Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, Question 10

How can we translate our quest into action?

Brian closes his book by calling us to follow his lead and evolve to a higher community which consists of “Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and others” and “welcomes all people to mature and advance in the human quest.”  He warns that those of us who haven’t fully evolved “are likely to mock it or condemn it as something naïve, silly, or even evil,” but that’s just because we are defending the status quo from “innovators” like him (nice to see a “postmodern innovator” use my term to describe himself).

Brian laments the difficulty of educating us less evolved folks during his “Everything Must Change Tour.”  He explains:  “During the Q & R session, most questioners simply ignored the four crises I had talked about.  Instead, they focused on arguing fine points of theology with me—all within their conventional paradigms.  It was as if they said, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, a billion people live on less than a dollar a day.  But you’re decentralizing our preferred theory of atonement!’  Or ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re in danger of environmental collapse and religiously inspired catastrophic war, but you seem to be questioning our conventional ways of reading the Bible about homosexuality!’”

Brian continues:  “This frustrated me.  And frankly it angered and depressed me.  But gradually I realized that my conversation partners simply couldn’t address life-and-death issues like poverty, the planet, and peace from within the conventional paradigms they inherited.  Their inherited conventional paradigms—shaped as we have seen by the Greco-Roman narrative, founded on a constitutional reading of the Bible, and so on—rendered those life-and-death issues invisible, insubstantial, and unaddressable.”

It’s hard to believe that Brian is this arrogant and naïve.  The reason people asked him about theology is not because they lack the paradigm to address poverty, the planet, and peace—the greatest social work in history has sprung and is still being done by Christians with “conventional paradigms.”  The reason they asked is because they had, as it turns out, exceedingly legitimate questions about Brian’s orthodoxy.  I’m pretty sure that Franklin Graham isn’t asked about homosexuality or the atonement when he speaks about Samaritan’s Purse.  If Brian chooses to endorse the orthodox faith, he would likewise find an engaged evangelical audience.  The problem lies entirely with him, not us.

Brian concludes the book by saying that he hopes “to reinvigorate the dialogue by having many of us come out of our closets and admit we have been asking these and other important questions in secret.  We must stop being ashamed of our questions, and we must stop pretending to be content with unsatisfying answers.”

This admission raises questions about Brian’s integrity.  For years he has been assuring us that he is a Christian who sounds different because he is trying to reach this postmodern generation for Christ.  He told us that we could trust him.  He is simply being a missionary, saying things which might not play well in the sending church but which are necessary to win the hearts of his target audience.  Now he concedes that for some time he has known that he really did think differently from us but was afraid to say so.

How long has this been going on?  When did Brian begin to think and believe like the people he was trying to reach?  How long has he been holding out on us?  He owes an apology to those Christians who went to bat for him—the ones who took him at his word and told their colleagues that Brian was merely missional rather than heretical.  And while we’re on the subject of apologies, don’t more than a few people owe a big one to D.A. Carson?

I am not optimistic that A New Kind of Christianity is going to “reinvigorate the dialogue.”  If the comments on my series of blogposts are any indication, the book ended a conversation that had never really begun.  There seems to be little point in discussing this further, but perhaps both sides can agree on this:  we have irreconcilably different views on Scripture, God, Jesus, sin, and salvation, and as such it is impossible to unite in a common understanding of the gospel.  We are better off going our separate ways, convinced that the other is irremediably wrong and praying that God would bring the other to repentance and to his great salvation.  We may not agree on much of anything, but at least we know where we are.


Add yours →

  1. So you, Mike, who is claiming in your new book to be a “third way” between conservative and liberal theology, cannot find anything of value in the emergent, innovative (your word) ideas of Brian McLaren. So, just like our political national parties, who can’t seem to find anything positive to say about the other, this is where your “third way” ends it?

    I think this COULD have been a much more positive discussion had you shown SOME effort to find SOME value SOMEWHERE.

  2. “And while we’re on the subject of apologies, don’t more than a few people owe a big one to D.A. Carson?”

    I know I do.

  3. It’s true, Darryl does. 🙂

    I, on the other hand… probably do as well. I hate that.

    Mike, you have done a more than fine job of responding to Brian. I’ve learned much and want to thank you for that.

    And Jeff, chill out.

