I had a call last week from one of our supporters, wondering if I knew that Brian McLaren, Emerging Church leader and writer, is involved with the Wild Goose Festival. For those who do not know, the Wild Goose Festival is a gathering of the fallen away, eager to share and celebrate their apostasy with others eager to applaud them for having the courage to slap the face of God. I don’t follow the festival circuit very closely, so I was unaware of McLaren’s participation. When I asked the caller why this seemed so important to him, I was told that McLaren was teaching a pro-gay message. That is not really surprising to me. In 2012, McLaren officiated at his son Trevor’s same gender marriage ceremony. How could McLaren, ordained as a pastor in an Evangelical denomination, justify this level of support? Very easily. He places experience above Scripture as authoritative. As the Christian Post noted:
It had just been a couple of years when McLaren shifted his thinking and abandoned the traditional view of homosexuality being a sin that he grew up with.
“I had gone through my change in this view before I ever guessed that any of my kids might be gay,” he said on the radio program.
“I was a good kid, I believed what I’d been told. And as a pastor, I started having gay people come out to me and what became clearer and clearer to me is that their experience was not explained by the theology I inherited,” he explained. “And that it would be unjust to continue to uphold what I’d been taught. Maybe I could say it like this: My call to love God and love my neighbor was in conflict with what I’d been taught the Bible required me to say and do.”
We posed the question in 2008, “Is Brian McLaren a Christian?” In this article we demonstrated that McLaren had pretty much abandoned the historical-grammatical understanding of Scripture in favor of the Social Gospel of the late 19th and early 20th century liberal, Walter Rauschenbusch, Jesus Seminar co-founder, John Dominic Crossan (see our Hysterical Search for the Historical Jesus), Socialist and Black Liberation Theologian Cornell West, and Karl Marx, among others.
Since then, he has further “evolved” to practice and endorse pagan rituals and practices, tossing out even more of what, to use his words, “the Bible required me to say and do.” He is a man in pursuit of “spirituality,” but he judges the validity of spiritual claims and practices on experience and not on God’s revelation in Scripture. At a number of conferences over the past several years, he facilitates pagan rituals to help attendees become more “spiritually aware” and “attuned.” So, McLaren’s Wild Goose Chase to the Wild Goose Festival makes perfect sense. Participant Frank Schaffer (New Age son of the Late Francis Schaffer) says in the promotion:
One of the reasons I love Wild Goose Festival is we don’t come here labeled atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, whatever. We come here as human beings on a journey. A lot of us alienated from our religious path on a journey somewhere else. Wild Goose Festival is the one place I go every year where I know I am not alone.
The speaker lineup is a veritable who’s who of false teachers – Jim and Joy Wallis of Sojourners magazine, LGBTQ activist and workshop leader from Willow Creek Chicago, Darren Calhoun, Emergent leader Doug Pagitt, defrocked Roman Catholic priest turned earth worshipper Matthew Fox and others.
- Yoga for Social Change
- Do Progressive Christians Need Satan?
- Brian McLaren and Social Intelligence
- The Cosmic Christ and the Struggle for Eco-Justice – Matthew Fox
- Can We Talk? An LGBTQ+ Sharing Circle
Brian McLaren’s Wild Goose Chase to the Wild Goose Festival makes perfect sense. It is a modern-day “Corinth in the woods” where any and all religious expression and belief is embraced and lauded, provided no allegiance to the one true God is required or holy living as He prescribed is expected.
To paraphrase 1 John 2:19:
They emerged from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they emerged, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
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“My call to love God and love my neighbor was in conflict with what I’d been taught the Bible required me to say and do.”
Wild Goose Festival is a good name for it. That’s what they believe finding absolute truth is. Either that, or, they are all wild geese and trying to find out what they believe exactly requires one to chase each of them down.
Brian’s outworking of his supposed call to love God and neighbor means he can’t agree with the Bible, which is the Book that teaches we must love God and neighbor long before Brian McClaren ever came on the scene. He also implies by his statement that those of us who disagree with him are therefore unloving toward gay and lesbian people.
