I have just finished reading Brian McLaren's "A Generous Orthodoxy" along with his "New Kind of Christian" trilogy. Above all, I have to give him credit for being thought provoking and for successfully avoiding being pegged as either a liberal or conservative (he would consider himself to be "post" both of these distinctions along with a long list of others). I mentioned D. A. Carson's book, "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church" in an earlier post. After reading McLaren first hand, I would have to say that Carson is a bit on the harsh side in the way he evaluates McLaren's work.
Anyway, the thing that I have found most thought provoking are McLaren's ideas about hell, judgment and salvation. I don't know that I whole heartedly agree with him, but he tackles some tough questions. Basically, he feels that evangelicals have equated "judgment" with God condemning people to hell. He rightly asserts that it is not just non-Christians who will be judged, everyone will. Though he never directly quotes it, his judgment looks, to me, a lot like the image in 1 Cor. 3:10-15:
"10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." (ESV)
In other words, we will all stand before God and all that is evil in us will be burned away. The only thing that will remain is that which is good. For some people, this will not leave much.
He then goes on to say that it is not up to us to condemn others to hell. That is a job that should be left to God alone. In the end, I think I agree with this. We have too much evangelism to do to be worrying about who is in and who is out. Our job is simply to faithfully preach the Gospel that has been handed down to us. We can reserve the ultimate judgment for God.
Beyond this, McLaren has an expanded view of salvation that includes not only individual Christians but the entirety of God's creation. He seems to be frustrated with the idea that the entire point of Christianity (and Christ's sacrifice on the Cross) is to keep those who believe in Jesus from going to hell. The motivation for becoming a Christian then boils down to self-interest. McLaren, however, feels that the point of becoming a Christian is to join in the work that God is already doing. For him, this still involves a personal salvation, but it is also so much more than that.
So Mr. McLaren, I don't know if I can agree with everything you have to say, but I most certainly appreciate your ability to get me thinking.