Brian McLaren on Walter Brueggemann


Brian McLarenToday’s guest post is from author and speaker Brian McLaren. McLaren has written over a dozen books, including A New Kind of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy, Naked Spirituality, and Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

In 2012, McLaren released four short works of fiction entitled The Word of the Lord to the Democrats, The Word of the Lord to the Republicans, The Word of the Lord to Evangelicals, and The Girl with the Dove Tattoo. He is a highly sought after speaker who keeps a full schedule of engagements. Here are his thoughts on Brueggemann:

I grew up conservative Evangelical, which may be a euphemism for fundamentalist with a college degree. I had heard of Brueggemann, but he wasn’t considered “one of us” – which meant he was “liberal.” So even though I was probably more open-minded than many, I didn’t read him. At all. Then a friend passed on to me a photocopy of an article of his. It may have been from Christian Century, which I also didn’t read, being a “Christianity Today” man instead.

It was short and in my hand, so I really had no excuse not to read it. That single article made such a huge impression on me that I remember exactly where I was sitting as I read it.

It talked about the argument in the Bible about the monarchy. Some biblical voices said the monarchy was a rejection of God, while others said it was a gift from God. In my biased understanding, “liberals” were supposed to then say, “The Bible is full of contradictions. So don’t listen to it.” But Walter said something very different – something along the lines of this: “Aren’t we better off having both of these perspectives in tension, so that we see both the upsides and downsides of centralized power?”

Walter’s knowledge of the text, combined with his respect for the text, combined with his attention to details of the text, combined with his refusal to pretend that tensions didn’t exist between voices in the text, combined with his ability to welcome and listen to all those voices in dynamic – and revelatory – tension … all that was something completely new to me at that moment.

I immediately went out and bought a bunch of Walter’s books. Finally Comes the Poet was first, and later came The Prophetic Imagination and many more.

I felt as though I was experiencing my own personal Exodus, leaving a certain kind of bondage to a flat, coercive, and unimaginative way of reading the Bible, and moving toward an unknown but highly promising new way. I’ve been on that journey ever since.

When I found out a new friend was one of Walter’s students, I brazenly asked him to introduce us, and from our first meeting, Walter has been a kind and encouraging presence. He has become one of the most important influences in my theological life. I can’t imagine where I’d be if a friend hadn’t put a crack in my ignorance and prejudice with a fifty-cent photocopy.

Read more about McLaren’s “Word of the Lord” series here.

Visit his website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

Comments & Responses

3 Responses so far.

  1. Kelly Craft says:

    Thanks for this post. I, too, am a late comer to Dr. Brueggemann’s fabulous insights on scripture and his approachability. Loved Journey to the Common Good, The Word that Redescribes the World, and The Land but was especially grateful for his suggestion to read The Costly Loss of Lament, which transformed and enhanced my understanding of a project on which I had been working for 15 years. It may actually get off the drawing board now because of his thoughtfulness. Grace and peace,

    Kelly Craft

  2. Marilyn Auvermann says:

    I was 75+ when my son introduced me to “Prophetic Imagination”. I purchased every book and went to ACU’s Summit to hear him. At the same time, my small group began a study of the OT! As one of the group leaders, I limited my discussions to pretending I was a Jew and knew nothing “this side of the cross”. What a trip! Brueggemann is my constant companion…no more depending on the NT to explain things to we Israelites.

  3. Trey Pearson says:

    So what are the ultimate Brueggemann books to start with?