When the doctor tells you that the blood gushing from your severed artery isnâ€™t nearly as dangerous as your athleteâ€™s foot, you know youâ€™ve got an incompetent physician, and itâ€™s time to get a new one. We donâ€™t put ourselves under the care of those who canâ€™t distinguish life-threatening conditions from benign ones. On the contrary, we fire them.
Likewise, no one should subject themselves to the leadership of pastors who cannot distinguish damning doctrinal errors from non-damning ones. The more I hear from Pastor Brian McLaren, the more I fear he is not competent to be a leader of Godâ€™s people. Recently, he commented on the error-ridden The DaVinci Code and said,
â€œFrankly, I donâ€™t think it has more harmful ideas in it than the Left Behind novelsâ€ (source).
The problem with what McLaren says here is that he cannot (or will not) distinguish what is malignant from what is benign. No one goes to hell merely for believing dispensational premillenialism, a theology of the end times that gets portrayed in the Left Behind novels. Yet anyone who denies the Deity of Jesus most certainly will, and this is precisely what is argued in The DaVinci Code.
You donâ€™t have to like dispensational premillenialism to see that its teachings about the end times do not come anywhere close to the damning heresy reflected in The DaVinci Code. Any pastor that cannot (or will not) see that isnâ€™t competent to hold the office.
McLaren clearly acknowledges that there are historical and factual errors in The DaVinci Code. He says, â€œThe book is fiction and itâ€™s filled with a lot of fiction about a lot of things that a lot of people have already debunked.â€ Yet for some reason neither its factual errors nor its Christological heresy are enough to elicit a truly pastoral response from McLaren.
McLaren also says,
â€œWe need to ask ourselves why the vision of Jesus hinted at in Dan Brownâ€™s book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to these people than the standard vision of Jesus they hear about in church . . . Is it possible that, even though Brownâ€™s fictional version misleads in many ways, it at least serves to open up the possibility that the churchâ€™s conventional version of Jesus may not do him justice?â€ (source).
Why is it that McLaren is often finding fault with Christians but seldom with Christianityâ€™s detractors? Certainly, Christians are not perfect. But that fact is a far cry from explaining the existence of unbelief in the world. Certainly caricatures of Jesus can repel people, but so can the authentic Jesus. Sometimes people reject Christ and His gospel because they hate Christ. As a matter of fact, Jesus Himself warned us that this very thing would happen,
â€œThe world cannot hate you; but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evilâ€ (John 7:7).
â€œ18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you . . . 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, â€˜They hated Me without a causeâ€™â€ (John 15:18, 23-25).
Does McLaren know that sometimes people hate the Lord Jesus for no good reason? McLaren canâ€™t always account for peopleâ€™s hatred of Jesus by pointing out the faults of Christiansâ€”at least not if he wants to be credible. Human sin and rebellion account for no small part of the worldâ€™s hostility towards Christ, but you probably wouldnâ€™t know it from listening to McLaren.
At some point, we all have to go to Jesus outside the camp and bear his reproach along with him (Hebrews 13:13). And sometimes that means actually acknowledging that the world is against Christ and cannot be brought to change its opinion about Christ apart from the miracle of regeneration (John 3:3, 5).
As a pastor, McLaren should already know all of this. His failure to identify this threat emerging from outside the church makes his influence within the church all the more dangerous. After all, the apostle Paul warned that the sheep-devouring â€œwolvesâ€ would emerge from within the ranks of the visible church (Acts 20:29).
For this reason alone we should all be paying very close attention to Pastor McLarenâ€”paying attention and warning our own flocks.