Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Brain McLaren's new book

Tim Challies recently reviewed Brian McLaren's new book "Everything Must Change." In the review, he mentions countless dangerous ideas held in the book.

For those of you unaware, Brain McLaren is the leader of the Emerging Church movement. Also associated with this movement are prominent leaders and pastors such as Rob Bell and Tony Jones. This is a recent movement that is encouraging others to value relationships over Truth, and is also revamping the traditional view of salvation in Christ. I realize some of my readers are at least somewhat involved in this movement, so please tell me if I am being too subjective here. And I would appreciate any feedback.

Moving on to the book, Mclaren states that:
"With no apologies to Martin Luther, John Calvin, or modern evangelicalism, Jesus (in Luke 16:9) does not prescribe hell to those who refuse to accept the message of justification by grace through faith, or to those who are predestined for perdition, or to those who don't express faith in a favored atonement theory by accepting Jesus as their 'personal savior.' Rather, hell--literally or figurative--is for the rich and comfortable who proceed on their way without concern for their poor neighbor day after day."
Tim summarizes views on heaven, hell, and salvation with this:
"Rather than being eternal realities, heaven and hell become states we create on this earth as we pursue or deny the kingdom of God. Because Jesus' message is not one of sinful men becoming reconciled to a holy God through an atoning sacrifice, those of any creed can seek and participate in the kingdom. People of other creeds may well be participating in it more fully and more purely than ones who claim to be Christians. Men and women of all creeds can be followers of Jesus living out the kingdom of God even if they have never heard His name."

Wow!!! Tim sums up the book with this statement:
"It seems increasingly clear that the new kind of Christian McLaren seeks is no kind of Christian at all. The church on the other side of his reinvention is a church devoid of the glorious gospel of Christ's atoning death. It is a church utterly stripped of its power because it is a church stripped of the gospel message. McLaren's new gospel is a social gospel, a liberal gospel and, in fact, no gospel at all. This Emerging Church has managed to do something remarkable--it has emerged into something the church has already seen, has already wrestled with, and has already defeated. The Emerging Church has gone suicidal."

The reason I point these things out is not to create arguments for arguments sake. The Truth is a very sacred thing, and I am interested in knowing God and the gospel as explained in the Bible. Obviously, some might point out that I have a skewed view because of my theological presuppositions, or just by the fact that I was born in the late 21st century. But as I explained in a recent post, my pursuit and understanding of Truth is only further confirmed by the history of the church throughout the ages.


  1. Anonymous11:13 PM

    Thanks for your last reply. It proved very helpful.

    I want to say also, this is one of the better written blogs I've read. Thanks for your insights.

  2. David, thanks for this post, which helped me explore the idea of the Emerging Church movement and see what it is all about. It led me to a lot of interesting thought and research, as I have lots of free time to pursue this sort of thing. A few weeks ago you had mentioned something about the Emerging Church ("E.C.") in reference to Jonathan Merritt's article, and I had ignorantly stated that I did not think he was associated with that movement; now, I'm not so sure.

    I did a little research about McLaren, and I found he had writtent the following "Open Letter to Chuck Colson", in response to an article Colson had written on Postmodernity. In the letter he attempts to lay out his, and his movement's, philosophy, and challanges Colson to not just throw around the term "postmodern" without really exploring what it means. This was insightful to me, because I hear the term used so often by Christian teachers, almost always negatively describing those who believe that there "is no absolute truth." In the Letter, McLaren says the following to Colson:

    "...I still understand that you are against something worth being against. You feel that postmoderns have developed a self-contradictory message (THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH: there are no absolute truths!). This absurdity might allow them to do anything they want in the name of no absolutes (which to you means “no morality”). You know that if they pursue that path of moral anarchy, the personal and social result will be terrible pain and destruction – AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, divorce, and more. You want to save them and others from this pain. This is a good thing, and I applaud you for it, and I share your concern!"

    He goes on to say that, Colson is,

    "legitimately worried that “postmoderns” will use their relativism as an excuse to do anything they want. But they’re worried that you and other “moderns” will use your absolutism as an excuse to do anything you want." (ex. Islamic fundamentalism, and the Holocaust).

    Perhaps the most interesting part of the Letter, to me, was McLaren's discussion on what really is truth, and how our perceptions, interpretations, and worldviews could cause one to have changing views of "truth". I don't know if I agree, but it is a very thought provoking idea.

    The thing that I was struck with about McClaren upon reading the Letter is that he is very humble with his ideas (perhaps a result being postmodern and not wanting to be seen as an absolutist). I believe that he believes in the same Gospel I do and that the Bible is the inspired word of God. He is a great thinker, and is actively seeking the truth, without blindly accepting other's interpretations of the scriptures.

    HOWEVER, I do think that that there can be danger in what he preaches, and it should be handled with great care. This is clear from a first glance look at the quotes that David posted on his blog. But, I do think that McLaren is motivated not by a desire to do away with conservative christianity, but by what he believes to be a mission of bringing the gospel to postmodern culture. If we think he is "off track", it is our duty to engage the emerging church and join in the debate.

  3. Anonymous - You are very welcome. I appreciate your interest in these things.

    David - Thanks for the input bro. I would agree that McLaren does get some things right. He does an excellent job of TRYING to reach the culture in the most effective way possible. He understands the the methods and conversations we used to have don't work in today's postmodern world.

    He also does a good job of not blindly accepting truth because someone else says it's true. I do think we all should be constantly trying to figure out what is True, knowing we could be not thinking correctly on some areas.

    However, he points out in the article how so many "worldviews" and doctrine led to some pretty horrific events. In doing this, he seems to then deduce that having such a firm grip on Truth is wrong. To me, this seems like a huge leap that he incorrectly makes.

    The reason I emphasized the word "TRYING" earlier is because I think he fails at actually reaching them effectively. If you go to the Emergent Village website, there are only abstract ideas of what they are all about. I think this is intentional. I think, for the most part, Truth claims are not really valued above "loving" someone. If the Truth claim hurts the person, then don't consider it to be important. I think that's the view they take. And I would say you can't love someone without Truth. Even Jesus says, "You will know the Truth, and it will set you free."

    So, David, if you are still with me, thanks again for the insight. It's always helpful to be provided thoughts that I don't always see.

  4. Great post David. This is one of my favorite topics to discuss actually.
    It really is difficult to sum up what the emerging church is. I consider myself as part of the emerging church and with that said the thing that I have come to realize about emerging is that there is no way to pin down exactly what it is. Brian McLauren would be considered the liberal of emerging church, if you want to put it that way. I've read his book "A New Kind of Christian" and I thought he gave a good explaination of what modernism and postmodernism is. Though on other things about Christianity, I disagreed with a lot. It seemed sometimes a little to lazy.
    On the otherhand I have read Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis and I loved it.
    The reality is that we live in a postmodern world. America isn't as quite postmodern as Europe but eventually it will get there. So the question as Christians is how do you live in a postmodern world and present the gospel?
    Christianity is always evolving. The TRUTH stays the same but the way we do things changes. What Christians did in the middle ages is not the same thing we do now. Get what I'm saying? So I guess I should say the methods changes but the gospel stays the same.
    We read scripture through the eyes of americans living in a modern world a lot of times. You can't help it. But we need to read scripture through the eyes of a biblical perspective understanding the hebrew and roman culture of that day, reading it through the eyes of them and also embracing our own culture. I dont know if that made any sense.

    Anyway all this to say that emerging people all hold different view points on what scripture looks like and what Christianity is in a postmodern world. Some people go extreme to one side and others go the other, but its the same with any denomination or movement, you've got radicals and you've got conservatives.
    In England, emerging church is the way to go. Community, love, acceptance living on faith, embracing the sacred, the ancient things that we've lost in modernism, the creativity and also bringing back the importance of the spiritual realm.These are things I love about the emerging christian. And whats so great about postmoderns is that they are open and embrace these things if they see christians living it out. A postmodern might not 100% agree with you but the cool thing is they want to belong before they believe. Thats how the church is here. you've got tons of people who aren't christians yet they come to church because they are fascinated by what they see. I love that. I think we are going to find that more and more in the church in america. People want to see people being real.
    I think postmodernism is just a transition to a new era. Its just a reaction from everything that went wrong with modernism and thats why you find extremes in the emerging church. Its a reaction to what went wrong.

    Anyway sorry for the long comment, you got me at my favorite topic and one that I too have tried to pin down and then one day after a year of searching I finally got it.

    Come to Colchester soon!!!!

  5. Chrissy - A Couple of things

    First off, I did have you in mind when I wrote this post. I knew you to be at least one of my readers who is involved in this movement. I knew you would love to share your thoughts, and I'm glad you did.

    I do agree with several things that you pointed out. We are in a postmodern world whether we like it or not. And I fully embrace changing methods to fit with the culture.

    With that said, there are still a few things that I want to address. Again, I don't have a problem with the methods, but only with the fact that Truth is being distorted. You CAN"T love people if you are not bringing them Truth. And what I see is many leaders in this movement watering down Biblical Truth, so people will feel more accepted.

    You mentioned Rob Bell's book as well. In that book he mentions countless things that don't really line up with Truth, and I'm not talking about the "American view" of it either. There are many things that he says about purpose in life and faith that are way too man-centered. For instance, he says that the reason Peter started sinking in the water was because he lost faith, not in Christ, but in himself. Also, Bell speaks about how the opposite of sin is the pursuit of who God made you to be.

    Please know Chrissy, as I know you do, that I'm not attacking you or anyone else. I'm just very concerned with people getting caught up in a movement where Biblical Truth, as realized throughout Christendom, is being watered down for the sake of accepting people. Please let me know what you think (or anyone else, for that matter.) And thanks again for your thoughts.

  6. Hey David
    I dont take what you said as attacking. Dont worry. :)

    I understand what your saying and your right, thats a big problem in the emerging church -the gospel is sometimes watered down. I share this concerns with you. And it is and has been a fear of mine with this movement.
    I've met several people who consider themselves "emerging christians" that lives so far from what Jesus said we should be, that their lives look no different than any other human being. They don't shine their light in the darkness, there is no fruit. At the same time I know people who are living in community with people and really living out the gospel in this new time.

    I took what Rob Bell said about Peter walking on water a little differently. To me what I gathered from what he said was that Jesus called Peter, he chose him, he gave him power and authority and Peter was not believing in what Jesus had already done in his life. He was made new but he didn't believe it. So in reality yeah he didn't believe who Jesus had made him to be ie. he didn't believe in himself, which really equals he didn't believe in Jesus cause Jesus made him new. Maybe thats not what Rob Bell meant, but thats what I took it as. He taught the same story in a nooma video called Dust. I thought he explained it better in the dvd.

    But I get what your saying. All of these people, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, etc, they all have different views on christianity, some I agree with and some I scratch my head at. But what I do like is that they say they dont have it all figured out, they're trying to grasp christianity all over again.

    I'm not in expert in any of this. I dont get philosophers and theologians, it's above my head. What I do get is poetry, art, and creativity. I get simple stuff, living simple, maybe thats another reason why I find emerging church refreshing. It speaks to me, it lets me breath in knowing I dont have to have it all figured out, if I did I wouldn't need Jesus.

    I think there are many years to come before we see what Emerging Church looks like and how christians evolve in a new time. This is just an intro.

    Side note: How's life? How's the bank? Hope all is well.

  7. Hi David -

    When I first read "A New Kind of Christian," I liked it so much that I bought copies for friends. And I read another book or two of his that were written earlier.

    But since then, McLaren has gotten vaguer and vaguer, and his wordy communication style only serves to obfuscate. Most of the time, I find it almost impossible to figure out what he actually believes. Simple "Yes" and "No" answers seem to be an impossibility. I do get the impression that he's getting more "liberal" as time goes by, but I'm not entirely sure.

    All of which is to say that I'd be a little careful about writing a review of a review of a book you haven't read. The reviewer may be accusing McLaren of saying things he didn't really say or mean (assuming McLaren knew what he meant!).

    Your latest comment (6:59 pm) was really good, though. Although our method of communicating truth may change, the truth itself does not change.

  8. "Brian McLaren now has an organization called 'Deep Shift.' I think someone inadvertently put an 'f' in there." - Mark Driscoll