Monday, June 09, 2008

How "Everything Must Change"

Part 5: Captain McLaren and the SS Emergent

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

By Pastor Jeffrey Whittaker


Later that day, a young man rose and asked a question after Brian McLaren shared a “parable” involving people who occupied one boat, with one group drilling a hole in the hull out of despair; thereby dooming all on board. The young man asked,

“What is the difference between being in the same boat and being in the right boat with Jesus?"

McLaren flattered the youth, congratulating him for his insightful question, and then promptly jumped categories again by referring back to the earlier topic of irresponsible strip mining and how the world must be compared to the Titanic. Proceeding along on this dead-end track of logic, he lamented that only a small minority was actually “helping organize the life boats” (obviously referring to the Emergent Village). He never answered the young man’s question as to whether or not people needed to be brought to the “right boat” of Christ, nor did he address the urgency of getting as many souls into those life boats as possible. After all, once McLaren eliminated the doctrine of hell from the equation, along with any sense of urgency created by a future judgment, his “Titanic,” that he calls the human existence on planet Earth, won’t sink for millions of years… so what’s the hurry?

This position places “Captain McLaren” squarely on the bridge of the SS Emergent, congratulating himself on speeding at a record-setting pace across a sea of icebergs, secure in the delusion that his philosophic vessel is “unsinkable.” The truly ironic and tragic thing about this comparison is; that just as the prideful builders of the original Titanic deliberately failed to see the need of equipping their doomed ship with enough lifeboats, the SS Emergent is refusing to do the same thing.

Captain McLaren’s lifeboats are constructed of recycled aluminum cans and paper, “green” light bulbs, cooperatively grown coffees and a universalistic gospel, while still refusing to acknowledge that the entire ship has been prophetically doomed to sink! Remember that 2 Peter 3 refers back to the destruction of the young Earth in the days of another “lifeboat.” Noah built the ark to the saving of his own house, while also extending a universal invitation to his generation for any who would have believed and gotten on board. Tragically there were only a few saved then; and if this generation follows scoffing leaders like McLaren, they too will succumb to either natural death followed by judgment (Hebrews 9:22), or the flood of fire promised by the Holy Spirit through Peter’s pen (2 Peter 3)!

What hope does the Emergent church offer them?


After failing to answer the direct, honest question of the seeking youth in the earlier session, Captain McLaren demonstrated more of his characteristic word play in a later gathering that was meant only to confuse what had been previously considered as obvious (i.e. “no man cometh to the Father but by Me” John 14:6). When asked for concrete definitions and straight forward Scriptural answers, he simply turned the SS Emergent into a fogbank of allegory and symbolism. When speaking of figurative vs. literal interpretation of Scripture, Mr. McLaren didn’t allow an opportunity for a good joke to escape as he stated, Those who can’t read adult books… shouldn’t.” This was an allusion to Revelation 19:15 which he quoted:

“out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations:”

The Captain then reached down and drew out a pen, as though it was a sword. He then mockingly placed it in his mouth and began to swish his head from side to side, scoffing at those (literalists) who should henceforth refrain from reading “adult books.” The audience howled in approving, condescending laughter once again. The only problem was that, in characteristic fashion, he failed to finish the rest of the Scriptural passage, thereby failing to bless his disciples with the correct "emergent"/apocalyptic interpretation:

"…and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. 20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."

Why didn’t our glib professor have any comments on these verses or those of Revelation chapter 20? Oh well, maybe in his next book.


As the conference was drawing to a close, Brian McLaren offered a few suggestions on how to begin the process of global transformation. One offering was that everyone be sure to vote only for “green candidates,” to champion endangered species, or to join an organization like the Sierra Club. Other strategic ideas were to “find a friend who is poor,” practice “everyday democracy” through fair trading (that’s Emergent language for buying from ecologically and politically correct businesses), or to “visit a place of extreme poverty as a learner and friend.”

In light of these suggestions given by Mr. McClaren, please allow me (just one last time) to return to the passage that has served as the theme of this article. Notice, if you will, that there is definitely an ethical mandate attached to the orthodox view of the end of the age, which calls every true Christian to action and not just words.

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Peter 3:11-14).

Far from encouraging the church to be a mindless clan of cloud watchers, this passage calls us to search our own ethics in light of the Earth’s demise and God’s eventual judgment, while being diligent in our quest for peace and reconciliation as we pass our time of pilgrimage in this present age. Whether it be by leading someone to faith in Jesus Christ through deliberate evangelism, raising a family, teaching in a school, or even doing medical research to defeat cancer or AIDS; we must do all in the name of our Lord and Savior, knowing that each human life is precious, and that each human life is short in the light of eternity!