Monday, October 15, 2012

My encounter with Brian McLaren


So Brian McLaren came to the long-since-apostate "church" Mayflower Congregational UCC this past Friday for a lecture and book signing to promote his new volume of postmodern philosophy and pluralism.

Like the good subversive I am, I was in attendance along with two other brothers, street evangelists themselves.
McLaren fed us a typical presentation, truth mixed with error, wit and head-shakingly stupid assertions, jokes and backhanded insults against the backwoods fundy background against which he is reacting. Virtually nothing that would cause a semi-educated evangelical to take pause and say "Hmm, he's got a great point there that calls the Bible's divine source into question". But he certainly seemed to think that he was doing just that, and of course all the extreme lefties in attendance lapped it up and begged for more. It was sad and in its own way kind of pathetic.



After an approximately 65 minute lecture, McLaren invited questions. I hesitated at the back, not wanting to ask the first question, but nobody else was getting up, so I decided to man up and go for it.
Here are my two questions, which McLaren did not answer.

McLaren commends me for the "huge step forward" that my polite question represented. That's exactly what I mean - the man's entire schtick is targeted at the lowest and least defensible subgroup within modern Christianity. He is reacting against foam-flecked KJV-only types who enforce skirt lengths on their women and strive to keep themselves, not unstained by, but untouched by the world. Yet that's not where the most cogent critiques of his theology have come from. Where is his response to those? McLaren is frozen in time; he still apparently thinks it's 2002, that nobody has responded to his material.

McLaren assures us that he respects the Bible even more than any human tradition but the interpretations he'd been given didn't fit the Bible itself. He then redefines my question away from "by what authority do you redefine Christianity and set up your own version that is contradictory to what the Scripture teaches?" to "by what authority do I break away from the traditions I was taught?"  That is of course not at all what I asked him, but:
1) he is doubtless very uncomfortable (and most probably unskilled at) engaging on the level of Scriptural exegesis.
2) he is still playing to his audience - hopeless lefties who think they're 1000% superior to gap-toothed, ignunt backwoods fundies.

Thus it serves his purposes much better to answer a question of his own choosing, rather than the one I asked.

McLaren - "None of us reads an uninterpreted Bible."
This is simply false, and even taking what he meant to say, it is entirely unhelpful and thus a deception and a waste of everyone's time.
1) The interpretation doesn't happen before we read. We do read an uninterpreted Bible, and as we're reading we interpret it. What does it even mean to have an "interpreted text"?  Text is that which we interpret; it is the object of the action of interpretation.  So McLaren's explanation begins very sloppy.
2) If he meant "we all have to interpret the Bible", well, of course he is right. We all interpret everything we read and hear, including his own speaking right at that moment. So if he wants to cast doubt on the accessibility of the original meaning of the source document just because we all unavoidably interpret it as we read it, the same critique can be leveled against his talking as he's saying it. This approach merely leads to absurdity and the loss of meaning in all communication. Deconstructionism is a universal acid that also happens to consume itself.
3) The question should instead be: Which interpretation is true? But there's no room in McLaren's worldview for that. That's why he didn't answer the question.

McLaren: "When you study enough church history, you also come to realise that we have been wrong a lot of times, and the version of the faith that we inherited has already involved many people who have encouraged us at many points in our past to say that the tradition is wrong and that we needed to make a change. So the question is: Are we done with that process? Have we fixed everything so that it's reached a perfect state?"

