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Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
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Brian-McLaren
 

Brian McLaren... What Christianity Has Come To

Part V...Lambeth Conference... Three Questions

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"?

 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..

    You Are Here 001orange Part V... The Lambeth Conference: Three questions asked of 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

What is The Lambeth Conference?

Three Questions asked of McLaren After The Conference
Q1, Q2,
Q3

Christianity: A "Threat" or "Welcome Friend"
Other Religions... Caretakers or Enemies of the Gospel

 


What Is The Lambeth Conference?
The Lambeth conference is one of the global Anglican Communion's "Instruments of Communion", which takes place every ten years at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is the one occasion when all bishops (archbishops, diocesan, assistant and suffragan bishops) can meet for worship, study and conversation. Bishops from other churches 'in communion' with the Anglican Communion, bishops from United Churches, and a number of ecumenical guests are often also invited. [66]

On July 26, 2008 Christianity Today carried an article entitled Emerging church leader Brian Mclaren on Lambeth, mission and reconciliation [67]. Described as one of the foremost figures of the emerging church, McLaren was (according to the article) at the Lambeth conference to ""encourage the 650 bishops attending and offer his insights into where worldwide Christianity stands right now". CT "caught up with McLaren to hear more about what impression Lambeth left on him, and what his vision of Christianity is in today's ever changing world".

The following are three of the questions asked


(1)
CT: The Anglican Communion is struggling to hold together Anglicans with many different theological positions. What's your approach in bringing polar opposite Christians to sit together at the same table?

BM: I think three things can help us a great deal. First, Scripture. The fact is, Scripture can be used as a weapon to exclude, wound, discredit, and vanquish opponents, but it also can be used as a kind of flashlight to guide us in dark times so we can learn to walk together through differences and divisions - of which there were many in New Testament times. I think we're far wiser when we don't simply troll the Scriptures seeking to find verses that prove "them" wrong and "us" right - but rather when we ponder Scriptures that teach us how to treat one another when we differ - 1 Corinthians 13 being a prime text in this regard. (I always tell people, 1 Corinthians 13 was written for church controversies, not weddings!)


IPS Comment:
When McLaren says "Scripture can be used as a weapon to exclude, wound, discredit, and vanquish opponents", I assume he is speaking of Christians who, in his opinion, "troll" through the Bible to find verses that "discredit" and "vanquish" other Christians who believe differently. However, while there may be people who do so, the point of comparing what we hear and read with the Scriptures is not to prove ourselves right, and others wrong, but to ensure that the teachings coming to us agree with the Word of God.

Lets look at how Paul handled some of the many "differences and divisions" in New Testament times

    But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. [Galatians 2:11 NASB]

    But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! [Galatians 1:8 NASB]

However it gets worse. In A New Kind of Christianity, McLaren said

    “The Bible is not considered an accurate, absolute, authoritative, or authoritarian source but a book to be experienced, and one experience can be as valid as any other can. Experience, dialogue, feelings, and conversations are equated with Scripture while certitude, authority, and doctrine are to be eschewed! No doctrines are to be absolute and truth or doctrine must be considered only with personal experiences, traditions, historical leaders, etc. The Bible is not an answer book.”. [68]

The word "doctrine" simply means a belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by a group. In other words church "doctrine" is what it believes (and teaches) to be true.

I have idea how anyone can say "No doctrines are to be absolute", when the Bible makes it exceedingly clear that, on the one hand, there is "sound doctrine" and, on the other, different doctrine that distorts the gospel of Christ, strange doctrine, and even doctrines of demons....

