My original plan was to continue on this track of instructing you in the ways of Brian McLaren’s beliefs without infusing my own direct criticism. For two reasons, I have decided to change course. The first, I feel that the descriptions are becoming bland and drawn out. If anyone has decided to follow these posts, I feel a certain obligation to keep them interested. The second, I can no longer hold back my strong desires and convictions regarding McLaren’s dangerous* theology. Perhaps this is somewhat a sign of my own weakness, this inability to lift up an argument that so grinds against my core beliefs. Or, maybe these strong convictions I feel for the truth that I believe are coming from some place far purer. Whatever the case, from this point on, it’s going to be an intense ride.
I had planned to write on McLaren’s character, Theos. So I will use Theos as my “jumping off” point.
Theos is the name of the character that McLaren gives to the God of the Old Testament when He does something that McLaren finds “morally unacceptable”. His chief example is the flood story. He writes, “A god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to an unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship” (109).
Now, McLaren argues that his Theos is actually, “the Greco-Roman god” and not “Jewish Elohim” (42). Theos is the perfect, Platonic god who must destroy anything that isn’t also perfect (42). He goes on to say, “Elohim, unlike Theos, doesn’t pronounce this world perfect, (or imperfect), but rather “good” (47). He then goes on to say, regarding the fall in the Garden of Eden, “Elohim’s story, it seems to me, unfolds as a kind of compassionate coming- of- age story” (49).
McLaren has divided God. The parts that he views as morally unacceptable and unworthy of praise (The flood in Genesis, the various times he commands the Hebrews to kill people, sending people to hell) are at best, immature and undeveloped views of God, and at worst, misreadings stemming from our Greco-Roman heritage. The parts that he accepts (social justice, love, compassion, patience, grace) are really, “more mature and nuanced understandings” (102).
Here is another quote that McLaren uses to justify his position:
As human capacity grows to concieve of a higher and wiser view of God, each new vision is faithfully preserved in Scripture like fossils in layers of sediment. If we read the Bible as a cultural library rather than as a constitution, and if we don’t impose a Greco-Roman plotline on the biblical narrative, we are free to learn from that evolutionary process- and, we might even add, to participate in it (103)
To break McLaren’s argument down…
Mankind’s understanding of God has evolved over time and will continue to evolve. Recognizing this evolution allows us to see that the doctrines of eternal damnation and original sin actually do not fit God’s character. Only because of the Greco-Roman influence and mankind’s early immature understanding do we have a God who cannot tolerate sin, obliterates most of humanity, and sends many to eternal conscious torment in hell. The true God doesn’t send anyone to hell because of their sin. The true God understands that people aren’t perfect and he just wants to help them through it.
As I see it, the things that do not sit well with him are cast out as false. In this way, he is giving himself a greater authority than the Bible, the word of God. This is why I called it a Biblical Buffet in the title. He is choosing what to take and what to cast aside. He has found a way to justify his beliefs, and he has no shame in calling it “a more mature understanding”.
The quote that comes to my mind at this time is “They create a desolation and call it peace”, which comes from ancient Rome and is about ancient Rome. McLaren is creating a desolation, but he is calling it good. He is calling it, God.
But what about Jesus? McLaren claims that both the Old and New testaments point to Him. He has entire chapters devoted to Him. My next post will be about this critical topic. I am sure it will also be the most interesting.
* McLaren’s theology is dangerous because it greatly reduces the evil of sin and our need for salvation. The true gospel at once identifies humanity as hopelessly broken and sinful, while offering the gift of grace and life through Jesus Christ. It identifies the need and then meets the need. If God Himself came to live and die and resurrect for our salvation, our need for His sacrifice is certainly greater than McLaren is admitting as I will explain in my next post.