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Brian-McLaren
 

Brian McLaren... What Christianity Has Come To

Part IV... McLaren's All Inclusive "Kingdom"

Carol Brooks

INDEX TO ALL EIGHT SECTIONS

Foreword and Introduction: Why Brian McLaren in particular? Who is Brian McLaren?...Short Bio. Index to sections

 Part I...The Secret Message of Jesus: Overview The "secret" message... isn't such a big secret. The New Testament emphasis on doing good works to "the brethren". Do modern day Christians get it?

Part II... God's Coming Kingdom: Are God's coming kingdom and the second coming of Christ literal physical events, or are they to be seen in a 'spiritual' sense? What does the Bible say? The dual 'now' and 'then' message of the Kingdom. How McLaren redefines the word "Kingdom, the phrase "Eternal Life", and changes God's "will" to God's "dream" in order to 'prove' his points.

 Part III... A Gospel of Transformation, Evacuation... or Justice? The wrath Of God.The "amazingly subversive" Book Of Jonah. The justice and judgement of God. While there is no question that, as McLaren says.. Jesus will condemn and destroy evil, who or what, according to the Scriptures, is evil? Revelation...example of the "literature of the oppressed", territory of the lunatic fringe, or our only hope. Does God plan to "destroy creation"?

    You Are Here 001orange Part IV... McLaren's All Inclusive Kingdom: God's promise to Abraham... who exactly would be "blessed"? Practicing what he preaches... Brian McLaren and Jewish leaders. Services done to "Tash".... unbelievers saved without explicit faith in Christ. Salvation. Does seeking salvation make a person "self-centered" and "narcissistic"? The Bible's conditions for entrance into the kingdom. Redefining repentance and the word "transgression". Demon worship. What's in a Name? What exactly Is a "Christian"? Did Gandhi seek "to follow the way of Christ"? The inclusiveness AND exclusiveness of Jesus. What determines one's 'status' in the Kingdom? The Pax Christi. Many shall come from the east, and from the west..

Part V... The Lambeth Conference: Three questions asked Brian McLaren after the Lambeth Conference. Should Christianity be seen as a "threat" or "welcome friend" to other religions, and are they caretakers or enemies of the Gospel

Part VI... Glossing Over the Occult: Occult ceremonies are not harmless 'traditions'. Contemplative spirituality...practices learned learned from a myriad of sources outside of Christianity

Part VII... McLaren And The Bible: Is the Bible inerrant, infallible, absolute and authoritative, or are Christians resorting to the authority of extra Biblical words and concepts" to justify their own belief in the Bible's ultimate authority? Is the sole purpose of the Scriptures to equip God's people for good works. Seeing the Bible as narrative, does not mean forgetting the all-important meta-narrative. Genesis literal or "deep mythic language"?

Part VIII... Conclusion: God A or God B? Re-writing and sanitizing the Message. Profane babbling. Brian McLaren, the New Age, and the antichrist. Ideas that blends harmoniously with New Age beliefs. McLaren and the "visionaries"

 

ON THIS PAGE

The "Secret Message"... Good News For Everyone?
Missional
God's Promise to Abraham... Who Exactly Would Be "Blessed"?

Brian McLaren and Jewish Leaders
Services Done to "Tash"
Many Who Are First Will Be Last

Salvation
Have We "Misconstrued, Reduced, Twisted, And Torqued" The Meaning Of "Salvation"?

Does Seeking Salvation Make a Person "Self-Centered" and "Narcissistic"?

The Bible's Condition's For Entrance Into The Kingdom
Redefining Repentance
Redefining The Word "Transgression"
Demon Worship

What's in a Name?
Did Gandhi seek "to follow the way of Christ"?

The Pax Christi

Many Shall Come From The East, And From The West

The Inclusiveness of Jesus
The Exclusiveness of Jesus
What Determines One's 'Status' in The Kingdom?

The Repeated Refrain of "The Remnant"
Did we miss the part that, in the Bible the "remnant" are usually spoken of in terms of
as survivors of the Lord's judgment

 


McLaren's All Inclusive "Kingdom"
There is little question that the primary focus of Jesus' message was that the kingdom of God was at hand but, contrary to what McLaren thinks, Jesus will physically return and rule this literal kingdom here on earth.

However, the question that has to be asked is whether entrance to the kingdom is possible for anyone, regardless of religious belief and lifestyle?


The "Secret Message"... Good News For Everyone?
The whole idea behind the effort to substitute "God's dream" for "God's will" has a definite, but subtle, agenda behind it. If God simply has a "dream" for the world then, obviously, anyone who does his bit to bring about a better world, can be considered as helping make God's dream a reality. According to an article by Scot McKnight in Christianity Today, The Secret Message is dedicated to

    "..all who work for peace among nations, races, classes, religions, ideologies, parties, families, and individuals, because these people are part of something bigger and more important than be fully understand". Because they have "this unshakable intuition that both [Jesus] and his message are better than anything they've heard or understood or figured out so far." [39]

While McLaren himself says

    What if the message of Jesus was good news- not just for Christians but also for Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, New Agers, agnostics, and atheists? And what if the message of Jesus also contained warnings -for Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, New Agers, agnostics, atheists- and for Christians too? [38]

    "Jesus seems to say, 'The kingdom of God doesn't need to wait until something else happens. No, it is available and among you now.... So start spreading the blessing spoken of by Abraham now. Invite people of all nations, races, classes, and religions to participate in this network of dynamic, interactive relationships with God and all God's creation!" [40]

All of which tells us that not only does McLaren very clearly believe that all people who work for peace are also part of building the kingdom of God, but the final objective of The Secret Message of Jesus is to show that it is possible for anyone, regardless of religious affiliation and/or involvement with the occult, to become active participants in God's kingdom, by following the 'kingdom precepts' that Jesus taught.


Missional
The word "missional" (which means relating, or connected to, a religious mission) is not only a popular expression among members of the emerging church, but has been used quite a few times in A Generous Orthodoxy. Below are a few excerpts from the chapter entitled Why I am Missional.

McLaren illustrates the point he wishes to make with a diagram of three circles [41]. A large one entitled "the world", inside of which is a smaller one entitled "the church". The smallest one inside the other two is called "me". Three arrows point from the perimeter of the small "me" circle, to the perimeter of "the church" circle. Three others point from the perimeter of "the church" circle to the perimeter of "the world" circle. In other words the arrows are pointing outward from 'me' to 'the church', and from 'the church' to 'the world'. McLaren says

    In this diagram Jesus comes with saving love for the world. He creates the church as a missional community to join him in his mission of saving the world. He invites me to be part of this community to experience his saving love and participate in it

He goes on to say that this missional approach "changes everything"

    "perhaps the most profound and yet most troublesome, it gets us beyond the us-them thinking, and in-grouping and out-grouping that leads to prejudice, exclusion, and ultimately to religious wars. It opens a third alternative beyond exclusive and universalist religion... Missional Christian faith asserts that Jesus did not come to make some people saved and others condemned. Jesus did not come to help some people be right while leaving everyone else to be wrong. Jesus did not come to create another exclusive religion - Judaism having been exclusive based on genetics, and Christianity be exclusive based on belief (which can be a tougher requirement that genetics!)

    Missional faith asserts that Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God to everyone, especially the poor.  He came to seek and save the lost. He came on behalf of the sick. He came to save the world. His gospel, and therefore the Christian message, is good news for the whole world. [42] Emphasis in original

I do not know if this was the first time that McLaren mentioned Jesus 'starting a new religion', but it definitely wasn't the last time. In The Secret Message of Jesus, he asks

    "What if Jesus' secret message reveals a secret plan? What if he didn't come to start a new religion?" [7]

Jesus didn't come to start "a new religion" but to take the Old Covenant of Judaism and it's laws to it's final form, or into the new covenant, which is a complete fulfillment of the old covenant". The laws of the old covenant were but a type of the perfect New Covenant to come. [See Typology]


Neither Judaism Nor Christianity Were Ever a Private Club,

While Judaism was, to a great extent, based on genetics, it was not an exclusive club, membership to which was impossible for the person who was not born a Jew. On the contrary, the Lord told the nation that any stranger who lived among them was entitled, if he so wished, to partake of the sacred Passover feast, provided he (and all the the males in his family) was circumcised. It is especially to be noted that the Lord also said this person would be "like a native of the land". In other words, to all intents and purposes he was Jewish... under the same law, and entitled to the same benefits of the Covenant.

    "But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. "The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you." [Exodus 12:48-49 NASB]

Ruth, the great-great grandmother of King David, was a convert. Note her words to Naomi, her Jewish Mother in law.

    But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. "Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me." [Ruth 1:16-17 NASB]

Similarly Christianity is not a private club, but open to anyone who wishes to partake of it's benefits. And just as there was conditions attached to a stranger joining in to celebrate the Passover, there are conditions attached to becoming a Christian, which everyone has to do, regardless of whether they were born into a Christian family or not, whether they are churchgoers, or not. In other words no one is automatically a Christian, and no one automatically remains a Christian. Every single person has to make the decision for themselves whether they want to be a Christian, and every single person who has chosen to be a disciple of Christ, has to live his, or her, life befitting His name.

