What Became of Emerging/Emergent Leaders – Part 2

In the previous post, we explored what became of the now defunct Emergent Church. In this final post, I’d like to continue exploring what some of the other leaders are up to now.

 

Tony Jones

One of the intellectual leaders of the Emergent Church was Tony Jones. From my perspective, the progressive direction of the movement seemed to follow the theology of both Jones and McLaren. By the end of the Emergent movement, Jones publicly condemned original sin and penal substitutionary atonement and eventually began to adopt process theology.

Jones served as “theologian-in-residence” at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis during the heydays of the movement. He served in that roll until 2015. He now serves as Senior Acquisitions Editor at Fortress Press. In addition, he teaches theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (CV here).

Jones yielded much influence in the Emergent Church yet is now found in the academic and publishing world. His tweets, blogs, etc. have largely disappeared.

 

Doug Pagitt

Close to Tony Jones in influence was Doug Pagitt. Pagitt served, and continues to serve, as the senior pastor of Solomon’s Porch where Jones once served as theologian-in-residence.

Since the death of the Emergent Church, Pagitt continues to promote postmodern Christianity. Pagitt is active with Convergence which is self-described the following way:

We are a diverse collective of faith-based organizations, leaders, artists, activists, learners and communities rooted in a just and generous historic Christian spirituality, embodying a new Christian ethos, and committed to action – for all people, the planet, and peace. Convergence is about the dream of a just and generous world for all people.

In addition to his church and Convergence work, Pagitt has published a few books though at a slower rate than during the peak of the Emergent Movement. His last book was Flipped in 2015.

Though his publications have slowed, Pagitt continues to speak on the radio for an hour every Monday-Wednesday in Minnesota on AM950. That station, according to Pagitt’s own website, is “the progressive voice of minnesota” (sic).

Speaking of progressive work, Pagitt has become more political and focused on social justice since the days of the Emergent Church. Last year, Pagitt was actively involved in flipping the House of Representatives from Republican and Democrat. Likewise, he is the founder and direct of Greater Things Foundation. Pagitt describes the work as:

Greater Things makes change by helping faith leaders and individuals leave behind the narratives of exclusion, violence, greed, sexism, exploitation and racism rooted in white supremacy, and embrace instead new narratives of reconciliation, inclusion, nonviolence, generosity, equality, and sustainability.

 

Jim Wallis

Although not technically part of the Emergent Church, Jim Wallis was an influence political voice within it. Wallis’s work began long before the birth of the Emergent movement. His book God’s Politics was an influential volume and was the name of a progressive political group he founded along with Sojourners which he continues to operate through.

For the most part, Wallis continues the same work he did before. Since he was never officially part of the Emergent Movement, its demise affected him little. In 2012, near the end of the Emergent Movement, Wallis debated Albert Mohler on the subject of the social gospel.

The main challenge Wallis faces as a progressive political leader is the lack of influence the theological left have over the progressive movement. Increasingly, Wallis’s voice is being drowned out by the secular left who do not see the significance of faith and theology. All of this was predictable and the political left will only continue to marginalize and reject theological arguments, even arguments from fellow liberals.

What Became of Emerging/Emergent Leaders – Part 1

Back in 2012 I officially said farewell to the Emergent Church. Having spent years studying what was supposed to be the movement that would save American Evangelicalism from irrelevancy for my thesis, the Emergent Movement has ceased to exist. I held on longer than most largely due to the hours I spent researching the movement but it came to a point that I was alone in the dark listening to silence.

For those unaware, the Emerging Church Movement came on the scene like a wildfire especially after its cover feature in Christianity Today in 2004. It launched cohorts, and a host of “conversations” regarding postmodernism, the future of Christianity and Christian theology, and what church should/will look like the future.

But now, the Emergent Church is dead. All of those books, blogs, and Nooma videos are largely forgotten. By the end of the movement, the primary leaders (in a movement that bragged about not having any official leaders) adopted process theology. So having already abandoned orthodoxy, the Emergent Movement abandoned Christianity. No wonder it has faded.

