POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Another Voice Questions McLaren

Brian McLaren, emergent guru, former pastor, author, conference circuit rider and book tour promoter has another detractor on his vision presented of the "new emerging views" of Jesus, the gospel and the church.  This time the one who questions his vision is John Wilson, editor of Books and Culture magazine.  So you know, Wilson is an intellectual and not a right of center fundamentalist or Willowback modernist who McLaren aims at so often.  A few of Wilson's comments:

Speaking of McLaren's view of war Wilson writes:

I have to admit that—immersed as I am now in a pile of books about the conflict with Japan in World War II and another stack about the Spanish Civil War—this talk about war as an "addiction" seems sophomoric, indeed painfully naïve and patronizing. Perhaps I am just in denial. But dialogue between just-war folk and pacifists? Yes, I'm all for that—and if this dialogue can take us further, wonderful.

Such dialogue, of course, has proceeded fitfully for many centuries. Neither the just-war tradition nor the pacifist tradition has been static. And so—on this point and across the board—the claim of McLaren's title, Everything Must Change, is quite misleading.

His other main complaint is about his facile view of church history and the importance of the emergent's correction of the past.

McLaren is particularly misleading when he's suggesting, as he does quite emphatically at times, that somehow the church went off the rails early on, and that only now are (some) Christians beginning to understand what Jesus was really saying. While McLaren occasionally adds nuances and qualifiers, this ahistorical account runs through the book. In this respect, his message is oddly reminiscent of the ahistorical narrative of church history that dominated the evangelical/fundamentalist churches of my youth. Between an idealized first-century church and the present moment, when the preacher was calling on you to make a decision for Christ, there loomed a great wasteland—all those centuries in which the church failed to heed the plain words of Scripture.

Finally, he comments on McLaren's naivety in dealing with global economics with the following statement:  

The reader of McLaren's book will discover that everything hasn't changed. Do we, as McLaren suggests, decide not to buy a cheaper shirt that has been made in a factory where the workers receive terribly low wages and instead pay more for a shirt that has been made in a factory where the workers are better compensated? Or—as a number of economist friends of mine would maintain—would McLaren's well-intended gesture, insofar as it had any effect beyond producing a sense of virtuous conduct, actually tend to undermine the fortunes of those poor workers?

Wilson's post is brief and yet another reminder that McLaren's voice is not one that I trust either biblically or intellectually.   You can read Wilson's essay here.