Friday, September 12, 2008

At What Point Do We Call This Guy a Heretic?

We live in a free country, so I suppose Brian is free to come up with any belief system he likes. He is free to revert to some warmed over form of Pelagianism or Neo-Orthodoxy or even a spiritualized turn-of-the-century theological Liberalism.

But please, Brian, don't call it new and don't call it Christianity...

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Blogger Aaron said...

I will say that he is a heretic!

Let me say it like this...


But let me also say that it saddens me and doesn't give me any joy in saying that. I only hope that the God of the Scriptures becomes Brians starting point and that God in His mercy would reveal the truth in a way that is transformative. I also think that we can fall into "meaningless doctrines" and yet the God of all Grace restore us and we again turn to Him for our truth. I pray this for Brian.

I really like Brian as a man and love to hear him speak but over the years I have become increasingly skeptical and sorrowful for the "new" message that he is preaching.

Gal 1:6-8
"(6)I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- (7) not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (8)But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed."

I pray it not be the case for Brian and his hearers.

Hurts my heart man!

September 12, 2008 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Amen. Well said, Aaron.

Paul tells Timothy that the goal of rebuking those who teach false doctrines is love. May we love this man enough to rebuke him - and do so lovingly!

And even while I'm blogging about him - sounding the alarm, I need to be praying sincerely for him.

It frustrates me that this kind of stuff has arisen mainly because of the abject failures of Evangelicalism.

Maybe Brian will wake us up after all...

September 12, 2008 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Hmmm. The very end of the audio really captures the part that I disagree with - God doesn't say "forgive your wife and then go kick the dog." What God really does is to forgive us while kicking himself - and he asks us to forgive in the same way. Forgiveness comes at a cost - it takes a personal sacrifice to forgive someone and not demand justice. In a sense you are taking a blow to yourself in order to forgive - and that's what God demonstrates.

And it's not "anger" but rather "justice". It's amazing to me that Brian, who understands the need for justice so well in an earthly context, doesn't understand it in an eternal context.

However I'm also a bit saddened by the whole spirit of this conversation, and your blog post. While I fully agree that Brian's theology is wrong, to start your blog post with all caps "brian is a heretic" gives a strong impression that you're trying to start a fight rather than being an incarnation of God's grace on earth.

The church certainly has a responsibility to defend he faith, and to defend theology. I guess I just think that the defense should be conducted in a refreshing and respectful forum and fashion. For example, I think that Piper is on the right track with the lengths he goes to in the first chapters of The Future of Justification to state clearly that he holds N.T. Wright in high regard despite the strong theological disagreement over justification. (And this quote of Brian's is probably very influenced by N.T. Wright's work.)

This stuff is important - but I think we can conduct ourselves in a more honorable fashion than this. Let's raise the bar. And keep up the great work in Humboldt Park - it's going to take all of us working together to make an impact here. :)

September 13, 2008 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Hey, Jeremy

I like what you said: "God doesn't say "forgive your wife and then go kick the dog." What God really does is to forgive us while kicking himself - and he asks us to forgive in the same way."

Very well put. Wow.

I actually thought both Aaron and I were being reasonable in the comment thread:

Aaron: "I really like Brian as a man and love to hear him speak but over the years I have become increasingly skeptical and sorrowful for the "new" message that he is preaching."

Steve: "Paul tells Timothy that the goal of rebuking those who teach false doctrines is love. May we love this man enough to rebuke him - and do so lovingly! And even while I'm blogging about him - sounding the alarm, I need to be praying sincerely for him."

So I guess I don't see the spirit of the conversation the same way you do. Nonetheless, I certainly respect your desire for grace!

I do know the Bible is not kind to false prophets and false teachers (e.g. Galatians 6:8, as Aaron pointed out). While that is not a license to be graceless, since 'but for the grace of God there go I', I do believe we need to speak in no uncertain terms. Brian is messing with the atonement big time... more than Benny Hinn and the Word of Faith guys.

There is a point where things need to be framed in very blunt terms, and obviously I think we have reached that point with Brian McLaren. I'm truly sorry if that comes across as graceless.

September 13, 2008 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger KG said...

The post actually asked a question. At what point do we call this guy a heretic? That is actually quite conversational.

I would agree with Aaron, that he is a heretic and her is why. We can disagree only all types of areas of theology and agree to disagree.

But when you distort or in McClaren's case seek to change or rewrite the a gospel message that is completely different than the gospel, then that is a problem. And then when you teach this false gospel in the name of being a Christian teacher, then you are a heretic.

He has denied the faith.
He has denied the gospel.
He says things that mock the very nature of God.
And He asks others to think like him.

Jesus did not have kind words for false teachers.

Paul warned over and over again against false teachers.

McClaren may be a really nice guy, but he is dealing in very dangerous waters when he seeks to lead people away from saving faith.

If noone is willing to sound the alarm, then many will continue to follow him.

September 13, 2008 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I think I get where you are coming from but I totally disagree. I think for us to set back and not call "a spade a spade" while people are be mislead into doctrines which have eternal consequences is sinful on our part.

Yes we always do it in love but loving doesn't mean silence nor does it mean that we have to have a smile on our face when a man with influence is leading people astray.

Makes me wonder what Paul would do or more importantly what Jesus would do if a influential teacher was leading people in the church into dangerous doctrines that compromise the gospel?

Would He be zealous like He did when He was "cleansing" the temple or would He handle it "quietly" like the Samaritan woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery? Jesus used both to deal with peoples sin.

I think both are valid. But you seem to question a more aggressive way of confronting Brians false teaching.

I think John Piper giving "props" to N.T. Wright while disagreeing is great but I also think Driscoll's approach to flat out say this stuff is heresy is also very biblical and not to be scoffed at or deemed "not graceful."

We can call people out when they distort the gospel. From everything I read we are commanded to.

I know for a fact as a pastor I am called to shepherd the flock and to keep them from false teachers and doctrines. If I don't I will answer to God for that.

Oh that the men of the church would be protectors of the sheep! Lord help us to quit acting so feminine and be men who extend grace and tell the truth in love (rabbit trail for real).

Anyway a lot of rambling I know... I just think you can't question how others are doing things when it is clear that in scripture it is valid. It may not be the "popular" method but it is certainly biblical.Who am I to question that?

Quick example... (and them I am done rambling)

Most of us would probably not stand on a corner/on a subway with a microphone and preach the gospel and to be honest it often makes us uncomfortable when we see people doing it becasue of the times we live in.

But yet many have engaged in powerful life changing conversations because of this way of "sharing." It is also clear that people did this in the bible. Some would say that "times have changed" and I agree but still I would never question it or the person when there is clearly a time and a place for that.

All I am saying is that yes it is not my cup of tea to get a megaphone but I also know that God uses it and it is a very valid way to share the truth of the gospel in this world.

I think the same way with this particular subject. It may not be your way of handling but it certainly is a valid way to do so.

You saying...

"you're trying to start a fight rather than being an incarnation of God's grace on earth"...

is to me the more questionable attitude here. That is pretty presumptious and one sided.

Just my thoughts.

September 13, 2008 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Yeah... I think we can amicably agree to disagree on lots of things, but the gospel is not one of them. I think the gloves need to be taken off there, so to speak.

But still, I must extend love to even my enemies. I would argue that sometimes love comes in the form of a stern rebuke and kick in the pants and a warning to others, however.

September 14, 2008 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Hey - just got back here after a busy weekend. Steve - I just realized that your post was so short I mistakenly read the first comment as part of the post. (Hence my remark about the first line being all caps.) Sorry about that, don't know how I wrote my whole comment without noticing the obvious mistake.

Regarding the tone of the comment thread, I think you make a good case for the gravity of McLaren's teaching. To be fair I haven't studied McLaren in depth, but FWIW my impression of Wright is that he's still cool on scriptural infallibility but has a different interpretative framework (narrative rather than propositional) which logically leads him to a different meaning of justification. I like your original suggestion that he's got a "form of Pelegianism or Neo-Orthodoxy... but don't call it Christianity." (I think that there's some novelty to Wright's approach though.) I agree that it should be answered in strong and certain terms, albeit carefully.

But I disagree with using the label "heretic". Today the main connotation of heresy is prosecution and execution by state churches in the middle ages. It *sounds* more like character assassination than debate. I know you don't mean it that way, but I'm just saying that this is how most people hear it. And these are the people who need to hear rational debate. (I kinda feel the same way about the elections... wish there was more rational debate but it degenerates so easily.)

Denotatively, heresy is an opinion or doctrine in opposition to the authoritative doctrine of the christian church. Who's the "authority" that McLaren contradicts? To argue that McLaren is not "Christian" is a hard sell to me since that label is BROAD. Prosperity gospel, liberation theology, hypercalvinism, marian theology (e.g. immaculate conception), open theism... there's very broad range of beliefs that are commonly considered "christian". Can't argue that McLaren isn't "saved" without seeing into his heart. How about this: is he Evangelical? Did the ETS ever take a strong position on Open Theism? (I honestly don't remember.) If "Evangelical" includes denying the sovereignty of God then can it also include denying the justice of God?

I think the best way to put it is to just say he's wrong. We don't need to burn him at the stake, but he's interpreting the bible incorrectly. The bible does include statements about truth which can be taken as propositions. Jesus himself read the bible in this way to prove the resurrection. Reading the bible this way, there's no question that men have done vile, ungodly, aweful things and a price had to be paid because God's justice demanded it. And in the body which sits under our authority and shephard-ship, this will not be taught - period.

McLaren is wrong. Personally, that's where I would leave it.

September 14, 2008 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

You make a good case, Jeremy.

I could live with "wrong"... :0)

I equate "heresy" with the biblical term "false teaching". Perhaps that's an overgeneralization or oversimplification on my part.

At the end of the day, the man is wrong. Dangerously wrong. I'm glad we can agree on that, and may we pray for him and those he leads, as well as work hard to proclaim and live what is right.

September 14, 2008 at 10:23 PM  

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