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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Saving the Planet One Left-Wing Position at a Time (II)

God’s Dreams

I’m willing to wager that most Christians were not even aware that God has dreams. Bri has helped us out with the following challenge: “So people interested in being a new kind of Christian will inevitably begin to care more and more about this world, and they’ll want to better understand its most significant problems, and they’ll want to find out how they can fit in with God’s dreams actually coming true down here more often.”[1] At the risk of sounding like a fundamentalist Bible thumper, I’m going to do something that is foreign to Bri: I’m actually going to quote Scripture.

In Isaiah 55:10-11 we read the following: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Where Bri and the creative crew like to speak of God’s “dreams,” God prefers to speak about his sovereignty, his purpose, and his Word succeeding in what God plans for it to do.

Are you interested in being a “new kind of Christian”? Bri hopes so because if you are you will inevitably begin to care more and more about this world. Isn’t that neat? Bri believes in the inevitability of certain cause and effect relationships—not all; just some. You see, when it’s convenient to reject certainty—like penal substitutionary atonement and what Scripture says about homosexuality—Bri likes to latch on to that. At other times, however, he can say with certainty that if you become a new kind of Christian like the Emergent church describes then you will certainly become a tree hugger, a revolutionary (like Jesus), and an activist against global warming in Anchorage, Alaska.

That old Bri is one transparent guy. He confesses that when he began caring about “these things” (ostensibly helping the poor, homosexual marriage, the legitimacy of fossil fuels, and the proliferation of U.S. WMD [pp. 3-4]), he didn’t know where to begin.[2] For many of us, the Bible would have been a very acceptable place, but of course we’re forgetting that he’s not an angry and reactionary fundamentalist, a stuffy traditionalist, a blasé nominalist, or an overly enthused Bible-waving fanatic, but rather fresh, authentic, challenging, and adventurous.[3]

It is encouraging to know that even fresh, authentic, challenging, and adventurous people like Bri struggle like the remainder of us “lesser lights.” How did Bri extricate himself from his conundrum? Well, this will surprise you: he started reading books and talking to “knowledgeable” people.[4] That certainly was an insight for me. My problem is that I don’t know all that many “knowledgeable” people. Most of the people I know are angry, reactionary, stuffy, blasé, and crusading religious imperialists. So here’s what we’ve learn so far and we’re only on page 4: If you want to become one of the inevitable devotees to genuine Bri then you need to read books and talk to “knowledgeable” people, preferably those who are way out in left field like Bri does. As he proceeds Bri will inform us that there are certain books that aren’t really worthwhile reading but fresh, authentic, challenging, and adventurous guy that he is, he will supply us with the “preferred reading list.” Yep. He will also teach us that if the people he cites in his book in a favorable light are “knowledgeable,” then knowledgeable and George Soros are synonyms.

Framing Stories

We all know how postmoderns and emergents like “stories,” just not metanarratives. So adventurous Bri wants to paint a few word pictures for us so that we’ll be more cognizant of the “perfect storm of global crises that are brewing like an undetected hurricane out at sea.” In particular, he likes the metaphor of a suicide machine that co-opts the main mechanisms of our civilization and reprograms them to destroy the ones they should serve like 2001 A Space Odyssey, Matrix, and I, Robot. In his book Bri “suggests” that his image is true, which is a lot like him feeling he had discovered something worth sharing.[5]

So he’s going to lead us on a journey that is almost entirely bereft of Scripture—unless it’s twisted Scripture—based on his feelings and suggestions—oh, yes. And also based on his talks with “knowledgeable” people. This feeling journey will describe “four deep dysfunctions.” At first I thought he was talking about his theology, but then I read on and discovered that he was actually referring to “the prosperity crisis,” “the equity crisis,” “the security crisis,” and “the spirituality crisis.” Let’s break these exciting deep dysfunctions down into “stories” that those of us who are children of a lesser god can grasp.

The prosperity crisis is an “Environmental breakdown caused by our unsustainable global economy, an economy that fails to respect environmental limits even as it succeeds in producing great wealth for about one-third of the world’s population.”[6] Watch out, folks, there’s a hidden agenda here as we shall see!

