(Continued from page 203)BEWARE OF 'A NEW KIND OF CHRISTIAN'
THE 'MOST INFLUENTIAL CHRISTIAN FOR 2005'?
The influences of Warren's liberal, 'anything goes,' philosophy are far-wide. 'A New Kind of Christian: a Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey', a book by Brian McLaren (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001) won a Christianity Today 'Award of Merit' in 2002 and has found a wide audience in 'evangelical' circles. McLaren is a prolific writer and international traveller who lectures at seminaries as diverse as Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Wesley Seminary, George Fox Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Princeton. Some of McLaren's articles are posted at a website founded by Rick Warren, e.g.:
McLaren is one of five co-authors of 'Church in the Emerging Culture' (2003). 'A New Kind of Christian' was the first in a trilogy. The second volume, The Story We Find Ourselves In, was published in 2003, and the third volume, The Last Word and the Word after That, was published in 2005. 'A New Kind of Christian' presents theological liberalism in the guise of a wiser, kinder, and gentler type of Christianity called 'Postmodern.' It is also known as the 'Emerging Church.' The semi-fictional account is about an evangelical pastor who has a crisis of faith and submits himself to the guidance of a liberal Episcopalian who is a graduate of Princeton Divinity School and a former Presbyterian pastor. This in itself should warn every true Bible-believing Christian to steer clear of McLaren's work. The book recounts the evangelical's journey from a fairly solid 'fundamentalist' type faith in the Bible as the absolute standard for truth and in which doctrine is either right or wrong, scriptural or un-Scriptural, to a pliable, philosophical position in which 'faith is more about a way of life than a system of belief, where being authentically good is more important than being doctrinally right' (from the back cover of 'A New Kind of Christian'!). Gary E. Gilly wrote an accurate review of 'A New Kind of Christian,' observing: 'More specifically, McLaren rejects absolute truth, authority, theology, objectivity, certainty and clarity. He embraces relativism, inclusivism, deconstructionism, stories (to replace truth), creative interpretation of Scripture, neo-orthodoxy, and tolerance.'
Instead of turning to the Word of God, the Bible, this evangelical pastor turns to a deceiver for guidance and is led into severe error. This reflects the experience of many men and women throughout the evangelical world who fail to separate from false doctrine, having been brainwashed to accept a 'positive, nonjudgmental' approach to Christianity, and so have accepted every brand of heresy. A visit to a typical evangelical bookstore is evidence of this - as we have detailed on other pages ( page 8 and 14). McLaren's 'A New Kind of Christianity' derides a faithful Biblical position and slanderously labels fundamentalism as Phariseeism and equates it with medieval Roman Catholicism (ironic, when Warrenites are embracing the same Rome which really hasn't changed at all but merely wears a front they put on to fool the world!). In this respect McLaren is perfectly at home with Warren's foolish views. Early in his book his 'hero' (who is called 'Neo') says: 'I don't dislike fundamentalists, taken individually - they tend to be pretty nice folks. Get them together in a group though, and I get nervous. I start to twitch and break out in a rash' (p. 9). That is about as near to a complimentary nod towards those who hold a strict Biblical stance, while liberals and Papists are portrayed in a much more sympathetic light.
Far from presenting an intellectual approach to Christianity, the book is filled with strawman arguments, shallow reasoning, and Scripture taken wildly out of context. It rejects the Bible as the infallible Word of God and tries to insist that we need to approach the Bible 'on less defined terms' (p. 56) so that doctrine is 'variable' rather than absolute. It takes a view reminiscent of Rome, arguing that the Bible alone should not be our authority, but only one of many authorities, such as tradition, reason, exemplary people (cf. the Papal view of Popes and saints) and trusted institutions (cf. the Papacy) - and spiritual experience (pp. 54, 55). It foolishly teaches that it is a Pharisaical error to regard the Bible as 'God's encyclopedia, God's rule book, God's answer book' (p. 52) and that the authority of the Bible is not in the text itself but in a 'mystical' level above and beyond the text (p. 51). Thus you can make the Word of God Say anything you want it to say and believe anything you want! What a dull recipe for disaster!
Christians should not try to judge right from wrong in an absolute sense because all of our understanding of the Bible is coloured and conditioned by extra-Biblical influences such as your era and culture. The post-modern Christian is called to 'relativize[s] your own modern viewpoint,' so they understand everything concerning the Bible and Christianity as only relative and uncertain (p. 35). McLaren teaches that there is no such thing as 'the Christian world-view,' that every doctrinal position, 'no matter how resplendent with Biblical quotations - can claim to be the ultimate Christian world-view, because every model is at the least limited by the limitations of the contemporary human mind, not to mention the 'taste in universes' of that particular age' (pp. 36, 37). Strange that anyone holding an orthodox, historical view of the Bible can kick McLaren views into touch without raising a sweat? But this is obviously not significant; not in McLaren's view, anyway.
Thus McLaren teaches that ecumenism is good and that all 'denominations,' including Roman Catholicism, can contribute to 'true' Christianity, as he views it. Thus 'there are good Catholics, good Greek Orthodox, good Pentecostals, and good Episcopalians' (p. 73). But, of course, there are no 'good fundamentalists' - because earlier he has labelled 'fundamentalists' as Pharisees! He claims that labels such as Catholic, Protestant, liberal, evangelical 'are about to become inconsequential' in a post-modern Christianity (p. 41) and mystical Catholic practices are authentic and desirable (p. 58). Again, he proves that labels are only consequential when he is doing the labelling!
McLaren's 'Christians' should not ask pastors questions such as, 'Do you believe in inerrancy?' or 'What's your position on homosexuality?' because to make them answer such questions is to 'cheapen' them and to make them sell themselves (p. 61) and the real issue for Jesus is 'goodness, not just rightness' (p. 61), as if righteousness and truth were in some sort of conflict!
His New Age heresy is made abundantly clear by his claims that there is much good in pagan religions which have been good for the world: 'My knowledge of Buddhism is rudimentary, but I have to tell you that much of what I understand strikes me as wonderful and insightful, and the same can be said of the teachings of Muhammad, though of course I have my disagreements. ... I'd have to say that the world is better off for having these religions than having no religions at all, or just one, even if it were ours. ... They aren't the enemy of the gospel, in my mind...' (pp. 62, 63). It would appear he is utterly ignorant of the truth about Hinduism and Buddhism, and their off-shoots, which have corrupted and debased people, turning women into chattels, creatures into gods, generated castes of lower class people called 'untouchables,'and reduced the value of human life.
Jesus' objective, claims McLaren, was: '... a global, public movement or revolution to bring holistic reconciliation, a reconnection with God, with others, with ourselves, with our environment' (p. 73). The author claims that this is what Jesus is doing today and the proper objective of churches is not merely the salvation of souls but the renewal of the world and saving the planet from destruction (p. 83), that it is right for Christians to use pagan practices (such as the Native American sweat lodge, peace pipe, dance, dream catcher, and smoke - pp. 26, 74-78), for unbelievers and pagans can be saved without personal faith in Christ (p. 92).
Thus we see the far-reaching effect of Warren's influence which will embrace any form of heresy. Clearly, McLaren is an enemy of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and a dangerous heretic. But what can you say about Rick Warren, self-proclaimed leader of a 'New Reformation'? How can contemporary Christians allow themselves to be duped by a false gospel which allows and assists even more disgraceful views to be promulgated?
Perhaps the only recent surprise concerning Warren is that another deceiver, Bishop T.D. Jakes (Word-Faith/Promise Keepers heretic) of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, has been chosen ahead of him as 'The Most Influential Christian' for 2005 in a three-month survey by readers of Church Report magazine. The Church Report is the leading monthly business news magazine for Christian leaders that serves 40,000 from across the USA. The survey asked each Web visitor and magazine subscriber to nominate their top 10 choices and participants were encouraged to choose not just pastors, but all types of Christian leaders. Jakes totalled over 150,000 nominations and the other members of the top 10, in order, were: Joel Osteen of Houston's Lakewood Church; Billy Graham; Rick Warren; Bill Hybels; Dr. Paul Crouch, founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network; Joyce Meyer, Word-Faith author and evangelist; President Bush; Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family; and Chuck Colson, author and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Other notables on this 'distinguished' list include: Joni Eareckson Tada, evangelist and founder of Joni and Friends; Max Lucado; Dr. Robert H. Schuller; Ted Haggard; Marcus Lamb, founder of Daystar Television Network; Bishop Harry Jackson; Sean Hannity; Pope Benedict; Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives; and Luis Palau.
Jason Christy, CEO of Christy Media, which publishes The Church Report magazine and The Church Report Daily, a daily electronic newsletter that serves 150,000 Christian leaders declared: 'I am pleased that Bishop Jakes and all of the honorees have been recognized for the outstanding contributions to their churches, ministries, communities, the country and the world. Each of these exemplifies what it means to be a Christian, demonstrates how to be a leader and each of them has made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions.'
