Genesis 20 & Buddies Brian and Marc

Have you ever thought about how similar Legalist, Marketers, Emergents, and Liberals are?  What do Marc Grizzard and Brian McLaren have in common?

Marc is inviting you to burn Bibles:

Come to our Halloween book burning. We are burning Satan’s bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, ect. These are perversions of God’s Word the King James Bible.

We will also be burning Satan’s music such as country , rap , rock , pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel , contemporary Christian , jazz, soul, oldies but goldies [sic], etc.

We will also be burning Satan’s popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort , Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham , Rick Warren , Bill Hybels , John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll , John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol [sic], Franklin Graham , Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn , Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa , The Pope , Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, etc.

We will be serving Bar-b-Que Chicken [sic], fried chicken, and all the sides.

Mclaren is inviting some to be Hindu followers of Jesus:

I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … I don’t hope all Jews or Hindus will become members of the Christian religion, but I do hope all who feel so called will become Hindu or Jewish followers of Jesus. (A Generous Orthodoxy)

One seems radically exclusive, the other inclusive, what similarities can there be?  They are both Pelagians.  Pelagianism was an early church history that put salvation in man’s hands.  Both Grizzard and McLaren emphasize what we do over what Christ has done.  For Legalist it is a set of rules, dos and don’ts that make you a Christian.  For Marketers it is all about the newest and most effective methods.  For Emergents it is about “deeds not creeds”, living the kingdom life.  For Liberals it is all about how we live, the social-gospel.  Some profess the gospel, some assume, some redefine, and others deny, but all allow the Gospel to be eclipsed by works.

The central message of Abraham, of the Bible, is given in the first two words of verse 3, but first I need to set you up with verse 2.  Here is the message, “And Abraham… And Abimelech… But God…”; the Gospel is not about what we do, but what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  We sin, God saves.  We are unfaithful, He is faithful.  What makes us Christians is not our morality, but our message.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  – Ephesians 2:1-9 (ESV)

8 thoughts on “Genesis 20 & Buddies Brian and Marc

  1. Josh, you build a good case throughout the whole post. But you lost all credibility at the end when you quoted from one of Satan’s bibles. Too bad.

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  2. With all due respect, I find the comparison between Marc the Bible Burner and Brian McLaren to be in extremely poor taste. If you read his books like A Generous Orthodoxy or, more relevantly, The Secret Message of Jesus, McLaren clearly affirms Christianity’s traditional views on God’s work in salvation. Why does nearly every Reformed author and blogger consistently insist on misreading McLaren and other Emerging authors like Rob Bell, quoting them out of context, and creating caricatures of their ideas to attack and label as heretical? I have become disgusted in the past year or two with many of the authors/preachers associated with the “New Calvinism” because of their arrogance and the hatred they propagate. In this light, I see far more similarities between Marc the Bible Burner and the New Calvinists than I do between Marc the Bible Burner and Brian McLaren.

    You (following Michael Horton) label McLaren as a Pelagian, by which you mean he believes salvation is “in man’s hands.” Since apparently Emergents believe that salvation comes from “deeds not creeds” (although you won’t find this in any of McLaren’s writings, or Bell’s, etc.), from this you conclude that McLaren “allow[s] the Gospel to be eclipsed by works.” This only follows if you assume the gospel concerns only salvation and has nothing to do with our actions. But McLaren’s whole point is that the gospel is something much more than our personal salvation. He agrees that works are insufficient for our salvation – he’s clearly not a Pelagian – but he’s pressing the point that the gospel is not just about Jesus dying for our sins so we can go to heaven. The gospel also includes the kingdom of God and the ethical teachings of Jesus, which make up the vast majority of each of the four gospels. This is where deeds come in, and not at the exclusion of creeds. None of this should be controversial. It’s only controversial if you have a narrow view of the gospel, the definition of which you cling to at all costs, which is perhaps why the Emergents are so villianized by the Reformed people.

    It seems like I’ve posted this excerpt from an interview before, but I’ll post it again, because I think it’s important for understanding McLaren’s point (McLaren is A):

    Q: Hold on. That bothered me too. You wrote, “Which reminds us that none of us has a complete grasp of the gospel…. It’s very dangerous to assume you’ve perfectly contained the gospel in your little formula.” I think with all the other change going on, one thing we’ve got to hold firm on is the gospel.
    A: What do you mean when you say “the gospel?”
    Q: You know, justification by grace through faith in the finished atoning work of Christ on the cross.
    A: Are you sure that’s the gospel?
    Q: Of course. Aren’t you?
    A: I’m sure that’s a facet of the gospel, and it’s the facet that modern evangelical protestants have assumed is the whole gospel, the heart of the gospel. But what’s the point of that gospel?
    Q: What do you mean? I guess it’s so that people can spend eternity with God in heaven in an intimate personal relationship as opposed to … the alternative. You don’t seem to agree.
    A: Well, for Jesus, the gospel seemed to have something to do with the kingdom of God.
    Q: Which is the kingdom of heaven, which is going to heaven after you die.
    A: Are you sure about that?

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    1. What does it mean to be a Hindu follower of Jesus? How is this done in such a way that no violence comes to sola fide or the exclusivity of Christ?

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  3. It’s helpful to read the entire chapter (“Why I Am Incarnational) to get an idea of what he’s talking about. He repeats his point a few pages later, which might make his argument more clear:

    “Ultimately, I believe “they” and “we” can all experience this transformation best by becoming humble followers of Jesus whom I believe to be the Son of God, the Lord of all, and the Savior of the world.

    “In this light, although, I don’t hope all Buddhists will become (cultural) Christians, I do hope all who feel so called will become Buddhist followers of Jesus; I believe they should be given that opportunity and invitation. I don’t hope all Jews and Hindus will become members of the Christian religion. But I do hope all who feel so called will become Jewish or Hindu followers of Jesus.

    “Ultimately, I hope that Jesus will save Buddhism, Islam, and every other religion, including the Christian religion, which often seems to need saving about as much as any other religion does. (In this context, I do wish all Christians would become followers of Jesus, but perhaps this is too much to ask. After all, I’m not doing such a hot job of it myself.)”

    McLaren distinguishes between being a follower of Jesus and a member of the Christian religion. In this passage, he clearly states that by Christian religion he means Christian culture. He does this as well in the first passage you quoted; note that he says “Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts” rather than “Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish faiths.” As the last paragraph in the passage I quoted shows, being a member of the Christian religion or immersing oneself in Christian culture does not necessarily mean one is a follower of Jesus. McLaren argues that the converse is true as well: being a follower of Jesus does not mean that one has to become a member of the Christian religion or immerse oneself in Christian culture.

    What does this mean? The follower of Jesus/Christian dichotomy does not map onto the deeds/creeds dichotomy you’re implying it does. Being a follower of Jesus includes both deeds and creeds, while being a Christian in this context doesn’t necessarily include either (e.g. someone who goes to church regularly and identifies themselves as a Christian with their lips but whose heart has never been truly transformed by God’s grace and mercy).

    What might this look like for followers of Jesus within other religions? A well known example is Messianic Judaism, whose practitioners profess that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior of the world and live according to his word. These are people who follow Jesus but do so within their original Jewish context. They observe dietary laws, Jewish holy days, etc. and they interpret and apply their theology through singularly Jewish concepts and language.

    How can one be a Hindu follower of Jesus? This one is more difficult to conceptualize, but it would mean believing in Jesus as Lord and living a life of Christian ethics within Hindu culture. Such a person might do so by continuing to engage in traditional Hindu practices, for example meditation and yoga, with Christ as the object instead of the Hindu gods. Going further, one might even interpret the work and message of Christ using traditional Hindu language and ideas rather than Christian terms. I don’t know enough about Hinduism to say how this might work, but I imagine that some metaphors and language might be more appropriate within Hindu culture than the traditional ones we use. An example might be the legal language of penal substitutionary atonement, which might mean nothing to someone who only knows Hinduism since it is a metaphor designed by and is helpful for people within a particular modern juridical structure, particularly the 16th century European framework of Calvin. A more appropriate metaphor for the atonement from within Hindu culture might be more appropriate for Hindus, and the same idea extends to other cultures as well.

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    1. Austin,

      I don’t think it is as dangerous as you make it out to be. I choose my words carefully. What you say McLaren says is dangerous enough. I think what McLaren wants to say here is more dangerous than the danger you propose he proposes.

      In the late 90’s John Travis (a pseudonym) wrote an article titled, The C1 to C6 Spectrum: A Practical Tool for Defining Six Types of ‘Christ-centered Communities. If you are not familiar a search on the internet will bring up large numbers of articles. The spectrum defines various levels of contextualization. While I don’t wish to go into all the details suffice it to say that I think McLaren is identifying himself with the most contextualized (5-6) of this spectrum in which I would say Christianity no longer exists.

      For instance in the same chapter McLaren says, “Ultimately, I hope that Jesus will save Buddhism, Islam, and every other religion, including the Christian religion, which often seems to need saving about as much as any other religion does. In this context, I do wish all Christians would become followers of Jesus, but perhaps that is too much to ask. After all, I’m not doing such a hot job of it myself.” Here the issue is not simply a Hindu follower of Jesus in a Hindu context, but saving the Hindu religion. What does this mean? Where were we called to save false religions?

