Saving the Planet One Left-Wing Position at a Time (XI)
I could have just as well entitled this section “Hi-ho, Silver! Liberal Theology and the Social Gospel Ride Again!” In 1988, Crossway Books published Carl F.H. Henry’s Twilight of a Great Civilization. Henry warned us in that work that the barbarians were coming. He also predicted that given the sad and dismal state of affairs in the modern Church that ironically the Church and the barbarians were getting increasingly difficult to identify, since they were looking and acting nearly the same.
Rather prophetically he wrote, “We are so steeped in the antichrist philosophy—namely, that success consists in embracing not the values of the Sermon on the Mount but an infinity of material things, of sex and status—that we little sense how much of what passes for practical Christianity is really an apostate compromise with the spirit of the age. Our generation is lost to the truth of God, to the reality of divine revelation, to the content of God’s will, to the power of His redemption, and to the authority of His Word. For this loss it is paying dearly in a swift relapse to paganism.” That was two decades ago. What, if anything, has the modern Church learned in the interim? The short answer is: Nothing.
It is far more accurate to speak of a pilgrim’s regress. For whatever reason, the modern Church and many of its pastors cannot fathom the truth that the Word of God is sufficient. While people such as Russell Kirk (Enemies of the Permanent Things) have lamented the disintegration of institutions that have existed for more than a millennium and wonder whether the whole fabric of civilization can survive the present rate of economic and social alteration, the modern Church has been strangely, deafeningly silent on the matter.
Henry opines that “Institutional Christianity has dropped the last barricade to the return of the pagan man; preoccupied with the changing of social structures, it muffles the call for a new humanity, and in doing so forfeits a mighty spiritual opportunity at the crossroads of modern history. The organized Church that ought to have been burdened for the evangelization of the earth has been too busy either powdering her nose to preserve an attractive public image, or powdering the revolutionaries and reactionaries who need rather to be remade in Christ’s image.” Once the Church drops the ecclesiastical barricades a flood of neo-paganism comes rushing in and physical and spiritual barbarism is bred in the Church.
In fact, Henry warned two decades ago that in the modern Church:
He had no idea how accurate his pronouncements would be. In general, Henry was referring to the deleterious effects of the mega-church movement, its bad theology, and its lack of a spiritual legacy to pass on to the next generation. The truth of the matter is that now with the addition of the emergent tribe and their silliness and the morass created by the mega-church, less that 10% of those who call themselves Christians possess a Christian, biblical worldview. This is the spiritual legacy that these two movements are passing along to their adherents. Are we surprised, though? The mega-church spun off into psycho-babble, feel-good theology, and tawdry entertainment that passed for worship. The emergent chit-chat had no substantive theology to begin with, but what little it had, old Bri has chipped away at it until he has no place left to go theologically except into the arms of the worn-out social gospel. And that is precisely where his latest book ends up.
Eschewing such troublesome doctrines as penal substitutionary atonement, the sinfulness of man, and the commandments of God, Bri wants to move his non-following following to a reframing of Jesus, our global crises, and a revolution of hope. Contagiously thoughtful Bri can’t seem to grasp that doctrine is practical, and practical material must be doctrinal if it is to be of any help or use at all. Foregoing doctrine, Bri wants to get on to the practical aspect of ethics. His problem, of course, is that he is attempting to build the second floor before the foundation is poured and the first story is built. The net results are disastrous and hazardous (spiritual HazMat) for those embracing the Emergent church movement. To parody an old Beatles song: it holds you in its arms ‘til you can feel its disease.
Bri is simply powdering the revolutionaries and reactionaries who need rather to be remade in Christ’s image. Given his theological methodology—and make no mistake his direction is intentional even though he would have the naïve believe that he is simply taking a pleasant, wandering theological stroll—he has landed in nothing eternal, but rather must focus solely on the secular, the here and now of saving the planet. He’s a quasi-Christian version of Al Gore. In a work that purports to be about ethics, it’s not until you are deep into the work that the word sin even occurs from Bri’s Starbucks stained pen. Rather than Bible, he gives his readers large does of Babel, which is different from babble. Instead of presenting biblical truth, Bri is more concerned about “the suicidal machine” and earth’s ecosystem. In point of fact, the entirely of this latest work contains precious little biblical truth, but is chocked full of revolutionary and reactionary drivel, putting words in Jesus’ mouth, and inane questions called “Group Dialogue Questions.” They are as tendentious as Bri’s biased writings. They’re also very funny. McLaren is a worse ethicist than Jim Wallis, although their conclusions are often quite similar: liberal theology, grossly distorted biblical hermeneutics, and a left-wing political agenda.
Historically, this is where these types of theologians have landed. The Bible really isn’t their standard for doctrine and life, so they seek profundity in caring more about the war, the poor, and sounding contagiously thoughtful. That is not to say that questions about the war, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the Christian family aren’t important, but they demand a truly biblical answer if you claim to be a Christian and you’re purporting to write a Christian ethics. A little Bible would go a long way. With both Wallis and McLaren, however, the texts are twisted and distorted to serve their purposes. There is little or no exegesis either. Apparently for these two geniuses exegesis is a waste of time.
Here’s the deal: Ezekiel 33:1-9 paints a vivid picture of Ezekiel as appointed by the Lord to be Israel’ “watchman.” As such, he is to warn God’s people of impending danger. If they choose to give him the universal sign of peace and prosperity, so be it. He has done his God-given duty and warned them. If, however, he sees a danger coming and keeps his mouth shut, then God will hold him accountable for the death of that person. That’s a chilling thought and modern pastors—all of us—would do very well to heed those words.
 Carl F.H. Henry, Twilight of a Great Civilization, The Drift Toward Neo-Paganism, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1988), p. 15. Italics mine.
 Ibid., 16-17.
 Ibid., 17.
 For example, in Wallis’ book, God’s Politics he tortures texts in Isaiah (Isaiah’s Platform) and Amos (Amos and Enron) to suit his agenda. He does the same in his section “When Did Jesus Become Pro-War?” Asking “When Did Jesus Become a Selective Moralist,” without providing a shred of biblical support, Wallis concludes that Jesus was against capital punishment, even though YHWH prescribed it in the Old Testament.
Labels: Emergent Church