There is a lot of talk about those in the emerging church being against “truth”, mostly out of some who have either not read “Generous Orthodoxy” or that if they have missed the nuances of the purpose of the book. This could be very easy to do if one decides ahead of time everything Brian McLaren says is a lie. This seems a bit dishonest if one is attempting an “honest critique” of the book, let alone in judging another human being.
I love the quote on page 20 which is the introduction… these pages are often not read as many deem introductions as really not;
1. Part of the book
2. A bunch of “thank yous” to their loved ones.
Yet I find more than often if one truly reads these intros you get a bit of insight to the inner thoughts of the book. Here is the quote from page 20 of “A Generous Orthodoxy”.
"I don't mind if you think I'm wrong. I'm sure I am wrong about many things, although I'm not sure exactly what things I'm wrong about. I'm even sure I'm wrong about what I think I'm right about in at least some cases. So wherever you think I'm wrong, you could be right. If, in the process of determining that I'm wrong, you are stimulated to think more deeply and broadly, I hope that I will have somehow served you anyway."
I realize some may not be comforted with the thought that Brian does not claim to know all the answers… let alone that he would admit what he knows may be wrong… yet if one is honest, as a person who follows Christ, that doubts do appear. To me they have become less and less of the sort of “God, are you there?” and more of “Am I being a truer image of Jesus?” But, throughout my walk there have been doubts.
Those that claim the emerging church do not believe in “truth” often miss that it is not “truth” we question, but rather one’s definition or basis of how they come to believe that something is “true”.
To just throw out in an argument that “the bible is true because it is declarative and has propositional truth” is rather a weak and sickly argument. In fact it is really circular in that the thing that is really missing is that one must first have a regenerated mind… or have received the “mind of Christ”. (I was accused one time after stating this phrase of teaching some Gnostic heresy. Yet if one looks it is what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 2 16.) If one has not have the mind of Christ, then it does not matter as to what doctrine, creed or even religion one believes as without Jesus in one’s heart… you are simply lost.
Interestingly most just look at Brian’s books and read into what he says. I heard an MP3 recently in which Brian said he hated to go to Amazon.com and read what people said about him… and he even wondered if there was another “Brian McLaren out there who was saying and doing all these horrible things!. He jokingly said he asked his wife and friends if he was all of those horrible things and they assured him that he was not. I found that a bit funny as I have gone through similar things, though not even close to the magnitude Brian has… the most ludicrous thing someone said to me was that I was a heretic because I had a “link” to Brian McLaren websites on this blog… over looking I have also links to many other websites in which some I am sure do not think highly of Brian McLaren.
Yet, I was declared a heretic by this person, which later as I suspected believes one does not have to have a “relationship” with Jesus to be saved. (That raised my eyebrows a bit!). Another person rants on and on against the “Emergent church” and tells all of his ignorance of it. Some, who I have pointed this person out to have asked me if I had created that blog as a parody of those against the emerging church and I respond, “No, I am not that clever!” His critical spirit may have even cost him his job… which is very sad as I think if he actually looked at the Bible and saw the fruit in his life… he would see that the image he is presenting is not Christ-like.
Brian McLaren most likely will not tell you what to think.
Because he wants you to work it out yourself… mostly by seeking God on the issue or topic…
Someone who wants you to go to Jesus for the answers and not act as the Holy Spirit?
To me that is refreshing and shows a great faith in God, that God can give us answers without someone filtering it for us. Again, if one is searching, would it be better to ask those searching questions that they can look deeper into God for the answer? Often we give answers and people believe in “us” and never go deeper than that… No wonder there are so many immature Christians out there as they have never been truly challenged to have to seek out answers themselves… in fact one of the greatest complaints in the Christian world is, “I left that church because I was not getting fed”.
And this is from people who claim to have known Jesus for YEARS! I don’t mean to be too harsh here as I too have uttered those very words until I was brought to conviction that I was immature and was still drinking only milk. I was not putting into practice what I knew.
So what does Brian McLaren believe of relativism and “truth”?
