By Berit Kjos
Today’s “progressive” emerging churches have little love for the old certainties that have grounded genuine Christians in God’s revealed truth for 2000 years. They say those precious guidelines don’t fit the new dialectic and collective ways of thinking. Today’s entertainment-driven Christians prefer “feel good” assurances stripped of unwanted references to sin, guilt, or moral boundaries.
In other words, the old delight in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is being replaced with a new emphasis on one’s relationship to the group or “collective.” Many flock to the “emerging” or progressive churches that have expanded their positive message far beyond the old biblical “box.”
Consequently, many churches simply ignore the reality of our omnipotent, all-powerful Savior and King. Such almighty power and authority simply doesn’t fit our times. Too many self-proclaiming Christians are happy to trade His eternal Word for ever-changing truths that match the permissive god of their subjective imagination. “We’re on a journey,” they say, “So nothing can be set in stone.” Always changing, always transforming!
With biblical doctrine set aside, there is no longer a sure anchor for discernment, leaving parents “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14) and their children without a foundation for their lives. Meanwhile, pastors, teachers, and popular Christian leaders keep writing books that promote rebellion against Him. For example, a number of years ago popular author and former evangelical Brian McLaren openly rejected, even mocked, the major tenets of the Christian faith. In a 2006 radio interview, he told listeners that the doctrine of Hell is “false advertising for God.”1 To him and many others, there is no need for the Cross as a substitutionary death and an atonement for sin.
McLaren’s award-winning book, A New Kind of Christian, was written as a semi-fictional dialogue, so that readers could experience the thrill of questioning old truths and discovering new truth through the dialectic process. Notice how the introduction touts the postmodern worldview while raising doubts about biblical faith:
I realize, as I read and reread the Bible, that many passages don’t fit any of the theological systems I have inherited or adapted. Sure, they can be squeezed in, but after a while my theology looks like a high school class trip’s luggage—shoestrings hanging out here, zippers splitting apart there. . . .
I read what other people who are having similar experiences are saying, including people writing outside of the religious context—like this from [Buddhist sympathizer] Peter Senge: “In any case, our Industrial Age management. . . . our Industrial Age way of living will not continue. . . . It’s not sustainable in ecological terms, and it’s not sustainable in human terms. It will change. The only question is how. . . .”
I meet people along the way who model for me, each in a different way, what a new kind of Christian might look like. They differ in many ways, but they generally agree that the old show is over, the modern jig is up, and it’s time for something radically new.2 (Emphasis added.)
McLaren sounds strikingly similar to the late New Age teacher Barbara Marx Hubbard when she said, “The old play is almost over.” 3 Hubbard believed there would be a “selection process” that would somehow eliminate those who are slowing down the New Age (Age of Enlightenment) plan. Could Brian McLaren’s emerging church fall into lockstep with New Agers who believe biblical “dogmatic” Christians are the world’s enemy? Very possibly. The New Age and the emerging church both promote a false exalted view of man and a diminished view of Christ’s atonement.
Many popular evangelical leaders helped to bring Brian McLaren’s dream for a “radically new” Christianity to the forefront. And thanks to those early “launchers” of McLaren, he continues being an unbiblical influencer to many, especially young people.
Rick Warren was one of those who recommended McLaren on his original pastors.com website.4 And in emerging figure Dan Kimball’s book, The Emerging Church, Rick Warren and Brian McLaren shared the spot of writing forewords for the book, giving the impression that they were in unison regarding the emerging church. Bill Hybels, founding pastor of Willow Creek, often included McLaren in his leadership conferences.
While these Christian leaders later distanced themselves from Brian McLaren, the indispensable role they played in helping to launch him into fame was undoubtedly significant. In the year 2000, practically no one had heard of Brian McLaren; by 2005, Time magazine named him one of the top 25 most influential evangelicals in America!5 That influence continues to this day.
How does all this relate to our children? Brian McLaren gives us a glimpse in his book, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices. In that book, he explained that the emerging church must infiltrate the very “institutions that rejected it,”6 saying:
[O]ver time, what they reject will find or create safe space outside their borders and become a resource so that many if not most of the grandchildren of today’s fundamentalists will learn and grow and move on from the misguided battles of their forebears [biblical believers].7 (emphasis added)
In other words, what Brian McLaren has predicted is that our children and grandchildren will move away from the biblical truths we have instilled in them. Rick Warren once said that the older traditional Christians will have to leave the churches or die because they won’t change,8 thus the emphasis in the emerging church is on the youth.