  4. Yeah Bill, I’m going to grab my yoga mat and Tibetan singing bowl and do some mediational/contemplative prayer! 🙂

  5. Dr. Wittmer,
    As someone who has greatly respected your work and character in the past, and as someone who has actually read Brian’s book, I am profoundly disappointed in how you have represented the book and particularly how you ended this post. There are lots of people singing your praises for it, but I, for one, am profoundly disappointed. From here on out, I’ll honor the request you made in your post and remove myself from a conversation that I am apparently not invited to. However, I will not honor your request to consider you something other than Christian because we disagree. Whether or not you consider me (or Brian, or anyone else) a follower of Jesus has no bearing on my decision.
    Grace and Peace,
    Adam Ellis

  6. Thanks for a GREAT analysis of the book, Mark! In my review of the book on Amazon, and on my blog, entitled “The Darth Vader Effect,” I came to the same conclusion in regard to the disappointment of those who were giving Brian the benefit of the doubt: “Reading this book is a lot like Luke Skywalker removing the mask of Darth Vader in ‘Return of the Jedi.’ Hard core left leaning liberals will resonate with the words “I am your father!” while hopeful middle-of-the-road evangelicals who have looked to him as a promising agent of measured change will most likely turn away in horror at what they see behind the mask.

  7. Thanks for a GREAT analysis of the book, Mark! In my review of the book on Amazon, and on my blog, entitled “The Darth Vader Effect,” I came to the same conclusion in regard to the disappointment of those who were giving Brian the benefit of the doubt: “Reading this book is a lot like Luke Skywalker removing the mask of Darth Vader in ‘Return of the Jedi.’ Hard core left leaning liberals will resonate with the words ‘I am your father!’ while hopeful middle-of-the-road evangelicals who have looked to him as a promising agent of measured change will most likely turn away in horror at what they see behind the mask.

  8. PS Mike – I just put my copy of your book “Heaven is a Place on Earth” in the trash. I know who I am.

  9. Dr. Mike

    Thanks for the great review of this book and also the deep thoughts. I am pretty amazed to see the quality of these posts day after day.

    I feel discouraged when people who don’t agree w/ one person’s thoughts they take their ball and go home instead of staying there to help the conversation.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

    And for those that posted and know more then I do thanks for sharing as well, I’ve learned from all of you

  10. Perhaps Brian could show us all of those Derridian soup kitchens and Foucoultian orphanages that I just know pomos have been busy doing…waiting, waiting.
    Oh yeah pomo thought equates to social justice. I know if I keep saying it must be true. Like all good Marxists, the pomo writers hate all things Christian. And fancy that so did the upper levels of the pomo food chain (Nietzsche and Heidegger) So surely somehow pomo thought is so much better than that nasty modernism they so often castigate. But wasn’t Marx part of that era?…….
    I will even grant the last point (since the earlier post said we should grant “something” – for the sake of the discussion let us argue that the haters of Christ who are postmodern are far superior in their understanding and compassion than the haters of Christ who were “modernistic” (Descartes – sort of Roman Catholic?!?, Hume – virtual if not actual atheist, and of course Kant – sort of protestant who almost never ever darkened chapel or church). Let us grant that point. However,
    all this proves is that the pomo and enlightenment crowds are not good places for the church to hang around. The best way to avoid the whole mess is to be wonderfully “pre-modern” and reject both the false Gods of both modernity and postmodernity. Its not so hard – most followers of Jesus have been doing just fine without the “blessings” of either.
    Thanks for your review.

  11. Adam,

    Speculations regarding the intentions of another necessarily end where evidence stops and internal subjective experience begins. Thus one might have a case to suggest that where Dr. Wittmer writes, “It’s hard to believe that Brian is this arrogant and naïve,” could benefit from the deletion of ‘is’ and addition of ‘means to present himself as’. If this example is indicative of that which produced your feelings of disappointment, I can perhaps sympathize, but to suggest that McLaren has been misrepresented here upon the merits of his content, then you and I must be reading a different book. Now I’ll grant that I don’t think it’s helpful to think of orthodoxy as a static circle where some people are ‘in’ and others ‘out’ as orthodoxy has always defined it’s frontier through heresy and just as heresies have evolved so must our understanding of orthodoxy. But what merit is there in continuing a conversation with someone with whom you can’t find any common ground? For the term orthodoxy to have any meaning, there must be a foundation which doesn’t change, and McLaren has made it pretty clear that he’s called in the bulldozer.


