Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, Question 5, Part 2

What is the gospel?

This section illustrates the confounding and purposeful ambiguity of liberalism, which uses many of the same terms we do but means something different by them.  I’m reminded of the liberal pastor’s advice to Peter Fromm in The Flight of Peter Fromm, that liberals must learn to become “loyal liars” who use Christian terms like “resurrection” even when they don’t believe that Jesus bodily arose from the dead.  In this way they keep their jobs, as their aging members have no idea that their pastor no longer believes the orthodox faith.

Brian uses so much Scripture in this section that it will convince many readers that his view is biblical, especially those who are unaware that Brian means something different by “sin,” “grace,” “faith,” and “all” than Paul meant when he wrote Romans.  This should be obvious from the top, for Brian directly says that the gospel is not “justification by grace through faith” and has nothing to do with Christ’s penal substitution (which he does not believe).

Instead, the gospel is simply that the kingdom of God has come.  This kingdom represents “a new way to life, a new way of peace that [carries] good news to all people of every religion,” for it “has room for many religious traditions within it.”  The kingdom essentially means reconciliation between us and God and between us and our neighbor.  Jesus came to call us to repent, “to adjust our way of life and join in the joyful, painful mission of reconciliation right now, ASAP!”

With this assumption Brian turns to Romans to see if his new understanding of the gospel can make sense of what Paul wrote there.  Brian begins by claiming that Romans is not “an exposition of the gospel” but instead merely intends to address a practical question which arose from the gospel:  how could Jews and Gentiles be reconciled?  This seems wrong by Brian’s own definitions:  if the Gospel = Kingdom = Reconciliation, then by the transitive property of the kingdom, Jew-Gentile reconciliation would belong to the heart of the gospel rather than merely an application of it.

Moving on, Brian gives a summary of Romans in which he agrees with Paul that “all are sinners” who need grace which comes by faith.  The sin which everyone seems to be guilty of is division, having an “us vs. them” mentality.  Salvation is reconciliation, which because it is universal must include those of other religions.  Brian says that “Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion to replace first Judaism and then all other religions” but to teach those of every religion how to co-exist in “nonjudgmental love.”  Brian thinks that this is the point of Romans 5:  being “in Adam” isn’t about why everyone sins but rather that “our diverse religious systems” find their “genesis” in Adam who unites us all.

Questions and Observations:

1. Brian says that he does not believe in a Fall, original sin, or total depravity.  This seems to imply that he has an overly optimistic view of humanity, but it might also mean that his anthropology is actually too dark.   It may even be both, with Brian oscillating between “people are good” and “people are irretrievably broken” without attempting to synthesize the two.

If Genesis 3 is “a classic coming-of-age story” of how childish humans learned to “lose their fearlessness in relation to God” and evolved into adults who unleashed greater amounts of evil with every cultural “stage of ascent,” then evil is a necessary part of the human condition.  And if humans have always been fallen (note that Brian does not believe there was an original Adam who lived in an unfallen world), then what hope is there for our recovery?  Why would we trust God to redeem us if he didn’t make us right in the first place?

I wrote my dissertation on H. Richard Niebuhr, who held a similar view.  One of my criticisms of Niebuhr is that he did not distinguish creation from fall but identified creation as our problem.  To be is to be fallen.  Since our problem is that we exist, redemption means to lose our individuality and be absorbed into the being of God.  Niebuhr was probably a panentheist, which is what Brian also seems to be when he denies the natural-supernatural dualism (see “Interlude” post).

2. Brian’s notion of sin seems to be primarily external or social—it amounts to judgmental violence committed against others.  While I agree that social sin is prevalent and serious, we need to emphasize that sin is first and foremost rebellion against God, which then leads to violence toward others.

3. How does Brian think salvation happens?  He dismisses penal substitution and justification by grace through faith, but doesn’t offer anything in their place.  All that’s left, although he doesn’t spell this out, is that we are saved by following the example of Jesus the liberator, who came to show us how to love our neighbor.  Brian needs to tell us if he thinks that there is more to salvation than this.  Otherwise we may assume that he holds a Pelagian, liberal view, which lacks sufficient grace to save anyone.

