4. The failure of the world's religions, especially its two largest religions,
to provide a framing story capable of healing or reducing the three previous
crises. We'll call this the spiritual crisis.
McLaren, 'Everything Must
Change', p. 5
I think it is right about here that McLaren's book, and perhaps his views in general, start drifting away from truth and reality.
Let's go ahead and assume that his insights about the 'suicide machine' may have some points to them. Having read a good bit of this book, I can say there is something to be said about some of his diagnoses. Not all, of course, but a bit.
There is a quote I use a good bit from Chesterton, from "What's Wrong With the World" which addresses this concern...
This is the arresting and dominant fact about modern
social discussion; that the quarrel is not merely about
the difficulties, but about the aim. We agree about the evil;
it is about the good that we should tear each other's eyes cut.
We all admit that a lazy aristocracy is a bad thing.
We should not by any means all admit that an active aristocracy would
be a good thing. We all feel angry with an irreligious priesthood;
but some of us would go mad with disgust at a really religious one.
Everyone is indignant if our army is weak, including the people
who would be even more indignant if it were strong.
The social case is exactly the opposite of the medical case.
We do not disagree, like doctors, about the precise nature
of the illness, while agreeing about the nature of health.
On the contrary, we all agree that England is unhealthy, but half
of us would not look at her in what the other half would call blooming
health. Public abuses are so prominent and pestilent that they
sweep all generous people into a sort of fictitious unanimity.
We forget that, while we agree about the abuses of things,
we should differ very much about the uses of them.
Mr. Cadbury and I would agree about the bad public house.
It would be precisely in front of the good public-house that our
painful personal fracas would occur.
This is meant to show that even in the areas where I or anyone else may agree with McLaren's ideas of what the problem may be, his solutions may be such as to my mind be worse the the problem itself.
As well, sometimes he says something is a problem when, in reality, it's not.
I think that one of those times is in the above, in the fourth of his list of what he considers to be global crises, or dysfunctions.
He doesn't explicitly say what the world's two largest religions are, so it seems he assumes the reader has an idea of what those are. It's a bit of an assumption, but I do know that they are Christianity and Islam.
And perhaps right there, we start having a problem. He criticizes the world's religion, and while he singles out those two he doesn't exclude the others like Hinduism and Buddhism, for not having what he call a "framing story" that addresses the other crises. A bit later, he defines "framing story" as such
By framing story, I mean a story that gives people direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for their lives. It will tell them who they are, where they come from, where they are, what's going on, where things are going, and what they should do.
So, the first problem seems to be that he seems to expect those other religions to provide a "framing story", whether one from each or one in total, that will do those things in a good way.
But these religions cannot do those things in a truthful way, because they are false religions, and the 'dieties' behind them are demons. It is unreasonable to expect them to produce good fruit, not to mention fruit to eternal life.
Another mistake he makes is in saying that none of the world religions have a "framing story" that addresses the issues in either his list of crises or in the quote above. Christianity does.
"It will tell them who they are..." The Bible does so. It tells us we are creations of God, who are fallen and sinful and unrighteous and unable to help ourselves, unable to make ourselves clean.
"...where they come from..." The Bible does this. It tells us that we began in Eden, in a state of sinless perfection, in right relationship with God, and that we through willful disobedience fell in sin and into a state of rebellion to God.
"...where they are..." The Bible does this. It tells us that we are born into a fallen state, rebellious against God and under His wrath.
"...what's going on..." The Bible does this. It tells us that sin has consequences, and that the world is in the state it's in because of man's disobedience and rebellion against God. Light, the Gospel, has come into the world, through Christ, but men have loved darkness rather then the light, because what they do is evil.
"...where things are going..." The Bible does this. Prophecy tells us some things about the end, and more then that it tells us the ultimate end of each human person--Heaven or Hell.
"...and what they should do." The Bible does this. It tells us that Christ has died for us, and that we need to repent and believe in Him--in His life, His death, His resurrection. After that, we should live in obedience to Him, as the Bible tells us to live.
The problem, then, is not that there is no "framing story" that could be of true benefit to people, it's that this story, rather this truth of Christ's life and sacrificial death and resurrection of the dead, is rejected.
The Bible gives us no false hope in regards to human nature. It does not say that we are basically good creatures who have been corrupted by some kind of social pressure or societal dysfunction. It tells us, with bluntness, that none of us does good, that we are all unprofitable, no one is righteous, all have sinned.
And in regards to the Gospel, the Bible is under no illusions about how people as a whole will respond to it. The account of Jesus' life and death should itself be enough to show that His message will not be well-recieved by all, or even by many. And as He said, if the world hated Him, it will hate those who follow Him. Elsewhere we are told that all those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecutions.
And so, I must reject McLaren's premise as stated in the first paragraph above. The Bible does provide what people need--truth about themselves and their condition, and the truth that God has provided hope and salvation for rebellious people. The problem is not the Bible's claims, but rather how people have rejected them, and gone their own ways.
This hope and salvation will not be found in anyone else, in any other religion or philosophy or social program. It is found in Chrst only. Any attempts to improve the world without acknowledge mankind's need to be repent and be converted will only end in failure.