Here is a quote from his open letter to Chuck Colson:
"What you describe as postmodernism – a claim that “there is no such thing as truth,” a rejection of all moral values, or their reduction to mere preferences – may have been purported by a few crazed graduate students for a few minutes at a late-night drinking party. But to paint the whole movement with that brush is inaccurate. That kind of guilt-by-association would be like lumping you as a political conservative in with all the conservative wackos in Idaho who stockpile weapons and whisper about black helicopters and blame 9/11 on President Bush – after all, they’re against the “liberals” just like you. Or it would be like lumping us (you and me) as Christians in with the Branch Davidians (we all quote the Bible, eh?) or the wackos who blame 9/11 on the ACLU (we all pray, don’t we?). Those who live by hacking straw men with the sword will probably be rendered straw men by others, I think, and be hacked by the same childish logic."
“In your column, you pronounced “postmodernism” dead, or on life support, or at least losing strength. You’re kind of right, because the kind of postmodernism you describe – “the philosophy that claims there is no transcendent truth” - was never really alive. It’s a straw man, Chuck, a bugaboo not unlike Hillary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy,” used to create fear, galvanize sympathy and support, and perhaps raise money. (Everyone knows how a good enemy is a fundraiser’s best friend.)”
One of my favorite quotes out of this response to Chuck Colson comes from Brian’s seven points “about truth” is #7:
A feeling of certainty – When some people use the word truth, I think they mean a feeling of certainty, security, and rest that means they no longer have to think or ask questions. In other words, truth means “case closed.” This exemption from further thought is something we all desire at times, I think, especially after a long hard day of reading a column in CT and criticizing it (and then criticizing the critique). But one only has to talk to a person hospitalized for psychosis to realize that a feeling of certainty can have very little in common with #1 above!
(#1. Reality – Sometimes, we use truth to mean “what’s out there,” or “what’s really, really, real.”)
Bob George of People to People ministries would say it this way, “One could be as sincere as a heart attack, but still be wrong…” Sincerity and certainty, simply does not equate with true belief. To think so misses a very basic thing… man is "fallen and can’t get up" on his own… no matter how sincere or certain he is of himself… “There is a way that seems right to a man, that leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
Without a relationship with Jesus one is simply dead in their sins… just because one “believes” something is true, be it doctrine, creed, religion, gov’t statements, does not mean it is true. Truth to be truly true must transcend beyond man… If it is to truly be truth, it must be from God… and one must have the mind of Christ to be able to even begin to sort through all the noise claiming to be truth to see Truth. In our faith we are to focus on Jesus. We are to imitate Jesus, as Paul instructed… (1 Cor 11:1 some teach that Paul is stating to follow him… yet I see this as Paul stating that as he follows Jesus so we should follow Jesus).
Much of the critics to me are just expressing their ignorance of the emerging church. In their over simplified analysis they broad brush over things that serious followers of Jesus should consider. In all I see Brian as one who has pushed me and challenged me like a good friend. He is a bit like my friend I used to work out at the gym with years ago… who would scream at me “one more” as I dug deeper within myself to lift he weight I was attempting. I did not like my friend “right that moment” in fact I may have called him some choice names! (Grin) Yet, what began as painful muscle aches slowly gave way to gained strength… to a fitter body. Brian has done this in his probing questions… which by the way, asking the question like “is the way we view hell, biblical let alone Christian?” does not make one a heretic any more than if someone was asking if a Greek sentence contained a dangling modifier. Questioning, I would not then think should be equated with being a heretic.
Mostly one must be very careful in what they say about a person. I try to speak of specific examples… of the people that have come after me because of my affiliation with the “emerging church” or of my experience as I have lived these 42 years of which most I have had some interactions with Christians or Jesus Himself as a follower of Christ.
(Though I use that term I prefer "conversation" as I view that emerging church implies that those not of us are not the “Church”. Jesus started the Only Church and I prefer to be of His Church than any other…. Yet as a “label” it seems to be the one that has stuck.)
If one is truly out to serve God and to present an honest case against Brian, myself or the emerging church itself, I hope you will seek Christ first as to how to approach us. For if we are wrong, and not “brothers” as some claim, then we are simply lost… and if that is the case then instead of name calling, you should be looking at finding ways to reach us for Christ always remembering it is God’s kindness that leads us toward repentance and not show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience. (Romans 2: 3)
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