The statement that Jesus did not come to "help some people be right while leaving everyone else to be wrong" is very, very misleading. Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God to everyone. In other words, He offers every single person the opportunity to be a part of the coming kingdom, but it is up to the individual to accept, or reject, His offer. 


God's Promise to Abraham... Who Exactly Would Be "Blessed"?
McLaren goes on to explain his idea that the Christian message is "universally good news for Christians and non Christians alike" which, to some,  is "unheard of, strange, and perhaps heretical", But to him "has become natural and obvious" [44]. I do have have the faintest idea how this squares with Paul's words to the Thessalonians ...[Emphasis Added]

    For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed--for our testimony to you was believed. [2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 NASB]

But, McLaren explains it thus

    Jesus was a Jew and so saw himself as one of Abraham's descendants. Abraham's original contact with God involved a kind of identity statement or mission statement: I will bless you, God said, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will make your name and nation great, God said, and through you, or nations will be blessed. [44]

He then quotes Leslie Newbigin (one of the theologians whom, he says, helped him most), who once said

    "the greatest heresy (false, destructive, divisive belief) in monotheism results from taking the first half of God's call to Abraham (I will bless you, I will make your name and nation great) and neglecting or rejecting the second half (I will make you a blessing, or nations will blessed through you)".  [44]

McLaren asks whether we see the "tragic difference", then adds "Any form of Christianity that takes the first part of God's call to Abraham more seriously than the second is not missional, as I'm using the term here. Neither is it generous or truly orthodox!" 

The verses McLaren refers to are in the book of Genesis...

    Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families (mishpâchâh) of the earth will be blessed." [Genesis 12:1-3 NASB]

    "Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families (mishpâchâh) of the earth be blessed. [Genesis 28:14 NASB]

Note: The Hebrew word mishpâchâh can also mean a class (of persons), a tribe or people. These verses which, taken in isolation, can be construed as meaning the entire world will be blessed because of God's promise to Abraham. However, this is a classic case of picking verses that seem to substantiate a particular position. The Bible is an integrated whole, and from cover to cover represents the 'whole counsel of God'. Since it is impossible for the Bible to cram all it's teachings on a particular subject into one verse or paragraph, all passages that speak of, or have any bearing on, the subject in question have to be carefully considered.

What you believe cannot be decided by someone who, pointing to isolated verses in the Scriptures, tells you what the word of God says. Your knowledge has to come from a serious study of the Scriptures, by which I do not mean a comparison of one isolated verse, with another isolated verse, but taking into consideration both the context, and the whole counsel of God (everything the Bible has to say, either directly or indirectly, on the subject).

Anyone who does any less than this, is not interested in the truth.

Is that a lot of work? Certainly. But, the Bible does NOT say "sit back and let your beliefs be determined by someone who has arrived at his or her own conclusions and quotes verses at you to back them up". What the Bible says is "Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth". [2Timothy 2:15. Emphasis added].

Therefore, lets look at other verses that give us more insight into who would be blessed through Abraham.

    Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "all the nations will be blessed in you." So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. [Galatians 3:6-9 NASB. Emphasis Added ]

When God told Abraham that "in him" would all the families of the earth be blessed, He was referring to Abraham's seed.... which began with Isaac and continued through the generations to Christ. And, obviously, since no one has any reason to bless or curse Abraham, the verse had to be referring to his seed... the Messiah through whom both the blessings and the curses would come.

The very first passage below tells us that it is not the Jews, or blood descendants of Abraham, to whom the promise was applied, but those of the faith of Abraham were counted as his descendants.

    For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, [Romans 4:13-16 NASB]

Jesus pretty much said the same thing when he warned the religious leaders not to rely on their familial relationship to the father of the nation

    and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. [Matthew 3:9 NASB]

Paul was very clear,

    Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "all the nations will be blessed in you." So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. [Galatians 3:6-9 NASB. Emphasis Added]

    And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 3:29 NASB. Emphasis Added]

    The next verse is from Romans chapter 11. The overall theme of the chapter is that God had not universally, nor finally, rejected Israel, for there was a remnant of true believers then, just as there were in the days of the Prophet Elijah. Those that had embraced the Gospel, were saved by grace not by the law. In other words only a remnant, or small number, of Jews were saved. And salvation came to the Gentiles, through the ones that had stumbled. [Romans 11:11-14].

    I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life." But what is the divine response to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. [Romans 11:1-5 NASB]

Note: From cover to cover, the Bible often speaks of the remnant, usually in terms of survivors of the Lord's judgement, which certainly means that everyone will not be blessed, which is completely at odds with McLaren's next statement [Emphasis Added].. ("The remnant" will be addressed more fully later),

    One of my mentors once said to me, "Remember, in a pluralistic world, any religion is valued based on the benefits it brings to its non adherents." Many people think the opposite of what my mentor said: that religions offer benefits to adherents and catastrophic threats for non adherents. This offer/threat combination motivates people, they assume, to become adherents out of fear of catastrophe, and desire for benefits.  I think that the missional way is better: the gospel brings blessing to all adherents and non adherents alike.  (Pgs. 120-121)

And he certainly practices what he preaches....


Brian McLaren and Jewish Leaders
In recent years, McLaren has, on more than one occasion, met with major Jewish leaders from a group known as Synagogue 3000, self described as

    "... a catalyst for excellence, empowering congregations and communities to create synagogues that are sacred and vital centers of Jewish life, that "seek to make synagogues compelling moral and spiritual centers – sacred communities – for the twenty-first century"..." [45]

Describing the meetings as "ground breaking", the official Religion News Service Press Release said... [All Emphasis Added]

    In their first-ever formal gathering, emerging leaders from across America will share experiences and exchange ideas about reinventing the meaning and practice of community in their respective faith traditions, especially for unaffiliated Christians and Jews who are not attracted to conventional congregations. A debate with leading clergy in mainstream synagogues will explore the relationship between the congregational establishment and emerging groups".

    Prominent Emergent Christian theologian Brian McLaren has met with S3K (Synagogue 3000) three times to discuss recent trends among younger Christians and Jews. "We have so much common ground on so many levels,” he noted. "We face similar problems in the present, we have common hopes for the future, and we draw from shared resources in our heritage. I'm thrilled with the possibility of developing friendship and collaboration in ways that help God's dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and world.” [46]

The thought was echoed by Emergent-U.S. National Coordinator Tony Jones, who said the meeting had "historic possibilities"

    "As emerging Christian leaders have been pushing through the polarities of left and right in an effort to find a new, third way, we've been desperate to find partners for that quest,” he said. "It's with great joy and promise that we partner with the leaders of S3K to talk about the future and God's Kingdom.” [46]

How can Jewish leaders "help God's dreams come true" when they do not even acknowledge Christ as Son of God. McLaren seems to have answered that question a few years ago.


Services Done to "Tash"
In an earlier book, A New Kind of Christian, McLaren teaches that unbelievers and pagans can possibly be saved without explicit faith in Christ.

Although he says that we need to "prepare to meet God by entering into a relationship with him now", he doesn't think we "are ever in a position to judge others" or to prognosticate their eternal destinies. After all Jesus said "many who are seen as last will be first there, and many who are first here will be last there".

In support of this, McLaren quotes a story written by C.S. Lewis about a soldier who served a false god named Tash all of his life. This soldier then goes through something "analogous to the doorway of death", where he meets a great lion named Aslan, who represents Christ. Aslan tells the soldier that all the service he has done to Tash he accounts as service done to him. He and Tash "are of such different kinds" that no service which is vile can be done to Aslan, and no service which is good can be done to Tash." 

    "Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.  And if any man do a cruelty in my name, and though he say the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deeds are accepted." [47]

Lets talk about the "no service which is good can be done to Tash" bit. The problem is that if the mighty "Aslan" were right when he said that if a non-believer were to perform a good deed in the name of a false god, Christ accepts that deed as as "service done to him", then Moses and the various prophets must have been mistaken, when they quoted God as saying the following (Emphasis Added). Note that all the examples are about people serving other gods,

    "Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. "For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. [Deuteronomy 7:3-4 NASB]

    "It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. [Deuteronomy 8:19 NASB]

    "If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. "But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. "So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you. [Deuteronomy 13:6-11 NASB]

    "If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom you have not known), then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. If it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword. [Deuteronomy 13:12-15 NASB]

    and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. [Judges 2:12 NASB]

    "Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched."' [2 Chronicles 34:25 NASB]

    "For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. [Jeremiah 7:5-7 NASB]

    "They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers." Therefore thus says the LORD, "Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them. "Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they surely will not save them in the time of their disaster. "For your gods are as many as your cities, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to the shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal. [Jeremiah 11:10-13 NASB]

    because of their wickedness which they committed so as to provoke Me to anger by continuing to burn sacrifices and to serve other gods whom they had not known, neither they, you, nor your fathers. 'Yet I sent you all My servants the prophets, again and again, saying, "Oh, do not do this abominable thing which I hate." 'But they did not listen or incline their ears to turn from their wickedness, so as not to burn sacrifices to other gods. 'Therefore My wrath and My anger were poured out and burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, so they have become a ruin and a desolation as it is this day. [Jeremiah 44:3-6 NASB]

God said He would destroy anyone who went after another god, served them, or burned incense to them. C.S. Lewis says Christ accepts a service done in the name of another god, as service done to him. I don't know about you, but I think I will take the word of the Creator of the universe. (Also See Demon Worship below) However, I have to admit to wondering what exactly it is that causes a person to put more faith in Lewis' stories than in the Scriptures, inspired by God Himself? My guess that these little tales tickle people's ears, which they like... very much. Lewis, and a million others, say what a perverse generation wants to hear.


