

When the author turns to Scripture in an attempt to support his views it is an exercise in distortion.  McLaren resorts to several methods:  changing the meaning of words to suit his preference (pp. 96, 99, 113), ignoring Scripture he does not like (e.g. concerning the second coming, pp. 144-146), or simply twisting the meaning beyond all recognition (pp. 97, 107, 111, 135, 137, 144-145, 177, 238-241).  All of this would be laughable if it was not so serious.  Without question, McLaren cannot reconstruct Jesus, the gospel and Christianity if he faithfully interprets the Scriptures with any sane method of hermeneutics.  But if his readers are willing to ignore this fact then some will be taken in by the message of Everything Must Change. 

From a social/political angle McLaren might be described as the Michael Moore (ultra-liberal film producer) of Christianity.  Capitalism is “legalized greed,” Moore says and it would seem McLaren would agree.  McLaren uses the same poor interpretive skills which he applied to Scripture to analyze the evils of society.  His understanding of what is wrong with the planet is as pathetic as his solution.  Here is his prescription for societal ills:

• First, we will seek to help the poor through generosity.

• Second, we will call the rich to generosity.

• Third, we will work to improve the system (p. 246).

If you are disappointed with this “revolutionary” solution to our global crisis you should be.  Like many, McLaren is long on identifying problems but short on answers.  What McLaren consistently misses is that the gospel of Christ (the true gospel as derived from proper interpretation of the Word) addresses man’s real need of alienation from God and sinful corruption through redemption and regeneration found through the blood of Christ.  Regenerated lives will have true impact on societal problems, but the final solution awaits the return of Christ and the new heaven and earth.  This is the good news that Christ came to offer and McLaren has rejected.