Civil (even Christian?) discourse …

Frank Viola reminded me of something I wrote a while back … I’d forgotten about writing it, but it’s as relevant today as ever. Thanks, Frank!
I’ve learned not to spend a lot of time reading amazon reviews and blogs about my books, but someone named John posted one today on A New Kind of Christianity that is interesting for a few reasons – especially in light of Frank’s and my words on civility. John calls it “McLaren vs the Apostle Paul.” [UPDATE: This review has been removed.] It’s certainly fine that he disagrees with me, but it would have been nice if he could have at least accurately represented the view he disagrees with, don’t you think? For example, he says,

McLaren attempts to drive a wedge between the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

Ironically, I think most readers would agree that I try to do the very opposite in Chapters 14 and 15. I’m trying to remove the wedge that others have driven between Jesus and Paul. If John had said he thought my reading of Romans was wrong, that would be fine – but his conclusion suggests he missed the real point of my chapters on Paul. Consider this from Chapter 14:

Would I uncover irreconcilable differences between Paul and Jesus, as some of my friends had done? Would I have to choose one over the other? Would I be able to fit my new understanding of Jesus into my old understandings of Paul and Romans or vice versa? (142)

Then, here’s how I answer those questions in Chapter 15:

Paul is a “Jesus and the kingdom of God” guy from first to last. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ and of his servant/apostle Paul: the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news. Be reconciled. (157)

Again – it’s fine if he rejects my reading of Romans. Lots of people will, I’m sure. But I wonder how anyone can interpret what I’ve written as driving a wedge between Jesus and Paul?
As Frank says, it’s a losing battle for an author to try to defend himself or herself. Once a book is published, reviewers can say that it says just about anything, accurately or not … But thankfully, other people can actually read the book themselves to see how fair and balanced the reviewers have been. All of that, taken together, can be a great learning process for us all.
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