Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A New Kind of Christian: My Assessment

Last night I finished reading A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren (early thoughts here). It is a cleverly written book that makes its theology easy to absorb. McLaren's narrative form is entertaining -- a conversation between two friends. Unfortunately, the book is also riddled with theological errors from cover to cover.

A sound book of Christian doctrine will make frequent references to the source of legitimate doctrine -- the Bible. Unfortunately, McLaren only cites two Bible verses in the entire text. I cannot be too hard on him for doing so, however, as the Bible flatly contradicts his theology, and thus Scriptural citation might prove to be counterproductive.

There were times, when reading the book, that I wondered if McLaren had even read the Bible, such was the stunning display of either Biblical illiteracy or a decision to simply ignore the plain text of Scripture. For example, at one point, the illuminated teacher Neo attempts to instruct his student Dan on an appropriate model for faith. Neo selects a spiderweb:

I wasn't satisfied. "But I think you're stretching things, Neo. I mean, why just pick a spiderweb as your model for faith? That seems kind of arbitrary, doesn't it?"

"No more arbitrary than a building with a foundation, really. [Ch. 7, p.54-55]

Huh? The house foundation metaphor is directly out of Scripture! It's not arbitrary at all.

Later, Neo notes that basic evangelical theology is a modern invention, and not derived from the Bible:

He paused, and I saw it coming: "For example, how would you define the gospel?" I said something about justification by grace through faith, not works, based on the finished work of Christ on the cross, and he said, "Yes, that's exactly what the modern Christian would say." I protested, and he said, "Does it bother you that Jesus never defined the gospel in this way? [Ch. 12, p.105]

Has McLaren even read the Bible? What he's looking for is in Romans 3! Anyway, these are merely a few especially obvious examples of McLaren's disregard for the Bible, which he devotes considerable verbiage to undermining in A New Kind of Christian. Chapter six is a systematic attack on the utility of the Bible. No single quotation stands out, but the whole eight-page section conveys one idea to the reader: the Bible is not authoritative for your life.

But while McLaren marginalizes the Bible, he elevates the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian development:

You see, I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe that Jesus meant it when he said the Spirit of God would be with us, guiding us, to the very end. So I believe that he will guide us through these winds and currents of change, no matter what storms come. [Ch.5 p.42]

Now I'm a big fan of the Holy Spirit, and in and of themselves, McLaren's words are not disturbing. But he writes them within the context of a book which says that (a) the world is in the midst of a philosophical revolution and (b) the Bible is a guide of questionable reliability. A reader could easily be influenced to conclude that listening to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit during these turbulent times is more important that the written guide of Scripture.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it is dangerously easy to confuse the voice of the Holy Spirit from the voice of oneself. Various preachers that I have heard over the years had taught that one way to discern the difference is that the instructions of the Holy Spirit will not override or overrule the text of the Bible. But McLaren removes this safeguard:

Neo kept talking: "So the authoritative text is never what I say about the text or even what I understand the text to say but rather what God means the text to say, right? So the real authority does not reside in the text itself, in the ink on the paper, which is always open to misinterpretation -- sometimes, history tells us, horrific, dangerous misinterpretation...In other words, the authority is not in what I say the text says but in what God says the text says." [Ch.6 p.50]

McLaren is technically correct -- Scripture has been misused. But why does he stress this point over and over again in his book, if not to de-emphasize its usefulness? Isn't he at all concerned that followers might not be able to discern their will and that of the Holy Spirit? If so, he is silent on the topic, and has committed the spiritual equivalent of giving a toddler a loaded gun.

