Sorry for the spread between comments on the book. My school year has started, so for the past couple of weeks the only reading I have done involved curriculum.
I was peeking at another blogger's review and he captured the tone of this book for me so far. Brian's previous books, in many ways, dealt with ideas and I would sit back and say, "That is what I have been thinking (but he articulates it so much better)". This book has many ideas as well, but there is also a strong sense of, "Now what are you going to do about it?!"
In the section I am reading right now, Brian is laying out a comparison between the conventional and emergent views of various aspects of Jesus and Christianity. I appreciate that he does not try to shred conventional views, rather he points out that they tend to deliver unintended consequences. I like this approach because it allows someone with a conventional view to ask, "What does my belief say about God?"
I wrote a lot of thoughts and highlighted a fair amount in this section, but for brevity's sake I will just comment on one quote.
"...the emerging view sees Jesus as a medicinal cure to a lethal infection that plagues humanity (diagnosing and treating individual and societal sickness called sin), the conventional view sees Jesus primarily as the legal solution to a capital infraction against God (legally resolving the capital offense of imperfection and the eternal punishment it demands). By framing Jesus in this way, the conventional view relegates Jesus to practical irrelevance in relation to human social problems in history; his message is about the soul, its guilt before God, and its afterlife, not about our world and its crises."
I have to confess that I have a certain level of ambivalence toward the poor. I work in an inner city school and I have compassion, but it is very easy for me to relegate everything to theory and do little practicum. The conventional view Brian describes would make it easy for me to distance myself from this active part of Christ's mission. By framing everything about Christ in legal terms, the burden on me is simply to fine tune my theory and be on the correct side of the law. This reminds me of my students who ask me "what they HAVE to do" in order to "be DONE". They miss the point of the learning.
The emerging view forces one to join the work team. God calls for an active cure - so I can no longer remain on the sidelines content to hold the right beliefs.
Another point Brian brings up that hits home for me is his reminder that God blessed certain people groups so that they could be a blessing to others. However, it usually played out that those who were blessed lorded it over others. People have a tendency to grab a blessing and use it as a dividing line for "us" and "them".
I live in Utah, where the dividing line between "us" and "them" can be more easily distinguished than in other areas. "Gentile" is a word Mormons can use to describe anyone who isn't Mormon. I don't think it is used as much as in the past, but still, I hear it occasionally and it is not a compliment. Bad behavior is "gentile" behavior.
On the other end, the word "cult" gets thrown at Mormons. I never realized how demeaning that word is until I moved here. I promised myself that I would not let that word cross my lips again.
I think the emergent view wants to shine the light on all the times in Scripture that Jesus broke down the walls of "us" and "them". He repeatedly talked to people he shouldn't have, encouraged and accepted those that others condemned, touched those who should not be touched. In the Kingdom Jesus is building, there is no "them"; he accepts all of us. If we are to be Christ followers, there can be no dividing lines.
More to come....