I suppose there is no better way to begin a review of McLaren's book "The Secret Message of Jesus" then in the same way he begins he (not counting the introduction, and really, who ever does), with a bunch of "what if..." questions.
What if other people can use "what if" questions, too? What if they do? What if that causes all kinds of problems? What if someone like me starts using them, to question the "what if" questions McLaren seems to make his literary bread-and-butter on?
What if McLaren's questions aren't so innocent? What if they're leading, trying to make us not only ask question but also get the answers he wants us to get? What if his answers are wrong?
What if we have not been as far off from Jesus' rather clear and plain message as McLaren wants people to believe? What if the church has done its job? What if the problem isn't so much with the church, but with those who don't believe? What if asking non-believers what they want from the church isn't the best way? What if that seems a lot like a marketing strategy, "We'll poll 1,000 people who say they do not believe in Christ, find out what they say their problems are with the church and why they don't believe, and change our message and our methods to fit their tastes."
What if Jesus told us that the world would hate us? What if Jesus promised things like trials and persecutions? What if Jesus said that the way was narrow, and few would find it? What if all of their rhetoric about Jesus' death being the fault of religious and political powers of his day only disguises the fact that it was a mob of common people who cried out "Crucify Him!"? What if the common people followed Him around when he fed them and did miracles, but not many of them really came to believe in Him?
What God told us that light had come into the world, but that people chose the darkness? What if they did so, because what they do is evil?
What if people like McLaren overplay problems in the church, so that they can make the church seem like the problem? What if the church isn't really the problem? What if there are problems in the church, but what if they church isn't really the problem? What if the unbelievers only use the actions of a few in the church simply as excuses for continuing in their sins?
What if the church is filled with people who are getting it right? What if they aren't perfect people, but people who are faithful believers? What if they have understood far more then an over-educated urbanized former preacher is willing to give them credit for understanding?
What if McLaren is wrong? What if he has it all wrong, or at least mostly wrong? What if there is no "secret message" that he seems intent on selling to us? What if Jesus wasn't playing coy, what if the church hasn't missed some of kind of secret hidden message?
What if Jesus' kingdom really is "not of this world", as Jesus Himself said? What if when Jesus promised the crucified thief "You will be with Me in Paradise", he was answering the man's questions about remembering him when He came into His kingdom? What if the thief knew that he was dying, and correctly understood that Christ's kingdom was the place he wanted to go to after his death?
What if Jesus didn't come to start the revolution? What if we don't need to consult with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and those in Judaism to get some kind of "a shared reappraisal of Jesus message", as McLaren suggests on page 7? What if Jesus came to call people to repent, not to consensus? What if Jesus came to call people to reappraise themselves, not His message? What if the message of Jesus was for those in other religions to repent and leave their false and demonic beliefs and follow Him, and not change His message to suit themselves?
What if this is as important as McLaren thinks, but what if his opinions and teachings are more wrong then he can image? What if his low views of theology are not just wrong, but tragic? What if his attempts to "play nice" are only compromises? What if his ideas of "social justice" contradict the laws of God? What if he's trying to introduce a form of legalism even more terrible then any fundamentalism? What if he's doing all of the things he claims those who disagree with him are doing? What if normalizing and legalizing behaviors contrary to biblical morality is the very opposite of 'social justice'?
I think I've gone on quite long enough. You get the idea, I think.