McLaren's everything must change Tour
Editorial Comment: Part 1 of a three part series
in which pastor Jeffrey Whittaker (USA) recounts his experiences at one of emergent Church guru Brian McLaren's conferences. CWM has learned that World Vision and Word Book Shops are behind a tour of Australia by McLaren. We call on our readers and those whom we can influence to boycott the tour and its promoters unless attendance is by way of protest. This is an attack in the name of “Christianity” upon Christianity itself. CWM is prayerfully considering what can be done to replace the influence of so called “Christian Bookshops” which are not Christian at all.
One way is to support godly Christian Book and Resource suppliers such as CWM, by making them your first port of call to see if they stock what you are looking for.
By Jeffrey L. Whittaker
We've all heard it said: “The more things change, the more they remain the same”. The Bible says it another way in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10:
The thing that has been, is that which will be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing of which it may be said, see, this is new? It has already been in ancient times before us.
I found that the essence of these state- ments are still proving to be axiomatic after my experience at the Everything Must Change conference held at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana with emergent church leader Brian McLaren. I sat through session after session listening to the emergent “gospel”; complete with medieval chants and choruses of despair, apologies to the Native American Indians of the St. Joseph River Valley, as well as to “Mother Earth” for scarring her through our mining and oil drilling operations. The sarcasm with which traditional Scriptural positions were discussed, coupled with repeated swipes at Christians who were (in McLaren's opinion) waiting to be “snatched away”, “evacuated”, or “beamed up”, brought one particular Scripture passage constantly to mind. 2 Peter 3:3-13 captures the essence of the conference:Knowing this first, that scoffers [derider(s), (by implication) false teacher(s): - mocker; Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionary] shall come in the last days, walking after their own lusts, And saying, 'Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.'
For this they wilfully forget, that by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water:
Whereby the world that then was, being flooded with water, perished. But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved for fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved don't be ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, ...
not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are in it shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conduct and godliness, Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
Upon arriving at Goshen College on Friday night (5/9/08), I immediately went to the registration table to pick up my name tag along with all the other conference materials. I was handed a plain cloth tote bag containing sample publications from organizations such as The Sierra Club, One Campaign, Emergent Village, etc.
As I came to the end of the table, I was also given a complimentary “green”, low-energy light bulb. I knew at that moment, that I was about to begin a unique experience to say the least.The first session of the evening was entitled, Focusing on the Wounds of our Planet.
We sang a song based upon St. Francis of Assisi's poem Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and were then led in an opening prayer of “location and repentance” by an attractive young African-American woman who approached the microphone and began the invocation.“O Great God, we gather here where the Elkhart and St. Joseph rivers meet and then flow into Lake Michigan. From Lake Michigan to Lake Ontario, on through Niagara and ultimately into the Atlantic, one of Your great oceans that cover the face of the earth. We repent for the violence and injustice done to the Illini, Miami, and other native tribes of the St. Joseph River Valley”; to which the audience responded, “Ancient One, Forgive us.”
When she spoke of the native tribes, she was overcome with emotion and had to step back from the microphone until she could collect herself and continue; only after being comforted by an associate on the platform. I was touched by the young woman's sincerity, and in no way want to mock or denigrate her feelings and convictions; I merely desire to express my serious disagreement with both the philosophy and logic behind them. Following that “liturgy”, we viewed a DVD prepared by the Sierra Club exposing the immoral mining techniques used by energy companies in West Virginia.
We were then asked to break up into small groups of two or three to discuss our thoughts and feelings, until being called back together by a gently ringing chime; a sound which became very familiar during the weekend.The music was all original and was performed by a gifted young woman. The tonality was “modal” and a-rhythmic; reminiscent of the “coffee house” styles of the 1960s; a sort of “Hillsong meets Joan Baez” blend. Prosaic in nature, with quickly spoken recitations over guitar and violin, seven or eight words to every two or three beats; all crying out about our rape of “Mother Earth” and other human rights violations.