    I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [Galatians 1:6-7 NASB Emphasis Added]

    As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines (heterodidaskaleo), [1 Timothy 1:3. NASB Emphasis Added]

    But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines (didaskalia) of demons... In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound (Gk. hugiaino) doctrine (didaskalia) which you have been following. [1 Timothy 4:1, 6 NASB Emphasis Added]

    If anyone advocates a different doctrine (heterodidaskaleo) and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine (didaskalia) conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, [1 Timothy 6:3-4 NASB Emphasis Added]

    If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound (Gk. hugiaino) words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, [1 Timothy 6:3 NASB. Emphasis Added]

Note: In two of the quotes above, Paul uses the Greek word hugiaino (in bold), which figuratively means to be uncorrupt.

Paul warned Timothy to watch his doctrine very carefully

    Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching (didaskalia); persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. [1 Timothy 4:16 NASB]

All the apostles took an extremely strong stand against false doctrine (Paul going as far as to say that anyone who preaches a different one is cursed), because he, and the others well knew that, unless repented of and forsaken, false doctrines will damn even a so called, believing Christian's soul to hell. One word that Peter used to speak of the fate of those who introduce heresies, is extremely telling. He said..

    But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction (apoleia) upon themselves. [2 Peter 2:1 NASB]

The Greek word apoleia, translated destruction, is derived from apollumi, which means to be fully destroyed, or die. This is made clear by the following examples

    Now when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I tell thee: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy (Gr. apollumi) him. [Matthew 2:13]

    and the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed (Gr. apollumi) those murderers, and burned their city. [Matthew 22:6-7]

    And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish (Gr. apollumi) . And he awoke, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. [Luke 8:24]

Telling The Difference
In the chapter Redeeming Our Culture Over Dinner, Neo is asked how he would tell the difference between "authentic religion and misguided religion". His reply was

    "I don't think you can.  It's not that simple. Remember where Jesus said? The wheat and the tares are always mixed together. There are good Catholics, good Greek Orthodox, good Pentecostals, and good Episcopalians, believe it or not. And there are plenty of bad ones too." [69].

While phrases like a "good" Catholic, or a "good" Pentecostal sound wonderful, in reality "good" is an extremely vague term. If by "good" Neo means someone who is morally or ethically on the up and up, then I couldn't agree more. I have had some very "good" Hindu friends and know some "good" atheists I would trust my bank account with. However, this is written in the context of telling the difference between "authentic" and "misguided" religion.

The only way to tell the difference between true and false doctrine is to do what the Bereans did... daily "troll" the Scriptures to see whether the things they were being told were true (sound doctrine), which habit, by the way, prompted Paul to call them "noble-minded". In other words just as counterfeit money is recognized by comparing it to real money, false doctrine can only be recognized by comparing it to what we know to be true. Paul told the Galatians "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema".

No one, regardless of denomination can be called a "good" Christian unless they unequivocally adhere to what the Scriptures proclaim to be true. A person can be a good Catholic, but in order to be a "good" Christian they would no longer be considered to be a good Catholic, since the Roman church has strayed from the doctrine of Christ, to being a cult with it's own ideology, rules, and spiritual leader.

But I digress.

Walking Together Through Differences And Divisions?
In answering CT's question, McLaren also said Scripture can "also can be used as a kind of flashlight to guide us in dark times so we can learn to walk together through differences and divisions". I am sorry to say that the second half of that statement is absolute manure. Scripture itself provides it's own raison d'etre, or 'reason to be'. Many centuries ago, King David knew that only the light of God's Word shining on the path we walk enables us to see any, and all, dangers that would stop us from keeping God's laws, and living a Holy life.

    How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. [Psalms 119:9-11 NASB]

    Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances. I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word. O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, And teach me Your ordinances. My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts. [Psalms 119:105-110 NASB]

Paul substantially echoed the thought many years later when he told Timothy that it was the Scriptures that gives us "the wisdom that leads to salvation"

    You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:14-17 NASB]

1 Corinthians 13: While there is absolutely no question that Paul emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 13 that, as commentator Adam Clarke put it, "love of God and man is the sum and substance of all true religion", chapter 13 is a continuation of the topic started in the previous chapter, in which Paul speaks of the various gifts given Christians by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church. In the closing verses of chapter 12, Paul tells the Corinthians that not everyone has the gift of tongues, nor can every one be an apostle, prophet, healer or miracle worker. While Paul advised them to "earnestly desire the greater gifts", he said he would show them a more "excellent way" [Vs. 31]... love. A gift that was more valuable than all others, and could be freely obtained by all.

