We briefly turn our attention once again to Brian McLaren’s example as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have pointed out the article “Interview with Brian McLaren about previous ‘A letter to Friends of Emergent’” before. This time we’ll attempt to analyze it so that we might discuss what McLaren may be trying to teach. I say we’ll attempt this because I am not alone in my belief that one cannot often be sure exactly what it is he is actually saying.

But the bigger issue in all of this is when counterfeit Christian prophets are going to be teaching under the guise of orthodoxy at Zondervan’s National Pastor’s Conference 2006 hasn’t the time finally come in The New Downgrade No-Controversy for voices such as Dr. John MacArthur’s to finally be raised against the schismatic Emergent Church? As one who is very familiar with the work of the late Dr. Walter Martin, I know he would realize that the time has indeed come in our Lord’s Church for us to stand for orthodoxy and he would have spoken out.

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20, KJV).

Are You Sure That’s The Gospel?

As he continues his departure from the actual orthodox Christian faith Brian McLaren is indeed challenging conservative Evangelical views of Jesus, the Bible, and non-Christians in his books. This of course he is welcome to do if he so wishes, although I offer this is a dubious choise at best for a supposed minister of our Lord to be doing. And this is the very point at issue here because McLaren is clearly representing himself as a minister sent from Christ within the Evangelical Christian community, and as such he is required to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If he were not setting himself up as an authoritative teacher of the Christian faith at the many conferences and seminars where he collects a fee as he speaks his message of “a generous orthodoxy” I would give McLaren no attention whatsoever.

Frankly as a rational empiricist philosophically I am personally not all that interested in other people‘s speculations about what they feel might be true. I rather prefer to study the text of the Bible itself and I am in agreement with the old preacher who once said, “The Bible sheds an awful lot of light on those commentators and their commentaries.” However, having said that, when I happen to have some extra time I’d much rather study books having to do with the Bible itself and Church history than someone’s opinion about how they think things should be re-imagined/reinterpreted/repainted, etc., etc.

Turning our attention once again of McLaren’s example as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, on a few occasions now I have pointed out the following out from his website. I do so once again, but this time we will examine what McLaren is saying in the article “Interview with Brian McLaren about previous ‘A letter to Friends of Emergent.’” We’ll attempt to analyze the following exchange regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ between an “anonymous” interviewer and Brian McLaren, so that we might discuss what McLaren may be trying to teach. I say we’ll attempt to do this because I am not alone in my belief that one cannot always be sure exactly what it is he is actually saying:

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?

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?

Q: Aren’t you? A: This is exactly the point I was trying to make in the article. Many of us are sure we’re “postmodern” now with our candles and hipness and so on, but we haven’t asked some important and hard questions – not about postmodernity, but about modernity and the degree to which our theology and understanding of the gospel have been distorted or narrowed or made “gospel lite” by modernity.

Q: If you were intending to make me feel better, you’re not succeeding. A: Well, I hope you’ll at least think about this. And search the Scriptures, you know, to see if there’s any validity to the question I’m raising.

The Gospel According To The Bible

As I said as we ended part one, these are words which are in effect denying the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been preached by men like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon and Dr. John MacArthur for instance. However, what the Church apparently lacks in this critical hour are men who will be bold enough to come right out publicly and say it. Now we are faced with a defining moment similar to times in the ancient Church where they were forced by divergent opinions regarding accepted theology to come together and hammer out in writing what would later become standard creeds like the Apostles or Nicean Creed. In fact the great Church historian Philip Schaaf did the Body of Christ a huge service by collecting these writings all together in a wonderful three volume set entitled The Creeds of Christendom.

It would appear that many in the Emergent Church seem to think that those of us in the discernment camp who argue for what Dr. Martin often referred to as “historic orthodox Christian theology” are not as conversant with the history of the Church as they are. In my personal library alone I have at least twenty-five different sources of standard textbooks and encyclopedia sets for my study of systematic theology and Church history. The fact is that those of us who are called to the study of Comparative Religion must throughly know these areas, as well as their various off shoots, in order to deal with the growing number of cults and sects all claiming to be in accord with historic Christian doctrine. Sadly, this would now also encompass the Emergent Church movement itself.

And here I would find myself in agreement with Brian McLaren as he encourages the interviewer above to “search the Scriptures.” Unfortunately based on my continuing examination of his personal theological views it would seem to me that McLaren is being a bit disingenuous here because he is also on record as saying:

I intentionally avoid including a lot of Biblical references in my writing because the method of “proof-textingis terribly problematic. Yes – it can show the Biblical roots beneath a statement, but it also can be used to give the appearance that a statement is supported by Biblical authority when it isn’t.

And Justin, as one who has personally read McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, I can speak from first-hand experience that you will find zero arguments from Scripture in that book to support his thesis. As a matter of fact, I also know that many Emergents won’t argue their positions from the Bible itself because they don’t necessarily think that verses of Scripture can be rightly divided (see–2 Timothy 2:15). Men and women, here is what this “conversation” actually ends up being about; the rebellious denial of authority while they sit around discussing each other’s opinions about the Christian faith while trying to come to some group consensus of what they would like the Bible to be saying.

