Brian McLaren – Really?

Generally, I try to have better titles to posts, but sometimes you come across something that baffles you so much that words are impossible to come by to describe it.

Take, for instance, Brian McLaren’s willingness to celebrate Ramadan with his Muslim friends. Most of his subsequent posts are emails from loyal fans thanking him and congratulating him for his choice to do this (as opposed to responding to the legitimate critiques).

Now, some might think, “Joel, why does this upset you?” For one, McLaren is, by his actions (and words, look at his “part 3”) acknowledging Allah and the Christian God to be the same. Now, I could offer up academic arguments pointing out they are not the same, but I want to take a different approach. McLaren is telling Christians in the US to be more open minded, more willing to embrace our Islamic “brothers.” But what does he say to Christians in the Middle East? What does he say to the girl in Pakistan who was gang raped because she refused to accept Allah as God? Does he tell her, “You silly conservative girl; if you would embrace postmodernism instead of your modernistic, closed-minded way of thinking, you wouldn’t have been raped”? What does he say to the little boy who watched his father killed by government officials because his father was unwilling to admit Allah was God?

In most of these Islamic countries, it’s okay to be a Christian so long as you pay homage to Islam. So long as you acknowledge Allah as God, you can go about your business. But the moment you challenge that notion, you are established as a target. So in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia we have Christian brothers and sisters who refuse to submit to Islamic law, who refuse to partake in Ramadan, who refuse to see Allah as God and they suffer for it. Meanwhile, we have Brian McLaren mocking those Christians by taking part in Ramadan.

His whole universalistic message makes little to no sense from a Christian perspective. For one, the time we live in is actually less pluralistic than the time of Christ and the early Christians. So to argue that Jesus, John, Peter, or Paul wrote in a time of single-mindedness, or that the early Church was formed in a time when everyone thought the same is simply ignorant of history. The Romans were known for taking on foreign gods. It was chic to worship foreign gods. It was also quite alright if one didn’t want to worship any gods (the Stoics, for example, were borderline atheists, with “god” being reasoning). So long as one acknowledged that Caesar was lord all was tolerated.

But that was too much for the early Christians. It wasn’t enough to simply worship Jesus along with other gods; to the early Church, they worshiped Jesus alone. This wasn’t some personal choice that made them feel better either. They did this because they recognized that Jesus was the only true God, the only One worthy of worship, and that all other people, gods, and objects fell drastically short in terms of worthiness of worship. These Christians took this belief, this “dogma,” into the coliseums, into the fires of persecution, and onto their deaths by torture. When they faced the hungry lions, they refused to relent the belief that Jesus Christ alone is to be worshiped. When the Romans put the legionnaires sword to their necks, these Christians refused to waver in their convictions. And yet, here is Brian McLaren and sadly the emergent movement as a whole, in the face of no persecution, in the face of no threats, in the face of no discomfort (other than slight mocking), throwing away the exclusivity of Christ – a belief that the early Church died for – as though it were nothing.

Yes, I could offer the academic arguments. Yes, I could show how universalism or even McLaren’s inclusive attitude is self-contradictory. I could exegete multiple passages of Scriptures. Truth be told, those are better defenses. However, McLaren and the other Emergents are big on living in the “real world.” Well the above is an argument based on the real world.

This inclusive/universalist attitude reminds me quite a bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the knight Sir Robin, who nearly did a lot of things and acted as though he were brave, but when his feet were put to the fire he was no where to be found. Like Sir Robin, McLaren and company talk a big talk about taking on fundamentalists, about changing the world, and about shifting doctrine to become “closer to how Christ lived,” but when the times get tough, they’re nowhere to be found. How quickly they forget why Christ died – He claimed to be God. If He were a universalist, He could have easily made vast appeals and gotten Himself out of the situation. But instead, He went to His death claiming to be God; He went to His death because He claimed to be God and His followers died in return, truly acting like Christ by dying for Him. McLaren and company, however, have chosen to kill Christ all over again, sacrificing Him to political correctness and selfish emotions rather than dying to Him and with Him.

