Five Questions with Brian McLaren

Is he on Hydra Island?!

Brian McLaren recently stopped by in order to, I can only guess, further darken my already dark towels (you better know that reference). McLaren is the author of a number of books including, A Generous Orthodoxy, A New Kind of Christianity, and his most recent, Naked Spirituality.

Resisting the temptation to ask if he enjoyed playing John Locke on Lost, my first question, as you will see, revolves around an important eschatological issue that is, apparently, at the heart of his new book. I’m talking about nudity. I contend it is a crucial theological practice revealing God’s oh-so perfect intention/purpose/telos for creation. After all, how can the world ever come to know the beauty that is the human body if we don’t strut it? It’s a missiological issue to say the least.

Can I get a witness?

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH BRIAN MCLAREN

1) I’m really torn on your latest book, Naked Spirituality. I despise spirituality, but I love being naked. How do I bring those two together?

An older relative of mine is really embarrassed about this title. “Couldn’t you have called it ‘Transparent Spirituality?’” Of course, the idea of the book is that we need to strip away a lot of distracting elements and try to discover or uncover the essential (naked) realities of the spiritual life. So, I try to help people understand the spiritual life in terms of four seasons, and I try to center essential moves of the spiritual life in three words for each season. Anyway, Tripp, here’s one way you could actually bring nakedness and spirituality together: in the shower each day (or each week?), you could use one of the twelve words I suggest in the book for a kind of inner cleansing and awakening while you do the same thing physically. Pondering you’re question, though, I’m actually thinking about changing the title to “Appropriately Dressed Spirituality.”
2) If you could resurrect any deceased theologian or philosopher, so that you could slap him/her in the face with a leather glove (figuratively, of course) and challenge them to a theological/philosophical duel, who would it be (and why)?

Most of the ones I’d like to challenge are pretty mean, so I’d rather not resurrect them for combat because I’m quite sure they’d win, and then they’d be on the loose causing more mayhem. And frankly, some of the worst are alive right now so they don’t need resurrecting.

“Christ is coming for you, Brian. And you’re not going to like it.”

But if we keep the slapping and dueling metaphorical, I’d like to have a chat with the bishops who struck deals with Constantine. And with John Nelson Darby, inventor of dispensationalism and grandfather of Christian Zionism. And with whoever it was who used “dominion” in Genesis 1 to justify plundering of creation. And with  St. Anselm for the Satisfaction Theory, which I find less and less satisfying the older I get.  And with Marconi (or Tesla, or whoever we credit with inventing the radio) for his role in the development of religious broadcasting.

 

3) You only published two books in the first three months of 2011. Are you running out of ideas?

Yes, I hit a real writer’s block and so now I’m slowed to maybe one book every 18 months. My next book will come out in September, 2012, and will be called “Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Walk into a Bar: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.” Then I’ve got a book brewing called “Catechesis.” And I only have seven or eight ideas after that.

 

4) Greg Boyd recently yelled at me, in all caps no less, because I jokingly referred to him as a process theologian. Which leads me to this question: Is it more scandalous to be referred to as a process theologian, as Thomistic, or as McLarenistic?

Whew, that’s tough. It depends on who is giving and receiving the epithets, or compliments. I imagine there may be one or two people out there who are in the theological process of moving from Thomistic to McLarenistic tendencies, and I imagine there are some processing in the opposite direction too. (My sense is that most Thomists aren’t really going anywhere – remaining rather unmoved, and so faithfully bearing the image of the Unmoved Mover.) Actually, I think there are only four McLarenists in existence (thanks be to God!), and I used to be one of them but they kicked me out. One has barricaded himself in a closet at Liberty University, one is doing research at Wheaton College undercover as a TULIP Calvinist, one one is pretending to be my arch-critic as an editor at Christianity Today, and one is a professor at a Southern Baptist Seminary in Kentucky, but if asked, will deny he ever knew me.

 

5) Written any interesting ‘Afterwords’ recently?

Funny you should ask. I just wrote an afterword for a theological defense of vegetarianism, called A Faith Embracing All Creatures.” And one of the best chapters in the book was by  . . . well, he’s a fellow fan of the late great Steve Irwin, and your fiancee knows him well. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I’m not a vegetarian, although I seem to be moving in that direction, and the book is a strong nudge onward.

 

FOR PAST INTERVIEWS, check out Five Questions with: Amy Laura Hall, Stanley Hauerwas, L.D. Russell, Matt Litton, Jeffrey Pugh, Greg Boyd, Jamie Arpin-Ricci, and Shane Claiborne. Future interviews include: Debra Dean Murphy, Carol Adams, Marc Bekoff, Eric Bain-Selbo, Becky Garrison, Brooke Wilensky-Lanford, and many others I swindled into playing this game.