Many Who Are First Will Be Last
And, by the way, McLaren's statement that he doesn't think we "are ever in a position to judge others" or to prognosticate their eternal destinies, because Jesus said "many who are seen as last will be first there, and many who are first here will be last there" was taken from the last verse of Matthew 19, which says "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first." But was Jesus was saying that we have no idea what the eternal destiny of those who serve false gods will be?

Actually... no! He was not! As we would find out if we trouble to read the parable He immediately told to illustrate His point.

We need to remember that chapter and verse divisions were not present in the original documents, but added later for convenience. However, as in this case, divisions were sometimes introduced at the most inappropriate times. Chapter twenty begins with a parable, the very first word of which is "for", which connects it with the last words in chapter 19 ("But many who are first will be last; and the last, first").

The parable that Jesus tells is the story of a landowner who hired laborers to work in his vineyard for a fixed wage but, at the end of the day, he paid the ones whom he hired later in the day the same wage as those who had worked all day, which, understandably, caused those who had worked longer to complain. The land owner then told them that he had done them no wrong, but had paid them the wage they had agreed on before they commenced work. And, if he chose to give the same amount of money to others, it was his money to do with as he pleased.

The parable ends in 20:16 with Him repeating what He said in 19:30 ... "So the last shall be first, and the first last, for many are called, and few chosen", which further demonstrates the continuity between the two chapters.

A careful reading of the parable makes it clear that the underlying message was that the length of time spent in the vineyard was not the issue. The Jews who had been there from the beginning, had no reason to complain about the believing Gentiles who came to work in the vineyard much later, but would receive the same reward.


Salvation
In a chapter entitled Jesus: Savior of What? (A Generous Orthodoxy), McLaren says he believes we have also "misconstrued, reduced, twisted, and torqued" the whole meaning of what words like savior, save, and salvation, are supposed to mean for "generously orthodox Christians". [48]

Mclaren says our idea about salvation is an "inward turned, individual--salvation-oriented, un-adapted Christianity", described as such by Vincent Donovan, a Roman Catholic priest from the U.S., who served as a missionary in Tanzania in the 1960s and 1970s, evangelizing the Masai. According to McLaren this salvation is "a colossal and tragic misunderstanding", and perhaps we need to listen again for the "true song" of salvation, which is "good news to all creation". He adds that it may be best is we suspend "what, if anything, we know about what it means to call Jesus "Savior", and "to give the matter of salvation some fresh attention". He continues

    Let's start simply. In the Bible, save means "rescue", or "heal".  It emphatically does not automatically mean "save from hell" or "give eternal life after death", as many preachers seem to imply in sermon after sermon. Rather its meaning varies from passage to passage, but in general, in any context, save means "get out of trouble." The trouble could be sickness, war, political intrigue, oppression, poverty, imprisonment, or any kind of danger or evil.

    God, through the Hebrew Bible (which Christians call, perhaps unwisely, the Old Testament), repeatedly saves from danger and evil, so to say that God saves means that God intervenes to rescue. God compassionately and miraculously steps in, gets involved, intervenes, and protects his people from the enemies and themselves. [49]

This is one of the many times that I am (at least initially) at a loss for words when confronted by yet another of McLaren's preposterous ideas, rendered even more so because it comes from a man who was pastor of one church for several years, helped develop several other churches, mentors people all around the globe, and has an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Yet it seems that he has never really read his Bible. Had a statement so outrageous been made in any other, less important, context, I would have simply dismissed the person as a fool and walked away. However, in this case, all I can do is give my still reeling head time to recover.


Salvation in The Old Testament

Certainly, in the Old Testament, God did, on numerous occasions, refer to saving His people in terms of protecting them from danger. For example...

    "When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. "He shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.' [Deuteronomy 20:2-4 NASB]

    "Now then, do it! For the LORD has spoken of David, saying, 'By the hand of My servant David I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.'" [2 Samuel 3:18 NASB]

    Surely, thus says the LORD, "Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; For I will contend with the one who contends with you, And I will save your sons. [Isaiah 49:25 NASB]

There is a simple reason that a very large number of Old Testament verses about salvation refer to Israel being saved from their enemies. Israel was a theocracy ... a very small, but hugely important, nation that God had to found (through Abraham), then preserve through many centuries. However, there are OT verses in which the words "save" or "redeem" cannot be seen as rescuing people from an earthly danger, but from death itself. For example the book of Hebrews contrasts Noah's salvation with the fate of the rest of the earth.

    By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. [Hebrews 11:7 NASB]

The prophets Isaiah and Hosea respectively said [All Emphasis Added]

    He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." [Isaiah 25:8-9 NASB]

    Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight. [Hosea 13:14 NASB]

We know that both the prophets were speaking of a literal death, because Paul paraphrases these verses in the context of the resurrection. [All Emphasis Added]

    Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "death is swallowed up in victory. "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" [1 Corinthians 15:51-55 NASB]

Salvation in The New Testament
But what does the New Testament say about being saved and salvation. Is it true that, as McLaren says, "in general, in any context, save means get out of trouble. The trouble could be sickness, war, political intrigue, oppression, poverty, imprisonment, or any kind of danger or evil". Or do the words save and salvation in the New Testament refer to being saved from judgement and death.

Let us first establish that Jesus did come to earth to save us...

    "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." [Matthew 1:21 NASB]

    For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, [1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB]

    It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. [1 Timothy 1:15 NASB]

    Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. [Hebrews 7:25 NASB]

It is extremely significant that, unlike the Old Testament, there is barely a single example in the NT of God saving people from "sickness, war, political intrigue, oppression, poverty, imprisonment, or any kind of danger or evil". The exception being, of course, the miracles performed by Jesus and the apostles, which took the form of healing of physical ailments/diseases, and deliverance from demonic possession. (Why these miracles were done is an entirely separate topic, and is dealt with later on)


Does Seeking Salvation Make a Person "Self-Centered" and "Narcissistic"?
In a Christianity Today article, author Andy Crouch says

    Yet recently McLaren has started to sketch the outlines of his vision of a postmodern church. He sketches a big circle labeled "self," a smaller circle next to it labeled "church," and a tiny circle off to the side labeled "world."

    "This has been evangelicalism's model," he says. "Fundamentally it's about getting yourself 'saved' — in old-style evangelicalism — or improving your life in the new style. Either way, the Christian life is really about you and your needs. Once your needs are met, then we think about how you can serve the church. And then, if there's anything left over, we ask how the church might serve the world." [50]

Note: McLaren's other diagram has been described in the "Missional" section

Mclaren says that a growing number of people share Vincent Donovan's (the Roman Catholic priest from the U.S. mentioned earlier, who served as a missionary in Tanzania in the 1960s and 1970s, evangelizing the Masai) and his own discomfort with a self-and-hell centered approach to salvation, for a number of reasons.

    Can't seeking my personal salvation as the ultimate end become the ultimate consumerism or narcissism. In a self centered and hell centered salvation, doesn't Jesus, like every company and political party, appeal to me on the basis of self interest so that I can have it all eternally and can do so cheaply, conveniently, easily, and quickly?"

    Doesn't being preoccupied with our own individual salvation put us in danger of being like selfish people on the Titanic who were scrambling for the life rafts, more concerned about themselves than others? Doesn't it make us less concerned about the possibility of saving the whole ship? Doesn't it reinforce exactly the kind of 'sanctified self-centeredness that the real Jesus would have condemned?

    Doesn't the importance of my personal salvation pose a kind of temptation -  to want heaven more than I want good; to want to escape from hell more than I was true reconciliation to God or my neighbors?

He goes on to say

    No wonder many people feel that "accepting Jesus as a personal savior" could make them a worse person-more self centered and less concerned about justice on earth because of a preoccupation with forgiveness in heaven. [51]

In the first place salvation was (and is) always offered to individuals, since it is only each person who can make the decision to repent and accept God's gift for themselves. While a person may try to persuade another about the truth of the Gospel, and urge them to become a follower of the Lord Jesus, they can never make the final decision for any other individual on the face of the earth. However, salvation is neither cheap, convenient, easy, or quick. I would like to stress that again, it is not cheap, convenient, easy, or quick, and anyone who thinks so is dangerously misguided.

