Saving the Planet One Left-Wing Position at a Time (VII)
Recently, we’ve been interacting with John Armstrong, Dan Kimball, and Brian McLaren. Each is slightly different from the other two, but they do have a lot in common. John MacArthur (The Truth War) cites Armstrong saying, “I have been forced, upon deeper reflection about theological method, to give up what I call epistemological certitude.” Armstrong continues, “If there is a foundation in Christian theology, and I believe that there must be, then it is not found in the Church, Scripture, tradition or culture.” Those are highly interesting and telling statements—not to mention chilling statements. It might be helpful for Armstrong to move away from the via negative and tell us what that foundation is and where it might be found. If it is not to be found in the Church, in Scripture, in the Christian tradition, or the culture, many would be interested where it might be. Since Armstrong has moved his church membership to the long-since liberal Reformed Church in America, surely he cannot expect us to believe that the foundation is there.
Dan Kimball believes that the Church is anti-female, homophobic, and that it arrogantly claims that all other religions are wrong. This is just the type of guy you want teaching your family. In order to prove that the Church is homophobic, Dan asked a number of homosexuals if the Church was homophobic. The answer was Yes. What a surprise. To make his point, he lets us listen in on a conversation he had with a young woman, who was filling in for his regular stylist. That’s funny. Bri loves Starbucks and Birkenstocks and Dan has a regular stylist, which is, no doubt, far better than having an irregular stylist. Back when I was cool, hip, cutting edge, and seriously engaging the culture, I had an irregular stylist and it was no fun. Dan asked her if she went to church and she said no because she was gay and the church wouldn’t want her there. Well, that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard—apart from the fact that Dan actually pays a stylist to give him such a lousy haircut.
He carefully sets up his straw man and then knocks him over. I don’t believe that any thinking and praying Christian would deny entrance to a worship service to a male or female homosexual. It would seem that they would want them to hear the gospel. Simultaneously, they would not want that person to remain a practicing homosexual, because the Bible says that that is a sin. Dan doesn’t like that approach. He’s not certain about what Scripture says about homosexuality nor does he like the word “sin.” The only people that dislike the word sin more are Bill Hybels, Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen, and Brian McLaren.
But to understand how impoverished the Emergent church movement is, you need to listen to a heterosexual. I’m not sure where Dan dug “Gary” up, but you get the impression that Gary stays awake at night trying to get his IQ into double digits. Listen to this piece of irrefutable logic from old Gar: “I don’t see anything corruptive or destructive about homosexuality. Jesus was about love, not hate. So homosexuality shouldn’t be something the church hates. It shouldn’t be a religious issue. With all the things wrong in this world, I don’t understand why the church makes such a big deal about homosexuality.” Gary was, no doubt, taught by Dan. It’s funny that Dan has this in response to Gary’s very well thought through ethical statement: “This is the viewpoint of many in emerging generations, who perceive that we fear and hate all homosexuals. Out of all the other things in the world we could focus on—poverty, AIDS, greed, abuse—we make a bigger deal about homosexuality.” While it is patently true that AIDS is not limited to homosexuals it would seem that AIDS might just be considered rather corruptive or destructive. Just what is a “religious” issue?
