what a day

I was pleasantly surprised to read this concession which Brian McLaren posted on his website.  While there remain many outstanding questions, perhaps not all is lost.

Dear friends and sojourners:

The publication of any book worth its salt brings a certain amount of blowback from those who have a vested interest in defending the traditional ways.  It is difficult not to take such opposition personally, but I have found that if I can separate the criticism from its critical source that there often remains a grain of truth which is profitable.

The critics of A New Kind of Christianity have been particularly vociferous, and yet their demeaning tone has not entirely disqualified their criticisms.  I have learned from their critique, and in the spirit of Christian charity, offer these changes to ANKoXy.  If I had to write the book again, I would:

1. Give an argument for its thesis.  It probably is not sufficient to say that my main idea (that the traditional creation-fall-redemptive narrative is Platonic) just popped into my head.  I wouldn’t tolerate this absence of argument from Pat Robertson or James Dobson, and I vow to do better next time.

2. Explicitly say that Jesus is God and that he bodily arose from the dead.  Especially since I identified my new kind of Christianity with John Crossan and Marcus Borg, the burden of proof is on me to allay readers’ fears and say that my friends are wrong on this point.  It’s also not enough for me to say afterward that I “oblige the creeds,” since liberals often say as much.  I am reminded of W. Robertson Smith, who when accused of denying the deity of Christ, replied “How can they accuse me of that?  I’ve never denied the divinity of any man, let alone Jesus!”  At any rate, I wrote two chapters on the identity of Jesus and never got around to explicitly saying that he is God.  And I should have.

3. Provide more orthodox answers.  I am right in saying that my book repeats the questions that many are asking, but I wish I had done more than merely repeat their questions as the new answers.  There must be a way to encourage honest dialogue while also helping people to find the truth they need.  I’m open to suggestions.

4. Made more of Jesus.  In my quest to welcome the marginalized I may have marginalized Jesus.  My critics have asked if my view of salvation requires Jesus or would Gandhi work just as well.  That is a good question, and I’m still working on it.

5. Gone to seminary.  This is the hardest admission to make, as I frequently criticize theological education as perpetuating an irrelevant and anachronistic vision of God and the Christian life.  I still believe this, but just as I serve as a consultant to churches, so there may be a place for educated professionals who can guide us in theology.  Given the mistakes I’m now copping to, it probably couldn’t hurt.

22 Comments

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  1. Hmm, not seeing this anywhere on his page and the phrasing sounds a bit Wittmer-esq, April Fools?

  2. That’s cruel.
    I actually went and looked at McLaren’s website.
    On the day before Good Friday and all.

  3. Once I saw that Mike said “pleasantly surprised” and “Brian McLaren” in such close proximity to each other, the gig was up for me.

  4. Ouch…

    I almost fell for it, but then I did a Topeka search and discovered the truth.

    jj

  5. A great one, Mike! BTW, I had forgotten that Crossen was a co-founder of the blasphemous “Jesus Seminar.”

    Even though this is a post made in levity, I must admit feeling quite sad about the future of Christianity in this country. While I know that God is sovereign, nonetheless there are consequences that American Christians will face for chasing after a false god.

    (On the right, the god is a mystical view of “America,” complete with near-worship of the armed forces and the police. On the left, it is worship of the “progressive” state. Anthony Gregory, who is not a believer but still a good friend of mine, has a very good article on the right, the left, and the FBI. Note that when the FBI infiltrates the immigration groups, Sojourners complains, but when the FBI infiltrates the Tea Parties and other organizations that Jim Wallis does not like, suddenly the FBI is our great protector. http://www.independent.org/blog/?p=5565)

  6. This crushes any glimmer of hope I might see in McLaren:

    My critics have asked if my view of salvation requires Jesus or would Gandhi work just as well. That is a good question, and I’m still working on it.

    That’s not a good question, and if he’s “still working on it, then he’s not ready to write about Christianity, “New Kind” or otherwise.

  7. You got me, Professor!

    Be shrewd as a snake, Adam … shrewd as a snake.

  8. Dude! I fell for it! UH!!!!!!!!!!!!! And almost reposted it on my blog! Good thing I checked his blog!

  9. I fell for it too. But I’m a little concerned about making too light of someone’s wandering from the faith. Don’t get me wrong, I love your humor Dr. Wittmer. In class you were able to make theology a joy to study because you were not afraid to use humor. With that being said, I think we should be praying for Brian fervently. He is in a position where he can turn people away from the truth and not only bring judgment on himself but cause the wandering of many people he has influence over which could bring judgment on them. I saw Kevin DeYoung’s post on Maundy Thursday (which is also today). I was not really familiar with this day and didn’t realize that it is tied to Jesus’s commandment he gave that evening to the disciples to love one another. How can we love Brian as someone who now seems to have turned from Jesus’ gospel? We must pray. We must also continue to speak out fervently and earnestly; but we should not mock and scoff at Brian’s expense. We must pray. It grieves me greatly that this did not really come from his site. This means he still stands apart from the gospel and could be like one who is described in 1 John who “was among us but not one of us”….this means he might be disconnected to life in Christ and may have as his destiny eternal damnation. If Jesus can save Paul who stood violently opposed to Jesus; we must pray for Brian. What better way to observe Maundy Thursday than to show charity to one who has wandered from the truth by praying for him?

  10. Question 4 absolutely floors me! He’s “working on it?”

    St. Paul’s answer would run something like:
    “I came knowing nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

  11. Not cool. Putting words in someone’s mouth that further malign their character – even on April Fool’s day – is not cool.

    Clever and well-written though, so…there’s that.

  12. Michael and Jason:

    Thanks for your comments–and I am sensitive to your points. I really didn’t mean anything else by this than an April Fool’s joke. I thought it was way too obvious to fool anyone, but it was April 1 and so I wrote something up in the spirit of the day. I don’t think humor and prayer are mutually exclusive–I don’t see how such a post inhibits us from praying for Brian or how it maligns his character–as there is nothing here that I haven’t said before on this blog.

    My biggest fear was that folks might think I am obsessed with him. I really do intend to stop talking about his book and his theology–this April Fool’s post was a one off. Now let’s all pray that God will lead him and his followers to repentance.

  13. Ha! Didn’t fall for it. I thought of Jeremiah 13:23.

  14. Mike,

    Just one question for you. Have you stopped being obsessed with McLaren yet?

  15. I almost believed it…until I read the seminary part and I knew it was an April Fools!

  16. Ho.ly.cow
    ah.mae.zing

    you shnookered me dr. w! I thought all my heart work deconstructing B Mac the last month went down the drain! Nicely played. And some of you need to lighten up a bit…

  17. Wow, I was about to write Brian and ask him why he caved to all the criticism… glad to hear it was a joke. : )

  18. In the middle of the Maundy Thursday sevice, it hit me what you named your post! GOOD ONE!

  19. Z.

    Thanks for catching that–I try to leave as many clues as possible–sorry for interrupting your Maundy Thursday service. I was having Maundy Thursday class–our topic was the atonement, so we’re not as callous as we sound.

    Jack:

    My next door neighbor is running for office. Why don’t you?🙂

  20. Mike,

    With the continual turnover caused by term limits, and the financial incentive of increased salaries brought to us by term-limited senators a few years ago, (after I was already termed out), it seems as though I am the only one not running for office these days. As I have said before, the only thing I am running for is cover.

  21. Mike,

    Why don’t you take down that velvet McLaren tacked on the wall inside of your garage?🙂

  22. Yes this post is too good to be true…..especially since #4 would be so damning to him.

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