This is just a load of more obfuscation and poor reading of history.
1) When you study enough church history, you also see heaps of martyrs who died rather than give up their confession of the Gospel of Jesus or the Scripture, yet McLaren has done so for much less - the temptation of being well-thought-of by the world and among his heretical clique, and for NY Times bestsellers.
2) Scripture has authority by virtue of its having been breathed out by God. Church history is merely a record of what happened. It is descriptive, a record. Jesus' commands in the Bible are prescriptive and authoritative.
3) We have not misunderstood what Jesus said. It's not a question of traditions; McLaren acts like he's a new thinker, putting traditions to the test that nobody has thought to test before. But we think about them all the time! Sure, there are people who don't, but what about the many of us who do? McLaren conveniently ignores us. He is open-minded and tolerant enough to pretend like we don't exist; he'd much prefer to pick on easier targets.
4) It's funny that he lectures me, a Reformed Baptist, about the times in history when men have decided to make a change away from previous traditions. A Reformed Baptist - too credobaptist and iconoclastic for the original Reformed faith (ie, Calvinistic Presbyterianism), too Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura for Rome,  and too Calvinistic for the majority of American Baptists. McLaren has no idea whom he's dealing with.
5) Of course we have not reached a perfect state. The answer is Semper Reformanda. The answer is not to scrap the Gospel and the Scripture and embrace postmodernistic swiping at the worst of our opponents.


McLaren: "I think that's what I've been doing tonight. I actually think I've been preaching repentance. I'm asking us to rethink the ideas we've had about other people."

But it should go without saying that he has clearly redefined what repentance and the forgiveness of sins means. Listen on and you'll hear McLaren expound on how forgiveness is mostly horizontal, between people. He never mentioned anything about the wrath of God or sinners judged guilty before a holy God.


Hear the hiss: "God is willing to forgive your sins, but that involves you forgiving each other and breaking out of the cycle."

That is the exact opposite of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is Law. "Forgive and you'll be forgiven." It depends on your forgiveness.
Of course, McLaren doesn't believe God is angry at sin and sinners, rejects any notion of eternal punishment, thus raising the obvious question: Why should I break the cycle of violence? But here God's favor is dependent on what you do. It's the same old false Gospel that Rome, Salt Lake City, the WatchTower, Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam, and countless other false religions teach - meet God halfway/achieve a good enough life and you'll earn His favor.
Yet the good news of Jesus is that we are lost in sin and Jesus' sacrifice atones for our great sin, completely, totally, and once for all.

After the event, my friends and I handed out some pamphlets, whose text I reproduce below.

After most everyone was gone, I walked up to McLaren and told him to repent.
His response: "Do you feel better?" 
Once again, his prejudice shines through. He thinks I'm barely containing my rage, that all my traditions and dearly-held beliefs are crashing down around me, and that my only response is to lash out and vent. Yet that's not even close to the truth. He is an entirely dishonest man; he is in a position to know better but either will not acknowledge or will not learn about the intelligent and Bible-centered critiques of his teachings. My conviction that Brian McLaren is a servant of the devil is merely reinforced after Friday.

The pamphlet:


Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is an ecumenical global networker among innovative religious leaders. Brian's Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World), the subject of this evening’s book tour lecture, is his 10th (depending on how you count them) book on spirituality and religion.

The spirit and message Brian is bringing fits in well at Mayflower UCC, as Mayflower, like Brian, makes it a point to cast off any connection or allegiance to the identity of Jesus as Jesus Himself carefully crafted it in the New Testament.
Jesus said such things as, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18) and “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again” (Mark 10:33-34). Brian labels the willing self-sacrifice of the generous, loving God incarnate as “cosmic child abuse”.

Brian informs us, in his A Generous Orthodoxy, that "To be a Christian in a generously orthodox way is not to claim to have the truth captured, stuffed, and mounted on the wall...That, to me, is orthodoxy -- a way of seeing and seeking, a way of living, a way of thinking and loving and learning that helps what we believe become more true over time, more resonant with the infinite glory that is God" and that “The achievement of 'right thinking' therefore recedes, happily, further beyond our grasp the more we pursue it.”
Logic informs us that Brian’s statement, despite affirming that he is not claiming to have the truth captured, expresses a statement Brian believes is true and that he believes is indeed right thinking. If they were untrue, wrong thinking, would he have bothered to affirm those statements? This is known as self-refutation, hardly a commendable practice for someone who claims to be educating us about how God really is.

Brian contends that "Jesus comes then not to condemn (to bring the consequences we deserve) but to save by shining the light on our evil, by naming our evil as evil so we can repent and escape a chain of bad actions and bad consequences to forgiveness, and so we can learn from Jesus the master teacher to live more wisely in the future.”
Jesus indicated exactly why He had come in John 3:17-21 – “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:35-36 continue: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

This is but a small sampling of the seriously grave and irreconcilable discrepancies between the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament and Brian McLaren’s teachings, on which he will be further expounding tonight. Please consider yourself invited to turn your critical eye toward what Brian has said and will say, and to consider why anyone would prefer to listen to Brian McLaren over Jesus Himself. They cannot both be right.
Because Jesus thought that, “you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24) and because His original message was, “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), we all have one solution for the sin problem Jesus thought we had. Repent of your sin. “Believe in Him whom (God) has sent”, as Jesus said in John 6:29. Moses, Buddha, Mohammed – all died and remained in their tombs. Brian McLaren, like you, will die and remain in his tomb. Only Jesus has risen, defeating death. In whom will you put your trust?

11 comments:

Terry and Darci said...

Man, i'd love to get together and talk about this sometime. I was there and asked a question after you, in the brown shirt. There's a lot of judgement in this post for which you have no authority to make. You must know him personally pretty well to make some of the assertions that you do about his character. Does he play golf? What's his favorite place to eat? How's his health? If you don't know the answer to these questions, odds are you're not close enough to make the kind of character judgements that you do. I ask you to repent. Critique his theology all day long. Critique his character and you've exposed yourself as someone who has no credibility to be heard in the first place. I'll send you an email so maybe we can meet up.
Terry Craghead

Mike Westfall said...

See, Rho? You should have invited McLaren to sit down over a cup of coffee to discuss things. After all, without doing that you can;t possibly know him well enough to judge his character.

Rhology said...

Terry,

Sure, I'd be happy to see if we could carve out a time to get together to talk this over.

In the meantime, I'd like to respond to your comment here if you don't mind.

First of all, as Mike Westfall was touching on, why are you saying that one must know him personally to say the things I said?
How would you propose I get to know the man?
Do you fastidiously avoid criticising, say, Mitt Romney, given that you don't know him? How about Fred Phelps?
You seem to have engaged in some criticism of me, but you don't know me. How is that not hypocritical?

I'd like to ask in what way his health, his golf handicap, and his favored gastronomy have anything to do with his teachings about God. I'm afraid I don't understand what you're getting at.


You said:
Critique his character and you've exposed yourself as someone who has no credibility to be heard in the first place.

Someone who makes a living destroying churches and teaching things within the church of Jesus that leads people straight to Hell has poor character, by definition. Jesus told us how to deal with such people in Matthew 7, and all the other NT references to dealing with false teachers disagree with you.
But that may not matter to you - maybe those parts of the New Testament aren't really breathed out by God, since you don't like them.

bossmanham said...

Oh good grief. Fellas, you can look at what a guy espouses and tell if what they're saying lines up with the teachings in the Bible.

Do you think you have to personally know someone in a more intimate manner than just reading what they publish to be able to critique it?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Terry, that's just weak. If you can't just throw out a blanket statement and not back it up with any specifics. "There's a lot of judgement in this post for which you have no authority to make" In addition to improper English you do not point out which of the statements are not supported by authority. The authority Rho gave was from scripture. Brian McLaren gave a plausible answer by tying his ideology to an interpretation of scripture. You should feel really bad about your contribution because you have made yourself look like a buffoon. You have shown that you do not possess the intellectual horsepower or the real desire to consider these ideas and learn. My authority on you comes from reading your post and applying Proverbs 18:2.

Terry and Darci said...

For starters, I'm not going to engage in insults, anonymous, you might read Matt 5:22, though.

I'll reply concerning my original critique of Allen's tone on the blog. I'm not saying you shouldn't critique someone's statements or beliefs if you disagree with them. It's a matter of how you disagree with someone. You think name calling and disparaging their character will win them over? All that does is increase the distance between you and them. It doesn't matter how correct you are or believe yourself to be.

Here are a few statements that fall under the category of judgement of character, for which you have no knowledge or authority to make:

1) When you study enough church history, you also see heaps of martyrs who died rather than give up their confession of the Gospel of Jesus or the Scripture, yet McLaren has done so for much less - the temptation of being well-thought-of by the world and among his heretical clique, and for NY Times bestsellers."
--So you're claiming he gave up his confession of the Gospel of Jesus for the sake of popularity? That's a judgement of character for which you have no basis. How do you know that's not just what he believes? What if I were to say that you're only saying the things that you do because you want to be well thought of by whatever clique you're in? I have no idea if that's true because I don't know you!

Hear the hiss--now he actually hisses like a snake? So he's somehow Satan incarnate? You're literally dehumanizing him.

He is an entirely dishonest man--Not sure you can know the entirety of his dishonesty by reading his books or hearing him speak. Again, a character judgement you have no grounds to make.

And to close, a judgement of everyone in attendance other than you and your friends:

he is still playing to his audience - hopeless lefties who think they're 1000% superior to gap-toothed, ignunt backwoods fundies.-- Hopeless lefties? What kind of statement is that? For some reason i can't imagine Jesus calling anyone hopeless. Even if there were theologically liberal people there, what gives you the right to call them hopeless? What if it was a room full of people just like you? Pretty sure you didn't meet but a few of the people there. Not sure how you can claim there's a room full of anything, much less condemn them to hell. And how can you also claim to know what the entire room thinks about you or your people? Your words do nothing but divide. Doesn't ring of the ministry of reconciliation for which we've been called.

Allen, you've made character judgements about someone because you disagree with their theology. I'm critiquing what you said, not who you are. You don't have credibility to me as someone who is seeking to oppose a "false teacher" because you're doing it in a way that dehumanizes. Disagree with someone all day long, but in the end you've got to have respect for them before you'll get anywhere beyond the circle of folks who are already in your camp.

Mike Westfall said...

So T&D, other than the tone of Rho's criticism, do you have any thoughts on the substance of his criticism?

Terry and Darci said...

Mike, I do, I just don't think I want to commit the time to responding in this medium. It'll take too much time to get into that kind of conversation. I just sent Allen an email so that we can meet up and chat. I don't usually get engaged in comments b/c I haven't found it to be a fruitful endeavor.

Rhology said...

For the record, I don't endorse Anonymous' tone or verbiage. That's probably one of the reasons why he's anonymous.

But a few responses since Terry made accusations publicly:

So you're claiming he gave up his confession of the Gospel of Jesus for the sake of popularity?

Either that, or because he loves to contradict Jesus for the sake of contradicting Jesus. I figure I was being charitably by picking the former.


That's a judgement of character for which you have no basis.

As a matter of fact, I have plenty of basis; I didn't want to review 7 years of history in one post.
Let me suggest that it would have been wiser for you to ask me what basis I have rather than to assert I have no basis.


How do you know that's not just what he believes?

B/c he's in a position to know about the critiques of his position and has chosen never to comment on them. He has made no progress in the argument over the course of his popular-book-writing. B/c he says he has read the Bible many times and has come to these conclusions, yet an honest reading of the Bible could never lead someone to the beliefs he holds. It doesn't matter how many times one makes the ridiculous counterargument that "we all have our own interpretations"; that's disingenuous tomfoolery. He resorts to that hand-waving 'argument' ONLY when it comes to the Bible (and not when it comes to any other text, most certainly not his own) because he knows the Bible would never support what he goes around teaching like he knows what he's talking about.
He's a textbook false teacher. Just like the devil wrote it up.



hat if I were to say that you're only saying the things that you do because you want to be well thought of by whatever clique you're in?

The difference is that I have plenty of basis to say what I said, and there is a great deal of evidence against your assertion.



I have no idea if that's true because I don't know you!

True, you don't know me, but if you could point to evidence from my years of writing, you'd be in a different situation. I'm not ignorant of McLaren's public statements.


So he's somehow Satan incarnate?

No, he merely repeats Satan.



You're literally dehumanizing him.

No; sadly, his is quite literally the human condition, devoid of God's grace, given over to Satan to be used as Satan sees fit.



Not sure you can know the entirety of his dishonesty by reading his books or hearing him speak.

I certainly agree - I can't know the ENTIRETY of his dishonesty. I CAN know with sufficient certainty that he is dishonest from consuming his public material, however.



Hopeless lefties? What kind of statement is that?

A conclusion I have drawn based on the wildly irresponsible, foolish, and leftist propaganda that Robin Meyers expresses every time I read anything he says. And he's one of the principal preachers at Mayflower!
Someone who is a member at Mayflower will be continuously exposed to his evil rhetoric; "hopeless lefties" is, again, the most charitable thing I could think of to describe such a person. Other options include "intentional servants of the devil" and "complete idiots". As you can see, "hopeless lefties" is kind by comparison.


Rhology said...


For some reason i can't imagine Jesus calling anyone hopeless.

When's the last time you read Matthew 23-24?
Or "Woe to you Bethsaida and Chorazin...!"?
Or John 9's "If you were blind, you would not be condemned, but since you claim you can see, your blindness remains"?
There's a great richness you're missing out on in the Scripture by turning your ear to deceivers like McLaren and Meyers.
Imagine being able to turn to ANY passage of Scripture and to see how it fits into God's grand plan of redemption! Instead of skipping over the parts that make you uncomfy because you can't account for them!



What if it was a room full of people just like you?

By God's grace, I actually take the Scripture seriously, so if it were a room full of people like me, we'd all be laughing at McLaren's idiocies and calling him to repentance to his face like I did.



much less condemn them to hell

The astute reader will note that I condemned no one to Hell.



how can you also claim to know what the entire room thinks about you or your people?

Why do you suppose everyone laughed at the joke I cited?



Your words do nothing but divide

1) Then I'm following in Jesus' footsteps, Who came to bring not peace, but a sword.
2) You're dividing away from me. You apparently think "dividing" is called for in some cases too. And for the record, you're right about that. So your criticism is self-refuting.



Doesn't ring of the ministry of reconciliation for which we've been called.

2 Corinthians 5: 18Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


The ministry of reconciliation is, in point of fact, the exact opposite of McLaren's message. He thinks that the basis for the ministry of reconciliation is "cosmic child abuse", and that God's not really angry toward sinners. And that forgiveness of sins refers mostly to horizontal relationships and "cycles of violence". Turn away from this false teaching and embrace what the Bible actually says.



you've made character judgements about someone because you disagree with their theology.

Jesus did too in such places as Matthew 7. With all due respect, I explained above why I do so.



I don't usually get engaged in comments b/c I haven't found it to be a fruitful endeavor.

I have, but I certainly understand when others don't think it merits their time.
I hope we can find time to get together. We'll talk about it offline. Lattés are on me.

Anonymous said...

"he is still playing to his audience - hopeless lefties who think they're 1000% superior to gap-toothed, ignunt backwoods fundies."

"Not sure how you can claim there's a room full of anything, much less condemn them to hell."

T&D, what you say is the sort of dishonest spin that is most repellent when it comes to liberals: obviously what Rho meant was that McLaren, *in reference his presentations* is appealing to hardcore liberals. He wasn't claiming to know the psychology of everyone in the room, anymore than Brian McLaren knew that Rhology would be in the room?

Would you at least be honest enough to admit that you are guilty of being hypocritical and judgmental, else why would you BLATANTLY MISINTERPRET the obvious meaning of someone's words in such a bad light?

Come on. This is so typical, it merely reinforces the perception that liberals are dishonest hypocrites.

Why do they never refer to the *substance* of arguments, but only engage in *speculative* character attacks that could just as easily be applied to them?