Why I Profit from Brian Mclaren

John ArmstrongEmergent Church

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.