With that said, I was recently asked about the Emergent Church, a movement I had not considered for some time. It made me wonder what has become of some of its leaders. Here is my small attempt to find out.

 

Mark Driscoll

In 2007 Zondervan Publishers (who had been somewhat friendly to the Emergent movement) published a book entitled Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Views. The book featured some of the leading voices within the wide-ranging Emerging movement that had yet found its foundation (at the time, anti-foundationalism was its core doctrine). No other book highlighted some of it’s key leaders nor illustrated the early diversity in the movement. For me, it was in this volume I first heard of Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll’s “involvement” in the Emerging movement was short-lived. His roll was largely as a young evangelical that was cool and leading a growing church in a major metropolitan city. As the movement evolved, Driscoll obviously did not fit in. As Brian McLaren and Tony Jones’ influence grew within the Emergent Movement, there was not enough room for the likes of Driscoll (and I would add Dan Kimball).

In the volume highlighted above, Driscoll was the only writer to saturated his chapter with Scriptural references. At times it was overwhelming. But in so doing, Driscoll planted his flag as conservative and orthodox – a position Emergents would later not tolerate.

With that said, Driscoll found a home among the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement. Driscoll, along with the likes of younger pastors like Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, JD Greear, and David Platt, became leaders who all looked to legacy established by men like Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, John Piper, John MacArthur, and RC Sproul among others.

In this world, Driscoll’s fame dramatically expanded. I found myself reading many of his books (I still recommend many of them) and listened to countless hours of his sermons and lectures. Driscoll portrayed himself as a man’s man in a increasingly feminized society.

Yet before long, Driscoll stepped down as pastor of Mars Hill, the church he founded in Seattle. No single controversy brought his downfall, rather it was a death of a thousand cuts. Accusations of plagiarism, fraudulent attempts to get one of his books on the New York Times best sellers list, and a reputation of bullying at Mars Hill eventually led to his resignation.

After a period of silence, Driscoll eventually relocated to Scottsdale, AZ and planted a new church entitled Trinity Church in 2015. He has largely avoided the controversy and headlines that followed him before. His blog posts, videos, and sermons are less noteworthy as before. Perhaps Driscoll’s repentance is sincere. In October 2018, Driscoll published his first book since his resignation entitled Spirit-Filled Jesus: Live By His Power.

 

Brian McLaren

My M. Div thesis was on Brian McLaren’s soteriology. I argued it was less than orthodox and consistent with classic liberal theology. McLaren, along with other Emergent voices, tried to hide behind postmodernism, it was no different than heresy of old.

With that said, McLaren was the fatherly figure of the Emergent Movement. When he spoke, Emergents listened. From a visual perspective, he and Phyllis Tickle did not fit the stereotype. Emergents were younger believers and ex-believers experimenting with postmodernity, modern society, and Christianity. Yet having flirted with these ideas previously, both McLaren and Tickle gained an large audience with Emergents.

The peak of McLaren’s influence came in the publication of his book A New Kind of Christianity. Though McLaren abhorred systematic theology as echoes of modernism where theologians tried to dissect God, McLaren essentially offers his own systematic theology in this volume. It is here that McLaren refuses to hide behind strict postmodern jargon and instead openly rejects orthodoxy. After this volume, McLaren’s influence goes the way of the Emergent Church.

Yet even before this volume, McLaren largely became more of a social gospel evangelists. Beginning with the publication of his book Everything Must Change much of McLaren’s ministry has been focused on issues of justice, poverty, racism, LGBT+ issues, and climate change. According to his own website, McLaren now considers himself an author, speaker, and activists. Preacher and theologian are largely out the window.

At the end of the day, McLaren continues to the follow the direction of liberal theology. For some, liberalism leads to process theology or even to agnosticism. For the likes of McLaren, Christianity is exclusively about justice apart from justification. His theology lacks a cross and that has not changed since the birth of the Emergent movement.