Sadly, in today's day and age, too many churches have, in their willingness to go to extreme lengths to ensure that their congregations are 'comfortable' with God, reduced salvation to a quickie "sinners" prayer, and/or a walk down an aisle, which is but a shallow parody of the Gospel message. Those who teach this deceptive doctrine are accountable, and will be judged for their false teachings, which have led people to believe they are saved, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The suggestion that anything other than faith is required for salvation, is not only militantly opposed by most of Christendom, but denounced as an unbiblical, works based, false teaching. Yet, the Bible says without Holiness no man shall see the Lord [Hebrews 12:14]. Jesus Himself said that we have to attain to a certain level of righteousness to be saved (Matthew 5:20) Yet anyone preaching this message would be denounced, from one end of the Christian world to the other, as a false teacher who is teaching salvation by works.

The bottom line is that anyone who professes Christianity without holiness is as phony as the proverbial three dollar bill. [See What is Holiness and The Myth of Faith Alone]

The point is that attaining holiness is not easy. It is a lifetime of struggle against sin, temptation and basic human nature.

However, while this may be more difficult for some, than others, there is little question of being "preoccupied with our own individual salvation". The Bible tells us that we have  an assurance of salvation, which means a person can know for certain that if he died at this very moment, he would be saved (This is, however, very different from unconditional eternal security. [See Assurance of Salvation].

When it comes to McLaren's question of whether the importance of a personal salvation posing a kind of temptation... "to want heaven more than I want good; to want to escape from hell more than I was true reconciliation to God or my neighbors?", I have to once again what book he has been reading, that happens to have "holy Bible" printed on it's cover. Mine is quite unambiguous... True reconciliation to God involves being saved by His Son. After which, IF we continue in the faith, we are presented as being holy, blameless and beyond reproach. Before being reconciled we are considered "enemies", and no enemy is going to escape judgement, and eternal death.

    For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. [Romans 5:10-11 NASB]

    and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. [Colossians 1:20-23 NASB]

True Christians, who are obedient to the commands of Christ, are not "scrambling for the life rafts" but are already on one, and are reaching into the water to try and pull other people to safety. There are uncountable number of Christians who have given their lives to spreading the message of the Gospel, many of whom have lost their lives in trying to do so. Others, and I can count my self among this number, are devoted to battling the false doctrines that have insidiously crept into the church.. the whole point of which is the safety of others, not myself.

But is there, as McLaren suggests, any hope of "saving the whole ship"?

Can we accept that we, as Christians, have a future in God's Kingdom, along with people of other faiths? or should we ask the million dollar question... does the Bible itself set forth definite terms and conditions for entrance into the kingdom and, if so, what are they?


The Bible's Conditions For Entrance Into The Kingdom
McLaren seems to have established his own criteria for who will be included in the kingdom of Heaven, and who will not. He says

    "... The kingdom of God seeks to include all of whom want to participate in and contributes to its purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose its purpose." (page 167)

    Amazingly, according to Jesus, in the kingdom of God, notorious sinners are loved, welcomed home, forgiven, and reconciled-not rejected. Who is rejected in the kingdom of God? Those who are heartless and merciless toward these often rejected people. [53]

This completely ignores the fact that the Scriptures have very clearly set forth God's conditions for entering His kingdom. Belief in Jesus Christ, repentance, being born again, and righteousness are, over and over again, very clearly tied in with the kingdom message.

Believing on Jesus: Jesus Christ said,

    "He that believeth on him is not condemned but he that believeth not is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son.” [John 3:18]

    "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him.” [John 3:36]

Righteousness: Jesus didn't exactly mince words when He told the Jews that without righteousness, and the keeping of the commandments, no one would enter the kingdom.

    For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:18-20]

The New Birth: Again the Bible is crystal clear that no one will see the kingdom of God unless they are begotten… or born again of God. The literal, earthly, political, kingdom that the Jews anticipated will come about, but since this kingdom will have not only physical characteristics, but also a spiritual dimension, it can only be entered by a spiritual re-birth.

    Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3:3-5 NASB. Emphasis Added]

The word translated into our English "again" is the Greek anothen, which means from above; by implication anew. It is seldom noticed that Jesus actually rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding what He meant by being "born again" or "born anew" because, as a spiritual leader, Nicodemus should have known that the book of Ezekiel makes it quite clear that a "new heart" and a "new Spirit" were necessary to dwell in the land.

    Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou the teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things? [John 3:10]

    And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the grain, and will multiply it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye may receive no more the reproach of famine among the nations. Then shall ye remember your evil ways, and your doings that were not good; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. [Ezekiel 36:25-31]

Repentance: Both John The Baptist and Jesus tied repentance to entrance into the kingdom of Heaven, warning that unless a person repented they would perish.

    Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." [Matthew 3:1-2 NASB]

    Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." [Mark 1:14-15 NASB. Also Matthew 4:17 ]

    "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgement than for you. "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. "Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgement, than for you." [Matthew 11:21-24 NASB]

    "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. [Luke 13:3 NASB]

    "And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers--in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "But Abraham *said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' "But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' [Luke 16:27-30 NASB]

Jesus said that He had not come "to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" [Luke 5:32 NASB], adding the warning.... “Except ye repent; ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). In other words, "notorious sinners" are not welcome in the kingdom, unless they have repented and turned from their evil ways, in which case they are not "notorious sinners" any longer, but born again children of God, who may stumble, but do not willingly sin.

Here again is another problem..


Redefining Repentance:
In The Secret Message, McLaren does mention "repentance", but has totally redefined the word, just as he has done with so many others. He says...

    "This, by the way, is what the problematic word repentance is all about. The word means to rethink—to reconsider your direction and consider a new one, to admit that you might be wrong, to give your life a second thought, to think about your thinking." [54]

From the general thrust of The Secret Message, it is obvious that the concept of 'reconsidering one's direction and considering a new one', works in tandem with, as McLaren says, us needing to first realize the kingdom of God is a "possibility", and then adjusting and arranging our lives to be part of it. [13]. Which leaves me wondering what we are to do with the many, many Biblical verses that speak of repentance as turning away from sins/transgressions/abominations, which include the worship of idols/demons, sexual immorality, covetousness, theft, extortion, drunkenness, oppressing the poor and needy etc. etc. etc.?  The first one clearly says that a person's transgressions will become a stumbling block to them.

    "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct," declares the Lord GOD. "Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. [Ezekiel 18:30 NASB]

    "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations. [Ezekiel 14:6 NASB]

    "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; [Acts 3:19 NASB]

    "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. [Acts 8:22 NASB]

    'I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 'Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. [Revelation 2:21-22 NASB]

    For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; [Revelation 9:19-20 NASB]

Paul explicitly said the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, then proceeded to mention a large number of sins that constituted unrighteousness.

    "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." [1 Corinthians 6:9-11]


Redefining The Word "Transgression"
The 2007 Paperback edition of The Secret Message from Thomas Nelson has a "bonus chapter" entitled The Prayer Of The Kingdom that is not included in the 2006 hardcover edition, also from Thomas Nelson. In this chapter, McLaren supposedly quotes Matthew 6:4... " For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (These words are in Matthew 6:14 not 6:4), and says that the word for going too far is used, instead of the word for debt, therefore

    "The political application to Jesus' audience would be clear: the Romans have gone too far: they have crossed from the boundaries of God's people, and they owe the Jewish people a huge repayment for their occupation and oppression".

However, both Matthew 6:14 and 6:15 use the English word transgressions, translated from the Greek paraptoma, which, according to Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon, means... unintentional error, or wilful transgression: - fall, fault, offence, sin, trespass. It is derived from parapipto, which means to apostatize: - fall away.

    "For if you forgive others for their transgressions (paraptoma), your heavenly Father will also forgive you. "But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions  (paraptoma). [Matthew 6:14-15 ]

Not only does the parallel passage in Luke 11:4, use the word sin (hamartia), but ties it to the Greek word for "debt' (opheileo). Also used in Matthew 18:28

    'And forgive us our sins (hamartia), For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted (opheileo) to us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

In other words, paraptoma clearly means sin, or trespasses, not "going too far". A reading of all twenty instances of paraptoma in the New Testament, emphasizes that the word means sin, and nothing else. However, it is the book of Romans that demonstrates the interchangeability of the words "sin" (hamartia) and "transgression" (paraptoma).

    But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners (hamartolos), Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies (echthros) we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Therefore, just as through one man sin (hamartia ) entered into the world, and death through sin (hamartia), and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (hamartano)-- for until the Law sin (hamartia) was in the world, but sin (hamartia)is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned (hamartano) in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression (paraptoma). For if by the transgression (paraptoma) of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. [Romans 5:8-15 ]

In summary, while there is little or no question that there are some extremely nice, kind, and caring, people among all communities, religions, and nations, of the world, the kingdom of God is for those that have been forgiven their sins through belief in Jesus Christ. How can Hindus, Muslims, Jews, New Agers, agnostics, and atheists, qualify when faith in Christ as the redeemer, repentance, being re-born from above, and righteousness, are all indispensable? In order for them to be included in the kingdom of God, we would have to ignore some very clear statements made by our Lord.

