Friday, February 29, 2008

"Reframing Jesus"

"The term kingdom of God, which is at the heart and center of Jesus' message in word and deed, becomes positively incandescent in this kind of framing. As a member of a little colonized nation with a framing story that refuses to be tamed by the Roman imperial narrative, Jesus bursts on the scene with this scandalous message: The time has come! Rethink everything! A radically new kind of empire is available--the empire of God has arrived! Believe this good news, and defect from all human imperial narratives, counternarratives, dual narratives, and withdrawal narratives. Open your mind and hearts like children to see things freshly in this new way, follow me and my words, and enter into this new way of living."
--Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises and a Revolution of Hope (Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 99 [italics in original].

Be prepared for a total makeover of Christianity in Brian McLaren's most recent book, Everything Must Change. He calls it a DeepShift. And be cautioned: if you embark upon any criticisms of this book, you have already been caricatured, castigated, ridiculed and mocked. You are part of a bad old "suicide machine" metaphor that is destroying planetary peace, damaging the earth's ecosystem, creating "global dysfunctions" and contributing to "systemic injustice" (p. 34) -- all caused by your dangerously antiquated "conventional" theological "framing story." You are likely to be "tense, judgmental, imbalanced, reactionary, negative, and hypocritical." (p. 33) You are part of a failed religion "that has specialized in people's destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant social injustices in this life." You have also neglected to "address the dominant societal and global realities" of "systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis," etc. (p. 33)

McLaren's new "framing story" is, naturally, the gospel of the kingdom, i.e., Dominionism. Mankind must save the earth. All of the "varied desires of millions of people" could be "harnessed into a unified corporate will" to create a unified "framing story" around "three societal systems" (pp. 65-66) which strongly resemble the 3-legged stool of Peter Drucker as McLaren explains them: PROSPERITY (corporate), EQUITY (church) and SECURITY (state).

According to McLaren's theology:

"Jesus' message is not actually about escaping this troubled world for heaven's blissful shores, as is popularly assumed, but instead is about God's will being done in this troubled earth as it is in heaven." (p. 4)

The big bad "conventional view" of Jesus and the "human situation" (original sin) is contrasted to the more "vibrant form of the Christian faith that is holistic, integral, and balance." (p. 34) This is the "emerging view" in which "you will participate in the transformation of the world" by "participating in his [Jesus'] ongoing work of personal and global transformation and liberation from evil and injustice." (pp. 79-80)

McLaren proposes to rethink the Scriptures --

"we could test an alternative hypothesis: that the Bible the story of the partnership between God and humanity to save and transform all of human society and avert global self-destruction." (p. 94)

"The Emerging View of Jesus" bears striking similarity to the Jesus of Liberation Theology, in which the "good news" is "political" (p. 122), Jesus is a revolutionary and the church is his agent of change. One example is this statement:

"Jesus will use a cross to expose the cruelty and injustice of those in power and instill hope and confidence in the oppressed." (p. 124)

In this revisionist context, it becomes necessary to redefine some key doctrines about Jesus. Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is not about "God my Savior" but rather "Mary celebrates that God is going to upset the dominance hierarchies typical of empire so that the nation of Israel can experience the fulfillment of its original promise." (p. 103) Zechariah's Song (Luke 1:68-79) is not about salvation or redemption. Rather, "Zechariah celebrates the coming of Jesus as the coming of a strong king who will rescue--or liberate--the people of Israel from their enemies, the Romans, who hate and oppress them." (p. 104)

Salvation is redefined to become a component of Dominionism: "forgiveness of sins is inseparable from finding the path of peace." (p. 105) There is no Heaven, and there is no Hell in this theological construct. Everything is focused on the earth. After some convoluted semantic tapdancing, there is a complete twist in scriptural interpretation: "My kingdom is not of this world," then, means the very opposite of "My kingdom is not in this world." (p. 114) In other words, Dominionism.

The Truth:

John Flavel's historic essay, "The Causes and Cure of Mental Errors" addresses the many tactics of the enemy to alter the biblical thinking of Saints with heresies. He observed:

"It is a pernicious evil, to advance a mere opinion into the place and seat of an article of faith; and to lay as great a stress upon it, as they ought to do upon the most clear and fundamental point. To be as much concerned for a tile upon the roof, as for the corner-stone, which unites the walls, and sustains the building.

"Opinion (as one truly saith) is but reason's projector, and the spy of truth; it makes, in its fullest discovery, no more than the dawning and twilight of knowledge; and yet I know not how it comes to pass, but so it is, that this idol of the mind holds such a sway and empire over all we hold, as if it were all the day we had. Matters of mere opinion, are every way cried up by some errorists, for mathematical demonstration, and articles of faith written with a sun-beam; worshipping their own minds, more than God; and putting more trust in their ill founded opinions, than in the surer word of prophecy. much like the Humorist that would not trust day-light, but kept his candle still burning by him; because, saith he, this is not subject to eclipses, as the sun is.

"And what more frequent, when controversies grow fervent, than for those that maintain the error, to boast every silly argument to be a demonstration; to upbraid and pity the blindness and dulness of their opposers as men that shut their eyes against sun-beams; yea, sometimes, to draw their presumptuous censures through the very hearts of their opposers, and to insinuate, that they must needs hold the truths of God in unrighteousness, sin against their knowledge, and that nothing keeps them from coming over to them, but pride, shame, or some worldly interest? What a complicated evil is here! Here is a proud exalting of our own opinions, and an immodest imposing on the minds of others, more clear and sound than our own, and a dangerous usurpation of God's prerogative in judging the hearts and ends of our brethren." (p. 437-8, John Flavel, Vol. 3)

"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." (2 Thessalonians 2:15)