Published by Worldview Publications
January 2009 

The Secret Message of Jesus1

A Book Review

Brian D. McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006).


Author of The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything, “Brian D. McLaren is a prominent, controversial voice in the Emerging Church movement. He was recognized as one of Time magazine’s ‘25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America,’ and is the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland . . .

“Born in 1956, Brian McLaren graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with degrees in English (BA, summa cum laude, 1978, and MA, 1981). His academic interests include medieval drama, romantic poets, modern philosophical literature, and the novels of Dr. Walker Percy. He is also a musician and songwriter.

“After several years of teaching English and consulting in higher education, he left academia in 1986 to become the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church . . . , a nondenominational church in the Baltimore-Washington region. The church has grown to involve several hundred people, many of whom were previously unchurched. In 2004 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. . . .

“McLaren is married and has four young adult children. He has traveled extensively in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, and his personal interests include ecology, fishing, hiking, kayaking, camping, songwriting, music, art, and literature.”2


“When Brian McLaren began offering an alternative vision of Christian faith and life . . . , he ignited a firestorm of praise and condemnation that continued to spread across the religious landscape. To some religious conservatives, McLaren is a dangerous rebel without a doctrinally correct cause. Some fundamentalist websites have even claimed he’s in league with the devil and have consigned him to flames.

“To others, though, Brian is a fresh voice, a welcome antidote to the staleness, superficiality, and negativity of the religious status quo. A wide array of people from Evangelical, Catholic, and Mainline protestant backgrounds claim that through his books they have begun to rediscover the faith they’d lost or rejected. And around the world, many readers say that he has helped them find — for the first time in their lives — a faith that makes sense and rings true. For many, he articulates the promise of what is being called ‘emerging Christianity.’

“In The Secret Message of Jesus you’ll find what’s at the center of Brian’s critique of conventional Christianity, and what’s at the heart of his expanding vision. In the process, you’ll meet a Jesus who may be altogether new to you, a Jesus who is . . .

  • Not the crusading conqueror of religious broadcasting;
  • Not the religious mascot of partisan religion;
  • Not heaven’s ticket-checker, whose words have been commandeered by the church to include and exclude, judge and stigmatize, pacify and domesticate.

“McLaren invites you to discover afresh the transforming message of Jesus — an open invitation to radical change, an enlightening revelation that exposes sham and ignites hope, an epic story that is good news for everyone, whatever their gender, race, class, politics, or religions.”3

Secret Message

“Jesus’ worldview is better than ours. It’s not that an external intruder is fiddling with the laws of nature. It’s not that the mechanism is being tampered with from the outside. Rather, it’s that the universe isn’t a machine at all; it’s more like a family, a community, or a kingdom. And God isn’t positioned outside of the universe, reaching in occasionally, but rather God is here, . . . with us, present, near.

“In fact, this is in large part what I believe the signs and wonders of Jesus are secretly telling us: that God, the good King, is present — working from the inside. The King is in the kingdom, and the kingdom is among us here and now — for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. The King is present in the mess and chaos of everyday life on earth, bringing healing, sight, perception, liberation, wholeness, wholesomeness, movement, health, fullness, nourishment, sanity, and balance. The incursion of the kingdom of God has begun. We are under a gentle, compassionate assault by a kingdom of peace and healing and forgiveness and life.

“Could Jesus’ secret message become any clearer than that?”4


Let us then rejoice, for “nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad” (Luke 8:17)!


  1. Brian D. McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006). (go back)
  2. Wikipedia, s.v. “Brian McLaren,” at (go back)
  3. Barnes and Noble, at (go back)
  4. McLaren, Secret Message, p. 60. (go back)


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