Thursday, March 31, 2005

A New Kind of Christian? - Part 1

In 2001, Brian McLaren authored the book entitled “A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey”. The book is a fictional account of a conversational dialog between a discouraged conservative pastor and his daughter’s science teacher who encourages him to embrace postmodernism and apply its principles to the Christian faith. Descriptions of the book on include language describing this journey as “Holy Spirit guided faith”. It also describes the book’s “attention-grabbing format as an effective mode of presenting McLaren’s ideas”. Further descriptions encourage gaining wisdom for some of life’s most “pressing questions” from “unlikely sources”. 5 In other words, instead of turning to Scripture and earnestly seeking God prayerfully through careful study and meditation on God’s objective truth, we are to turn to questionable sources outside of Scripture. This is a very dangerous book promoting very dangerous concepts ultimately undermining the truths of Scripture. It introduces several concepts very subtly, that conflict with Biblical teaching. Unfortunately, this book has been enthusiastically accepted by many simply because it soothes their itching ears and the fact that many people are Biblically illiterate. Scripture teaches us that we are to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) to discern whether or not a teaching is of God. We are not to simply accept any teaching just because the person proclaiming the message claims to be Spirit-lead. We should strive to be like the first century Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily” in Acts 17:11 to verify that Paul’s teaching was genuinely from God. Douglas Groothuis did a really good review of this book. Here is a link to the Christian Research Institute where this review is posted. (“A New Kind of Postmodernist”)1 While it may appear to uphold many of the tenets of the Christian faith, it also gives credence to abhorrent views such as a nod of approval to evolution and an unorthodox view of heaven and hell as not being separate places. It is frightening that as Mr. Groothuis put it, “there is enough truth mixed in to make the errors seem more attractive.” 1 As I have repeatedly said, the most deceptive lie is the one that comes closest to the truth. The truth tends to mask the error.

Paul the apostle warned the Ephesian elders of a condition that would pervade the church in Acts 20:28-31, when leadership within the church would be led astray. We always think of the attacks on the church being external, yet the most lethal and effective attack Satan can wage on the church is to recruit men from within the ranks. This is precisely the condition that we are experiencing today. Men are being drawn away by ideas and philosophies marketed as being Biblical with seemingly good intentions to reach people for Christ. Unfortunately, they are being duped into accepting ideas that under closer scrutiny, counter Biblical teaching. This book is yet another example of how unbiblical philosophies are being imported into the church, especially through the mindset of the postmodernism that has swept our culture.

The book casts doubt on absolute truth and makes more of a case for subjective experience and pluralism. This book is essentially a call for the church to blend with the philosophy of postmodern culture. Make no mistake; the Bible DOES teach that there are absolute truths that are not up for debate. This includes the belief – contrary to what McLaren proposes – that there is both a literal Heaven and a literal Hell and they are definitely not the same place. The Bible also gives no support for the teaching of evolution as well. The Bible calls for using God’s truth for “doctrine”, “reproof”, “correction” and “instruction”. (2 Timothy 3:16) Its truths are absolute authority and are binding regardless of the cultural climate. God’s word does not change and God’s commands for the church do not change.

This book does nothing more than soothe the itching ears of those who have become disenchanted with the church and have a yearning for something new to appeal to the desires of their flesh. I have read some reviews of this book by people who said that at first they were shocked by McLaren’s views and even considered them blasphemous. But then they found McLaren’s justifications for his views were convincing and were persuaded to change their minds. The conversational dialogue of the book is very enchanting to many people and captivates the reader. However, it seems that most people are unaware that Satan can transform himself into an “angel of light.” (1 Corinthians 11:14) Satan introduces convincing arguments to corrupt the minds of people and lure them away from God. (1 Corinthians 11:3-4). This is exactly how Satan deceived Eve in the garden in Genesis 3. Satan cleverly persuaded Eve to question what God said, ultimately changing her mind. Satan put his own spin on God’s Word. This mirrors what the new wave of postmodern “gurus” is doing today. They will start with the truth and then twist the Bible to mean something it was never meant to say or cast doubt on the authenticity of Scripture. This clever twisting along with the rise in Biblical illiteracy is certain to accelerate the erosion of truth from the church.

What makes McLaren’s book so dangerous is that it does not totally deny all the truths of scripture, but it makes a subtle attack. Some truths are affirmed while others are seriously questioned. As Douglas Groothuis aptly put it, “There are many other objectionable items in this small but dangerous book….”1

Brian McLaren is only one of many of the new so-called postmodern “theologians”. Some of his contemporaries include Leonard Sweet and Bill Easum. Bill Easum and Leonard Sweet often host seminars together.6

Bill Easum holds very peculiar views that are out of context with Biblical teaching. He belittles expositional teaching and downplays the need for scriptural knowledge.

“The day of the talking-head pastor is over. It is getting harder and harder for the pulpit-driven church to survive. We now live in a world where if all you do is communicate verbally, you will be less and less effective.”2

“21st Century Worship”

By William M. Easum

Leonard Sweet apparently shares the same sentiments as evidenced by Easum’s following comment where he quotes Sweet.

Leonard Sweet said something to me that puts all of my thinking about preaching into perspective. I don't quote people often so when I do, what they say has had a profound effect on my life. Sweet said, "Pastor's don't write sermons anymore; they and their team create an experience."(Emphasis Added) 3

“Preaching in the 21st Century”

By Bill Easum

These comments counter what scripture commands.

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2Ti 4:2 KJV)