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


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Brian McLaren... What Christianity Has Come To

Carol Brooks


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

Index to Sections (Below)

Over the years, I have heard, or read, people commenting (complaining?) on how long some of my articles are... which is often true.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing that can be done about this. 

In the case of extremely dangerous, false teachers like Brian McLaren, who are not only prolific authors, but who's baloney permeates almost every page of their books, it would take at least two volumes to thoroughly, and Biblically, refute one of theirs, which would be an impossible task.

Besides which, in my opinion, too many critiques simply point to false statements on the assumption that the reader is aware of what the Bible says on the topic. However, at a time when Biblical literacy is at an all time low, I'd rather not assume that this is the case, especially since rank heresy is often delivered well sprinkled with Biblical verses, carefully chosen to make it appear that that the teaching is Biblical.

I therefore prefer a thorough, point-by-point, rebuttal which means I have included as many of the relevant Bible verses as possible which takes a great deal of time, research, and words. I may be a simpleton, but I couldn't care less about theoretical or abstract ideas and debates. Since, when it comes to the spiritual, all the isms, what ifs and I imagine in the world are of little value, therefore of no interest to me. All I am care about is whether a persons teachings are in agreement with, or deviate from, what the Bible teaches.

In any case, anyone who is willing to read book, after book, after book, by Brian McLaren and others of the same, or similar, mind , has little room to complain about the length of a Biblical rebuttal.

While this piece was originally intended to be a critique of one of McLaren's later books, The Secret Message of Jesus, it soon expanded to include a Biblical refutation of the primary points of his teachings, which are found spread over several of his books and writings. Including His belief that

    1) God's kingdom is not a literal, physical kingdom that will be established on earth

    2) Jesus will not physically return to earth

    3) God's “will” actually means the “dream” God has for this world, and “eternal life” means does not mean life without end

    4) The message of Jesus was good news- not just for Christians, but also for people of other religions, including New Agers, agnostics, and atheists, In other words, unbelievers and pagans can be saved without explicit faith in Christ

    5) The book of Revelation was not written about the (then) distant future, but was the first century way of talking about the challenges faced by the early church. ie. The Roman Empire.

    6) Judgment is generally a good thing, because it means the coming of truth and justice into our world

    7) Salvation emphatically does not automatically mean "save from hell" or "give eternal life after death"

    8) Christians have been "brainwashed" to read Genesis through Greco-Roman bifocals, but "these stories aren't intended to be taken literally"

Each of the sections can probably be read as a stand-alone. However, they are all intrinsically linked. None of them are meant to be light reading, but an in depth comparison of McLaren's primary tenets with what the Bible teaches. In other words, here is what McLaren says, and this is what the Bible says. Since there is absolutely no agreement between them, it is entirely your decision as to which of the two you are going to believe.

If, after this, the reader is still not convinced that McLaren is one of the very dangerous wolves that Paul warned the church about, then I am not sure that any more can be humanly said or done.

Why Brian McLaren in Particular?
The four-day Wild Goose Festival held in Shakori Hills, North Carolina, included some of the leading lights of the Emerging Church movement. If the caption to the video clips (Voices of the Emerging Church: The Wild Goose Festival 2011) is to be believed, the emerging Church movement is to be taken seriously... very seriously. The caption says [Emphasis Added]

    Many participants in the Wild Goose Festival, held last month in North Carolina, identify with the Emerging Church, a movement described by some scholars as the biggest shift in Christianity since the Reformation. [1]

Although the emerging church movement is highly decentralized, with no single spokesperson, there obviously are leaders, some of whom helped pioneer the movement, and many of whom are still considered to be formative 'thinkers'. Included in this list are ...

    Brian McLaren ex-pastor, activist and speaker, author, storyteller, and theologian

    Spencer Burke, former pastor and founder of The Ooze website,

    Leonard Sweet, ordained United Methodist clergyman currently serving as the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew Theological School, in Madison, New Jersey;

    Richard J. Foster, Quaker and founder of Renovaré, an intrachurch movement,

    Dan Kimball, founder of the Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California,

    Doug Pagitt, founding pastor of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis,

    John O'Keefe, founder of ginkworld.net, "an emerging/postmodern site exploring what it means to be a follower of the Jesus in today's world",

    Dallas Willard, theologian and professor of philosophy at UCLA, Mark Pearson, founder of Cityside in Auckland, New Zealand

