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The blogosphere has erupted with conversation over Brian McLaren’s newest book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith.

Traditional evangelicals claim the book is heretical. Some in the Emerging Church conversation, who have been quietly distancing themselves from McLaren, are now publicly registering their disagreement.

Since there are already a good number of in depth reviews, I will hold my comments to a few observations. I believe that, when the dust settles, this book might prove to be good for the Emerging Church. Here are three reasons why:

1. McLaren is drawing lines and forcing people to choose camps.

Do you see the irony here? McLaren, who has blasted traditional Christians for “drawing lines” and dividing people into “insiders” and “outsiders”, has written a book so opposed to orthodox Christianity that he has marginalized himself.

McLaren is forcing people to choose between his camp and “fundamentalism”. Gone are the days of nuance and subtle distinction. If you oppose McLaren, you must be held captive to a Platonic, dualistic worldview of fundamentalist black and white.

This book will hopefully lead to soul-searching (and maybe even Scripture-searching!) for those who still claim the Emerging label. McLaren’s proposal makes people decide whether they view Christianity the way he does, or whether they stand with Nicea, Chalcedon, and the Reformation. You are either with him or against him.

2. McLaren’s proposal demonstrates the hypocrisy of liberalism.

Another point of irony: McLaren comes across in this book like a fundamentalist arguing for liberalism. The gentle and humble tone of some of McLaren’s previous books is drowned out by his scorn for traditional Christianity. I believe it is hypocritical for McLaren to argue against the perceived attitudes of his “fundamentalist” opponents while displaying the same attitude that he supposedly rejects.

Also interesting… Though McLaren has built a reputation as being opposed to modernist thought, his newest book may very well be the quintessential modernist project. For all his talk about leaving the confines of Western, Modern, American thought, he is blazing a very Western, Modern, American trail. He is the lone ranger leading us into the Promised Land. Everyone else has it wrong, but this American has it right. Goodness, he even throws in some typical American anti-intellectualism. (After all, McLaren was never “corrupted” by seminary education.)

For all his talk about community over individualism, McLaren would be hard pressed to find any continuity with past Christians regarding the kind of beliefs he is now espousing. There is simply no community within historic Christianity that has advocated these views in this form.

It is hypocritical for McLaren to make himself out to be the 21st century man with postmodern sensibilities, deferring to the “community of faith.” No… he is the lone individual standing over against the community of faith through the ages. He has become exactly what he formerly opposed.

3. This book will cause other conversationalists within the Emerging Church to clarify their beliefs.

The best part of McLaren’s work is that it leads the Emerging Church to the very place that many within the movement have resisted for so long: clarity and definition. From this point on, because of McLaren’s polarizing proposal, those associated with Emergent Village will be inevitably forced to clarify their beliefs in distinction to McLaren’s.

I remember the days when Emerging Church folks were weary of traditionalists always asking them to be more clear and direct about their beliefs. Now, McLaren himself has sounded the clarion call for people who believe like him to be honest. Mike Wittmer writes:

McLaren says that at the beginning of their movement, he and his friends were “peace-loving people” who didn’t “want to needlessly upset anyone,” so they thought, ‘Maybe this new understanding can simply be added to what we already have, gradually, gently, so people won’t even notice…Maybe we can simply add this kingdom-of-God stuff as fine print on the bottom of our existing theological contracts…without upsetting anyone.”

Brian writes that “Many are still working with this hope, and I wish them luck”—which should be a wake-up call to us all.  Brian says that for his part he can no longer pretend, for “the cat is out of the bag” and it’s time to be honest about his new Christianity and admit that it can’t be crammed into the traditional way the church has believed in God.

There you have it. McLaren is the one calling for clarity. In this case, I hope that his sympathizers will follow his advice. We will all be the better for it.


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Comments:


65 thoughts on “Why Brian McLaren's New Book is Good for the Emerging Church”

  1. Judy Dudley says:

    I knew he couldn’t go for very long without actually defining what he believes. Thank God he has so we can call a spade a spade!

    Thanks, Trevor, for your views.

  2. Eric Gregory says:

    I have great affection for McLaren (his “Generous Orthodoxy” is one of the best treatments on what ails contemporary conservative evangelicalism and what self-definition looks like).

    I am wary of your harsh critique of his new book (which I have not yet read), because I do not know where you stand with some of his previous writings or with the Emergent Church. Sentences like “McLaren’s proposal makes people decide whether they view Christianity the way he does, or whether they stand with Nicea, Chalcedon, and the Reformation. You are either with him or against him.” seem out of character for him, as I don’t think he’d intentionally lambast Nicea, Chalcedon, etc, but I’m willing to be wrong. I would, however, suggest that the Reformation, for all of it’s good, was potentially more harmful to Christendom as a whole (much like the East/West Schism of 1055). We are to be united, not divided, and the very name “Protestant” denotes division and sectarianism.

    Could you clarify what proposals of his are counter to orthodoxy? Is there a dismissal of Trinitarian theology (which is what the councils at Nicea were almost exclusively about)? Is he suggesting that the Church is no longer being led by God? What specifically are you taking offense to?

  3. R E Synod says:

    So his original agenda was to subvert the community of faith from within by appearing generous and orthodox. Having failed, the peaceful Anabaptist goes all Muntzer on us!

    Thanks for the post!

  4. Bob says:

    These are McLaren’s words to a recent interview. He is within historic Christianity.
    “First, who do I say Jesus is? In answering that question, I would go exactly to the passages you did: Peter’s confession of Jesus at Caesarea Philippi (I wrote about this at some length in EMC), Paul’s beautiful hymns in Colossians and Philippians, and John 14:9. So yes, I enthusiastically affirm the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. Yes, I’m a wholehearted Trinitarian.”

  5. Trevin Wax says:

    Eric,

    This post is a reflection for the entire EC discussion based upon the recent reviews of his book. Most notable are Kevin DeYoung’s extensive treatment and Mike Wittmer’s. Bill Kinnon (a McLaren sympathizer, at least formerly) also has an interesting post about the book.

    Other bloggers have documented the theological and exegetical problems of the book. I am coming at it from a different angle, trying to see what his book means for the EC discussion. I recommend you look at the more extensive reviews in order to see the problems I am talking about.

    Blessings!

  6. Eric Gregory says:

    Bob:

    I was under the same impression.

    Trevin:

    Please explain a bit more as your depiction of McLaren looks more like unnecessary caricature than truth. Excluding a creedal and confessing Christian from orthodoxy seems odd – perhaps you could define orthodoxy for us so we can determine if you meet the requirements :)

  7. Eric Gregory says:

    Looks like we overlapped in commenting, Trevin.

    I have looked a little into reviews of the book (and even what McLaren himself says in response). When you post that “If you oppose McLaren, you must be held captive to a Platonic, dualistic worldview of fundamentalist black and white.”, then it suggests this is what you believe (as I didn’t see any references/links to other posts, those words appear to be your own).

    Why do you think this? And why do you believe McLaren, based on your own reading of his book, to be outside of (or hateful towards) orthodox Christianity? Also, can you explain what you mean by “orthodox Christianity” as that term gets thrown around quite a bit. You yourself are not Orthodox, so that adds to the confusion :)

  8. Trevin Wax says:

    Eric,

    I certainly hope that McLaren does affirm the creeds and confessions. But I fear he affirms them in the same way he affirms “the Bible.” When you read his book, you see that he does not believe the Bible as authoritative and inspired, but merely the record of evolving human understandings about God. Having McLaren say, “I believe the creeds” does not resolve the problem.

    Again, I recommend you look at the extensive treatment of the book from DeYoung and Wittmer. They are fair, thorough, and yet they point out the flaws in McLaren’s approach.

  9. Eric Gregory says:

    Interesting.

    It would seem that you are perturbed by McLaren’s lack of emphasis on inerrancy (which I myself don’t affirm, as that has nothing to do with Scripture itself nor with the traditions of the church. Here for more on that: http://kolhaadam.wordpress.com/tag/inerrancy/). Why is that an issue?

    As far as DeYoung is concerned, I side with McLaren’s on how the themes of Scripture should be understood. Both the themes of fall/redemption and rescue/liberation need to be understood, but the “Orthodox” view of Scripture has always been that the atonement is best understood through a Christus Victor approach rather than through Penal Substitutionary Atonement (much like N. T. Wright according to your post on his affirmation of PSA).

    McLaren’s views, according to DeYoung, on “what the gospel is” also ought to be cherished and shared. What indeed is the point of the Church? It is the “new kingdom, a new way of life, and a new way of peace that carried good news to all people of every religion” (139). The good news of the Cross is that we are free from sin and alive to relationship with God, which has the effect of producing in us, through our labor and partnership WITH God, the fruit of the Spirit. Do we deny 1 Corinthians 13’s grand description of love when we talk about an angry or vengeful God?

    I find McLaren refreshing, relational and forward-thinking. I don’t know that his answers will be the answers the Church moves forward with as I think some clarification (especially around the homosexual issue) is needed.

    Is easing away from a constant discussion of exclusivity a bad thing? Must we preach hell and damnation when Jesus did not? (In fact, the only depictions FROM Jesus about why He came were involved with heaping scorn on the religious elite who held cherished that position more than their fellow Jews, freeing captives from sin – not from “God’s wrath”, and healing/binding up the downtrodden. He says little to nothing, except in direct opposition to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, about Gehenna – and that is told in parable form.)

    Questions like these are necessary and good as we move into a deeper understanding, through the likes of N. T. Wright, the New Perspectives on Paul, and the Emerging Church, of what Paul was actually writing and the mindset of Second Temple Judaism that Jesus was born into and subverted.

  10. Jason Finley says:

    Well, he does in effect say “I believe the creeds.” I have not read the book, but while I would disagree that the Bible is “merely” the record of evolving human understandings about God, I think it certainly inculdes a record of at least a certain people’s understanding about God. Doesn’t Jesus talk about how the patriarchs longed for his day and Paul say something about a mystery being revealed? I’ve found Wright’s writing on the authority of the Bible very helpful.

    From McLaren in response to a blog comment on his book (http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/a-new-kind-of-christianity-contd.html):

    “I just went to your website and realized you’ve added some more posts on my book, so let me briefly respond to the main questions you raised.

    First, who do I say Jesus is? In answering that question, I would go exactly to the passages you did: Peter’s confession of Jesus at Caesarea Philippi (I wrote about this at some length in EMC), Paul’s beautiful hymns in Colossians and Philippians, and John 14:9. So yes, I enthusiastically affirm the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. Yes, I’m a wholehearted Trinitarian.

    Second, on Paul being Greco-Roman. You’re right: Paul is multi-cultural – Jewish, Greek, and Roman. But that’s not what I’m talking about in the book when I refer to a Greco-Roman narrative. I’m referring to a view of reality formed by a certain kind of Greek neo-Platonism on the one hand (one that was more fully articulated after Paul’s death), and a kind of totalitarian Roman politics on the other. I believe when Paul began following Jesus, he began a transformation process (the kind he wrote about in Romans 12) so that his identity in Christ made him no longer conformed to any of these three worlds. So, just as a converted alcoholic changes his view on alcohol, I believe Paul changed his previous understandings of violence, truth, love, and power after being converted. So, when I read Colossians 1 and Philippians 2, for example, I see a radical repudiation of the negative Greco-Roman values I’m critiquing in the book … as I describe in both EMC and A New Kind of Christian.

    Third, do I side more with Wright or Borg on the resurrection? First, I want to say that I have learned a lot from both Borg and Wright, but I agree with Wright on this [a literal, bodily resurrection]. I appreciate your care about guilt by association (and – as I mentioned above – the closely related “guilt by failure to disassociate”). If people want to reject me because of friends I keep, they’ll find plenty of good reasons to do so. As you know, in many circles, Wright himself is a persona non grata whom people are careful to disassociate from.

    There are several places where I would not say what Marcus says – including the 1994 quote you included. But something I appreciate about both Borg and Wright is that they are able to remain respectful friends with people with whom they have significant disagreements. I try to follow their example in this. I love the quote from Wright that you included, by the way. And I also fully agree with Wright when he says that to speak of the divinity of Christ is not simply to take a pre-existing definition of God and apply it to Jesus, but rather it means that in Jesus, we are given a new and deeper and more wonderful definition of God than has ever been had before. Of course, the insight into God as Trinity itself flows from the breakthrough revelation of God in Christ.”

    I sincerely hope that drawing lines and forcing to choose camps just got more increasingly difficult for Trevin Wax. I’m not sure why division is something to be welcomed in the body of Christ – unless of course you’re amputating an apostate member who has fallen away ;) After reading the book, is that your stance? In any case, the blogosphere seems to be an open battlefield for wars of words disconnected from relationship.

    Here is what I do know: the questions McLaren poses are precisely the ones that my agnostic/atheist friends propose. They don’t ask about eternal security or Armenianism. I’d challenge any critic or elder who has been appointed by God to guard against false doctrine to first answer his ten questions, THEN read McLaren’s answers, THEN comment on the differences and why it matters.

  11. Trevin Wax says:

    Eric,

    I did not mention inerrancy in my post. I don’t think this is an issue primarily about biblical inerrancy. McLaren’s twisting of historical Christianity goes much deeper than the issue of inerrancy.

    I also do not have any problem with the Christus Victor approach, as long as the penal substitutionary atonement is still part of the picture. (By the way, even in the Christus Victor view, you have substitution… Christ conquering for us, in our place, etc.)

    McLaren’s problems are not merely in what he affirms, but in what he denies. “Must we preach hell and damnation?” Well, Jesus certainly did. So did Paul. So did Peter. I’m sticking with them.

    God’s wrath is indeed a part of the biblical picture, as even Wright and others who are tied to Scripture will affirm. Some may overemphasize his wrath. Some may underemphasize it. But denying it completely is where McLaren goes wrong.

    A God who never gets angry over the injustice and evil and suffering in this world is not a God of love. Our sin is rebellion against God personally, and it deserves a response. God absorbing his wrath into himself (through Jesus) is the greatest picture of love that the world has ever seen.

