More Brian McLaren & ECM Nonsense
Leader’s Insight: No Cowardly Flip-Flop?
Brian McLaren is doing what I knew inevitably would happen: he is waffling on important doctrines and trying to tell us that they aren’t all that important in reality. He also wants to create an atmosphere where the loving thing to do is be uncertain, pastoral, and seek for the “question beneath the question.” You can find his latest excursion into Emergent Church nonsense at Christianity Today’s web site.
Not too terribly long ago Phil Johnson had the fortitude clearly to state the obvious: that Christianity Today is now apostate. McLaren’s article is merely one more nail in the coffin of apostasy for CT. He begins his short article—that has in the meantime created a firestorm—with a story. What else? A couple approached him after one of his service and asked him where his church stood on homosexuality.
He quips, “That ‘still small voice’ told me not to answer.” I assume he’s referring to Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19, but it would be incomprehensible that if God really were speaking to McLaren in that moment that he would suggest that McLaren not answer their question from Scripture. The best thing any pastor could do in a situation is to explain to them what the Word of God says on the subject.
McLaren tacitly assumed that they were “like most unchurched young adults I meet, who wouldn’t want to be part of an anti-homosexual organization any more than they’d want to be part of a racist or terrorist organization.” Good job. Now we’re equating homosexuality with racism and terrorism. That makes all kinds of sense. The rationale that McLaren gives for not wanting to answer their question escapes reason. He writes, “I hesitate in answering ‘the homosexual question’ not because I’m a cowardly flip-flopper who wants to tickle ears, but because I am a pastor, and pastors have learned from Jesus that there is more to answering a question than being right or even honest: we must also be…pastoral.” (p. 1.)
Taking a flight into psycho-babble McLaren continues, “That means understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hop or assumption that motivates the question.” (Ibid.) That’s a very far cry from Paul’s question to the churches in the region of Galatia when he asked them if he had become their enemy by telling them the truth (cf. Gal. 4:16). It is precisely being pastoral by speaking the truth in love. I particularly dislike the manner in which he juxtaposes being right and honest with being pastoral. Yes, we are to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but we are to speak the truth.
The scriptures do not entreat us to look for the question beneath the question, but to answer the question forthrightly, which to my mind, means to say what Scripture says.
He implicates the rest of the ECM leaders in his dilemma when he states, “Most of the emerging leaders I know share my agony over this question. We fear that the whole issue has been manipulated far more than we realize by political parties seeking to shave percentage points off their opponent’s constituency.” (Ibid. 2). Huh? You mean that when God condemned homosexual practice in the Old Testament and New Testament he was concerned about the Dems and the Republicans?
I would agree that the issue has been manipulated, however, but in another way. The homosexual lobby and the cultural shift that occurred in the 1960s catapulted the homosexual lifestyle into the limelight and tried to make it acceptable. At first, the agenda only sought tolerance. In the course of time, however, toleration came to mean “buy into” or “accept as normal.”
When I read McLaren’s article it was like a double whammy. I lived through the turmoil of the 1960s and still remained a conservative doctrinally and politically. When I lived in Europe and studied there the precise same issues took place there only with this exception: the church capitulated easily and almost without a fight—with notable exception. But the arguments that McLaren and the ECMers are using now are almost identical to the ones I heard in the 1960s and in almost the decade I lived in Europe.
Mr. McLaren is simply dead wrong when he wants us to believe that “we’re pastors, evangelists, church-planters, and disciple-makers, not political cultural warriors.” (Ibid. Italics his.) That is just bunk. If pastors are not also called to be political cultural warriors then who will raise the voice of God against immorality, greed, and corruption in the secular society? It could very be that Mr. McLaren has no stomach for the fight with the purveyors of evil, but he can speak for himself and not for me. If anything, the truth of God needs to be proclaimed from the rooftops both in the Church and in the State. If the pastors are too wimpy to do it, then they should hang up the ecclesiastical jock. Scripture is clear that friendship with the world means enmity with God (James 4:4).
I know that McLaren revels in the idea that he’s not a theologian, but he must have gotten some formal theological training somewhere along the line. Wherever he studied what theology he studied, he should demand a full refund. Why do I say that? Well, I base that on this statement he makes in his article: “Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality.” (Ibid.) That is sheer skúbala (Phil. 3:8). Bruce Ware, professor of theology at Southern Baptist Seminary puts this into perspective for us when he says,
"Today…the primary areas in which Christianity is pressured to conform are on the issues of gender and sexuality. Postmoderns and ethical relativists care little about doctrinal truth claims; these seem to them innocuous, archaic, and irrelevant to life. What they do care about, and care with a vengeance, is whether their feminist agenda and sexual perversions are tolerated endorsed and expanded in an increasingly neo-pagan landscape. Because this is what they care most about, it is precisely here that Christianity is most vulnerable…. I find it instructive that when Paul warns about departures from the faith in the latter days, he lists ethical compromises and the searing of the conscience as the prelude to a full-scale doctrinal apostasy (1 Tim 4:1-5)."