There is nothing generous or orthodox about that; the emergent view of Christianity is hardly a Christianity worth believing in, much less dying for.

22 thoughts on “Brian McLaren – Really?

  1. I would be careful Joel. You are taking extremes from other religions and acting as though they are the norm. Many of the things that radical Muslims and such do is contrary to the true teachings of Alla.

    You are also acting as though because you believe in the “Christian God” you know the “Truth”. There are a lot of people who say they believe in the “Christian God”, but their ideas of, who the “Christian God” is, are VERY different. I would say that I am a Christian and that I believe in God, but after reading several of you posts, my ideas of who God is (through biblical scripture and personal experience), are much different then yours.

    There are many examples now, and through out History, of Christians trying to enforce their religion on others. Christians are just as guilty about that as Muslims. In fact, if you believe in a eternal hell for the unsaved, you are in fact saying, that if people do not except Jesus (except Christianity) they are doomed for an eternal Hell (far worse then “ the girl in Pakistan who was gang raped”)

    I refuse to believe that Brian is celebrating the raping of young girls and the discrimination of Christianity, when he celebrates Ramadan with his friends. Just as much as I refuse to celebrate the genocide of the crusades when I celebrate Christmas or Easter.

  2. Striker,

    I would respectfully ask you to study up more on Islam and Christianity, both their theologies, their histories, and the societal norms in different parts of the world. I ask this because much of what you say is, to be as polite as I can, completely and utterly inaccurate and nonfactual.

    For instance, though some extremes of Islam go against both the Qur’an and the Hadith, much of what we label “extreme” fits right in line with Islam. The “extremes” are those who allow women to participate in Jihad (which the Hadith forbids – so much for it being a personal struggle). Other forms, however, are completely consistent with both the Qur’and and history. Muhammad himself engaged in quite a few wars and encouraged his followers to do so. This is why you see Muslim expansion into the Middle East, North Africa, modern day Turkey, and Hispania all prior to 750 AD. Don’t forget that the Battle of Tours (called “The Battle of the Martyrs” by the Muslims) in 732AD was fought against an INVADING Islamic army into France. All of this is 300 years prior to the first “Christian” offensive, so using the Crusades to defend the actions of Muslims en masse won’t work.

    But that’s my point – up until 1093, Islam was on the offensive. Then, after the First Crusade Islam was on the defensive until the Third Crusade. After this, Islam went back on the offensive (just ask the occupants of Constantinople, circa 1453) and wasn’t stopped until the 18th century near Vienna.

    Compare this to the history of Christianity, which was one of non-violence until 325 when Constantine decided to use it for military conquest and you see a distinct pattern. Those who would use Christianity as a tool for conquest are acting out both against explicit and implicit prohibitions of such a use in Scripture and against nearly 300 years of our earliest history, which was almost completely non-violent. Alternatively, when you look at the history of Islam, those who act out in violence today, degrade women, or do other acts we deem as “extreme,” they are being both consistent with their history and their holy works (first the Qur’an and then the Hadith).

    Moving onto your theology, you are correct in your assessment. I fully believe that because I know God that I also know Truth. After all, He is the Truth. Any religion or philosophy that doesn’t acknowledge God as God might have some element of the truth in them, but they are not tied into the ultimate Truth, who is Jesus Christ. Any idea that isn’t in line with who God really is is a false and wrong idea. Someone can say, “I believe in the Christian God,” but if such a belief isn’t consistent with who God actually is, then such a claim is false.

    Finally, dealing with Hell, that is far different than rape. Hell is a consequence of a person’s choices – seeing that salvation is a mystery and I believe that God has grace, there might be hope for those who have never heard of Christ. But those that have heard of Christ and rejected Him as is are simply embracing a consequence for their own actions. For further comment, see my post:

  3. Well after reading that and reading your link, it looks like you are not interested in thinking any differently then you do now.