Some of McLaren's writings, if not heresy, are simply bizarre expressions of Christian ideals. For example, he has a near-Unitarian respect for the authenticity of other religions:

In the long run, I'd have to say that the world is better off for having these [other] religions than having no religion at all, or just one, even ours. [Ch.8 p.63]

If this isn't an endorsement of the authenticity of other religions, I don't know what is. If McLaren truly believes that other religions such as Islam and Buddhism are false, then he would prefer that only the true religion exist so that no one would be led astray. Of course, the exclusive truth of the Christian faith is beyond him because a keystone of McLaren's thinking (which leads to his unbiblical conclusions) is that there is no truth:

He responded, "No, it's just that the old notions of truth and knowledge are being, hmm, I was going to say 'deconstructed,' but we don't need to get into all that vocabulary. The old notions are being questioned. New understandings of truth and knowledge that might improve on them haven't been fully developed yet. So Dan, I'm not in any way saying truth isn't important. But I am saying that truth means more than factual accuracy. It means being in sync with God. [ch.8 p.61]

Emphasis added. Reality changes based upon the will of man. There is no objective truth outside and independent of the believer. I realize that it is an established, core tenet of postmodernism, but that still doesn't make it true (there I go again!) or rational. Besides, there's a Biblical basis for dismissing the claim.

This approach to truth (or as I call it, 'wishful thinking') forms the impetus for McLaren's promotion of postmodern Christianity. He asserts that the world is changing rapidly, and that the modern view of the world is slipping away. McLaren urges Christian churches to adopt to the new movement or die:

The smartest modern churches see this and are building in flexibility so that they can "convert" to postmodern effectiveness in the future -- perhaps like a foresighted buggy manufacturer who realizes that he's not just in the buggy business but the transportation business. [Ch.5 p.43]

Remember, we're in the 'religion business' not the 'truth business'. Let's sell products! This same reasoning could be used to justify any number of falsehoods in a church. A 9th century BC Israelite might urge the High Priest "Start worshiping Baals in addition to the Lord! That's what everybody wants!" It is true that many young people are postmodern, just as many ancient Israelites were idolaters. That doesn't mean that following that trend is wise. Or a more modern pastor could say "Everyone wants pre-marital sex and adultery! Perhaps the Holy Spirit thinks that it's okay now!" Why stop there? If your friends told you to jump of a theological cliff, would you? McLaren's answer is yes, because popularity = truth.

The fact that an idea is new does not make it true, but McLaren ignores this logic since he believes precisely that. Hence his unwillingness to use the Bible to support his claims: because his ideas are new, they are unsupported by the timeless Word of God. McLaren is attempting to reinvent God, but being only a man, he has failed.

UPDATE: Raynorlanche! Welcome Wesley Blog readers. Drop by every Monday afternoon for a summary of what's going on in the Methodist blogosphere!

22 comments:

graham old said...

Your last paragraph strikes me as a little strange and simply rude.

Have you missed the fact that this book isn't a reader in McLaren's theology? Neo is not a real person and McLaren (or Neo!) does not believe that popularity = truth.

John said...

Your last paragraph strikes me as a little strange and simply rude.

How do you reach that conclusion?

Have you missed the fact that this book isn't a reader in McLaren's theology? Neo is not a real person and McLaren (or Neo!) does not believe that popularity = truth.

Then why does McLaren emphasize the church bending doctrine to social whims?

opinionated said...

John, your statement that it is very easy to confuse the voice of the Holy Spirit with the voice of our own desires is so very true. In Impressions, Martin Well Knapp gave four tests for distinguishing the guidance of the Holy Spirit: (1) it will agree with Scripture, taken as a Whole, (2) it will be in agreement with our sanctified common sense, i.e. reasonable, (3) we should seek the counsel of mature Christians whom we trust, and (4) providence: the "way will open" for us to follow the guidance. Wells said all four of these have to be in agreement for us to be sure it is the Holy Spirit that is speaking to us. I have found his advice very wise.

Anonymous said...

This is a topic I have been interested to see covered by the Evangelical community. A high school friend of mine bought McLaren's ideas hook line and sinker, and so, I started looking into his ideas. I was shocked by what I found. I, however, (after waiting for weeks on the hold list at my local library) couldn't finish McLaren's book as I found it completely laughable. If it wasn't such a serious and dangerous topic it would be funny.

The other book I've been waiting to see some discussion of in the Evangelical community is God's Politics by Jim Wallis. I found it equally laughable.

rev-ed said...

I began Wallis' book, but stopped around page 30. I just didn't have the patience for it at that time. I'll try again later.

