January 21, 2021

Convince Me!

By Chaplain Mike

OK, you are going to find out today just how cantankerous and out of touch the ol’ Chaplain is.

The longer I have been a believer in and follower of Jesus, the less I have been attracted to “movements” (“fads?”) in the church. I realize this puts me at odds with those who think I am constantly missing “catching the wave of the Spirit” as he does “new and exciting” things among his people. It’s just that, the older one gets, the more one sees these movements come and go, ebb and flow, morph and get swallowed up into other waters. The relentless changes and enthusiastic voices exclaiming the arrival of the “next wave” get shrill and annoying after awhile. Count me as one who longs for continuity, roots, depth, and proven staying power with regard to matters of faith.

If that makes me an obstreperous old coot, then so be it.

When it comes to the Emerging Church movement, I’ve heard those voices calling. I’ve wandered the bookstore aisles and seen the growing number of titles filling the shelves, calling out for those weary of church as we know it to forge a new path. I’ve seen the articles describing the phenomenon. I’ve noticed the websites proliferating. I guess my contrarian streak goes deep. Or perhaps I’m just a pessimist. I figure if something is that popular and trendy, it must not be the real deal. Maybe it’s just the old hippie in me—never trust “the Man” who’s trying to sell you something.

Which leads me to my point in this post: I have never read Brian McLaren.

Never really desired to. I’ve thumbed through a few of his books in the bookstore, and to be honest, they didn’t look that interesting or insightful to me.

  • I have not read A New Kind of Christian. I always thought what we really needed was more of the original kind.
  • I have not read A Generous Orthodoxy, though I loved the title. On the other hand, I thought the subtitle—Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN—was way too cute and clever for my taste.
  • The Secret Message of Jesus sounded too much like gnosticism to me.
  • Everything Must Change—well, no.
  • As for A New Kind of Christianity, see point #1. Besides, the little that I’ve read critiquing it indicates that what he is suggesting is not new at all.

So there you have it. If Brian McLaren is the icon of the Emerging Church movement, I am an iconoclast. Maybe that’s too strong—I really have no desire to destroy him. I just won’t pay to visit the temple.

Convince Me!
So, here’s your challenge today. Those of you who appreciate McLaren’s writings—I am giving you full opportunity in your comments to persuade me that I’ve been missing out.

  • Tell me why I should quit being so contrary—right this minute!—and run out and buy one of his books.
  • Tell me something about why this guy is so insightful and why the church needs to hear his voice today.
  • Tell me how his writings can help me find some cool water in the midst of the post-evangelical wilderness.
  • Tell me what it is that he is saying that can help renew and restore God’s people to a more Jesus-shaped life and practice.

Convince me.


  1. Van Voulgarakis says

    First of all, I agree wholeheartedly with Headless Unicorn.

    Secondly, the McLaren phenomenon is what drives the Emergent Church phenomenon. the Emergent Church is every bit as the owner of this blog comments about: yet another discovery of original meanings and yet another revival powered and guided by the good ol’ boys up there in heaven.

    McLaren, however, is something different entirely. He is as mainstream as me and thee (well, I am not a Christian, so maybe not as me) but he wishes to sanitize that mainstream from all the negative baggage and reputation but (important) without actually changing it.

    It is one of the greatest sources of interest both to non-Christian observers like me and to Christians of non-American descent to witness the fervour with which McLaren’s critics criticise him as heretic or as undoctrinal when the man is actually trying to retain all those doctrines and symbols the critics fear undermined. It is not that McLaren has nothing new to say. Rather, McLaren, for those who have studied his phenomenon, does not actually have ANY explicitly expressed position on anything. It is incredibly ingenious of him to be able to manage such a fury of criticism from the American Right and even Evangelical mainstream — almost no one i know in Europe cares much about the phenomenon to that extent.

    McLaren does not promote disbelief in the inerrancy of the Bible, or a belief in post-modernism (this is my favourite), or a eblief in the condoning of homosexuality, or a belief in condemning homosexuality, or a belief in the absence of hell, or a eblief in its existence. Trust me, you will never find any of it in his works. The Emergent Phenomenon is the usual Christian gimmick of the youth minister who wears an earing and gets a girlfriend to look cool while he preaches sexual abstinence and abstinence from real heavy metal music. BUT, McLaren’s forte lies in the fact that he goes one step beyond and not only does not preach against the things i just mentioned but he actually criticizes the fervour of those who preach against such items. He is a rebel and his aim is to appear rebellious enough to look cool and pluralistic and liebral and non-biggoted while at the same time keeping all the symbols, doctrines and attitudes that have led (at times) to such characteristics in history.

    I apologize for making a few unsubstantiated statements but space does not permit it. In a few months a more properly presented work will be published on this issue under my username which is also my real name. My conclusion, however, regarding McLaren is that he is very much encessary if one holds to the liberal and sociological positions to which I hold. However, his breakthrough must of necessity be only the spearhead. Revivals of any kind are short-lived if they do not outgrow their rebellious nature and if they do not become the establishment. People follow groups because of the firmness with which groups provide identity. McLaren gathers around him mostly liberal Christians but he does not provide identity–that is not his mission. Once (if) he becomes truly big, then someone else must succeed him and lay down the rules and laws and explicit statements that somehow “all knew” McLaren meant (kinda like Jesus). If not, then McLaren’s achievement will be short-lived.

Speak Your Mind