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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.

Friday, January 11, 2008

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

(Notice the fighter jets on the upper left side polluting the atmosphere. When Bri flies internationally he only uses non-toxic gas emitting airliners. Also, there's a picture of Osama bin Laden on the cover. Apparently, neither Putin nor Castro were available. Bush was out taunting the "insurgents" at Gitmo.)

The Arrogance Factor Increases

Bri is a lot like Dan “the Sensitive One” Kimball, who is a lot like Rob and Kristen Bell, a.k.a. the Confused Couple. What do all of these emergent non-leader leaders have in common? Well, it’s a disdain for many Christians, especially those who don’t share their non-leader leader leading. Chapter 5 of Bri’s new book on Jesus, the global crises, and a Revolution of Hope is entitled, “Second Thoughts Had Come to Stay.” Like Dan the Sensitive, Bri wants us to stop criticizing the young people and to cease asking “What wrong with them?”[1] I’m not certain why we should stop asking that question, since almost every generation has asked it, but Bri believes we should rather ask, “What’s wrong with us?” How does one proceed to this high level of self-examination?

Well, it doesn’t come easily, but if you hang with Bri and the right crowd you’ll eventually get there. As a matter of fact, Bri is willing to share an outline with us of how you journey—I wanted to say “arrive,” but that isn’t cool in the emergent amorphous chit-chat—and come to the correct conclusions. (In the emergent conversation, you don’t ever actually arrive, you simply journey on happily hoping against hope that you’re heading in the right direction, but you’re never really certain—about anything, least of all what Scripture says. Anyway, Bri believes the former question smacks of superficiality. So how do you get beyond being an ignoramus? First, you need to be a thoughtful person and surround yourself with “thoughtful leaders.”[2] These thoughtful folks are a lot better than the clueless dolts that are running the show now and—and this will come as a huge surprise—they tend to think and believe pretty much like old Bri. This is known as openness and toleration. Here’s Bri’s solution: “Then some thoughtful leaders go a little deeper, addressing the need to be relevant to culture and to contextualize their ministry for today’s world.”[3] It seems that even those of us who are superficial and not thoughtful leaders understand that there is a need to be relevant to culture and to—to a greater or lesser degree—contextualize our ministry.

The question is, however: How ought we to be relevant? That question ought to be posed only after we clearly define what the word “relevant” means. What I find missing from Bri’s thoughtful rendition of ministry is where the notion of the “antithesis” or of Christians being “counter-cultural” fits into his scheme of things vis-à-vis our contextualization. I say this, because up to this point, it appears that Bri has simply bought off the secular, politically correct notions of culture. Why, Bri and the gang have not yet bothered to provide us with a working definition of “culture” or given us any breakdown of the differences between high and pop culture. But why worry about that when you have to deal with young people learning about the “dark side of the Christian religion’s track record...the Crusades, witch burnings, colonialism, slavery, the Holocaust, apartheid, environmental irresponsibility, mistreatment of women”?[4] Goodness, I wasn’t aware of the fact that some of these things were the fault of Christians. The Holocaust? I realize that Hitler had his Reichs bishop, Müller, but he was hardly a Christian. In less thoughtful circles this might constitute Christian bashing.

The upshot of Bri’s being a thoughtful leader was that young people started caring about these issues.[5] That helps. To make matters worse, “Too often, they realized, Christians through history have played on the wrong side of these issues.”[6] This type of gross generalization is precisely what plagues the emergent crowd. McLaren is notorious for this type of thing as we shall see as we progress. Granted, Christians have made their share of mistakes, but it’s a stretch to say, for example, that Christians have a dark side of the Christian track record in environmental irresponsibility. In fact, many Christians have spoken out for a long time about the creation mandate of caring for God’s good green earth. Since Bri wants us to ponder global issues, one can only wonder why Bri doesn’t come down hard on China, who has been one of the planet’s worst offenders as far as pollution is concerned.

When Christians did manage to have a “lucid interval” on moral issues, they were, according to Bri effective in creating more heat than light.[7] Bri, in his one-volume pseudo-ethics book has managed to undo the history of Christian involvement with another of his thoughtfulstatements. Most of us un-thoughtful folks thought that the Christian influence in our culture had been positive in restraining sin, but thankfully thoughtful Bri has set the record straight for us.

If you are a thoughtful and reflective Christian leader (apparently, there haven’t been that many prior to Bri and N.T. Wright), you’ll begin to realize that a number of young people today see Christianity as a “failed religion.”[8] Here’s how far off base Bri is: “it (Christianity) has specialized in dealing with ‘spiritual needs’ to the exclusion of physical and social needs.”[9] That is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. There is always room for improvement, but this type of blanket statement might fly with the postmodern emergent crowd (of course, none of us can understand them because they’re so thoughtful and reflective), but someone needs to apprise Mr. Birkenstock that there was life before he left teaching English to be a non-seminarian, non-leader leader. He adds, “It has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant social injustices in this life.”[10] Really? When this country was founded, every hospital, every school, every orphanage, and every university was begun and maintained with Christian money. Today, Christians still do a great deal in terms of the physical and social needs of those within and outside the faith. Where in the world does this man get off making such nonsensical statements?

It’s interesting that Bri and N.T. Wright run parallel on a number of issues. For example, another of Bri’s many criticisms of the faith, of which he’s ostensibly a pastor, is that “Christianity has long since focused “on ‘me’ and ‘my soul’ and ‘my spiritual life’ and ‘my eternal destiny,’ but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds.”[11] What might those dominant societal and global realities be and how can Christianity address China’s, Russia’s, North Korea’s, and Iran’s pollution of the planet? Shouldn’t it be patently clear to all that the primary function of the Church is to deal with souls? That doesn’t mean that nothing ever gets done socially, but it also sometimes means that Christianity and local Christian churches don’t run around tooting their horns when they do something. These Bible-thumpers take seriously what Jesus said about your one hand not knowing what the other’s doing. Take the victims of hurricane Katrina. I happen to know that many Christians gave a lot of money, time, and love to the victims of that hurricane. Some are still helping rebuild; and that’s just one instance. These people give of their time and contribute money and thoughtful, reflective Bri only blathers on about systemic dysfunctions of manykinds.

What should be done? If you’re like me, you’re expecting reflective Bri to be explicitly relevant and contextualize this for us lesser lights. Here’s the solution: “Truly good news…would confront systemic injustice, target significant global dysfunctions, and provide hope and resources for making a better world.”[12] Honestly, that sounds like something you’d hear at a Miss America contest, only the contestant would add, “and strive for world peace.” That statement was dripping with so much cheese you could make lasagna with it. What, pray tell, constitutes a “significant global dysfunction”? Who decides? How is it decided? What if someone disagrees? Let’s say that from an ethical standpoint, man-made global warming is considered to be a significant global dysfunction. I’d like to ask a few questions, but before I ask them, I should warn you that I am not among the emergent initiated and would, no doubt, qualify in their book as not very thoughtful because I disagree with them. With that disclaimer here are a few silly questions. First, in discussing global warming, what is the perfect temperature? That is to say, what is the optimal temperature for which we’re striving? Is this to be a universal temperature or does it vary according to the region? If it varies, how do we control it in each region?

Second, what is the average temperature of the earth? At any one time, there are temperature extremes all over the planet. Our oldest granddaughter, who is living with us while attending university out here in Southern California, just returned from Toronto. The day she left it was -25 degrees Celsius. It was in the 70s when she stepped off the plane at LAX. How do we come up with an average, and how do those variations fit in with our desire to slow global warming?

Third, are there potential benefits to global warming? How will we measure our successes or failures? These are all questions I would have expected a thoughtful and reflective man like Bri to answer in his non-leadership ethics book, but we search in vain for any semblance of an answer to any of the non-thoughtful questions I’ve raised. All we get are some silly little graphics. But, hey, maybe that’s the thoughtful, reflective answer. You don’t really need sentient, cogent answers—after all, it’s just a journey—just a few spiffy graphics.

The Story of the Word “Postmodern”

“If you’ve listened to some popular religious broadcasters in recent years, you’ve probably heard simplistic caricatures of the word postmodern.”[13] Bri’s next book—co-authored with N.T. Wright—will be What Postmodernism Really Is. I like the concept of simplistic caricatures because that’s precisely what old Bri has been doing to the Christian faith and to a number of his fellow-brothers and –sisters.

Who rejects or disdains the term postmodern? Why it’s none other than “defenders of the modern Western, colonial version of the Christian religion…”[14] The term postmodernism has left a bad taste in the mouth of these colonialists like other epithets such as secular humanist, New Age, or liberal.[15] But Bri is a stand-up kind of guy. He writes, “We don’t want to reject whatever is good and true in the Christian faith.”[16] How magnanimous of this thoughtful, reflective, non-leader leader! I suppose we’ll first have to discern what is good and true in the Christian faith. We know from the get-go that it’s not the biblical view of homosexuality—both Bri and Dan the Sensitive has clearly manifested that—or the biblical teaching on the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. That’s primitive and obscene. Oh yes, and then we all need to forget the idea of hell even though those who are followers of God according to Jesus—Bri’s words—acknowledge that he spoke more about hell than anyone else in the entire Bible.

So how do we decide what is good and truth in the Christian faith? Here’s Bri’s solution: “But to hold our faith in good conscience, we needed to debug it from the viruses (modern, Western, colonial, imperial, rationalist, reductionist, and other types of viruses) that seem to have invaded its software.”[17] This sounds very much like Bultmann’s program of demythologizing the Bible. If we’re to embrace a “debugged version of the Christian faith” we’ll need to know who, precisely, will present us with this correct version and how we will know that their version—Bri’s version—is the correct one. How do I know that Bri is correct or just being a secular humanist, New Age devotee, or just a liberal? Maybe it’s all of the above.