The thing that stuck out for me was that there was no worship poetry extolling the Glory of God or the beauty of Christ in creation. Everything was directed towards an inward, subjective, and mystical experience, coupled with a worldview which represented more of the Gospel of “Marx” than of “Mark”. Reflecting back to the opening “worship chorus” inspired by Francis of Assisi, McLaren stated that in one particular city a man rose from his seat and walked out because the song sounded “New Age”. He then scoffed, “Not New Age, but Middle Age”…
a comment that drew delighted laughter from his admiring congregation.The emergent community's fixation with non-biblical practices rooted in the middle- ages has been responsible for leading many sincere pilgrims to explore the “ancient- modern” church through candles, incense, adoration of icons and relics, etc. The audience was repeatedly encouraged to cast off their old “framing story” (the way people see the world) including such bad things as doctrinal and systematic Bible study, since (according to emergent thought) nothing can be definitely known. Therefore, any positive statements that sounded like confidence in the existence of absolute truth was scoffed at as being “narrow minded and proud”.
The conclusion of the Friday evening “session” was an amazing demonstration of this philosophy. The audience was directed to many different “sacred spaces” set up to aid them in getting in touch with themselves and “the divine”. One station was a table covered with votive candles which could be lit and meditated upon. Another held a large bowl of water where one could get in touch with the “flow” of nature and spirit, and yet another featured a bowl of dirt where one could literally touch “Mother Earth” and contemplate all the evils done to her. I got in touch with my car, drove home (burning precious fossil fuel) and finally, got in touch with my bed.
New Age... Old Problem
Saturday morning (5/10/08) began with Waking Up From a Bad Dream, where it was our task to determine and discuss the world's top problems. Beginning with another “worship song” inspired by medieval piety, we were reminded that God once had a dream for this planet, and that our mining is a “scar cut across the face of Mother Earth”. We were also encouraged that…
As God's dream works in us, it then flows through our bodies via expressions such as art, poetry, shopping, voting, etc.Once again The Gospel was represented as no longer being an issue of personal redemption from sin, but rather “The Message of Jesus” which addresses population control, energy consumption, political justice, and the non-violent resistance of authoritarian regimes. I was stirred by the thought that my wife Doreen and I would probably be looked upon as being globally irresponsible for having five beautiful children. Under many global population guidelines we would be required (or at least urged) to have aborted four of them in the name of saving the planet. Isn't it tragic that as a result of the recent devastating earthquake in China, thousands of couples are now grieving the loss of their only child; many of them having been sterilized to prevent any future pregnancies (man's wisdom at work)? The conference audience was constantly reminded that “catastrophic consequences due to global warming are upon us”, and asked to consider the “fact” that when we stood under a warm shower, we “probably felt better than the King of France did during the middle ages”. To this I mused, “Does this now mean that I am to feel guilty for the blessing of hot water as well?”
Illegal immigration found its way into this ancient/new “Teaching of Jesus” when Mr. McLaren stated,
If only an invisible border separated your baby from 40 extra years of life, only a really bad person would pass a law making immigration illegal.I thought to myself, “If America is so bad; perhaps we need more “emergent evangelists” stationed at the borders telling these misguided seekers that they are better off in their simpler, more earth- friendly villages than in this land of irresponsible consumption! Ask yourself the obvious questions … “Why do our babies live longer?”
“Why do these precious people desire to live in the developed West anyway?” You see, McLaren's illogical diatribe against everything American (read western) suffers a fatal self-inflicted blow when he is forced to come to grips with our level of health care and welfare programs, public safety and education, and all the other benefits which prove so irresistible to the rest of the world's “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. He could not resist venturing into the arena of foreign relations as well.When the prosperous, rich minority (“McLaren speak” for White, European, Evangelical, Heterosexuals) feels afraid of the angry majority, they decrease foreign aid and increase military spending. Also, the prosperous (American) says, “Let's sell arms to many different poor nations. That way they will fight each other and leave us alone.”And what workshop on social, political, and economic injustice would be complete without a few words on behalf of yet another of McLaren's favourite victimized “minority groups”…
the homosexual and lesbian community. He stated:Homosexuals have been perfect scapegoats for the powerful throughout history. There are enough of them (7% at his estimate) to be present, but too few to do you any real harm in return.This proclamation scored even more points with his small but approving audience.
Blessed Hope or Blundering Dope?
Earlier that same morning I was awakened before my alarm went off, and found that I was already praying. There were two principal issues rolling around in my mind:
One was the Laws of Thermodynamics, and the other… homosexuality. When McLaren bemoaned the horrible injustices done to the homosexual community during his first session, I knew that something was afoot from the Lord.
I had no idea how, when, or even if I would get an opportunity to share what had been placed upon my heart; but I was prayerfully watching and waiting.Near the end of that session there was a time for questions. An intelligent sounding man across the isle from me put forth his thoughts concerning sustainable growth and job creation in light of environmental responsibility.
