So a few weeks ago I posted a review of a book by Brian McLaren entitled ‘Finding Our Way Again’. You can find that post here. In this review I mentioned that in some parts of the book McLaren seemed to be teaching a form of Pluralism. While reading the book I sent an email to Mr. McLaren questioning him about this paragraph. Mr. McLaren was very gracious and took the time to address my question via his blog. In the interest of being fair, and full disclosure, I don’t want to misrepresent Brian or his beliefs, so I am linking to his post here. I am very grateful for Mr. McLaren to address this question, and I think it’s great that he takes the time to dialogue with his readers.
In all honesty, I do wish he would be a little less ambiguous about certain issues. Ambiguity when it comes to the Gospel I fear is a dangerous thing. I understand the value of conversations, but the conversation is not the goal of our preaching. I do, like Brian believe that we cannot have an ‘us’ verses ‘them’ mentality in relation to our Muslim neighbors, and they must be treated with much love and respect and honor…As we would like them to treat us. All religions and faiths should be able to co-exist on our planet peacefully…that should be our goal. Yet we know that ultimately, true and lasting peace, won’t happen until Christ returns to make all things right.
As Brian would agree, we must love as Christ loved. Still, there were issues in which Christ was not ambiguous or vague. He drew the line at who He Himself was, and the nature of the God that He was faithful too. We should be no different. All of this being said, we must be careful not to beat around the proverbial bush of truth. But that truth must be shared in love, which I would admit, many of my brethren fail miserably at this, as do I.
After reading Brian’s response, I don’t believe him to be a Pluralist…but others can make that judgment if they so choose. I’ve heard others question his orthodoxy, and again, others can make those calls. I know too little about his overall theology outside of the two books I’ve read by him, “A Generous Orthodoxy” and “Finding Our Way Again“. Either way, I believe the man deserves credit for his willingness to dialogue with those who may not be so friendly to him, and some of the stances he takes, and to those who disagree with him. I too certainly don’t agree with some of what I’ve read by him…that being said, I do respect him as an individual, even if I do question his theology.
Do you think McLaren’s published theology on a whole would lead someone to a orthodox understanding of Christ or away from Chist?
As I’ve said, I’ve only read 2 of his books. After reading ‘Generous Orthodoxy’ a few years ago, while I felt certain things could have been stated more clearly, and that made me nervous…I didn’t find anything(as I remember it) that I would say took McLaren outside of what we would call Christian Orthodoxy. After reading ‘Finding Our Way Again’ I can say honestly I have more questions than answers, and the trajectory he seems to be on is very concerning. After watching this video, http://bit.ly/b32fYs I don’t feel a ton better about the situation. Again, I don’t know a lot about his theology, I think that is part of what he tries to accomplish, he doesn’t want to be nailed down. He wants to challenge, and start conversations…he is good at this. He has challenged me, and forced me to think outside of my comfortable circle. I think that is a good thing. At the same time, Ambiguity in relation to who Christ is and the Gospel is not a good thing. Ambiguity in relation to eternity and the state of our souls is not a good thing. I believe McLaren should be read discerningly. I think he can be learned from. As my friend has said, “When you eat a watermelon, you spit out the seeds.” The same is true in what we read. I would never recommend McLaren to a young or new convert. If you want to learn or teach on doctrine, McLaren is not your guy. At the same time, there are many who we could learn a lot from doctrinally have no idea how to live their doctrine, and who fail miserably at manifesting Christ to the world. Knowing the right things, and being the Gospel in the world is not the same thing. I think McLaren misses the point and importance of truth, and doctrinal ‘orthodoxy’ as we’d say, but he sincerely tries to live the way of Jesus in the world, and he preaches the importance of that. That can’t be dismissed in my opinion. Until he can put the two together, he is in a dangerous position, and he could be potentially taking others to that dangerous place as well…I still don’t believe we should dismiss everything he says and does, or demonize him as many in our camp seem to do. So to answer your question…I think it likely if McLaren were the only person painting a picture of Christ for someone, they’d have a hard time seeing what I believe to be the Biblical Christ. Whether he leads someone away from Christ?…I don’t know that I’d say that, but I will say he doesn’t take them all the way to who Christ is. That’s a huge problem, which is why I say, we must be discerning in our reading of his work.
Instead of bashing, we should discuss where he errs(loudly), and pray for his understanding. This is where I feel we miss it. Just my opinion…The same could be said for others we disagree with such as Rob Bell. Its a dangerous situation when these guys whom we feel are on the wrong track have so much influence, but bashing, or demonizing isn’t the answer. Loudly proclaiming the truth is what will yield the fruit.