I gave up on thinking McClaren was a Christian years ago when he unequivocally said Jesus did not come primarily to save us from sin and give us the hope of heaven. That was years ago. He announced to the world he was apostate at that time, imo.
Lynn, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian upholding a traditional Christian understanding of the nature and purpose of human sexuality, I certainly disagree with McLaren (and “progressive” and “emergent” Christians) on many issues, but I don’t believe it is accurate to call McLaren an “apostate” because in order to be that, what he was “apostatizing” from had to be a fully orthodox and traditional Christian approach to anthropology, ecclesiology, and Scripture in the first place, and no Protestant approach, however well-intentioned, can meet the criteria for that in the perspective of the majority of more “traditional-minded” Christians in the world.
I can’t call McLaren an apostate, but neither can I call any sincere Protestant one even though I believe they all hold some heretical beliefs, since most are working in good faith from inherited presuppositions of what “orthodoxy” is and only God knows the heart.
Karen, I really like this guy and a lot of what he says on a lot of things. This is on Rob Bell: “One Reason Why Rob Bell Is Not Christian: He Rejects God’s Authority Through Scripture”
As this article states at the beginning about Rob Bell, I should amend what I said about McLaren – only God can know if he *is* a Christian or not. But I would still agree with the charge of apostasy – that what he teaches is not Christian teaching. McLaren has stated the God who destroyed the world with a flood is a genocidal god who cannot be worshiped. That for ages people didn’t understand the Bible and now he is going to deconstruct the understanding of the ages so we really know what it is teaching, including on hell. Speaking of hell, the end of the Athanasian creed gets it all wrong, according to McLaren. Except he would not say it that way, of course. The way he says it is like nailing jello to the wall, but even jello hardens after being exposed to the air for a while, and it can be done. Jesus gave a parable (Lazarus and Dives) about the torment and fixed nature of hell, which the church has taught down through the ages, and from which Brian departs. And it is apostate teaching, in that it is a departure from what the church has taught. But I do agree that I should not have said he is not a Christian, because only God knows that. When you start to mess with basic creeds in your teaching, that is how I was defining apostasy. I would say the same about TD Jakes and others who teach modalism. I would not say Jakes is not a Christian.
I think technically you are correct about the use of the term apostate. Certainly both Bell and McLaren are apostate from Evangelical Christian faith, by definition. Whether this means they have walked away from Christ altogether only God knows.
HI Karen and Lynn,
In my response posts I should taken my own advice and not skim! I realized I skimmed! I like to do my best work of making a fool of myself on public forums.( I need to work on fully processing before speaking. I have been guilty of this a lot recently. So, thanks for helping me process.) Please forgive me. Both you and Lynn are examples of studying to show your self approved and more knowledgable than me.
However, now, continuing from apostate to unbeliever I have some thoughts, and admitting a process instead of a conclusion.
Per my understanding through past MacClaren revelations of his own thoughts/positions I believe he holds to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ explicitly. As to the implicitness of the gospel he rejects the substitutionary atonement. Also, as I pointed out he leaves the resurrection of the Bride to question.
Slipped in among us. Apostate or never held to the gospel?
John I:2 18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
I think the greater context matters but my focus here is that Jude says they do not have the spirit;17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
Again, a greater context: (Note-MacClaren also claimed the position of a prophet.)Peter speaks of their condemnation. 2:2 2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
gelatins 3:10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f]
MacClaren is not professing faith in the finished work of Christ, but standing against it. Even with a universal acceptance message it carries that those who work do fine.
If we deem that he is apostate by his revealed testimony, does it follow that man to man we are consistent to call him an unbeliever? Per his own testimony he has turned his backed(repented) from both the imperfections of the Church and the faith. ( the implicitness of the gospel is our hope and faith, the explicitness is evidential.)