  12. Again, Calvinism has spawned McLaren. Their insane rage against God in turning God into Satan (the only thing penal atonement theory can do since it makes God God’s own enemy that God must defeat by the cross rather than Satan being the enemy that is defeated) has pushed guys like McLaren to the opposite extreme where they deny that God punishes sin at all. Even Marcion acknowledge a sort of punishment layed up for the sinner, namely that the Better God would leave the horrible sinners to the whim of the capricious lower god who would torment them. Your insane Satanism has pushed McLaren over the edge. The only solution is the abandonment of Satanism (Calvinism) and a return to Christianity, grounded in the Christus Victor view of the cross where God opposes and defeats Satan rather than the penal substitution view where God opposes and defeats his own self. After all, in a way, doesn’t penal atonement leade exactly to McLarenism rather than Calvinism? I.e. if God defeated himself on the cross, then God is a lame duck God. This shows the utter poverty of the penal atonement manmade theory.

  13. Calvinism doesn’t portray God as defeating Himself on the cross, it paints God as defeating Satan, sin and death on the cross. While we, sinners, are the just recipients of God’s just wrath, rather than allowing repentant sinners to receive their just deserts and hand the destructive victory of at least destroying mankind to Satan, sin and death, God wins decisively through absorbing the wrath for them in himself.

    Generally speaking, before you seek to prove someone’s theory as being in utter poverty, you should first understand the theory you’re seeking to disprove.

  14. “Calvinism doesn’t portray God as defeating Himself on the cross,”

    It presents the image that the Father wants to broil us all alive, that he foams at the mouth with rage, so Jesus appeases him by dying on the cross. Who doesn’t know this?

  15. rey, Even if that formulation were true (it isn’t; it’s so overly simplistic as to be caricature), that doesn’t lead to God “defeating Himself on the cross”. Your premise does not lead to your conclusion.

    Don’t calvinists assert that Jesus was being obedient to the Father in dying on the cross to absorb the just wrath of God? I think that’s a pretty important wrinkle in your understanding of calvinists.

  16. “Don’t calvinists assert that Jesus was being obedient to the Father in dying on the cross to absorb the just wrath of God?”

    Only because their system is full of nonsensical contradictions. The Father is blinded by rage yet has the presence of mind to send Jesus to appease himself? Anyone truly angry would not make provisions for their own appeasement. The whole concept of penal atonement falls apart with the slightest logical challenge because it is a doctrine of men (and really stupid men at that).

  17. Sorry, I had assumed you were up for rational discussion (something excluded by resorting to fallacies like ad hominiums like “stupid men”). My mistake.

    In any case, there is no logical contradiction (a point at which two premises cannot simultaneously be true) in stating that God both has wrath and simultaneously loves those who are objects of wrath to a point that would move Him to provide a method of “appeasement”. There may be a practical contradiction in that “anyone truly angry would not make provisions for their own appeasement”. Though I’d wonder how you could make that claim about God, since neither you, nor any of the people you experience as really truly angry are God.

    Indeed, I know some people who have been really truly angry and desired to be appeased without venting their wrath and anger on the objects of their wrath. My parents, just after I plowed over the hedge with the family car, come to mind. The pulsating vein in my father’s forehead seemed to speak of anger, and his actions in fixing the damage for me when I repented seemed to speak of appeasement. Of course, I don’t know my dad’s heart.

    It could only be logically contradictory if the concept of anger itself included the unwillingness and lack of desire to be appeased, which it does not.

    And Penal substitutionary atonement is not a distinctive of “calvinists”, it’s a Christian doctrine from well before Calvin’s time. I think the calvinists also think it to be biblical.

  18. Just so you are aware “Rey”, penal substitution is not a strictly calvinistic doctrine – have to thoroughly agree with Stephen on this one. Rey, perhaps you should focus less on the “powers and dominions” and recognize how sinful WE are before a Holy God. Perhaps the problem is that you see the evil as “out there” rather than in your own heart, which consequently affords you the opportunity to bash God and His just wrath and condemnation of sin. Only a few questions…what does repentence look like? What did you actually repent of? Are we sinful because we have low views of self and suffer from self-deprecation or perhaps because we are enemies of God and rebel against His righteousness? If Christ ONLY defeats the “powers and principalities” then what of the wrath and condemnation that remains over your head? But, it seems that many no longer have a taste for orthodoxy but are content to jettison the orthodox tradition which, mind you, is teaming with Spirit filled believers. In the end, McLaren only reveals his ignorance and arrogance by cruedly attacking the faith – to jettison orthodoxy, as McLaren has, is the supreme act of self-indulgence. He is a wolf in sheeps clothing whose only desire is to devour the children of God.

  19. “It presents the image that the Father wants to broil us all alive, that he foams at the mouth with rage, so Jesus appeases him by dying on the cross. Who doesn’t know this?”

    No, the Bible presents that image (well, not quite that image, but close enough).

    I am reminded that the wisdom of God is foolishness to those who are perishing.

  20. Jeff Straka,

    In a comment dated Feb 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm, you stated concerning Mike Whittmer that you “would not consider ever reading anything of his again”. You must have some irresistible draw to Dr. Whittmer’s writing for you to so quickly abandon your strongly stated intention.

  21. “Generally speaking, before you seek to prove someone’s theory as being in utter poverty, you should first understand the theory you’re seeking to disprove.”

    Amen. Something McLaren and Rey apparently need to take to heart.

  22. Eric, we’re already established that Jeff is a hypocrite who doesn’t actually live by the standards he spouts.

  23. Eric – it’s like a traffic accident – I couldn’t help but look. But I only looked at enough of the free book browser feature in Zondervan to understand why Mike was trashing McLaren the way he was.

    Yeah, Darius, and according to you, I am a heretic and a nonchristian. Do you feel better now that you tacked another label on?

  24. Nope, I don’t feel better. I wish it weren’t so. But if the shoe fits…

    You claim that Mike is wrong for publicly condemning Brian’s book, yet you publicly condemn Mike. Hmmm

    You say that you won’t read Mike again, then you read his blog again. Hmmm

    Anything sound hypocritical to you?

    That said, we’re all hypocrites from time to time (that’s the nature of being human); hopefully, though, we “man up” and admit it.

  25. Jeff,

    Is Biblical and strong disagreement inherently “trashing”? And is Dr. Wittmer critiquing McLaren or the ideas that McLaren seeks to profit from? Does your plea essentially boil down to “can’t we just talk”? If conversation and interaction with ideas is the goal, isn’t that exactly what Dr. Wittmer is doing? Or is the only acceptable conversation a conversation that affirms the ideas of the other party, no matter what they say?

  26. Mike is wrong (in my opinion) in his pretense of being a “third way” or a bridge between conservative and liberal theology to have not AT LEAST found some of the QUESTIONS McLaren was raising to be legitimate. One would expect a self-proclaimed “middle-of-the-road” theologian to have found SOME areas of even PARTIAL agreement with some of the ideas of McLaren. I would NOT expect a conservative theologian, like MacArthur or Driscoll or Mohler or Carson to find any value, but they don’t ever pretend to be anything BUT conservative.

    Interesting that while McLaren has clarified his theology a little more in his new book, Mike has exposed HIS true theology through his review, and it AIN’T middle of the road. It is all the way to the CONSERVATIVE side. Which is fine – that is certainly his right. But then his latest book is really not being forthright about his TRUE theology, is it? Perhaps even a bit “hypocritical”?

  27. I, for one, am very happy the McLaren wrote this book. He, and others, have been reluctant over the years to tell us what they truly believe. Now we know and it is no surprise to those of us who have been paying attention. Perhaps many of the others who seem to be in the same camp as McLaren will now feel a need to come out of the closet as well. Maybe D.A. Carson could write a book called “I Told You So!”.

  28. After reading Mike’s review in its entirety, there is one point that I agree with the McLaren defenders……that at times Mike loses some objectivity when describing McLaren’s view. That being said, its really difficult to maintain total objectivity when McLaren has caricatured evangelical theology and practice with so many half-truths, twistings of history, strawman arguments, and red-herrings in order to make his New Kind of Christianity the preferred alternative to what is wrong with Christianity.

