Listening On The Porch Of The Emergent Village

Orginally published on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 8:00 AM
by Todd Rhoades

In a guest article today, Tony Myles gives his impressions of the Emergent Church movement from a recent conference he attended. Read Tony's thoughts and see if you agree...

A little over a month ago a buddy of mine and I did a road trip over to Minneapolis for The Summer Institute. The event took place at Solomon’s Porch, an innovative congregation headed up by lead pastor Doug Pagitt. Doug has been one of the many voices on the forefront of Emergent Village (formerly called Emergent). Long story short, he’s highly relational, notably intelligent, and extremely counter-intuitive in his thinking. All that logistical mumbo-jumbo aside, I want to share a few insights from my trip. First of all, my buddy and I had a BLAST driving over. And by that, I mean quite literally… his air conditioner didn’t work and so we drove 10 hours or so with the windows down and the air blasting (the only thing louder was the cheesy 80’s music we kept listening to). Normally I like this kind of a drive, but because my voice at the time was suffering some mild laryngitis it ended up creating a major case of laryngitis. I’m not kidding… the only way I could talk in discernible tones was to lower my pitch to sound like a pro-wrestler.

Oh yeah… did I mention I was a speaker at this event? God has a sense of humor.

As both a receiver and giver of the seminars or “offerings,” I found the loose structure quite interesting. In fact, the titles alone of each option indicated a lot about the diversity of the gathering, from those who presented concrete ideas to others who hosted open forums about philosophical issues. There wasn’t any particular target group, although many in attendance ranged from young adults to those who have a history with the established church in some way and have been itching for “something else.”

The night we arrived we had a great dinner with a dozen or so people, gathering at one of Doug’s favorite local Mexican restaurants. Consequently, we missed out on a forum regarding homosexuality in the emerging church. The next day I popped into the classroom and copied down these notes off the board from that offering - whatever they mean - listed under the heading “COMPLICATIONS”:

There may be unrevealed parts of life
Element of choic/commitment
Role of circumstances
Fluidity of idenity
Feels/desires drives category
Nature and nurture
Capacity to be gay or straight
Stories behind a present moment
“Celibate gay”
Influences on feelings/identity
Self denial
Confusion of no fit with category
Hormonal factors
Health issues

One of my favorite offerings was the one that may have irritated people the most - “God and the new sciences.” Here are a few paraphrases from the deal…

We have a common idea that God has a job description and humans have a job description. And we don’t mix them because if we do people will criticize us of “playing God.” From birth control to seeing a doctor, we’ve moved from them being ethical dilemmas to being normal now.

The new sciences stir up all kinds of new ethical questions. In the last century we do things that humans never had to consider doing. The way that we travel… hold understanding… record moments in history… is all mind boggling. We play with time like it’s nobody’s business. What did he know and when did he know it? When you listen to a voice mail, when was it said to you? When you say something on an airplane and hear it, your relationship of time to people in the airplane is different than those outside of it. If something can be known, should it be known?

One of the guys I spoke with had a hard time sitting through it and eventually got up and left. His thought was that “the motivation isn’t to know God better… the motivation is for knowledge.” I understand his point, and even sensed it in a couple of people. Honestly, though, what was fun for me was watching the way people talk with each other versus what they actually said. In many cases, being too fundamental was looked upon by the progressives as being small minded; on the flipside, the progressives were seen by the fundamentals as lacking any stable structure.

I’d been praying all along on this trip that God would allow me to listen and enlarge my heart for the church. Given the fact that I couldn’t talk much, I think he did exactly that. Overall, Emergent Village has well exceeded my expectations even though it is a bit flawed (as are all things run by humans). There were some moments in the science discussion, for example, that I was a bit bothered by a few people who seemed to have a “Tower Of Babel” mentality that we can create a scientific pie in the sky. As it’s been said, we create because we are like Him, but we cannot create like Him.

In some ways I get a sense like we often face the temptations in this great postmodern conversation to fix everything that bugged us in the past wave of ministry. Maybe so, and maybe not. Maybe there is something more.

