Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Fundagelicals & I share Emergent concerns

A little less than 2 months ago, Dignan posted about the Emergent Church movement, Brian McLaren's writings in particular. Having spent a bit of time trying to explain that Christians can accept the most basic tenets & practices of Judaism and remain Christian but that the reverse is not true (the most basic tenet of Christianity being the divinity of Jesus and many Christian practices run counter to basic Jewish precepts) despite what "Jews for Jesus" claims, I found myself fixated on a statement attributed to McLaren in a review of McLaren's book "A Generous Orthodoxy":
"I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all?) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it's not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many 'Christian' religious contexts, either."
I experienced something less than warm fuzzies in response to the statement. My initial reaction was that this was a very politely worded reference to the "soft sell" techniques many missionaries use when targeting Jews and I stated as much when I commented on the thread. Dignan dissented, stating McLaren seemed an unlikely proponent of something that nefarious. I thought about it and reasoned that it could be possible that the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck due to the current pro-christotheocracy movement and the atmosphere of paranoia it's created.

It's quite possible that McLaren was alluding to the fact that the ministry of Jesus incorporated a lot of things from Jesus' own religion (Judaism) as well as ideas/beliefs from other cultures/religions to which he was exposed. There are, as we all should know, common themes and beliefs that are consistent between Eastern and Western religions, as well as pagan ones and the basic moral beliefs of atheism. Maybe that was the gap McLaren was trying to bridge. It's the same one progressive Christians bridge with those of other religions daily, and it's based on an understanding that while there are differences in the religions (or lack there of), the ultimately effect they're trying to achieve is helping people to become better human beings, to accentuate the positive, provide room for growth in a mutually respectful productive environment, and to stand in judgement of ourselves (not of others).

I shot McLaren an email asking him if he would be so kind to indulge me, and shed further light on what he meant by the emphasized language. Little did I know that the Fundagelicals (as Brandon calls them) had taken note of the comment and had become extremely concerned. The Kentucky Baptist Convention disinvited McLaren from speaking at their evangelism conference. In an interview with the Associated Baptist Press, McLaren suggested the controversy was one of semantics. He wasn't saying that he doesn't want people to convert, he was saying that it wasn't necessary for them to "affiliate with the Christian religion."
"This is a very well-known reality in missiology," he added. "Many Southern Baptist missionaries are building disciples in communities of disciples ... that are meeting in homes or other places, but they are not affiliating with the Christian religion and disaffiliating with their own religion.

"This is especially the case in Muslim countries. They're affiliated as followers of Jesus but for a whole number of reasons, they are not saying, 'I'm an affiliate of the Christian religion.'"
Lest the previous statement mislead you to think he's referring to those who convert but aren't open about it and may publicly pretend to still be adherents to their previous religion because it's dangerous, he goes on to say:
"The issue," he insisted, "is that people confess Jesus as Lord. I'm interested in helping people actively be disciples of Jesus as Lord."
He does go on to say that Jesus is the saviour (exclusively), which means there is no other way to salvation but through Jesus and accepting him as Lord. [I'm not bashing this belief or anything, I fully expect anyone who calls themself "Christian" to believe in the divinity of Jesus]. Based on these statements, McLaren needs to be very clear in disavowing the understandable conflict in his original statement.

While one can remain Christian and incorporate substantial parts of Jewish doctrine (especially since Jesus was Jewish and Christianity is based on Judaism), the same can not be said in reverse. The Jewish notion of Ha Moshiach is not one in which the messiah is a divine being (Moshiac literally means annointed; the messiah will be an annointed king). Similar statements can be made for the incorporation of other religions and while remaining Christian, but not being Christian and that other religion at the same time. To imply otherwise is irresponsible, and disrespectful to Christianity as well as other religions.

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