It is in this context that 1 Corinthians 13 speaks so highly of loving one another, and has little, or nothing, to to do with church controversies, or weddings. As a large number of other verses show, 1 Corinthians 13 is not, as McLaren implies, a blanket instruction covering all instances of how "we treat each other when we differ", regardless of the reason. While it is true that Christians often have honest disagreements, all too often, the subject of the disagreement is critically important. In these cases, knowing, and following, the truth can mean the difference between life and death to a person, as in in the case of the many occult doctrines being introduced into the church under the guise of 'spirituality'.

McLaren conveniently forgets that Scripture commands us

    to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). and

    the preacher to reprove and rebuke (2 Timothy 4:2)

In practically every epistle Paul issued severe warnings against theological error.

    But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:8)

    He warned of Hymenaeus and Alexander's blasphemy (1 Timothy 1:19-20)

    and of Phygellus and Hermogenes' apostasy (2 Timothy 1:15)

    and of Hymenaeus and Philetus' profane and vain babbling (2 Timothy 2:16-17)

    and of Demas' love of the world (2 Timothy 4:10)

    and of Alexander the coppersmith's evil (2 Timothy 4:14)

    and of the Galatian heretic's cursed gospel (Galatians 1:6-8)

    and of the dogs and evil workers operating at Philippi (Philippians 3:1-2)

    and of the false teachers "whose God is their belly" (Philippians 3:17-19).

And practiced what he preached

    But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. [Galatians 2:11 NASB]

We cannot keep silent about heresy, nor can we ignore it. Instead the Bible tells us to admonish the heretic

    A factious man (a heretic) after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned. [Titus 3:10-11. Emphasis Added]

However, please note that the instructions didn't stop at admonishment, but goes on to say if the person doesn't heed your words, he is to be shunned. Even further, believers are instructed to withdraw themselves from people who follow false doctrine and practices. They are not to have these people in their houses, nor offer them even a word of greeting. To do so, John says is to share in their evil deeds.

    Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us. [2 Thessalonians 3:6]

    And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed. [2 Thessalonians 3:14]

    If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works. [2 John 1:10-11].

At this point I strongly suggest you read, with open Bible in hand

Judge Not?

And Fraternizing With The Enemy


(2) CT: The sexuality issue is a big one and you advised bishops to be sensitive to different cultural settings. Does that mean we should shape the Bible around the surrounding culture?

BM: This question raises a host of assumptions and deeper questions that too few people are willing to grapple with. Because the fact is, what we're talking about isn't simply the Bible but our interpretations of the Bible. It's not just what the Bible says, but how we understand, interpret, and apply, what the Bible says. In the Bible, for example, God commanded polygamy in certain situations in the Old Testament. And God also commanded stoning in certain situations. Nobody I know of wants to apply those passages literally today. The question of which passages to apply to a certain situation, and how literally to apply them, is a question of interpretation, and interpretation is not simply a science or technique, like solving a math equation. There are many layers of skill in Biblical interpretation.

IPS Comment:
The level of idiocy in the above statement leaves me wondering where to start. Scripture contains innumerable references to following (not deviating) from the word.. For example...

    Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And light unto my path. I have sworn, and have confirmed it, That I will observe thy righteous ordinances. [Psalm 119:105-106].

