Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Emerging Postmodern Evangelical Liberalism
For some reason, I've been in a "prophetic and polemic" mode lately. This is not my normal M.O., but I'm going to run with it. Meekness is not weakness, and grace is not a sloppy overlooking of all that is wrong. Grace and truth work together, as truth calls a spade a spade, and then calls for a change of heart which only grace can accomplish. Nothing in grace ever departs from TRUTH in the least bit. Rather, grace deepens our hold on the truth, and truth continually drives us back to grace as we see our need afresh. In recent years, as God's grace in the Gospel has become more precious to my soul, distortions and perversions of grace have become increasingly troubling. As Paul said . . .

Galatians 1:6-10 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

I wouldn't want to make a career out of exposing all the things that [I think] are wrong in the modern church. That doesn't tend to be fruitful or helpful in the long run, and my natural self-righteousness would lead me to beat up on people who disagree. That's not the point here. What follows is offered, I hope, in a spirit of love and with a sharp eye on my own multiplied shortcomings. We must endeavor to stay focused intently on the Gospel, but we can't ignore error altogether. So, in the interest of better understanding the times in which we live, the modern threats to orthodox Christianity, and with the goal of tying our hearts more tightly to the Gospel, I offer these thoughts on one of today's great heretics . . .

I recently read an interview in which postmodern poster child Brian McLaren was asked why Evangelicals "dislike" him. His answer was both telling and terrifying. He said, "large numbers of Evangelicals love what I'm doing and are highly supportive," and then he went on to name three groups (including high Calvinists) who are "completely and vocally unhappy with my work." High Calvinists should take that as a huge compliment. I'd like to let Mr. McLaren know that Gospel-centered moderate Calvinists are equally disturbed by his radical departure from the Biblical message.

As a follow up to the interview and for the sake of curiosity, I listened through about two hours of material from McLaren. Among the material was this interview from the University of California's Youtube channel and this "sermon" delivered to students at Anderson University in Indiana.

I have to admit that I was impressed as I observed this iconic leader of the Emerging Church. It was obvious that he is a very gracious and gentle person. He is thoughtful about the sensitivities of others and careful not to offend. He is eminently considerate in his approach, which is a good thing. He's also matter-of-fact and realistic about his critics and the controversy he's created. This gives an appearance of humility that is engaging and heart warming.

Beneath all of this sweet personality lies something deeply troubling: unmitigated floods of bad theology. In classic liberal style, rather than building on the rock solid truth of Scriptural precepts, McLaren proposes his unbelief in the form of subtle questions which imply that orthodox Christianity has completely missed the point of the teachings of Christ. But these "questions" are nothing less than denials of what is taught in Scripture, and they are based on reasoning that resonates with fallen humanity's natural way of thinking - not with the Word of God. Orthodoxy insists on the hard Biblical doctrines, like wrath and hell and judgment - things which are hard to reconcile with the reality of God's infinite love. But they are nonetheless taught by Jesus Christ and the Christian Scriptures. Rather than submitting to Scripture and gaining insight by adjusting his ideas accordingly, McLaren simply avoids the possibility that human ideas of "love" might be off the mark. It must be Christian orthodoxy itself that is misguided, not fallen humanity's thinking about God. In his quest for relevance, McLaren and his Emerging Church friends have jettisoned the Biblical Gospel. They have gone completely off the deep end and leapt headling into heterodoxy - all the while wearing a gentle smile. It's a sad thing to see. Sadder still is the long line of so-called Evangelicals following in their footsteps, sliding gleefully down the slope of unbelief into a powerless, humanistic gospel, heading directly toward the gateway of soul-shredding heresy. The saddest thing is that many will pass through the gate without even realizing it.

McLaren makes no secret of the fact that his real focus is social transformation and the redemption of broken societal institutions - not the salvation of individual souls. Embracing universalistic syncretism, he wants to save "the world." It's the system that's broken and needs to be fixed, moreso than your heart and my heart in abject rebellion against our Creator. After all, says McLaren, "God so loved the world . . ." (Oh, is that what John meant?) Apparently, principles of Biblical interpretation are just another part of the outdated orthodox machinery, so we can throw those out with everything else that stands in the way of the "Kingdom." No more silly notions of conforming ourselves to the Bible. We can mold Scripture into any image we choose, so let's go ahead and make God the way we've always wanted Him to be!

Some folks who are weak on Biblical inerrancy and the sufficiency of Scripture are bolstered and kept straight by an allegiance to solid creeds and traditions. Others, who reject every creed as "man-made", are nonetheless deeply grounded in Biblical truth because they simply love the Scriptures. But men like McLaren have neither a high view of Scripture nor a solid tradition to serve as ballast. They are led astray by every wind of doctrine, and the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. McLaren has left both the Scriptures and the orthodox creeds behind in his pursuit of a new and improved form of indistinct Christianity.

Here's a catch phrase I've heard McLaren repeat numerous times: statements change your state, but questions put you on a quest. So, leave all your statements of absolute truth behind and launch out on a search for . . . more questions? If there aren't any truthful statements to be found, what's the point in asking all of these questions in the first place?

I suppose McLaren wouldn't get along too well with Jesus Christ. Read the Gospels - they're chock full of statements. If the things Jesus taught about the human heart are true, then what we need more than anything else is a change of state. Our Lord fully intends to change our state AND put us on a quest. Mere questions do not feed needy souls or comfort the hearts of penitent sinners. If Paul warned against doctrines "contrary" to the Gospel, he must have done more than ask questions. He must have made exclusive, definitive statements of TRUTH which had to be sharply separated from other statements that were not TRUE.

But alas, I have questions of my own. I question the relevance of any "church leader" who doesn't believe the Gospel of God. Paul described the Gospel this way: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures . . . (I Cor. 15:1ff). McLaren replaces this Biblical definition with his own idea of the Gospel: "The Kingdom of heaven (or at least his version of it) is at hand." This definition is wide enough to park a bus in, and McLaren takes full advantage of the space his definition affords. He reinterprets the approaching kingdom as an indication that God is more interested in large, overarching social movements than He is in the salvation of individuals. Verses, extended passages, and entire pages are falling out of my Bible as I write this! And McLaren is dancing on them with his eyes closed and his heart ablaze with "love." Now we can all smile, write poetry, and talk about a Kingdom of God that just happens to perfectly resemble a one-world utopia.

I have some questions for McLaren: didn't Jesus say, "... the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel." ??? When did He ever say, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and this is what I mean by the Gospel." ??? McLaren confuses categories here, and the result is stark error. While liberal Christians are trying fix the irreparably cracked foundations of the kingdom of man, our Lord is commanding everyone to flee from this deteriorating world of sin and enter HIS KINGDOM through belief in the Gospel.

Do I dislike McLaren? No, actually I find him enjoyable and easy to listen to. He seems like he would be a fun guy to hang around with. Some of his criticisms of the modern church are accurate. As a person, there's nothing about him to dislike. He's charming . . . dangerously charming. But I do hate and despise the damnable deceptions he's enthusiastically broadcasting throughout the world in the name of my God. I pray that He may discover the true and living God of grace and truth in the Biblical Gospel.

One final statement: men like this need to stop marketing their books to Christians and start writing for the benefit of agnostics. Those guys have no problems with man-centered, relativistic religion. Genuine disciples of Jesus do, and they will not listen to any voice that contradicts that of their True Shepherd. He alone we will follow. When you realize that Someone died for your sins, you aren't so quick to relinquish your hold on the Gospel of grace. And once you've seen Jesus through the eyes of a forgiven and redeemed and thankful heart, utopia doesn't even warrant a glance.


  1. Whoa. This is too weird. I just did my own post on McLaren, then came to your site in my blog reader and found the uncanny overlap...even to the point of both of us saying we don't really want to focus on such things.

    I didn't plagiarize you. Really. That's the "absolute truth" truth!

  2. I have posted a link to your post.


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