Only God knows his heart, and with fear and trembling we see the word of God revealed. Either to not say his is a believer or he is not? If we do not except the testimony of his own mouth how do we stand to proclaim the gospel to anybody because we are only willing to say only God knows the heart?
Further to this discussion and given the interpretation of Christ’s Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man you offer, I offer the following as food for thought:
Hell: A Modest Proposal
The Geography of Heaven and Hell
All that is to suggest in your comment to me you are not using this parable in a fully biblical way, and you are drawing conclusions from the parable that go well beyond that given in the passage by Jesus Himself.
Karen, whether that parable is speaking of the second death in Revelation 20:15 or not, there is still Revelation 20:15 and the second death. Dead humanity is raised and judged, and anyone whose name was not written in the book of life was cast into the fire. Where the devil, the beast, and the false prophet already were. The sequence here places the event of the second death after Christ has risen, ruled, and reigned. It is final and it is forever, from what we are told thus far. This is teaching McClaren denies, just as he denies a good God sent a flood to destroy humanity and spared only Noah and his family.
Lynn, this is true and I certainly don’t endorse the denials by McLaren. On the other hand, in general the early Christians had a different relationship to and understanding of the book of Revelation than do most modern Evangelicals. It is the only NT text not actually included in the ancient lectionaries of the Church, which means it was never read in the public services, and it was the most hotly debated book for inclusion in the NT canon when this was being officially recognized by the Nicene bishops in Council. It was very late to be admitted, not because its apostolic provenance was doubted, but because the content was considered highly mystical and exceedingly difficult to understand and apply properly (which should not come as a surprise to any thoughtful Christian, especially considering some of the excesses its images have fed in the modern era).
My personal considered opinion is that postmodern denial of hell (as Gehenna) is a reaction to a Western Roman Catholic and Protestant Fundamentalist and Evangelical emphasis on “scaring people into the Kingdom”, which I would argue distorts the gospel and our understanding of the nature of God’s motivation in our redemption (expressed in the thrust of John 3:16-17) and of the nature of hell’s punishment. It seems to me also to be a reaction to the rather arbitrary and nominalist (superficial) interpretive methods or conclusions that tempt many conservative Christians to too glibly be willing to say who is in and who is out of the circle of whom Christ can and will save. As an example of what I mean, I will recount a bit of the personal history behind Elaine Pagels’ apostasy from her Evangelical roots. (She is the author of The Gnostic Gospels.) When she was still quite young (I believe college age), she lost a dear young Jewish friend who died. On learning this, a member of her Evangelical church commented that it was too bad her friend was Jewish, since that meant he surely would be burning in hell for all eternity….Deeply troubled by the implications of such a picture of God, this was the point at which Pagels walked away from Evangelical assumptions about the meaning and implications of the Scriptures, with some rather tragic results in her case I would say, and I believe her story could be multiplied many times over. I can’t help but contrast that church member’s response with the response I see would have been characteristic of the most devout and saintly Christians throughout history, which would have been to urge trust in the mercy and power of God even in the face of such a loss and, like Judas Maccabeus in the Maccabean account, to have prayed for the young man even after his departure from this life (prayer for the departed being part of the corporate liturgy of the Jews of Jesus’ day on the Day of Atonement in which every NT evidence shows Jesus Himself also faithfully participated, and a practice incorporated from its Jewish roots right from the beginning in the Church, witness Paul’s prayer for Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:18 ). Very ancient examples of such prayers are in use to this day in the Eastern Orthodox Church and these invariably serve as reminders of our own liability to the just judgment of a holy God on account of our own sins as well as assurance of the great mercy and goodness of God in which our hope for the salvation of anyone, not least of all ourselves, is based. Such a practice faithfully upholds the reality of God’s judgment for unrepented sin we all must face while fulfilling the Apostle Paul’s affirmation in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that Christians are not to be like unbelievers who grieve the death of loved ones without hope in Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Karen, I’m with you on the glib pronouncements as to who is in and who is out. I have always hated that.
And some Sunday School discussions. Example, “Do you think Nebuchadnezzar was saved?”