    Making Jesus out to be a nice, non-judgmental, tolerant guru flattens him out until he looks much like McLaren, and less like the fiery prophet, priest, and King that he is – the perfect reflection of the God who is Holy Love.

  12. Derek says:

    I’m reading it right now (with three other books on the go – whew~) and though I’m not “Emergent” or “Liberal” by any stretch of the imagination, I do think (so far) that their are gleanings to be had.

    As I continue through, I’ll keep you comments in mind.

    Thanks.

  13. Darryl says:

    Great post, Trevin. This is a defining moment for the emerging church. I’m looking forward to reading Scot McKnight’s review of the book in the next issue of Christianity Today.

    I’m pleased to see some say that this isn’t what they believe. I’m surprised and saddened to see others say that this is what they’ve been thinking all along.

    We used to complain that the emerging church is hard to nail down. McLaren has done us the favor of remedying this. Although McLaren doesn’t speak for everyone in the movement, it will at least force them to clarify where they stand in relation to him and his theology.

  14. Eric Gregory says:

    I’m failing to note Jesus’ teachings on Gehenna/Hades/Hell other than the parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus (which is not a factual story, nor should we conceive of Hell from a parable). Paul doesn’t seem to, and neither does Peter. They do mention people not “inheriting the Kingdom of God”, but that is paltry support for so “important” a doctrine. Did Jesus say anyone was going to hell? Did St. Paul or St. Peter or anyone else in the New Testament (aside from the Revelation of St. John the Divine – let’s leave apocalyptic literature out for the time being).

    Why do we insist that eternal torment is coming to those who don’t believe? Why do we ever focus on that when Jesus did not – he told us that he came to save us from ourselves and our inability to be his people (opening up “his people” to the Gentiles when the Jews would have none of him)? When Our Lord and the Apostles don’t focus on the afterlife outside of the union of heaven and earth, why should we?

    The Reformed proposition (which I’ve heard time and time again) concerning “a God who never gets angry over the injustice and evil and suffering in this world” is ridiculous. If we don’t preach hell or personal salvation the way evangelicals often talk about it (I’m still waiting to see apostolic or divine instruction for either), why should that be “outside” of orthodox Christianity? Disbelieving hell or refusing to preach on it does not negate God’s anger or his justice – that’s a straw man argument.

    Why do we think that teaching about hell and damnation is important to our proclamation of the Gospel to a post-modern world? Again, I fail to see biblical evidence that mandates this. When Jesus talks about the weeping and gnashing of teeth, he’s talking about throwing people OUT of the “people of God” and not necessarily eternal punishment. Why is that a “core” doctrine that defines orthodoxy for you?

    (NOTE: I’m more than willing to be wrong, I just don’t like blind assumptions or un

  15. Eric Gregory says:

    sorry, that should read “blind assumptions or unsupported assertations)”

  16. Joey says:

    To be fair, Trevin, Jesus only spoke of Hell twice and both times were in relation to how we treat, or better yet mistreat, the poor.

    Jesus was never descriptive of Hell. I like the way Shane Claiborne paints the picture:

    “One is in Mathew 25, where the sheep and the goats are separated, and the goats who didn’t care of the poor, hungry, homeless, and imprisoned are sent off to endure an agony akin to that experienced by the ones they neglected on this earth. And then there is the story of the rich man and Lazarus, a parable Jesus tells about a rich man who neglects the poor beggar outside his gates. In this parable, the gate becomes the unbridgeable chasm separating the rich man not only from Lazarus but also from God. The rich man is no doubt a religious man (he calls out to “Father” Abraham and knows the prophets), and undoubtedly he has made a name for himself on earth, but he is now a nameless rich man begging the beggar for a drop of water. And Lazarus, who had lived nameless in the shadows of misery, is now seated next to God and is referred to by name. Lazarus is the only person in all of Jesus’ parables who is referred to by name, and his name means “the one God rescues.” God is in the business of rescuing people form the hells they experience on earth. And God is asking us to love people out of those hells.”

    Now say what you will about McClaren’s denial of hell, you can’t so much argue that Jesus preached damnation in the say that you suggest. He stayed off the subject a lot of the time and his only real engagements with it had much much more focus on how we treat the least of these in our own world than they had anything to do with the afterlife.

    I’m looking forward to reading this book. It would be foolish to comment on the content before opening the pages!

    Keep the discussion going!

  17. Ted says:

    So Eric you see no problem with the following.

    1. Denial of Hell or any concept of God judging the evils of the Earth (unless they are Capitalistic and/or conservative in nature.)
    2. Denial of Creation, Fall, and human depravity.
    3. That God’s word is not inspired or authoritative.
    4. That there is no reason to share the Gospel with those of other religions because this would be imposing our views on those who may experience God through different formats. Or in other words, pluralistic universalism.
    5. Gross caricatures of those who McLaren disagrees with, along with countless strawman attacks against those he disagrees with though all along claiming your just interested in dialogue. For examples of these please see DeYoung’s review which includes numerous citations from McLaren’s own words.
    6. A small reductionistic Jesus, that only remains a powerless, marginalized, peasent who does not conquer sin to reconcile us to God and then rule and reign over all Creation.
    7. And tacit panentheism by dismissing (without any argument whatsoever) any distinctions/dualisms as being evil, including male/female, Heaven/Hell, Christian/non-Christian and for that matter Creator/Creation.

    And last I find McLaren’s notion of quasi-universalism to be quite intolerant and imposing as he forces his will upon all to not be allowed to make their own choices and the consequences that come with them, but rather forces them, against their will, to become what he wants and spend eternity with him.

  18. Eric Gregory says:

    Ted:

    I find your 7 points to be gross mis-characterizations of what I said and what we’ve been discussing about McLaren (indeed, mis-characterizations of what he has said and stood for in the past). Again, I have not yet read his new book, but do plan to, and from what I hear around the blogosphere in terms of reviews, I will find much to be pleased with and encouraged by upon finishing.

    In response to your points:

    1. I LOVE the idea of God judging the earth – it’s needed and beautiful. As David Bentley Hart (an Orthodox scholar) says: “Much of history will be judged false and damnable” and there won’t be any “reason” why terrible things needed to happen. Instead, Jesus will wipe our tears away and say “Behold, I make all things new.” Also, I don’t personally reject hell (I haven’t quite made up my mind about it since, as we mentioned previously, Jesus didn’t appear to talk much about it other than in terms what happens when we don’t deny ourselves and follow him). Hell does not necessitate the absence of judgment, and eternal torment is actually much more than punishment – it’s torture. If anything is to happen to those who do not hold to the faith, elimination or exclusion from the holy communion of God make more sense than fire and brimstone.

    2. I do not deny any of that and am not quite sure where you get the idea from (McLaren certainly doesn’t deny those things either).

    3. God’s word indeed is inspired and authoritative. The New Testament is the writings and teachings of the Apostles, whom Jesus charged with making disciples. I would hope everyone would affirm this while also bringing up the rather important point that Scripture is not inerrant (at least provably), nor is divinely dictated to waiting scribes. It’s history (including how we come to have the canon as it is) is necessary in order to understand it’s intended function. It was not meant to be the rule of life, but to be the story of God amongst his people, which drastically changed (from our perspective) with the Incarnation.

