Thursday, June 05, 2008

How "Everything Must Change"

Part 3: "WHICH JESUS?"

A Pastor Reports on Brian McLaren's "Everything Must Change" Tour

By Pastor Jeffrey Whittaker

As this session began, the gathering was again led in an opening song to set the mood for the discussion which would follow. The “Hymn of Remorse” went something like this:

"We repent for covering your colorful earth with gray cement… for cutting down trees… for scarring your earth…. Lord, have mercy, can we be restored? What of the lands of tribes and nations who lived here first… the noise of traffic is drowning out the songbird’s song… etc?"

Syndicated columnist, Jonah Goldberg, in a recent piece found in the May 23rd edition of the South Bend Tribune, made this insightful observation.

"At its core, environmentalism is a kind of nature worship. It’s a holistic ideology, shot through with religious sentiment… Environmentalism’s most renewable resources are fear, guilt and moral bullying."

When I read these words, I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. Goldberg hadn’t been in the same conference audience with me in Goshen!

Brain McLaren began his presentation by sharing subtle yet needed “adjustments” to the confession of Peter in Matthew 16, telling us that “Christos” should be read as “Liberating King,” instead of the “old view” of Jesus as merely an “anointed (Greek: chrio) Savior” from sin. Instead of Peter’s insight coming as the direct result of a divine revelation from “My Father which is in Heaven,” as Jesus put it in verse 17, McLaren corrected this "fallacious" view, demonstrating rather, that Peter utilizing existing terminology that was applied to Caesar:

“Divine Augustus, Son of Apollo—Do you see what language Peter tapped into?”

Once again the Word of God’s divine quality was “deconstructed” in favor of a “cultural and historical contextualization” based upon the prevailing political milieu of the time. I knew then that it was going to be a long day indeed. I mentioned earlier that I had been awakened very early on this Saturday morning with two distinct burdens on my heart and mind. The first issue of Thermodynamics and eschatology I have already dealt with. The other, homosexuality, had not yet presented itself…. This, however, was about to change.

During one of the regular “break outs” into small groups, I was paired with a very pleasant man in his fifties, who turned to me and said, “Hello, my name is Bill.” I discovered that Bill is a pastor in a major “high church” denomination, who wanted to discuss something that Brian had touched on in an earlier session. McLaren’s remark that “homosexuals have been perfect scapegoats for the powerful throughout history….” seemed to be a burning issue that Bill wanted to discuss with me. He went on to tell me that he agreed with Brian that Bible passages usually quoted by “fundamentalists” on this subject were only meant for one particular audience and time in history. Therefore, since we no longer deal with those same issues in today’s church, we do not need to pay heed to the Scriptures which address them. He then made a non-specific and passing reference to “Romans 1” (as a generally accepted example of such an outdated text). For our purposes, I quote verses 18-27:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

After reading this aloud with Bill I simply said,

“Don’t you believe that we still have people today who ‘worship and serve the creature more than the Creator..?’ Do you really think that there is no one in our world today that is of a “reprobate mind?”

He never answered that question, but instead went on to tell me how he had dealt with his current church when the issue of homosexuality had arisen. He told me that he confronted the church council with the charge that…

“You tolerated a previous pastor that was greedy and a gossip, but now you won’t tolerate me.”

Pleadingly he said,

“Now I ask you Jeff, is that right?”

I looked directly into his searching eyes and replied,

“No Bill, it is not right. The church council should not have tolerated the previous pastor’s greed and gossip anymore than they would any other sin.”

At that moment the sound of the gentle chime rang out over the top of the discussion, calling us back into general session. As I turned to say something else to my new friend Bill, I discovered that as I had reached for the Bible, he had reached for the door; moving to the other side of the auditorium. I sadly exited the auditorium, serenaded by the Chapel’s sound system softly playing Bob Dylan singing, “The times they are a changin’”... Oh, how I wish they truly were.


During this afternoon session, the participants were encouraged to simply look at a collection of abstract paintings projected on the dimly lit chapel’s viewing screens, while listening to instrumental jazz (composed in honor of Hurricane Katrina survivors). This exercise was meant to help us break out of our “Framing Story”, while simultaneously receiving an “epiphany” from the spirit within. The workshop leader urged the audience deeper through hushed, comforting tones:

"Listen to your mind, body, and emotions. Think in a non-linear fashion, write down impressionistic stream of consciousness poetry without judging anything flowing through you."

Here is a sample of some quotes from the “Nude Truths” art presentation:

“I am, we are, everything is! In this mystery we live."


"Plucking truth from the vast, surrounding nowhere….”

For the disciple of Jesus Christ and His Word, the question of our existence is answered in Acts 17:28 where Paul proclaims, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” And why should we have to “pluck truth” from anywhere except God’s Word which our Lord declares as “Truth” in John 17:17?

The fruit of this exercise in introspective exploration and “stream of consciousness” writing can be seen in the poetry written by an anonymous young woman. Listen to the words of this poor wandering exile as she cries out for some sort of meaning and direction:

“Child covers her eyes, eyes close them to soothe, soothe my broken heart, broken record of anger fight, fight self because the man, man won’t get up, offa me, me hate--me fight--me angry, angry at raped mountains, mountains—can you believe it—raped, raped me I raped others, others haunt me with guilt, guilt a carcass shadow thick, a thick memory of tears, tears redden eyes, eyes closed, rest child”

This tortured, Christless plea was typical of the offerings which were praised by the facilitator during the session on Saturday afternoon. For the Biblical Christian, even though all pass through an individual “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23) at times, ultimately knows that the Lord is with them, and that His conquest over sin, death and temporal suffering is the rock one can cling to and stand upon; even when hot tears stream down and questions fill one’s mind. For the emergent pilgrim however, this life is only a cycle of evolutionary activism which holds out hope that somehow we can bring the world to true economic and political harmony, even if it takes millions of years. The Gospel of personal salvation, a coming day of reckoning, and a restored heavens and earth is still scoffed at as irrelevant and out of touch.

Part 4: "Saved or Depraved?" continues tomorrow, Lord willing. . . .

The Truth:

"And now come I to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 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." (John 17:13-17)

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