Saving the Planet One Left Wing Position at a Time (XIV)
It’s been a while (May of this year to be exact) since we’ve had anything to say about old Bri and his merry band of emergents, but it’s time we got back to the left-wing, unbiblical views that characterize and typify most of his writings. I’m really not trying to pick on him because for those who follow this silly movement we all know that there are others in the mix like Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, and Leonard Sweet. In the background lurk Karl Barth, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jürgen Moltmann, Gustavo Gutierrez and Liberation Theology (which, by the way, isn’t), John Franke, and Scot McKnight, just to mention a few.
As a member of the Presbyterian Church in America I wonder why we have not spoken out and condemned this movement as aberrant and as striking at the vitals of the Christian faith. The truth is—and it’s a sad commentary—a PCA magazine that I hope and pray is defunct by now, byFaith, only had favorable articles on the Emergent church movement. Why? One can only wonder. It’s probably the same type of thinking that only publishes the views of those pastors in favor of illegal immigration. I’ve read two quite outspoken pieces on why illegal immigration is an excellent opportunity for us to witness to them, although we would probably be hard pressed to find a PCA pastor that has witnessed to a MS-13 gang member.
It’s precisely this type of leniency that now has three members of the Bologna family dead in San Francisco at the hands of a MS-13 thug, who is barely in his twenties. Why are they dead? Mr. Ramos shot and killed them as they were on their way home from a family picnic because they didn’t move their car out of the way fast enough. Mr. Ramos was in a hurry and Mr. Bologna was too slow in backing his car up, so Mr. Ramos murdered him and his two sons. But, I’m just being too hard on Mr. Ramos, I’m sure. Illegal immigration is really good for
But back to Bri and the boys (and some very influential professional women—no, we’re not talking street walkers here) and their desire to save the planet. Their concern is overwhelming, especially given the fact that they’ve spent most of their ink and energy explaining that we really cannot know much of anything—if anything—for certain. Oddly, whenever these folks get ready to summarize their positions, they are in the possession of extraordinary quantities of certitude.
While eschewing propositional truth in the Bible, whenever they defend their positions, it suddenly appears on the radar. Follow us! This is the right way! Excuse me. Can this really be coming from those who have argued extensively that we’re all just on a journey that excludes certainty? Yep. It’s the same crowd. In case you’re confused, it’s called hypocrisy.
In his latest unscriptural thriller, Everything Must Change, ole Bri asks this key ethical question: Why is Jesus important? Many non-thoughtful people like you and me who drink beer and eat nachos, don’t wear Birkenstocks, and don’t drink fashionable pumpkin seed lattes constitute what generous Bri snidely calls “the conventional view.” Our standard, pat, talking points-esque answer is: “Jesus came to solve the problem of ‘original sin,’ meaning that he helps qualified individuals not to be sent to hell for their sin or imperfection. In a sense, Jesus saves these people from God, or more specifically, from the righteous wrath of God, which sinful human beings deserve because they have not perfectly fulfilled God’s just expectations, expressed in God’s moral laws.”
Now I want to pose these serious questions to Christians; those within the Emergent church movement camp and the rest of us conventional bigots: How can you take this man seriously? How can you not question why he places the words “original sin” in quotation marks? How can you excuse an admitted lousy theologian like McLaren when he says that Jesus saves people from God? How can you find that, in any sense, acceptable? That’s not even remotely funny or cute—in any sense. In short, my question to all Christians, the PCA, and byFaith is how can you find any of this amusing? Competent? Thought provoking? Theologically correct? God honoring? God glorifying? It is sheer drivel and a very unloving slam at fellow-Christians who actually believe that the fall of Adam and Eve, as our federal heads, affected all of us—even Bri.
What is the “enlightened” view, i.e., Bri’s and the Emergent church movement’s view? Well, here it is: “Jesus came to become the Savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of human evil…. All who find in Jesus God’s hope and truth discover the privilege of participating in his ongoing work of personal and global transformation and liberation from evil and injustice.” I’ve mentioned what I’m about to say before, but for emphasis let me say it again: Bri has a horrible aversion to the “s” word, sin. In this book that is ostensibly on ethics, you’re about 200 pages into the book before he actually uses it and almost gags and is ever so apologetic when he does.
Beer drinkers, war mongers, litterers, those who don’t care about global warming (er, climate change. Sorry), and those who hold to their guns and religion—where did I hear that?—ask silly questions like Savior of the world for what purpose? Savior from what? If Jesus is the Savior, why do we specifically need salvation? Why does Bri use the word “evil” and not sin? David Wells makes the excellent point that the two words are not synonymous. He writes, “The biblical understanding of sin is far deeper and far worse than our contemporary understanding of evil.” He pinpoints McLaren’s brand of postmodernism when he explains that “when we do not live within a moral world—and most Americans do not in their minds—the language of evil has no referent. Evil in relation to what standard, we must ask?”
In this long, long, and tedious emergent “conversation” none of the non-leader leaders have told us what their standard is. Please spare me and don’t say that they all hold to the Bible. No they don’t! They haven’t from the beginning and they do not to this day. Oh, they might talk a good game, but when push comes to shove they are—to a man and woman—crass theological liberals. Besides, standards are messy things when you’re trying to take a journey. Since we cannot know with certainty, if ole Bri and the boys and girls want us to believe that saving the planet is why Jesus came, are we allowed to ask them how they know that? Did they derive that from Scripture? What a minute! I didn’t think you could glean that kind of stuff from the Bible. What assurance does Bri give you and me that his “intel” is correct? Is it absolutely correct, only relatively correct, up for grabs, or not correct at all?
When he gives us the emergent view of why Jesus is important, whose truth is that? Who holds it as a standard? Bri? Pagitt? Bell? Why do they matter? How do they know? Why was their standard established? Who established it? Wells hits the nail on the head when he says, “That something could be so inherently wrong as to be called evil, not simply because we see it as evil but because it is evil in itself, makes no sense anymore. It withers under the (post)modern sun. It dies in the face of a thousand qualifications and a thousand cultural suspicions.” In Bri’s explanation of the enlightened, Chardonnay and brie cheese group, “Evil is simply badness.” It’s simply his unsubstantiated opinion. Most of his books are virtually bereft of Scripture and when he or his cohorts like Jim Wallis use it, it’s to excruciatingly painfully rip a text from its redemptive-historical context to use it as a slam against Bush or Halliburton.
Here’s what sin is and why Bri refuses to use it: “Sin…is altogether more serious because it sets up human badness in relation to God.” As I mentioned back in 2005—and this will probably stand as my biggest “I told you so” to date—the main problem with the Emergent church movement is their low view of Scripture. Remember the words of Rob Bell and his wife Kristen, that the Bible is still in the center for them, but it’s just a “different kind of center.” (That’s about as intelligible as the sound of one hand clapping). The Bell pair went on to state that they have no idea anymore what most of the Bible means. That’s encouraging to hear from a pastor and his wife. The upshot of their musings is that they feel like life is big again. Or, you know, dude, it’s like life used to be black and white, and now it’s, you know, like, in color. Whatever. Where did the Bells come up with such astute observations? They credit ole Bri with redirecting, reimagining their thinking on scriptural authority. Oh.
In their latest fun book, Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck ask these questions that require us to answer. “Is the Bible the final word in matters of faith and practice? Can it be trusted in all that it affirms? Is it intelligible and knowable? Is it from God? What is its practical authority in the believer’s life? Is it ever mistaken? What can we say about the Bible that we cannot say about any other book?”
 Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 79.
 Ibid., 79-80.
 David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), p. 100.
 Ibid., 101.
 Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), (Chicago: Moody Press, 2008), p. 78.