I knew at that moment that my early morning impressions received during prayer were indeed from the Lord, and that the time had come to insert thermodynamics into the discussion. When the other gentleman finished, I raised my hand and heard McLaren say in my direction, “One more question…. Yes, this man over here”. When the moderator handed the microphone to me I said, “Yes, Brian; in light of this gentleman's question, coupled with your remarks about the environment and global crisis, I was reminded of the writings of Jeremy Rifkin dealing with the three Laws of Thermodynamics”.
Brian nodded in recognition.The three laws basically state that the earth is a closed system that contains a limited supply of energy, expressed in basic units of “heat” and that this energy flows in one direction; from heat to “heat death” or homeostasis. In simple terms this means that if you have a hot cup of coffee and you leave it on your kitchen counter for a period of time, the cup and its contents will eventually reach room temperature, or homeostasis.
If you desire to re-heat your coffee, you must place it in a microwave oven, or on a stove, campfire, etc. Unfortunately, to re-heat your beverage you must use more heat energy through electricity, coal, firewood, etc. thereby creating the loss of even more energy. This is where the Law of Entropy comes into play. Entropy says that over time, all things go from a state of use to disuse, from order to chaos; this is not a theory like evolution, but is a proven scientific law!
Now that I've covered that, let's get back to the conference where I am holding the microphone and addressing Mr. McLaren.“Brian, with these Laws clearly before us, don't they lend themselves to a more Scripturally orthodox eschatology (the doctrine of the end of the age)?”He laughed and said,“If you don't know what the word eschatology means, you're blessed!”
Again he received a chorus of healthy laughter, scoffing at the foolish irrelevance of my question. Brian stated that in his view, scientists will figure out what is to come at the end of the world; whether galaxies will collide, or perhaps another cataclysmic ice age or something else; all possibilities which are millions of years in the future. Theologically though (he added glibly),I believe all predictive prophecies were fulfilled in the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 under the Roman Empire (author's note:
This is known as Preterism).He also stated that he believed that we are… co-creators of the future with God, and that it wasn't a movie that had already been shot (author's note: This is known as Open Theism).
A great book dealing with the dynamics of post-modern thought (which also encompasses the emergent camp) has been written by David F. Wells, which captures the essence of McLaren's belief system. Here's Wells's brilliant analytical rebuttal of another “open theist”, Clark Pinnock.Pinnock began a full-scale revision of all that he had believed. He came to reject election and, instead, to think that God's sovereignty in life is exercised in such a way that He voluntarily limits His power and invites people to “share in the divine creativity.” He then says that “God invites humans to share in deciding what the future will be. God does not take it all onto his own shoulders,” which, one has to say, is quite an astonishing thought. He went on to reject the doctrine of total depravity and to endorse the view of universal atonement….
Finally, it is necessary that God not know the future if, in fact, he is to be involved in its ongoing unfolding as it arrives in the present. This is what Pinnock had in mind when he speaks of God's having dynamic involvement with the world rather than a static relationship to it. God improvises. As each new situation arises, he assesses the options and possibilities, the pros and cons, and like the conductor of an extended orchestra tries to get all the players to play together and harmoniously…. The thought is that God is constantly rethinking his actions , reassessing life as he sees it unfold, and repositioning himself in order to become more deeply involved with his people (Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Post-modern World, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005, pp.243-246).
Do you see the theological similarities between Pinnock and McLaren's worldviews, as well as the conclusions they both demand? When a man or a movement is built on the premise that all biblical prophecy has already been fulfilled, coupled with an evolutionary view of an uncertain future that even God doesn't know about; we are left with an unthinkable cosmic anarchy that has an evolving biological environment, an evolving societal environment, all of which is being overseen by an evolving “god” who is anxiously awaiting his next cue from the random actions of his creatures! This telling quote reveals perhaps the most disturbing (yet most logical) conclusion of Mr. McLaren's worldview:
The genius of Marxism is that it offers hope within history, when the church only offers hope outside of history.
The church of Jesus Christ then, if living within the sort of scenario represented by McClaren, is left only with the hope provided by environmental activism, recycling, and restructuring of the globe's wealth, while striving for planetary evolution until we all arrive in the “new heaven's and the new earth”.
Next - WHICH JESUS? – does McLaren really represent