    I used to argue that McLaren was alot like evangelical liberal Walter Rauschenbusch, but 100 years later. Unfortunately, I was wrong to give McLaren that much credit. Even though their views about the Kingdom and Atonement were quite similar, Rauschenbusch didn’t have to resort to such low-brow tactics like McLaren to make his point. As a scholar in Christian History, Rauschenbusch at least respected theology and the history of the church (except for aspects of Roman Catholicism and Premillennialism) that he attempted to make reasoned arguments for his beliefs of the social gospel both in “Christianity and Social Crisis and A Theology for the Social Gospel, without the McLaren-type demonizing which is why these books have stood the test of time. Even though I disagree with much of Rauschenbusch’s theology, I respect him and his work. I no longer can say the same about McLaren.

    It will be interesting to know what kind of impact McLaren’s New Kind of Christianity will have. I am guessing that it depends on how proficient the reader is in recognizing straw-men, red-herrings and stereotypes.

    By the way Rey, let me congratulate you for figuring out how to make bigger strawman arguments on the penal substitutionary atonement theory than even McLaren makes in creating his New Kind of Christianity.

  29. I agree with you, Tim. This finally gives the tares a chance to be separated from the wheat. McLaren is really just believing what most mainline churches have believed for decades, he just took a different route. This will allow the weeds to be pulled out of many churches and perhaps make some other people realize that they were headed down a road of false teaching and weak faith and repent. Either way, it’s a good and healthy thing when the Church is cleansed.

  30. Jeff,

    Mike has never pretended to be the “third way” that you say that he is (although in his book don’t stop believing he does give many extreme fundamentalists examples that the post-modern innovator may be reacting towards). I believe Zondervan created the third-way persona for his book “Don’t stop believing” for marketing purposes, which ultimately Mike doesn’t have the ultimate say about. Third way thinking is sexy and sells in evangelical circles. So again Jeff, please stop judging the motives of Dr. Wittmer. Its alot easier to try to disparage a person’s character rather than to directly deal with their arguments.

  31. Amen, Darius! Let’s yank out the weeds, because Jesus said it’s our job to…oh, crap…wait…

    Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

    “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

    ” ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
    “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

    ” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ “

  32. Joel, I see…so Mike didn’t have the guts to take it to another publishing house that WOULDN’T distort his message for the sake of “sexy sales”.

  33. Jeff, I figured you would come back with that proof-text. That verse isn’t about what you apparently think it is. Also, do you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 18 about dealing with an unrepentant brother?

    Separating the wheat from the weeds is ultimately done for the good of both parties. The wheat won’t be perverted by sin and bad teaching and lose their way, while the weeds will not have that sin and/or false teaching confirmed in their mind as true. The weeds won’t be given the luxury of thinking that the Body of Christ approves of their views or behavior. They’ll have to make a choice. Separating out the weeds from the flock (to mix metaphors) is ultimately done in the hope that they repent and come back into the Body. It shouldn’t be done out of spite or a desire to be right.

  34. And actually, if you check out the browser at
    on page 16, you will find “third way” to be Mike’s term.

  35. Oh what wonderful wisdom thou spouteth, Darius. Thank you for setteth-ing me on the straight path for I hath surely fallen off-eth!;)

  36. (sorry for the over-snark)

  37. Darius – if those in emergent are now classified as nonchristian by you all, we are no longer brothers, so that WOULD put is back into my quoted passage. 🙂

  38. Jeff, on page 16 he doesn’t claim himself as a third-way thinker, he points out that people either lean towards the liberal (reason) or conservative (revelation). All he does is point that we long for a third way……….If you read page 17, he claims himself as a Theological conservative……….

  39. What is terribly ironic here, Jeff, is that your man McLaren doesn’t believe there are any weeds that are going to burn (though I suspect he does think that orthodox Christians will burn).

  40. Joel, yes, but the main point of the book is finding a “third way” between the conservative position of BELIEF (saying the sinners prayer) and the “innovative” position of ETHICS (being a good person). And from my experience with most emergent folks it AIN’T just about being a good person, so his characterization is misleading (if not totally false) from the start!

  41. Darius – your statement simply shows that you have not actually read (or understood?) McLaren’s books.

  42. I’ve read Generous Orthodoxy, which wasn’t generous or orthodox at all (though by comparison to this book, it was considerably charitable).

