by: Wendy Wippel
Newsflash: Brian McLaren, Premier evangelical pastor (Time), prolific author, and principal purveyor of the currently fashionable Emergent Koolaid, has added another book to his credit. But not just a book this time, something much more ambitious. A year-long curriculum for Sunday schools, perfectly designed to fleece the flock. Because this Christianity is all about you.
McLaren’s long list of other titles gives the reader a pretty good idea what to expect from his latest offering: Everything must change. A New Kind of Christianity. A New Kind of Christian. The Secret Message of Jesus. Naked Spirituality. The Justice Project. Finding Our Way Again. Adventures in Missing the Point.
According to Brian, modern Christianity has pretty much everything wrong, and everything must change. (This includes doctrine: no salvation through Christ’s death, no virgin birth no one-way to heaven. It includes the bible (archaic and barbarian). It includes church activities. (Prayer meetings and potlucks need to be replaced by protest marches.) Brian and his legions of very devoted followers unapologetically want to remake Christianity into what they call “PostModern” Christianity. A christianity for the future of the now global society, with a catechism heavily saturated with inclusion, diversity, complete personal freedom, and open-mindedness. A catechism lacking, emphatically, any spiritual absolutes.
One big happy family. As the pope said, we all follow the same God. We just call him by different names. And that God is all about love. No Rules. No Judgment, No Sin. That’s the New Christianity, and the New Christian better get on board.
(I think there are more than a few prophecies in the Bible about this society in the making. But I digress).
Brian’s newest offering takes his agenda a giant step forward. And he explains the Christianity he is seeking to establish in the introduction of his newest work: We Make the Road by Walking.
According to Brian:
“What we all want is pretty simple, really. We want to be alive. To feel alive. Not just to exist but to thrive, to live out loud, walk tall, breathe free. We want to be less lonely, less exhausted, less conflicted or afraid. More awake, more grateful, more energized and purposeful. We capture this kind of mindful, overbrimming life in terms like well-being, shalom, blessedness, wholeness, harmony, life to the full, and aliveness. The quest for aliveness explains so much of what we do. It’s why readers read and travelers travel. It’s why lovers love and thinker think, why dancers dance and moviegoers watch. In the quest for aliveness, chefs cook, foodies eat, farmers till, drummers riff, fly fishers cast, runners run, and photographers shoot.
The quest for aliveness is the best thing about religion, I think. It’s what we are hoping for when we pray.
It’s why we gather, celebrate, eat, abstain, attend, practice, sing, and contemplate. When people say, I’m spiritual, what they mean is simple: I’m seeking aliveness.”
Brian helpfully tells us at this point that the Greek term translated as “eternal life” is “Zoein ainonian”, and that when most people read “Zoein ainonian”, as translated “eternal life” in their Bibles, they “sadly” interpret eternal life as “going to heaven rather than hell.”
But that’s not what God meant at all! (According to Brian).
He goes on:
“Many older religious people –Christians Muslims, Jews, and others are paralyzed by sadness that their children and grandchildren are far from faith, religion, and God… But on some level, they realize that religion too often shrinks, starves, cages, and freezes aliveness rather than fostering it. They are beginning to see that the only future for religion is to become a friend of aliveness again.”
McLaren concludes from that, that what God is trying to say when he promises “Zoein ainonian” is that if we are Christ-followers, our lives should be filled with; “an excelling quality, intensity, expansiveness, meaningfulness, fruitfulness, and depth of life”.
And here’s the problem. Our capability of achieving that version of “Zoein ainonian” is in “great danger of annihilation” because of white privilege, income inequality, and global warming. Or the next “fool or fiend to throw a lit match—or assault, nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon” (although I can’t really quibble with that).
These who want to do those things, however, can’t really be blamed, of course, because their anger is fueled, of course, by “resentment and fear” due to white privilege, income inequality, and global warming.
No worries. McLaren has a plan, of course. We need a “global spiritual movement” defined by “aliveness”. A New Kind of Spirituality.
This global spiritual movement has to be global, he explains, because “the threats we face have no borders”. It has to be spiritual because “politics and economics don’t solve” the threats to aliveness. It has to be a movement that includes values and meaning. And it has to be a movement (i.e., grassroots spread by social interaction) because “by definition, movements stir and focus grassroots human desire to bring change to institutions and the societies those institutions are to serve. “
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Everything must Change? A New Kind of Christianity? A New Kind of Christian?
McLaren’s Christianity is a social justice Christianity that avoids “The Man” telling us what to do.
Bottom line? It’s also a Christianity that rejects the right of the Almighty God to tell us what to do.
It’s a Christianity (and this is sad) that’s nonetheless perfect for the new global society, who have been trained up to expect to have everything their way, even when it comes to truth. A society that claims the right to personalize their religion.
A society that demands the right to make it up as they go along. (“Reimagine it” as they go along). So they feel alive. It’s lie from the seat of Satan, but he’s a good liar, and the large majority of US churches at this point have swallowed it or are licking around the edges. (The Southern Baptist Convention, to which my church belongs, have dabbled in some of their occultic practices). And it sounds good on the surface.
But looking deeper? Good luck with that. The Christ painted by that Christianity is little more than a first century middle-eastern version of Mahatma Ghandi or Mother Theresa. (Who were wonderful examples of love in action). But Christ had a much higher calling.
In His own words, He came to die on the cross. (Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. John 12:27)
He came to be the sacrifice lamb that takes away our sin. He died so that we can be truly alive. Alive “in Him”!
And that’s an “aliveness” that those who are still dead in their trespasses (e.g. Brian McLaren, apparently) will never understand.
The problem for McLaren and company, as attractive to the world as inclusion and diversity seem, is that ultimately God always has the trump card. He always has the last word. And His word makes it clear that there is good, and there is evil, and the fate of all men will depend on choosing to accept what God has revealed as truth– including a Christ that died for their sins, not a Christ who is a global community organizer with a social justice agenda.
And God’s last word on this subject is this: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
I can tell you exactly what his profit is.