Brian McLaren’s New Book, A New Kind of Christianity – Assaulting Truth with a Vengeance
by John Lanagan
(free-lance writer and researcher)
In Brian McLaren’s latest book, A New Kind of Christianity, the reader is cordially invited to join the author in a heretical assault upon God and the Bible. Indeed, as McLaren enthusiastically demonstrates, it is not possible to attack one without attacking the other.
Acknowledging the work of fellow emergent travelers such as Phyllis Tickle, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt, McLaren tells us “something is trying to be born among those of us who follow Jesus Christ.” (pg.13) In fact, writes McLaren, “what is trying to be born today echoes the Great Reformation in many ways.” (pg.257)
But does McLaren’s paradigm vision really echo the Great Reformation? From the Reformation came the freedom of Sola Scriptura—the Word of God alone. The chains of a false religion were cast off. From the Reformation came men and women who were willing to die for the right to believe and proclaim Truth.
What does McLaren’s “reformation” offer? An errant eschatology. A New Age “christ.” The ascent of homospirituality into the temple. (2 Kings 23: 7) All made possible, of course, through creative misinterpretation of God’s Word. The author has brought us his Great Deformation, a theology that plays to the flesh even while being portrayed as a spiritual journey.
One of the major themes in A New Kind of Christianity, homosexuality, cleverly defines Christians who speak out against the homosexual lifestyle as suffering from “fundasexuality.” (Pg.174-5) However, you are only a “fundasexualist” if you speak out loudly against this sin.
McLaren decrees, “The term does not apply to the quiet, pious, respectful fundamentalism of straightforward, sincere people, but rather to the organizing, angry, dominating fundamentalism that declares war on those who differ.” (pg. 174-5)
In other words, when it comes to homosexuality, a good Christian is a silent Christian.
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)
As my wife and I have both repented of this particular sin, it is difficult to comprehend Brian McLaren’s smiley-faced rebellion. But make no mistake: McLaren and others are being used to facilitate homospirituality, which may even assume an elevated, even sacred, status.
Ridiculous? Simply look to the Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. This is just the beginning. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Like Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren believes Christians are trapped in a “Greco-Roman” understanding of the faith. “Now the god of this Greco-Roman version of the biblical story bears a strange similarity in many ways to Zeus,” he tells us, which “is a far different deity from the Jewish Elohim of Genesis 1…” (pg. 42)
Yet, no matter what name his god is given, you will not find this redesigned deity in the Old or New Testament. The only way to promote the existence of this “god” is to radically change biblical interpretation—which is exactly what the author spends much time and many pages seeking to accomplish. “There will be no new kind of Christian faith without a new approach to the Bible,” he opines, “because we’ve gotten ourselves into a mess with the Bible.” (Pg. 67-68)
In his chapter, ‘What is the Overarching Storyline of the Bible?’ McLaren notes he and others have “dared to tweak” the content of the Word of God. “We might question conventional theories of atonement or the nature and population of hell or whether concepts like original sin or total depravity might need to be modified.” (pg. 35)
McLaren does indeed “modify.” He modifies with a vengeance. Thus this emergent “Jesus” was never sent by the Father to die in our place for our sins. There is no substitutionary atonement. There is no original sin.
The Bible tells us, “I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes.” (Psalm 119: 145)
McLaren believes traditional understanding of the Word of God has made Christians a nasty, dominant bunch. We apparently have difficulty with religious pluralism because of this flawed understanding. On top of that, Christians “currently control most of the world’s wealth, consume most of the world’s resources, produce most of the world’s waste, and sell and use most of the world’s weapons.” (Pg.215)
As in his other books, in A New Kind of Christianity McLaren exhibits his ability and talent to write well and draw readers with his conversational tone, seemingly measured, with humorous comments sprinkled in here and there. He gives the impression of allowing much room to disagree with him. He invites us on a journey, which he portrays as part of the natural “evolution” of Christianity.
“The old paradigm falls away behind us like a point of departure, and we are won over to new possibilities, caught up in a new way of seeing, looking toward a new and wide horizon.” (Pg.30) But since the author does not comprehend the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:14), what practices does he engage in to gain wisdom and knowledge?
Interestingly, McLaren identifies himself as a “contemplative/reflexive.” (pg. 226) He writes, “In the tradition of Julian of Norwich and St. Teresa of Avila and all the other mystics, we can learn to render ourselves vulnerable to the “favors of God”—those indescribable experiences that mock our dualisms and so saturate our imagination with abundance that they transcend our ability to convey joy and wonder. In the tradition of St. John of the Cross, we can learn to survive and derive benefits from the soul’s dark night.” (pg. 227) Like most leading figures in the emergent movement, McLaren advocates contemplative spirituality.
A New Kind of Christianity will serve as a lure for Bible-illiterate Christians. For believers who know the Word of God, McLaren’s heresy will sadden and astound. His book is aimed at the young, and at people who have perhaps grown up in households with little or no faith. It is aimed at the unsaved and the uncertain. It is for the disappointed and disenchanted, and for people who simply know no better. If you have a gripe against God or His people, this book will lick your wounds. But what this book will not do is provide any measure of godly hope and biblical virtue.