Brian McLaren at Willow Creek

Last week, the Baptist Press ran a story about the address that Brian McLaren gave at a conference for youth ministers at Willow Creek Community Church. As you might expect, he said some things that grate against traditional evangelical priorities. Here’s an example:

“Some of us came from a religious tradition or a religious background where our main role was to recruit kids to go to heaven. And that’s a good thing. Mortality rates are still pretty high, and we all have to face that decision. But I’m here to challenge you to think bigger and deeper and in more layers and dimensions about your role.”

In this case, “thinking bigger” includes recasting traditional evangelical doctrines. Though McLaren’s address did not specifically say which doctrines need to be revised, his book Everything Must Change does. In the book he suggests the following:

“Many of us have been increasingly critical in recent years of popular American eschatology in general, and conventional views of hell in particular. . . Simply put, if we believe that God will ultimately enforce his will by forceful domination, and will eternally torture all who resist that domination, then torture and domination become not only permissible but in some way godly. . . This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe (as we’ve said before) that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion; no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly.”

McLaren has it exactly backwards. Jesus’ “violent” return does not encourage believers to be violent in the present. On the contrary, it encourages them not be be violent in the present. At least that’s how the Bible presents it.

Faithful Christians refuse to take their own vengeance, not because all vengeance is wrong, but because the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:20). God has given all judgment to the Son (John 5:22), and one day the Son will return to settle all accounts (Rev 19:11-16). We don’t take our own revenge because we have confidence that the Son will take our revenge for us in the last day (Rom 12:19). Paul, for instance, encourages the persecuted Thessalonian believers by telling them that Jesus will one day return “to repay with affliction those who afflict you” (2 Thess 1:6-10).

So McLaren is fighting against what the Bible presents as the foundational motivation for loving our enemies—our confidence that we don’t have to settle our own scores because God will do it for us. McLaren’s picture of a non-violent God isn’t just an academic error, it’s one that cuts the heart right out of biblical eschatology and hope.

In any case, here’s a link to the story about McLaren.

“Lessen focus on eternity, McLaren says at Willow Creek student ministries conference” – by David Roach (Baptist Press)

Here’s a link that has a response from Russell Moore to Brian McLaren.

“SBTS prof: McLaren ‘Serpent-sensitive'” – by David Roach (Baptist Press)

39 Responses to Brian McLaren at Willow Creek

  1. Hoey April 22, 2008 at 4:14 am #

    Denny, I’m sorry but we don’t love our enemies because one day God’ll get ’em. We love our enemies because it displays the heart of Jesus. It displays grace and truth.

    Martin Luther King, in his well-known sermon on loving your enemies said this…

    “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”

  2. Tyler April 22, 2008 at 5:56 am #

    Hoey,

    As much as I would like to believe the sentiment you (and Dr. King) expressed, the truth is that love will not win the day without a struggle. Jesus loved His enemies more than any of us could ever hope to, and He still ended up dead, at the hands of His enemies.

    The Bible seems to teach that one of the best ways to love your enemies is to pray that they be brought to justice in the land of the living. There, they can still repent. However, there will come a time when all of God’s enemies will be punished. And as Denny said, this is essential to Christian hope.

    Consider this passage from Revelation 6:9-11(a book which McLaren seems to be a bit embarassed by): “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” Notice, they were not scolded and told to be more loving toward their tormentors. Instead, they were told to wait. Justice would come soon in the form of a conquering King.

    I don’t know too many people, as McLaren suggests, who justify torture using orthodox Christian eschatology. Most torture, domination and warfare that I’m aware of are justified on pragmatic grounds. While some Christians might be more accepting of governments using the sword for their benefit, I know of no serious Christians who would advocate the sort of vigilante justice that McLaren seems to be scared of in EMC. On the other hand, I know quite a few liberation theologians (who McLaren identifies with quite unapologetically) who would justify that very thing in the name of human rights. Ironic–maybe. Tragic and dangerous–certainly.

    Christian hope has always been grounded in both salvation for the righteous and judgment for the wicked. An unbalanced view of either distorts the very nature of that hope.

  3. Brett April 22, 2008 at 6:00 am #

    Yeah Denny, I’m totally with Hoey on this one (great quote by MLK by the way Hoey). I mean seriously, trying to force yourself to love somebody you consider an enemy simply b/c you know in the back of your mind that one day God will send them to hell and repay them is not what we see in Christ at all. As MLK stated, there is hardly any concern or motivation for redemption of others made in God’s image and whom Christ died for in this hypothesis.