4. This section is scary, for it illustrates how close people may come to the gospel and still miss the point.  Brian argues that his view is biblical because of the many texts which teach us to be reconciled with our neighbor.  Loving our neighbor is a major focus of Scripture, so we should not be surprised that Brian is able to find many passages which support this claim.  But he omits Scripture’s more foundational teaching about regeneration through trusting Jesus’ substitutionary death and resurrection—the personal change which alone enables us to be reconciled with others.

5. This section illustrates how personal biases can drive exegesis.  Brian suggests that Rom. 1:26 does not speak to today’s homosexual practice because Paul could not have known about the complicating matter of sexual orientation (as if Paul never met an effeminate man); “all” throughout Romans implies soteriological universalism (if so then why does Paul say that people need to hear the gospel to be saved?—Rom. 10:13-15); and reconciliation with neighbor means that members of all religions can be saved regardless of what they believe.

To the point:  Brian’s understanding of sin is insufficiently developed, which leads to a corresponding weakness in his explanation of salvation.  He needs to clearly explain what sin is, why everyone has it, and how Jesus saves us from that sin.  He hasn’t done that yet, so I can only conclude that he does not yet understand the gospel.


Add yours →

  1. It seems you’re hermeneutic is quite dependent on your having identified the heart of Xty and Brian not having an adequate replacement.

    Reconciliation is crucial and essential-speak is not essential to the Gospel. We must use a meta-narratival approach of Creation-Fall-Redemption, but there are multiple ways to retell this story.

    Similarly, penal-substitutionary theological model of redemption is extra-biblical in certain respects and draws on aspects of the telling of Jesus’ death/resurrection, but not others. Perhaps, it’s best to simply state we don’t have a grand unifying theology of redemption at this point and our attempts to claim to have such in the past have tended to produce more heat than light.

    It sounds like Brian has perhaps stumbled in some respects on the way, but I believe he has the right to stumble and that calling him Christian in Name Only or Liberal doesn’t help. It tends to intensify the polemics involved with such labels apart from a concern for the life of the Church and how they affect our witness to the wo rld.


  2. Dlw, calling McLaren “Christian in Name Only” is being too gracious based on what he teaches. “God-hater” and “false teacher” would be more appropriate.

  3. Darius,
    And my view is that quite often the use of all of those labels tend to produce more heat than light. We’ll see such from the fruits of McLaren’s ministry. Hopefully, he’ll change his mind on some important respects, like the irony of him leaning too much on the hellenistic vs hebraic dichotomy.

    But let’s not foster a liberal vs conservative fight, those categories are not biblical and are way over-used in the US.


  4. Hello dlw,
    Based on the use of the term in this post series, I believe “liberal” in this sense isn’t referring to a political party, but the movement in biblical scholarship of the early 20th century. I found a wiki article on liberalsim

    I don’t blame you for thinking this though, as we Americans are conditioned to think things like “blue tie, donkey, Vermont!” when we hear “liberal.”

  5. dlw,

    Isn’t your appeal not to use labels somewhat ironic given Brian’s lengthy sub-title to A Generous Orthodoxy, not to mention his unconventional use of those labels in the book?

    Try having a theological discussion without labels. How long will it last?

  6. Walter Schroedter February 16, 2010 — 2:57 pm

    Thank-you Mike, for the great service you are rendering with this review of Brian McLaren’s latest book.

    God bless you!

    Walter Schroedter

  7. To use language is to use “labels”. It started with Adam naming the animals. To say some labels are not “helpful” begs the question of how do you define and who has the authority to define “helpful”. Sometimes “helpful” is not such a helpful label…

    I fail to see by what criteria and standard we are to accept dlw’s assesment of those labels as more valid or more true then anyone elses. There is a prior assumption, a culturel assumption, being made about what is “helpful” and what generates “heat”. As such, it is an assumption of cultural superiority…. “don’t use labels” becomes a self-contradictory statement.

