First, this is NOT part 1 of the trilogy, "A New Kind of Christian". With that out of the way, we're ready to review this book.
McLaren explains he started writing this book because at the "Everything Must Change" tour, he was confronted all the time with questions that did not relate to the topic, but other issues that had to do with how to read the Scriptures.
So in this book he delves into 10 questions:
1. What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
2. How should the Bible be understood?
3. Is God violent?
4. Who is Jesus and why is He important?
5. What is the Gospel?
6. What do we do about the Church?
7. Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
8. Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
10. What do we do now? (How do we translate our quest into action?)
He's not really answering these but sketching directions for the answers. Interestingly enough, there's very little modern vs post modern talk anymore. McLaren now describes the Grecco-Roman and constitutional way of reading the Scriptures and tries to develop a new way in contrast to that paradigm.
Of course these are all done with broad strokes, but it does go to show that the way we read the Scriptures is such a determinative factor and can result in completely different outcomes. McLaren tries to go back to before the church married Greek thought and Roman power structures and legislation.
Is he successful? More in some areas than in others, but I don't think that is the main value of the book. If anything, it's a pretty good conversation starter. Is the way you've always read the Scriptures, the way that aligns with Jesus' message? Even that simple question may put everything in a new light.
As such, it is recommended. I don't necessarily agree with all the answers or all the directions he's pointing towards, but I do believe the questions are important.