 

 

 

 

12 Proofs of Jesus’ Deity From the Synoptic Gospels

One of the leaders of a dead former movement that once had influence (the Emergent Church), Tony Jones, has been writing a series of blog posts on Questions that Haunt Christianity. In one such post, the following question is asked:

In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes many confident self-proclamations (conservative Evangelical’s favorite verses which seemingly demonstrates the exclusivity of Jesus). Now, I’m sure that claiming to be God in 1st century Judiasm is a really big deal; however, how is it that none of these self-proclamations make it into any of the synoptic gospels? Is it possible that Jesus never made these self-proclamations? If not, how does this effect our understanding of Trinitarian theology in the gospel accounts?

It should be briefly mentioned that Jones does not answer this question directly. He deals primarily, and almost exclusively, with the Gospel of John. However, as the title of his article (It’s Probably True, Even If Jesus Didn’t Say It) suggests Jesus never clearly claimed to be divine. Instead what we have, as (post)modern liberals have argued, the doctrine of Jesus’ deity was later created by the church (blame Constantine, Athanasius, and Nicea). The Synoptics, the argument oftentimes goes, did not present a divine Jesus and the Man Himself never claimed deity for Himself. It is John that makes that explicit claim and being that John was written at the end of the first century, it is less reliable as a reflection of the earliest form of Christianity.

Is this true? In a word, no. I have put together 12 reasons proofs of Jesus’ deity from the Synoptic Gospels (in no particular order).*

1. Jesus claimed to have the authority to forgive sins

Mark 2:1-12 (parallels in Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26) records the famous story of the paralytic lowered from the roof and eventually healed by Jesus. Before Jesus healed Him, the Nazarene claimed rather boldly and shockingly to have forgiven His sins (vs. 5). The religious elite rightly, from their perspective, protest. They ask “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (vs. 7) Jesus responds, not by just proclaiming his deity but by proving his deity. When Jesus heals the paralytic, the crowd got the message; this is no mere miracle worker (see vs. 12).

2. The Demons proclaimed He was God

In both Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:33-34 demons confess that Jesus is “the Holy One of God.” Similarly in Luke 4:40-41, demons refer to Jesus as “the Son of God.” If your enemies proclaim you divine, then you are divine.  

3. Jesus Possesses the Attributes and Names of God

Consider, first, the attributes of God present in the ministry of Jesus the following:

  • Omnipotence (Matthew 8:26-27, 14:19, 28:18)
  • Omnipresence (Matthew 28:20)
  • Omniscience (Matthew 11:27)
  • Sovereign over the Future (Matthew 16:21, 17:22, 20:18-19, 26:1-2)
  • Without Sin – (Matthew 27:3-4; Luke 23:22, 41, 47; Acts 3:14) 
  • Suggestion of pre-existence – Mark 1:38; 10:45;

Consider also the titles of God attributed to Jesus throughout His ministry:

  •  Immanuel – Matthew 1:21-23
  •  Son of God (Matthew 4:3, 6; 8:29; 16:16; 26:63; 27:40; 27:43, 54; Mark 1:1; 3:11; 5:7; 15:39; Luke 1:32, 35; 4:3, 9, 41 8:28; 22:70)
  • Son of Man (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 13:37, 41; 16:13, 27-28; 17:9, 12, 22, 19:28; 20:18, 28; 24:27, 30, 37, 39; 24:44; 25:31; 26:2; 26:24, 45, 64 – I’ll stop there)


4. He Accepted Worship

Only God is to be worshiped, but in Matthew 15:25, the Canaanite woman “knelt before him” and said, “Lord, heal me.” More explicitly, in Matthew 28:8-9 reads, “And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.” Consider also Acts 7:59-60 where Stephen prays to Jesus.



5. Jesus claims to be the final judge of the world – Matthew 25:31-46


6. He bestowed Eternal Life (Matthew 19:16-21; Mark 10:17-21; Luke 18:18-22)


7. Jesus applied a number of Old Testament texts about God to himself (cf. Matthew 21:16 with Psalm 8:2)

8. He is Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus makes the claim of being Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:27-28; Luke 6:5; 13:15. Millard Erickson says here that Jesus “was clearly claiming the right to redefine the status of the Sabbath, a right that belongs only to someone virtually equal with God” (Christian Theology, 702).