I've suspected the same would happen to me with McLaren's writings. I almost picked one up Monday, but put it down in favor of something else instead.

Thanks John, for the review. I want to pick it up myself and see what it's all about.

Karen said...

I want to comment on your statement that there are only two scripture quotations in the book. That may be true, but he refers to MANY more. I have noticed just in the last couple of chapters I have read since reading your blog, that there are multiple times where he refers to a story or paraphrases a verse, just like many people do in a conversation.

John said...

Paraphrases or vague references do not provide for sound doctrinal support. Citations -- book, chapter, and verse -- do.

But I'm quite willing to read another book where McLaren (or any other emergent writer) supports his theology with Scripture. Can you recommend one?

Sven said...

I think you've been rather unfair on McLaren in places.

"No more arbitrary than a building with a foundation, really. [Ch. 7, p.54-55]"

The point McLaren is making here is that it is Christ, and not the Bible, who is the foundation of the Christian faith, which (as the part of the text you omitted makes out) is what the Bible itself says.

"Does it bother you that Jesus never defined the gospel in this way? [Ch. 12, p.105]"

Jesus of course did not explain the Gospel as being about believing that he would die for your sins so that you would be justified by faith instead of works. The Gospels don't say that. By appealing to Romans 3 as being 'the Gospel' rather than quoting Jesus himself you're actually making Mclaren's point for him.

Neither does Mclaren emphasise the point about Biblical authority to "marginalise" it. The point he is making is that the Bible does not stand on its own authority, its authority comes from God himself, and so only together with God can we more clearly understand what it means. Mclaren may of course disagree (with good reason at times) about what certain texts actually say, but he by no means disregards scripture.

"Emphasis added. Reality changes based upon the will of man."

Again this is simply not what Mclaren is saying. He is stressing that a) we don't know all the truth yet and that b) Christ is the truth, and so truth is personal not simply a set of propositions detached from relationship or context. If we know all the truth then why did Jesus say that he still had much more to teach us? And why did he send us the Spirit to guide us into all truth?

"Remember, we're in the 'religion business' not the 'truth business'. Let's sell products! This same reasoning could be used to justify any number of falsehoods in a church. A 9th century BC Israelite might urge the High Priest "Start worshiping Baals in addition to the Lord! That's what everybody wants!" It is true that many young people are postmodern, just as many ancient Israelites were idolaters."

That's just illogical. Mclaren never once suggests commercialising spirituality at all. And neither does postmodernism = idolatry anymore than modernism = Christian truth. Postmodernism is here, saying 'Ah well I don't believe in postmodernism' is like sayong 'I don't believe in 2005'. Mclaren's work simply recognises this fact and is urging the church to start thinking differently if we are going to fulfil the Great Commission.

Sam Peterson said...

To Sven and anyone else who thinks Paul's Scripture is less important than the Gospels:

"The point McLaren is making here is that it is Christ, and not the Bible, who is the foundation of the Christian faith, which (as the part of the text you omitted makes out) is what the Bible itself says."

Isn't Jesus called the Word of God by the apostle John (John 1, Rev. 19:13)? There is not the slightest hint of dichotomy between Jesus Christ Himself and the Scripture, and to suggest otherwise is not only dangerous, but heretical.

"Jesus of course did not explain the Gospel as being about believing that he would die for your sins so that you would be justified by faith instead of works. The Gospels don't say that. By appealing to Romans 3 as being 'the Gospel' rather than quoting Jesus himself you're actually making Mclaren's point for him."

Here you continue to suggest some sort of second-class status for Scriptures other than the four Gospels themselves. Weren't the Gospels written by the apostles and their close associates, based on apostolic accounts? The pattern of thought you are espousing - setting the words of Christ against others in Scripture (most popularly the apostle Paul) - is incredibly fundamentally dangerous because it downplays God's pattern of using human beings as His mouthpiece to deliver crucial messages to other people. Get understanding on this topic by reading I Cor. 1, which states in part, "...it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." The message would not seem foolish if God Himself appeared to everyone and delivered it. Instead, He expects most people to believe the Word of God as spoken through another person, in no small part because it takes humility to do that. This is a fundamental part of understanding the gospel and the way God works in the world. He gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud.