McLaren’s statement that he and others just don’t know what to think about homosexuality is a severe indictment against his theological education as well as against McLaren as a pastor. I would be thoroughly ashamed to make such an admission. God has spoken so clearly in the Bible—remember McLaren has repeatedly told us that the Bible is important to him—and he doesn’t know what he should think about homosexuality. Unbelievable! This, folks, is the state of the Church of Jesus Christ at the front-end of the 21st century and the kind of drivel that CT is more than pleased to print.
To make matters worse, McLaren has the unmitigated gall to say, “We’ve heard all sides, but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say ‘it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.’” (Ibid.) All what sides? Is McLaren insinuating that once you do your biblical exegesis that you then should listen to the “sides,” whatever they are? Isn’t it enough, sufficient that Scripture is clear on the matter? His most ridiculous implication is on the Holy Spirit. When does it seem good to the Holy Spirit? What does it take before the Church realizes that the Holy Spirit will lead us in the truth he deposited in Scripture? McLaren is dodging the issue and claiming to be waiting for the Holy Spirit to let him in on what he’s already written. Time to get that refund, Brian!
I also want to take a personal privilege and vent my spleen on one of McLaren’s smug accusations. Here is what he accuses his colleagues of: “Even if we’re convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful (which we are—RG), we still want to treat gay and lesbian people with more dignity, gentleness, and respect than our colleagues do.” (Ibid.) What a crock. When I lived in Europe I had a great deal of contact with homosexuals. I visited them in the hospitals, prayed with them, wept with them, threw needles and porn down the incinerator chute, and treated them with dignity in life and in death. I take great offense that some Birkenstock liberal for the East Coast has the temerity and arrogance to make such an accusation. The difference is that I didn’t trumpet what I did or make speeches about it. I simply did it. And it is all that that gets me called homophobic every time I say that the Bible condemns the homosexual lifestyle—male and female—as an abomination (Hebrew: to’ebah).
All of this pretended outrage at his colleagues ought to be reserved for those who say that the Bible isn’t clear on the subject. At one congregational meeting I stood and spoke about what the Bible says concerning homosexuality. There were, at the time, a number of male homosexuals in our congregation who defiantly declared that they had no intention of giving up their lifestyle. After the meeting one of them waited for me. This was in 1975 so don’t hold me to the verbatim conversation, but it went something like this: Tell me one more time what the Bible says about homosexuality. I repeated the texts and he spent two days with me, my wife, and our two sons kicking the heroin habit and repenting of his sins.
But for McLaren that’s not the answer. He would rather get us mired down in hermeneutical poppy-cock. “If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships (which ones might he be thinking of?—RG), we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren’t sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn.” (Ibid.) The man is totally inept. Get your refund and get out of the ministry! Now!
Allow me to illustrate what I mean from what the apostle Paul wrote to the Church of our Lord under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 5. The situation is that a man is the congregation is shacked up with his mother-in-law. So what does he say to the church in Corinth? He says, “Listen, folks, this is a nasty problem. Not only that, it’s too multilayered for me and the pastoral ramifications and implications are just staggering! I’d like to be able to be pastoral (of course, he would say this in a particularly saccharine manner, oozing and dripping prayerful Christian dialogical jargon, listening respectfully and disagreeing agreeably), but I simply don’t know what to think about this situation let alone what to do to bring it into line with what God wants.” Yeah, right.
Do you want to know what Mr. McLaren’s solution is? Here comes the culmination of all his pastoral wisdom: “Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we’ll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they’ll be admittedly provisional. We’ll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we’ll speak; if not, we set another five years for ongoing reflection.” (McLaren, p. 2).
I cannot believe that there are people who actually take such nonsense seriously. So for five years (who decided on that number? McLaren?) Christians are to say nothing about homosexuality. Hello! This is not the first time we’ve ever had this conversation! Much has been said throughout the centuries. Personally, I could not care less what some pagan geneticist might conclude about homosexuality; or, yes, even Dr. Phil or Oprah. It is God’s Word that stands above all and everyone everytime. What galls me the most is that McLaren, Bell, Pagitt, Lamott, and others want us to believe that the “homosexual issue” is not clear.
I truly want McLaren and his lemmings to continue along this path. It puts their cards on the table so that all can see. I was convinced at the outset that it was only a matter of time before the ECMers began to show their true colors and McLaren has done us a great service with this article. He concludes with these words, “Welcome to our world. Being ‘right’ isn’t enough.” (Ibid.)
Maybe not, Brian, but it sure beats the garbage you’re peddling as Christianity. In our next few issues we’ll take a look at some of McLaren’s answers to those who responded to this article.
 Bruce Ware, “Ethics in the New Millennium,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 4, No. 1 (Spring 2000): pp. 91-92.