Someone I know once said Mother Theresa was not saved, because she struggled with depression and learned to, as she put it, “embrace the darkness,” and no Christian would embrace darkness. I am not saying I know for sure the state of her or anyone’s soul, but to make a pronouncement like that aggravated me quite a bit. You could just as easily counter with Paul’s thorn in the flesh, or “in acceptance lieth peace.”
We don’t know the full extent we put ourselves in God’s shoes and make judgmental pronouncements like these.
Thanks, Lynn. Yes, I’ve heard skepticism about even Mother Teresa’s salvation from a number of different angles, not unlike that of your acquaintance. To me that is a classic example of very shallow and nominalistic thinking about the meaning of both Scripture and Mother Teresa’s context and experiences. My only thought when I consider her life and words is if that is not substantially what a very true and deep “fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” (Philippians 3:10) looks like in this fallen world, I don’t what is! If she had such a rich share in Christ’s sufferings and death, which is how she came to understand her experience, how rich must be now her experience of the power of His resurrection in which she surely also placed her trust! Yes, none of us knows the heart of another. Heck! Most of us are largely in the dark about the real spiritual state of our own hearts, and in this, I most certainly include myself. But God is larger than our hearts and knows all things, and my confidence both for myself and all others is in Him and His unchanging grace.
A number of years ago I went to a Brian MacClaren conference related to “Everything Much Change.” I had read 15 of his books before I attended it. I intentionally attended the conference to ask him a specific question. I will get to this.
Around this time I was on Ar-Talk and Ar-Vent. I was surprised to see some of the support for him. Because of my life situation at the time, I did not do the follow up I would have liked to have done myself, but instead rang a ‘watchman’ bell. (Don can confirm this.) I believe some of the support may have been because of accurate concerns Brian had towards the history of the church and the present church. But, even a broken clock is right 2 times a day.( He went overboard!) I guessed some of the Christian professionals on AR had not yet discovered more in his writings at the time.
So, back to why I went to the conference. Brian MacClaren stated he held to the Creeds.Christians standing by him said “He holds to the creeds.” I knew he did not because of what I discovered in his writings. At the conference I stood up at make some related statements to asking this question: “Do you believe that Jesus will return, physically? He ASSUMED I had the perspective of the kind of christian he has problems with as written about in “Everything Must Change”.( Maybe I was and maybe I wasn’t.) This was evident in the fact the he pretty much then quoted an entire chapter aimed at me, to the audience, out of “Everything Must Change.” I remained quiet when he was done as I wanted to stay this course and not get sided tracked. He looked at me and said, “I didn’t answer your question.” I shook my head in agreement. After a moment of silence he said,” No, I do not know if I believe Jesus will return.” I then responded,”Why are your telling the Church you hold to the creeds?” He told me to sit down after this point,commenting I had my share of time at his conference. I believe he knew what I forced him to reveal and guessed I would back up my question with quoted statement from his books had he not answered honestly at that point.(I brought the stack with me.)
I want to share that a number of people came up to thank me as they had not understood that he held to what I had revealed. One of those people was one of his guest who he had spoken with on stage before the question and answer.
Brian MacClaren does not hold to the Creeds.
He also does not hold to the gospel. One position that reveals this is his writing of John 3. When we receive the gospel, we receive the Spirit. His position on “being born of the Spirit” and ” born again” does not resemble anything close to the explicit understanding of the gospel(death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and therefore, the implicit understanding his death was a sacrifice the individual sinners must accept, in which they are given the spirit as a guarantee and deposit, born again of the spirit. ( This is only one example supporting that he rejects the death, burial and resurrection as the gospel and its implications.)