Second, is the equity crisis, which is inextricably tied to the prosperity crisis. This is “The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor majority (leading them) to envy, resent, and even hate the rich minority—which in turn elicits fear and anger in the rich.”[7] This “crisis” explains at least two things: First, it explains why I envy, resent, and hate Alex Rodriguez; and second it explains why Barbra Streisand is so angry. Cindy Sheehan is still an enigma.

Third is the security crisis. This is “The danger of cataclysmic war arising from the intensifying resentment and fear among various groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum.”[8] Without a doubt that is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Does authentic Bri actually expect us to believe that we’re in danger of a cataclysmic war from a tribe in Bora Bora that makes goat cheese by candlelight? What are they going to do? Invent an intercontinental mud clod that they hurl at us at Mach 4? Or, does Bri expect that the U.S. will bully some poor country like our history shows that we have done repeatedly? I mean, really, isn’t it patently clear that whenever disaster has struck we’ve been the last to help? Heck, America hardly ever helps anyone and it’s always looking to pick on some poor underdeveloped country. Yep. Bri’s right on the mark again.

Finally, there is the spirituality crisis. What might that be? It is “The failure of the world’s religions, especially its two largest religions, to provide a framing story capable of healing or reducing the three previous crisis.”[9] It’s difficult to provide a framing story capable of healing with C-4 strapped around you. Of course, Bri hasn’t stopped to consider the anomalies of expecting jihadists to heal anything. These are the folks that consider TV dangerous, but routinely carry live ammo in their robes and were amazed to find that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs. Yep, these are the folks we want to join forces with in eradicating the spiritual crisis facing us today.

What is a “framing story” anyway? Good of you to ask because Bri has the answer: “By framing story, I mean a story that gives people direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for their lives.”[10] Moreover, “It tells them who they are, where they come from, where they are, what’s going on, where things are going, and what they should do.”[11] In this sense, a good GPS might be what Bri has in mind apart from the nice voice telling me who I am. When you analyze his statement, a framing story could be just about anything or whatever you want to make it. There are any number of ideologies out there that offer direction, values, vision, and inspiration. How do you choose? How do you know? Does it matter which ideology you choose? Is Marxism on an equal par with Christianity? Are Islam and Christianity pretty much the same? What if your framing story is smuggling drugs into the country to make big bucks? What if it’s being a coyote that smuggles illegal aliens into the country? What if it’s jihad? In the course of the book authentic Bri never gets around to answering these questions.

But when you stop and reflect upon what he’s trying to achieve, you really do have to cut him some slack. As we shall see, he is setting out first to ask what the biggest problems in the world are[12] and what Jesus has to say about these global problems.[13] This is a good place to pause before we move on to listen to who Jesus is, because Bri is convinced—although he never tells us why—that Jesus was unique, brilliant, and wise.[14] That’s it? In a book that is suggesting that everything must change this is the best he can do? Put in other terms, Bri is a “follower of God in the way of Jesus,”[15] which begs the question if there can be other equally viable “followers of God” in the way of “fill-in-the-blank.” The answer is ostensibly Yes because we’re told that “Muslims revere Jesus as a great prophet”[16] and “even nonreligious people (16 percent) admire Jesus.”[17] This is some of the most nauseating drivel. All you have to do is to revere Jesus as a great prophet and you’re a follower of some god. Heck, even some raw pagans will acknowledge that Jesus was a prophet. What in the world does it mean to “admire” Jesus? Bri seems to neglect or overlook a small point between Scripture and the Koran. God forbids people to add to or take away from the words that he has revealed (cf. Deut. 4:1-2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). To him, it’s all of a piece; it’s all the same as long as you are a follower of God. Bri is willing to put aside the burning questions of whether God’s revelation to man is infallibly and inerrantly true if he can get to the larger questions of the relationship of Jesus and the world’s top problems.[18] We’ll delve more deeply into this matter in coming issues. We’re heading towards the Age of Aquarius—or, did we already do that? Someone crank up the CD of Cat Stevens singing Peace Train.

Adventurous Bri believes that we can have a better “framing story” than we currently proclaim and Christians like him “can discover a fresh vision of our religion’s founder and his message, a potentially revolutionary vision that could change everything for us and the world we inhabit.”[19] Two things here: First, it could change everything, but then again it could change nothing. Bri’s not offering guarantees. Second, Bri takes us back to the 1960s and the “Jesus was a Revolutionary” motif. Jesus or Che Guevara—both were revolutionaries.

You would have thought that the Jesus the Revolutionary thing would have worn very thin by now, but Bri is willing to resurrect it for his purposes because there are enough mushy minds out there willing to jettison the “Jesus for the Unchurched” model for “Jesus the Revolutionary.” Here’s an angle authentic Bri might not have considered because he’s been so busy trashing stuffy traditionalists: Jesus was less of a revolutionary than he was a reformer. Back in the day, the Dutch statesman Groen van Prinsterer wrote an intriguing work with the translated title Unbelief and Revolution. Rather than embracing and reveling in the notion of revolution, Groen outlined how revolution was a product of the Enlightenment, especially that aspect that dispensed with the “God hypothesis.” The twin sister of revolution remains unbelief.

Yet fresh old Bri is convinced that we can rediscover what it can mean to call Jesus Savior and Lord “when we raise the question of what exactly he intended to save us from.”[20] This might come as a surprise for you especially since you probably thought you had a clue why Jesus came to save us. The problem is that you just have not been reading enough books and talking to “knowledgeable” people. We must move away from “The popular and domesticated Jesus, who has become little more than a chrome-plated hood ornament on the guzzling Hummer of Western civilization” Jesus and replace him “with a more radical, saving, and, I believe, real Jesus.”[21] I’m at a loss to know when precisely Jesus became popular or when he became a hood ornament on a Hummer, but if we stick with Bri he will introduce us to the real Jesus. Since I’ve read the book, let me briefly describe the real Jesus for you. He wears Birkenstocks and drinks a lot of Starbucks coffee. He’s big into flying all over the country on jet fuel guzzling jumbo jets. He likes Putumayo Mali, U2, Harp 46, and Carrie Newcomer. He does not like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, or Ann Coulter. He does like Tammy Bruce not because she’s conservative, but because she’s a lesbian. He is deeply concerned about the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a socialist who gets giddy when he talks about the redistribution of wealth. The real Jesus is in favor of universal health care and homosexual marriage. He loves Al Gore, is a pacifist, had no clue what the covenant of grace was all about, was a flaming Arminian if not a Pelagian, and tried to explain that he didn’t come so that people might just be saved but so that they’d leave their carbon footprint all over the planet as they rectified the global economy and global warming—or freezing. Whatever.

Let me close by giving you how horribly twisted McLaren is. He is an iron first in a velvet glove. According to his upbringing, he tells us, Mary’s Magnificat is all wrong. (Note to Emergents: Since your knowledge of Scripture is so impoverished I should warn you that Mary’s Magnificat has nothing to do with cars or her son as a hood ornament.) Here is what Bri believes most Christians believe Mary was saying:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my personal Savior, for he has been mindful of the correct saving faith of his servant. My spirit will go to heaven when my body dies, for the Mighty One has provided forgiveness, assurance, and eternal security for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who have correct saving faith and orthodox articulations of belief, from generation to generation. He will overcome the damning effects of original sin with his mighty arm he will damn to hell those who believe they can be saved through their own efforts or through any religion other than the new one he is about to form. He will condemn followers of other religions to hell but bring to heaven those with correct belief. He has filled correct believers with spiritual blessings but will send those who are not elect to hell forever. He has helped those with correct doctrinal understanding, remembering to be merciful to those who believe correct theories of atonement, just as our preferred theologians through history have articulated.”[22]

For anyone with a brain, this speaks volumes and it ought to incense you, but I’m sure that emergents with their twisted, tortured illogic will find a way to justify Bri and condemn the Church’s preferred theologians. The man is disgusting and his theology is worse. How certain of my colleagues in the PCA can find this even mildly amusing is beyond me, let alone how they can be moving in the emergent direction and think they’re still Presbyterians.

[1] Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 4. Italics mine.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 2-3.

[4] Ibid., 4.

[5] Ibid., 5, 4.

[6] Ibid., 5.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 6.

[12] Ibid., 11.

[13] Ibid., 12.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., 13.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid., 12.

[19] Ibid. Italics mine.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., 103. Italics mine.



Blogger SolaMeanie said...


As I read this analysis, I just shake my head in wonder. How anyone who claims to be evangelical could embrace the ideas McLaren is articulating is beyond me. But embrace them they are. And just look at the trail of split churches, broken friendships and deceived people. That's real spiritual fruit, isn't it?


4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

My favorite “framing story” is the Kuyperian idea of “sphere sovereignty”…it is through the realization of this notion that the Netherlands have become a beacon among nations as a sober and just Christian state. Now when people think of Amsterdam they think of Christian purity and holiness.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

What was true during Kuyper's day sadly no longer is--or has been--the case. I lived in Holland for 10 years and there was precious little of Kuyper's or Bavinck's influence. Holland is one of the most corrupt and decadent countries in Europe. If people think of Christian purity and holiness when they think of Amsterdam, then they haven't been to Holland for a long time!
Lord willing, I will finish the first draft of the Bavinck biography today.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Is this decline due to the notion of ‘common grace’ overshadowing the ‘doctrine of the antithesis’?

7:54 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

In part, yes. There was more. Kuyper was not the greatest Prime Minister Holland had, but he was a solid Christian. I cover all this in the biography.

8:38 AM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...

I know that the Natalee Holloway case has little to do with the Emergent Church, but I couldn't help thinking of it in connection with your comments on Holland. Aruba is administered by Holland to some extent, and the whole Keystone Cops approach to the case, and the way so many there are apologizing for Joran Van Der Sloot and the Kalpoes is maddening. When you look at the way Van Der Sloot was acting previous to this i.e. a very loose lifestyle and being served in bars while underage is telling.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Brooks said...

"He is an iron fist in a velvet glove." Isn't that like most of the liberals? Despite all their feigned mushiness and sensitivity it is their way or the highway.

And, of course, the framing story we must use is their framing story because even though they don't know anything for sure, they are sure they know more and better than the rest of us.

Same gnostic drivel from the enlightened ones with new packaging and buzz words.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Yes, it is true of liberals. They are warm, fuzzy, and sensitive until you disagree and then you're the antichrist--that is, if they believe the antichrist thing.
I'm finishing up the Bavinck biography and one of Bavinck's last addresses dealing with Dogmatics is entitled "Modernism and Orthodoxy." Readers might be surprised to find how much overlap there is between then and McLaren and the tribal conversationalists now.

2:22 PM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...


As you are aware, there's been a running debate over at my blog with an EC. He said something in the course of that debate that keeps coming up in a lot of these "conversations," and I'd like your take on it.

It's the notion that the idea of absolute truth wasn't around until the Greeks came up with it. I think that's hogwash, quite honestly. God Himself is absolute truth personified, and the way He created us to engage one another by necessity involves propositional truth. Aren't these guys giving pagan philosophers too much credit?

7:58 PM  
Blogger Dr Fin said...


Found this quote shortly after reading your post. It's about the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, but it fits McLaren, too

'Lately [Schori] has been speaking frequently of "the dream of God." Where does this idea of God "dreaming" come from? It is a thoroughly anthropocentric notion transferred from human beings to God. The old men who dream dreams in the book of Joel are not God. The vision of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 61, which she often cites, is not a dream. God does not have a dream.

God has a purpose. And his purpose, as no prophet makes more clear than Isaiah, cannot be thwarted by any failure of human beings. God is not lying around dreaming, waiting for us to bestir ourselves. God, as Isaiah tirelessly proclaims, is on the move.'

8:17 PM  
Blogger Dr Fin said...

Sorry. The quote is from Fleming Rutledge.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Dr. Fin,
Very helpful! Thanks for sending the quote along!

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't agree with McLaren, you know me better than that. But let me ask you this:

Would you agree that God has desires or wishes that, admittedly, in His Sovereignty does not come true?

I'm thinking of something like the "desire" of God, for example, this pleases God our Savior who desires that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy) that will not come true (even though His sovereign plans are different)?

The problem with the concept of "the dreams of God", at least in my mind, is that it assumes the openness of God (aka Open Theism).

Most definitely, God's plans will come to pass. The wisdom Scriptures teach us more than once that "The counsel of the Lord will prevail."

But can we say that God's heart desires that all humans be saved, while sovereignly making sure that His chosen ones will be saved from His wrath, because people don't desire it, even if God does.

No, God does not have dreams, as humans do that will not come to pass. Certainly, God desires things that don't come to pass--that we be holy, for instance. Right? Challenge me if and where I'm wrong on this. I want to be theologically sharp, not slack (to be magnanimous and generous) like McLaren and Schori.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Pastor St. John said...

