Brian McLaren presents himself as all embracing as far as religions are concerned. In his latest book, Finding Our Way Again, his major premise is that we can go back to the middle ages and extract all the various mystical practices from Roman Catholicism (which are now being euphemistically termed “contemplative”) and throw them all together in a subjective stew in any manner and proportion that suits our spiritual fancy and come out just fine. If only he had gone back a little further and connected with the Apostles! The dark ages have nothing to offer us but dead traditions however there is life in God’s Word.
One thing that is very obvious in all of McLaren’s writings is that he is not as really all embracing as he pretends to be. No way. He selectively embraces. There is one bogey man that seems to always stand in his way. This scourge to spiritual progress and the group that always has his disdain are simply called “fundamentalists.” Nothing is ever laid out in detail but only vague allusions and general terms are put forth when it comes to these folk. The way they are described one would think they carry both AIDS and the Bubonic plague. As I mentioned he misleads by providing no distinctions or definitions but only vague generalities. These awful “fundamentalists” (or rather funny-mentalists) are card carrying nuts. They include suicide bombers, cultists, fanatics and especially those that insist on taking the Bible seriously. These turn out to be any that might strongly disagree with Mr. McLaren. Bible believing evangelicals are also part of this evil cabal if one can really believe that.
According to McLaren in Finding Our Way Again all religions have let us down (and he may be partially right). He then adds that this religious collapse and replacement by secularism has led to:
“a growing dissatisfaction with all the above – premodern religion, institutional religion, and modern secularism. This dissatisfaction in some cases has led to a reactionary resurgence of pushy fundamentalism- fearful, manic, violent apocalyptic. And in some cases it has led to a search for a new kind of spirituality….more and more of us are realizing that a warm but mushy spirituality is no match for a pushy fundamentalism, of whatever religious variety, especially when that fundamentalism is well armed, dangerous and in the mood for apocalypse,” (Finding Our Way Again page 5).
Dispensationalists or those looking for the “blessed hope” might be branded as “in the mood for apocalypse” with just a bit of effort. McLaren makes no distinction between fundamentalists and fundamentalists. No distinction between fundamental Bible believers and radical; crazed Islamic fundamentalist bombers. You would think that Jim Jones and a conservative evangelical are one and the same. This is surely either ignorance or willful dissembling.
To read these lines one would think that all fundamentalists are created equal, that is, that they are all wild eyed and dangerous. He has stated that “whatever religious variety:” they happen to be they are to be feared. Surely McLaren has heard of Scholarly Fundamentalism. He claims to know about and be well aware of Church History as he endorses the so called ancient future faith (aka Roman Catholic mystical practices). Is he really ignorant of Scholarly Fundamentalism in his polemic against all fundamentalists? McLaren’s polemic is a great hindrance to serious discussion. McLaren seems to have a disdain for history unless it is history that supports his subjective and erratic choices.
Gordon Wenham nailed it when he said:
“I suspect that if either you [a student] or your lecturers discover during your study that you are a Sabellian montanist or a semi pelagian Gnostic, it will not cause over-much excitement. Such deviants are common place today and in this pluralistic society are usually accepted without much fuss. However should you be diagnosed as a fundamentalist your fate may be very different. In the modern theology faculty fundamentalism is the great heresy. It is regarded as nearly as dangerous as the HIV virus and is treated with similar fervor but with rather less tact and sympathy. Fundamentalists will find themselves denounced in lectures and tutorials” (Quoted in Biblical Hermeneutics by Gerhard Maier).
Why is McLaren ignoring and by passing the Scholarly Fundamentalists? Is he knowingly ignorant of them? In 1909, 12 volumes were released. These were called the Fundamentals. These tomes were funded by the Lyman brothers who were the founders of BIOLA the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. These books were a compilation of the writings and research of the finest Bible scholars of that day. The contributors included intellectual and spiritual giants like G. Campbell Morgan, H. C. G. Moule, James Orr, A. T. Pierson, R. A. Torrey and B. B. Warfield. They seriously held back the onslaught of destructive critical research coming out of Europe. The term fundamentalist (well revered) was coined in 1920. Fundamentalists constantly appealed to the Bible, Jesus and the Apostles and upheld the highest standards of systematic theology. Princeton scholars like J. Greshem Machen were proud to be called fundamentalists. They upheld the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures. They were the continuing historical link to the Reformation. Although McLaren makes room for all kinds of Roman Catholic teaching for the fundamentalists there is no room in McLaren’s inn. He needs to get honest and admit to a vital historical scholarly fundamentalism. They do not deserve a bad rap or just being ignored.
While McLaren has been writing his books and raising questions to plant doubt our Church has been involved personally and financially with those he views as awful fundamentalists who have been doing all the heavy lifting for many years before anyone on the national church scene even heard of Brian McLaren. While McLaren tears down truth while never declaring himself doctrinally we have been supporting those going into AIDS facilities in New York City with gifts and the gospel. We have been helping fund the building of a clinic in Cambodia for a tribal people. We have sent funds and helped workers in Durbin South Africa where 50% of the population is HIV positive. We have been raising funds for a clean water project in Haiti and supporting a children worker in Arab Nazareth Israel and that is only the beginning. There are many more.
