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I sort of got stuck at chapter 11 of the book New Kind of Christian.  Not that I am having trouble with what McLaren is saying, it’s just that I want to write down some of the stuff from that chapter, before reading too far ahead.

Modernity had a great insight: every individual is valuable and deserves respect. But our individualism has become unbalanced, and we have lost the realization of how connected we are.

I’m sure most Christians know it. But the following is new to me:

The only kinds of sin we want to focus on as modern Christians are the isolated individual sins committed by isolated individual monads: lying, having an abortion, indulging in pornography, taking drugs, saying naughty words. Not to minimize those things in any way, but that is far short of a fully biblical understanding of sin, and it leads to dangerous truncations of justice and compassion.

Then McLaren went on with an example of how an individual sin (more specifically committing a crime) was really in part a result of him being neglected by his community earlier in his life.  And then with that, McLaren went on to compare this with the Good Samaritan story, how the community failed to be the Good Samaritan. In fact, the community is more like the self-righteous priest or Pharisees.

The issue isn’t who is wrong or righteous; that’s obvious. The issue is who is truly good.

I guess the whole idea of concentrating on sins committed by individuals is that, if no individual commit any sin, then all is fine, at least at that moment. But that doesn’t mean people are good to each other.  So without goodness, people will face temptation to sin sooner or later.  So is McLaren saying that, not being good is just another type of sin? And if the majority of community fails to show goodness, it is the community as a whole commits the sin.

It might be true, as McLaren points out, that people with Post-modern mindset don’t necessary see themselves as isolated monads.  But I think there is still strong individualism in them. I think it is hard enough already to tell an individual to repent, not to sin, will it be any easier to ask one to go beyond righteousness and be truly good most of the time, if not all.

The difference between modern and post-modern is probably most evident in their perspective on lying, one of the individual sins mentioned before. It is black and white for the modern mindset.  Only recently I began to think it is not so clear cut.  Maybe there is a bit of post-modern in me.  But I do think it is reckless to be brutally honest all the time; it could even be mean spirit.  And of course non-believers can always accuse Christians being hypocrites with this issue; it is not surprising that people have a hard time to be a Christ follower if we focus on individual sin, like lying, only. -KC

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