Some modernist might be out there thinking, Wasn’t
Anyway, Kimball believes—along with a large number of those who call themselves evangelicals—that God loves all people. This is probably why he gets so bent out of shape when there is even a hint that people in other religions aren’t right too. Dan also listened to one pastor preach a sermon on homosexuality, but wasn’t impressed. Why was that? Kimball tells us: “My guess is that’s because the pastor couldn’t tell even one story of actually having any homosexual friends himself, so he viewed them and spoke of them more like someone would talk about an object.” This, friends, is the premise that if you don’t know a homosexual, you cannot possibly interpret Scripture correctly. Unless you’ve cross-dressed or committed bestiality, you cannot possibly tell God’s people what the Word of God teaches on those matters. I wonder if Dan the Sensitive knows any people like that. Here’s the crass answer: You don’t have to live in a garbage can to know that it stinks. I’m not certain that old Moses had any homosexual friends, but he told us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that it was wrong; it was a sin. How many homosexuals did Paul know personally? Kimball’s arguments are about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
But here’s some of the nonsense you can get into. Kimball describes a 21-year-old college girl who began attending his “worship gatherings.” She was a creative musician studying fine art, who was a lesbian. Fine. Kimball began to let her serve in “several ways,” which remain undefined. She also started serving on the “ministry team.” Eventually, she wanted a teaching role. You’d think that her age would have been reason enough to discourage her from any serious teaching position, and if that weren’t sufficient, you could have added the flimsy excuse that she wasn’t a Christian. Here is Kimball’s effeminate explanation: “With anguish and tears, I explained that I couldn’t let her serve in that position. I felt like I was yanking my heart out, and yanking her heart out, and slamming them both on the ground.” It could have been worse. Just think what it would have been if Kimball had lacked hospitality. It would never cross my mind to allow a non-Christian homosexual to teach in my congregation. I’ve known some homosexuals in my life. I’ve helped homosexuals and listened to them as they told me about their struggles, fears, and temptations. I think there are appropriate places for men to cry, but what Kimball described isn’t one of them. Get a grip!
I’ll be brief about other religions. We’re back doing man-on-the-street with Kimball. This time we’re introduced to Duggan, who is Irish. Here was his dad’s approach to religion: “When I was a teenager, my dad gave me several books to read—the Bible, the Koran, the I Ching, some Buddhist writings—so I could be open-minded and discover a spiritual path for myself and understand God more fully.” Right. Duggan’s brains fell out he was so open-minded. This approach by “Dad Duggan” is often viewed as the right and tolerant thing to do. There’s another way of looking at it, however, that is not quite as harsh as the Old Testament lack of hospitality thing, but makes the point. Duggan’s dad cared so little for his son that he was unwilling to take the requisite time to teach his son the values and the virtues that he held near and dear—if he had any principles in the first place. How in the world is some pimply-faced, zit-infested teenager supposed to make heads or tails out of those books? Was anyone around to sit down and talk to Duggan and parent him? Good grief! But Kimball thinks that Duggan is a good person to talk to if you want to understand the emerging culture. Maybe and maybe not.
Anyway, “In Duggan’s home, religion wasn’t really talked about much,” which probably explains why dad just threw some books at his son. Dad was—in some sense—Roman Catholic so he gave him books from other religions. Are you following this? You need to if you’re going to understand emergents. The upshot of such careful and caring child rearing was the following: “Duggan grew to appreciate beauty in all religions and to see truth in all of them. He doesn’t practice any one faith exclusively but sees himself as a spiritual person with Buddhist leanings.” Yep. Duggan is the product of his father’s irresponsibility. But all is not lost. He is a metro-spiritual and I’m willing to bet he practices hospitality just in case the Christian God is the right one. He doesn’t want to end up like Sodom. It’s funny, because all these years I thought sodomite meant something entirely different. Now I know if I don’t share my Twinky I could have fire rained down from heaven on me. Old Open-Minded Dug is in a quandary though. “He doesn’t understand why most Christians can’t see the beauty in other faiths.” Why, all he hears “from Christians is that all other world religions are wrong and going to hell.” Maybe Dan can help him out—but then again, maybe not. Apparently, with all that open-minded, tolerant study Dug did he failed to see the clear, obvious, and blatant contradictions among the world religions. It will come as no surprise that Kimball is ever-understanding. He informs us that “What Duggan’s saying is that Christians come across as naïve and arrogant when they can’t even carry on a conversation about the religions they reject.”
