Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Heretic by any other name (5)...

In his continuing review and interaction with Brian McLaren's new book Mike Witmer addresses the fifth of McLaren's questions: "What is the Gospel?" Since Brian rejects the biblical doctrines of the fall and sin he is also doomed to distort the gospel which he does with breathtaking hubris.

The gospel, according to McLaren, is not the announcement of salvation through Jesus' atoning work (McLaren rejects the doctrine of the atonement). Instead the gospel, so says McLaren, is a new way of life; a life of love. Well, I certainly will not argue that the Gospel, properly believed and apprehended by faith will lead to love for God and neighbor. But what Brian does is what theological liberals have always done. He abandons the substance of the gospel for the fruits of the gospel. In other words he denies what the gospel is and replaces it with one aspect of what the gospel produces within those who believe - a life of love.

Witmer addresses this issue in two posts (
Here and Here).

In this section Brian reveals how liberalism grows in orthodox churches. He says that at the beginning of their movement, he and his friends were “peace-loving people” who didn’t “want to needlessly upset anyone,” so they thought, ‘Maybe this new understanding can simply be added to what we already have, gradually, gently, so people won’t even notice…Maybe we can simply add this kingdom-of-God stuff as fine print on the bottom of our existing theological contracts…without upsetting anyone.”

Brian writes that “Many are still working with this hope, and I wish them luck”—which should be a wake-up call to us all. Brian says that for his part he can no longer pretend, for “the cat is out of the bag” and it’s time to be honest about his new Christianity and admit that it can’t be crammed into the traditional way the church has believed in God...

Here’s the lesson: the easiest time to stop liberal theology is before it flowers and gains a following. If we make room for liberal questions it won’t be long before we’ll be asked to tolerate liberal answers. The little bit of liberalism that we tolerate today will eventually grow to become the dominant view. At least that’s the plan, according to Brian. We’ve been warned.

Postscript: some have asked why my reviews of A New Kind of Christianity have been critical. Isn’t there something positive to say about it? That’s a bit like asking, “Otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” or “C’mon Paul, the Judaizers got something right, didn’t they?” (If you want to see negative, read Galatians 1, 1 Timothy 1, or anything in Jude).

Brian does rightly remind us to love each other, but this salient point is overwhelmed by his deconstruction of the Christian faith. As an evangelical elder statesman shared with me yesterday, “Brian fails every one of Machen’s tests.” This is my point in chapter 12 of Don’t Stop Believing, but you can see for yourself. Pick up a copy of Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism, written in 1923, and you’ll see that what Brian is saying isn’t exactly new, and according to Machen, it isn’t even Christian.

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