9. He juxtaposes His words with that of the Old Testament – Matthew 5:21-22 and 27-28.

10. If He was not divine then His condemnation and punishment were just.

11. Similarly, if Jesus is not divine then his enemies were sorely mistaken.

12. He is the risen and ascended Lord!

More could be added and said, but these 12 points should be clear enough. Jesus did not merely claim to be God He proved it.

* It should be noted that I include references to the book of Acts since its author is the same as one of the Synoptic Gospel writers, Luke.

Tony Jones – It’s Probably True, Even If Jesus Didn’t Say It [Questions That Haunt]

For more:
“Christian Theology”: Blogging Through Erickson – Christology 2
John Knox on the Threefold Office of Christ
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension

I Don’t Think He’s Trying Anymore

Once again, John Piper’s infamous tweet “Farewell Rob Bell” after the said author’s book trailer for Love wins was released has proven prophetic. A recent article reports the following:

“One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness,” Rob Bell said. “Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.”

That statement prompted a question from Oprah: “When is the church going to get that?”
“We’re moments away,” Rob Bell said. “I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone.”

Said Kristen Bell: “There are churches who are moving forward and there are churches who are almost regressing and making it more of a battle.” (Source)

 This, of course, was all predictable. Anyone that read Bell’s first book Velvet Elvis could have made this prediction. Those who flirt with theological liberalism will eventually become one. Bell used to at least pretend to be orthodox or at least hold on to some residue of it. Those days are over with.

For more:
Can We Now Say, “Farewell, Rob Bell?”
“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” by Rob Bell: A Review
“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” Lecture
Repost | Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
Will This Sort of Love Win?:  Reflections on the Bell Controversy – Part 1

MSNBC Takes on Bell . . . Or At Least Tries Too
What’s Wrong With a Feminine God?: Some Quotations 

Can We Now Say, "Farewell, Rob Bell?"

Prior to the release of his book Love Wins, John Piper famously published a tweet simply stating “Farewell, Rob Bell.” The response was immediate and mostly negative. Since then, Bell has rejected virtually every orthodox doctrine of the faith from eschatology (Love Wins) to theology proper (What We Think About When We Think About God).

One of the main criticism of Piper’s tweet was that it was premature. Now, however, Piper has been proven prophetic. In a recent article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, What ever happened to Rob Bell, the pastor who questioned the gates of hell? Piper’s prophetic tweet was made evident. Bell hasn’t only left the faith, but he continues to mock it. Early on in the article, Bailey writes:

Now, the man who built a church of an estimated 10,000 people isn’t even attending an organized church. Instead, he surfs the waves near Hollywood and has teamed up with the goddess of pop theology, Oprah Winfrey.

Exchanging his evangelical bona fides for the blessing of Oprah may yet prove to be his most unforgivable sin, at least in some circles. Which is not to say that Bell cares very much what anyone says these days.

“I never spent a minute wondering whether I’m in or out.”

Does he still consider himself an evangelical?

“If we mean Jesus’ message of God’s revolutionary love for every person, and we can surrender and give our life to acts to loving kindness, then man, sign me up,” said Bell, 44.

Bell is now premiering a TV show on the Oprah channel. Regarding Love Wins, Bell notes that “The book doesn’t even begin to go far enough.” Later, Bailey highlights Bell’s stance on homosexuality:

Bell says he would conduct a same-sex ceremony, and he encourages churches to welcome gay members and allow them to be ordained.

“This is a justice issue,” Bell said. “We believe people should not be denied the right to have someone to journey with.”

No one that has followed Bell’s publishing and preaching career ought to be surprise by his ever-evolving theology away from Christian orthodoxy. So though the article has been read by many, only those blind to the obvious are surprised by its content.

For more:
“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” by Rob Bell: A Review
“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” Lecture
Repost | Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
Will This Sort of Love Win?:  Reflections on the Bell Controversy – Part 1

MSNBC Takes on Bell . . . Or At Least Tries Too
What’s Wrong With a Feminine God?: Some Quotations

What is the Greatest Threat to Christianity?