      To be fair I have not read A Generous Orthodoxy. I have read A New Kind of Christian, The Story We Find Ourselves In, and The Secret Message of Jesus. I did skim much of the chapter that was available on Google Books, and this, in connection with what I have read in these other works is what generates my opinion.

      McLaren may hold to the ancient church creeds regarding the Trinity and Person of Christ, but his creedalism goes very little if anything beyond that. Austin you said that if I read A Generous Orthodoxy or The Secret Message of Jesus that I would see that he “clearly affirms Christianity’s traditional views on God’s work in salvation.” Part of the difficulty reading McLaren is that you may leave knowing a good deal about what he does not believe, but you very little as to what he does believe. I think you can find anything but clarity (something McLaren himself admits to being allergic to in A Generous Orthodoxy) concerning this in the Secret Message of Jesus. Tomorrow I will post a review on The Secret Message of Jesus contending such.

      Also I am afraid you might be reading more into my accusation of Pelagianism than I wish. Even if McLaren is confessionally Evangelical (I don’t think He is), he is functionally Pelagian. I wouldn’t say that Marc is confessionally Pelagian, nor many in the seeker sensitive movement, but they place so much emphasis on what is periphery that they become functionally Pelagian. So I would argue in like manner that even if McLaren is confessionally an Evangelical, functionally he is a Pelagian. For McLaren to say that justification by faith is a facet of the gospel is not enough.

      I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of replacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry. – D.A. Carson

      You may spoil the gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith – Jesus Christ; and to substitute another object in His place… and the mischief is done. Substitute anything for Christ, and the gospel is totally spoiled! …

      You may spoil the gospel by addition. You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honor, and the mischief is done. Add anything to Christ, and the gospel ceases to be pure Gospel! …

      You may spoil the gospel by interposition. You have only to push something between Christ and the eye of the soul, to draw away the sinner’s attention from the Savior, and the mischief is done…

      You may spoil the gospel by disproportion. You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done. Once alter the proportion of the parts of truth, and truth soon becomes downright error! …

      Lastly, but not least, you may completely spoil the Gospel by confused and contradictory directions. Complicated and obscure statements about faith, baptism, Church privileges, and the benefits of the Lord’s Supper, all jumbled together, and thrown down without order before hearers, make the Gospel no Gospel at all! Confused and disorderly statements of Christianity are almost as bad as no statement at all! Religion of this sort is not Evangelical. – J.C. Ryle

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  4. Josh,

    What, in your opinion, is the overall point of the Cross? From what I have heard from you in the past, I am reasonably sure that you would say “to bring glory to the Father.”

    Assuming this…
    Salvation is being crucified with Christ, yes? Meaning that sin has no dominion over us, yes? Since sin has no dominion over us, we may walk in the newness of life, yes? As in, we have a sanctified spirit that has been raised from the dead after being crucified, just as Christ was raised, correct? Since sin has no dominion over us due to the Cross, it seems to me that walking in the newness of life is just as Cross-centered and therefore glorifying to God as salvation itself. And since glorifying God is the point, it matters not >whatbecause of< what Christ has done.

    re: saving false religions, see my comment on the newer McLaren post about truth, and you can get my general thoughts on that.

    p.s.: I'm not sure that I explained my thoughts very well… but hopefully you can understand what I'm saying.
    p.p.s.: I haven't read any of McLaren's books. I'm just going off of your quotes.

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    1. Matthew,

      I’m not so sure where you are going but here is my stab in the dark at it.

      The issue in question here is not what is God glorifying but what is the gospel? We cannot equate the two. The stars are God glorifying but they are not the gospel. God’s common grace working in unbelievers is not the gospel, but it is God glorifying.

      Yes the gospel is to the glory of God, and it is the place where His glory is most effulgent, and the cross purchases for us the glory of God, but the gospel is not the glory of God. In fact taken by itself, the glory of God is bad news before it is good news (consult Isaiah 6).

      Likewise, the gospel changes the way we live, but our changed lives are not the gospel. The gospel includes the good news for my salvation past, present, and future (simplified this means justification, sanctification, and glorification). So the gospel is good news for my sanctification, but my personal sanctification is not itself the good news. It is an effect of the good news, the result of the good news, but it is not the good news itself. That one has become progressively more generous as a Christian is an effect of the gospel, but it is not the gospel itself.

      All our good works are owing to the gospel. If there are not any good works, we don’t get the gospel. But none of our good works, nor the idea of good works, nor the results of our good works are the good news of Jesus Christ.

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  5. You know what… I’m not exactly sure what I was getting at, either. I think I was responding to a comment, rather than to the original post. But from what I can tell, you responded well. 🙂

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