A very good friend is presently reading several Brian Mclaren books in preparation for hearing him speak publicly in his city in a few weeks. We have been discussing Brian’s agenda, or better stated, his approach, with much interest. Neither of us wants to endorse everything Brian writes but neither do we wish to trash his concerns or thoughts since he helps us reflect upon our moment in history, and the missional context, with much richer insight.

My friend shared a quotation from one of Brian’s books yesterday. Here is the quote:

“I often think that my most valuable credential is my vast repertoire of stupid mistakes that I’ve made through the years, mistakes that can’t help but teach their perpetrator something the hard way.”

I can see the house dividing even as I write these words. Some will say, “Yes, and that is why I do not like Brian Mclaren. He is far too clever for his own good, using such a display of seeming humility to gain people for his numerous theological errors and heresies.” And I can hear others say, “See he even admits his errors which is living proof that he is a humble man who is willing to be shown that he can be mistaken.” I confess that I am much closer to the second response than the first. This could be because it is not my nature to see mistakes the way some people do. Furthermore, having spent a little time with Brian in private I find him both willing to listen and willing to interact with his critics in ways that most of the highly regarded leaders of my generation were/are not. He knows that he can be mistaken and is willing to change his views and actions accordingly. He has actually done so in many ways. He appears to be a man in process, something that frightens some people. His critics suggest that these changes are almost all for the worse. I simply do not share that perspective even though I remain unconvinced of the way Brian says some things and even less convinced of some of his doctrinal directions.

Brian Mclaren is quite clearly a brother within the broad fellowship of Christian orthodoxy as defined by the historic church in the early creeds and our common expressions of catholic Christian faith. And even though he regularly challenges evangelical sensibilities on several matters, some deservedly so and some probably less deservedly so, I think we can afford to debate these matters within the larger family. The difference between my perspective, and that of some critics of Brian, seems to be that I deeply respect him as a person and thus I am willing to continue the conversation. I have found that I can learn a good deal from Brian, and yet I also continue to disagree with him on both doctrinal and political issues. He knows this and still respects me for it. Honestly, the people I agree with on virtually everything I believe do not challenge me the way Brian does. I confess that I need men like Brian informing my life. Life would be quite boring if everyone agreed with me anyway.

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  1. Nick Morgan October 11, 2006 at 11:44 am

    Good thoughts John,
    I would like to read more by Brian McLaren if I ever have time. It is unfortunate how many Evangelicals react so negatively to any admission of doubt, error, or maturing process among other Evangelical leaders. Sometimes I think we confuse “innerrancy of Scripture” with “innerrancy of the particular interpreter/teacher”. An Elder, whom I respect, at the Evangelical Church that I attend with my wife, reacted very negatively to my interest in learning from men like Robert Webber, Stanley Grenz, John Franke, and Brian McLaren. His understanding of “postmodernism” and the “emergent generation” seems to be synonomous with “theological liberalism” and pragmatic “pluralism”. Personally, though I share some of your concerns with some of what McLaren says, I don’t see what is so threatening about the work of any of these Godly men, other than that they challenge us in the Church to examine ourselves as much as our Church doctrine and practice. I definitely need to always remember to challenge and examine myself first before I decide another Christian brother/leader is “off track”. Keep up the good work!

  2. Nick Mackison October 15, 2006 at 11:40 am

    We had a night at my church in Glasgow on the challenges posed by Emergent. I’ve read a bit of McLaren and responses to him by D.A Carson who charges him with having largely ‘abandoned the gospel.’
    I was wondering if you could post reflections on where the boundaries lie for fellowship? When does a doctrinal position become so aberrant that that we can no longer fellowship as brothers and sisters?
    In Him
    Nick Mackison

  3. David Bahnsen October 15, 2006 at 10:29 pm

    To Nick’s question:
    The Apostle’s Creed …

  4. Martin Downes October 17, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    That’s very much in the spirit of Richard Baxter

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