    I can see how you could draw this conclusion from your theological and political beliefs, but it appears you’re fighting against what the Bible presents as the foundational motivation for loving our enemies Denny.

  4. Hoey April 22, 2008 at 6:11 am #

    Tyler, I don’t deny that there is judgement. In fact, I’m not even dipping my toes in to that discussion here. I simply don’t believe that a hope in judgement is why we should love our enemies.

    You are right, Jesus DID love His enemies more than any of us could ever hope to. But even as He was dying at the hands of those who sought His destruction, He didn’t say “this wrong will be avenged by my Father”, He said “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”.

  5. Hoey April 22, 2008 at 6:14 am #

    Brett, it IS a great quote! In fact that whole sermon is wonderful. I was pointed to it by listening to a certain nameless Minnesotan. For the sake of decorum, let’s call him “G. Boyd”. No, wait that’s too obvious. Let’s call him “Greg B”. Ha!

  6. Tyler April 22, 2008 at 6:40 am #

    Hoey,
    I don’t think I said that hope in judgment is a grounds for loving enemies. However, unlike McLaren (who Denny was countering in the post), I do not think that hope in judgment and loving enemies are contradictory. Jesus forgave those who tormented him, that is well known. However, the Bible does not go on to say that those same people repented because of it. The quote from King seems to suggest that persevering love for enemies always makes for a happy ending, but it does not. My point, then, is that while loving enemies is a key part of Jesus’ ethics; the reality of future judgment on God’s enemies is a key part of Jesus’ eschatology. Guys like McLaren emphasize the first at the expense of the second. The Bible teaches both.

  7. Lucas Knisely April 22, 2008 at 7:13 am #

    Denny makes a point, and uses Scripture to back him.

    His point is disagreed with, and MLK is quoted to back it.

    Hmmm

  8. Hoey April 22, 2008 at 7:52 am #

    Tyler, I accept that you weren’t saying judgment was grounds for loving your enemies. My interpretation of Denny’s post, however, was that he was saying exactly that.

    I would add, and forgive me if I am misreading your post, that the reaction of our enemies should not have a bearing on how or why we love them.

  9. Hoey April 22, 2008 at 8:20 am #

    Ok, Denny I get the message. I disagree, but it’s your home turf.

    Anyway, let me rephrase… Lucas, if you’ve something constructive to say, great. But if you’re going to resort to the above, I’m out of here.

  10. Josh R April 22, 2008 at 8:24 am #

    The way I see it, we love our enemies because all sin is committed against God, and he will determine the penalty. “What you have done to the least of these you have done to me.”

    Many of the sins people commit “against us” have already had their penalties paid by the precious blood of Jesus.

    When we fail to forgive, we are claiming a right that belongs only to God. We are stealing his glory for ourselves.

  11. Frankly Mr Shankly April 22, 2008 at 8:24 am #

    To be honest, McLaren confuses me. He wants youth pastors to think bigger and deeper about their role. What could be bigger and deeper than the salvation of those under your care? I mean, Jesus says that is the reason he came, to seek and save the lost. In regard to torture and domination, McLaren is equivocating. In normal usage (eg an american soldiar tortures an iraqi citizen) this is wrong and implies an unjust application of force. But when God sends sinners to hell (and we know he will because he tells us about how many will come to him and be cast aside) it isnt an unjust application of his will but the just penalty of sin. Domination is wrong when one group takes unlawful posession of a land but God owns the earth so he has the right to possess it now even as he will in the eschaton. So I think his use of these terms is both an equivocation and a baseless appeal to emotion. Nor does it follow that a proper understanding of God’s rightful rule and reign in any way leads us to the unjust application of force. His whole argument is just baseless.

  12. Luke Britt April 22, 2008 at 8:30 am #

    Hoey,

    I think Lucas was simply stating that you should use Scripture, the authority for the Christian, to back up your points rather than Dr. King.

    I think Denny might be saying that because there is judgment against the enemies of God in the future we do not presently worry about revenge or retaliation, but can freely love those who harm us and pray for their salvation and well being and at the same time warn them concerning the wrath to come.

  13. Denny Burk April 22, 2008 at 8:36 am #

    Luke,

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Maybe I should let you write my posts!

    Much luf brutha,
    Denny

  14. mike April 22, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    Hoey-Lucas has an excellent point. It would be nice to here you use Scriptural support.

  15. Hoey April 22, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    Luke,

    I’m not going to go any further with this Lucas thing after this, but he didn’t simply state anything. He was smug and was using a variant on the ad hominem attack, which is a logical fallacy.

    Anyway, I actually agree with your interpretation of Denny’s view. I just don’t agree with that view. I don’t believe it is because of a future judgment that we can love our enemies. I think we are to love our enemies because it is a reflection of the love and beauty of Jesus.

  16. Hoey April 22, 2008 at 8:41 am #

    Mike, I used Dr. King because I felt he put it nicely. Take from that what you will.

  17. Daniel Davis April 22, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    hoey, what happens when the love and beauty of Jesus is “replaced” by the vindication and judgment at His second coming? i think you may be elevating the “pretty” side of Jesus to the exclusion of the other.

    I Peter 2:21-25 says that Jesus, when reviled and tortured, he did not return the abuse, but He kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. certainly this means that He would be vindicated in spite of the persecution He received, but wouldn’t it also mean that those who persecuted Him would be judged righteously by God the Father? Jesus’ love (request for forgiveness for persecutors; withholding threats and vindictive words) expressed to His persecutors then seems in part to derive from His expectation that God would judge righteously.

    and then, as denny points out, God the Father has given the responsibility of judgment to Jesus. so now, we can withhold words, ask forgiveness for those who persecute us and love our enemies because the task of vindication and judgment is not ours, it belongs to Jesus.

  18. Hoey April 22, 2008 at 9:01 am #

    Daniel,

    I don’t doubt judgment. I don’t doubt the side of God that isn’t so “pretty” (although I would contend that it’s all the one “side”). I just don’t think that we use it as our basis for loving our enemies. I don’t think we go around loving people because God’ll get ’em in the end. We love (and I believe Jesus also loved for this reason) because each person we meet is a creation of our God and is of insurpassable worth. Even unbelievers can love their allies. But when we agree with God and assign insurpassable worth to even our enemies, it undermines evil. It sucks out death’s core.

  19. Frankly Mr Shankly April 22, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    Why can’t it be that we love our enemies because they are image bearers and because the act of loving itself is of worth *and* because we are free from anger in light of future judgement. Wy do there need to be two sides to this? False dichotomy, bros.

  20. Daniel Davis April 22, 2008 at 9:59 am #

    frankly, my dear (used purely for quotable purposes)…i agree with you. good call.

    i am fine with love for the inherent worth of a person being the motive, but i would also say that motive is supported and enabled because we entrust ourselves and others to the righteous judgment of God.

  21. Ron April 22, 2008 at 10:04 am #

    Did I understand you correctly? You say that in the Bible, the “foundational motivation for loving our enemies” is the vengeance of God? What??? The reason I can “love” my enemies is because I know that they will get what’s coming to them? How is this love?

  22. Ben R April 22, 2008 at 10:04 am #

    I suppose the question I would ask it what it means to “judge righteously” as 1 Peter 2:23 and John 5:30 (etc) implies.

    It seems to me that the “justice” brought by the “righteous” judge is reflected in the gospels as that which Jesus proclaims “to the gentiles” (Matthew 12:18), is tied to mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23), is similar to one who finally takes care of the needy (Luke 18:1-8), is what is granted to slaves (Colossians 4:1), is triumphed over by mercy (James 2:13) and more.

    Ultimately, I wonder if our creaturely ways of thinking about justice reflect our anxiety around the “goods” we think we need to have “justice”. I realize there is a hermeneutic involved here, but I get really uncomfortable when I see Christians talking about divine justice like they really understand it. Perhaps the justice given in the end will be as radical as the coming of the Christ, who didn’t come on a war-horse and lead a coup against Rome (as was expected), but instead rode on a donkey and was crucified on a Roman cross.

    What I know is that God’s “justice” to me was a surprise of grace and love. Why isn’t that enough to color our days and yield the appropriate fruit?

  23. Michael Metts April 22, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    “But I’m here to challenge you to think bigger and deeper and in more layers and dimensions about your role.”

