Monday, August 5, 2013

book review--This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley

muddled coffeehouse theology

I received a free copy of this book from the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books review program.

If you've ever attended an open mic night at a coffee house, you've likely had a good taste of what reading this book is like--bad poetry and songs filled with angst and navel-gazing but short on real substance, muddled thinking that would die of its own cognitive dissonance if it ever actually took the time to accept the law of noncontradiction. And, sadly, the book doesn't even come with a cup of coffee, to help ease the pain of having to make sense of it.

Mostly, the message of this book is, you're ok if you do a bunch of good works. Of course, those good works have to be of their pre-approved sorts. If you're involved in left-leaning environmental whacko stuff, like the guy the author mentions named Peter, or in expensively cheap street theater, like the other guy the author mentions named Shane, well, that's a-ok. If you've supported or defended the Defense Of Marriage Act, or if you're a "wild-eyed street preacher" who's telling people to repent of their sins, well, that's of questionable value and probably not very Christ-like, in this author's opinion.

True, an occasional sound-out is given to Christ dying to forgive our sins, but that's not the main issue. No, it's about you becoming a good little social justice activist, planting trees, saving whales, making sure no off-shore drilling is going to happen, doing more and more and more, being sure to follow all the polls to make sure that what you're doing is approved by society around you, so society around you will know that you're doing only what they consider to be loving and Christ-like. Oh, and a little bit of anti-capitalism and distain for "the American dream" won't hurt, either.

Even the Gospel gets redefined, from something that God has done for us to something we do, from something we believe to something we work at. In Chapter 11, he writes briefly about a time when their church planted some trees on a hillside. 'Tim pointed around the circle at the muddy knees, sweaty brows, and scratched arms. "This is the gospel," he said.'

No, it's not. The Gospel is Christ crucified, not you slightly disheveled. The Gospel is what God has done for us, not what we do.

In my opinion, this book is more like a gateway drug than anything else, like the early Emergent stuff that wasn't all that bad, but went off the rails big-time in recent years. It's not that big of a jump from McKinley to McLaren. In fact, if the Shane the author speaks so fondly of is the Shane whose last name is Claiborne, then forget about a jump, it's already taking you to McLaren's theological ZIP code.

In other words, this books isn't worth the money you'll spend on it. There's much better stuff out there.

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