Brian McLaren Nails It
He was referring, as he often is, to the perils of fundamentalist Christianity, and he made the acerbic observation: “no group can exist without a devil.” His point was that fundamentalists (a catch-all category that in his understanding of it, I suspect, would include me) define their sense of self, identity and purpose in part by what they are against, not just what they are for. This sense of rallying people to fight a common foe, McLaren pointed out, is almost essential to any group - armies, businesses, charities, football teams - and it is a pity that the “foe” amongst Christians is so often other Christians. Spot on.
Ironically, of course, Brian McLaren also seems to need a devil, which in his case is probably conservative evangelicalism (as a brief perusal of his recent books would indicate). Needless to say, dialogue between groups or individuals who both regard each other as the enemy is tricky, and not always loving or illuminating. But one response to his remark, from Kevin DeYoung, made me laugh happily and reflect thoughtfully in equal measure. “No group can exist without a devil, McLaren says at one point. This is probably true. In which case I suggest the best devil is the devil.”
Andrew’s next book, If God Then What? Wondering Aloud about Truth, Origins and Redemption, will be released in April, published by IVP.