    What I meant was that McLaren doesn’t believe any weeds are going to burn in the way God meant it when Jesus said that the weeds would be burned while the wheat would be gathered into the barn. McLaren thinks everyone’s going to “burn” but yet still be ultimately “put in God’s barn.”

  43. Joel, here’s Mike’s own book description (partial) from the tab on this blog:
    Each chapter begins with a fundamentalist extreme, cites a postmodern over-reaction, and closes with a THIRD WAY which RETAINS the BEST INSIGHTS OF EACH (emphasis mine).

    From Mike’s review of McLaren’s book, I don’t find anything he is even remotely trying to retain from it as an insight.

  44. Darius – your critique of G.O. shows that we all read books (and the Bible) through our own environmental lens. I am guilty of the same thing – I don’t see any way around it.

  45. Jeff:

    Thank you for coming by, but I don’t think that this conversation is going anywhere productive, and is quite possibly tempting a few people into sin. Anyone who wants to continue this conversation with you can do so on your blog, but I do not wish to host it here. Thank you for understanding.

  46. Everyone knows McLaren recently wrote this on his blog right?

    “…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.”

    a) he’s lying
    b) he’s contradicting himself
    c) he’s telling the truth and does believe the Creeds – which as we see at the top of this page matters – and just might be a Christian! (gasp!)

  47. rsjm:

    Please be respectful in your dialogue. I hope that Brian does believe that Jesus is ontologically God, but so far I haven’t heard him say it. Liberals also say that they affirm the creeds, but they mean something different by it. Notice that in your quote Brian doesn’t directly answer the question whether Jesus is God. I welcome your respectful response.

  48. Guys,

    Jeff Straka is a troll—which he has consistently proven himself to be throughout this entire series. Everything he has said in his numerous comments have been personal attacks, belittling insults, mockery, bizarre anaylsis,and repeated jabs (not to mention continue appeal to heretical documents and an utter disdain for orthodox Christian faith).

    Following general “blogging protocol”, I suggest we stop feeding the troll (true, earlier I admit throwing a few loaves of bread his way….but he seemed cute and cuddly at the time. Those silly trolls!).

  49. Josh,

    I know he’s a troll, but I was just trying to be the biggest Billy Goat Gruff.

    I have to agree with you, they do seem kinda cute sometimes.

  50. I do apologize for being such being such a jerk in some of the comments and not thinking before hitting “reply”. My passion got away from me.

  51. Jeff:

    I forgive you. And thank you for your humility in apologizing–I hope that we all can be respectful of everyone else, even though this is a blog and we don’t actually know each other.

  52. Who are these grevous wolves that will not spare the flock? Will they literally chew people, or will they act like shepherds and lead people away from Jesus and His redemption? And will these wolves come in and remain doctrinally sedentary, or will they continue on a deeper path of theological entropy? And will their influence encroach into orthodox evangelicalism because some of the ones who confront the heresy act like self righteous “jerks”, or the current “conversation genre” provides a convenient cover?

    And will those of us who would never entertain such doctrinal heresy and unbiblical soteriology…will we realize that we represent part of the problem when such movements and teachings can spring up and appeal to the evangelical proletariat?

    Along with our outrage at such rank heresy, let us all gaze deeply into the mirror and address the compromise of the orthodox wing of evangelicalism. Our compromise doesn’t center on redemptive truth and the exclusiveness of Jesus, our compromise centers on a hedonistic western lifestyle and self centered orthopraxy that has been leveraged by heretics in order to usher in doctrinal death.

    Revival in our own ranks is the only answer.

  53. Wow, many of you sound well-schooled in your theological ideologies. It would seem that you’ve missed the forest for the trees, for there is much more time and attention given to the “one another” commands than to defining theological concepts. The tone of both the author and his “followers” seems to be lacking in grace and humility.


  54. Dr. Mike, no dis-respect intended. I apologize if I came off that way.

    I assume (which is always dangerous, of course) from your answer, that the creeds do not answer the question of whether or not Jesus is God, enough?



  55. “It presents the image that the Father wants to broil us all alive, that he foams at the mouth with rage, so Jesus appeases him by dying on the cross. Who doesn’t know this?”

