Some will undoutedly hail McLaren's latest book as his best ever -- and for good reason. Scheduled for release in the next week or two, "The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything" is an easy-to-understand treatise concerning Jesus' revolutionary teaching concerning the kingdom of God.
Having practically been weaned on the insights of George Eldon Ladd regarding the "already-not yet" nature of the kingdom of God, I personally found myself not very surprised by McLaren's revelation that the kingdom is both a present reality and opportunity.
Serious students of the Gospels have long recognized the political, socio-economic, and spiritual implications embedded within Jesus' teachings. Three prominent works that immediately come to mind are: "Binding the Strong Man:A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus," by Ched Myers (1988); "Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine," by Richard A. Horsley (1987); and "In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins," by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza (1983).
McLaren is certainly not trailblazing any new territory here. But what he is doing, in fact, throughout The Secret Message of Jesus, is introducing his target audience (and it's NOT the theological intelligencia) to the idea that Jesus actually "came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world" (p.4). And you know what? He does an excellent job of doing just that.
The course McLaren has laid out for his latest book looks like this:
Part 1 -- Excavation: Digging Beneath the Surface to Uncover Jesus' Message
Here he introduces readers to the political and socio-economic message embedded within Jesus' teachings.
Part 2 -- Engagement: Grappling with the Meaning of Jesus' Message
The reality of the "present kingdom" and it's various and revolutionary implications are explained and developed in this section.
Part 3 -- Imagination: Exploring How Jesus' Secret Message Could Change Everything
McLaren devotes a good deal of space in this section challenging contemporary notions of heaven, hell, and especially eschatology. The astute observer will probably recognize a preterist and/or amillennial influence throughout this section.
In the concluding chapters (i.e. Appendix 2), McLaren reveals who it is that has most influenced and inspired him to write this latest undertaking. They include the likes of Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, Walter Wink, John Howard Yoder, Walter Brueggemann, Sharon Welch, Howard Snyder, Jim Wallis, and several others. I'd say that's a pretty impressive list! And their collective influence certainly shows in McLaren's writing.
I highly recommend that you get a copy and read The Secret Message of Jesus -- even if you haven't been all the much of a McLaren fan. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if -- after reading this book -- some of Brian's "critics" end up doing a little backpeddling.
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I am currently working with Brian's publicist in arranging a date for him to pay us a visit here at Paradoxology. When it happens, Brian would be checking in here throughout the day in order to read your questions and thoughts and respond to them. It will be an excellent chance for us all to interact, so keep your eyes peeled here for a future announcement with all the details!