  8. Challenging orthodoxy and ignoring the foundational tenets of the Christian faith is easy to do when one willfully ignores the reality of sin and our vicious rebellion against God. Perhaps Brian’s writing should not be understood as an attempt at “reshaping christianity” but rather an attempt at justifying the unrepentant heart.

    On another note, this is a wonderful review. Many thanks!

  9. “(note that Brian does not believe there was an original Adam who lived in an unfallen world)”
    Wow, Dr. Mike…you DO believe in a literal creation story and an actual fully-developed-human called Adam as the first ever human being and a woman called Eve being totally made out of his rib, and that the evolution stuff is fiction? That ‘splains a LOT!

  10. How proudly the mocker can strut about in this virtual reality. When the lights go out, what does the mocker believe and what is the source of his beliefs?

  11. Jeff,

    You say that as if it’s a criticism? Also, part A doesn’t necessarily flow to part B (i.e. evolution being fiction).

  12. “Wow, Dr. Mike…you DO believe in a literal creation story and an actual fully-developed-human called Adam as the first ever human being and a woman called Eve being totally made out of his rib, and that the evolution stuff is fiction?”

    You’d be surprised, a lot of people believe that. However, I don’t think you can get that from what Mike said. You infer too much. He merely stated that McLaren doesn’t believe in a literal man named Adam who lived in a perfect world before sin. How you tied evolutionary theory into that is beyond me. I thought we were talking doctrine and theology, but now it seems we’re discussing science. I can’t keep up with you, since you never pause to actually discuss the issues.

  13. Gee, Darius, it seems that MIKE had no problem inferring things into McLaren’s sentences without asking him directly!

    When would this literal, perfect time have been? Science never quite shows a “perfect” or “static” time…always seems to be a cycle of ever-emerging evolution, involving birth and death, birth and death. I actually DO believe science and religion intersect and Christians need to stop treating them as two incompatible entities.

    And I’m sorry you can’t keep up (don’t worry, this is getting FAR past a useful conversation for me and I will comment no more) but I felt it important for me to learn exactly what Mr. Wittmer’s beliefs were to understand why Brian’s concepts were so threatening.

  14. Dr. Wittmer, thank you for your continued blogposts. Looking forward to more.

  15. Ah, sweet charity.

  16. Jeff,

    Hearing you spout off like you have about Dr. Wittmer and all the things that you have read into about his beliefs (such as questioning whether he and Athanasius have similar tactics in dealing with heresy), I don’t think that you have accomplished what you set out for (to learn exactly what Mr. Wittmer’s beliefs were to understand why Brian’s concepts were so threatening). You have created your own dream-world narrative about those who would question and critique the rabbit-hole that McLaren is heading because they believe McLaren’s ideas as contrary to the scriptures/historic rule of faith. Its alot easier to build up straw-man attacks, especially with your overly simplistic understanding of how evangelical Christians interpret “literally.” If you want to embrace a more simplistic view to justify your reasons for not being like those fundys, go right ahead………But you may want to do some research about the theological beliefs of those who interpret literally because most do not fit in the narrow box that you have created for them. By the way, in your research, you may not want to begin with Brian McLaren because he overly simplifies, stereotypes, creates strawman and red herring arguments with the best of them, which is one of the things that irks me about his writings. I hope to read this book soon and I will do it with an open mind (I am also reading a blog from a former urban ministry student of mine who is quite favorable of McLaren’s New Kind of Christianity). But from the comments that both reviewers have made, it is evident that McLaren is still demonizing the other side, to make his arguments seem more plausible. I have a hard time with that……..

  17. Mike,

    Great post, and again thanks for looking deeply at these issues. In it becoming more and more rare for people to actually discuss the deep philosophical and theological issues with charity and precision—which you do well. Frankly, McLaren would be honored by your approach. Having met the man, he would welcome the conversation I believe. With that said, I am in agreement with your assessment.

  18. Hi Mike. Great review so far. As I saw today you interacted with Tim Challies review and found similar problems from both your readings. Tim’s trajectory comments are quite telling I think in that you could see this coming with BM, and Rob B and Doug P and so many of the rest. What has been stunning to me is to see this meltdown come in such an amazingly short time. In less then ten years they have gone for people who questioned the inauthentic mega church or legalistic fundamentalist church, which of course got a sympathetic read from many – to a almost full blown rejection of anything historically orthodox. Much like Al Mohler said of Bishop Spong years ago, what will you do when you have finished progressively denying cardinal Christian truths year after year? What will be left?
    The fun comments from the tone police are always special too aren’t they? Given how Brian castigates all who disagree from the evangelical churches it is amazing how some of the commentators sleep at night. Is irony totally lost on them?
    Finally – I think your comments on Niebuhr are spot on – and I blame his fascination with (along with Bultmann) on all things Heidegarian. Always a blessing to base your theology on stone cold nazis…

  19. Mike, Excellent series on McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” I especially appreciate how you detail, point-by-point, in a loving/logical/theological way specific areas of disagreement. A book of this nature requires thoughtful, sensitive, inviting “conversation.” I’m posting links to all of your posts on my website, along with Tim Challies more “generic” review on his site. I’m sure you’ll be attacked as unloving or “modernistic.” But anyone truly reading the spirit of your posts should be ashamed of such an inaccurate view of what you’re doing. Keep up the great work. Bob

  20. What is the gospel? That Christ saves us from the principalities and powers, a kabal of evil angels that impersonated God in the Old Testament among the Jews and made themselves gods among the heathen.

    The same principalities and powers that reside in heavenly places and our warfare is against (according to Ephesians 6:12) are found in Colossians 2:14-16 to have possessed a certificate of debt (or handwriting of ordinances that was against us) which Jesus nailed to the cross and in doing so freed us from these principalities and powers so that we are no longer able to be judged by the ceremonial law.

    “THEREFORE, let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths” Therefore because the principalities and powers have been spoiled and defeated by Christ and their title of ownership to us is destroyed, for “we are bought” by Christ “with a price.”

    That last statement, being bought at a price, comes from 1 Cor 7:23 not Colossians 2 but the thought must be connected to Colossians 2 for God clearly couldn’t buy us from his own self. The gospel pre-supposes a wicked power having some title of ownership to us, and this is exactly what Colossians 2:14-16’s “certificate of debt” in the hands of the principalities and powers is.

    The gospel is not about Jesus appeasing his own crazy bloodthirsty Father (as if the Father were sort of loon who belongs in a nut house). Rather it is about the Father and the Son together defeating the principalities and powers (evil angels who pose as God in pagan religions and in Judaism) by tricking them into crucifying Jesus, for had the “princes of this world known” that Jesus was God “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor 2:8) This is the gospel. God has in his wisdom set a cosmic trap for the principalities and powers and liberated us from their pseudo-divine rule and their carnal ceremonialism to serve himself in the Spirit.

  21. Rey,

    Thanks so much for the laugh.


  22. This is the Christus victor view of the cross which predates the loony eternal whipping boy to appease a schitzophrenic Father view by like, what, 300 years? You’re laughing at Paul and the early church, not me.

  23. rey,

    You are making a false dichotomy (perhaps Platonic?) between Christus Victor and penal substitution. Your premise of “either/or” blinds you to the reality of “both/and”. Christus Victor is not at odds with penal substitution, but provides the context of penal substitution. Your assertion of Christus Victor as being contra penal substitution is as much an imbalance as the tendency of some parts of evangelicalism to emphasize penal substitution to the neglect of or even contra to Christus Victor.

    When you presuppose that a God of justice is a “bloodthirsty deity”. You effectively, (intentionally or not), assert justice has nothing to do with the character and being of God. That presupposition comes from your own cultural bias and as such you assert a position of cultural superiority … Just who are you to assert your cultural perspective is better or superior to any one else’s? The adjective (label) for that is arrogance.

    It’s not a matter of us “laughing at Paul” or the early church fathers. It’s a matter of you picking and choosing from Paul and the church fathers what fits your cultural bias and presuppositions and choosing to ignore the rest… The concept of careful critical scholarship is evidently just as foreign to you as it is to Brian McLaren.

    Kyrie eleison…

  24. Its not a false dichotomy. If the Father was so adverse to us that he had to be appeased then there’s no way he could have sent Jesus to save us. For penal substitution to work then Jesus must have opposed the Father, not obey him.

  25. rey I’m not going to waste any more time answering your self-serving sophistry.. You assert a cultural superiority that is nauseating…. Grow up and learn how to do some real critical thinking..

  26. Rey is merely stating the views of a substantial number of Christians–namely the Eastern Orthodox (a view they’ve held for a *dreadfully* long time, I might add). Your Calvin missed the boat by a mile, as far as they’re concerned. 🙂

  27. It would be better to speak of Agnus Victor rather than Christus Victor, for in the texts that deal with Christ’s victory over Satan penal substitution always lies close at hand. Satan, our accuser, uses the power of the law to accuse. He is overcome by the one who has both fulfilled the law’s commands and born its sentence.


    Does God hate sinners as Psalm 5 asserts that he does? How then can he love them at all? Does Revelation 6 not speak of the men hiding under rocks from the wrath of the Lamb? Is he is not both the Lamb who takes away sin and the Lamb filled with wrath toward sinners? How can he be both? Can the Father not be the same also? Are these things not a *little* more nuanced than your description has suggested?

    Great thinkers have held to penal substitution, and that throughout Church history. But given the way that you have described it it would be hard to see why. Perhaps the problem is with your understanding and articulation of it. You make it sound like such a piece of nonsense that a Sunday school kid would be able to see right through it.


    There is no lack of evidence for the affirmation of penal substitution in the early Eastern and Western church fathers. It would be misleading to suggest that they denied it, or that the Reformers had no place for penal and polemic categories in their thinking about the atonement.

  28. As a professor once remarked, the atonement is like a diamond with numerous facets (Penal Substitution, Christus Victor, Christus Exemplar, etc). Each of them gives you a picture of the glorious whole. However, PSA is the “core” of the diamond, because without the penalty, what are we being saved from and what is Christ triumping over? Without Christ’s passive, and active, obedience in being our substitute, what are we to follow and model?

  29. “You assert a cultural superiority that is nauseating” (Bill)

    Then Jesus’ teaching that you should turn to the other cheek rather than go an eye for an eye is nauseating to you.

    But nowhere have I said that if God himself wants to it would be wrong for him to smite whoever he wants. (You only assume this because you are on the defensive and are too easily provoked.) I have only said that if God were to command people to do so, especially to wipe out an entire nation or people, then he would be debasing his own moral law. As James says, “he who said thou shalt not murder also said thou shalt not commit adultery. If you commit no murder but do commit adultery, you are a transgressor.” By the same token, the one who says thou shalt not murder makes himself a transgressor if he also says murder all the Canaanites. And the one who says thou shalt not commit adultery makes himself a transgressor if he also says kill all the Midianites except the young virgin girls, keep them for yourselves! (as in Numbers 31, a command that certainly indicates child-rape essentially, and even commands it of married Israelite men [as if commanding it to the single ones weren’t bad enough].)

    “Does God hate sinners as Psalm 5 asserts that he does? How then can he love them at all?” (Martin Downes)

    Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

    If God is unable to love sinners at all, then how is it that he was able to die for us while we were yet sinners?

    Rather, when the Psalmist says in Psalm 5:5 “thou hatest all workers of iniquity” we ought to understand a distinction between sinner and worker of iniquity. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) but not all actually work at doing so! Those who are hated are not hated for falling short, i.e. for being sinners, but for working at being sinners, for doing their best to sin, for being “workers of iniquity.” And even this hatred must manifest itself only as a last resort, for “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is not an a priori hatred.

    “Great thinkers have held to penal substitution, and that throughout Church history.” (Martin Downes)

    Who do you have in mind? Augustin and Calvin? I don’t consider either one to be great thinkers, but rather an devilish thinkers. You describe the actual case when you say “You make it sound like such a piece of nonsense that a Sunday school kid would be able to see right through it.” Sunday school children do see through it. They are generally greater thinkers than these dunces who were motivated not by great thinking but by debase lifestyles and brutish thought. Who cannot see that in order for penal atonement to be true, the Father cannot love the world nor send Christ to die for it? Rather Christ must take the initiative to oppose the bloodthirsty Father and die to placate him. Nobody sends his Son to die to placate himself. Nor can the death of one’s son placate one, certainly not a brutal murder, unless he is insane. But in that God the Father so loved the world that he sent his son to die for it, is it not manifest that he didn’t need to be placated? Rather he needed to save mankind from something other than himself and his own wrath, something external?

    “Is he is not both the Lamb who takes away sin and the Lamb filled with wrath toward sinners? How can he be both? Can the Father not be the same also? Are these things not a *little* more nuanced than your description has suggested?” (Martin Downes)

    This proves my point. If salvation were a matter of penal substitution, then there could be no wrath left. Calvinism perceiving this point takes the Satanic route of limiting Jesus’ death only to lottery winners. In the end, they make their appeased God all the more hateful towards mankind than he was before he was appeased! The external nature of man’s enemy is forgotten and God becomes God’s own enemy.

    The enemy that God had to defeat by the cross is made into himself, which is the same as to say that God is transformed into Satan. This is the legacy of penal substitution, a view which (as you say) is attested in the ‘church fathers’ and in the protestant reformers, yet I dare say a view with no Scriptural support.

    As to the non-existence of Scriptural support for the concept of penal atonement: There are the three passages in the KJV that use the Calvinistic and biased term ‘propitiation’ (which means appeasement), namely Rom 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10, but other translations render these as “sacrifice of atonement” (NRSV, NIV) or “atoning sacrifice” (NRSV, NIV). The concept of a ‘propitiation’ or ‘appeasement’ is therefore shown to be a phantom caused merely by purposeful mistranslation.

    That penal atonement doesn’t even work as a theological concept, or at least doesn’t work within the framework of Christian Scripture, is shown by the parable at the end of Matthew 18. Here rather than paying our sin debt to himself God is featured as frankly forgiving it, which gives him the option of unforgiving it if we refuse to forgive others. But in Calvinistic penal atonement manmade theory, Jesus payed our debt and it cannot be unpayed, so regardless how unforgiving we are we are still forgiven if we are one of the lottery winners. The very concept that Jesus payed our debt is denied by Jesus in this parable. Indeed if our debt were payed, then it would be ignorant to speak of forgiveness for you do not forgive what is actually payed. Rather, we see that Jesus’ sacrifice saves us not from God but from an external enemy, and that God forgives our sins frankly (he is not payed).

  30. Rey,

    Anyone who refers to Calvin and Augustine as dunces is not fit to participate in a theological discussion. I’m sure your vitriol would make even your theological forbear Faustus Socinus blush.

    Just to be clear, when you said:

    “Who cannot see that in order for penal atonement to be true, the Father cannot love the world nor send Christ to die for it? Rather Christ must take the initiative to oppose the bloodthirsty Father and die to placate him.”

    No one who holds to the doctrine of penal substitution believes what you have written in that second sentence. No one, period. How can you participate in a discussion on these matters when there is more mud slinging than meaning in your descriptions?

  31. No one who holds to penal atonement uses their brain, nor their heart. They are just book nerds who regurgitate whatever some creed says. They are too stupid to see that in order for their system to be true the Father would have to be opposed by Christ rather than obeyed. If the Father really was the enemy that had to be placated then he wouldn’t send Jesus to placate himself. The fact that they can’t see this shows their sub-moron level intelligence, and this applies more to Calvin and Augustine than any others.

  32. Your second paragraph made my think of the exchange that Bill Kinnon had with McLaren. Bill asked McLaren to be clear about who he thinks Jesus is, and specifically asked whether McLaren believed that Jesus is God.

