Brian McLaren Speaks...Again

Here's the thing: I don't want to come off as being reactionary when it comes to Emergent types in general and Brian McLaren specifically. I really don't. I also don't want to be what Emergents roll their eyes at--an evangelical, Reformed Christian who only points out bad theology or worldview instead of engaging in dialogue.

But if I am what I hate, then I have something in common with the Apostle Paul, and that puts me in good company. Am I rationalizing? Sure.

That said, here's some thoughts on McLaren's interview with the Associated Press. His quotes are first, in italics.

Q: How is what you recommend different than the humanitarian work churches do already?
A: It's not working within the paradigm that a lot of Christians work — which is all that God is ultimately interested in is extracting souls for heaven. And we might do some good works here on earth, but we don't really expect any of it to work, because the world is sort of, the toilet has been flushed and it's going down.

Ummm...OK. So far, so good. No complaints here. This is one of the central points of why I walked away from my faith in my late teens/early 20s (real original, huh?) and why society has de-valued Christian thought in recent decades.

Q: What do you mean by systemic change?
A: You can make incremental changes within a subsystem but in order to actually change a whole system you have to get a lot of the parts changing all at once. ... You can pour money into building a school, but then if there's a war, the war wipes out all the benefit you got from the school and the school shuts down. You can improve agriculture, but if HIV runs through, then there's so much upheaval, then you can't maintain the advances in agriculture.

And now we're 2-for-2. Of course, I would argue that the "whole system" of Christian theology hardly needs changing. Again, and this is the central point of my beef with Emergent types, if we start talking about systemic change, then we get down a path that questions Christ's divinity the inerrancy of Scripture, etc.

Q: But there's an impression churches are already so active on these issues. Why does anyone need to urge churches to do this?
A: One of the really important concepts is the difference between mercy and justice. There's that famous passage from Micah 6, "Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God." One way to describe it is unjust systems throw people into misery and mercy brings us to relieve some of their misery, but until we confront the unjust systems by doing justice we're never going to make a change. ... I think what churches in America, especially evangelical churches, are just waking up to is the way they have to deal with systemic injustice, not just charitable giving to people in misery.

Bravo, Mr. McLaren. Bravo.

I think the naivete of some of those critics is that they're starting with a pure pristine understanding of the Gospel. It seems to me we're all in danger of screwing up.

OK, now we're starting to have trouble. A pristine understanding of the Gospel? How about "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life...no one comes to the Father but through Me." How are we in danger of screwing up if we start with that as cornerstone No. 1? Is that not a pristine understanding of the Gospel? Look, I know "no one comes to the Father but through Me" is divisive. But Jesus said it. Sorry. End of story.

Ten years ago, the question was, why are Gen-Xers dropping out of church? .. So we've been grappling with these very deep theological questions over the last five or seven years.

Fantastic. That's the question I've been seeking an answer to as well. I know my own story, and I would suspect it is similar to others'.

Q: What are the weaknesses of the movement?
A: Nobody had a master strategy for this. That creates weaknesses as well as strengths. It means you don't have anybody calling the shots and it means that things happen in a somewhat haphazard way. And I think there's a huge range of responses. ... Among evangelicals you have people who are not doing any theological rethinking at all. The theology that they inherited, they're staying with 100 percent. They're trying to do sort of methodological innovation (in styles of worship). And my personal feeling is that's great. Those'll be steps in a good direction... I'm not a purist about anything. I think it's all good. We're all trying to stumble along and take some steps in the right direction. Others of us are asking theological questions and that's always messy.

I am a purist...about Jesus, what He said, what He did. I'm not apologizing for it. It seems like too many people are. Again, the big question: What if Jesus meant everything He said? And, again, what does "theological rethinking" mean, anyway? Does it mean we are rethinking core aspects of the faith, the Truth of Christ? The inerrancy of the Word of God? Because these are areas where there can be no compromise. Again, that's divisive. But Jesus was divisive to a lot of people. That's one of the reasons they wanted to kill Him. (But they failed...
they didn't kill Jesus. Jesus laid down His life.)

...if liberal means that government can solve all of our problems and that secularism is better than faith, and that it doesn't matter what you do in your personal life and that morality is up for grabs, then I'm not a liberal.

Nor am I.

I welcome all comments. Feel free to comment on-page, or e-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com.