[1] Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 32.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 33.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 34.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 35.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid. Italics mine.



Blogger Jim W said...

Dr. Gleason, in case I haven't said it before, I really like your writing. Both the style and the substance. Thanks.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Thank you very much! You're kind to take the time out from your schedule to write to me. Have a blessed weekend.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Jonny McCormick said...

nice to see you can at least be civil to the people who agree with you and don't have any questions. pity they're the only people you can be nice to.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Blank Slate said...


stay off the net and read your bible.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

How do you journey that I can only be nice to people who agree with me? How do you journey what the meaning of nice is?
I pity those that you non-lead lead. Journey what I mean?

2:10 PM  
Blogger Jonny McCormick said...

Blank Slate...I don't know who you are...your profile says nothing about you hence your opinion is invalid.

Dr Gleason: Again this comment shows wat a pompous narrow minded fool you really are. You assume that I am from an emergent type church, when if you actually took the time to get to know me, you would find out I'm from a Presbyterian church.


2:46 PM  
Blogger Blank Slate said...



I find most people that respond to most blogs have to high an opinon of themselves (I include me in that pile). Just want you to check your motivation.

Blessings anyhoo.... Blunk

4:13 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

What kind of Presbyterian? PCA or UPUSA? I would really like to journey.
BTW, there are emergents in Presbyterian churches. I journey that.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Jonny McCormick said...

Blank Slate: I have no idea what that means...sorry. Perhaps you can explain further?

Dr Gleason: I am from PCI (Presbyterian Church Ireland). America isn't the only country in the world...haha. Also I believe that yes... some if not most would describe me as emergent, but I believe people have a distorted view of emergent people, or liberal people ( you don't differentiate between the two) just as most people have a distorted view of the Conservative Protestant movement.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...


Okay, okay! Enough with the "journey" thing. Well, maybe not. In all seriousness, there are quite a few Biblically-based, missional church plants out there called, "Journey Church".

But the question of course is, "what do they mean by 'journey'"? For people like Ed Stetzer in the SBC, it means, that in fact God converts people over time instead of praying a prayer in crisis to purchase fire insurance and the preacher gets another notch in his belt and people get to write their own names on the salvation wall. Believe me, for them it's a huge step to a Calvinistic view of salvation (see the H.C. on regeneration).

On the other hand, there are emergent types who journey to God and spiritual self-discovery--maybe it will be in the way of Jesus, maybe not. But who knows.

Even people like Mark Driscoll know (and have said) that people like Bri and Rob are apostate.

And just for kicks, maybe YOU should re-name Grace PCA, "Journey Church" and just see who shows up and maybe God will give the grace to cleanse them from the emergent stuff that has been infecting them. LOL! We all have to be "relevant" right? On second thought, skip that.

Thanks for the "journey" through the emergent church, Ron. It is giving me the willies as I am reaffirmed in what dangers I have previously heard. It's good to have a fellow undershepherd "journey" with us in the midst. "Journey on," Ron! hahaha!

7:18 PM  
Blogger Jim W said...

"On the other hand, there are emergent types who journey to God and spiritual self-discovery--maybe it will be in the way of Jesus, maybe not. But who knows."
Jeff, trying to figure out your meaning here, because this line confuses me (and seems to be a totally different thought from the rest of your statement). It sounds to me like you believe that there any number of ways to God-one of which is "in the way of Jesus". Is this your belief, or am I completely misunderstanding you?

9:37 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...


Sorry to leave that confusion! No! I believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone--with all the glory going to God alone!

There is no salvation any other way than through Jesus, period!

I left that kind of hanging didn't I? I think I meant that for emergents, if you are on a "journey" to God through any way, then they think that's okay.

That's why I agree with Stetzer that the Emergents will be the future of the mainline denominations.

That's all. Sorry "for causing confusion and delay" as Sir Topham Hatt might say.

8:43 PM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...

I actually like Journey. Steve Perry is a great singer.

OOOPS. Not that Journey? Sorry. It's early.

(Just a little attempt to throw some humor to douse the flames)

3:32 AM  
Blogger Jim W said...

Ah, thanks for the clarification, Jeff. You're absolutely correct. I see so many "emergent/ing" churches claiming that they follow God in the way of Jesus-as if there were any other way. That statement always sounds like they picked Jesus because they happen to agree with His philosophy rather than Bhudda, or whoever. I also notice many emergent types never seem to use any book of the Bible other than Matthew (and they always emphasize the Sermon on the Mount).

7:50 AM  
Blogger Mr. Light said...

I always think of Ezekiel when I hear "Wheel in the Sky" by Journey.

2:49 PM  

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