In the Torah, several times the Israelites question Moses' authority and his status as God's mouthpiece to the nation, and this provokes Him to almost annihilate the nation. In fact, their unbelief in Moses' authority resulted in God's slaying thousands of them. This shows that when God speaks through a man authoritatively, as with Moses or Paul, it really, really matters to Him that we believe it as the actual Word of God. In the law, anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If you downplay the authority of the Scripture written by Paul, you are wandering down a path of danger to your own soul.

One last thing: you're dead wrong about the Gospels not explaining the Gospel as salvation through faith for the remission of sin. John 6:47-51 says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life...If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." (see also John 5:24, John 3:14-16, Mark 14:24, Matt. 1:21, and others) Besides being developed throughout the gospels, the remission of sins through faith is developed throughout the Old Testament, inextricably interwoven throughout the history of Abraham and Israel. The choosing of Jacob by the promise, the grafting in of Ruth by faith (and the eventual delivery of the Messiah through her bloodline), the system of sacrifices and rituals in the Law, the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness (referred to by Jesus Himself as an analogy for His own purpose), and the prophecy from Joel of a better covenant to come, as well as much more evidence confirms this.

Sven said...

Sam,

That's not the point I'm trying to make.

Paul's scripture is not 'less important' than the Gospels, but the original point that Mclaren was making is that Jesus himself does not really teach the Gospel in the language of Romans 3. He doesn't go around saying "you have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and your religious works will not save you. Instead believe that I will die a sacrificial death to take the punishment you deserve from God so that you can have eternal life and be justified by faith", it is not untrue to say these things but Mclaren simply questions why he have chosen to define and explain the Gospel in such a narrow and particular sense, especially when the Gospel seems to be much bigger and broader than the formulas that we reduce it to.

Paul's writing is not secondary to Jesus, but we have to understand Paul through Jesus, not vice versa, because Jesus is the foundation of the faith. I mean why not make John 3:16 the heart of the Gospel? Or John 6? Or Matthew 5-7? Or 1 Cor 13? and so on. We have to consider the whole witness of the NT as a unity, and not just choose a particular passage as being a 'summary' of the Gospel. Romans 3 (as John suggested) doesn't even mention the resurrection, for instance.

To say that the Bible is an incarnation of the word in the same way that Jesus is is simply wrong. The Word became flesh, not paper and ink. The main difference being that Jesus is and God and as the Word he made everything and was eternally pre-existent, but the same simply cannot be said about the Bible.

I agree, the Apostles spoke the word of God, but Jesus is the word of God - and it's an important difference. That doesn't mean that we can set Jesus 'against' Paul, but that apart from Jesus, Paul would not make any sense (and indeed would never even have been written). All I'm saying is (along with Mclaren) is that our understanding of the Gospel must begin with Jesus, and cannot simply be reduced to a simple formula that cobbles together a few ideas from Paul and says nothing else besides.

In the Bible God has not given us a neat little system of theological statements tidily packed together, he has given us stories, parables, letters, visions, histories, and so on. I can't help but think that by trying to tidy the Bible up into easily manageable formulae rather than leaving the narratives as narratives we are insinuating that God has in fact given us the wrong kind of book.

"One last thing: you're dead wrong about the Gospels not explaining the Gospel as salvation through faith for the remission of sin."

I'm not denying that. Of course the purpose of the covenant was to deal with sin right from the very beginning. It is wrong however, to simply reduce the Gospel to a formula about how this works for individuals. The Gospel is about the transformation of the whole cosmos, about Jesus Christ being exalted to the highest place, the liberation of creation from its bondage to decay and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

The original point Mclaren was making is that at the centre of Jesus' Gospel preaching and practice is the Kingdom of God and everything which that means, and that we have robbed the Gospel of much of its power by reducing to a formula about how individuals manage their sin and go to heaven.

John said...