    Telling me that the stuff I am saying is, “completely and utterly inaccurate and nonfactual”, doesn’t give me much room to talk :/.

    Our Christian Bible, many would say, is just as sexist as the Qur’an or Hadith, (maybe not in as blunt of ways). There are scripture in the Bible that talks about Woman not even being able to talk in Church. We can’t say that the Church treats woman fairly even now, I mean there is a reason why 90% of Church leaders are MEN.

    If you are going to say that the majority of Muslims support the rape of woman, I would show some scripture from the Qur’an, that supports your statement or maybe take quotes from a Muslim you know that supports it. Also I would like to hear some Muslim Scripture that talks about it being okay to murder others because someone doesn’t believe in their God?

    When you say that Christianity was not violent until 325 A.C. you might be completely right. I would not compare the Church today however to the original “Church”. Christians have their faults like every other religion. I however think, based on my life of being a Christian and what I know from scripture and example of friends from religions such as Buddhism and Islam, that they promote peace and furthering of true faith.

    Something that Christians, who believe in Hell, want to think, is that all unbelievers are completely evil. This is simply not true. I have many Atheist and Buddhist friends, and I find good in all of them. Gandhi, is a great example of a professed “non-Christian”, who did many good things in his life time. Would “justice” mean a Eternal Hell for Gandhi?

    When Jesus was on this earth, He seemed to find good in the lowest of people. Even if there is only an ounce of good in someone, they do NOT deserve Eternal Punishment. I thank God for Grace. I am not saying that all paths lead to Heaven. I only believe in one Path, through Jesus, but I think all of us will eventually find it.

    I would be careful about acting as though you have found God completely. For example, you might think the Bible clearly talks about an Eternal Hell. I however, have studied the scriptures for many years, on the topic of Hell, and think the Bible clearly speaks against an Eternal Hell.

    There are many different Christians who have many different interpretations of scripture, I don’t think any of us have it completely right.

  4. Why do you have a need to segregate so much?

    It is almost as we want to quickly forget as fast as we can muster that religion – ANY RELIGION – can be used for political vested interests. It happened with Christianity… with the inquisition, with Hitler’s film belief that he was following the highest of Christian ideals…

    And it is happening now with Islam (at least, that is more in the spotlight).

    But to start pointing fingers, is a reluctance to look in the mirror – because everything begins and ends with you.

    Just you.

    Not even your religion.

    You are your religion are entirely different things.

    The wisest among us say very often, that if you wish to honour Jesus, don’t pray to him, or praise him… but try to enact his virtues in your own way of being.

    If you simply use that approach as a guidance on what you do and what you say, everything else will be adequately solved.

    Yet, what I see again and again is the need to justify a sense of hatred. And worst of all, in the name of religion.

    Christianity was very well misused and misconstrued to suit every whim of anyone who wanted to ravage those who were plagued by xenophobia.

    Jihad – in its essential meaning – is a war with oneself, with one’s own lack of virtue – first and foremost.

    Yet, it is easier to point the finger than self-explore.

    And this is the case for humanity in general, irrespective of the religion. We are connected in this cowardice.

    The sensible thing is to first realise this… and take responsibility for yourself.

    The problem is xenophobia… and you exhibit it in all its vice.

    1. Those are good talking points, but they lack proper substance. Let me give a bullet point response:

      1) Christianity has been misused, there is no doubt about that. Hitler used Christianity early in his political career when speaking to the masses. But don’t forget that he was an atheist. Simply read Mien Kampf, some of his dialogues and letters, or his later speeches to see that he was very much anti-Christian. In fact, he wanted to to found an Aryan religion, one that was naturally based.

      2) Islam isn’t being misused. Look to its history. Was it misused when Muhammad enslaved multiple towns and raped the women of those towns? Was he misusing his own religion? Was it misused in 711AD when the Muslims invaded Hispania and committed genocide against the Visigoths? Please define the proper use of Islam and provide justification from its history and holy writings.

