The second section of Brian McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus is called “Engagement” and Brian investigates the meaning of kingdom. Today we look at what he says about Jesus’ communicative style via parables, miracles, and exorcisms. While the book is an exploration of the meaning of kingdom for Jesus, the book also sets the agenda (so I think) for what McLaren himself believes. At some level, this book is Brian’s credo. (“I believe in the kingdom of God as Jesus taught it.”) What do you think of this section on parables, miracles, exorcisms? How do you see these forms of communication?
Chp. 6 deals with parables, and here McLaren sees parables as stories that hide the truth in order to get humans to ponder and probe with the imagination: all this to lead to the spiritual transformation of the hearers. “Human kingdoms advance by force and violence with falling bombs and flying bullets, but God’s kingdom advances by stories, fictions, tales that are easily ignored and easily misunderstood. Perhaps that is the only way it is” (49).
Chp. 7 deals with signs/miracles, the second way Jesus communicated his message. As parables are interactive, so also miracles: “it’s a universe in interactive relationship with God” (53). McLaren believes these touches of grace still occur — they are significant (they are “signs” of God) — and they are wonders (causing our wonderment) and they liberate us from the tyranny of the impossible. “They are dramatic enactments of his message; they are the message of the kingdom spread in media beyond words” (59).
Chp. 8: demons. Jesus must first expose the evil and draw it out of the shadows. Exorcisms are signs of God’s victory of transpersonal systemic evil. So, the kingdom is counterforce. The method of Jesus’ victory is revolutionary: “What if being conquered is absolutely necessary to expose the brutal violence and dark oppression of these principalities and powers… so they, having been exposed, can be seen for what they are and freely rejected, making room for the new and better kingdom?” (69-70). [This section struck me as singularly Girardian in atonement theory; not that I’m suggesting Brian is simply Girardian in his theory of atonement.] … “And the reconciling movement resonating out from Christ’s life, teaching, death, and resurrection is what we mean by the kingdom of God” (71).