But there is more.


Demon Worship
One of the groups, mentioned by McLaren, who should be invited to participate in the "network of dynamic, interactive relationships with God," are the Hindus. I am not sure that McLaren has noticed, but Hindus worship a multitude of idols. In order for them to be included in the kingdom, we would have to throw out innumerable verses in which God shows His utter abhorrence for idols and their worship.

    'Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the Lord your God. [Leviticus 19:4 NASB]

    'I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. [Leviticus 26:30 NASB]

    "I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations." [Jeremiah 16:18 NASB]

    "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations. [Ezekiel 14:6 NASB]

    'So as I live,' declares the Lord GOD, 'surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable idols and with all your abominations, therefore I will also withdraw, and My eye will have no pity and I will not spare. [Ezekiel 5:11 NASB]

    "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. [Ezekiel 36:25 NASB]

The New Testament clearly tells us

    to abstain from things contaminated by idols. (but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. Acts 15:20),

    that the Corinthians were led astray by idols.. (You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 1 Corinthians 12:2),

    the temple of God has no agreement with idols.. (Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and i will be their God, and they shall be My people. 2 Corinthians 6:16),

    the Thessalonians were commended for turning away from idols to a living and true God.... (For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10),

    John's readers were warned to guard themselves from idols... (Little children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21),

    "acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols" are both lumped together in the same category... ('But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols Revelation 2:20),

    and those men who, in spite of seeing others around them killed by plagues will still stubbornly refuse to stop worshiping idols, which John places in the same category as worshipping demons... (The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; Revelation 9:20).

Note that Paul very clearly equated idols with demons, which explains the often hideous faces given these images.

    What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. [1 Corinthians 10:19-21 NASB]

And what is it we do not understand about this verse?

    Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. [Revelation 22:15 NASB. Emphasis Added]

In short....

The Kingdom Message is actually very bad news for those who choose to stay Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, New Agers, Agnostics and Atheists.

 

What's in a Name? What Exactly Is a "Christian"?
In his book, A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren says

    "I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts”- [55]

I have no earthly idea what McLaren means by becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, yet remaining within a Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish context, but how in the world does he manage to separate being an adherent to the Christian religion, from being a follower of Christ. The Christian "religion" is nothing but an institutionalized system grounded in the teachings of its spiritual leader... Jesus Christ. Consequently, all beliefs, values, and practices, in the church are supposed to be based on what God says in His Word. Nothing more... nothing less. Therefore an adherent to the Christian religion is not an adherent to a particular denomination, nor a particular church, but an adherent to the teachings of Christ.

Becoming a follower of Jesus means believing in Him, obeying His Word, and making Him Lord of one's life. And anyone who does that is a Christian... an adherent to the Christian religion.

The Bible tells us that the disciples of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch.

Up to a certain point believers were largely Jews who continued to attend their synagogue, and observe the Sabbath and other Jewish holy days. They were believers in Christ, but maintained their identity as Jews. However, the Gentiles who began to come to Christ were from a pagan background, and their new found faith did not make them Jews. They did not attend synagogue, keep the Sabbath, or perhaps even associate with the Jews. They literally had no identity.

However, what the two groups had in common was faith in Jesus Christ. The fact that they were His disciples, unified them into one unique group, both distinct from Judaism, and far removed from paganism. Through their unity in Christ, they were no longer Jew nor Gentile, and needed to be identified as the unique and separate entity they were. This mixed bag of believers was appropriately named Christians, or followers of Christ. In other words they were named according to their beliefs and practices... in order to identify them, and distinguish them other groups that believed and practiced different things.

And nothing has changed to this day.

Although many people identify themselves as Christians because their parents or grandparents were, or they happen to go to church on Christmas morning, a person can only truly be called a Christian IF they are repentant, born again, striving for righteousness, disciples of Christ, all of which are conditions, clearly laid down by the Bible, to gain entrance into the kingdom. And, if a person fulfills these conditions necessary for entrance into the kingdom, they are Christians... followers and disciples of Christ, whether they call themselves by that name or not.


Did Gandhi Seek "to follow the way of Christ"?
Yet, in his book A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren said that the Indian Hindu leader Gandhi "sought to follow the way of Christ without identifying himself as a Christian" [56]

    Gandhi is reputed to have said "I cannot say that Jesus was uniquely divine. He was as much God as Krishna, or Rama, or Mohammed, or Zoroaster", [57]

Which, according to the Scriptures, puts him as far from salvation as it gets.

    that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; [Romans 10:9 NASB. Emphasis Added]

    and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. [1 John 4:3 NASB]

Added to which is the fact that Gandhi's spiritual mentor was Shrimad Rajchandra, who was said to have had "a profound influence" on Gandhi's life and philosophy. The website of the Shrimad Rajchandra mission quotes Gandhi's public acknowledgment of Shrimad Rajchandraji as his foremost spiritual guide

    "I have said elsewhere that besides Kavi (Shrimadji), Ruskin and Tolstoy have contributed in forming my intrinsic character; but Kavi has had a more profound effect because I had come in personal and intimate contact with Him." [58]

And who was Shrimad Rajchandra? There are several websites that prove quite enlightening, one of which relates several stories about his childhood. [Emphasis Added]

    Even as a child Shrimad Rajchandra accompanied his dad to bhajan sessions, and showed great "devotion to Lord Krishna". As a young adult he "composed many poems on the heroic and spiritual life of Rama and Krishna". When he was only seven, he is said to have witnessed the cremation of a friend who died of a snake bite, which caused him to experience knowledge of past lives. [59]

The Shrimad Rajchandra mission site goes on to say [Emphasis Added]

    In South Africa, Gandhiji was faced with constant pressure from his Christian and Muslim friends to adopt their faith. In this moment of spiritual crisis, he resorted to Shrimadji for help, conveying his doubts through 27 questions by post. Shrimadji's judicious, direct, and pertinent answers resolved his doubts and restored his faith in Hinduism. There remained no question of converting to another faith. This letter along with two others is included in the volume titled 'Shrimad Rajchandra'. [58]

The page ends with this gem

    The inner bond between Shrimadji and Mahatma Gandhi initiated a brilliant new chapter, not only in their own lives, or in the history of Gujarat, but in the cultural, political and spiritual history of the entire nation. [60]


The Inclusiveness of Jesus
The following quote from The Secret Message is, perhaps, one of the most subtly misleading statements I have ever read, completely ignoring, as it does, any mention of repentance for, and the forgiveness of, sin, as discussed above.

    "the exclusive attitude of the Pharisees and religious scholars angered Jesus. In ways that were sure to infuriate them in return, he loved to compare the kingdom of God to a party. He would demonstrate the open border of the kingdom of God by hosting or participating in parties where even the most notorious outcasts and sinners were welcome. Jesus was often criticized for this "table fellowship" with notorious sinners; his critics assumed that Jesus' acceptance of these people implied and approval and endorsement of their shabby behavior. But they misunderstood: Jesus wanted to help them experience transformation. Rejection hardens people, but acceptance makes transformation possible. By accepting and welcoming people into his presence, just as they were, with all their problems and imperfections, Jesus was exposing them to his example and to his secret message. In this way, he could challenge them to think-and think again-and consider becoming part of the kingdom of God so they could experience and participate in the transformation that flows from being in an interactive relationship with God and others. [61] Emphasis Added

Certainly, in spite of Old Testament texts that clearly spoke of the ultimate inclusion of the Gentiles into God's kingdom (See, for example, Genesis 12:1-3, Psalm 22:27-28, Isaiah 49:1-6 and 56:3-8), the Jews of Jesus' day believed that they had a special status in the eyes of God. Not only did first-century Jews emphasize the exclusion of the Gentiles, but many of them were exclusivistic even amongst themselves. For example, the Pharisees who viewed themselves as being holier and on a higher level than others, considered themselves to be the guardians of divine law, quick to denounce the slightest deviation from the letter of the law. In a slightly different vein, the Essenes established a monastic community and dedicated themselves to asceticism, voluntary poverty, and abstinence from worldly pleasures, thus physically separating themselves from most other Jews.

In this climate, it is true that the inclusiveness of Jesus was extraordinary, reaching out, as He did, to the marginalized. Unlike his religious contemporaries, He extended His hand to sinners, tax-collectors, lepers, and women...  those whom the different sects (especially the Pharisees) ignored, excluded, and even despised. Many of these people were not only generally excluded from religious life, but polite society in general.

However, the inclusiveness of Jesus, while quite remarkable, was not of the "come as you are" sort. It wasn't absolute in the sense that He invited all people to join Him without qualification or condition. Nor did He offer inclusion in God's kingdom to people as they were in their sinful state. If He had accepted and welcomed people into his presence, "just as they were, with all their problems and imperfections", He would have contradicted His own words when He said

    For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:18-20]

    "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3:5 NASB. Emphasis Added]

    He had not come "to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" [Luke 5:32 NASB]

Instead, He offered healing and transformation. He reached out to sinners, invited them to turn their lives around as they responded to the good news of the kingdom. For example... Matthew's life was immediately transformed (Matthew 9:9), several of the women who were part of Jesus' entourage had been freed of demonic possession (Luke 8:1-3), the leper was instantly healed (Mark 1:40-45), and the woman caught in adultery was forgiven, but also expressly cautioned about sinning again (John 8: 1-11)... [See Footnote for Details]

Besides which, there is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus was exposing these people to His "secret message", nor that He was challenging them to "think-and think again". Saying people could experience and participate in the transformation that flows from being in an interactive relationship with God and others, is again a very subtly deceptive statement leaving out, as it does, any mention of sin and repentance etc. But then I have said all that.. several times.

Additionally, the Holy Spirit is the sole transforming agent. However, according to the Bible, The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit. Only a believer (one who has already confessed Jesus as Lord) can receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit

    Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. [1 John 4:15.]

    In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, [Ephesians 1:13. Emphasis Added]

    "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. [John 14:16-17.]


The Exclusiveness of Jesus
Sadly those who tom-tom from the roof tops about how "inclusive" Jesus was, conveniently forget the other side of the story.. that Jesus was, in His own way, also very exclusivistic. Look at some examples, all of which firmly discount the notion that Jesus' inclusivism was the "I'll take you as you are" sort.

Whom did He exclude?

Almost everyone.

The Religious Leaders: Although Jesus, on more than one occasion ate in the home of a Pharisee, not in ones wildest imagination can one say that Jesus ever tried to make peace with the religious leaders of the day. On the contrary His most scathing comments were usually reserved for them. For example, Matthew 23:13-15 records Jesus pronouncing woes on the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, who failed to enter the kingdom, and endeavored to prevent others from doing so as well. Even when He spoke to Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee, He told him that he could only enter God's kingdom if he were reborn by the power of God.

All The Gentiles: Although Jesus was sufficiently impressed by the faith of both the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) and the gentile woman (Mark 7:24-30), to heal the person each of them requested Him to, He was very clear that His mission was to the Jews. Even when Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, He instructed them NOT to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans.

     These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Matthew 10:5-6 NASB]

Those Who Would Not put The Kingdom Before Everything Else:
The Rich Young Man: Jesus' conversation with a wealthy man in Mark 10:17-22 was very revealing. He told the man that since he had kept all the commandments, he only had one lack.... He needed to sell what he owned, give the money to the poor, thus accumulating treasure in heaven, then follow Jesus. In other words, Jesus did not simply include the rich young man, but instructed him to give away that which he loved more than the kingdom of God... his riches. Mark ends the story with these words "When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions" The rich man put his money ahead of the kingdom and eternal life. Knowing this, Jesus did not accept him as he was, but gave him the opportunity to put the kingdom first, which he refused.

The Man Who wanted to Bury His Father: "On one occasion, Jesus called a man to follow him, but the man asked for permission to go and bury his father first – seemingly an innocent request. Yet Jesus responded negatively, saying, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:60). When another potential disciple asked to say farewell to his relatives before following him, Jesus answered, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). In both of these episodes Jesus rejected apparently understandable requests to delay following him. The kingdom of God was for those who urgently sought it, Jesus revealed, making it a top priority for their lives. Once again, this is far from a "come as you are and stay as your were" kind of inclusiveness. In fact, entrance to the kingdom of God is not for everyone. At one point Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13)". [60]


Was It The Exclusive Attitude Of The Pharisees That Angered Jesus?
So was it the "the exclusive attitude of the Pharisees" that angered Jesus, or was it their hypocrisy and pretentiousness? In the following six short verses, the word "hypocrite" or "hypocrisy" are used 4 times.

    "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. "You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. [Matthew 23:23-28 NASB]

The Pharisees did a great job at keeping the letter of the Law, but ignored the spirit of it, often justifying themselves by twisting or even altering God's commands, and introducing hundreds of rules and prohibitions of their own which were their interpretation of God's law. Jesus point was that that they took great pains to avoid offense in very small matters, scrupulously observing the smallest technical details of the law, while ignoring the bigger moral issues of hypocrisy, deceit, oppression, and lust. Their exaggerated formalism, which insisted on ceremonial details at the expense of the more important precepts of the Law was, in fact, a perversion of God's laws. For example, they seemed to completely overlook the fact that one of the basic principles of the laws of Leviticus was that the widows and orphans be protected and cared for. While they painstakingly kept the ceremonial aspects of the law, they did not do what the Mosaic law prescribed... care for the most vulnerable in their society. As Jesus told them...

    "But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. "Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. "Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it." One of the lawyers *said to Him in reply, "Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too." But He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. "So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. "For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.' "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering." [Luke 11:42-52 NASB]

McLaren says the Pharisees were "marginalized by Jesus' direct rejection of their righteousness, and by His implication that the Pharisees were not operating within the kingdom of god" and needed "to enter it by following His different and better way" (Page 128).

On the contrary, the phrase "woe to you" repeated six times in ten short verses, makes it perfectly clear that Jesus was clearly and openly condemning the Pharisees for 1) hypocrisy, and 2) the fact that they tried to prevent entrance to the kingdom by opposing Him, and attempting to convince the people that he was an impostor, thus preventing many from trusting Him as their Redeemer and becoming His followers.

As Luke says they "took away the key of knowledge", which had to mean the key to understanding, and interpreting, the prophecies correctly. Over and above all that, the Pharisees approved of the deeds of their fathers who killed the prophets, and would repeat their sins (magnified many times over) by being instrumental in putting the Christ to death, and these sins would be charged to them.

Also see the parables in Matthew 21:28-45


What Determines One's 'Status' in The Kingdom?

And what happens to those who do not go along with Jesus' message. Apparently, according to McLaren, they will find themselves at a lower standing, or in less prestigious position, than those that do. In his words...

    "One's status in the kingdom is determined by how one treats little children and "the least of these" (Matthew 5:19)" [53]

Again McLaren's deception is subtle. Read verse 19 for yourself along with the ones immediately before and after.

    18) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. 19) Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20) For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:18-20]

Possibly because the Pharisees were very good at making a distinction between supposed weightier and lighter matters in the law, Christ was, in this verse, very clearly teaching that all the law of God is binding, and that anyone who annuls any of God's laws, or teaches other to do the same, will be called "least in the kingdom of heaven". On the other hand, those who, without exception, observe all the laws of God, and teach others to do the same, will be called "great in the kingdom of heaven".

Matthew 5:19 does not even hint that "one's status in the kingdom is determined by how one treats little children and "the least of these".

However, it is in Matthew 25:45 that Jesus, in warning about 'faith' without works, talked about people who do not do good to "the least of these". He makes it clear that a professing Christian's fate will be determined by how he has treated His "brothers" and, as said before, the goats will be rejected based on sins of omission toward "the least of these", or what they failed to do. However, those that do not put a hand out to the poor, the needy, the stranger, the ill, etc. will not, as McLaren says, find themselves occupying a lower status in the kingdom but will be sent away into eternal punishment.

    I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." [Matthew 25:43-46 NASB.]

Lets sum that up.

According to the Lord Jesus Christ, one's status in the kingdom will be determined by whether or not one observes all the laws of God, and teach others to do the same. However, those who fail to do for "the least of these" or the stranger, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the unclothed, will not even enter the kingdom, but will be sent away into eternal punishment.

Although The Secret Message totally ignores Jesus' kingdom parable in Matthew 22 we would be well advised not to, because those who are too busy with their own lives, ignore the invitation to the feast, and go as far as to mistreat the servants bearing the invitations, do not fare very well. The "sons of the kingdom", whom we can safely assume are the Jews, were invited first, but chose not to come. They were then deemed "not worthy", and the invitation went out to others (the Gentiles).

But regardless of the identity of the guests at the wedding, they had to be 'fit' to be there. if not, they quickly found themselves not, as McLaren says, occupying a lower status in the kingdom, but cast into outer darkness.

    Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. "And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. "Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. "But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. "Then he *said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 'Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' "Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he *said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are called, but few are chosen." [Matthew 22:1-14 NASB]

However, the book is not quite finished with the theme of kingdom entrance being possible for any one who does not "actively oppose it's purposes".


The Pax Christi
On page 99, Mclaren asks what the goal of Christ's suffering sacrifice, His "self giving to the point of blood to achieve the "pax Christi", was. He answers his own question...

    It is a new and lasting reconciliation between humanity and God, and among all the at-odds individuals and groups that comprise humanity.  In another letter, Paul said it like this: "Old distinctions like Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female no longer exist, for you are all one in Christ" (see Galatians 3:28). Today, he might speak of reconciliation off the wall veteran with a pacifist protester. The tattooed and pierced grand daughter with her prim and proper grandmother.  The orthodox with the Catholics, and Pentecostals with Baptists.  Christians with Jews and Muslims and Hindus. Tutsi with Hutu, and both with Twa.  Right wing Republicans with left wing Democrats. Believers with doubters. [63]

The problem here is that Galatians 3:28 has been taken out of context to prove the fictitious point that Christ shed His blood to achieve a new and lasting reconciliation between God and "all the at-odds individuals and groups that comprise humanity".

The entire book of Galatians was written to believers, to address one problem that had arisen among them. The Galatian believers... Jews, who had probably heard the Gospel from Paul (Acts 16:6; 18:23), had converted, but were now in danger of falling from faith in Christ alone, and putting their faith in the old Jewish rituals This thanks to false teachers who insisted that that they should be circumcised, and otherwise keep the Mosaic law. In this epistle Paul was endeavoring to bring the church back from the errors of these false teachers. [See Galatians 1:6; 4:9-10, 4:21; 5:1-2, 6:12].

That Paul was referring to the lack of distinction between believers, is made glaringly obvious if one reads, and takes into consideration, the verses immediately prior to 28. Verses 26 and 27 make it clear that His readers were "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus", who were "baptized into Christ". It is these baptized believers that "are all one in Christ Jesus". The old distinctions of Jew and Greek, slave and free man, male and female, no longer exist because all believers are equal under the New Covenant.

     [22] But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. [23] But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.  [24]  Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.  [25]  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  [26]  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  [27] For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:22-27 NASB]

Sadly, McLaren is still not through trolling through the Scriptures in his effort to find verse that can be twisted, or taken out of context, in his effort to back up his idea of an almost completely inclusive kingdom.


Many Shall Come From The East, And From The West..
Page 219 of the Secret Message (Chapter. Why Didn't We Get It Sooner?) begins with a quote from the Gospel of Luke

    There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. [Luke 13:28-30] 

Matthew 8:11-12 says virtually the same thing.

    "I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"

On pages 226 and 227, McLaren asks (Emphasis Added)

    "Wouldn't it be fascinating if thousands of Muslims, alienated with where fundamentalists and extremists have taken their religion, began to "take their places at the feast," discovering the secret message of Jesus in ways that many Christians have not? Could it be that Jesus, always recognized as one of the greatest prophets of Islam, could in some way be rediscovered to save Islam from its dangerous dark side? Similarly, wouldn't there be a certain ironic justice if Jesus' own kinsmen, the Jewish people, led the way the in understanding and practicing the core of teachings of one of their own prophets who has too often been hijacked by other interests or ideologies?  Or if Buddhists, Hindus, and even former atheists and agnostics came from "east and west and north and south" and began to enjoy the feast of the kingdom in ways that goes bearing the name Christian have not? Of course, because we have the "time-release capsule of the New Testament, there's always hope that the Christians will not be the last to rediscover the truth that could change everything. [64]

(Actually, rather than "fascinating", miraculous is the word that comes to mind. In two thousand years Muslims have not exactly "rediscovered" one of the "greatest prophets in Islam". Besides which, until the dictator in N. Korea, or the terrorist in Afghanistan, gets the idea, millions will continue suffering. Anyone willing to hazard a guess as to when that will happen?. On the other hand, God's kingdom will come in one fell swoop, by which time if you have not made, and followed up on, a decision to be a member of that kingdom, you will never be a part of it. But, I digress)

By conveniently ignoring the context, McLaren completely redefines what Jesus meant when He said that people from all over the globe will partake of the Messianic Banquet with the patriarchs and prophets, in the kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately our churches seem to abound with people who 1) do not know their Bibles, and/or 2) do not understand the impossibility of coming to an accurate understanding of any of it's teachings, if the verses in question are removed from their context. These people will be taken in by McLaren's ever so subtle, and clever suggestion that those who will come from "east and west and north and south" and enjoy the feast of the kingdom, can possibly be "Buddhists, Hindus, and even former atheists and agnostics".

When taken in context, the message is very different.

Although the two circumstances, under which Jesus said what he did, were different, the point He was making was exactly the same in both cases. He was warning His countrymen that few would be saved, and they would not primarily be Israelites. While many Gentiles will be found at the banquet, a very large percentage of Jews (sons of the kingdom) would not be there. (The symbolism of the Gentiles at the banquet table becomes especially relevant in view of the fact that the Old Testament ceremonial food laws played a huge part in maintaining the separation between Jew and Gentile. (See Peter's vision in Acts 10, and the conflict between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2).

    Matthew: In the book of Matthew, Jesus' words follow the healing of the Roman centurion's servant. The centurion was an outstanding example of a Gentile believer in Jesus, who received the highest praise accorded anyone in the Gospels, be he Jew or Gentile. Jesus said “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10). Because of this faith, the centurion who did not consider himself worthy to even have Jesus under his roof, was told that he would find himself sitting at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, the sons of the kingdom, or those that supposed themselves to be the special favorites of heaven, would be cast forth into the outer darkness:

    Luke: These verses in Luke were immediately preceded by a question from an unnamed person in the crowd, who asked Jesus whether there would only be a few who would be saved? (Vs. 23). The question probably stemmed from the Jewish assumption that they had a reserved seat in the kingdom of God. Jesus, while not answering the query directly, probably shocked His listeners by indicating that not only were they not already on the inside of the kingdom, but would find themselves excluded when the kingdom came. Even worse, many Gentiles, whom the Jews felt were unworthy of salvation, would find themselves at the banquet table of the kingdom, along with the prophets and the patriarchs of Israel. Jesus made it clear that mere association with Him while He walked the earth, did not open the door.

(Note:The banquet is obviously metaphorical, representing, not a single event at the beginning of the Messianic Age to come, but actual physical blessings in the entire everlasting age. See, for example

    The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. [Isaiah 25:6-8 NASB]

Finally, from cover to cover, the Bible calls the few who are saved from the Lord's wrath and do not have anything to fear from Him.....the "remnant".


The Repeated Refrain of "The Remnant"
Since, over and over again, the Bible repeats the refrain of 'the remnant' (that which remains), this theme bears paying close attention to. "Remnant" is a word that has huge significance, because it means "a small part or portion that remains after the main part no longer exists". In other words.... survivors. And, a study of the topic in the Bible shows that the remnant are usually spoken of in terms of as survivors of the Lord's judgement.

    Noah and his family were the only survivors of the Divine judgement of the flood (Genesis 6:5-18).

    When the Lord destroyed Sodom, Lot and his family were the only ones saved (Genesis 18:17-33; Genesis 19:12-17).

    Jacob's family were saved by going to Egypt where Joseph had great influence (And God sent me before you to preserve you a remnant in the earth, and to save you alive by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7)

    Elijah and the 7,000 faithful that had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:17-18);

    "And now for a little moment grace hath been showed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage". (Ezra 9:8) In this verse Ezra is speaking of those that had returned from exile in Babylon, which in itself was the Lord's judgement on Israel...

The hope of a remnant was so important that Isaiah named one of his sons Shear-Jashub, meaning "A Remnant Shall Return" (Isaiah 7:3). In fact, the word remnant pops up some 60 times in the book of the prophets alone. A few sample verses are..

    Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a few survivors, We would be like Sodom, We would be like Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9 "day of the Lord")

    "For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."' (Isaiah 37:32)

    'In those days and at that time,' declares the Lord, 'search will be made for the iniquity of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.' (Jeremiah 50:20)

    "However, I will leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered among the countries. (Ezekiel 6:8)

Time after time, the chorus of voices from the prophet's box gave testimony to the fact that Divine judgement would be poured out, and not everyone would live happily ever after. Only the few who repented, rested their future on the compassion of their Lord, and lived righteously, would survive and prosper.

    For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live; (Amos 5:4)

    Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as ye say. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish justice in the gate: it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:14-15)

    Behold, the eyes of the Lord the Lord are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; save that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations, like as grain is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least kernel fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, The evil shall not overtake nor meet us. In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the nations that are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring back the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God. (Amos 9:8-15)

    Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of the Lord's anger. (Zephaniah 2:3)

There are innumerable Old Testament passages that describe the kind of life that will be enjoyed by those who have put their trust in the Lord, and obeyed His commandments. However, Zechariah's wording leaves no room to believe that it is any other than a remnant that will enjoy this life.

    And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and multiply. (Jeremiah 23:3)

    Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.....For there shall be the seed of peace; the vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things. (Zechariah 8:7-8, 12)

    And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah;they shall feed their flocks thereupon; in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening; for the Lord their God will visit them, and bring back their captivity.... Therefore as I live, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, a possession of nettles, and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall make a prey of them, and the remnant of my nation shall inherit them. (Zephaniah 2:7,9)

    The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. (Zephaniah 3:13)

    In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble that which is lame, and I will gather that which is driven away, and that which I have afflicted; and I will make that which was lame a remnant, and that which was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord will reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth even for ever. (Micah 4:6-7)

And the refrain is far from abandoned in the New Testament

Jesus
made it clear that this remnant would be small when compared to the number of people on the earth, throughout history. "Many" will find the way to eternal destruction, but "few" will find the way through the gate that leads to eternal life and the kingdom.

    Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Paul:
In the book of Romans, Paul, quoting from the prophets Hosea and Isaiah (Romans 9:25-33), more than once refers to the remnant that would be saved. In Romans 11:1-5, He drew a parallel between his day, and the days of Elijah, when a remnant of Jews did not reject God, and survived the Lord's judgement. However, if only a "remnant" was to be saved, it stands to reason that great numbers of them would not be saved or, as Paul put it, "cast off".

    And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and they that are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again lean upon him that smote them, but shall lean upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people, Israel, be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them shall return: a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. For a full end, and that determined, will the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, make in the midst of all the earth. (Isaiah 10:20-23)

    And Isaiah crieth concerning Israel, If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that shall be saved: for the Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short. (Romans 9:27-28)

Additionally, when Isaiah said these words, there is no question that the prophet was referring to the Jews of his own time... the perverse generation that God was about to punish by sending them captive into other lands. The remnant Isaiah was referring to were those few that would be left after the Assyrian had invaded, and desolated, the land. The faithful would survive the onslaught of the Assyrian army (Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 12:1-6). This remnant would no longer depend on any alliance with the Assyrians, but on the Holy One of Israel. (Also see Isaiah 36-38).

However, in the spirit of Hebrew typology, Isaiah's words also had a future application. Paul took Isaiah's prophecy and applied it to his own day when, as he said, a multitude of Jews would be cast off. Only a remnant would be saved, or kept from destruction.

And the timeless principle underlying both passages continues to the end of days, when only a righteous remnant will be preserved.

So when McLaren, struggling with the idea of a future physical resurrection, asks what he calls the "embarrassingly naive question of where we'd put so many resurrected people from across time!" [65], I have two questions. 1) Why exactly he thinks "we" have to figure out where to so many resurrected people. And, 2) can anyone imagine the Lord finding Himself in the position of scratching His head, and trying to figure out where to put all (or most) of the people who have ever lived.

In the first place, as the Bible tells us... there will not be that many who will survive His judgment. (See End time Revival or Apostasy) And, anyone who believes in the foreknowledge of God, should think about the probability that, before the Lord created this universe, He knew full we just how many people would be in the saved remnant. I'd be willing to bet that He created this planet to a very specific size.... to comfortably accommodate exactly that number of people.

     

CONTINUE ON TO PART V... THE LAMBETH CONFERENCE: Three questions asked Brian McLaren after The Lambeth Conference. Should Christianity be seen as a "threat" or "welcome friend" to other religions, and are they “caretakers” or enemies of the Gospel?

 

Footnote III. Transformed Lives
Matthew the Tax Collector

    And as Jesus passed by from thence, he saw a man, called Matthew, sitting at the place of toll: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. [Matthew 9:9. Also See Mark 2:14]

Matthew was a "publican" or tax-gatherer, a class of people, despised by the Jews who classed them with sinners, as the following verses show

    And it came to pass, as he sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Teacher with the publicans and sinners? But when he heard it, he said, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. [Matthew 9:10-12]

However, when the account states that Matthew "followed" Christ, it does not mean that he physically walked behind Jesus wherever He went, but that his life was immediately transformed. Matthew became one of Jesus' twelve chosen disciples, who also wrote the Gospel named after him. He accepted Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior. Matthew's change of heart reveals itself not only by his association with Jesus but also by his testimony to his fellow colleagues. After some time had passed, Matthew "made Jesus a great feast in his own house" (Luke 5:29), a fact that is not recorded in Matthew's own Gospel. This feast was attended by many publicans, and it is not improbable that Matthew got them together for the purpose of bringing them into contact with our Lord to do them good.

The Leper
In Mark 1:40-45, the story is told of a leper who, taking a great risk by breaking all social and religious conventions, came to Jesus begging to be made clean. Leprosy was, in essence, a living death. Since touching a leper would defile a person, the leper had to call out, "Unclean! Unclean!" when some came near him. Obviously he had no access to the temple, or even the city of Jerusalem, but had to remain outside the camp (Leviticus 13:45-46).

     leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter (Mark 1:40-45).

However, although lepers were completely ostracized, Jesus healed him by touching him. Physical contact with the person afflicted was not necessary for healing since we know that Jesus also healed from a distance, therefore Jesus touching the leper had to be an act of compassion. However, in the context of our subject the salient point is that Jesus did not simply welcome the leper into his circle, nor did He urge the people to accept the leper as he was, but He healed the man. He then instructed the leper to show himself to the priest who was the only one who could pronounce the disease healed, and restore the former leper to human society.

The Women
Luke 8 provides an interesting bit of information about the women who followed Jesus which, in itself, was very unusual.

    And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went about through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good tidings of the kingdom of God, and with him the twelve, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary that was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuzas Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who ministered unto them of their substance. [Luke 8:1-3]

Luke reports that as Jesus traveled around Galilee preaching the message of the kingdom, He was accompanied by not only His twelve male disciples, but also a sizable group of women, some of whom had been "healed of evil spirits and infirmities" (Mary Magdalene, had actually been delivered of seven demons). These women apparently financial supported Jesus and His disciples. In Jesus' day women had absolutely no standing, and the very fact that Jesus included women in His entourage was very unusual. However, once again we find that He did not include them in whatever state they happened to be in, but delivered them from demonic bondage first. He healed... then included.

When, in John 8, the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery, they reminded Jesus that, according to the Law, this woman should be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10), of course, conveniently leaving out the fact that the Law prescribed the same penalty for the male partner.  Jesus' first response was to write something in the sand, then turn to her accusers and say "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone" (8:7). This caused the men to slink away, leaving the woman alone with Jesus. Noting that no one remained to condemn the accused woman, Jesus then told her that neither did He condemn her. He then added "go thy way; from henceforth sin no more". (8:11).

Although this woman did not join the others who physically followed Jesus, it has to be noted that Jesus did not accept the woman's sin, did not release her to rejoin her lover, nor did He in any way imply that it was okay to continue with her adultery. While He did forgive her, He also admonished her to sin no more.

 

End Notes
All URLs were good at the time of writing (July 2012)

[39] Christianity Today. McLaren Emerging. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/september/38.59.html?start=2

[40] Brian McLaren. The Secret Message of Jesus. Thomas Nelson Paperback Edition (April 2007) Ch. Troubling Questions About Jesus.  Introduction. Pgs. 4-5

[41] ibid. Pg. 74

[42] Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy, Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2006 Paperback Edition Pg. 118

[43] ibid. Pgs. 119-120

[44] ibid. Pg. 120

[45] Synagogue 3000's Purpose. http://synagogue3000.org/about

[46] Emergent Jewish And Christian Leaders In Historic Meeting: Innovative Clergy to Discuss Worship, Social Justice, Community-Building. http://synagogue3000.org/synablog/2006/01/04/emergent-jewish-and-christian-leaders-in-historic-meeting-innovative-clergy-to-discuss-worship-social-justice-community-building/

[47] A New Kind of Christian. April 18, 2008 | Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series (Book 29). Pgs. 131-133. I believe this story can be found around page 90 in the 2001 Jossey-Bass Hardcover edition

[48] Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2004 Hardcover edition. Pg. 91.

[49] Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2004 Hardcover edition. Pg. 93.

[50] Andy Crouch. The Emergent Mystique. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/november/12.36.html?start=4

[51] Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2004 Hardcover edition. Pgs. 99-100.

[52] Brian McLaren. The Secret Message of Jesus. Thomas Nelson Paperback Edition (April 2007) Ch. The Borders of The Kingdom. Pg. 167

[53] ibid. Pg. 22. Ch. The Jewish Message of Jesus

[54] ibid. Pg. 47. Ch. The Medium of The Message

[55] Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2004 Hardcover edition. Pg.260

[56] ibid. Pg 170. Ch. 10 Why I am Biblical

[57] http://www.thebereancall.org/content/february-2004-extra

[58] Mahatma Gandhi. 'Modern Review', June 1930. Shrimadji and Gandhiji.
http://www.shrimadrajchandramission.org/inspiration/shrimad-rajchandraji/shrimadji-and-gandhiji-308.htm.

[59] http://junu.rajsaubhag.org/shrimadrajchandra.html

[60] Shrimadji and Gandhiji. http://www.shrimadrajchandramission.org/inspiration/shrimad-rajchandraji/shrimadji-and-gandhiji-308.htm.

[61] Brian McLaren. The Secret Message of Jesus. Thomas Nelson Paperback Edition (April 2007) Ch. The Borders of The Kingdom. Pgs. 162-163

[62] Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts. Christian Inclusiveness And The Inclusiveness of Jesus.
http://www.inplainsite.org/html/inclusiveness_of_jesus_.html

[63] Brian McLaren. The Secret Message of Jesus. Thomas Nelson Paperback Edition (April 2007) Ch. Hiding The Message in New Places.
Pg 99

[64] ibid. Appendix 1: Why Didn't We Get it Sooner? Pgs. 226 and 227

Cathedral-Back

Brian McLaren, Part 3... A Gospel of Transformation, Evacuation... or Justice?

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