Relevant Magazine recently shared this in one of their articles:

“For a generation raised on televangelists, pedophile priests and megachurches, Emergent [Village] seems like a pretty good deal. It represents ‘a new kind of Christian,’ a phrase coined by Emergent’s unofficial patriarch, Brian McLaren. To those who have been burned by the Church, this kind of Christian is more open-minded, intelligent, loving and sophisticated than the Christians who came before.

But this is sacred territory, and it’s easy to see why this makes many Christians uncomfortable. To Emergent’s critics—and it has many—the group is off base at best and heretical at worst. Emergent has no formal doctrine, and, thus, the group is quite mixed. ‘We have Texas Baptists who don’t let women preach, and we have lesbian mainline pastors in New England,’ says Tony Jones, Emergent’s national coordinator. ‘Emergent is an amorphous collection of friends who’ve decided to live life together, regardless of our ecclesial affiliations, regardless of our theological commitments. We want to follow Christ in community with one another. In a very messy way, we’re trying to figure out what that means.’”

Personally, I’m into this because I’m a tension lover.

Often we end up waxing over concepts that to many have a “biblical basis” - regardless of what side you fall off the fence. For instance, some see it as absolutely “essential” to keep men in leadership over women in order to honor the verbatim of the Scriptures, whereas others hold it more important to understand the “spirit” behind the Scriptures and show how women in leadership is a biblical issue after all.

You can pick any issue, for that matter - slavery, women in leadership, homosexuality - and you will find people claiming one biblical truth at the expense of the other. Proof-texting is a lost cause (as we all know), but then again… so is issue-texting. By this I mean often we come into the Bible with a favorite passion and hope it says something we’d like it to say… and if it doesn’t we fold it under a principle of “grace” or “holiness.”

What I find absolutely amazing is how two people who proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior can come to two amazingly different conclusions.

So… how is this possible?

Perhaps on one side of the camp you have people looking at the Scriptures through their own unconscious personal lens of personal experience, present day barriers, and future hopes. Then again… might the other side be doing the same? The real issue is to wrestle over the Scriptures together… together… together.

To me… this is the real “emergent” issue - honoring all of the Scriptures… including the tensions that fly against our personal hot button platforms… and being able to dialogue all over the place in order to find a *balance of tensions* that honors the Bible in its disorderly coherence. This will probably look differently from local church to local church, for some issues will quickly cause division in one context that won’t in the next. And if God is as concerned about unity in the body as the Word proclaims, then maybe we should, too.

Unity… that means parts of our passions need to not be in the spotlight so that someone else’s may share that space, too.

Many people are drooling for Emergent Village to define itself theologically, from “this belief” to “that issue.” Their intent, of course, is to be able to critique it like a politician who has run out of their own things to say and has to resort to shredding the platforms of others. Perhaps in knowing this there has been some intentional ambiguity in order to promote a spirit of conversation.

Or maybe… they aren’t being silent at all. Maybe they’re just deciding it’s better to listen than to speak. Coming from a guy who was forced to not do a lot of speaking and a whole lot of listening, I think that’s a good move.

“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” (Proverbs 17:28)

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 TRACKBACKS: (0) There are 59 Comments:

  • Posted by kent

    I believe we lack the patience needed for the emergent conversation. We want everything define and clarified right now. I am not sure any movement has done that. Certainly not the reformation, the took generations. Why not the emergent movement or whatever it is. I do not need them to look like me. I am enjoying the process.

  • Posted by

    And the Ecumenical Movement is different from this how?  Before one breaks his arm patting himself on the back as if he has found the “new way” it would be good to read up on “church” history.  I believe if they did they would find the “emergent” church has been done many times before with little to no long term success.  But hey what do I know, I am probably just one of the small minded fundamentalist who is too tied to the past– and I am not even Baptist!!!

  • Posted by Daniel

    Al, you said “it would be good [for them] to read up on “church” history”.  From my experience, people in the emergent conversation know far more about church history than many many others.  One’s view of ‘emergent’, I suppose, will depend on what we think is at the heart of the movement… but either way I’m not sure it’s wise to be so hasty to pronounce judgment, like Kent said.

  • Posted by

    I believe that the emergent movement is very much defined and clarified as a movement that cannot or should not define and clarify itself.  In my journey thus far, I have found that scripture is not the central source in the emergent methodology.  As emergent continues to “emerge”, I think we’ll see the impression of scripture fall farther and farther along the wayside.  Human philosophy will eventually become the cornerstone.  And with that, it is certain that definition and clarity will always be a designed “moving target”. 

    This movement is already beginning to loose steam in my demographic.  Human beings, even though they are attracted to mystery, always come back full-circle in search of truth.  With truth being somewhat alien to the emergent methodology, many people are returning to the Word for the Way and the Truth, and realizing that the commentaries written by the leaders of this movement are no more than words that “tickle the ears of men”.  The emergent methodology, I believe, is becoming like a fashion fad that will “emerge” and then “hide” over and over again.  But when it comes down to the Truth that is in Christ, the armor of God is clear(the Word), and if you will forgive me on the fashion comment, part of that armor is good old Levi’s.

  • Posted by Daniel

    Tell us how you really feel Tony… (just kidding) grin
    You’re certainly entitled to your views about the emerging church.  However, when reading the scholars who inform the movement, I can’t seem to find the disregard for scripture people put up such a fuss about… NT Wright and Walter Bruggemann have the greatest regard for scripture, and the deepest love for God I’ve seen anywhere.  Andrew Perriman at OST argues emphatically that we must plunge headlong into scripture (see the parable at my blog).  All three of them are thorougly ‘emergent’ and/or ‘post-modern’.  But I can’t seem to put my finger on why people find them controversial.
    Any input?

  • Posted by Tony Myles

    You can’t make a generalization about Emergent Village or the emerging church (because they are different, by the way) without being held accountable to make an equal generalization about all other churches.  For instance, to claim that every “contemporary church” or “seeker sensitive church” is just like Willow Creek Community Church is to deny the fact that all churches have a personality and philosophy that pushes it in various place of the spectrum.

    Nonetheless, we seem to like labels, don’t we?  They allow us the ability to keep a hoop around ourselves and not let people who aren’t like us in.  Perhaps that’s why our churches have either grown or declined numerically because we’ve either failed or succeeded in attracting people who sign on the dotted line with everything we believe.

    Sorry - that was a minor rant.


    what would it look like for us to stay anchored in scripture and then drift out a bit (still staying anchored, mind you) in order to ask questions about uncharted territory?  And what if on occasion we were even willing to be sure our anchor was actually in scripture and not just in our opinion of scripture?  Would that not require us to sit across the table from people who draw different theological conclusions about the same Bible we read?

    Emergents do not deny that truth exists.  (Please read that last sentence again). I have yet to meet one who does and I am somewhat on the hub of the main conversation happening. 

    On the other hand, postmoderns in a secular sense (a.k.a. “non-Christians,” “pre-Christians,” or whatever marketed label suits your fancy) might, but that is (in my opinion) more of a Modern era issue.  I see less atheists these days than I did in the Josh McDowell era and lots of people who truly want to believe in something real but just don’t know if they can trust anything anymore.  Perhaps they’ve seen the hypocrisy of those who claimed to have the corner market on truth… and they wondered if it even existed to begin with.

    Haven’t we all had that question from time to time?

    If you have to label the Emerging Village in order to understand it, then do it.  But only if you use that as a launch pad in order to know it beyond your label.  Otherwise all you’re doing is forming an opinion and looking for reasons to prove yourself right instead of listen.

    Who am I talking to?

    Oh yeah… the mirror.

  • Posted by


    “You can’t make a generalization about Emergent Village or the emerging church (because they are different, by the way)”

    I can’t “generalize” but isn’t that what the author is doing with this statement? “In some ways I get a sense like we often face the temptations in this great postmodern conversation to fix everything that bugged us in the past wave of ministry.”

    Interesting that one is spoken of as “judging” if he makes a clear observation about a specific “fad” in postmodern churchianity!  However when one “judges” the past work of the church they are just being “relevant” and “conscientious” and “broadminded.”

    As Spock would say, “fascinating captain.”

  • Posted by Tony Myles

    You said “Daniel,” but I assume you mean me.

    In any event, you’re right - generalizations about generalizatons are generalized.  Which is why we can’t make them about one group of people without making them of ourselves.

    That was my tongue-in-cheek point.

    Perhaps the question that should be asked is if there is an “Emergent Village” and an “emerging church” then what actions (and by whom) caused it to form in the first place?

    And… what role have we each played in that, good or bad?

    Honestly, that’s the question we all need to ask - regardless of what side of the line we stand on.

  • Posted by


    Good point. grin


  • Posted by

    Daniel writes

    “But I can’t seem to put my finger on why people find them controversial. “

    That’s an easy one! First, they don’t use the same vocabulary (I mean actual words here) as the people who have dominated contemporary western Christianity for the past few decades. They avoid terms like “personal relationship with Jesus”.

    Second, and this one is my opinion, several of the “emergent” authors and speakers I’ve encountered step back so far from the (ridiculous in some cases) conclusions that have been made about Christianity, culture, and the Bible over the past 50 years that they appear to many of us (myself included from time to time) to be intentionally ambiguous… or worse… certainly sometimes impossible to “pin down.”

    I’m sure there are plenty of people who STILL can’t figure out if Brian McL actually believes in hell or universalism. He has been, in many forums including at least two or three of his own books, very vague on an issue that has perhaps taken on an inordinate amount of importance. This is not unlike the inerrancy discussion that took place in another section of MMI last week. Many do not allow that someone who believes the Bible is inspired but not inerrant can be anything other than a heretic. (Let’s not go there, people, it’s just an example.) Are some narrow-minded? or are some too “open-minded”? Is it a little bit of both?

    As a post-script. I love these authors and read them, even when I get mad at their books. I scoop up everything Brian writes. I just bought another N.T. Wright book. Scot McKnight is another example… although I have NOTHING but good things to say about his commentaries I’ve gotten and his “Jesus Creed”. I don’t call myself post-modern or emergent yet. Perhaps I’m pre-post-modern or pre-emergent.

    tongue wink

  • Posted by

    Randy writes:  “Jesus was never ambiguous in what he said, even if neither his listeners nor we fully understood his words.  He didn’t say, “I don’t think you can be my disciple without total commitment, but let’s walk together for a while and figure that out.  Maybe there is a way....”

    So true Randy, yet that is exactly the direction a large percentage of today’s church has gone.  It’s a “just get them to make a profession” mindset.  Then once they make a profession (based on shifting sand) then we’ve got em and we’ll worry about true commitment later, (if at all.)

  • Posted by Daniel

    Jack, if your criticism of the ‘just get them to make a profession’ mindset is directed at the emerging church, I fear it’s an unwarranted one--since they make the same criticism.  From my experience, ‘emergent’ is all about REPENTANCE (vs. saying the ‘sinner’s prayer’).  That is to say, turning one’s life around to follow Jesus and live in his way.  Hence the word ‘missional’ we see everywhere in the emerging literature.
    Randy, if “Jesus was never ambiguous in what he said”, how’s come people misunderstood him all the time?  You could perhaps argue that they were all dimwitted… but then wouldn’t Jesus be smart enough to make himself clear enough?  I think Jesus was ambiguous.  That’s why he had to explain the parables to his disciples.  If they weren’t ambiguous, they wouldn’t have needed explaning… Just a thought.
    Additionally, I’m afraid people don’t get the ‘answers’ they want from the emerging conversation because it is a phenomenon as wide and diverse as evangelicalism.  Do evangelicals allow women in ministry?  Do evangelicals support pro-life causes?  Are evangelicals more on the Calvinist side, or more on the Arminian side?  Why can’t I get a straight answer to these questions?!!  ... quite simply because not everyone in the movement agrees.
    My thoughts.  For what they’re worth.

  • Posted by

    You all make great points - this is a fine example of something wonderful that comes out of the emergent conversation.

    The points that I make are not based on my theories - they’re based on the effect the emerging church has had on my church community.  As church leaders (ordained or lay), we have been given a wonderful gift - to be a shepherd, and with that, a huge responsibility to a flock who come from diverse backgrounds with regard to biblical teaching.  Some have never opened a bible before, and others study the Word intently.  This emergent conversation, I believe, opens up learning opportunities for those who are grounded in the Word.  For those who are not, I have found that the emergent conversation can be very irresponsible.  If emergents believe that truth exists, then they are not communicating it very effectively.  The confusion that I witness is staggering.  There are so many “versions” of Jesus, the church almost feels polytheistic.  As Al said - “facsinating, captian”.  I ask many of our younger adults, those involved with our emergent church group, core questions of the Christian faith - the most popular answers are either “I’m not sure” (which is an OK answer), or a more universal answer riddled in relativism.
    I am not saying that this is the fault of the emergent conversation - I am simply sharing what I am seeing as the result.  I hope that more emergent leaders will, as they are wandering off in the conversation, pull back the anchor rope and stand on the Rock!

  • Posted by

    Emergent church has allowed a dailogue that has included thoughts from many different areas of theology to come together and I am sure some would see ecumenical theology. And in some cases you will be true. However the “deconstructing” of the emergent movement has added to vital elements to our theology that can help us.
    First is the power of question. The rabbi - disciple relationship was hinged on this process of question asking. For a while we have certainty of biblical concepts that were not very certain in the first place. These ideas are now being collected and categorized by pastors and laity. Emergence has reignited the question making process which I find to be of great value. I am often told to stop asking so many questions. Jesus usually received questions as a step to our growing maturity.

    Second is the issue of reordering theology. Much of what we deem as conviction issues are really only cultural ones. Clearly Christology is a conviction issue.  But the styles of worship, church polity, and others have been so strongly adapted from culture to question it in many churchs would be cliamed heritical.
    Too often we place some generalizations that may either be ill intended or well intended but reflect poorly as a description of the “emergent” mindset. I find of the greatest value my dialogue with the emergent helps me learn how to share my “testimony” in a new and fresh manner to people that I meet.

  • Posted by

    Daniel - I’m not sure what you mean about Jesus’ Word being ambiguous.  It certainly isn’t for me and other Christians that I worship and study with.  In the contrary, His word is straight on and so very simple!  Why then did so many in His day not get it?  Because they didn’t want it.  They didn’t want to pick up their own cross and follow Him.  Others had blinders on - put their by the Father.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ Word is understood by those who simply ask for guidance.  I wonder if the emerging church intends to try to figure it out on their own.  If this is the case, it’s no wonder that the message is confusing.  I’m almost finished with “The Secret Message of Jesus”.  I’m enjoying the book, and it’s confirming my thoughts.

  • Posted by

    I enjoy a good porch. Now don’t go getting me wrong here.

    But fellas? Listening on this porch is like watching a tennis match.

    BTW: Now up to serve is either Kent, Peter, Al and/or Jack.

    And the last time I looked, it was Friday. smile Just tryin’ to inject a little humor.

  • Posted by


    Ouch… LOL and my sides hurt.

    Yeah, it was friday yesterday… and no humor! I’m bummed. Maybe we’re “post-humor”???



  • Posted by Tony Myles

    Tony A -

    I also believe Jesus’ words are quite clear… and yet… we have so many denominations that have their own version of what “quite clear” means.

    If the disciples couldn’t get it clear and if we can’t just yet, then maybe things aren’t quite so clear in the lens that is currently a bit dark and dim due to the broken world we still live in.

    Perhaps “Evangelicals” have been rubbing one part of the same lens that the “Emergents” are rubbing in a different corner.

    The more I listen (including to this conversation) the more I get the sense that’s what’s going on.

  • Posted by

    Tony M said: “If the disciples couldn’t get it clear and if we can’t just yet, then maybe things aren’t quite so clear in the lens that is currently a bit dark and dim due to the broken world we still live in. “

    Tony I would guess you actually believe what you say about the disciples not being able to “get it clear” - but what exactly are you talking about when you say that? You see the truth is they seldom had differences that were not straightened out by the power of the holy Spirit to be recorded in the word of God for the remainder of time to learn from. This idea that confusion is a good thing and “trying” to work it out by experimenting with alternative meanings for the word of God is abhorrent. Maybe you might not find it so appealing to be a part of the conversation when it hits you that the very thing leaders of either “emergent/emerging” movement ultimately do is say to those who abide in the truth - “Did God really say that?”
    Now I don’t know if you remember the first time those words were recorded, not really sure if you believe the recording to be factual or not, but it is God’s word so I’ll take it as it is written to be, a factual representation of what transpired in the Garden between Eve and Satan, but doesn’t that chill you to your very core?
    I’ve heard it said. “Don’t misquote scripture lest ye be like Satan” as a rightful response to the misquoting of “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” But that brings up another point of another time Satan challenged God’s word - what did Jesus use to combat him there? It was the rightfully applied word of God which has been known and understood throughout the generations by men and women who humbly submitted to the sovereignty and authority of God and taught the scriptures ads they should be taught, with reverence and awe, humility and grace, rightly dividing the word of truth. The very idea that a group of individuals who would undermine the inerrancy of scripture, and even McLaren who, if he had his way, would like to rewrite or redefine it with no idea where it would end up, would be leaders of a group that call themselves Christian’s is chilling - especially in light of Jesus word in Matthew 7:21-23 which followed a warning about false prophets who come in “sheeps clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Jesus said in that passage:“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.Since God is not the author of confusion, which is crystal clear from scripture, how then could those fostering more confusion in the name of advancing Christianity be doing the will of the Father?

    Humble thoughts from a humble servant of the Most High from whom anything of value from my life comes. To Him be the Glory, now and forever.

  • Posted by

    John 3:36 writes “and even McLaren who, if he had his way, would like to rewrite or redefine it with no idea where it would end up”

    With all due respect, I don’t get that from McLaren at all. I have not read all his books I admit, only about a half-dozen or so, and I’ve read numerous articles by him. I think you could easily say that he has an obvious high regard for scripture… a high enough regard not to place scripture on equal footing with modern or even post-modern interpretations of it, which is unfortunately what I’ve seen a lot of folks who follow Jesus do.

    I love that the emergent conversation has put the mystery back into scripture for me (not confusion… there’s a difference). There’s stuff I don’t understand in there… and that is okay! What you call fostering more confusion, I think might be more aptly described as putting back the mystery…

    As far as the disciples not getting it clear… I am preaching on Peter this weekend (in about an hour again as a matter of fact) and as I studied his life again, it occurred to me that he is the POSTER child for not getting stuff right for a very long time. He’s well into his ministry (this is long after he’s received the Holy Spirit) when he needs to be publicly corrected by Paul on his mistaken legalistic issues of eating with Gentiles.

    Peter seems to have learned from that, and not held a grudge (at least not forever) against Paul, since he is the first in Christian history to claim that Paul’s letters are real scripture. Sounds like a story of learning, changing, growing, emerging… I wonder how many other things Peter took a long time to get clear on. I’m glad that when he was corrected, he said to himself, about his own beliefs “Did God really say that?” (Just because one might ask that question of their interpretation of scripture does not make one equal to the first in the Bible who used that particular sentence...)

    Have a nice Sunday everybody!

  • Posted by

    Peter that was a near direct quote from McLaren, but let me simply say that if you “don’t get that from McLaren” - well it might be because you are not looking for it or quite possibly your eyes and ears are not clear enough to see it. This from one who has done in depth studies of the writings of McLaren and others in the Emergent/emerging movement/conversation is quite alarming:

    It is obvious that Guru Brian McLaren fits the above definition. Recently, in his review of The Secret Teachings of Jesus (STJ), Gary Gilley reveals further McLaren’s deviation from the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself: “But herein lies the problem. McLaren believes that the church has never understood the real message of Jesus.” Then on page 91 McLaren himself “enlightens” us that the Church itself has not even understood the Gospel because it is not actually “justification by grace through faith, the free gift of salvation, Christ being a substitutionary sacrifice for [one’s] sin.” Instead says Guru McLaren “the kingdom of God is at hand. That was Jesus’ message” (ibid.)

    A couple of pages later in STJ McLaren’s new “gospel” of inclusivism, only hinted at in A Genrous Orthodoxy, now comes fully emerging when he tells us, “Jesus’ secret message in word and deed makes clear that the kingdom of God will be radically, scandalously inclusive.” This is because, says McLaren, “Jesus enjoys table fellowship with prostitutes and drunks, seeming to shift the focus of spirituality from the temple…to the table of fellowship and reconciliation” (94). There is no mention of repentance or of the new birth as the Emergent cult leader Guru McLaren “uncovers” the “true” gospel in The Secret Teachings of Jesus.

  • Posted by

    John 3:36,

    I don’t want to continue this debate too much, but I do want to comment on a few things. First, I think it’s a good idea to be careful with “near direct quotes” as you call them. And the quotes from reviewers who disagree with McLaren’s writings don’t necessarily prove a point. I still maintain that McLaren’s works read in context with each other and with themselves, do not say the things that you and others have said.

    I believe the kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of God, is indeed “radically scandalously inclusive.” I believe that anybody, no matter how evil or sinful, can repent and turn to Jesus and He will make His home in them. My experience is that Brian McL believes this too.

    I’ve studied McLaren’s works pretty closely, and my eyes and ears are pretty clear. Do I agree with every one of his words? No, I’m on record as having concerns. But I stop short of the “condemnation” that you seem to be implying.

    Bless you,

  • Posted by Tony Myles

    So… what have we learned from this conversaton?

    And how much have we spent time LISTENING (per the point of this article to begin with) versus reacting?

    Not to mention what have we learned about ourselves?

  • Posted by

    Peter -
    I finished up the Secret Message of Jesus (John, the title is not the Secret Teachings of Jesus - we need to get the title right before we critique what’s between the cover)
    Just wanted to make one quick point regarding Mr. McLaren’s words “radically scandalously inclusive”.  It is so true (Thank you God, for your Son!) that anybody, no matter how evil or sinful, can repent and turn to Jesus (salvation from death).  However, this does not fit into the definitions for “radically” or “scandalously” - on the contrary, this is the essence of scripture and the perfect reflection of God’s grace and judgement.  I am afraid that this is a subtle hint at a more universalist stance (yes, I know… he says he’s not in that camp - you have to really try hard to ignore the universalist rhythm in his books, and even more so in his interviews). 

    The Secret Message of Jesus will be the last McLaren read for me.  I closed the book and found myself praying that new Christians would not go to this book for “milk or meat”, and instead go to scripture.  I was truly “bumbed out” after this one. Mr. McLaren, though he would never agree, is irresponsible.  It’s OK to be controversial, but he wields his words around like a harmless play toy.  To me, the message of Jesus is a matter of life and death.  McLaren’s writings are all about life, and little to do about death.  Interesting that Jesus warns us more about death (hell) in scripture than he teaches about salvation.  But I expect today people don’t want to hear about death, so we best stifle that conversation completely.  So, what if God is radically and scanalously exclusive?  After all, scripture does teach us that correct path is narrow, and few find it.  We also learn that God has appointed those who the truth will be revealed.  There is an awful lot of scripture that points toward exclusivity - maybe that’s why Mr. McLaren believes the secret message will be revealed between the lines.  I’m sorry guys, but this stuff is over the top.  I know you probably don’t agree, but if there’s an ounce of hog-wash in this book, then why are we forming small group book studies around his?  Why is McLaren recommended reading from our pulpits and recommended to new members classes?  I’m going err on the side of truth and stick to the scriptures, asking the Holy Spirit to guide me through the confusing books and verses.  I have hope and humility in the Spirit.

  • Posted by Daniel

    I’m curious.  Has anyone read NT Wright’s “Simply Christian”?  I ask because it is the theological equivalent of McLaren’s “Secret Message of Jesus”.  But people don’t seem to get offended by the former.  I wonder why that is.  I think part of it is that McLaren writes (generally speaking) for people who are disillusioned with traditional conservative evangelicalism.  For those of us who aren’t disillusioned, and are still very happy with our evangelicalism, his style is grating and fairly controversial.  NT Wright, on the other hand, writes from across the pond and his words strike us quite differently.  His target audience is also different from McLaren’s.  I guess I’m wondering if part of what makes McLaren so controversial is his wording, more than his ideas. 
    Unless someone here is particularly offended by Wright… Any takers?

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