    4. There is every reason to share the gospel, but we need not conform everyone to our way of being Christians. Since we don’t know what will happen after death, we ought not to condemn others to an uncertain fate. The only thing we can do is preach what we know, what we have seen and heard, that others might come to faith in Christ and pick up their crosses to follow Him.

    5. I haven’t witnessed many “gross caricatures” of the religious right or neo-conservatives that aren’t warranted. The alignment of the Republican Party to fundamentalism is tragic in one sense (that anyone would be a “fundamentalist” in the Pat Robertson (“Christian”)/Richard Dawkins (athiest) sort of militant way), but in another sense, I’m glad that the Party of money and corporate greed has been coupled with religious movements that distort the gospel of life into the bondage of sin and death.

    6. Actually, a Jesus who completely subverts the most powerful nation on earth, conquers our sin so that we can commune properly with him and others, and does not have a blood-thirsty need for killing himself (or have a father hell-bent, pun intended, on murdering him) seems a bit larger than the picture of the angry God who hates homosexuals you seem to paint.

    7. I’m not sure what you’re getting at here (God IS the cause of everything and is IN everything that exists; “the whole is in God”, or “the whole WILL be in God again”; panentheism seems like an unnecessary straw man here). I would remind you of St. Paul’s words: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

    How is McLaren’s view intolerant? He’s not demanding that you agree with him (and even, tongue-in-cheek, posted something on his blog about why some people shouldn’t read his book). Your argument here attempts to prove hypocrisy, I assume, yet exaggerates beyond reasonability. Do you REALLY think that McLaren “forces [people], against their will, to become what he wants and spend eternity with him.”? Seriously?

  19. Jason Coker says:

    And the fragmentation of the Church continues…

    I haven’t read the book, but I find it impressive how radically different the readings of it have already been. I’ll admit, others (like Mike and Bill) have called Brian on the carpet for apparently espousing unorthodox beliefs, but even they don’t characterize the book as one that draws “clear lines.” In fact, they both take McLaren to task (again) for being rather unclear and McLaren himself, in his response to critics has (typical of him) stated that he’s more interested in stirring up conversation that nailing things down.

    So, given that, I’m surprised to read your very different characterization of it as a liberal version of a fundy manifesto. Curious. I’m not saying you’re wrong (like I said, haven’t read it), just…curious.

    I will agree, though, that the controversy alone will cause more people to come out of their theological closets. Emerging is already dead (IMO), for all intents and purposes, and we’re now experiencing the shake-out of people back into their own traditions and camps.

  20. Ted says:

    Eric I was not saying the seven things I highlighted were YOUR beliefs, but teachings espoused in McLaren’s new book.

    Once again, as Trevin has recommended, read DeYoung’s review. If you had you would know that my second point of Creation, Fall, Redemption is clearly denied and seen as evil by McLaren in his new book.

  21. Eric Gregory says:

    Ted:

    A bit more clarity would have helped. When you say “So Eric you see no problem with the following” and then list 7 things that you think McLaren espouses (via DeYoung), you do impugn my beliefs as well.

    That aside, I made it pretty clear that I did indeed read DeYoung’s thoughts and, barring me actually having read the book, would disagree on principle with him. Based on DeYoung (which is what I’m assuming you are basing your reactions on, the merit of which is an altogether separate subject), McLaren condemns the typical narrative structure of the story of God and humanity as a distortion of the true narrative. While DeYoung may have a point in dismissing McLaren’s “Greco-Roman myth” idea (again, without reading McLaren’s book, I can’t comment), he does not engage at all with the second narrative that McLaren supports. Why is God as “creator, liberator, reconciler” not the real story line? Why does there seem to be a great fear about understanding the gospel afresh for this generation?

    From what I have read of McLaren (and the reviews I’ve read of this new book), I have no issue with him (I too find the Flood to be profoundly disturbing, though I’m not sure I’m ready to jettison the truths we might glean of God in that event). He’s warmly embracing and challenging to a Christian status quo that has done more to push away thoughtful and curious individuals with false piety, exclusion, fear-mongering and an insistence on a reading of the Scriptures (and of God in general) that is not necessarily supported by either the texts themselves or God’s movement in His Church.

    So, have you read the book yet?

  22. Brian Current says:

    Trevin, I fully agree with your insights here and i really do hope that more Emergents clarify their beliefs (like Rob Bell).

  23. Ryan says:

    It will be nice when we can do away with the quizzical idea that someone must, read, watch or consume anything before commenting upon it.

    Has McLaren read every work of Plato, and the modern scholars who would rip his understanding of Plato apart, before espousing his unsupported argument? Not likely. I would also wonder Eric if you have read ever work you have ever been critical of. Seems like an over-burdensome litmus test to me.

    Besides looking at the review put up by Dr. Wittmer, I see McLaren denying all the things (in his own words and from quote in the book) that Ted listed above.

    Might be helpful at this point Eric if you just told us what a Christian is in your view. I really am at a loss to find anyone outside of liberal Christianity who would consider McLaren’s view to be even close to orthodox.

    One last thing, Ted did not impugn you, he simply asked a question. Why not be a little more generous in your assumptions of others?

  24. Joey says:

    Well Ryan I didn’t really read your comment fully but I read a line or so and I disagree with you completely.

    It is simply irresponsible to make a public claim about something you don’t understand. Whether or not McLaren did this in regards to Plato is neither here nor there (though it would be nice for those claims to be substantiated rather than just throwing around claims trying to discredit him).

    Let’s play responsibly here, Ryan.

  25. Eric Gregory says:

    Really, Ryan?

    We should do away with the “quizzical” notion that we should have read something before we comment upon it? Do you want book or movie reviews from people who only have a glancing knowledge about what it is you want to watch or read? Do you want someone (take, Richard Dawkins for instance) to comment on Christianity without knowing what he was talking about?

    I can’t believe this was suggested – ignorance of subject matter (especially when critiquing something) is a pet peeve of mine. [touche Joey!]

    Furthermore, as much as McLaren is maligned for his “ambiguity”, the only things I’ve been able to garner about Ted’s or Ryan’s theology are as follows:

    1. I am right
    2. McLaren is wrong
    3. Liberals (even liberal Christans) are bad

    If that’s the definition of orthodoxy, then… wow. It might not be worth continuing the conversation.

    Additionally, the definition of impugn is “to challenge as false (another’s statements, motives, etc.); cast doubt upon.” (via http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/impugn). My generosity hasn’t failed to extend itself as far as I can tell :)

  26. Josh says:

    Trevin, you wrote “McLaren is drawing lines and forcing people to choose camps.” You describe it as “good for the Emerging Church”.

    Now, I don’t want to read too much into this, but reading the rest of your post, it sure sounds to me like you want to say much more than this. What I hear is: “This is good for the church, period. Finally we can see the heresy for what it truly is and separate ourselves from it!”