However, although Brian McLaren many not be the emerging church's "leader" as the term is commonly understood, it seems certain that he, as Tim Challies says, "functions as its elder statesman". McLaren's writings seems to serve as a "guide or compass for the movement. Where he leads, others follow". [2]

Therefore it is worthwhile to pay very close attention to what Brian McLaren says, especially since, as the first section shows, his influence is so very wide spread

Who Is Brian McLaren?...Short Bio
Brian McLaren, born in 1956, is a prominent Christian pastor, author, and speaker. He taught college English From 1978 to 1986, after which he became founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland. In fact, during his tenure, Cedar Ridge Community Church became well known as an 'emerging church'. In 2004, McLaren was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia. He calls himself a "middle-aged, bald introvert with a small Buddha belly, and without proper credentials" (1). According to his website, he is "primarily known as a thinker and writer"

    Brian has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors since the mid 1980's, and has assisted in the development of several new churches. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings - across the US and Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. His public speaking covers a broad range of topics including postmodern thought and culture, Biblical studies, evangelism, leadership, global mission, spiritual formation, worship, pastoral survival and burnout, inter-religious dialogue, ecology, and social justice.

    A frequent guest on television, radio, and news media programs, he has appeared on Larry King Live, Nightline, and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. His work has also been covered in Time (where he was listed as one of American's 25 most influential evangelicals), Christianity Today, Christian Century, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and many other print media.

    He is also a founding member of Red Letter Christians (redletterchristians.org). [3]


    He is on the international steering team and board of directors of emergent, a growing generative friendship among missional Christian leaders (www.emergentvillage.com), and has served on several non profit boards, including Sojourners (sojo.net, where he currently serves as board chair); Off the Map, an organization helping people cultivate a practical spirituality (off-the-map.org); International Teams (www.iteams.org) an innovative missions organization based in Chicago; and Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. He has taught at several seminaries, including Mars Hill Graduate School (www.mhg.edu) and Fuller Theological Seminary (www.fuller.ed). McLaren is a principal in a coaching and consulting firm called DeepShift (deepshift.org) The firm assists leaders of churches and other charitable and social organizations in dealing with a variety of change- and growth- related challenges [4]

In 2005, he was recognized as one of Time Magazine's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America". There is no doubt that his influence is wide spread thanks, in no small part, to his books which, according to his own site...

    "... have been translated into many languages, including Korean, Chinese, French, Swedish, Norwegian, German, and Spanish. He has written for or contributed interviews to many periodicals, including Leadership, Sojourners, Tikkun, Worship Leader, and Conversations. He is an active and popular blogger, a musician, and a songwriter, offering a variety of resources through his website, www.brianmclaren.net. [3]

Shepherd or Wolf?
So who is this very "influential evangelical"? ... A true shepherd of Christ, or yet another of the wolves that the Bible so clearly warns us about.

Warnings that, by the way, have gone unheeded by far too many Christians who, apparently, have not understood what the words "deception" and deceive" mean, therefore, rarely seem to realize that not only can they themselves can have the wool pulled over their eyes, but their favorite spiritual leader/pastor/author may be quite different from the image they present. Sadly, a very gullible community rarely, if ever, bothers to take into consideration 'the whole counsel of God' and thoroughly investigate other passages in Scripture that may disagree with, or even completely contradict what is being claimed.  Instead, as long as it sounds reasonable, and said spiritual leader/pastor/author can pull out a few "proof texts", that appear to substantiate their theories, the hearer remains perfectly content. The end result being, that half baked, dangerous, ideas become not only accepted and embraced, but spread like a particularly deadly virus.

Note: When it comes to the Bible, the word "interpret" means how a person understands, or explains, a particular verse or passage. However, all too often, people interpret something in Scripture, 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 have intended to convey more than one meaning. Therefore, "interpretation" should be strictly limited to the meaning that the original author intended to convey. 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 immediate and broader context.



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..

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"


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

[1] Voices of the Emerging Church: The Wild Goose Festival 2011.

[2] Tim Challies, "Everything Must Change" by Brian McLaren. http://www.challies.com/church/everything-must-change-by-brian-mclaren. Tim Challies is an evangelical blogger and editor of Discerning Reader, a site dedicated to discerning reviews of books that are of interest to Christians

[3] About Brian. http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/about-brian/


The Emerging Church