Apprising Ministries has reminded you that the Emerging Church progressive/liberal theologians such as Dr. Philip Clayton of the Transforming Theology network and Tony Jones, heretical “theologian in residence” at the church of his equally heretical quasi-universalist pastor Doug Pagitt, are busy “doing theology.” This is their term for bantering ideas back and forth—that may or may not have anything to do with the Bible—as they continue cobbling together their new postmodern version of Progressive Christian theology, which they’re referring to as “big tent” Emergence Christianity.

In fact, the term big tent itself really concerns the universalism forming the rotten core of this pseudo-Christian neo-liberalism—Liberalism 2.0—now being spread by an upgraded Emerging Church 2.0 throughout the mainstream of evangelicalism. At this point it’s important to remind you again that we are not just talking here about a universalism teaching men will be saved regardless of their religious convictions. Rather what’s under discussion is a Christian Universalism (CU), which does generally see Jesus Christ as the only way that all men will eventually be saved. There are various views but this CU is based upon some type of a universal atonement of Christ on the Cross that sounds a lot like the following from Rob Bell, the Elvis-like rock star pastor of the Emergent Church rebellion against the authority of the Bible:

So this is reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was reconciling “all things, in heaven and on earth, to God.” All things, everywhere. This reality then isn’t something we make come true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.[1]

During this past year in articles like The Emerging Church And The New Progressive Theology On Other Religions I’ve been giving you some glimpses at a few of the sources this Liberalism 2.0 is drawing from, as well as, some of what comprises its spiritually bankrupt theology. For example, Philip Clayton’s current book Transforming Christian Theology cites Hal Taussig, “New Testament professor” at Union Theological Seminary, whom he says gives a “beautiful summary” of this “progressive Christianity”[2]; and here’s what Taussig tells us about this progressive neo-liberal de-formation of the Christian faith in his Grassroots Progressive Christianity: A Quiet Revolution:

4. The belief that Christianity can be vital without claiming to be the best or the only true religion. In contrast to mainstream Christianity’s lukewarm “tolerance” of other religions, progressive Christianity pro-actively asserts that it is not the best or the only. Progressive Christians take pains to simultaneously their own Christian faith and their support of the complete validity of other religions.[3] 

The pious statement likely draws applause, and will certainly please the world, but the problem is the historic, orthodox, Christian faith has never taught “the complete validity of other religions.” I began studying liberal theology many years ago, but as I began to see the EC drifting toward universalism—particularly with the unholy Emergent trinity of PagittJones, and EC guru Brian McLaren—I began to study the works of more recent progressive Christians such as Marcus Borg and Diana Butler Bass. Bascially I simply followed the interlocking concentric circles closing all around Brian Mclaren, who’s always been the EC’s tip-of-the-spear advancing postmodern progressive Christianity.

You may recall that not too long ago McLaren even embarked on a speaking tour with both Borg and Butler Bass, with whom he is good friends. In fact, Diana Butler Bass is also associated with McLaren, his friend Tony Campolo, and new Obama spiritual advisor Jim Wallis in something called Red Letter Christians (RLC). It’s also important for you to know that a founding member of RLC just happens to be Roman Catholic mystic and Christian universalist Richard Rohr, who’s also a Franciscan priest as well as founder of the interspiritual blackhole called Center for Action and Contemplation. And this past year or so Rohr’s really become quite active around EC sectors.[4]

As we watch the development of this Liberalism 2.0 advanced by the EC it’s important that you begin to recognize the names of some of the major proponents; you may rest assured they have an agenda to take over the visible church with A New Kind of Christianity, which is what McLaren’s latest book was about. Now if these people do believe in “the complete validity of other religions,” then quite obviously, we have some form of universalism being taught. Now I’d like to draw your attention to a book, which gives us a glimpse at what this man-centered Liberalism 2.0 looks like; its by Dr. R. Scott Thornton, Director of Sacred Grounds Resource Center and is called Inclusive Christianity: A Progressive Look at Faith. Of this book Richard Rohr says emphatically:

This excellent book deserves a broad reading! Unless we bring R. Scott Thornton’s kind of faith-filled intelligent response to our Scriptures and practice, I see little ability for Christianity to heal, transform our world. With this kind of wisdom, which is merely Jesus’ wisdom, we can do just that![5]

Thorton’s supposedly “faith-filled” progessive Christianity involves universal pluralism as he explains:

Many paths lead people into relationship with God. If I grew up in Indoa, I’d probably be a Hindu; Saudi Arabia, Muslim; Israel, Jew. But I wasn’t. I was born into a Christian family…as I’ve committed more of my life to Christian discipleship, I’ve experienced a transformation that leads me to believe that “the way” taught and modeled by Jesus is a pure reflection of God’s intentional will for humankind. [6]

However, even though the progressive/liberal Christian believes that only they are living the “pure reflection” of the way God would have everyone live, still they acknowledge that there are other “paths” which can also take “into relationship with God.” From About Us—The 8 Points  at the website of The Center For Progressive Christianity:

Point 2: Pluralism
By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who… Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
(Online source, bold mine)

As such then, we’re not surprised that in Thornton’s sermon Grace, delivered at something called The Institute for Progressive Christianity, he takes a shot the doctrine of hell as he tells us we’ve set up bad rules like:

If you do not believe certain things about Jesus you are not “saved”. You are somehow condemned to an eternity of torment in a place called hell. We draw distinct lines in the sand and label some people good and some people evil and propose that those we have labeled evil must be destroyed. I’m sorry to say that if Jesus appeared today, he would have to once again rebel against these barriers in the same way that he did 2000 years ago.[7]

Well, if other paths also lead to God and if, as Philip Clayton puts it, we’re going to “rediscover a deep, vibrant form of incarnational Christian life and faith–one based not on an economy of exclusion but of embrace”[8] then we need to rethink the doctrine of hell now, wouldn’t we; and so they are as you can see e.g. in Razing Hell With Sharon Baker, who even comes highly recommended by EC guru Brian McLaren. You may also recall in Brian McLaren Attacks The Substitutionary Atonement I showed you he has said:

[T]he kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice, right? But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God.

Baker puts it this way:

I’m even more concerned about remaining faithful to the God of love, who loves the worst of the worst, the world’s enemies, including, even, the Hitlers, the Idi Amins, and the Osama bin Ladens of the world. Our traditional views of hell as a place of eternal punishment where unbelievers dwell in undying flames contradict the image of God as merciful, forgiving, and compassionate. (Online source)

At this point, Baker’s postmodern opining deconstruction aside, I’ll remind you that the “traditional views of hell as a place of eternal punishment” is actually derived from God’s inerrant and infallible Word in the Bible so there’s no conflict at all concerning what He’s revealed about Himself and hell. Against this backdrop I’m pleased to bring your attention to the September/October 2010 e-Journal from 9 Marks that’s entitled Hell: Remembering the Awful Reality. Editor Jonathan Leeman tells us:

Wisdom so often in life prescribes moderation. It’s wise to eat with moderation, to speak with moderation, to feel with moderation, some would even say to believe with moderation.

But there’s absolutely nothing moderate about the doctrine of hell. It’s extreme in every way. It’s an extreme idea for the mind. It’s an extreme confrontation for the heart. And it blows against all the rules of social etiquette.

Embracing the reality of hell means setting aside moderation. It means admitting that our sin is dark and heinous to the point of eternal damnation; that the white light of God’s character and glory justly destroys those who have fallen short of his glory; and that that our non-Christians friends have nothing greater to fear. That’s tough to do when you have moderate views of your sin, your friend’s sin, and of God’s glory.

Embracing the reality of hell also means going against the fallen cultural structures and belief systems of this world, all of which conspire together with our own hearts to repeat the serpent’s promise of a moderate outcome, “You will surely not die.”

As hard as it is to stare at the doctrine of hell, surely it must be salubrious to our faith to do so from time to time. It forces us to once again reckon with who God is and who we are. We hope this issue of the 9Marks eJournal will help all of us to do just that. (Online source)

Among other articles in this timely e-Journal you’ll find Pastoral Fearmongering, Manipulation, and Hell by Mark Dever, How Does Hell Glorify God? from James M. Hamilton Jr., and Greg Gilbert‘s Why Hell Is Integral to the Gospel where he brings out what’s happened to those following the spiritual dead-end of progressive Christianity, which is neither progressive, nor Christian:

For some, the horror of the Christian doctrine of hell—that it is a place of eternal, conscious torment where God’s enemies are punished—has led them not just to avert their eyes and minds, but to deny it entirely. “Surely,” they say, “hell is a fictional construct used to oppress people with fear; a God of love would never allow such a place to really exist.” There’s an emotional power to this argument, to be sure. No one, certainly no Christian, likes the idea of hell.

At the same time, this doctrine isn’t just drapery on the side of the Christian worldview, something with no relevance to the structure of the faith itself. Nor is the doctrine of hell an embarrassing, unnecessary, primitive wart that we believe just because we’re told we have to.

On the contrary, the doctrine and reality of hell actually throws the glory of the gospel into sharp relief for us. It helps us to understand just how great God really is, how sinfully wretched we really are, and how unutterably amazing it is that he would show us grace at all. Moreover, the reality of hell—if we don’t push it out of our minds—will focus us, above all, on the task of proclaiming the gospel to those who are in danger of spending eternity there… (Online source)

Which is why I continue to warn such as these I’ve been discussing here; though the progressive/liberal Christians follow a Jesus, in actuality, their glorified social reformer is a phantom who’s essentially Gandhi with a beard. And, because they have gone through the gate [that] is wide out onto the way [which] is easy that leads to destruction (see—Matthew 7:13), a non-existent savior is powerless to help them. And so this is why, in the love of God, we will continue to pray for these deceived progressive/liberals—for whom Christ also died—because there’s still time for them to avoid hell and accept the good news of the glorious Gospel of repentance and the forgivness of sins in the Name of Jesus Christ.


End notes:

[1] Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005], 146, emphasis mine.

[2] Philip Clayton, Transforming Christian Theology [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010], 120.

[3] Bold is his.

[4] Rohr is also a member of an important Emerging Church network I’ve discussed previously e.g. in Emerging Church TransFORM.

[5] R. Scott Thornton, Inclusive Christianity: A Progressive Look at Faith [Pasadena: Hope Publishing House, 2009], back cover.

[6] Ibid., 7.

[7], accessed 9/1/10.

[8], accessed 9/1/10.

See also: