A New Kind of Christianity

Review of Brian’s McLaren’s new book A New Kind of Christianity

by Tim Challies

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote about Brian McLaren and got in trouble. Reflecting on seeing him speak at a nearby church, I suggested that he appears to love Jesus but hate God. Based on immediate and furious reaction, I quickly retracted that statement. I should not have done so. I believed it then and I believe it now. And if it was true then, how much more true is it upon the release of his latest tome A New Kind of Christianity. In this book we finally see where McLaren’s journey has taken him; it has taken him into outright, rank, unapologetic apostasy. He hates God. Period.

“It’s time for a new quest,” write McLaren, “launched by new questions, a quest across denominations around the world, a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith.” McLaren frames the book around “Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith.” They cut to the very heart of the faith, foundational in every way. He asks:

  • The narrative question: What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
  • The authority question: How should the Bible be understood?
  • The God question: Is God violent?
  • The Jesus question: Who is Jesus and why is he important?
  • The gospel question: What is the gospel?
  • The church question: What do we do about the church?
  • The sex question: Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
  • The future question: Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
  • The pluralism question: How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
  • The what-do-we-do-now question: How can we translate our quest into action?

His purpose, he insists, is not to answer the questions, but to provide responses to them. Answers indicate finality, responses indicate conversation and openness. “The responses I offer are not intended as a smash in tennis, delivered forcefully with a lot of topspin, in an effort to win the game and create a loser. Rather, they are offered as a gentle serve or lob; their primary goal is to start the interplay, to get things rolling, to invite your reply. Remember, our goal is not debate and division yielding hate or a new state, but rather questioning that leads to conversation and friendship on the new quest.” But that is mere semantics. Whether answering or responding (whether saying tomato or tomahto), what McLaren does through these ten questions is to completely rewrite the Christian faith. His “gentle lobs” rip the very heart out of the faith.

At the center of his remix of the faith is the claim that most Christians look at their faith through a flawed Platonic, Greco-Roman lens instead of through a biblical, Jewish lens. “God’s unfolding drama is not a narrative shaped by the six lines in the Greco-Roman scheme of perfection, fall, condemnation, salvation, and heavenly perfection or eternal perdition. It has a different story line entirely. It’s a story about the downside of ‘progress’—a story of human foolishness and God’s faithfulness, the human turn toward rebellion and God’s turn toward reconciliation, the human intention toward evil and God’s intention to overcome evil with good.” This Greco-Roman God, the one that most Christians believe in, is a “damnable idol … defended by many a well-meaning but misguided scholar and fire-breathing preacher.”

McLaren plays the all-too-typical “everyone else has it wrong” card. It turns out that most of us (all but a handful of enlightened intellectuals, as it happens) have been reading the Bible through the distorted lens of a Greco-Roman narrative. This narrative produced many false dualisms, an air of superiority and a false distinction between those who were “in” and those who were “out.” These three marks of false narrative have so impacted our faith that we can hardly see past them. But Brian is willing and eager to play Moses, leading us out of the Egypt of our own ignorance and into the Promised Land of the new Christianity.

… continue reading at Challies.com

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Universalism: Gospel Message of Emergent & New Age Spirituality

by Sola Sisters

One of the greatest misconceptions today is that the New Age Movement of the 80’s and 90’s is (1) a thing of the past and (2) has nothing whatsoever in common with Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth on either count. Let me explain.

Most Americans today have sort of an eye-rolling, amused response to the phrase “New Age.” Perhaps their minds are conjuring up an image of Shirley MacLaine on the beach, talking to the sky, a spiritual eccentric who became the punch line of many jokes for her interest in reincarnation and channeling. Perhaps they think that, like Shirley MacLaine, the New Age has passed gently into history, much like the rubix cube and Duran Duran. Well, the truth is that the New Age is still very much with us today. It never really went away, it just went mainstream. New Age practices or beliefs that were once considered borderline occultic or kooky are now widely accepted and embraced, including yoga, mantra meditation, muscle testing, acupuncture, reiki, sustainable living and going green. Don’t believe it? Just pick up any newspaper or popular magazine today (Reader’s Digest, Ladies’ Home Journal, Parade) and you will most likely read at least one, usually multiple articles, on the benefits of these practices. Heck, even my husband’s Golf World had a lengthy article in the February 2010 issue on how golf courses around the country are trying to “go green.”

So just how did this New Age worldview get so powerful so fast? The short answer is that although it’s actually been around for a very long time, it got its greatest push into the mainstream through America’s most beloved talk show host, Oprah Winfrey. For some reason, people think that this New Age Spirituality direction that Oprah has taken is a new thing. It is not. I know this because I was on the same path that she was for a very long time, and at about the same time. Along with Oprah, I became completely immersed in New Age beliefs and practices, about 20 year ago, and yet at the same time used Christian terminology for all that I was doing. But the catch was this: all the Christian terminology I used had been redefined to fit the theology of my New Age belief system. And this is exactly how Oprah has made the New Age worldview palatable to the average Americans who were watching: she was using the same terminology that many Americans were. We were still, at least at that time, a “Christian” nation, and by that I mean, the majority of Americans made some kind of Christian profession and had at least some knowledge of the Christian faith. So although Oprah was going in a distinctly occultic, eastern direction spiritually, she was using words like “Holy Spirit,” “God,” “Jesus,” “atonement,” and “salvation.” And because Oprah was using terminology that everyone was familiar with, everybody’s guard went down….and that’s how the deception flooded in. Not to get too creepy about it, but this is exactly how many cults “reprogram” their new recruits. Same terminology, redefined terms.

One example of these redefined terms is a teaching from A Course In Miracles on the “atonement.” For those not familiar with A Course In Miracles (ACIM), it is a book that was originally published in 1976. The teachings of this book were channeled by a demonic entity to a woman named Helen Schucman who transcribed them. New Age author Marianne Williamson brought the teachings of ACIM into the mainstream after being enthusiastically endorsed on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the early 90s by writing her own book about ACIM and helping to explain its principles in laymans’ terms, sort of “A Course In Miracles for Dummies” (its real title: “A Return To Love”).

Click here to continue reading at Sola Sisters (courtesy of Lighthouse Trails Research )

Stay tuned on this issue, as an upcoming interfaith conference called Sacred Awakenings features Marianne Williamson (mentioned above as the New Ager who brought A Course In Miracles into the mainstream) and John Shelby Spong, both espousing more of the all-paths-lead-to-God view of Universalism. Since this also seems to be the view held by Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt and other emergent leaders, one has to wonder: how long before New Age Spirituality and Emergent officially merge together?

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Goodbye Emergent Church

Goodbye Emergent: Why I’m Taking The Theology of the Emerging Church To Task

writes Jeremy Bouma …

I’m not exactly sure when my saucy love affair with emergent and liberal Christianity ended. My “I don’t” isn’t as crystalized as my “I do.” Maybe it was when I read Pelagius‘ writings and realized much of Emergent theology really does mirror his 5th century theology.

Maybe it was after the former head of Emergent Village, Tony Jones, rejected original sin, a historic part of the Rule of Faith, claiming that it is “neither biblically, philosophically, nor scientifically tenable.

Maybe it was when I read Fredrick Schleiermacher and realized his and modern liberalism’s vapid, gospel-less faith are being repackaged and popularized to an unsuspecting, ignorant Christian community as a wholesome alternative to what has been.

Maybe it was after I read Karl Barth and realized the natural theology pushed by popular emergent theologians is not revitalizing Christian faith, but killing it; it is the same kind of faith Barth so vociferously fought against in order to preserve the historic Rule of Faith.

Maybe it was after reading a leading emerging church voice suggest that God and grace and the Kingdom of God are not tied directly and exclusively to Jesus Christ; ultimately its not really about Jesus, but about a vanilla, generalized World-Spirit god (lower-case “g”)

Source

on Monday, February 8, 2010

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