    “Many of us have been increasingly critical in recent years of popular American eschatology in general, and conventional views of hell in particular. . . ”

    From Denny’s quotes he doesn’t sound dogmatic about his proposal, but rather, it might be his goal to stir up our thoughts on the issue.

    If he is trying to confuse our understanding of God’s justice by trying to declare an age-old indictment about an omnipotent and -benevolent God by suggesting that hell cannot be real, then he has little reason to wear that smirk.

  24. Daniel Davis April 22, 2008 at 10:15 am #

    hoey, i agree. i wouldn’t say that future judgment is the “basis” for loving others, but i believe that the future righteous judgment of God frees us with the potential to love purely without the desire to judge and vindicate ourselves before our enemies.

    perhaps it would be better to say that future judgment is a foundational motivation for withholding anger.

    do others track with this or do you disagree: can you love someone completely without believing in a righteous judgment to come?

  25. jeremy z April 22, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    In this case, “thinking bigger” includes recasting traditional evangelical doctrines.

    Denny you did a little mind reader game here. How can you link “thinking bigger” to his book? How do you know he was talking about his book at the shift conference?

    Yes you are right. In his Shift talk, Brian did not clarify what doctrinal position he was “apparently recasting”. So lets leave it that way instead of making an assault on Brian. Brian makes a statement and you feel in the holes.

    “McLaren’s picture of a non-violent God isn’t just an academic error, it’s one that cuts the heart right out of biblical eschatology and hope.”

    Unfortunately some NT scholarship (NT Wright, CH Dodd, Marcus Borg) argue for a eschotological hope that does not include taking Rev 20 literally. We can live in this already, but not yet ambitious eschatology. If we interpret Rev 20 literally this backs us into a corner. How can Hell apparently be dark, but earlier on in Rev Hell is a lake of fire. If Hell is dark why is there light?

    As Tony Jones puts it: The idea of eschatological hope is not just about destruction. That is, one interprets the Bible in such a way that Jesus brought good news and there’s more good news to come; even on Judgment Day.

    So maybe Brian is trying to give us a broader understanding of eschatology by suggesting to not focus on the details of what Judgment Day will be like, but rather give us a sense of hope to know He is coming. Also I think the Left Behind series has done more of a damage than a help. Seriously should we be “scary” kids into heaven?

  26. jeremy z April 22, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    scary – scaring. my bad.

  27. Frankly Mr Shankly April 22, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    Jeremy Z:

    Yes, it is legitimate to scare people into the Gospel. Jesus did. Fear God who can cast your body and soul into hell. Once in the faith they discovere love, joy, hope, etc. But Jesus definitely thought fear of hell should be a legitimate concern for people!

  28. Daniel Davis April 22, 2008 at 10:46 am #

    ben – God’s justice to you was paid for by Christ on the cross. His wrath against your sin was satisfied in Christ. Now he shows you grace and love because of Christ’s sacrifice in your place and mine. in ourselves, we deserve nothing less than hell; by God’s grace, we can enjoy heaven.

    “justice” and judgment in John and I Peter by context refer to God judging between good and evil. God will punish the unrighteous; He will vindicate those who have the righteousness of Christ by faith.

    the Bible teaches that Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead; He is coming to separate the sheep from the goats. He came in servant humility before, He is coming again as the King of the earth. this is what the Bible teaches. we can’t just gloss over it…i don’t claim to understand fully God’s divine judgment, but the Bible is pretty clear about what that entails.

  29. Lucas Knisely April 22, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    Hoey, I didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers. I was just observing the different approaches used to defend a certain position.

  30. Ben R April 22, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    Daniel (#27)

    My point is that I disagree. I see references to “justice” and “judgment” through the lens of the justice spoken of by Christ, especially since he calls himself the only judge (John 5:something)

    First, I disagree with your exegesis of the 1 Peter and John 5 passage I referenced earlier. Those passages seem to be about how we should use Christ as an example (in the case of the former) and the scope of Christ’s authority and work (in the case of the latter). Contra your assertion, no mention of “vindication” or “unrighteousness” (or related ideas) is made.