What’s alarming is that Brian McLaren’s vision of infiltration is working. McLaren expresses his high hopes:
At the center, safe space happens. A learning community forms. New possibilities emerge. A new day dawns. If the guardians of our fragmented religious institutions forbid their members to meet in the center [i.e., compromise truth and engage in the dialectic], the members will not be able to comply. They will simply go undercover [talking about emerging figures] and arrange secret liaisons . . . Eventually, the shared resources, vitality, and new possibilities that unfold . . . will penetrate and reinvigorate . . . Trying to stop [this is] a losing game.9
There is an agenda that is after the minds of our children and grandchildren! And it is disguised in seemingly Christian vernacular.
Our children and grandchildren stand in the wake of this spreading deception. If they are not prepared and equipped to follow God and take a stand, they may yield their hearts to this process with little or no resistance.
Never before have our children been surrounded by so many spiritual counterfeits, seductive suggestions, and occult imagery and precepts. And never before has the Christian community been less prepared to resist a spiritual assault on the bride of Christ.
It’s up to us as parents and grandparents to teach our children and grandchildren to stand strong against these deceptions, put on the whole armor of God, and walk by the light God has given us through His Word. We can’t trust church personnel, Sunday school teachers, or youth pastors to fulfill our God-given assignment. But when we do trust God and when we prepare our own hearts, teach His Word, and train our children to follow His narrow way, we will experience a kind of fellowship in our families that far exceeds the fleeting, deceptive fun that the world offers.
In prior centuries, while there were always some who were involved in the occult, North Americans, for the most part, enjoyed relative freedom from the occult forces that tormented so many other parts of the world. The pilgrims and a significant number of other believers trusted God and played a huge role in helping to build a foundation on biblical and moral standards. And God protected this land, so that few were exposed to words and actions that led to the occult.
Today’s emerging world system has called for an unbiblical peace (a global peace that does not include Christ) and a prescribed form of solidarity that has little tolerance for Christians who refuse to compromise. Yet, if we continue in the faith and in trusting Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, He promises never to leave us, and He will surely meet all our needs according to His will. Those who resist the world’s tempting lies in His name will be safe in Him—now and forever!
If we remain firm in our faith, we offer the next generation (our children and grandchildren) a heritage they can carry forth into the future. We need to pass the torch of faith and truth on to them. When Paul and Silas were asked by the jailer, “What must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30-31). And although this was not an unequivocal statement that we can automatically pass our faith onto our children, Christian parents need to realize and be encouraged by the fact that our faith, if it is firmly rooted in the Gospel and His Word, has the potential of having a profound effect on the next generation. So, while wolves in sheep’s clothing have come out of the woodwork from both the secular and the professing Christian realms and have invaded the fold, let us be all the more diligent in our efforts to pave the way for our children’s future—a future where they can be well-equipped with spiritual armor to face the various trials and testings of their faith and tribulations that are to come.
This world system denies the message of the Cross and gravitates more and more toward an interreligious global body. That is becoming more apparent and self-evident with each passing day for now laws have been put into place demanding that even the name of Jesus be banned from all kinds of public places. But we must remain vigilant and steadfast in the faith once delivered to the saints! What Jesus prayed to His Father almost 2000 years ago is now His message for us:
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.—Jesus (John 17:15-18)
- 2006 interview between Brian McLaren and Leif Hansen, https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/brianmclarenandthecross.htm, (transcript and audio file).
- Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christian (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 1st edition, 2001), pp. xx-xxi.
- Barbara Marx Hubbard, The Revelation (Belvedere Tiburon, CA: Nataraj Publishing, 2nd ed., 1995), p. 195.
- Pastors.com website: Issue #214, July 6, 2005.
- “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” (Time magazine, February 7, 2005, http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1993235_1993243_1993300,00.html).
- Brian McLaren, Finding Our Way Again (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008), p. 133.
- “Purpose Driven Resisters—Must Leave or Die” (June 2006, https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/resistersdieorleave.htm).
- Brian McLaren, Finding Our Way Again, op. cit., p. 139.