Also , at this conference, an older women who was serving at this church ( it was a liberal church) and therefore was serving this church in regards to the conference,( she wasn’t there for the conference itself) asked Brian a question before i asked mine. I can no longer quote it exactly, but can adequately expresses what happened. She explained that even though she serves at church, does things, she doesn’t feel or know where she is with God and doesn’t feel connected to God. She wanted to know why or what was up with this. Brian in no why explored this and responded by simply telling her she was fine and was doing what she needed to do. Why answer like this? Because, his books and support of other emergent/non christian writers reveals he rejects the substitutionary atonement! He responded to this woman in consistence to his positions.
The gospel of Brian MacClaren is NOT the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the verse he uses to explain his position of how he defines the gospel. Summed up: Jesus said to make this world a better place and we will usher in a Etopia where everyone lives in peace. Social justice and providing for each other( per example of how Jesus would of course) is the method by which he would see humanity accomplishing this. Hence, the goa
spel per MacClaren: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on each as it is in heaven.” You see, Brian positioned this as Jesus spoke for himself as to what the gospel is. And to the church, hence, the message, “Everything Must Change.”
Karen, the spirit of the AntiChrist are False Christs, counterfeits. Brian MacClaren was an Evangelical Pastor who admittedly changed his mind, stating, “Everything must change.” If he taught Christ and now teaches an Anti Christ, then what is he if not apostate?
What other term could you persuade me to use? Or have I persuaded you the correct term to now define his position as to Christ and the Church is now apostate?
Some other opinions-
and Brian MacClarens own books reveal his positions.
Oops sorry, I do this sometimes. For clarity: The question was not “Do you believe Jesus will return, physically” when asked, it was “do you believe Jesus will return to earth?”
Brian often in his writings lays out questions and does not given an answer. In another of his books he comments about the resurrection of the dead and asks how would all the pervious dead fit on earth if they were resurrected.
*Please forgive me that I am not quoting and noting from books directly. I foolishly no longer have the library I once had and gave these books away. If I had the books I would note title, page and quote the text.
If someone says to me,” I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead, but I am a Christian.” I would say, “Thank you for revealing the position of your heart.”
That person would be revealing to me his own position of heart. Only God knows the heart fully and accurately, but humans reveal their own hearts by the testimony of their own mouth. I can only know what another person believes by the testimony of their own month. It is their historic witness to what they hold and/or believe.
I would add to this someone,” I would like to share with you why not believing Jesus rose from the dead means you are not actually a Christian.
The scripture says,” But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”[d] that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
Dear Someone, part of believing in Christ means you believe he rose from the dead. Do you see that in light of this Scripture that not believing Jesus rose from the dead reveals that you are not a Chirstian? Do you see you must agree that Jesus really did raise from the dead to be what is recognized as Christian in belief?”
The above example reveals that we are true to the heart of the individual and true to the heart of God,per what they claim of themselves. Humans can even be wrong about themselves …. :-)….and we can misunderstand God, but language has meaning and people want to be understood for what they really say. They are revealing their heart. And we make a reasonable claim when we claim to know the heart in agreement with the individual revelation.
I want to reveal my heart to you, that I am passionate about this issue. You can repeat you know my heart as I have written about it to you.
If I move from my position on Christ, that I have also revealed here, and tell you at another time that I
no longer believe Christ rose from the dead, I will become apostate. I would be claiming once to have believed and then making a confession that I now don’t. And lets add, that I still claimed Christ is Lord at the point of a confession as to my change of heart to Christ’s not rising from the dead. You should call me apostate, then.
NOTE: Context -the above is a purposeful Example- I believe Christ did rise from the dead and is Lord! 🙂 (Just incase some just wants to skim and missed the context…don’t!)
I’m glad you seem to have figured out the thrust of the points in my comments (or at least what they were not!). 🙂 I’m not always easy to follow or understand, and I’ve been known to chime in in comments threads before I have fully digested what is being said by others, too! Lol! Like you, and as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I affirm the historic tenets of Christian faith as found in the early Creeds (like the Apostles’ and the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed) that defined Trinitarian orthodoxy in the first few centuries of the Church. Yes, the real death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ are pretty central to all that! I agree that to teach something other than that and call oneself “Christian” is self-contradictory.