I don't find B.M. approach amusing, but I find it tiring. There is so much that is wrong and misleading, and so many battles to be fought, we need supernatural strength to keep on keeping on. You are doing so, and I admire your stamina.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:15 PM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...


Doesn't the Lord call people an "abomination" and other names when they do evil?

As for dreams, those are involuntary human events. If something happens to God involuntarily, that makes Him less than God by definition. It is certainly possible that Jesus might have dreamed dreams in His humanity while on Earth, but we don't know, and I will not be so presumptuous as to speculate. But the idea of God having dreams -- unrequited or otherwise -- is a real stretch. For God, dreams are entirely unnecessary.

I think the difference between you and me is that you take the silences of Scripture to mean you can throw in everything but the kitchen sink. I think it is much safer and wise to be content with what God has revealed.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

So when John called the Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers (cf. Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7) and Jesus does the same (Matt. 12:34; 23:33) and Hypocrites (throughout the gospels) were those two men fulfilling Micah?
How do we know that Jesus didn't ride a unicorn. It isn't in the Bible.
In case you haven't read the pertinent sections of Scripture lately a true leader of God's people is to protect them from error and heretical teaching. It might be helpful for you to re-read--or read for the first time--what you're supposed to be doing. Do not give them stone for bread and be a good shepherd who sees the fox and makes a cute joke about it. Souls are on the line and at state here.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...


You should be careful, because what you suggest is bordering on blasphemy. God did not gain anything by becoming incarnate. He has always possessed the fullness of Himself. Taking on human flesh was not necessary for Him, it was necessary for us. The suggestion that God, in His divinity, has or has had "dreams" is nonsense. God, who declares the beginning from the end, does not have "dreams" or "hopes" or "aspirations" as humans do. The humanity of Jesus is distinct from His divinity.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Randy wrote: "I don't want us to forget about the full humanity of God less we allow our theology to create a God other than the Scriptures."

Slow down cowboy! The "full humanity of God" is an ontological statement when it is framed that way. Ontologically, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Be very careful Randy.

Dr. Gleason, I am really excited about your Bavinck biography. Let me know when it comes time to promote it. I'll give you free advertising on my blog! I took the Bavinck sticker that you gave me and I stuck it on the panel of one of my bookcases. Guests read it and ask, "What's a Bavinck?" :)

12:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Brooks said...

Come on Randy.

#1. Psalm 121:4 tells us He neither sleeps not slumbers. He therefore is eternally concious. So He can't have nocturnal dreams.

#2. Jesus did not have dreams and hopes as we do. He knew His purpose, why He came and what He was to do. John 12:27, 18:35; Luke 4:43, 19:10. Dreams and hopes are what we wish would happen. Jesus knew what would happen as He told His disciples on many occasions. In John 4:34 He states that His very food is to do the will of the Father who sent Him. And if you will bother to take the time read through John you will see the word sent over and over again, which means God sent Him with a particular purpose, which Jesus understood and was carrying out.

Saying Christ or the Father had dreams and hopes indicates the Godhead wasn't sure about what would happen, which is an Open Theism view. Not only that, but it would lead to thinking that there was not complete harmony in the Godhead. Jesus did not have dreams or hopes, He had a purpose, and that was to carry out the Father's plan, and that was the only thing He was concerned about.

God is not like us, so we don't need to try to make Him like us. We need to be more like Him, and your wallowing around in this theological mish mash won't get you there.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

One small corrective. Jesus was like us in every way--except sin.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Brooks said...

Absolutely, Ron. I was refering to the new trend a la John Eldredge in Wild at Heart, in which he is attributing the characteristics of fallen man to God. It does have an Open Theistic view even though Eldredge denies being an Open Theist.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

thanks Ron. :) It must be Christmas as we've agreed on something. :)

8:22 PM  
Blogger Ebenezer Erskine said...

I like what you have to say here, you may have an ally in my blog. Please come and check out my mission, I think you will be in agreement.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Thanks for dropping by. I went to your blog. Interesting. We might disagree on the exclusive psalmody thing, but when I was in Holland and Canada we sang primarily psalms, but with instrumental accompaniment.
Please keep in touch.

6:39 PM  

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