    I have 2 questions for you:

    1. What do you think about camps within the confines of the historic “orthodox” church of Jesus Christ in general (I hear there are more than 30,000 of them) and possibly the need of Christians to choose the camp they want to belong to? And who has the final word on what is still a camp inside those confines or a camp outside of it?

    2. Let’s assume for a moment you’re right in your evaluation of McLaren – why can’t I shake the feeling that you seem most happy about the fact that lines have been drawn in the sand and that someone’s definitely on the wrong side of the line? The joy I find in my reading of New Testament is a joy over those who find their way back to God. Since McLaren apparently needs to find his way home from the “dark side” (again just a personal impression of your view of him), why can’t I detect even a hint of sadness about what’s happened here? Instead I hear either glee or a sense of relief. Is it really just me?

  27. Ryan says:

    “Really, Ryan?” YES!

    Have you read Mein Kampf? how about all of Marx’s works? Yet I am sure you have opinions on Hitler, and Marxism.

    I did not advocate ignorantly having an opinion on something, please read in context from now on. The context of the thread was if a reading a review is enough information to form an opinion about something.

    In the case of myself (and probably Ted) in which I have read many works by McLaren, and have seen the trajectory of his theology and ideas I would argue yes. Especially when the review is filled with direct quotes that are unmistakabley clear about what the author believes.

    The only person I see jumping to premature conclusions that are unsubstaniated is you Eric with your previous three prong reasoning in your last comment.

    Particularly unfair, considering Ted laid out a handful (seven to be exact) reasons for concluding that McLaren has veered off the path of any known orthodoxy except that of Liberalism.

    I don’t mind the back and forth but please reserve the rhetoric…

  28. Eric Gregory says:

    How do you know you disagree with Mein Kampf if you haven’t read it (or at least a summary and not a critique)? I’ve read parts of it back in middle school or high school, but can’t remember much.

    Having an opinion on Hitler doesn’t mean I have to read his materials – he killed millions of people. Comparing him or Marx to McLaren is a bit of a stretch and does little to prove your point. We’re talking about a man’s book that we are forming opinions about without reading it, which is pure silliness. Perhaps McLaren’s new one can be one of your 100 this year and you can tell us what you think after actually reading it :)

    In regards to my three-pronged approach, I still find it rather valid (and not presumptuous in any fashion). There’s yet to be a cogent argument for “orthodoxy” as is defined by commentors here, and a rage against the evils of “liberalism”, also undefined. My three points actually quite clearly articulate the arguments of many who find McLaren heretical (including Ryan and Ted). Perhaps I can put it in even better terms, with FIVE points now:

    1. Orthodoxy is good (though I won’t define it)
    2. Liberalism is bad (though I won’t define that either)
    3. Brian McLaren is not orthodox (though I won’t offer proof, since I haven’t defined orthodoxy)
    4. Brian McLaren is heading for Liberalism (though, again, I won’t offer proof of that since there’s yet to be a definition of liberalism)
    5. Brian McLaren is bad (go define “Christian” for me before I define orthodoxy for you!)

    This is all said tongue-in-cheek, since we can’t trust the internet to communicate light sarcasm.

    There has been no evidence whatsoever about McLaren’s lack of orthodoxy, or how we are to determine that (aside from allusions to DeYoung’s review that, again, doesn’t treat McLaren’s apparently most important points, only tears apart those he doesn’t defend well or shouldn’t have made). If we want to make grandiose claims about how bad a Christian (or is he even one?) McLaren is, let’s take it back to using our own words (and not the vitriolic articles of others) to talk about this book.

    That we still haven’t read :)

    My initial comment was intended to get Trevin to talk about his own views, since that’s why we all visit this blog. I’d still like a review of the book (though I suppose I am only assuming he read it), because I’ve looked through the other negative reviews and find them lacking. It would be interesting to hear Trevin’s responses to Josh’s two questions.

    So… bump!

  29. John Gardner says:

    @ Eric – You can agree or disagree with his definitions, but the DeYoung review to which most of the commenters have referenced does provide a working definition of liberalism as well as reasons why McLaren fits this definition.

    As far as defining orthodoxy… since so much of this discussion has revolved around commenting on someone’s body of work as opposed to a single example, it would seem that someone who has read much of this blog (or, say, Trevin Wax’s book) or Kevin DeYoung’s probably has a clear idea of what they consider to be orthodox. Again, agree or don’t, but I feel that those guys (as well as many other writers referenced in the original post and comments) have been pretty consistent.

  30. Eric Gregory says:

    My frustrations are aimed at those who have simply restated DeYoung and others in rejection of McLaren.

    If I wanted to comment on others’ thoughts, I would be on their blogs, but I rather value Trevin’s insight and have had a good experience with other commentors here. Instead of simply replying “yeah, what DeYoung said!”, I was hoping for better dialogue that engaged the minds of those who come here, instead of simply redirecting everyone to another’s posting (who has an admitted negative outlook on McLaren and the entire Emerging Church movement).

    And, John, you stated the problem in full:
    What DeYoung, and perhaps Trevin, along with Ted and Ryan, exclaim as “orthodox” is not universally understood. The only thing I can grasp on a vision of “orthodoxy” here is that it is somehow politically conservative, has negative thoughts towards anything other than what they were taught about the Bible, believes penal substitutionary atonement is the best way to describe atonement, and is committed to evangelicalism. I fall into none of those categories, yet firmly believe myself to be orthodox. Additionally, when we say “orthodox”, are we attempting to reference Eastern Orthodoxy? They certainly don’t subscribe to PSA, and have consistently called Calvin out as a heretic (which I think is rather amusing – I’d like to read more Calvin and more Orthodox literature before coming to my own conclusions).

  31. Ryan says:

    Actually my comparison holds up quite well and does prove my point, even if you fail to accept it. You have many opinions on writers who I am sure you have not read primary sources. Are your opinions iron-clad? No, but one can obtain enough information about an author and his/her ideas from direct quotes and a thorough summary. Both of which DeYoung’s 6,000 word review and Wittmer’s blog post amply provide.

    Have to admit I am a bit puzzled why a smart guy like you is struggling to understand orthodox, and what is liberal. And as previously noted, DeYoung provides a clear definition from Olsen and Grenz of what liberalism is and how McLaren’s ideas clearly fit into it.

    When you deny original sin and the fall your outside of orthodoxy. When you no longer believe Jesus atoned for sin (in a PSA or Christus Victor manner) but reduce Jesus to just an oppressed victim who only identifies with our plight, you fall outside of orthodoxy. When you pick and choose which storylines from the Bible are good and worthwhile to learn from, such as baby Moses, but dismiss and ignore parts that don’t fit your preconceived notions (the rest of Exodus) you fall outside of orthodox. When you believe the Bible is not inspired, but good for inspiring, then you fall outside of orthodoxy. When you believe that God’s justice is nothing more than a brutish concept, and all talk of Hell is absurd, then you fall outside of orthodoxy. And when you say you would rather be an atheist than worship the God of the Bible as the Church throughout history has understood it, you fall outside of orthodoxy.

    I could go on but I think I have made my point. You can like McLaren all you want Eric, and I hope you do read his book but I would only beg you to love the God of the Bible more than you do being a devoted disciple to Brian McLaren.

  32. Red Letters Say WHAT? says:

    “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

  33. Funny McHaha says:

    The only thing I can grasp on a vision of “emergent” here is that it is somehow politically leftist.

  34. Funny McHaha says:

    How dare you heretics call Brian McLaren heretical?

    Yo fake “Christians” that worship Greco-Roman Idol — quite judging Brian.

  35. Joey says:

    Ryan you can’t be serious. Really?

    I can’t imagine in what world a person can get away with a respectable opinion on something without having read it. You’d get an F on any paper at university for such a practice. It is just plain irresponsible. You may quite enjoy what DeYoung says but you have no frame of reference at which to judge McLaren until you have read it yourself. Have you read any McLaren books or is your entire opinion of him based on the writings/opinions of others?

  36. Funny McHaha says:

    Brian’s books seems full of false piety, exclusion, fear-mongering and an insistence on a reading of the New York Times opinion page (and of Global Warming in general) that is not necessarily supported by either the texts themselves or God’s movement in His Church.

  37. Funny McHaha says:

    “I can’t imagine in what world a person can get away with a respectable opinion on something without having read it. ”

    I can. I refuse to read L. Ron Hubbard, for example.

  38. Joey says:

    “I can. I refuse to read L. Ron Hubbard, for example.”

    Then it would grossly irresponsible to have an opinion of any of his specific writings.

  39. Eric Gregory says:

    Ryan:

    Thanks for engaging on this one a bit more with me.

    “Orthodoxy” is quite an interesting subject to me (though if we’re talking Orthodoxy, your “original sin” comment falls short: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_sin#Eastern_Christianity – Augustine’s concept of original sin is not necessary for a full understanding of the Scriptures).

    I’m glad to have a bit more of your understanding of orthodoxy, which sounds much like the theology I grew up with (some of which I’ve retained). Orthodox theology, to me, is theology that aligns itself with what the Church has taught, and includes the ways in which the Church was wrong and needed to correct itself (e.g. certain heresies, indulgences, over-emphasis on God’s wrath, under emphasis on the Kingdom of God being inaugurated in Christ’s Resurrection, etc.). I have no problem questioning orthodoxy, because it is by questioning it that we better understand it, or reform it if need be. For instance, if we determine that our understanding of Genesis as a literal account of the creation of the world is wrong based on scientific evidence that suggest otherwise, we reform our positions and even the way in which we come to those positions (i.e. Richard Hooker’s “three-legged stool” of Anglican theology: Scripture, reason and tradition). We don’t hold to the “orthodox truth” of heliocentricity any longer, do we? No, because the faculties the Lord blessed us with have proven otherwise to us.

    How can we, in a fresh way, reform the bits of our orthodoxy that are not up to snuff (or do we think that Luther and Calvin were more able than we)?

  40. Eric Gregory says:

    To Joey’s point – feel free to have an opinion on Scientology if you know something about their beliefs, but don’t have an opinion on the “Dietetics” book unless you’ve read it.

  41. Jesse Taylor says:

    I think the last sentence from “Red Letters…” Biblical quote is most pertinent to McLaren/Emergent/re-hashed liberalism defenders.

  42. Ryan says:

    Joey it helps to read entire threads as it prevents your comments from looking silly. As stated above I do not advocate forming an opinion in blind ignorance but a review and summary with direct quotes is sufficent. I would have to say you get an F for reader comprehension.

    Actually make that an F- since I stated above I have read many of McLaren’s books.

  43. Ryan says:

    And no it would not be unfair to have an opinion on “Dietetics” if I had read multiple reviews with numerous quotes from the book itself.

    This really is all a red herring to avoid the big “E” on the eye chart, and defend indefensible teachings by McLaren.

  44. John Gardner says:

    Saying that using the word “orthodoxy” means one is referring to the Eastern Orthodox Church is sort of like saying “I believe in the holy catholic church” is referring to Roman Catholicism.

  45. robroy says:

    Brian McLaren is liar and surely he knows it. He is the Episcopal denomination’s darling, getting paid to tell them the message that you can be liberal and grow. (They pay Diana Booth Bass to do the same.) “They will gather around them teachers that tell them what their itching ears want to hear” is a perfect descriptor of the man.

    He advocates “liberal Christianity” which is pretty much universalism with smells and bells: “They need some Episcopal churches that will accept them as they are, gay or straight, liberal or conservative…we’ll accept them as they are, muslim or buddhist. We will accept them as they are. We will say that we are a community that will accept them as they are. We are not trying to turn them into one of us, but we will help you turn to God – and get connected to the living God.” (from a lecture he gave to the diocese of Washington last year.)

    The reality is that few people are satisfied with this insipid broth. Membership in the UU is about 50,000 and falling. He and Diana Booth Bass search out liberal churches that are the exemption, ignoring the devastating numbers overall. These “exceptional” churches are the most liberal of the liberal and can attract by being the most outrageous so they catch the eye of the curious. But the novelty eventually fades. All Saints, Pasadena had been growing in the declining liberal diocese of Los Angeles, presumably being a model church for McLaren, but it too has started the decline.

    The only model that has caused Church growth over 2,000 years is to preach Christ crucified, a unique act which has the power to save sinners from condemnation, a righteous condemnation that the sinners (us) know that they are surely deserving.

  46. Eric Gregory said…
    “When Our Lord and the Apostles don’t focus on the afterlife outside of the union of heaven and earth, why should we?”

    Eric, I’m sorry, but your premise is just flat wrong. Jesus spoke about hell more than anyone else in Scripture. To say that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus was his only reference is demonstrably false. See the following references…

    Matt 5:22, 5:29-30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:33, 25:41, Mark 9:43-47, Luke 12:5, 13:26-28

    I’ve not even included the many clear references in parables to those who reject Christ being thrown into “outer darkness,” “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” or being “burned with fire.”

    Paul was unconcerned with hell? 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 would seem an odd choice of words then.

    If you want to avoid talking about hell judgment for sin, that’s your decision – but you cannot pretend that Jesus and the apostles took the same route.

  47. Eric Gregory says:

    John:

    When you are calling yourself “catholic”, you usually need to differentiate yourself from Roman Catholicism if you do not subscribe to the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome.

    It might be good, in the same vein, when calling yourself “orthodox”, to differentiate yourself from (Eastern) Orthodoxy if you are not a part of that branch of historic Christianity. That was my only point.

    It’s pretty aggravating to read things like what ‘robroy’ posted. There is nothing wrong with “liberalism” and there is nothing wrong with accepting people as they are without attempting to change them. If WE attempt to change them, they run; if, however, we preach Christ crucified (AND RESURRECTED, which was the brunt of Paul’s message always), and encourage them in the Spirit, the Lord will work. We do not need to decry homosexuality from the pulpit, or picket government decisions to allow same-sex unions (which we should have no opinion on – that’s Caesar’s business, not Christ’s), or disparage those who would seek to build up rather than tear down. We are not perfect, nor should we expect others to be so – and we CERTAINLY shouldn’t be dragging names of Christians through mud. Or would it be okay with everyone here if we just called Calvin “The Geneva Sadist” or “The Swiss Slaughterer”?

    Calling someone a “liar” while spreading lies about “denominational payouts” is a bit hypocritical, is it not? Slandering an entire province of the Anglican Communion simply because you are frustrated with their insipidity (as am I) is not as gracious or loving as you seem to think it is. Additionally, are you Episcopalian? If not, then kindly refrain from disparaging my denomination – we do that enough ourselves, thank you.

  48. Erin C. says:

    Eric here is you building strawmen and knocking them down. No one has said lets change people or we are the one’s who change people. But the importance of orthodoxy is that it is the truth that changes people. If you want to treat sprirituality/Christianity like Baskin Robbins in which everyone gets to pick their own flavor than so be it. But Jesus spoke with authority about his ressurection and work, and that they were more like insulin, in that it was what is needed to save.

    “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” Jesus.

    Lets be careful Eric of trying to latch beliefs onto people that they never said they hold, after all isn’t that what you keep trying to passionately argue everyone is doing to McLaren? Ironic.

  49. The question “What is orthodoxy” or “How do you define orthodoxy” is one that is asked incredulously as if nobody can know what they mean when they the term unless they can provide an precise definition of it. But this treads on the Socratic fallacy by supposing that unless a term can be precisely defined it means nothing. Therefore, people like McLaren should be free to make up whatever they want since there are no boundaries to acceptable belief or “right thinking” (orthodoxy). If nothing can objectively define orthodoxy then there is nothing to keep relativism from following. Every claim to objectively define orthodoxy is simply a power-play that must be deconstructed by individuals or communities to ensure no one is oppressed or excluded. Pluralism is the rule of faith.

    The problem with this line of reasoning is that people can know what they mean without having to precisely define it. For many Christians this means that believing what the Bible claims to be true is in fact true. The claims of the Bible are considered to be divine revelation, and whatever God reveals is in fact true.

    This is not to deny that there are “interpretive communities” that have come to consensus decisions on matters in the text of Scripture. Some of these are even spelled out within Scripture itself as the writers wrestled with early doctrinal proposals they judged to be wrong. For example, not forcing every male to become circumcised when converted. Denying Jesus rose from the dead would be another. As Christian thought progressed through history the matters of the Trinity and Christ’s deity became enshrined in creeds that are recognized to be correct interpretations of Scripture. To be sure, there has never been complete agreement between all believers at all times in all places, but that does not negate the idea that there is a consensus on the trustworthiness and authority of Scripture, the triune personality of God, the dual nature of Christ, the sinfulness of humanity, the need for substitutionary atonement (the means to peace with God), Christ’s resurrection, and trust in Christ as Lord (no other way) for the promise of salvation (peace with God).

    For McLaren these are revised is the tradition of theological liberalism. DeYoung points to criteria given by Grenz and Olson that:

    1. Liberals believe doctrine needs to develop to meet the needs of contemporary thought.

    2. Liberals emphasize the need to reconstruct traditional beliefs and reject the authority of tradition and church hierarchy.

    3. Liberals focus on the practical and ethical dimensions of Christianity.

    4. Liberals seek to base theology on something other than the absolute authority of the Bible.

    5) Liberals drift toward divine immanence at the expense of transcendence.

    Given these criteria, the above consensus is significantly reworked and totally revised if not denied altogether. Liberalism is necessarily unorthodox, and if it can be shown that someone is of the liberal “interpretive community” they are not orthodox, because orthodoxy is something that must be constantly revised.

  50. Eric Gregory says:

    D.J.

    Are you suggesting, then, that Jesus was actually talking about it being okay to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin?

    None of these verses speak to eternal torture (“destruction from the presence of the Lord” seems to indicate separation and not hellfire as we typically think about it), but indicate a place where God’s presence is absent. Do you pretend to know what happens to sinners once they die, aside from casting into outer darkness (e.g. Gehenna, a metaphor using the name of the place outside of Jerusalem dedicated for waste and garbage) with the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Do you preach that all sinners will burn for eternity?

    Jesus’ parables and teachings concerned repentance (turning yourself and your heart to God), what the Kingdom of Heaven was to look like here on earth, and rebuking those who thought they were doing well, yet neglected their neighbors and cared only for themselves. Even the ones you quoted (some of which are double-quotes, since they are synchronized across the synoptic gospels) are in the context of warning those who fear physical torment for following Christ, of hyperbole that doesn’t necessitate eschatological torture, of encouraging those who are being persecuted by their former friends.

    Any teachings on the negative aspects of the afterlife are not only sporadic, indicating that they are less important than what the Kingdom was to look like, but are also vague enough to make it totally unclear what will happen apart from eternal separation (and even then, we ought to pray for universal reconciliation, unless you really do want some people to not know the love of God; “older brother” syndrome?). So why do we focus on that as a scare tactic instead of on living out the gospel as we were instructed to do?

  51. Eric Gregory says:

    Erin:

    I fail to see what you are talking about in “straw men” that I’ve constructed, so it’s difficult to notice any irony in my statements.

    Adam:

    I was not asking the questions incredulously, but very seriously as it’s difficult to define orthodoxy if we are coming from different perspectives on the word.

    In light of DeYoung’s definition of liberalism, I’d like to suggest my own of conservativism:

    1. Conservatives believe doctrine ought to be static and unchanging – refusing to address needs or issues that did not exist prior to 100 A.D. (Sorry, Reformation!)

    2. Conservatives think church hierarchy and tradition is fine the way it has always been. (Bring back slavery and indulgences for everyone!)

    3. Conservatives shy away from practical application of the gospel (which Jesus was incredibly concerned with; indeed both he and Paul talked often of a judgment based on how we did on earth) and are not concerned about ethics.

    4. Conservatives hold unswervingly to their own interpretations of Scripture without understanding that they are reading translations of translations whose translators have transferred their own literary bias onto the text they produce. They seek to ground doctrine in Scripture as they see it, regardless of how it appears to others since they think they are right.

    5. Conservatives are not concerned about what happens here on earth (or experiencing God’s immanence), but instead seek transcendence above the life that God calls us to in order to “fly away home”.

    (tongue-in-cheek)

    Luther and Calvin were the liberals of their day (as was William Wilberforce), yet we hold those up to be shining examples, despite their flaws, of Christian truth triumphing over the world (or the ineptitude of the Church as it was before them). Just as a point against the “evils” of liberalism – conservativism has just as many.

    Plank, meet speck. Let’s have tea.

  52. Erin C. says:

    Uhh how about this Eric.

    “There is nothing wrong with “liberalism” and there is nothing wrong with accepting people as they are without attempting to change them. If WE attempt to change them, they run; if, however, we preach Christ crucified (AND RESURRECTED, which was the brunt of Paul’s message always), and encourage them in the Spirit, the Lord will work.”

    In your words your setting up this fals villian of people who think their job is to change others, I was simply commenting on you creating a strawman since no one said this. All I have heard is people advocating for speaking truth and letting the Holy Spirit work to convict and change hearts.

    Maybe that will help you Eric:)

  53. Eric Gregory says:

    Erin:

    It might help to read a bit further.

    Another’s comment: “[McLaren] advocates “liberal Christianity” which is pretty much universalism with smells and bells: “They need some Episcopal churches that will accept them as they are, gay or straight, liberal or conservative…we’ll accept them as they are, muslim or buddhist. We will accept them as they are. We will say that we are a community that will accept them as they are. We are not trying to turn them into one of us, but we will help you turn to God – and get connected to the living God… These “exceptional” churches are the most liberal of the liberal and can attract by being the most outrageous so they catch the eye of the curious. But the novelty eventually fades… The only model that has caused Church growth over 2,000 years is to preach Christ crucified, a unique act which has the power to save sinners from condemnation, a righteous condemnation that the sinners (us) know that they are surely deserving.”

    My response: ”There is nothing wrong with “liberalism” and there is nothing wrong with accepting people as they are without attempting to change them. If WE attempt to change them, they run; if, however, we preach Christ crucified (AND RESURRECTED, which was the brunt of Paul’s message always), and encourage them in the Spirit, the Lord will work.”

  54. Eric Gregory says:

    So this has taken enough of my time at work over the last day. I’ll bow out of this discussion.

    Grace and peace to you all – thank you for wrestling over these thoughts with everyone!

  55. Eric,

    Your very unserious response doesn’t bode well for me taking seriously your “very serious” question. I take it you are proud liberal? If so, then let it be.

  56. Eric,

    “Are you suggesting, then, that Jesus was actually talking about it being okay to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin?”

    The fact that Jesus’ statement is hyperbolic doesn’t mean that everything therein is meaningless. The nature of the statement doesn’t negate the meaning of “hell” any more than it negates the meaning of sin.

    “Do you pretend to know what happens to sinners once they die, aside from casting into outer darkness (e.g. Gehenna, a metaphor using the name of the place outside of Jerusalem dedicated for waste and garbage) with the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Do you preach that all sinners will burn for eternity?

    I think it’s wise to allow Scripture to claify its own meaning, as 2 Thess. 1 clearly does here. If there was any doubt about what Jesus was alluding to here (and I don’t think he’s quite so vague as you suppose), Paul speaking of Jesus “inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” and saying that they will “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” seems to help us quite a bit in understanding what’s at stake here.

    “Any teachings on the negative aspects of the afterlife are not only sporadic, indicating that they are less important than what the Kingdom was to look like…”

    So first there was only one reference, now they’re sporadic. Which is it? How many times does Jesus have to say something for it to matter?

    “…but are also vague enough to make it totally unclear what will happen apart from eternal separation.”

    And the language that’s used to describe that “eternal separation” (unquenchable fire, weeping and gnashing of teeth, torment, vengeance) makes it pretty clear that it is to be feared. Jesus said as much in one of the references I provided you where he made the point that we shouldn’t fear those who kill but rather the one who can cast into hell.

    “So why do we focus on that as a scare tactic instead of on living out the gospel as we were instructed to do?”

    I don’t think anyone who has heard my preaching would use “scare tactics” to describe it, but that term aside, this is clearly a false dichotomy. Why do we tell people about hell when we should just live out the Gospel? My point remains, why don’t we just do both? It seemed to work pretty well for Jesus.

  57. robroy says:

    Eric writes, “there is nothing wrong with accepting people as they are without attempting to change them.”

    Of course, we don’t do the changing, but we insult the Gospel and lead people astray if we tell people you can stay a Muslim or Hindu and that is just as good as being a Christian. Those that lead people astray have a millstone waiting to be tied to their necks.

    Mr. McLaren can play word games and redefine up to be down and left to be right. He may reject the labels liberal, but if you fit right into the local UCC church, you are a liberal.

    Check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ygIay4OcNw .

    McLaren offers up syncretism, pelagianism and many other long rejected heresies. The Episcopal denomination will continue to pay him big bucks to egg them on in their turn to apostasy, and they will continue their decline into oblivion.

  58. Josh says:

    Trevin,
    It’s your blog so I can’t expect or demand an answer to every question directed at you.

    If you think my two questions were having a trajectory you’d rather avoid having a discussion on, that’s fine too.

    A quick note from you would still be helpful, so I don’t have to keep second guessing why no response has come so far.

  59. John Wylie says:

    Mat 5:29,30 “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

    We insist that eternal torment is coming to those who don’t believe because the Bible insists this. Joh 3:18 “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
    Mat 25:41 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand (these are people), Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting (how long is everlasting?) fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”

    Mat 18:8 “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.”

    And by the way let’s not leave out the “apocalyptic” literature because it is clear on this point. Rev 20:15 “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

  60. Trevin Wax says:

    I’m sorry Josh. I’ve been monitoring comments off and on, but have been away from my computer for most of the past two days. We’ve been having car trouble and I’m looking for a van replacement.

    I’m not sure I want to keep this post on the “let’s prove that hell exists” trajectory, which is why I’ve refrained from responding. I’d rather keep it on the original subject of the post.

  61. Josh says:

    No problem, Trevin.

    If you look up my questions earlier in the thread you’ll find that they had nothing to do with the discussion on hell at all.

    I simply wanted to know if I misread you and if not, how you’d see the whole “camp paradigm” as helpful.

  62. Trevin Wax says:

    Yes, Josh… I just saw that you did comment on my original post, and not the hell discussion. :)

    I am not gleeful about watching division take place. I do however think that clarity on the gospel and on the essential doctrines of Christianity is a good thing. So if McLaren is clearly differentiating his views from evangelicalism, then I think it’s a good thing. It leads to less confusion and helps us know where he stands. It’s not a celebration of division. But I am glad that he is finally saying what he really thinks.

  63. Don’t have time to read through all the comments, so sorry this if this is repetitive.

    Haven’t finished the book, but my first thought aligns exactly with what your first point is: McLaren is drawing lines in the sand and asking people to choose sides.

    I know a Pastor (a Liberal one at that) who says those who don’t agree with homosexual activity haven’t had an Acts 10 Spirit-led conversion. Instead, they are stuck in Acts 11 and the Spirit hasn’t led them there yet.

    In other words, Liberals are hypocritical — and arrogant at that! McLaren’s writing, although I agree with SOME of it, is largely attempting to be “humble” but reeking of arrogance…

  64. Eric Gregory says:

    A quick update:

    Scot McKnight’s review: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/article_print.html?id=86862

    I think it’s a bit more generous than the others I’d read, and I’m more inclined to assent to his depiction as he affirms McLaren’s earlier work instead of decrying him as a heretic.

    Grace and peace,
    Eric

  65. I want to address the most important issue the true church of Jesus Christ faces today. We who have been born-again by the Spirit of God, and whose lives have been transformed by the Word of God, face an enemy today of size and strength that vastly outnumbers the few whom God has chosen for this time to represent His sovereignty in the salvation of man.

    My Blog:
    http://wsimpson.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/truth-in-this-age-of-apostasy/

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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