Brian McLaren answers the above question with the following:

misguided Christians, just as the greatest threat to Islam is misguided Muslims and the greatest threat to Judaism is misguided Jews. Religious insiders can do harm to their religion in ways that outsiders never could. This is especially true in a pluralistic world, where religions are credible to the degree they bring benefits to outsiders. (source)

Has McLaren read the New Testament? Just taking the seven letters to the seven churches of Revelation reveal that Christ was not concerned with the early Christians being culturally insensitive and “misguided.” His concern is that they would not be a peculiar people. Some had become lukewarm, tolerant of false doctrine, worldly, and forsaking their first love.

Liberals repeatedly tell the church, “be like the culture and you’ll be relevant until the culture changes.” The orthodox repeatedly proclaim, “be like Christ and you’ll always be relevant.”

As always, one of the greatest threats to Christianity is to listen to and follow wolves like McLaren.

For more:
Farewell Old Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Emergent Church
Thesis | Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology: From Cultural Accomodation to the Kindgom of God – Full Series
I Don’t Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
I Don’t Think This is What Good Friday Means
I Don’t Think This is What the Empty Tomb Means
I Don’t Think This is What Easter Means
You Call This Bold?
McLaren on Hell and Universalism . . . Again
Hades, Hell, and McLaren’s Eisegesis
The Clarity of Ambiguity: The Erosion of the Perspicuity of Scripture in the Emergent Church – the Complete Series
Where to Begin?: 10 Emergent Must Reads 
“A New Kind of Christianity” – A 11 part review and critique of McLaren’s book
Revelation and the Ambiguity of Justification: McLaren Adds to the Confusion
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution?: A Review of the Evidence
Hamilton: McLaren and Whole Foods Stores
SBTS and McLaren: A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
The Evolving God: McKnight’s Critique of McLaren
The Future of the Emergent Church: McLaren Weighs In
Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like
Repost | Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction – What Piper Has Taught Us About the Church
Emergent Panentheism: The Direction Towards Process Theology Continues
Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
God’s Many Names?: Emergent Pluralism in the Extreme
Theology Thursday | Don’t Be Fooled: The Conversation Is Not Open To Everyone 

This isn’t Christianity

Below is an interview between Brian McLaren and Frank Schaeffer (the son of the late Francis Schaeffer). In the end, they deny virtually every major historic, orthodox doctrine of the faith.

I concur with Phil Johnson:

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For more:
Farewell Old Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Emergent Church
Thesis | Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology: From Cultural Accomodation to the Kindgom of God – Full Series
I Don’t Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
I Don’t Think This is What Good Friday Means
I Don’t Think This is What the Empty Tomb Means
I Don’t Think This is What Easter Means
You Call This Bold?
McLaren on Hell and Universalism . . . Again
Hades, Hell, and McLaren’s Eisegesis
The Clarity of Ambiguity: The Erosion of the Perspicuity of Scripture in the Emergent Church – the Complete Series
Where to Begin?: 10 Emergent Must Reads 
“A New Kind of Christianity” – A 11 part review and critique of McLaren’s book
Revelation and the Ambiguity of Justification: McLaren Adds to the Confusion
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution?: A Review of the Evidence
Hamilton: McLaren and Whole Foods Stores
SBTS and McLaren: A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
The Evolving God: McKnight’s Critique of McLaren
The Future of the Emergent Church: McLaren Weighs In
Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like
Repost | Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction – What Piper Has Taught Us About the Church
Emergent Panentheism: The Direction Towards Process Theology Continues
Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
God’s Many Names?: Emergent Pluralism in the Extreme
Theology Thursday | Don’t Be Fooled: The Conversation Is Not Open To Everyone 

You Call This Bold?

Today, Brian McLaren made two brief comments regarding the recent decisions made by the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). The word he used to describe both is “bold.” The first “bold act” regards what McLaren describes as “Israeli occupation.” According to the New York Times article he links to:

After passionate debate over how best to help break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Friday at its general convention to divest from three companies that it says supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory.

The vote, by a count of 310 to 303, was watched closely in Washington and Jerusalem and by Palestinians as a sign of momentum for a movement to pressure Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to end the occupation, with a campaign known as B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one of a handful of historic mainline Protestant denominations and the church of many American presidents, is the largest yet to endorse divestment at a churchwide convention, and the vote follows a decade of debate — and a close call at the assembly two years ago, when divestment failed by only two votes.