Now whether they even realize it or not is irrelevant, for this is exactly what the Emergent Church movement has now come to. We see here the inevitable result of the relativistic view toward truth inherent in the skepticism of the postmodern “a-logical” thought process. This is the same approach they use in Church history as well, picking and choosing what they happen to like and then simply “re-imagining” (read: reinterpreting) the rest in their cookie-cutter approach to Christianity. And sadly they are getting away with it right now because the Christian Church does not have a voice like Dr. Martin to point out this type of logical inconsistency anymore.

The initial problem we have with the above statements from McLaren are the straw men he erects as he seemingly makes his point. When I listen to leaders within the Emergent Church I am reminded of this Scripture – The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him (Proverbs 17:18). For the sake of argument here, we’ll just assume that McLaren is serious and he really wishes us to go to the Bible and look at the Gospel. But first let me correct his misunderstanding about those of us who would believe that the Protestant Reformation rescued the Gospel from an apostate Roman Catholic Church. The interviewer recalls something McLaren wrote and says:

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.

And then in his inimitable “style” McLaren answers with a question – “What do you mean when you say ‘the gospel?’” Before we go on it’s important to correct this Emergent misrepresentation of our position here. No one is claiming to have “perfectly” defined every aspect that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would touch upon since one would actually have to be God in order to understand anything “perfectly” in the first place. McLaren is simply exaggerating the apparent “danger” here in order to create the supposed need for his Emergent Church. Get rid of the “problem” that this schismatic group feels it needs to be the harbinger of, and one ceases to need this movement to call the Church back to their patchwork “cut and paste” version of Christianity and the Gospel.

However, it is safe to say that the Christian Church has an adequate enough understanding of what our Master has sent us to preach as first and foremost in His Gospel, and this is clear from the highlighted part of our initial text: Be ye reconciled to God. Simple logic will tell you that if you have to be reconciled to God, it is then quite obvious that you were not reconciled before. Dr. Samuel Mikolaski’s insightful comment about the Gospel is helpful here:

Apostolic faith was not a casket of ethical virtues, important as these are; it was a testimony to God’s salvation provided through Christ’s Cross. Only the deity of Christ, the gratuitousness of forgiveness through the death of the Cross, and the appropriate human response of faith could overcome the deep-seated sociological barriers among the first Jewish Christians and extend the Christian faith from them to the entire Gentile world.

The earliest Christian preaching was to Jews. The original Jewish apostles preached the death of Christ as the atonement and basis for forgiveness in connection with witness to his messiahship. Paul’s defense of his preaching to Gentiles (notably in Acts, Romans, and Galatians) is based on a summary of the gospel as common ground for all believers, including himself and the other apostles.

Fundamentally, therefore, the issue of the gospel is the issue of Jesus Christ, his incarnate life as true man and true God, his death and resurrection, and the forgiveness of sins through faith in him. The gospel is thus not only the starting point of the church; it is the point of meeting among the apostles, the hallmark of all that is truly Christian throughout the NT, and the point of meeting for faith and conduct of all Christians (“The Theology of the New Testament,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, CD Rom).

Only One Name, One Gospel

Returning to the first and most important point of the preaching of the Gospel, soteriology, we look at Acts 4:12 – Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Verse 10 tells us exclusively what Name we are talking about – Jesus Christ of Nazareth. When you consider that the Greek word for “name” here is onoma and it means “character, power, authority,” and is not referring to the name “Jesus” itself, but rather to Who He is, then we understand what God the Holy Spirit is telling us here in this passage of Scripture. Christianity is the exclusive path to God because it’s Founder–Christ Jesus of Nazareth–is the only One Who has the character, power and authority to save anyone for He is the Creator God Himself come into His Own creation in human form. And we might wish to keep in mind here that this message is being delivered by Peter to Jewish people, some of whom had actually participated in bringing about the crucifixion of Christ.

Next we turn to this section of McLaren’s question and answer session above where McLaren asks the interviewer: “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?

Yes Brian McLaren, those of us who are truly sent by Christ are sure this is the Gospel because Jesus Christ Himself can clear away your apparent confusion about the very heart of the Christian faith you purport to represent. The eyewitness testimony of the Apostle John informs us that from the cross our Lord literally said – “It is finished” (John 19:30)–tetelestai–paid in full. Hence we see the absolute truth of one the very most essential of cardinal doctrines of the historic (not so generous) orthodox Christian Church, that being the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins on the cross. John, who would be in a very good position to know all of this first hand–as well as by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit–makes this very clear when he writes – Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (KJV). The NIV reads – This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Which brings us to Paul’s clear delineation of the Apostolic doctrine of the Gospel they preached right in Holy Scripture. Here it is in all its exclusive and beautiful simplicity:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, KJV)

In my writings about Roman Catholicism I have previously pointed out that God the Holy Spirit, looking down the corridors of time to the counterfeit cult-like apostate Church of Rome and to the advent of non-Christian cults like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–into the area the Emergent Church movement has headed–made sure that the actual Gospel that was preached by the true Apostles of Jesus Christ was preserved right within the very sacred texts of God’s infallible and inerrant Word in the Bible. Why, the skeptical among us might even think that God had even meant for it to be preserved.