The point McLaren is making here is that it is Christ, and not the Bible, who is the foundation of the Christian faith, which (as the part of the text you omitted makes out) is what the Bible itself says.

Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. But outside of the Bible, how does one learn about Jesus? I mean, in detail.

Jesus of course did not explain the Gospel as being about believing that he would die for your sins so that you would be justified by faith instead of works. The Gospels don't say that. By appealing to Romans 3 as being 'the Gospel' rather than quoting Jesus himself you're actually making Mclaren's point for him.

Quite right. So would it be fair to say that McLaren's implication is that Paul's writings are not authortative, or do not belong in the Bible. Is that what you are saying?

If either Paul or Jesus say it, does it matter which one?

Neither does Mclaren emphasise the point about Biblical authority to "marginalise" it. The point he is making is that the Bible does not stand on its own authority, its authority comes from God himself, and so only together with God can we more clearly understand what it means. Mclaren may of course disagree (with good reason at times) about what certain texts actually say, but he by no means disregards scripture.

The quote that I provided does establish that McLaren thinks that the meaning or correct interpretation of Scripture is unknowable to man, so it is of little practical use.

Again this is simply not what Mclaren is saying. He is stressing that a) we don't know all the truth yet and that b) Christ is the truth, and so truth is personal not simply a set of propositions detached from relationship or context. If we know all the truth then why did Jesus say that he still had much more to teach us? And why did he send us the Spirit to guide us into all truth?

In the quotation provided, McLaren, speaking through Neo, clearly disagrees with you.

That's just illogical. Mclaren never once suggests commercialising spirituality at all. And neither does postmodernism = idolatry anymore than modernism = Christian truth. Postmodernism is here, saying 'Ah well I don't believe in postmodernism' is like sayong 'I don't believe in 2005'. Mclaren's work simply recognises this fact and is urging the church to start thinking differently if we are going to fulfil the Great Commission.

In the quotation, McLaren establishes that churches should adapt doctrine to the alleged new generation.

Saying that I don't believe in postmodernism is easy. That's because it is an illogical viewpoint. It doesn't matter if a whole generation of people, or even the entire human race believes in it. That doesn't make it true. If all of humanity believed that asparagus caused AIDS, it still wouldn't be true.

McLaren does not make a convincing argument that (a) the postmodern viewpoint reflects reality or (b) that postmodernism is the dominant trend of the future. That part of the book was rather sketchy.

Sven said...

Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. But outside of the Bible, how does one learn about Jesus? I mean, in detail.

Of course we learn about Christ through the Bible, and we have fellowship with him by his Spirit. The point Mclaren is trying to make is that a 'biblical' faith can be rather arbitrary, picking and choosing particular doctrines (look at the way, for example, people have used the Bible to justify racism and genocide in the past). The point is that scripture comes to its climax in Christ, and as the faith begins with him, so must our doctrine. For instance, what's a biblical way to handle lepers and outcasts? Leviticus says put them outside of the camp, but Jesus touches them and heals them. Both are biblical, but only one is Christ-like.

No! I'm not saying that Paul's writings are not authoritative - of course they are. Mclaren (along with Chalke and others)is trying to point out that very often what we understand by 'the Gospel' has little or no reference to the message that Jesus himself preached and is just expressed as a formula about how individuals go to heaven when they die, and while this is not untrue, it hardly reflects the broad scheme. With the Gospel summary that Dan offers in the book for instance, there is no mention of either the Kingdom of God or the resurrection - two HUGE themes in the NT. If the Kingdom of God is Jesus' central message, why isn't it ours?

Likewise because the Bible is God's word, man can never claim to have 'mastered' or completely exhausted its meaning. The fact that only God knows the true meaning does not mean that we cannot ever know it, because clearly scripture teaches that God will give us insight, discernment and wisdom to help us know him and his ways. We come to understand and learn his word, but we never 'own' it or monopolise its meaning.

You talk about adapting church to the culture as though that were some great evil. What else did Paul mean when he said 'I become all things to all men so that I might won some.'? If you want to win Jews, be a Jew and reason from the scriptures in the synagogue, if you want to win Greeks, become a Greek and use analogies from their own culture to win them to Christ. If you want to win African tribesmen to Christ, go and be and Africa Tribesman, if you want to win postmoderns, then become postmodern. It's a biblical way to do missions.