I rarely, if ever, comment on Israeli/Palestine troubles so I will leave this where it is.

The other decision the PCA made that McLaren considers bold regards their vote on same-sex marriage – a decision McLaren refers to as “LGBT equality.” At the very least I guess we can safely say that clarity isn’t as overrated as McLaren has been telling us all these years. Nevertheless, here is what the PCA decided according to the New York Times:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted at its General Assembly on Thursday to change its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” and to allow its ministers to perform same-sex marriages where it is legal.

Both measures, passed by large majorities, are a reversal for a church that in 1991 and in 2008 barred its pastors from performing same-sex marriages, and that has held ecclesiastical trials for ministers who violated the ban and blessed gay couples.
The Presbyterian Church, a historic mainline Protestant denomination that spans a broad spectrum from liberal to conservative evangelicals, has been mired in the debate over homosexuality for about three decades. The General Assembly’s decision in 2010 to ordain openly gay ministers caused many congregations, including some of the largest, to depart.

My beef here isn’t the PCA, but with McLaren’s assertion that the PCA decision-making should be considered “bold.” Regarding “Israeli occupation,” I’ll let the reader decide. But I am at a loss how anyone can consider the latter decision, by a mainline denomination no less, bold. To go along with the prevailing culture is not bold. To abandon biblical Christianity in order to jump on board the right-side-of-history-ship is not bold. Praising such denominations who agree with you from a distance as McLaren is doing here is not bold.

There is nothing bold here. Standing against the tide of sexual autonomy is bold. Defending traditional marriage is bold. Fighting for religious liberty against the encroachment of erotic rights is bold. What conservative Christians continue to defend on issues like gender distinctions, sexual sin, and the rest is bold. I would label what countless churches and denominations who are letting the culture direct their theology cowardice – a finger to the wind.

Its easy to agree with the majority because it gives us the allusion of security and allusive “relevancy.” Its takes courage to stand against the world and proclaim “Jesus is Lord.”

For more:
Farewell Old Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Emergent Church
Thesis | Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology: From Cultural Accomodation to the Kindgom of God – Full Series
I Don’t Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
I Don’t Think This is What Good Friday Means
I Don’t Think This is What the Empty Tomb Means
I Don’t Think This is What Easter Means
McLaren on Hell and Universalism . . . Again
Hades, Hell, and McLaren’s Eisegesis
The Clarity of Ambiguity: The Erosion of the Perspicuity of Scripture in the Emergent Church – the Complete Series
Where to Begin?: 10 Emergent Must Reads 
“A New Kind of Christianity” – A 11 part review and critique of McLaren’s book
Revelation and the Ambiguity of Justification: McLaren Adds to the Confusion
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution?: A Review of the Evidence
Hamilton: McLaren and Whole Foods Stores
SBTS and McLaren: A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
The Evolving God: McKnight’s Critique of McLaren
The Future of the Emergent Church: McLaren Weighs In
Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like
Repost | Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction – What Piper Has Taught Us About the Church
Emergent Panentheism: The Direction Towards Process Theology Continues
Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
God’s Many Names?: Emergent Pluralism in the Extreme
Theology Thursday | Don’t Be Fooled: The Conversation Is Not Open To Everyone 

I Don’t Think This is What Easter Means

I apologize to regular readers of this blog who are as tired of this unplanned series as I am regarding Brian McLaren and his understanding of the events of Passion week, but some of his recent blog posts deserve at least a brief response. McLaren is releasing a new book and thus he has a lot of self-promoting to do. Nothing surprising (or new) there. McLaren rarely writes anything on his personal website without plugging one of his books.

With that said, McLaren offers the following quote from his new book:

What might happen if every Easter we celebrated the resurrection not merely as the resuscitation of a single corpse nearly two millennia ago, but more – as the ongoing resurrection of all humanity through Christ? Easter could be the annual affirmation of our ongoing resurrection from violence to peace, from fear to faith, from hostility to love, from a culture of consumption to a culture of stewardship and generosity . . . and in all these ways and more, from death to life. What if our celebration of Easter was so radical in its meaning that it tempted tyrants and dictators everywhere to make it illegal, because it represents the ultimate scandal: an annual call for creative and peaceful insurrection against all status quos based on fear, hostility, exclusion, and violence? What if we never stopped making Easter claims about Jesus in AD 33, but always continued by making Easter claims on us today – declaring that now is the time to be raised from the deadness of fear, hostility, exclusion, and violence to walk in what Paul called “newness of life”? What if Easter was about our ongoing resurrection “in Christ” – in a new humanity marked by a strong-benevolent identity as Christ-embodying peacemakers, enemy lovers, offense forgivers, boundary crossers, and movement builders? What kind of character would this kind of liturgical year form in us? How might the world be changed because of it?

A few words in response. First, Christians do not believe in the resuscitation of Christ but His resurrection. The difference between resuscitation and resurrection cannot be overstated. Resuscitation describes the raising of body back to life temporarily. In this sense, Lazarus and the others raised in the Bible were resuscitated. They would eventually die again. Resurrection means to never die again. Jesus, then, was resurrected eternally. He reigns, in flesh, right now at the right hand of the throne of His Father.

The difference is important. From the Fall in Genesis 3 to the final consummation in Revelation 22, there are three main enemies that must be defeated: human depravity (both individually and corporately), death (and its awful sting), and the Devil. All three must be defeated. As the story of Scripture unfolds it is clear that Jewish legalism will not work. Neither will nationalism (give us a king!), libertarianism (everyone did what was right in his own eyes), or anything else could defeat these transcendental foes. As the first genealogies of Genesis makes clear, we all are born, and then procreate, and finally die – a tragic story consumed by a lust for sin. Our only hope is Christ who conquers all three. Regarding death, he defeats this ancient foe by being raised from the dead. Death no longer has power over Him nor does it have power over us since we will all be raised in Christ bodily on the last day.

Secondly (and this post is already longer than I had anticipated), McLaren continues his propagation of the social gospel.  Nowhere in the New Testament do we see resurrection described in the way he does here. McLaren promotes a systemic theology, not a systematic theology. But the truth is, unless the resurrection of Christ deals with the depravity of human souls there will be no turning from violence to peace, from fear to faith, from hostility to love, from a culture of consumption to a culture of stewardship and generosity.

This is why Easter must be about Jesus in AD 33, because by doing so we can see the work of Christ – who lives and reigns forevermore! – today. McLaren seems to fail that the historic invasion of Christ into the world two thousand years ago was a war in which He won by walking bodily out of the tomb. The solutions of the world is not good policy or good diplomacy as McLaren wants it, but good news.

I Don’t Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
I Don’t Think This is What Good Friday Means
I Don’t Think This is What the Empty Tomb Means
I Don’t Think This is What Easter Means

For more:
I Don’t Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
Farewell Old Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Emergent Church
Thesis | Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology: From Cultural Accomodation to the Kindgom of God – Full Series
McLaren on Hell and Universalism . . . Again
Hades, Hell, and McLaren’s Eisegesis
The Clarity of Ambiguity: The Erosion of the Perspicuity of Scripture in the Emergent Church – the Complete Series
Where to Begin?: 10 Emergent Must Reads 
“A New Kind of Christianity” – A 11 part review and critique of McLaren’s book
Revelation and the Ambiguity of Justification: McLaren Adds to the Confusion
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution?: A Review of the Evidence
Hamilton: McLaren and Whole Foods Stores
SBTS and McLaren: A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
The Evolving God: McKnight’s Critique of McLaren
The Future of the Emergent Church: McLaren Weighs In
Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like
Repost | Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction – What Piper Has Taught Us About the Church
Emergent Panentheism: The Direction Towards Process Theology Continues
Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
God’s Many Names?: Emergent Pluralism in the Extreme
Theology Thursday | Don’t Be Fooled: The Conversation Is Not Open To Everyone

I Don’t Think This is What the Empty Tomb Means

I am noticing a pattern here (see here and here). What we have witnessed from the keyboard of Brian McLaren this past Passion Week is the remaining residue of liberal deconstructionism of the gospel story. McLaren has systematically denied virtually all of orthodoxy (is there any primary doctrine of the faith he hasn’t challenged, questioned, or deconstructed?). This includes the doctrine of the resurrection.

Over the weekend, McLaren wrote the following:

The scandal of Easter was not simply that a supernatural event occurred. Minds in the ancient world weren’t divided by the rigid natural-supernatural dualism that forms modern minds. In those days miracles were notable not for defying the laws of nature (a concept that was unknown until recent centuries), but for conveying an unexpected meaning or message through an unusual or unexplainable medium. What was the scandalous meaning conveyed by the resurrection of Jesus?

It was not simply that a dead man was raised. It was who the raised man was. Someone rejected, mocked, condemned, and executed by both the political and religious establishments was raised. A convicted outlaw, troublemaker, and rabble rouser was raised. A condemned blasphemer and lawbreaker was raised. A nonviolent nonconformist who included the outcasts – and therefore became an outcast – was raised. What does that mean about the authoritative institutions that condemned him? What does that mean about his nonconformist message and nonviolent ways? (emphasis his)

McLaren then notes that the above quote is taken from his book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? There’s always a plug.

In essence, this is not what Christianity teaches. First, the suggestion that the ancient world viewed miracles as not defying the laws of nature . . . but for conveying an unexpected meaning or message through an unusual or unexplainable medium is misleading. Perhaps he is confusing ancient beliefs about miracles with their beliefs about myths. The ancients categorized miracles in much the same way we do today. The word “miracle” implies something non-natural. The ancients understood that a man walking on water was a miracle simply because it defied the laws of nature.

This mischaracterization leads to his second mistake. By saying that the ancients did not view a supernatural act like the resurrection in the same way as we do, he then spiritualizes the who was raised. One problem with this is squaring it with biblical revelation. The apostles and the women, we are told, “marveled” and “wonder” at the resurrected Lord. They understood that dead people do not come back to life. This was supernatural. This was miraculous. The fact of the resurrection, not just the who, is important. If Christ had not been raised, our faith is a fool’s knave.

But McLaren is right in suggesting the who is important. It is critical that Christ, not Peter or Pilate, was raised. The reason for this lies in the meaning of the cross and the work of Christ in salvation. Christ died for our sins. Christ, and Christ alone, was raised for our justification. The significance of his resurrection was not that he had been rejected, mocked, condemned, and executed by both the political and religious establishments, but that He is God incarnate and redeemer.

In light of this, we can answer McLaren’s final questions. What does that mean about the authoritative institutions that condemned him? What does that mean about his nonconformist message and nonviolent ways? Simple. Repent and believe the gospel. We are to respond to the cross and resurrection by repenting or rebelling – both corporately and individually. Reconfiguring, as McLaren is doing here, is just another form of the latter.

I Don’t Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
I Don’t Think This is What Good Friday Means
I Don’t Think This is What the Empty Tomb Means

For more:
I Don’t Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
Farewell Old Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Emergent Church
Thesis | Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology: From Cultural Accomodation to the Kindgom of God – Full Series
McLaren on Hell and Universalism . . . Again
Hades, Hell, and McLaren’s Eisegesis
The Clarity of Ambiguity: The Erosion of the Perspicuity of Scripture in the Emergent Church – the Complete Series
Where to Begin?: 10 Emergent Must Reads 
“A New Kind of Christianity” – A 11 part review and critique of McLaren’s book
Revelation and the Ambiguity of Justification: McLaren Adds to the Confusion
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution?: A Review of the Evidence
Hamilton: McLaren and Whole Foods Stores
SBTS and McLaren: A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
The Evolving God: McKnight’s Critique of McLaren
The Future of the Emergent Church: McLaren Weighs In
Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like
Repost | Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction – What Piper Has Taught Us About the Church
Emergent Panentheism: The Direction Towards Process Theology Continues
Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
God’s Many Names?: Emergent Pluralism in the Extreme
Theology Thursday | Don’t Be Fooled: The Conversation Is Not Open To Everyone