We need to call McLaren to begin to distinguish between things that differ and stop the confusion and the name calling. Fundamentalist Christians are not the enemy McLaren makes them out to be. In the end the enemies of fundamental Bible believers may be the real enemy after all. I do not own a pilot’s license and tall buildings do not interest me but I am tired of McLaren misleading.
Amen, Amen, Amen! Awesome post!
This is from McLaren’s book, “everything must change”:
McLaren says “…you can Google my name and find websites and blogs from fundamentalist groups who consider me the son of Satan or on the wrong side of both the “culture war” and “truth war.” P. 2.
McLaren also says on page 2, “It’s a conversation about what it means to be a ‘new kind of Christian’—not an angry and reactionary fundamentalist, not a stuffy traditionalist, not a blasé nominalist, not a wishy-washy liberal, not a New Age religious hipster, not a crusading religious imperialist, and not an overly enthused Bible-waving fanatic—but something fresh and authentic and challenging and adventurous.”
On page 195 McLaren calls those who “reject Darwin” “religious fundamentalists.”
In other words, it is clearly implied, and exceedingly hostile, that anyone who will not willingly go along with McLaren in this “conversation,” agreeing with him every step of the way, is to be called names and disrespected. Yet on page 179 he offers the ONE actual step we can take in being part of the solution to all that McLaren says ails us: stop the name calling.
“Jesus’ disciples must work to dehabitualize and delegitimize even small expressions of aggression like name-calling. They must realize the dangers of language that dehumanizes the other…” Brian McLaren, page 179.
I suggest McLaren start with himself.
Absolutely agreed, Barb. And frequently I grow weary of hearing about this supposed fundamentalist pulpit-pounding Southern-accented sweating white male boogeyman lurking in the minds of emergent advocates.
Could it be this stereotype is only intentionally held onto in order to justify pure rebellion against balanced Biblical truth?
Surely no one can be so dogmatic — yes, I said dogmatic — and closed-minded to assume that anyone disagreeing with you is automatically this-and-such: arrogant, thinks he/she has God “all figured out,” uncaring for the poor, and a racist, bigoted “Bible-waving fanatic.” That’s why I’m forced to conclude that it’s intentional rhetoric, if not on McLaren’s part, at least on the part of some among the divergent “church.”
Balanced and doctrinally solid Christ-followers can do their best to contend for the true faith in Grace, of course. But when the divergents insist they see an imaginary poltergeist of faith-fanaticism no matter what we say, what is there left to do?
“I grow weary of hearing about this supposed fundamentalist pulpit-pounding Southern-accented sweating white male boogeyman lurking in the minds of emergent advocates.”
I added the following to your excellent quote:
I grow weary of hearing about this supposed fundamentalist pulpit-pounding Southern-accented sweating [obese] white male boogeyman [resembling Jerry Falwell] lurking in the minds of emergent advocates.
I hear McClaren is campaigning for Obama. It does not surprise me that he would caricature evangelicals along the lines of the mainstream media — and it would not surprise me to hear much more of the same in upcoming months. Keep in mind the influence Falwell and others had in helping Ronald Reagan, and what the media did back then.
McClaren will be very useful to Obama in this regard.
Brian, I believe, uses sweeping generalities to begin this conversation. As a fundamentalist myself all these years, I know what you mean. I have seen many varieties… Some who stand on God’s Word and think they take it literally, when actually they are interpreting it in their context. Many who believe it and truly try to live out their beliefs with all humility and love for all. Some who take their beliefs to a level where “we are right, they are wrong”, which then equals, we are good, they are evil. When that happens, we can too easily gather up whole groups of people, and fire rockets at them. His caricatures of evangelicals, I believe, are all too true and scarey… and should be noted.
Does every emergent-type book have its obligatory well-poisoning sermon?
McLaren has his “fundamantalists”. John Eldredge has his “doctrine Nazis”. “The Shack” has its people the book was not primarily written for. They all have a very sweetly-phrased paragraph or so explaining why people who don’t like what the book has to say are bad, or, at best, irrelevant.
How about, Velvet Elvis? Blue Like Jazz? Does anyone know about these? What other books of this ilk manage to work in some version of this cowardly little Hegelian marginalization tactic?
This is very refreshing to hear for once. No doubt in my camp-perhaps some of the criticisms might be true from time to time such as the wack a doodle in AZ who prayed God would strike Pres Obama dead w9ith brain cancer. When you have never done anythging like this fellow who stated this-as a disabled vet from Iraq with TBI from a puncturing head wound-besides deeply offended at this, I sometimes think if you disagree with Pres. Obama-I do quite a bit. As in ten years of service, whether dem or republican-I now somewhat always see the Pres as commander in chief. Though I was retired before he wa elected, I still feel the same as f I never got wounded, I would still be serving.
As I am trying to right perhaps a question and answer book about this movement-one of the things I have been trying to find is anyone who was killed by a Christian Fundamentalist for religous reasons, just having a hard time. Of course, Jim Jones is always thrown at us despite the fact he did not believe in God and today-would fit nicely in the emerging church with his views. I do not know if anyone has reallymade this connection but he was an admitted socialist/communist and his ideals of much what happened fits into the emergent view. Go see what he said about dying and compare that to how Emergent churches teach about Christ dying-they are not really that far apart.
Of course, guilt by association is never a good way to operate as many do this and at times erroneous while most of the time they do not understand whay their thinking is very good.