In any case, whatever doctrines anyone holds they were all formed in some culture or another. Even the biblical texts themselves reflect the time, place, and culture in which they were written. So does your interpretation of the Bible, and so does mine.

Believing or disbelieving in postmodernism is not like believing or disbelieving in (say) Islam or Communism. It isn't a doctrine or a statement of faith, it's a blanket term used to describe a huge myriad of things in culture, art, language, sociology, politics, and so on. Saying 'I don't believe it's true' is like saying 'I don't believe Tuesday is true'.

John said...

No! I'm not saying that Paul's writings are not authoritative - of course they are. Mclaren (along with Chalke and others)is trying to point out that very often what we understand by 'the Gospel' has little or no reference to the message that Jesus himself preached and is just expressed as a formula about how individuals go to heaven when they die, and while this is not untrue, it hardly reflects the broad scheme. With the Gospel summary that Dan offers in the book for instance, there is no mention of either the Kingdom of God or the resurrection - two HUGE themes in the NT. If the Kingdom of God is Jesus' central message, why isn't it ours?

In the evangelical churches that I've been in, it is the central theme. McLaren, however, suggested that the 'formula' of salvation not Biblical. Read the quote again.

Anyway, I find it hard to believe that McLaren's central message is that we have lost our focus on the message of Jesus, since he rarely mentions the words of Christ!. If he wanted to argue that the way of Christ has been neglected, then he should have advocated his position from Scripture. Citing a mere two Bible verses was hardly a compelling statement.

Likewise because the Bible is God's word, man can never claim to have 'mastered' or completely exhausted its meaning. The fact that only God knows the true meaning does not mean that we cannot ever know it, because clearly scripture teaches that God will give us insight, discernment and wisdom to help us know him and his ways. We come to understand and learn his word, but we never 'own' it or monopolise its meaning.

I agree with you. Alas, McLaren does not.

You talk about adapting church to the culture as though that were some great evil. What else did Paul mean when he said 'I become all things to all men so that I might won some.'? If you want to win Jews, be a Jew and reason from the scriptures in the synagogue, if you want to win Greeks, become a Greek and use analogies from their own culture to win them to Christ. If you want to win African tribesmen to Christ, go and be and Africa Tribesman, if you want to win postmoderns, then become postmodern. It's a biblical way to do missions.

Compromising tradition is fine. Do you want a different kind of worship service? Okay. Gospel in different languages? Okay. But we should never compromise on doctrine, which is what McLaren is calling for.

Anyway, I have questions about whether the Christian faith is even compatible with postmodernism. Since postmodernism (at least, with the definition that I've referring to) sees truth as relative and individual, it stands in sharp contrast to the absolutist view of truth as seen in Scripture (as linked to in my post).

In any case, whatever doctrines anyone holds they were all formed in some culture or another. Even the biblical texts themselves reflect the time, place, and culture in which they were written. So does your interpretation of the Bible, and so does mine.

This statement is a fine example of the theological danger of McLaren's book. The idea that there is no knowable, absolute truth in doctrine goes beyond heresy to attack the very nature of truth.

Believing or disbelieving in postmodernism is not like believing or disbelieving in (say) Islam or Communism. It isn't a doctrine or a statement of faith, it's a blanket term used to describe a huge myriad of things in culture, art, language, sociology, politics, and so on. Saying 'I don't believe it's true' is like saying 'I don't believe Tuesday is true'.

Actually, it is. It's an ideology like Islam and Communism. And it is okay to say that 'I don't believe that Tuesday is true' if it's Wednesday. Even if the whole world believed that it was Tuesday, it would still be Wednesday. This is the 'modern' view of truth -- objective and independent of the believer.

It is here that McLaren makes his critical error: if a lot of people, or even everyone on earth starts to believe in the sheer illogic of postmodern epistimology, that it will become true. This debate isn't really about theology; it's about epistimology -- something more fundamental.

