Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A heretic by any other name (6)...

"What do we do about the church?" That is the sixth question Brian McLaren deals with in his new book. Of course now that Brian has rejected the authority and reliability of Scripture, the biblical vision of God, the doctrines of sin and the atonement, and has redefined the gospel it leaves one wondering why he is interested at all in the church. Nevertheless, he pushes on. Mike Witmer soldiers on as well in what has surely been an unpleasant task.

Brian’s shallow evaluation of our problem (no Fall, original sin, total depravity, or hell) produces a shallow understanding of salvation (love as much as you can and let God’s judgment burn your bad stuff away) which produces a shallow view of the church (it exists merely to stop people from wasting their lives).

But we already have that job covered. Several institutions already exist to stop people from wasting their lives. Colleges prepare people for life, the Army challenges them to “Be all they can be,” and the Peace Corps provides an outlet to serve others. So given Brian’s description of the church’s mission, why do we even need it? Hasn’t his quest to make the church relevant merely succeeded in making it redundant?

Tim Challies has written a review of A New Kind of Christianity and he pulls no punches. Tim is a nice guy but he recognizes that McLaren's reckless deconstruction of biblical faith combined with his unfortunate influence among evangelicals deserves a strong response.

The arrogance of it all is stunning. McLaren is angrier than he has been before and more scornful. Still, though, he presents his ideas coated with the veneer of a false humility. But, handily, he builds into the book the means he will use to answer his critics. He will simply accuse his detractors of having this old Greco-Roman understanding of the faith. We poor fundamentalists cannot be among the new kind of Christian until we have been enlightened to understand the Bible through an entirely new narrative structure. Only then will this all become clear. Until then, more to be pitied are we than any men.

Here, in A New Kind of Christianity it’s as if McLaren is screaming “I hate God!” at the top of his lungs. And swarms of Christians are looking at him with admiration and saying, “See how that guy loves God?” I don’t know what McLaren could do to make the situation more clear. In fact, his book is nearly indistinguishable from many of the de-conversion narratives that are all the rage today. Compare it with Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem and you’ll see many of the same arguments and the same misgivings; you’ll find, though, that Ehrman is at least more honest. He at least has the integrity to walk away from faith altogether rather than reinventing God in his own image.

McLaren says he would prefer atheism over belief in the God so many of us see in Scripture. Well, he is not far off. This new kind of Extreme Makeover: God Edition Christianity is no Christianity at all. It is not a faith made in the image of Jesus Christ, but a faith made in the image of a man who despises God and who is hell-bent on dragging others along with him as he becomes his own god.

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