Thursday, February 18, 2010

deyoung is still not emergent

Kevin DeYoung wraps up his review of Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity with the following:

For all the talk of being new (xi) and at the same time ancient (255), McLarenism is neither. It is old fashioned liberalism. McLaren, despite his historical plundering, has no right to claim he is in tradition of Martin Luther because he finds “sustaining inner strength,” or in the tradition of the Wesleys because “our hearts can be ‘strangely warmed’” (227). This is like saying I’m in the tradition of Ignatius because I have strong convictions. It doesn’t work. McLaren stands in the tradition of Ritschl, Harnack, Rauschenbush, and Whitehead, plain and simple.

In their book 20th-Century Theology, Grenz and Olson, no rabid fundamentalists they, describe classic liberalism in five points:

1. Liberals believe doctrine needs to develop to meet the needs of contemporary thought.
2. Liberals emphasize the need to reconstruct traditional beliefs and reject the authority of tradition and church hierarchy.
3. Liberals focus on the practical and ethical dimensions of Christianity.
4. Liberals seek to base theology on something other than the absolute authority of the Bible.
5) Liberals drift toward divine immanence at the expense of transcendence.

McLaren fits each of these points like a glove. H. Richard Niebuhr’s famous description of liberalism has not lost its relevance: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of Christ without a cross.”

The message of McLarenism is pretty simple: God is love and wants everyone to be kind and inclusive and care for the poor and the environment. This is what Jesus was like, and we should be like Jesus. This is, of course, not wrong in so far as it goes. The Liberal/McLaren emphasis on the kingdom is right, their concern for the “other” is right, much of their ethics is right. But McLarenism, like liberalism, cannot be right. It has its emphases all out of proportion, its right statements thrown out of whack by all that is missing. In McLarenism there is no original sin, no wrath, no hell, no creation-fall-redemption, no definite future, no second coming that I can see, no clear statement on the deity of Christ, no mention of vicarious substitution or God’s holiness or divine sovereignty, no ethical demands except as they relate to being kind to others, no God-offendedness, no doctrine of justification, no unchanging apostolic deposit of truth, no absolute submission to the word of God, nary a mention of faith and worship, no doctrine of regeneration, no evangelistic impulse to save the lost, and nothing about God’s passion for his glory. This is surely a lot to leave out.

McLaren’s Christianity is not new and certainly not improved. I don’t believe you can even call it Christianity. It is liberalism dressed up for the 21st century. We can only hope this wave of liberalism fades as dramatically as did the last.

Net - I'm glad McLaren has written this book. Many were critical of the emerg* gang before the thing ever got moving - this frustrated me a bit since it seemed to be based on a lot of assumptions. But now I can see they were right. The leaders and louder voices in emerg* are clearly not glorifying the God of the Bible. Sadly, many who are vested in the emerg* can only muster "our tradition [referring to previous church experience] was much, much more liberal than Emergent" and naively "I don't really think the theology of guys like McLaren or Pagitt or Jones or Tickle or whoever is all that radical."

The wise are moving on.

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