For a more detailed look at the Emerging view of the atonement I refer you to “Brian McLaren In Denial”, but since it is now pretty clear that the above from 1 Corinthians 15 is not the same Gospel that is preached by McLaren; a further search of the Scriptures at his behest reveals something that McLaren et all had best note with absolute certainty:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:6-9)

We need to recover the warrior’s spirit of the early Christians who were willing to literally face death rather than compromise the message of the Gospel. The Reformers we profess to admire had it, and this issue before us is much like that of the Reformation itself. Are we going to stand for what the Bible itself says about salvation, or unlike the Reformers, will we capitulate to this schismatic sect emerging away from us. Remember it is written:

“The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured” (Isaiah 8:13-15).

Do you really think that this is simply a historic prophesy for the nation of Israel? No, it has a second application for all sinners in this Age of Grace. And look at verse 20 of Isaiah 8 – To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Is what you’re hearing from the Emergent Church according to the actual historic witness of the Church? Ah, but the imagery of the rock that makes them fall goes back further to Psalm 118:22-23 – The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Then Isaiah 8:14-15 above once again, this time from the King James VersionAnd he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.

Our Lord then applies this to Himself when Matthew reports that – Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’ ?” (Matthew 21:42). By the way, this proof text method of teaching Scripture used here by the Master Teacher Himself has been referred to by Emergents as “The Devil’s Hermeneutic.” But later the Apostle Peter–who was standing right there when Jesus said this–apparently also uses the so-called “Devil’s” exegesis when He confirms Matthew’s eyewitness account of Christ’s use of this Scripture when he writes – Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (1 Peter 2:7-8).

Let Us Go Outside The Camp

Men and women, the time has come to stop playing spiritual Russian Roulette with this Emergent cult and for you to begin putting pressure on your pastors and denominational leaders to speak out against this blatant attack upon your young men and women. The Christian message has never been one of inclusivism, it is an offense to preach about a Rock that will cause men to stumble. We can see this from the very early pages of the Bible if we will but follow this advice from Scripture – if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:3-6). This is a large part of what Christ is telling us in Matthew 7:7 when He says – Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Ask God to open your eyes and you will see what I tell you here is true, when we stumble we fall, and to fall will often hurt.

Listen here, and see if you can hear what He’s telling you; the Lord is looking for us to turn our back on false man-pleasing teachings like those of Rick Warren, and more specifically to this article, those of the Emergent Church leaders. Then let us be brave enough to go outside the camp of worldly seeker sensitive Christian teachings. The foundation for this separation from the world is found in the very system of animal sacrifice itself, which we know is a “type,” or picture, that Christ would be coming into the world as the Ultimate Sacrifice. Now look at what else we need to know about this sacrifice, burn the bull’s flesh and its hide and its offal outside the camp. It is a sin offering (Exodus 29:14). And where did Moses go to meet with the LORD; Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp (Exodus 33:7).

As we turn now to the Book of Hebrews, we do know very clearly that the human author of this Book of the Bible was no doubt a Hebrew scholar of the highest order. With all of this in mind, see if this makes more sense to you now. The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood (Hebrews 13:11-12). And then we should have the full picture of what God the Holy Spirit is teaching us as we come to verse 13 – Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. Now can you see that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ was never meant to be a man-pleasing teaching of world dominion through some alleged “kingdom of God” on earth?

This is behind what Paul was saying when he told the Galatians that he wasn’t trying to please men – Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished (Galatians 5:11). And then again to the Christians in Corinth – For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (1 Corinthians 1:17-19).

Can you see now the importance of preaching the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).

The only question left is: When will the leaders within the Evangelical community finally grow a backbone and expel this evil Emergent Church movement from its ranks before it devours any more of our young? Where are the voices of men like Dr. John MacArthur who authored Ashamed Of The Gospel and Hard To Believe? Is this “inclusive” gospel of Emergent that I have been showing you denies the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ our Lord compatible with what MacArthur has written about in those books? Of course not; then when these counterfeit Christian prophets are going to be teaching under the guise of orthodoxy at Zondervan’s National Pastor’s Conference 2006 hasn’t the time fully arrived in The New Downgrade No-Controversy for voices such as MacArthur’s to finally be raised?

And you may mark my words, if this spiritual cancer is not cut out of the Body of Christ, then through this upcoming Zondervan Conference it will metastasize all throughout the mainstream of the Body of Christ–our Lord’s Church–and this new liberalism will surely kill Evangelicalism just as its older spiritual sister once killed the mainline denominations.

Let those who have an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches…