Response to Brian McLaren - Q&A on Heresy

I appreciate the depth with which Brian responded to a recent Q&A on the topic of heresy. 

After reading some comments on Brian's Facebook feed, I came up with this response. It was too long for a comment section, so I'm throwing it up here. Note: this is a Christian in-house debate, but it's being posted in a public space. This is a paradox, and I'm still not entirely comfortable doing this ..... But here goes.

False prophets were/are indeed people who turn(ed) people away from the truth. But If you take scripture at its basic meaning, Jesus is the way, the truth! And the life. Hold on ... This explicitly says that THE truth is first and foremost a person - Jesus! (John 14:6). We meet this person most clearly in the scriptures, but as far as ultimate truth is concerned, it is Jesus we need to look to first before anything else in scripture. The whole of Jesus' life as recorded in scripture must therefore be the organizing principle, the main filter and the primary pair of theological glasses that we use to interpret every other part of the bible.

Given this, it is sound (and terrifying) to argue that anyone who turns people away from Jesus can be considered a false prophet. I think this turns the gun around on us, because a confrontational attitude is a sure-fire way to turn people away from Jesus. It's not the only way, but it is one.

A second point: as the apostle Peter wrote, sometimes we find ourselves in a case where unstable people twist words (2 peter 3:15-16). I think it takes a lot of wisdom to discern when someone is truly leading people astray, or if it is the case of certain key people (especially those with very loud 'voices') twisting words around for their own gain. Imagine peter chastising Paul as a heretic because some unstable people twisted all of Paul's words around to mean something contrary to what he was actually saying. This is exactly what happens when people fire insults and half-thought out arguments (which can usually be traced back to one of a few mega-pastors) at Brian McLaren, Rob bell, Greg Boyd and other modern day evangelical 'heretics'.  I'm not saying that these mega-pastors are unstable, but the atmosphere they are speaking into (the internet) is unbelievably unstable. I am not unaware of the irony of this statement :-)

I've experienced someone twisting my words first-hand. It sucks, and it's hard to respond graciously when it happens. It's one thing to have a disagreement, but it's quite another to hurl verses of scripture like daggers at someone we disagree with. When we find ourselves in the middle of a hot topic, I want to challenge all Christians to ask ourselves and God: "why am I reacting so strongly? Or perhaps "reveal the heart of my attitude, so that I may carry the word of truth with humility and accuracy" Sometimes, Christians, like everyone, just don't have ears to hear the truth - because the truth can cut deep. This is especially true when truth requires us to give up an ingrained way of thinking for a more agape-driven, Christ-centred way of thinking.

There is a very loud segment of the Christian church who have bought into a version of Christianity that, quite frankly, has more to do with religious moralism than I believe is healthy. These are the people I find actively vilifying McLaren and others the most. There are others whom disagree with McLaren, but whom are gracious and gentle about it - as a result, I have learned far more in the past two years from gracious disagreement than I have from all of the loudmouthed arguing put together over my entire life. So I have to wonder: is it even worth listening to loud mouthed, ignorant, abrasive (and occasionally abusive) critiques? 


Consider the book of Galatians, and Collosians. Here's the rub: moralism is simply a re-contextualisation of forcing people to be circumcised, or to follow certain religious practises in order to be considered true Christians. It is Grace, the utterly un-merited favour of God, which is the fabric that binds the church together. We are a people who are not our own, bought with a price, and charged to announce the good news of God's grace and love toward all people - which is Christ crucified. As Nietzsche said, "God is dead" ... But he died so you could live, and he conquered death, once and for all.


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