The entire 50 Most Influential Christians in America special issue can be found in print and online at www.thechurchreport.com
What a pity that the list includes so many who support ecumenical, liberal, and heretical views and certainly not one of the ilk of Bishop J.C. Ryle (a real, Biblical bishop) or Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones! Is this really the cream of contemporary Christianity? Lord Jesus, please help us!
Can the true gospel be carried to people using a marketing philosophy which promotes the sinner to pampered customer. The facts show that the 'purpose driven' style subverts the true gospel message as exposition surrenders to entertainment, preaching to performances, doctrine to drama, and theology to theatrics. Doctrine has been trivialised and expositional preaching abandoned, leading to the introduction of multitudes of false converts and shallow members. A former Willow Creek counsellor admitted: 'Willow Creek is a mile wide and one-half inch deep' (G.A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996, p. 268). Those who grieve to see their churches adopt this model have been marginalised or totally forced out. Separation from sin, worldliness, false doctrine and false churches has been deeply compromised but, speaking of his church members, an unconcerned Warren states: 'Are there unrepentant pagans mixed into Saddleback's crowd of 10,000? Without a doubt ...That's okay. Jesus said ... Don't worry about the tares …' (Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995, p. 237).
Unfortunately for the ignorant Rick, any church having a significant proportion of 'tares' will be severely weakened in all the important areas of theology and doctrine - and therefore behaviour and evangelism etc. Imagine being in a church that comes to its decisions by the whole membership voting and requires a majority (or, more stupidly, a 70% majority) in order to pass the decisions of the leadership. When you have a large percentage of 'tares' - and/or simply Biblically ignorant members - there will be many times when no decisions are voted through! We know because we have belonged to such churches. And still they limp along, not growing in a Warren-like manner or by sucking people from other churches, but slowly dying as the members grow old and, never having learned to properly disciple or evangelise, few (or zero) new members join.
How many are 'tares'? When George Barna surveyed Willow Creek's weekend participants he found that, while 91% stated that their highest value was having a deep personal relationship with God, in the same group, 25% of singles, 38% of single parents, and 41% of divorced individuals, 'admitted to having illicit sexual relationships in the last 6 months.' (G.A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996, p. 236).
At the heart of the entire purpose driven church paradigm is a fatal misconception. As John MacArthur points out: 'The notion that church meetings should be used to tantalize or attract non-Christians is a relatively recent development. Nothing like it is found in scripture; in fact, the apostle Paul spoke of unbelievers entering the assembly as an exceptional event (1 Cor 14:23-24).' (John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, p. 83). It would certainly be an exceptional event for unbelievers to enter contemporary churches in Britain unaccompanied - unless they were there for one of their trips of a lifetime, i.e., for an infant baptism, dedication, wedding, or funeral! Of course, in New Testament days, the Holy Spirit had ensured the church at Jerusalem was so holy and God-fearing that nobody would easily join it when they heard the fate of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Can you imagine Warren et al readily mentioning this Scripture to their 'unchurched Harry and Mary'? Just as we have mentioned the failure of Dr Michael Ball to correctly interpret the 'zeal of Phinehas' because it would interfere with his preconceptions, Warrenites obviously have to avoid preaching the whole truth from Scripture for fear of upsetting their applecart. In contrast, Paul 'kept back nothing' (Acts 20v20) in his preaching which involved reproving, rebuking and exhorting with patience and doctrine, speaking of a future time when people would no longer 'endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers and they will turn their ears away from the truth' (2 Timothy 4v2-4). We are certainly living in such days now!
A.W. Tozer warned: 'One of the most popular current errors, and the one out of which springs most of the noisy, blustering religious activity in evangelical circles, is the notion that as times change the church must change with them.' It is faithfulness to God's word, as opposed to what the world and the 'purpose driven' merchants call success, which is the standard of reward at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 2v4-5): ' ... and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.'
Believers must heed and proclaim the words of the apostles and prophets who penned the words of Scripture and commanded believers to "teach others also" (2 Tim. 2v2) and to "stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our (the apostles') epistle" (2 Thess. 2v15). The Word of God is sufficient to equip the believer "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3v16-17). Yes, the Bible is sufficient, and yes, God does use pastors and teachers to train and disciple believers in the truths of Scripture, but The PurposeDriven Life is not consistently faithful to God's Word and therefore must be rejected by serious, discerning believers.
Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven philosophy are dangerous errors accepted by the world because Warren and his methods are of the world. But, even more seriously, investigation reveals clear evidence that Warren, and his equally ambiguous co-leaders, are clearly anti-Word of God and therefore anti-Christ! Brothers and sisters in Christ, do not be misled. Make sure of all things (Acts 17v11; 1 Thessalonians 5v19-22).