Don’t you see? It’s the Christians fault. Why I’ll bet if we sat down and asked Duggan questions about the Christian faith, he could click off sentient answer after sentient answer. I say this, because old open-minded Dug is rejecting the Christian faith. Remember Penny the lesbian? Kimball trots her out one more time, but this time her subject is not Jesus and homosexuality, but Jesus and other religions. Kimball quotes Penny as saying, “Eastern religions were more attractive to me, because they focused more on being kind to others, loving other people of other spiritual beliefs even if they are different from you, treading lightly, and being humble. I think that was similar to the message of Jesus, ironically, but that’s the opposite of what I experienced from church and Christians.” No, not quite, Penny. Eastern religions were more attractive to you because you are at enmity with God and you are running from him. So by treading lightly, being kind by manmade standards, and loving other metro-sexuals you could enter a works righteousness situation that allowed you to continue to move farther and farther away from the Jesus who said that he was the way, the truth, and the life and that no man came to the Father except through him. You moved farther and farther from the Jesus about whom it is said, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)
Kimball’s solution is that we need to train our churches to understand world faiths. I disagree. Given the sad state of modern evangelicalism, it would seem that we need to train many of our churches to understand the Bible!
Back to Bri
When you left Bri last time he had some global questions simmering in the back of his mind. He’s convinced that we’re living in a suicidal system, and to some degree I might agree with him although I’m convinced that we’re coming at this “suicidal system” from very different points of view. Bri informs us that when he left teaching English to become a pastor he wasn’t contemplating any “deep shifts.” Instead, like most pastors he was looking to make a bundle of money and retire on Maui. He got mugged by reality, however, because sincere spiritual seekers would attend his church and ask him simple questions like, “Did God really wipe out Sodom for being inhospitable” and he didn’t have the correct answer. Obviously, this was before he met Dan Kimball or Penny or Duggan.
It was in the midst of the West’s confidence-mania and uncertainty-phobia that Bri began to see those nasty little destructive framing stories. What ever was to be done? Well, for starters, “we must face the injustices of our past and seek justice for everybody everywhere.” Wow! That’s a tall order. But rest assured: In the course of the book Bri doesn’t tell you how to do that. He just mouths some insipid platitudes so that he sounds concerned and hospitable, but the best he can do is to continue to speak in vagaries and generalities. This was a very freeing chapter in Bri’s life though. It enabled him to turn from a “set of intramural religious arguments” to question what the biggest problems in the world today are and what do the life and teachings of Jesus have to say about the Kyoto Accord?
Why spin your wheels trying to figure out what Scripture says about issues when you have the Copenhagen Consensus and the United Nations? I ask this because this is where Bri takes us. A modernist—you know, someone with a brain—might have expected an exposition of what Jesus had to say about global problems since Jesus was mentioned in the question. But old once-English-teacher-then-silly-pastor-now-enlightened-thoughtful-non-fundamentalist Bri turns us instead to the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs—and this is not a dyslexic reading of Miller Genuine Draft) to make us aware of the world’s top problems that Bri is going to tackle and solve. There are eight: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.
Lists like this from the U.N. are part of the reason I want to send everyone in the U.N. back to their country of origin and turn U.N. headquarters into a night club. At least then it would serve some purpose. Of course, the U.N. can’t accomplish fixing these problems alone. Is this where Jesus comes in? Well, no, but the World Bank’s vice president for Europe, J.F. Rischard, does. That’s helpful. All we need is for a religiously bankrupt Europe to teach us how Jesus would solve the global problems hospitably. What does Rischard’s list look like? Well, it’s closely akin to George Soros’ list. We need to fix global warming, deforestation, peace-keeping, providing education for all, reducing the digital divide, preventing natural disasters, reinventing taxation, updating global financial architecture, stopping the spread of illegal drugs, improving rules for competition, creating protections for intellectual property rights, and the like.
 John MacArthur, The Truth War. Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 20.
 Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus but no the Church, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), p. 150.
 Ibid., 153.
 Ibid., 154.
 Ibid., 160.
 Ibid., 163.
 Ibid., 164.
 Ibid. Italics mine.
 Ibid., 165.
 Ibid., 166.
 Ibid., 176.
 Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 45.
 Ibid., 47.
Labels: Emergent Church