      3) The Hadith does define between a “lesser Jihad” and a “greater Jihad.” But a lesser Jihad is still a Jihad, a virtue and a duty to be committed against the nonbeliever (Sahih Muslim 20:4645). Likewise, women are forbidden from engaging in Jihad, meaning that it is more than a spiritual exercise.

      4) Acting like Jesus simply isn’t enough. We must believe like Him as well. His ethics were not isolated from His beliefs. In fact, His ethics stem from His beliefs. Thus, in order to act like Christ, we must also believe like Him. This would exclude Islam, Judaism, and all other religions that do not embrace the beliefs of Christ.

      5) Xenophobia is a fear of foreigners. Considering I don’t fear Muslims and not all Muslims are foreigners, you’re using the wrong term.

  5. Joel,

    You are so patient and forbearing. That must be Christ in you. It so amazes me that people expect to be taken seriously when they make up facts as they go along to support what they wish to believe.

    But hey–that’s story, right? And story is so much better than “dead” scripture, whether Muslim or Judeo/Christian. I love stories, and I want to be part of God’s story. But I do remember that it is HIS story, not mine, and I have to add my bits as He directs, consistent with what He has already written.

    And even if you want to be part of Allah’s story (why on earth would you want that, if you’d ever read it?), one would think you would want to keep what you have to say consistent with what Allah has said through his “prophet.” But most of the people advancing “expert” opinions on this subject have read neither the Bible nor the Quran, let alone any of the Ahadith. Which is why they do not get it.

    Blessings in YHWH,


  6. Xenophobia is a fear of differences.

    To take on the qualities of Jesus is inevitably to see the world as he did – and believe as he did.

    Beyond the words, that you are so strung on.

    So on, and so forth.

    You are missing the forest for the trees.

    1. Okay….?

      If you want to accept that definition of xenophobia, keep in mind that you’re being xenophobic by saying I’m wrong. My argument shows that I have a different belief than you and since you disagree, obviously this means you fear it, thus you must be xenophobic too. This is the problem when people use terms outside of their actual meaning and then attempt to apply that misuse to people in an order to stifle the debate.

      Regardless, How am I missing the forest through the trees? You keep using catch-phrases, but aren’t actually saying anything. This makes conversation quite difficult.

      1. I am asking you to expand your horizon. And that is done by realising the Socratic perspective. Which is to continually go to the heart of the matter instead of skirting around the edges – skirting around the edges as you are fond of doing, is prejudicial and a sign of the fear of differences.

        For example – Xenophobia in one sense is translated as the fear of foreigners, but it does have a deeper meaning – and you can find this in most dictionaries. It is the fear of something strange or foreign.

        So, when you elect to research and study it – as you have done with Islam – you do it with a skewered perspective, biased and already concluded upon what you “want it to mean” to you.

        Instead of looking at what it means in and of itself.

        I explored not only Islam, but every substantial religion, and even the secret esoteric ones – each time with an OPENNESS – a willingness to learn, to understand.

        I was seeking wisdom, rather than to fill a room full of ammunition to prove to myself why Islam is just “so wrong.”

        So, no, my friend, I am not the one who has a problem with being wrong.

      2. Start providing some evidence for your position, or your comments will be deleted. I have no problem accepting dissenting opinions so long as they have valid reason behind them. Yours don’t. I’ve quoted from the Qur’an and the Hadith and turned to history. You’ve done nothing except call me Xenophobic. I’ve obviously read the Qur’an and the Hadith. I’ve read the Vedas. I’ve read far more books that I disagree with than I agree with. So to say that I hold some kind of “fear” of foreign ideas is nothing short of an ad hominem tactic. Maybe I am afraid of Islam. Even if I am, that doesn’t change the fact that I used FACTUAL EVIDENCE to prove my point. That is far more than I can say for you.

        Again, sorry to be so short with you, but this site is dedicated to intelligent discussions on certain issues. Part of this requirement is that you provide a justification for your claims and use evidence when taking an alternative view. If you can’t adhere to that, then you aren’t welcome to post here.

