For my birthday, Sarah and Dave (and Ellen and Isaiah) gave me a copy of Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo. It’s an easily readable book, so even though Todd and Cindy were over for the week, I finished it quickly in late night and early morning stints.

Both of the authors write well, so I found myself agreeing with a lot of what they said, though not everything, just as they agreed with each other for the most part, but not on every detail.

These are the topics they covered: Salvation, Theology, the Kingdom of God, the End Times, the Bible, Evangelism, Social Action, Culture, Women in Ministry, Leadership, Seminary, Environmentalism, Homosexuality, Sin, Worship, Doubt, Truth, and Being Postmodern.

I thought they hit some of the topics pretty spot on – Salvation, Social Action, Culture, Women in Ministry, Seminary, Truth, and Doubt were all handled pretty well. The framing – “Missing the Point” – allowed the authors to offer some guidance correction to Christians without pointing any fingers. In other Chapters, like the Kingdom of God, I thought they were on the right track, but did not take their case quite far enough – the Kingdom of God is within you, so Eschatology that focuses on a physical New Jerusalem and Second Coming are bound to disappoint as much as they have for 2000 years, and people who hold tight to the belief are missing the point as much as did the original Jews in Jesus’ time.

I thought they handled Homosexuality especially well for a book that still concluded Homosexuality is a sin – they pointed out some very obvious discrepencies (like Homosexuality, if a sin, is to be grouped among the hundreds of other sexual immoralities that are winked at or glossed over in Christian Culture, not in the least divorce and remarriage, which are specifically condemned by Jesus.

In my opinion, Tony missed the point on Theology by claiming that everyone is a Theologist. That’s like saying everyone is a Biologist because they eat food or know the names of some animals and vegetables. Expanding the meaning of a word to include everything is almost always, by definition, a misuse of the word, and I think he did a real disservice to the idea that every Christian should actually study and know some Theology. It doesn’t happen naturally any more than someone becomes a Physicist naturally.

I would have liked to see a chapter on the Personal Relationship with Jesus. I think that’s an area a lot of modern Christians have really missed the point. I think a lot of people have deluded themselves into believing that conversations with their own conscience are conversations with Jesus; this can be quickly disproven with a conversation with a Buddhist or Moslem who has the same internal dialogue without involving Jesus. If people want to have a relationship with Jesus, they should at the very least get to know him better the way one might get to know Augustine or Einstein better – by heavily studying the things they said and did and trying to get inside their head. I will not get to have any deep relationship with Einstein by thinking about gravity, unless I’m guided by and reviewing his thoughts on gravity. I think many Christian who claim to walk with Jesus know him more by his “Footprints” than any of his sermons, and that is a travesty.

I also think McLaren missed the point on PostModernism, and Campolo caught him in it, but let the issue go. Modernism, is a bloated, arrogant corpse, and those who cling to its promise for a Cartesian future are like Soviets waiting for Russia to recollect her satellite states. A little postmodernism is a necessary thing. However, Modernism, though it ultimately missed the point, was built on the principles of a Christian society, and to completely reject it, as is the trajectory of formal PostModernism, is to reject some necessary Christian principles. It’s important to understand the good reasons behind PostModernism, but to cling to any philosophy based on the rejection of another is to hope in a shot in the dark. What Christians should strive for is the Christianity of Christ, not a philosophical stance. I don’t think Jesus would ever claim to be a Modernist or a PostModernist, so let that be an example.

Of course, the book is intended for a Christian audience, so if you aren’t a Christian, it’s not going to convince you of anything. I do think, however, that if Western Christianity as a whole were to take many of the course corrections to heart, their living example would be a better ministry than any Evangalistic missions in effect today.