    Second, far from “glossing over” what the Bible says, my quest is to penetrate these terms I think I understand (e.g., justice, forgiveness, righteousness) to make sure I’m not being foolish. The depictions of God’s justice are more complex and nuanced than simple creaturely vengeance – or simple penal substitution. While I agree that the penal substitutionary model is the most dominant way the cross is talked about in the Bible, there are other models as well, and was probably not the dominate model in the first few centuries of the church (e.g., Christus Victor). For that matter, it is my opinion that terms like forgiveness and righteousness take on different colors as you penetrate them as well.

    I suppose I’m saying I reject a reading of the Gospels and Epistles that solely relies on Luther, Aquinas, and Augustine for the categories in which I think about God and his activity in the world. This might put us on different enough ground that conversation becomes difficult.

  31. Ferg April 22, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    I didn’t realise there were two kinds of God. the loving God on one hand and the vengeful God on the other hand.
    His wrath is part of his love. this post makes it seem like he can’t wait to pour out his wrath on people.
    does God HAVE to dispense judgement and wrath to prove that he is a just God? I thought that was done on the cross.

    “Christian hope has always been grounded in both salvation for the righteous and judgment for the wicked.”

    that is a quote from post 2 above which i don’t understand. I put no hope in the judgement of the wicked. I don’t focus on those things, i think about the love mercy and grace of Jesus Christ and tell people about it.

    What happened to, “he who has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9), or “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), or “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3)?
    The holiness, justice and righteousness, and the love, grace and mercy of the Father are not opposed to each other, but form an undivided heart, determined to bless us at all costs.

    Ben R, I like what you have to say. On the cross, the holiness, righteousness, and justice of God are not at odds with the mercy, grace and goodness of God, but form into one self-sacrificing love, which is prepared to, and actually does, suffer dis-honor and grotesque shame in order to reach us and bless us beyond our wildest dreams. The death of Jesus is not about appeasing an angry God. It is about the Triune God doing the impossible—reaching the human race in its terrible darkness and corruption, where the undivided heart of the Father is unimaginable.

    “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.”

    I will love my enemies because Jesus asked me too, not because i hope in his coming wrath. I also will definitely NOT be scaring people into heaven.

  32. Denny Burk April 22, 2008 at 12:27 pm #

    Dear Ron (in #21),

    Yes, you read me correctly. But I would hasten to say that I agree with the commenters who point out that God’s future vengeance isn’t the only thing that motivates our love (though it is certainly part of the motivation).

    What I have in mind in this post is the way the Bible speaks to Christians who are suffering unjustly at the hands of their enemies. Jesus repeatedly told his followers to “love your enemies” (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27, 35). He says “pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:45) and “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:27-28). He specifically instructs his followers not to exact their own personal revenge, but he says “turn the other cheek” (Lk 6:29). In all of those passages, Jesus cites the character of God as the motive for love. God loves His enemies, so you should love your enemies too (Mt 5:45; Lk 6:35). So, yes, I heartily affirm God’s love as a motive for our own.

    There are other passages that address Christians who are suffering at the hands of their enemies. In many of these passages, the apostolic author will encourage his beleaguered readers by reminding them that God will ultimately save them from their suffering by judging their enemies. These passages are almost too numerous to count, but I have listed several in my original post that I will print here as well:

    John 5:22
    22 “For not even the Father judges anyone, but aHe has given all judgment to the Son”

    Revelation 19:11-16
    11 And I saw aheaven opened; and behold, a bwhite horse, and He who sat upon it is called cFaithful and True; and in drighteousness He judges and wages war. 12 And His aeyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many bdiadems; and He has a cname written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 And He is clothed with a arobe dipped in blood; and His name is called bThe Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in afine linen, bwhite and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 And afrom His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that bwith it He may smite the nations; and He will 1crule them with a rod of iron; and dHe treads the 2wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has aa name written, b“KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

    Romans 12:19
    19
    aNever take your own revenge, beloved, but 1leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, b“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

    2 Thessalonians 1:6-10
    6
    1For after all ait is only just 2for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted 1and to us as well 2awhen the Lord Jesus shall be revealed bfrom heaven cwith 3His mighty angels din flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who ado not know God and to those who bdo not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of aeternal destruction, baway from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be aglorified 1in His 2saints on that bday, and to be marveled at among all who have believed– for our ctestimony to you was believed.

    These passages reveal an eschatological perspective that is looking forward to the coming judgment of Christ as the day of vindication for God’s people and a day of punishment for their enemies. Believing that Christ will be our justice helps Christians not to exact their own personal revenge before the great day.