    If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. [John 831-32. Emphasis Added]

    "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. [John 15:10. Emphasis Added]

If McLaren is suggesting that no one can definitively know God's intended meaning, and His "righteous ordinances" (righteous commands), are whatever the individual interprets them to be, then God has given us a worthless book, one that anyone can use to 'prove' whatever they wish to believe. If God's intentions, plans, and instructions, to man are not accurately discernible by him, then we may as well take the book and burn it, for all the good it will do us. We cannot possibly abide in Jesus' word, and keep His commandments if we do not know exactly what that word, or those commandments, are.

Peter talked about "false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies" [2 Peter 2:1]. Again if doctrine is based on an individual interpretation of Scripture, then how can anyone be accused of destructive heresies?

This is not the first time McLaren has voiced thoughts along similar lines.

"Standard" Vs. "New" Interpretations?
In his book A New Kind of Christian, McLaren says we should

    "Keep going back to the Bible, but not with the standard interpretations blinding you to new interpretations. [70a]

When it comes to the Bible, the word "interpret" means how a person understands, or explains, a particular verse or passage. What has to be very firmly kept in mind at all times is that every single Biblical text has only one legitimate meaning and, therefore, only one legitimate interpretation. The meaning of any verse or passage was determined by the original author, and is only to be discovered by the reader.

However, all too often, people interpret a Scriptural passage by reading their own ideas into it. Unless the original author was double minded (rendering him very unreliable and someone we can safely ignore), he could not, and would not, have intended to convey more than one meaning. Therefore, "interpretation" has to be strictly limited to the meaning that the original author intended to convey. And this meaning can only be understood in the light of the immediate context, which has to agree with everything else the Bible has to say on the subject.

Therefore, it is not a question of "standard interpretations" or "new interpretations", but taking the time to study the verse in question in light of the surrounding passages (context). And, since it is certain that the Bible does not contradict itself, we have to, as best we can, be certain that the Scriptures consistently teach a specific doctrine, not go off on a tangent based on a verse or two that has been wrested from it's context.

A little later in the book, McLaren also teaches that there is no such thing as "the Christian world view," because every model

    "no matter how resplendent with biblical quotations--can claim to be the ultimate Christian world view, because every model is at the least limited by the limitations of the contemporary human mind, not to mention the 'taste in universes' of that particular age" [70 b]

"Neo" tells his students that they may disagree with him, but he believes that the modern version of Christianity that they have learned from their parents, their Sunday school teachers, and even their campus ministries, is "destined to be a medieval cathedral", which is "over, or almost over". He goes on to tell them that most of their peers live in a different world from them, having already crossed the line into the post modern world. But few of the student he is addressing have done so. Why? Because they want to be faithful to the Christian upbringing they have received, an upbringing that is  "thoroughly enmeshed with modernity."

He goes on to tell them that one of the most important choices they will make in their whole lives will be made in the few years they spend at university. He asks them whether they will continue to live loyally in the fading world, in the waning light of the setting sun of modernity? Or whether they will venture ahead in faith, to practice their faith and devotion to Christ in the new emerging culture of post modernity? [70b]

Yet one more time, I am so thoroughly bemused at these ideas. 

The specific doctrines taught by the Scriptures are timeless, meant to apply to all men everywhere, regardless of the century or culture they live in. The Christian world view is not limited by the contemporary human mind, nor by modernity or post modernity. The Christian world view is dictated by what the Scriptures say... Nothing more, nothing less. Every line in Scripture was written by the original author with a very specific meaning and message in mind, neither of which has changed over the centuries.

It is us who pretend that the culture or the times we live in affects the message of the Scriptures, and we do so to our own detriment. 


Types and Antitypes
McLaren's web site claims that he "was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver, BC, Canada" in 2004, and helped form Cedar Ridge Community Church (crcc.org) in 1982, serving as the church's founding pastor until 2006. [3]

What is truly mind boggling is that a pastor with a Doctor of Divinity Degree is either not familiar with types and antitypes in Scripture, or does not apply them very well.

Christians didn't make "some of their most sacred traditions optional", as McLaren says in his book A New Kind of Christian

    Who could have imagined that within a few decades of Jesus' life on earth, Christians would be making some of their most sacred traditions optional-like circumcision and dietary laws. " but here they are, feeling that God was guiding them to do something that must have seemed very dangerous, very compromising. They argued and listened and probably prayed a lot too, and in the end they said, it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us'..  It would have been a terrible mistake to try and keep the dietary laws and impose circumcision on everyone, even though that might have seemed 'safer'. [71]

In Christian theology the original event is called a type ... a factual happening in history that is a glimpse of one or more actual events yet to come. Many events and ordinances of the the Old Testament, like the Seven Feasts of Israel and the Mosaic laws, were a shadow of a future events... precursors of things to come. [For many more examples, See Typology] It was Jesus who introduced the transition from a mere letter-of-the-law, minimal standards approach, to understanding and obeying the spiritual intent behind the law, accomplished with the aid of the Holy Spirit. We are now living under the New Covenant which actually demands a higher degree of holiness and obedience to God. One reason that we do not stone people any more is because the law was given to the independent, theocratic (government by a deity), nation of Israel.  But, nonetheless, behind every Mosaic command lies a principle that transcends time and culture, and is therefore applicable to all God's people, regardless of when, or where, they live.

[This topic is perhaps one of the most fascinating ones in the Scriptures, sadly misunderstood by all too many people. For details See Jesus and The Law].

Polygamy
Besides which, I cannot believe anyone, who has actually read their Bible, can claim that God "commanded" polygamy.

There are a growing number of Christians who believe that Polygamy is acceptable, based on the fact that 1) it was practiced by some of the Old Testament patriarchs, and 2) The Bible does not specifically condemn it. They assume that because God permitted and regulated the practice, He must have agreed with it. However, just because Scripture records an action, it does not mean that God approves of that action. The Bible is a factual written account of important, or historical, events. One of the factors that makes the Bible very believable is that it does not try in any way to minimize, or cover up, the sins and failings of the people who's stories are told, nor does it seek to exaggerate their good qualities. It simply records events as they happened.

One detail that is almost completely ignored is that polygamy is never seen, nor portrayed, as the norm in Scripture. In fact there are only about eighteen specific examples of polygamy throughout the Old Testament. Little is said about the number of Old Testament men of God who had only one wife … For example, Adam (Genesis 2-4), Noah (Genesis 6:18), Isaac (Genesis 25:20-23), Joseph (Genesis 41:45), Boaz (Ruth 4), Job (Job 1) etc. (Job was, in fact, a prime candidate for multiple marriages since he was very wealthy and considered "the greatest man among all the people of the East". However even he had only one wife).

Next to nothing is known about the personal life of the prophets, but both Isaiah (Isaiah 8:3), and Hosea (Hosea 3:1-3) are specifically said to be married to one woman.

Also ignored is the fact that most examples of polygamy in the Old Testament do not show a very positive situation. Polygamy was tolerated, but it almost always had less than desirable consequences, this made evident by taking an closer look at some individual cases.

In the long run, the question that has to concern the New Testament believer is not what Jacob or Elkanah did, but what God's original design for marriage was. For example Genesis 2:24 says "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife (not wives); [There is quite a bit more to this topic so, See Polygamy In The Bible]


(3)

CT: You suggested a new era for Christianity. What else do you think we can expect?

    BM: I am just one small person with a very limited perspective in the face of such a huge question. But let me offer four small thoughts.

    First, I think our future is more about the Christian way of life than it is about a rigid and polemicized systems of belief. Second, I think our future is mission-oriented - meaning that we focus on forming disciples who advance God's mission in their daily lives. Third, I believe our future is ecumenical - with Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Christians taking a humble posture as fellow learners and collaborators for the common good rather than as competitors or us-versus-them enemies. And fourth, I think our future will also require us to join humbly and charitably with people of other faiths - Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, secularists, and others - in pursuit of peace, environmental stewardship, and justice for all people, things that matter greatly to the heart of God.