Anonymous said...

I'm sad to see the tone of your blog. It seems like it is aimed more to take issue than to understand. Have you called Brian to discuss your differences? I think that is Biblical - more so - than posting your complaints on a world wide blog.

Have you read his book - "Finding Faith?" That provides a more linear discussion.

Did you read the disclaimers at the outset of the book or who it was written for and why?

Tone (or intent, motive) has as much to do the the validity of your comments as the content themselves.

"If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

If his ideas as you read them in the book are that upsetting then I suggest you call and see if - perhaps - you either read them wrong or he wasn't clear enough.

After reading several of his works, listening to some of his presentations and calling - I think you might come away with a more moderate - even changed perception.

Anonymous said...

This blog on the debate seems to be more helpful:

http://jollyblogger.typepad.com/jollyblogger/2005/06/traditionalists.html

Gamaliel once said: - if it's not of God it will die off but if it is then we'd better watch out (big time paraphrase).

John said...

Anonymous, I've read a lot of McLaren defenders whining about this critique, but precious few actually taking issue with my assertions.

Feel free to comment again when you have an actual argument to make -- and the guts to post a comment without anonmymity.

nederdave said...

dear stan, anonymous, and the "lot of Mclaren defenders"

it seems john is very comfortable in his modernist understanding of the gospel and therefore has very little reason to do other than misrepresent an author he is predisposed to dislike. may i suggest that instead of expending your energy trying to argue him into seeing Mclaren's p.o.v. that you instead take Neo's advice from the NKOC series and seek to share the good news with those who still need to hear. Mclaren himself welcomes thoughtful critique (which john's is not) and says that while we need excellent (ie. biblical) churches and thinkers who connect with the "modern world" ... he hopes they will be gracious enough to make room for the next generation of excellent (ie.biblical) churches and thinkers who have a concern for and a desire to reach the "postmodern world".

ps - to john. your style and tone are most unhelpful for encouraging debate, dialogue or just about any other civil discourse besides flaming. so *#!>& you. :)

dave nederhood, alameda
(lest you think i should be gutlessly anonymous)

John said...

Dave, whenever you feel like dropping the ad hominem attacks and making an actual argument, feel free to leave a comment.

Randy Buist said...

I'll add a comment... just because I dont' quote Scriture in my conversation, doesn't mean that I don't believe Scripture. Just because McLaren doesn't quote Scripture all the time in his books doesn't mean that he doesn't follow Scripture.

As Dave and others have pointed out, your tone is lousy. We're brothers and sisters in Christ, and you disrespect the family through this tone.

Finally, McLaren is a lover of Jesus. He sees our theology of the kingdom, our ecclesiology, and our eschatology as out of wack. Biblically, he's right.

And if you're only now doing reviews of "A New Kind of Christian," then you're about four years behind Brian's writings.

John said...

Randy, thanks for commenting.

What's the problem with my tone? Please provide quotations of where I have gone over the top.

It's entirely possible that McLaren does believe in Scripture. However, he makes himself vulnerable to critiques in this area because he doesn't cite Scripture to support his radical theology.

If McLaren or anyone else is going make a stand for a radically different theological point of view, it is incumbent of him to make a strong case for it. Sound support for doctrine is Scripture. McLaren, if I remember correctly, only cites one Bible verse. And then only once. He has therefore failed to make anything resembling a convincing case for his ideas.

If, however, McLaren would like to make a Scriptural case of his theology, I would be glad to read it.

Anonymous said...

I laugh when people complain that Brian does not cite scriptural verses. When you read the prophets, particularly some of those called Minors (whatever way they are minor), they utter several words in their preaching without actually "citing" or "quoting" the Torah on which they based their ministry. So actually citing verses is not the issue. To evaluate someone just on the basis that he is quoting verses or not, is just unwise. Or, we might say that those prophets were not "biblical" too.

John said...

I see your point, Math, but there is a difference. McLaren does not write Scripture.

Depending upon Scripture is essential for legitimate theological speculation. After all, without it, on what basis do we discern the nature of God?