Throwing Out Jesus with the Bathwater: Jesus is Not the Only Way (Part 2)

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’…. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” -Acts 2:37-38, 41

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” -1 Peter 2:9-12

“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain with their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.” -Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy

In our first discussion on the disturbing idea that many of the leaders in the so-called emerging church would deny Jesus as being the only way to salvation, we evaluated the distortion/denial of a traditional interpretation of John 14:6 by Velvet Elvis author Rob Bell. Today we will look at another, somewhat more slippery statement by Brian McLaren in his book A Generous Orthodoxy.

In this statement, given above, we see McLaren state that he believes it to be “advisable” to make people “followers of Christ” without making them “Christians.” What is difficult about this, and about his statement that they should remain with their “Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts” is that throughout scripture we see it declared that those who become “followers of Christ” will become exiles to the world, especially to those “contexts” which they were in before. Therefore, one must ask, how is it that McLaren believes someone can follow Christ while not changing their lifestyle, when Christ specifically says that “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:38, 39)”?

Beyond this, we see it exemplified throughout the New Testament literature that those who accept Christ are to be set apart from those who don’t. In Acts 2:38, the whole purpose behind Peter instructing people to “be baptized” following their repentance is to publicly and dramatically remove them from their current Jewish “context.” This is necessary because Christ himself said that “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:33).” If these new followers were afraid to be baptized then that stood as their public denial of Christ, and as such would cast light on the genuiness of their faith. So, to say that people may remain in their present nonChristian context after they become followers of Christ flies in the face of the earliest teachings of the church.

That said, we must look further to see what is the true motivation for this statement. For, if one must repent from sin and profess faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior in order to receive salvation (what I would assert as “following Christ”), and if thus following Christ one must become an exile from not just their “context” but actually the whole world (John 15:19, Philippians 3:20), then it would be a logical conclusion to assume that someone who has been saved cannot remain in their old, nonChristian “context.” Therefore, it must be some part of this which McLaren denies. Judging by the content of other statements he has made, as well as the statements of the people he associates with, I am convinced that the part which McLaren denies is the statement that one must actually profess a faith in Jesus Christ to be saved (though he may disagree with the other part as well).

In fact, it may eventually come to be that McLaren believes ALL ways are okay. In an article published online at Christianity Today, Brian McLaren, in explaining in part some of his views of hell and damnation says,

Tony [Campolo] and I might disagree on the details, but I think we are both trying to find an alternative to both traditional Universalism and the narrow, exclusivist understanding of hell [that unless you explicitly accept and follow Jesus, you are excluded from eternal life with God and destined for hell]…
Although in many ways I find myself closer to the view of God held by some universalists than I do the view held by some exclusivists, in the end I’d rather turn our attention from the questions WE think are important to the question JESUS thinks is most important.

So, here we truly see it. If on one end is “traditional universalism” (again, we see Slick Mc redefining stuff without any new definition) and on the other is Jesus as the only way, then for McLaren to be finding an alternative view it is implicit that he does not view Jesus as the sole path to come to the Father by.

Thus, I believe the debate is settled and the results are clear. In the emerging church it is not necessary to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” in order to “be saved” (Romans 10:9). This is absolutely unacceptable!

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