  7. If you really think that my post to you lacks substance, then perhaps you should read it again – to see the ESSENCE of what I am saying.

    Because in your replies, you actually haven’t addressed my point.

      1. Such tactics don’t work on this site. Either restate your point in a clear and concise manner or your comments won’t be allowed. Savvy?

  8. “It so amazes me that people expect to be taken seriously when they make up facts as they go along to support what they wish to believe.”

    Yes Cindy, it amazes me too. *grins*

    Have you never researched into Constantine and what he did to the Bible?

    1. He didn’t do anything to the Bible. If you want to use historical fact to back up any conspiracy theories concerning the structure of Scripture, then be my guest. But if this is going to be another trip down Dan Brown’s fantasy land, I’d beg of you to just drop it. 🙂

    2. I’d have to agree with Joel here. Constantine didn’t do anything to the bible. He did bad things to the church, certainly. He did more damage with his patronage than anyone else had ever been able to do with persecution. However that’s not the point of the discussion, is it?

      Christianity is based on Christ as revealed in scripture and in the heart of His people. It was good and wise of God to give us a written word, even though He also desires to communicate with us daily. He knows how easily we can get off track without some kind of a road map. Otherwise, our revelations can become very self-serving as well as more and more, um, imaginative. We can just “make it up as we go along.”

      If you want to make it up as you go along, there’s certainly a long and interesting tradition of people doing that and calling themselves Christians. Witness the Crusades, the liturgy, the burning of Christians by the Catholic church (and, unfortunately, some of the more well-known early Protestant fathers as well. None of this is condoned in the bible, but all has been done by people making up their own version of Christianity in accord with their own sincerely held world views.

      1. Of all those who profess to practice Christianity, less than one percent are true Christians.

        The same goes to those who profess any religion.

        And this is because practising a religion isn’t about preaching it – it’s about living it.

        My point with Constantine isn’t in the nature of the debate – there are two sides staunchly opposed on what actually happened, and there is also those sitting on the fence.

        Rather, it is going to the crux of what you said, people believe what they want to believe in order to convince themselves of anything at all…

        If one is going to pit their lives on a book, then they must at least inquire as to make sure the book was not written by a madman, then staunchly followed by a community.

        They must – in effect – DISCOVER for themselves.

        “Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is not affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition.

        I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old person asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it.

        I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart?

        All paths are the same, they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. “Does this path have a heart?” One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

        The trouble is nobody asks the question: and when a person finally realizes that they have taken a path without heart, the path is ready to kill them. At that point very few people stop to deliberate and leave the path.

        A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.

        For my part there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length.

        And there I travel looking, looking, breathlessly.”

        – Doesn’t matter who said this. All that matters is what is being said.

      2. What does matter is plagiarism, and I won’t let anyone have any part of that on my site. Site the source or the comment (and all further comments from you) will be deleted.

  9. All I can say to most of your last reply, V, is “Huh?”

    Of all those who profess to practice Christianity, less than one percent are true Christians.

    Where did you get this, and who has qualified you to make that judgment? It’s one thing to judge from a person’s statements whether or not his theology is correct, but as to whether or not he is in Christ, I think I’ll leave that to Jesus to decide.

    But as to the rest of your post, I can only say, “Huh?” Looks to me like you’re making it up as you go–okay, from your heart and not from your head. Don’t let your heart deceive you, though. Apparently you only accept those parts of scripture that your heart agrees with (and I’m sure your heart isn’t going to like this part), but you should be warned that:

    “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jer 17:9)

    Your heart is desperately confused (though you are beloved of the Lord), and yet you place yourself as an instructor of others (me). I used to think that the lyrics of some rock songs were too deep for me to understand. Now I understand–those lyrics never meant anything except, perhaps, to the musician–until he sobered up. I’m sorry to hurt you, but your words are like their words. You are rambling all over the place, saying nothing.

    In Love, Cindy

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