For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NASB)

Panentheism Is The Bridge To Unity With Eastern Religions

I have previously attempted to make influential leaders within the Body of Christ aware–to no apparent avail–of the issue concerning a New Age panentheism which has crept into doctrine of Emergent Guru Brian McLaren. So what I feel I must do now is to make this information as accessible as I can to the Church at large. In short, panentheism is the belief that the creation itself is part of God, though God Himself remains transcendent from it.

What we mean to say here is that this is distinct from the pantheism which forms the basis for eastern religions like Hinduism and Zen Buddhism. Pantheism says “as drops of water together form the ocean, so we all together form God.” In the strictest sense of pantheism God is actually an impersonal “it” similar to the force in Star Wars, and the goal of most pantheists is to melt back into it as they return to the blessed nothingness of a Nirvana.

Panentheism on the other hand does see God as a conscious Being that created the universe but He created it as a part of Himself. Alan Jones, the author of Reimaging Christianity says God created it by breathing in because there was nowhere else that wasn’t already God. Upon thorough examination this is the belief which appears more and more evident in the teachings of Brian McLaren. As usual however, he personally is extrememly vague so one cannot completely pin him down, it truly is similar to attempting to grasp oil in your hand.

But it is precisely at this point where I call for people to finally begin to see that even this kind of evasiveness is not consistent with the role of an evangelical Christian pastor-teacher (e.g. 2 Timothy 2:23-26). It is simply beyond question that McLaren claims the title teacher and that he is deriving income from his sowing spiritual seed (see–1 Cor. 9:11) amidst the evangelical community. As such then we simply must investigate his doctrine closely, as well as his associations, and McLaren must be called to account for what he is teaching to the Church in Christ’s Name. And as the time grows short, and as the sky grows a deeper shade of red each morning, the time has arrived when we must be much more direct in our approach here.

Please know I am not in the least a “conspiracy theory” person and I apologize if I may have seemed too harsh to some in approaching this critical emerging issue, but I simply see no need to have a “conversation” with people who are for the most part opposed to the concept of rational thought. So I offer that, if my opinion is correct that God is giving these men like Brian McLaren and possibly others in the leadership of the Emergent Church over to this panentheism of so-called New Light, then there wouldn’t be a need for the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement in their minds.

Think with me here, if you will, keeping in mind what I have already explained about panetheism; if the world is all a part of God anyway, then all that God created would already be divine. And since this would include mankind, then to the panentheist human beings would also have to be considered as a part of God, or deity. In eastern religions and in New Age terminology this is usually referred to the Higher or True Self, which you will see in coming articles is considered to be God.

Vampire Christians And A Morally Mystical Atonement

As a result of this doctrine of panentheism, at most all that would be necessary for a McLaren or a Leonard Sweet and/or an Alan Jones, would be a reconciling of the sinful living creation back to God. This would then explain McLaren’s personal hedging when asked about the Gospel:

Theory of Atonement

Could you elaborate on your personal theory of atonement? If God wanted to forgive us, why didn’t he just forgive us? Why did torturing Jesus make things better?

This is such an important and difficult question. I’d recommend, for starters, you read “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross” (by Baker and Green). There will be a sequel to this book in the next year or so, and I’ve contributed a chapter to it.

Short answer: I think the gospel is a many faceted diamond, and atonement is only one facet, and legal models of atonement (which predominate in western Christianity) are only one small portion of that one facet.

Dallas Willard also addresses this issue in “The Divine Conspiracy.” Atonement-centered understandings of the gospel, he says, create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else. He calls us to move beyond a “gospel of sin management” – to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, rather than focusing on an alternative theory of atonement, I’d suggest we ponder the meaning and mission of the kingdom of God.

One would actually expect this kind of non-answer if McLaren is subtly beginning to prepare his flock for the type of New Light panentheism I have laying out previously for you. His view of the atonement would most likely be somewhere between the moral influence theory (God sharing in the sufferings of His creation) and the mystical theory (Christ’s death brought about a deep change on the subconcious level of man), which would certainly be consistent with the mystical bent of the Hollow Men of the Emergent Church as a whole. You see these things are really not new at all, and have already been refuted by some God-fearing and quite able teachers of the Bible.

I admit this idea is “goofy” and New Age, but before you write it off too quickly, keep in mind I have showed you elsewhere the contemporary teachings about panentheism from the writings of both Sallie McFague and Marcus Borg. McLaren is on record as saying he’s familiar with McFague’s work and that he even enjoys it. Also in conjunction with The Center For Spiritual Development McLaren shared platforms this past spring and summer with Borg, who in addition to his foolhardy association with The Jesus Seminar is also a member of The Living Spiritual Teachers project.

And who else is a member of this association of “living teachers” but McLaren’s panentheistic friend Alan Jones. You say: Well, all of this is just guilt by association. Um, you think? But I can tell you this; I myself am also a Christian teacher, as is McLaren, and I am also familiar with McFague’s work. I certainly have no problem whatsoever in telling the world that I most certainly do not enjoy the blasphemous idea that Satan possesses deity. For you see, this is the logical conclusion for the doctrine of panentheism. If the creation itself is actually literally a part of God, which is where they get their idea of a “divine spark” within mankind, then the Devil himself would also have to possess deity because he is also a part of that very same creation of God.