IPS Comment:
I have no idea what book, bearing the name Holy Bible, McLaren has been reading, but it certainly isn't the same as mine. Mine strangely leaves out the part about environmental stewardship being something that matters greatly to the heart of God, and keeps harping on and on about sin, repentance, and righteousness.

Let's talk about the "rigid and polemicized" system of belief that McLaren refers to

    Doesn't the Bible say that For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23),

     Isn't the Bible equally clear about the consequences of sin, stating that... the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). In other words. you sin... you die!

    And wasn't it Jesus who said (John 14:6) that no man could come to the Father but through Him? And 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).

    And doesn't it also say that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin? [1 John 1:7]

    And doesn't 1 Corinthians 1:18 say that people perish without the cross?... For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    And isn't repentance, defined as a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God, presented as an absolute requirement for forgiveness in the Old Testament as well as the New.

     And didn't Jesus also say "... unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)?

    And isn't it true that those who believe in Jesus' name, are given the right to become children of God? [John 1:11-13].

    And doesn't the Bible say that people, prior to rebirth, are God's enemies (Romans 5:10)? And that He "reserves wrath for his enemies" Nahum 1:2?

    And doesn't the Bible have a few cutting things to say about idol worship and false gods? 

All of which sounds pretty rigid to me

When the Bible is so unambiguous about these and plenty of other subjects, what are we supposed to do with groups or individuals that have deviated from the clear teachings of Scripture, many of which are a serious assault on God Himself, to say nothing of the distortion of His message of salvation?  Are we, when we get together with them, supposed to ignore the differences, or are we supposed to instead obey the New Testament, which tells us after a first and second admonition we are to reject a heretic, who is both a sinner and self-condemned. [Titus 3:10-11]

All of which has absolutely nothing to do with them being "competitors" or having an "us-versus-them" mentality, but has everything to do with protection. As both Jesus and Paul pointed out, a little "leaven" was a very dangerous thing. Note the the words of Jesus and Paul regarding leaven …

    And Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [Matthew 16:6. Also Luke 12:1 ]

    And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. [Mark 8:15]

    Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? [1Corinthians 5:6]

    Ye were running well; who hindered you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion came not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. [Galatians 5:7-9]

Leaven, in the Bible always symbolized evil... sin and/or false doctrine. The question of why leaven was used as a symbol is probably best answered by the character and process of leavening, which is based on fermentation. Given time, the yeast reproduces, spreading throughout the dough or batter, biologically changing the chemistry of the dough as it works. It is easy to put leaven into the dough, but impossible to get it out again.

A person who has strong Biblical knowledge and is very firm in the faith, will not be swayed by people who teach doctrines that do not conform to those taught by the Bible. However, in today's day and age, many professing Christians have an abysmal lack of Biblical knowledge and, therefore, no firm foundation. These people could very easily be persuaded to believe some "strange doctrine" that can, and will, jeopardize their eternal destinies. (Case in point... the large number of five star reviews of Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus on Amazon). Peter called deviations from the teachings of Scripture "destructive heresies".

    But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. [2 Peter 2:1 NASB]

Unless repented of and forsaken, this HUGE number of false doctrines and practices, will damn even a so called, believing Christian's soul to hell. Yet, in our overly tolerant, anything goes society, we tend to look on confrontation as something to be avoided at all cost. However, the Bible's instructions on how to deal with those who teach and practice false doctrine in the church are very explicit. It is a two step process. The heresy has to be actively confronted and, if not repented of, has to be shunned. The bounden duty of a true believer towards men who profess to be Christians, and yet deny the Word of the Lord, is to come out from among them. Leaving, or separating oneself from apostasy and heresy is not optional, but commanded. It is an integral part of the holiness without which none of us will see God. [See Fraternizing With The Enemy]

Can we please stop turning a blind eye to the fact that the Bible itself condemns false doctrines and false teachers, literally calling them 'servants of Satan'