    No, the Bible presents that image (well, not quite that image, but close enough).

    Prove it. Where does the Bible present this image? This is only the image of Calvinists (and yes of Calvinists too scared to reveal that that’s what they are, which is what everyone else who believes in penal substitution is).

  56. “for there is much more time and attention given to the “one another” commands than to defining theological concepts.”

    Without being tethered to those redemptive “theological concepts” we are left with moral, ethical, and humanistic concepts, all good in and of themselves, but without the cross of Christ. And without the Cornerstone the house cannot last in the true test – death.

    Those who give eternal assurance to followers of Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, or anyone but Jesus are false prophets of the worst kind.

  57. A penal substitution would require the evil Satanic Calvinist doctrine that Jesus only died for lottery winners because everyone he died for is instantly saved. For this reason, if you aren’t a Calvinist and you are describing your beliefs as penal substitution, you are using the wrong term, or you are inconsistently arguing in favor of a Calvinist concept because the Calvinists have tricked you even more than God tricked the powers.

  58. The blood of the Passover Lamb was what caused the death angel to pass over that house. Jesus is the Lamb of God, pictured afore in Exodus and as Abraham’s son, and He willingly lay down His life for the entire world. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

    The semantics of whether God gave His Son (Jn.3:16) on the cross or whether God personally took part in the crucifixion is doctrinal semantics. People like McClaren are eviscerating the redemptive essence from the cross and reject the more unpleasant aspects of Scripture.

    God required the killing of animals and their blood in the Old Testament. When Jesus was identified as the Lamb of God every Jew knew the implications, but those implications seemed so radical and so unreasonable that even Peter could not connect the dots. Jesus kept foretelling the coming narrative of the passion, but like some today, most reject the obvious when they cannot cast down their imaginations and bring their thoughts into the odedience of Christ.

    The end result is a reasoned, lucid, well thought out gospel that appeals to the fallen nature but openly rejects the exclusivity of the blood of Christ as the only way to eternal life.

  59. Rey, I’d be interested in knowing what you mean by a “calvinist”, since it seems unlikely we’re using the same definitions.

    As to where the Bible shows that God is frothing at the mouth with anger (or as I’d say it, has a set, active, and clear anger against the injustice of men that will find full and just expression in the day of the Lord):

    Nahum 1:2;

    “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies.”

    The objects of that anger also seems pretty clear (emphasis mine):

    Romans 5:8-10

    “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were *still sinners*, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from *God’s wrath* through him! For if, when we were *God’s enemies*, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

    Seems pretty clear to me, but to review, God clearly and biblically has wrath for His enemies, and that would include sinners (as we see in Romans 5). It is also clear in that text that what Jesus saves us from is partially that wrath.

    I also doubt that Paul was a “calvinist”, save that maybe calvin was Pauline.

    Finally, I think you refer to what you call the “evil satanic doctrine” of limited atonement, but I can’t see how that would follow from saying that Jesus saves sinners from God’s just wrath against sin. Not even Calvin said that was the only work of Christ on the cross, and many Arminians (that specifically deny Limited Atonement) also agree with penal substitutionary atonement. Even those that disagree would say that there is a mediation happening at the cross between God’s wrath at sin and his love for sinners.

  60. I believe in the penal substitionary teaching. I am an Arminian who rejects all five Calvinist points.

  61. rey,

    You know that doesn’t make sense right? Read a bit more bro before making such vitriolic pronouncements about the atonement.

  62. Well said Rick. None of us have the right to define love (or courses of action that are loving) apart from what God reveals in His word. Don’t lament the tone of the author and the discussion or allude to the ‘fact’ that it’s more important to love the other rather than contend for specific matters of doctrine unless you’re going to state from whence you dervie your authority to define love / that which is loving. Love does no evil to a neighbour; it is completion of the Torah (Romans 13:10). Thus the project here is to call McLaren and all those who have turned away from the scriptures to repentance and the forgivness of sins through faith in Jesus and to speak out against their teaching (Titus 1) which is contrary to the scriptures in the hopes that they, or anyone else, might turn and be saved. What could be more loving than that?

  63. God’s love is unlike human love, and in fact, His love, when seen most clearly at the cross, seems horrific.

  64. “How can we translate our quest into action?”

    Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

    The emphasis within the Church appears to be one of “harmless”, while the damning teachings of McLaren, Pagitt, Jones, Rollins, Bell… et al increase its following. Locally, I have seen many Christians bend over backwards to accomodate for Bell’s pot shots at the Word of God, hell, the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ…

    Has the “seeker sensitive”/Willow Creek model of the 90s really been all that healthy for the Church? Is it possible that senior saints may have lived through similar times and have valid counsel? With the majority of “evangelical” Churches appearing to be cut out of the same mold today, and in a quest to toss off all that is old – is it possible to throw out the Baby with the bath water?

  65. “God’s love is unlike human love, and in fact, His love, when seen most clearly at the cross, seems horrific.” (Rick Frueh)

    Because you’ve got it all messed up by using the wrong metaphor (penal atonement) to describe it.

  66. rey:

    No, I am content with the Nicene Creed’s term “homoousia.” My point is that a liberal can say that they believe the creeds and still not mean that Jesus is God in an ontological way that is completely different from how we bear the image of God. I hope that Brian believes that Jesus is God in this sense, but I haven’t heard him say it and given what he wrote in “A New Kind of Christianity,” I don’t believe my doubts are unreasonable.

  67. “My point is that a liberal can say that they believe the creeds and still not mean that Jesus is God in an ontological way that is completely different from how we bear the image of God.”

    Case in point: Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and a litany of other cults. It is curious that one can claim belief in the Nicene Creed and teach otherwise.


  68. It appears there are are some who want to put Dr. Wittmer at the extreme with “fighting fundamentalists” because in thier view he never really was seeking a “third way”. He is not a “fightring fundamentalist”. What he does do is uphold and defend historic Christian orthodoxy. There is a very big difference between that and ‘fighting fundamentalism”. The call in DSB was to hold on to both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Nothing Mike as said in this review of McLaren has changed or detracted from that emphasis.

    My take away from Dr. Wittmer’s assesment of McLaren’s book is that in it McLaren has demonstrated he is not open to or willing to even consider a “third view”. Frankly, the responses of some of McLaren’s friends and defenders in their comments in response to Mike’s assesment have lent credibility to the truth of that assesment. I am not surprised when my 3 year old grandson has a temper tantrum because he dosen’t get his way. I am a little suprised to see that reaction in those who are supposedly responsible adults.

    Kyrie eleison….

  69. rey:No, I am content with the Nicene Creed’s term “homoousia.” (mikewittmer)

    Huh? What does homoousia have to do with penal atonement? Somehow I don’t remember any discussion of the Trinity of the deity of Christ having taken place here….other than that the manmade penal atonement theory creates a rift in the Trinity by pitting Father and Son against one another.

  70. Or at least I didn’t say anything about the Trinity other than that manmade penal atonement theory creates a rift in the Trinity by pitting Father and Son against one another. Perhaps you were responding to someone else and had them confused with me.

  71. Mike, Jeremy Bouma has started a “conversation” on McLaren’s book over on his blog –

    Below is a statement he made:

    “I would even suggest that unless Jews serve Yahshua Mashiach (Jesus Christ) as Lord and Messiah they aren’t really worshiping the same God, because the Holy Scriptures equate Jesus Christ with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

    Now he modified it a bit when I called him out on it, but the context remains: the God of the Jews is a false God. This is news to me since Jesus was a Jew and didn’t seem to worship himself, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    What’s your opinion?

  72. Michael Meyers July 7, 2010 — 7:31 pm

    Thank you for your great work concerning this book. It’s obvious that you have rightly divided the Word of Truth, and that you have been very fair. The Lord bless you for your standing up for the truth. Warm Christian Greetings, Michael

  73. Having read McLaren’s book recently (duty rather than pleasure) I just wanted to say I concur fully with your measured and accurate review. Thank you for your work here. Unfortunately, despite McLaren’s star seeming to be on the wane, some still promote him and others are only too ready to embrace his errors.

    Apart from his pernicious agenda theologically (and it is pernicious) I find his caricatures of historical evnagelical, even ‘big tradition’ beliefs (which he once advocated) invidious. There is a nasty resentment at work here. B McLaren is no ‘Mr Nice Guy’ despite his protestations.

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