Posts Tagged ‘Brian McLaren’

So all the theologizing, reading, discussing, and name calling (not on my part) lately have got me wondering about some of the questions that are at the heart of the matter.  All these matters of who is saved, who gets saved, how they are saved, and saved to what are all fair questions worth consideration but in the end it boils down to us all trying to determine who is with whom and who is on who’s “team”.  I also realize that over the last decade or more it has become far more popular to talk about the Kingdom of God in terms of an “open set” as opposed to a “bound set” when discussing who is or is not a part of the Kingdom (a matter of direction of your life as opposed to a one time decision), but the matter still comes down to who’s on Jesus side in the end.  So these are the questions I have been wrestling with:

– What does it mean to be with Jesus?

– What are the bare minimums to be a part of his kingdom?

– How off do you have to be in belief and action before you are no longer “with him”?

– What beliefs would get God to look at you and say “Ya, thanks but no”?

I also realize that it is not up to me to determine ultimately the matter of final judgment – that is up to God thank God – but I think it is pretty disingenuous for us to act like we should not think about who we are actually working alongside of in this life in the name of Jesus.  Different matters of contention have risen and fallen over the years, some being smoothed over and some causing splits all over who is with Jesus or not.

If someone believes women can/should be pastors is that okay?

What if someone prays to Mary?

What if someone believes in evolution?

What if someone thinks and endorses same-sex sexual relationships?

What if someone verbally believes in the work of the Holy Spirit, but denies his power by the way they live and worship?

What if someone holds a different view of heaven and hell?

What if they only believe one of these?

What if they believe all of these?

How far off can we be and still be followers of Jesus?  I ask these questions not necessarily to say each of these are wrong or right so much as to point out the issues we tend to divide ourselves over and openly wonder: How different from you does someone have to be before you believe you can no longer serve Jesus together even if you both claim to follow Jesus?  Do we let ourselves be more influenced by Jesus words from Luke when he said, “49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” 50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.””, or do we look at Paul’s many admonitions to rebuke false teachers and prophets?

I do not have an answer to it all yet obviously or I would not be asking the questions, but I think this is one of those things you cannot just leave as a mystery because it affects your life and ministry opportunities from moment to moment.  Oh the things we unearth when we begin to wonder.

I may be a city kid that enjoys the comforts, noises and business of civilization but that does not mean that I do not have a taste for the outdoors as well. I grew up the son of a farm kid turned civil servant and thus spent some time out on the farm too and was raised with an appreciation for nature. I still remember going camping as a family in the musty, canvas, tents that would make up our home on the range for a couple weeks each summer – although in full disclosure we did switch to camping in a trailer in my teenage years. The tent was never permanent. It was not particularly water proof. It smelled funny with a combination of dirt, mold and water damage. It did not provide much security. It was home though. It was okay for a while for a change, but ultimately we all longed for the ability to settle down into the four solid walls of our house again.

I feel like I am living in a tent again. I do not have real place to set down roots in a safe, secure, defined environment. Every few days it seems someone else comes by to tell me that I cannot stay in the same place I have been making camp and that I need to move on to different places. Places that are full of trees without much level ground and that seem generally pretty lonely without much other human settlement around. Even if I realize there are other people in the same spot as me it is tough to really connect with them because we all live in our own tents and do not really get to stay in the same spot long enough to stick together. Honestly, it is getting a little tiring.

I guess it is not much different than the spot that God’s people have been finding themselves in for millennia now. The Israelites wandered around living out of tents for a long time until the settled in the promised land, and God himself had only a tent for a dwelling until Solomon built him a temple. Even later after Jesus came, the son of man did not have a place to lay his head. Should it really be much of a wonder when it feels like I do not have a really solid place to make camp right now?

It seems like the city that the neo-reformers like John Piper and Mark Driscoll have built and reside in is pretty sturdy – maybe too sturdy.  The walls they have built up are way to tight for me and keep so many wonderful people out that I would really like to have the chance to get to know and share this journey with.  On the other hand the village that the Rob Bell‘s and Brian McLaren‘s of the world have constructed seems to have so many holes in the walls that it can barely be called a village at all.  There is no comradry or security in a camp seems to allow anyone in or out, but clearly condescends to anyone who might choose to live elsewhere. I do not think I can really feel at home in either place.

Like I said, I realize there may be more places to set up camp than these two and that there are likely many people who feel just as torn and lost as I do in the wilderness between these two waring factions right now: not belonging to either and feeling like inevitable collateral damage. I fear for the others stuck out in the cold like me and hoping and praying that we might somehow be spared and find a way to set up camp together. I do not know where that ground in between is yet, but I certainly hope to find some people to travel with and set down roots with eventually. It is getting a little lonely out here.

I would like to consider myself a reasonably avid reader – although I would honestly like to be an even more avid reader if it were not for the Siren’s song that is the Daily Show/Colbert Report duo which ensnares me nightly – that tries to read things that will challenge my ways of thinking so I will continue to grow as a person.  In that pursuit I have read a lot of ministry related books by ministry related authors that a number of others in my circles would probably like declared anathema.  Fitting squarely into that category are the many works I have read, owned, and loved by Brian McLaren.  While I served on the Board for Faith and Life for the Mennonite Brethren Conference of Saskatchewan I received at least a few requests for his books to be banned from our church libraries altogether – requests which I was quite firmly against.

I can not say that I have read everything that he has written, but I’ve read at least seven or eight different books he has penned in his writing career and have been challenged and pushed to be better by all of them.  I deeply appreciate his heart for bringing Christianity to the world we now live in and attempting to frame it in terms that are meaningful and bring the God’s story to a world that needs him deeply.  I will not question or try to besmirch the man’s character or intentions for a moment.  I think he is truly doing and teaching what he believes to be true and right.  For years I have enjoyed being challenged by his often purposely ambiguous forays into questioning commonly and traditionally held views of the Christian faith.  I have spent hours and hours defending his work and assertions with friends and strangers, and that makes this all the more difficult because his new book A New Kind of Christianity has broken and is breaking my heart.

Many of his previous books were notorious for their ambiguity on a number of subjects, many of the most popular of his works being written in a kind of pseudo-fictional style allowing him to broach subjects thought untouchable without coming out and directly asserting anything.  This was great for starting discussions – which I believe was his real aim – but was not as great for helping people to clearly understand what he was actually trying to get at at times.  A New Kind of Christianity is an attempt to get past the murkiness and state exactly what he thinks the real discussions need to center around as the faith moves forward.  I will not try to get to everything that I have real concerns and heartaches over to this point as they would be far too numerous to get to here (I’m actually keeping them in a file that I plan on mailing to him in a letter once I’ve finished the book completely.) so I will suffice it to say that he has succeeded in confirming a number the worst case scenarios of his version of Christianity that I had maybe naively denying would be the case.  Whether it is his view of the nature of God, Jesus, Scripture, or even the over arching narrative of God’s story as a whole many of my biggest concerns have been confirmed instead of laid to rest.  If you want to discuss things more in depth, read the book and we will get together a book club of sorts.

Brian,

I want to love you as a brother in Christ, but the version of the faith you are espousing in this book is looking less and less like a faith I can accept as being faithful to Jesus or the story of God I believe is revealed in Scripture through the Holy Spirit by the page and chapter.  I promise I will write you to let you know everything I am struggling with, and I will still listen to you into the future, but your version of Christianity is look less and less like a viable answer to the problems our faith faces in this world.  I love your heart for people, ministry, mission and desire for truth, but the God you seem to be following is looking less and less like the one I do or could follow.

Sadly yours,

Ben