    For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. [2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NASB]

    This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme. [1 Timothy 1:18-20 NASB]

Brian McLaren says he "thinks" that "our future is more about the Christian way of life than it is about a rigid and polemicized systems of belief". It seems to me that when Jesus gave the following instructions to His disciples, He didn't make much room for the disciples to "join humbly and charitably with people of other faiths". He told them, in no uncertain terms that they were to leave the house or city of those that did not heed their words, shaking the dust off their feet as they went

    "And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. "As you enter the house, give it your greeting. "If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgement than for that city. "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. [Matthew 10:11-16 NASB]

By the way, something few people realize is that Christianity is not the only religion that claims exclusivity. [Also See All Paths..One Destination? .. Christian Exclusivity Explained and Defended]


Christianity: A "Threat" or "Welcome Friend"
In his book A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren makes a statement (which goes along with his belief that "our future is more about the Christian way of life than it is about a rigid and polemicized systems of belief"). He says

    "The Christian faith, I am proposing, should become (in the name of Jesus Christ) a welcome friend to other religions of the world, not a threat. We should be seen as a protector of their heritages, the defender against common enemies, not one of the enemies.  Just as Jesus came originally not to destroy the law but to fulfill it, not to condemn people but to save them, I believe he comes today not to destroy or condemn anything (anything but evil) but to redeem and save everything that can be redeemed or saved.”

    Ah, but you say, there's the problem: there's so much evil in other religions. Yes, I reply, there is indeed, but not just in other religions. There's so much evil in our own, too.  So I propose that before we seek to remove the splinters from the eyes of other religions, we concentrate on the planks in our own. [31]

It is impossible for the Gospel message of Christianity, as outlined in the Bible, to be perceived as a threat, considering that the operative words are 'freedom of choice'. While there's no question that in this matter, just like in all others, people have to face the consequences of their decisions, the fact remains that every person has the option to believe, or not to believe. Jesus came to offer salvation, but He made it very, very clear that a person could choose to be saved, or not. How can there possibly be any threat in an offer that can be freely accepted, or rejected?

The very fact that McLaren says there is so much evil in the Christian religion, tells me that, once more, Christianity is being defined in light of the institution, instead of Jesus and His message. This is a serious mistake for someone who should know better. Not only does, the top heavy, white elephant, organization we fondly call the "church" represents Biblical Christianity less and less with each passing day, but much has been done in the name of Christianity, that is exactly the opposite of Jesus' expressed will, and should never have happened. For example, the crusades, the inquisition, the war in Northern Ireland.

In other words, those who perform evil actions in the name of Christ are not truly Christians, nor following Christ's instructions. Sheep cannot be judged by the actions of wolves who wear wool. The issue is not to what extent Christians have succeeded or failed in adhering to Biblical principles, but the life and message of it's founder. As someone once quipped, "If Albert Einstein’s assistant were arrested for shoplifting, would that make E=mc2 wrong?"

And, if by common enemies, Mclaren means injustice, poverty, hunger, etc. then by all means we can work together with people of any nationality, religion, or ideology, to fight what can indeed be perceived as "common enemies". Certainly, not every association with unbelievers is forbidden. Our Lord associated with unbelievers in order to minister to them:

    And when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax-gatherers, they began saying to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2: 16-17).

Paul also said

    I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

However, this association comes with a caveat. The Bible says

    Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 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. "therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "and do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. [2 Corinthians 6:14-18]

By the way, Paul's words are taken from Isaiah 52:11, in which God instructed the Jews who were exiled to Babylon, to separate themselves from an idolatrous nation, and return to Zion.

    Depart, depart, go out from there, Touch nothing unclean; Go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, You who carry the vessels of the LORD. [Isaiah 52:11 NASB]

While it is clear that Christians cannot partake of, nor countenance, sins, such as idolatry, dishonesty, deception, immorality, or anything else that violates the laws and principles of the Bible. Christians do not need to, nor would it be possible to, lose all contact with the world, never mingling with unsaved friends and neighbors. We can partake in commercial and business transactions, literary and scientific pursuits, sports and other recreation, as long as they are honest, upright, and not contrary to the principles of Christianity. What is sure is that Christianity is not, and can never be seen as, a "welcome friend" to other religions of the world.

[See What Is Holiness?]

 [Also See Living in Babylon by Don Closson]


Other Religions... Caretakers or Enemies of the Gospel
In his book A New Kind Of Christian, McLaren says this about other religions like Buddhism and Islam ...[Emphasis Added]

    “My knowledge of Buddhism is rudimentary, but I have to tell you that much of what I understand strikes me as wonderful and insightful, and the same can be said of the teachings of Muhammad, though of course I have my disagreements. And before you mention conversion with the sword and violent fundamentalism and that sort of thing, just remember that Christianity has had the same problems. We have a lot of our own embarrassments to face. In the long run, I'd have to say that the world is better off for having these religions than having no religion at all, or just one, even if it were ours. I wonder if these might have had a role much like Paul described for the Old Testament law back in Galatians-they serve as tutors or caretakers that preserve a culture until Christ can come to it with his good news. They aren't the enemy of the gospel, in my mind, any more than Christianity is the enemy-though of course, sometimes it is." (Brian McLaren. A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey. Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (March 28, 2001. Pgs. 62-63.)

When he says if these other religions might have had a role like Paul described for the Old Testament law in Galatians... "they serve as tutors or caretakers that preserve a culture until Christ can come to it with his good news", it might serve the reader well to make an attempt to analyze what is being said, rather than accept a nice sounding phrase at face value. The verse in Galatians reads

    But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor (paidagogos) to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor (paidagogos). For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. [Galatians 3:23-27 NASB]

Paidagogos is not a commonly used word in the NT... 1 Corinthians 4:15 being the only other instance. To paraphrase Bible commentator Albert Barnes..

    Paidagogos referred originally to a slave or freedman, to whose care boys were committed, and who accompanied them to the public schools. The idea here is not that of instructor, but a guardian or caretaker whose job it was to watch over the boys; to restrain them from evil and temptation; and to conduct them to the schools, where they would receive instruction.

The law did not "preserve a culture", but performed the office of the ancient pedagogue. It's sole purpose as our guardian and caretaker, was to guide our steps to Christ ... the teacher or instructor.

Since the Bible is unambiguous that faith in Christ is the only way to attain eternal life in the Kingdom, all other religions are the enemy, taking people down to perdition with them, simply because other religions do not lead to Christ, but as far away from Him as it is possible to get.

 

CONTINUE ON TO 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.


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

[66] Lambeth Conference 2008 http://www.lambethconference.org/lc2008/index.cfm

[67] Emerging church leader Brian Mclaren on Lambeth, mission and reconciliation. July 26, 2008
http://www.christiantoday.com/article/emerging.church.leader.brian.mclaren.on.lambeth.mission.and.reconciliation/20926-3.htm

[68] Brian McLaren, : A New Kind of Christianity, Pg 52. As quoted in http://www.letusreason.org/Emerge7.htm.  I believe this quote is from the 2001 edition

[69] Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian. April 18, 2008. Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series (Book 29). Pg. 105. (Page 73 of the 2001 Hardcover edition also published by Jossey-Bass)

[70a] Brian McLaren. A New Kind of Christian. 2008 Paperback edition. Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series (Book 29) Ch. Neo Worries About Keeping Up With Jesus. Pg. 61]

[70b] ibid. Pg. 53-56 (Ch. What a Difference a Worldview Makes).

[71] ibid. Pgs. 114-115. (Ch. Redeeming Our Culture Over Dinner)

Cathedral-Back

Brian McLaren, Part 4... McLaren's All Inclusive Kingdom

www.inplainsite.org