This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).

A Convoluted Conversation

As the “New Christianity” of the growing syncrestic ecumenical religion of Purpose Driven new evangelicalism within the Emergent Church takes deeper root we see more and more leaders within the Body of Christ in apparent denial concerning an emerging New Downgrade No-Controversy. For example, Brian McLaren, a leading churchman in the Emergent convoluted conversation, is in denial about the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Christ Jesus on the cross.

By now most of us are used to his a-logical double-speak, and could there even be a better living example of Revelation 3:16? A while back I discussed the following exchange found on the website of this brand “new kind of Christian.” As an illustration and example of his denial of the Lord he says he serves and the Jesus he says he follows, here is a brief excerpt from the article “Interview with Brian McLaren about previous ‘A letter to Friends of Emergent,’” again from McLaren’s own site. The anonymous interviewer asks pastor McLaren:

Q: 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? (

Now what we are likely to hear from McLaren if he were to be pressed is something along the lines of I didn’t say I personally deny the penal substitutionary atonement. If so, this would only be in keeping with the kind of pseudo-philosophical word games that we have come to expect from these cult-like leaders; but as Take Heed Ministries’ Cecil Andrews has observed, “I have found over the years that what I would call the ‘shoots and buds’ of someone’s ‘heresies’ have a tendency to develop and strengthen over time until they eventually ‘blossom fully’.”

Mama Warned Me About The Company I Keep

And here is one of the ways we can witness McLaren’s heresies beginning to blossom regarding the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ Jesus our Lord on the cross. A couple of the books that McLaren has recently endorsed were written by men who are a bit more bold it would appear than he would seem to be. We have discussed Alan Jones’ book Reimagining Christianity more fully in “Emergent Church: Guru Brian McLaren”. So let me briefly show those who may not have seen this other work exactly what McLaren says in his endorsement :

“It used to be that Christian institutions and systems of dogma sustained the spiritual life of Christians. Increasingly spirituality itself is what sustains everything else Alan Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply.” (back flap)

And on page 168 of Reimagining Christianity, where Alan Jones is “reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality,” a spirituality that McLaren tells us “stimulates and encourages” him “deeply,” we read a crystal clear denial of the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, a cardinal doctrine of the historic orthodox Christian Church. Jones writes: “implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine.”

Saving Jesus

It is beyond question that Jones is in denial of this cardinal doctrine, which is the heart of the Gospel and the very reason our Lord condescended to leave the glory of Heaven and come to live upon this squalid sin-infected planet in the first place. And this brings me to the other book I wish to mention that also features an endorsement from Brian McLaren. This one is called The Lost Message Of Jesus and was written by Steve Chalke (w/Alan Mann) who happens to be the senior minister of Waterloo, at Christ Church & Upton. Of this particular book McLaren says:

“Steve Chalke’s new book could help save Jesus from Christianity. That’s a strange way of putting it, I know. Not that the real Jesus needs saving. But when one contrasts the vital portrait of Jesus painted by Steve with the tense caricature drawn so often by modern Christianity, one can’t help but feeling the ‘Jesus’ of modern Christianity is in trouble. The Jesus introduced by Steve in these pages sounds like someone who can truly save us from our trouble” Brian McLaren, author of The Church on the Other Side

Within this work by Chalke we receive yet another denial of the penal substitutionary atonement. And as Dr. Albert Mohler points out in his article “Has the Message of Jesus Been Lost?”

According to Chalke and Mann, the cross simply serves as a profound demonstration of the love of God. On the cross, Christ “absorbed all the pain, all the suffering caused by the breakdown in our relationship with God and in doing so demonstrated the lengths to which a God who is love will go to restore it.”

The doctrine of penal substitution–the understanding that, on the cross, Christ died in our place, bearing the penalty for our sin–is described as “a form of cosmic child abuse.” In their words: “The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse–a vengeful Father punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed.” They go further to suggest that “such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement ‘God is love’.”

The penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement–the doctrine that has stood at the very center of evangelical faith–is rejected as based on a misunderstanding of the cross, described as a “twisted version of events” that is “morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith.”

These statements by Chalke would seem rather bizarre coming from a Baptist minister, and particularly his view that the doctrine of penal substitution of Christ dying in our place was “a form of cosmic child abuse.” And believe it or not these views by Chalke were actually able to cause a bit of a stir even amidst the largely slumbering Evangelical community. Here now is what the man Brian McLaren said “could help save Jesus from Christianity” had to say in defense of his antichrist doctrine:

Steve Chalke said; “In my view, the real problem with penal substitution (a theory rooted in violence and retributive notions of justice) is its incompatibility, at least as currently taught and understood, with any authentically Christian understanding of the character of God or genuinely Christocentric worldview – given, for instance, Jesus own non-violent, ‘do not return evil for evil’, approach to life.

“Hence my comment, in The Lost Message of Jesus, about the tragedy of reducing God to a ‘cosmic child abuser’. Though the sheer bluntness of my imagery might shock some, in truth, it is only because it is a stark ‘unmasking’ of the violent, pre-Christian thinking behind such a theology.”

Brothers In Denial

Let me return the favor and share some blunt imagery myself from the Bible about what Jesus did on the cross. I might add that this may even come as a bit of a shock to Chalke himself. The truth is that despite the denial of men like Brian McLaren, Alan Jones and Steve Chalke, Holy Scripture clearly teaches Christ’s vicarious penal substitutionary atonement – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). And then our text – In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins (1 John 4:10, Amplified).

As Christians we need to ask ourselves a couple of important questions: Do we seriously think that the LORD God Almighty is just going to sit idly by and do nothing when the Body of Christ can’t even agree on what His Gospel is! Can we really be so foolish as to to think that the Spirit isn’t deeply grieved by this denial of the unspeakable sacrifice Jesus made while we were yet sinners? Let me now draw this short piece to a close with some very insightful words from Dr. Mohler from his commentary “What Should We Think of the Emerging Church? Part Two.” He begins by talking about comments made by D.A. Carson in his book Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church.

Men and women, today I appeal to you, that if you won’t heed my warnings about this emerging cult among us, I pray that you will at least listen to noted scholars like Mohler:

At this point, Carson’s critique grows sharper and clearer. He considers the writings of Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke as representative of the movement and its doctrinal dangers. Carson’s most important and incisive criticism is focused on the question of Christ’s atonement and its meaning.

Given the fact that both McLaren and Chalke deny the substitutionary nature of the atonement–indeed, rejecting virtually any notion of penal substitution–Carson sees the ghost of a discredited theological liberalism. “I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the Gospel,” Carson laments. “Perhaps their rhetoric and enthusiasm have led them astray and they will prove willing to reconsider the published judgments on these matters and embrace biblical truth more holistically than they have been doing in their most recent works. But if not, I cannot see how their own words constitute anything less than a drift toward abandoning the Gospel itself.”

Where are the other leaders of the Emerging Church on this question? I am constantly confronted by young pastors who identify themselves with the Emerging Church movement but deny that they associate themselves with the aberrant theological impulses and outright doctrinal denials that characterize the writings of the movement’s most well-known and influential leaders.

I completely agree with D. A. Carson when he reflects: “I would feel much less worried about the directions being taken by other Emerging Church leaders if these leaders would rise up and call McLaren and Chalke to account where they have clearly abandoned what the Bible actually says.” (

The truth is Brian McLaren reveals his own beliefs by his endorsement of these books by Alan Jones and Steve Chalke, both of whom deny the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of the Lord Who bought them (see-2 Peter 2:1). You may mark my words, the spiritual venom once injected into the Body of Christ through the cult of liberal theology killed the mainline denominations just the same as the emergent mystical toxin currently being infused into our Lord’s Church through this new liberalism is going to kill the Evangelical churches. And as this New Downgrade No-Controversy continues to grow unnoticed, I return once again to the all important question: Can you even be an Evangelical and deny God?