    I hope that’s helpful.

    Blessings,
    Denny Burk

  33. Michael Metts April 22, 2008 at 12:52 pm #

    Isaiah 66:22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth I am about to make will remain standing before me,” says the Lord, “so your descendants and your name will remain. 66:23 From one month to the next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to worship me,” says the Lord. 66:24 “They will go out and observe the corpses of those who rebelled against me, for the maggots that eat them will not die, and the fire that consumes them will not die out. All people will find the sight abhorrent.”

  34. Jonathan Moorhead April 22, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    Ugh, and to think that many seminary profs teach evangelicals about this guy – even a few blocks away from your school 😉

  35. Michael Metts April 22, 2008 at 1:50 pm #

    Is there a great flaw in McLaren’s argument? There is. Watch closely.

    McLaren starts off by suggesting that God is going to enforce his views to fix the problem of injustices but he fails to grasp that for Paul because God inflicts wrath on the unrighteous, God is just to judge the world. Again, the wrathful God is just to judge because he punishes the wicked.

    McLaren:
    “Simply put, if we believe that God will ultimately enforce his will by forceful domination, and will eternally torture all who resist that domination, then torture and domination become not only permissible but in some way godly.”

    Paul:
    Romans 3:5-6 “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is he? (I am speaking in human terms.) Absolutely not! For otherwise how could God judge the world?

    It’s a subtle difference, but keep looking…

    McLaren again writes:
    “…even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion.”

    There are so many problems working in this statement that one can’t address them all here. For (1), it flies in the face of the Gospel message summed up in John 3:16. (2) It neglects to deal rightly with God’s plans for mankind as redemptive plans and not as plans for “fixing”. (3) It lacks proper acknowledgments of human responsibility.

    Do you see these subtle shifts? McLaren has changed the context under which to address the issue of God’s justice. He is boldly and nearly calling into question God himself in this terrible display of theodicy, and he suggests that God is now responsible to fix the problems of injustices, then he accuses God of only being able to do so through the dooming violence of hell as a means of coercion.

    God does not coercively carry out his plans to fix mankind. He offered his only son up for our sins (not as an act of violence, but as an act of love) willing that none should perish – to redeem mankind. This will amount to salvation in that great day of judgment for the righteous, but yes, punishment for the wicked.

    Romans 2:6-8 “He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness.”

    If reframed in a humanistic (insert more long words here of critical nature against whatever you’d call this worldview) you end up with this garbage: “This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe (as we’ve said before) that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion.”

    McLaren:
    “even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion”

    Paul and the Psalmist:
    “He will reward each one according to his works.”

    Is God a tyrant?

    Or dare we believe the words of John, that “God is love”?

    These subtle un-truths work into our books so expertly – sometimes naively, sometimes mistakenly, and sometimes blindly. We must be very careful weighing what we read against the Spirit. Become experts in your discernment.

  36. Quixote April 22, 2008 at 2:02 pm #

    I thought God’s future retribution was meant to still our hearts, to put us at peace when we are troubled by seeming injustice in the world and in our personal lives. I thought we were to love others not from any driving motivation except that children who are born of God LOVE OTHERS.

    If we are truly God’s child and His spirit lives within us, then we will love. And the world will know we are His by our love. God loves because He IS love. And when God lives in us, we love too. Period.

    Am I missing something?

    (Of course, this is all off-point, since the post was about McLaren’s revisionist issues and the subject of hell.)

  37. Brian April 22, 2008 at 2:32 pm #

    RE: Post 27

    Amen. That is how I got saved. I was scared of going to hell. I didn’t want God’s boot to kick me in the face (read: Orwell). Of course I didn’t have the whole picture of the Gospel and Christianity yet I eventually saw more of it and continue to see more of it to this day.

  38. John April 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    Good thoughts, #35. Actually, McLaren has been traditionally shallow in his thinking, but remember that this is not usually a problem for those who embrace post-modernism. McLarens most glaring flaw in this speech was assuming that God’s violence (and if you think He’s not violent, please read your Old Testament) must lead to violence in his followers. There is no structure for this transition, resulting in a blurry indistinction between Creator and his roles and creatures and their roles.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Is Brian McLaren A Brother? « Promise & Pleasure - April 23, 2008

    […] Denny Burk on McLaren […]

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes