Brian McLaren is a prolific writer who is in demand as a speaker and a kind of emerging church spokesman. He's appeared on television and radio and has written several very successful books: "A Generous Orthodoxy," "The Secret Message of Jesus," "Finding Faith," "Everything must change," etc. His words are packed with deconstruction, reinterpretation, challenging ideas, and even a reluctance to accept historical biblical theology. Many have said his books are inspiring, thoughtful, and deeply insightful regarding culture and the need to integrate Christian theology into it. I think that is highly unfortunate since McLaren doesn't seem to understand biblical theology very well (if he does it isn't apparent to me), and he also appears to be replacing orthodoxy with liberalism.
Brian McLaren was born in 1956. "He graduated from University of Maryland with degrees in English (BA, summa cum laude, 1978, and MA, in 1981). His academic interests included Medieval drama, Romantic poets, modern philosophical literature, and the novels of Dr. Walker Percy. In 2004, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree (honoris causa) from Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver, BC, Canada."1 He went on to found the Cedar Ridge Community Church.2 He is no longer the pastor there, having resigned his position in order to pursue his speaking schedule. In addition, he is on the board of directors of the emergent village, a kind of think-tank for emerging church promotion.
Alright, so what does Brian McLaren teach doctrinally? Since he founded the Cedar Ridge Community Church, we can examine its doctrinal position and conclude that it still represents Brian McLaren's statement of faith -- especially since his picture is still prominently displayed at the top of several of its pages. A quick look at crcc's website and you can find some interesting information. First, on the beliefs page I'm happy to see the Church affirms the doctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation of the Word in the person of Christ, the virgin birth, and his death and physical resurrection. So far, so good.
However, there is a problem in that there is no statement that the Bible is inspired and inerrant. I could not tell if the Church affirms or denies universalism, the false teaching that everyone will eventually become saved. In addition, I saw nothing that mentioned the final judgment and eternal damnation of those who die outside of Christ.
On the church staff page there is a list that includes women pastors. Women pastors are not biblical and it tells me that the church is not taking the word of God seriously, at least in this issue. Instead, it is adopting a non-historical, unbiblical, and liberal position.
One other thing I found worth mentioning is the following quote on the Vision and Mission page:
"Imagine a community that dares to dream of heaven on earth; a community where everyone is accepted and respected and their journey cherished, regardless of their background, beliefs or place in society."
Perhaps I'm being nitpicky, but I see a problem. Are we to cherish people's journey that led them to murder, rape, theft, etc.? I have a problem cherishing such sinful things. It doesn't mean we are to reject the people who have committed them if they are seeking reconciliation with God. But such feel-good statements make me cringe. Perhaps I am being overly critical here, and perhaps they did not mean to include such sinfulness in their statement, but it is not well thought out. It just seems too sentimental to me.
So, what does McLaren Teach?
I've done a lot of research on McLaren, reading his books, and I'm very sad to say that there are some serious problems. One of the most disturbing I have found is his endorsement of a book by Alan Jones called Reimagining Christianity. McLaren wholeheartedly approves of the book, and yet in this book Alan Jones says that the vicarious atonement of Christ is not a vital doctrine. He casts strong doubt over the Bible's reliability, denies the virgin birth, says Christianity is sadomasochistic, affirms evolution, and sees religions such as Islam and Buddhism as equally valid compared to Christianity. In my assessment, Alan Jones is not a Christian and no true Christian should ever support the book Reimagining Christianity.
But, what does Brian McLaren actually teach? Some pretty disturbing things! You can go to the first and second articles that list a series of quotes from him. In them you will see how troubling Brian McLaren's teachings really are. Among the quotes, he states things like Christianity is a little true, that perhaps our understanding of Christianity is wrong, that masculine pronouns used to describe God should be avoided, that we probably haven't got the gospel right yet, that understanding nothing is good, that Gandhi followed the way of Christ, that being saved is not being saved from God's damnation, that we haven't got the homosexuality issue right, and that systematic theology is a practice in arrogance.
Therefore, I can only conclude that Brian McLaren is a dangerous teacher.
I'm truly dismayed that Brian McLaren is as popular as he is in Christian circles. His acceptance and promotion as a good Christian teacher is evidence of a profound lack of spiritual discernment rampant in the body of Christ today. This is not to say that he does not have some good ideas and some good insights, but he is not properly representing the core teachings of the Bible. Instead, he offers a watered-down gospel, a politically correct assessment of Biblical teachings, and instructions that remind me of New Age philosophy.
The church should be busy about its business of housecleaning, of getting the plank out of its own eye, of removing false teachers from within its doors, of properly articulating the doctrines of Christ for which so many Christians have shed their blood, instead of advocating feel-good, politically correct ideologies to please the bleating of goats. McLaren is to be avoided because he is leading the goats away from the truth.
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