    McLaren responded by saying:

    “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.”

    McLaren doesn’t answer using his own words. He uses other people’s words. But how does he interpret those words? I’ve had numerous people say to me “I believe the creed” but then turn around and say that when the creed says “The third day He arose again from the dead” that doesn’t mean Christ literally rose from the dead, it’s more of a metaphorical rising.

    My point is that we need to be wary when people quote scripture in response to a question about what they believe. Follow up and ask how what they think that scripture means.

  33. Brian thinks that this is the point of Romans 5: being “in Adam” isn’t about why everyone sins but rather that “our diverse religious systems” find their “genesis” in Adam who unites us all.

    In this McLaren is correct in that Adam was the first idolater and the father of all such diverse idolatrous religious systems that man has erected down through the years.

  34. Just caught on NPR the story of Brian McLaren’s new book, I am SO thankful you went over this in our bible study CBC and I am thankful that I recognize it for what it is!

  35. I am not against using labels, but labels are like urns, they tend to collect a lot of ashes and get reused in ways that aren’t kosher.

    If I’m right, “Brian thinks that this is the point of Romans 5: being “in Adam” isn’t about why everyone sins but rather that “our diverse religious systems” find their “genesis” in Adam who unites us all.”

    is derivative of Brian’s rejection of the Creation-Fall-Redemption Meta-Narrative, which is an unfortunate lapse that hopefully we shall love him out of…. but throwing his book (and symbolically him) into poorly labelled urns ain’t going to do that.

    Here’s a label I accept: I’m a Pietist. We tend to believe that the distinction between theological ecclesiastica and theologica scholastica is more important than liberal vs conservative. Brian’s on his journey and part of the problem is that he’s got a Luther-sized chip on his shoulder, thinking he can through his writing turn the tide among folks like he used to be, but that’s not the way we get transformed. We get transformed best by sharing our lives with each other and thereby letting that change us and how we communicate our stories/visions/dreams/interpretations of the Bible in light of the Meta-Narrative.


  36. Rey…thanks for standing against the wind. Your words are true. Thanks for taking the risk to state them. Bless you, brother.

  37. Unfortunately, Patti, Rey’s words are NOT true. He has engaged in blasphemy, declaring that unless God does not fit his own “moral” categories, then God is “fit for a looney bin.”

    According to McLaren, God really is a nice guy who judges no one, and just wants everyone to get along. He does not care if you call him Allah, or Vishnu, or whatever, because he thinks that all religions are the Way to God.

    Instead, God has spoken through the Scriptures, and this includes judgment. About the Canaanites, they engaged in child sacrifice, burning their children to death in the “arms” of the idol Moloch. This hardly is a “multicultural experience.” When God made his orders to Joshua, it was judgment, and we forget that God is not a Jolly Green Giant, but a God both of love AND of judgment.

    Rey has used this space to commit blasphemy and to use McLaren’s tactics of creating straw men and taking historical Christian doctrines and trying to reduce them to an absurdity. You and others are free to do that, but you are not free to do that AND to say you are followers of Christ.

    As one reviewer put it, Brian McLaren “loves” Jesus, but he “hates God.” Sorry, cannot have it both ways.

  38. Jesus wept.

  39. Whilst there’s stewing over semantic details of McLaren’s words, the rest of the world carries on and most benefit from his teaching. What a waste of time….

  40. McLaren’s view of salvation and “what happens when I die” is described in this paper he wrote (“Making Eschatology Personal”):

    He refers to it in his Notes on page 286, Point #30.

    Summary: God is the one who was and is and is to come. We cannot escape God. Therefore when we die, we will be with God (since we cannot escape Him). This is ALL of humanity, not depending on anything. There will be a judgement (“a true accounting”) which he explains in his book (that burns out all of the bad, leaving only the good).

    So McLaren’s view of salvation? Well, there is nothing to be saved from (no hell), so it is not applicable. And since there is nothing to be saved from, his view of the Cross? It’s not applicable. And you can keep going…

    Read the paper…

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