19 January 2011

Open Letter to Brian McLaren

by Frank Turk

Dear Brian --

Long time no see. It's been a while since your last book was published, and since then some radical things have happened. Most notably the conversation known as "Emergent Village" has run out of things to say; your last podcast over there was in June 2009; and the fateful "looking for new voices" post which most people interpreted as the end of the old way of doing things came up in December 2009. It's funny how everything must change, but I am sure there is much still coming into convergence for you.



Well, I'm writing to you because I was checking the calendar this month and I noticed that 23 Jan 2011 was just around the corner -- in fact, it's this Sunday. Now, for me personally, that's when the reminder for my mother's birthday pops up, but the reason it came up on my Outlook was that it turns out that this Sunday will be the expiration of a 5-year moratorium you put into motion back in 2006.

I remember it clearly as you said this:
Usually when I'm asked about [homosexuality], it's by conservative Christians wanting to be sure that we conform to what I call "radio-orthodoxy," i.e. the religio-political priorities mandated by many big-name religious broadcasters. Sometimes it's asked by ex-gays who want to be sure they'll be supported in their ongoing re-orientation process, or parents whose children have recently "come out."
Which is a wonderfully-transparent turn of phrase from you. For a fellow with a more Generous Orthodoxy, you can certainly make it clear in a few words what sort or people you have no real affection for -- and what others should think of them.

Now, I say "sort of people" and not "points of view" because you followed that paragraph with this one:
But the young woman explained, "This is the first time my fiance and I have ever actually attended a Christian service, since we were both raised agnostic." So I supposed they were like most unchurched young adults I meet, who wouldn't want to be part of an anti-homosexual organization any more than they'd want to be part of a racist or terrorist organization.
You know: because comparing "anti-homosexual organizations" with "terrorists" and "racists" is utterly objective language -- just statements of fact which we should take as passe news reporting. One has to wonder what it would take to see something you say in this vein get labelled as "digital stoning" by the Christian tone police if this sort of rhetoric gets a pass, as it did 5 years ago.

And that statement was further developed as you said this in the same essay:
Most of the emerging leaders I know share my agony over this question. We fear that the whole issue has been manipulated far more than we realize by political parties seeking to shave percentage points off their opponent's constituency. We see whatever we say get sucked into a vortex of politicized culture-wars rhetoric--and we're pastors, evangelists, church-planters, and disciple-makers, not political culture warriors. Those who bring us honest questions are people we are trying to care for in Christ's name, not cultural enemies we're trying to vanquish.
And this was the second-most enjoyable part of your statement -- because I wonder if Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Chris Seay, and Shane Clairborne would say that they do what they do with whom they do it because they are not trying to "vanquish cultural enemies". I thought one of the explicit reasons you guys find common ground is said here at the Emergent Village site:
Our dream is to join in the activity of God in the world wherever we are able, partnering with God as God’s dreams for our world come true. In the process, the world can be healed and changed, and so can we.
Right? The explicit objective for you guys is to change the world -- so you're not really that much unlike James Dobson and Bill O'Reilly as you'd like everyone to think. And given the kind of language you plainly want to use to say what you say here, it's a little self-effacing to reject the title "culture warriors." I mean: everything must change. We need a New Kind of Christianity (on or after 11 Feb 2011 anyway, when the paperback comes out). Was it really then such a transparent statement to say that you don't actually want change and you aren't seriously trying to shave people off the incumbent forms of Christianity and add them to your village?

Now, I'm bringing all this up because, well, here's how you put it:
Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say "it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us." That alienates us from both the liberals and conservatives who seem to know exactly what we should think. Even if we are convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful, we still want to treat gay and lesbian people with more dignity, gentleness, and respect than our colleagues do. If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren't sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn.

Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they'll be admittedly provisional. We'll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we'll speak; if not, we'll set another five years for ongoing reflection. After all, many important issues in church history took centuries to figure out. Maybe this moratorium would help us resist the "winds of doctrine" blowing furiously from the left and right, so we can patiently wait for the wind of the Spirit to set our course.
You asked us to take 5 years off and to think about these things and see if we couldn't come up with something "windy" to say about the whole ordeal. Frankly, I think your alleged agnosticism here on the issue is well undercut by the way you frame the view that homosexuality is a sin, and by the way you frame the humanity (or the lack thereof) of those who would say so. But that's neither here nor there, because here we are, 5 years later, and I'm writing to tell you what some of us have come up with.



First off: your public comments have not improved with time -- not on this subject, or any other. Your conceit about being "pastoral" rings both hollow and offensive because you're not a pastor and don't intend to be one. You are more of a rabble-rouser who gets other people to say what he is too sly himself to say out loud, like the fellow two weeks ago who is doing for the irreligious what Pat Robertson does so well for the pious, which is to whip up fear in order to make a call to action. So as we consider your words and the challenge you gave us, let's not pretend they were high-minded words of concern for the health and welfare of Christian love and belief: they were overtly words meant to scare people into being what you wanted them to be.

Second: the discussion itself is an interesting one because you seem to think this is a question which was unasked and unanswered in the last 2000 years -- when in fact most places in the West under Christendom (and all the places in the East under Christendom) unanimously have rejected the question as untenable. The longer I have personally considered this question as you have framed it, the less cogent the question becomes. It is based on nothing but your clan's assertions that the moral issue needs to be reopened.

Let's face it, Brian: what you're really saying in this discussion is that Jesus wasn't really speaking from the Jewish tradition of moral and ethical reasoning. If we're to be as generous as possible with you that's just wishful anachronism on your part -- but truthfully you find "science" and "philosophy" as compelling as whatever it was Jesus was on about. You may in fact be an advocate of Doug Pagitt's view that the bible is only one voice which needs to be considered in a community of voices -- and that, only as one of a past generation.

But that said, what is also interesting to consider as the 5-year moratorium expires is that the vast majority of all human religious expressions disagree with you -- I would in fact be hard-pressed to find one moral code which actually found what you are seeking to advocate for in its "to do" list.

Third on my list of items for writing to you today is that if you want to go the route of L. Ron Hubbard and start your own religion, I offer you that as a clear and cogent solution to the many problems you face right now. You've written a few manifestos, and a few books, and you have a legion of followers who are spiritual but not religious, and you also have experience with trying to make a conversation into something more -- and to paraphrase Edison, at least you now know one way in which establishing a new religion will not work. If you want to establish a religion in which there is no ethical or moral difference between heterosexual unions and homosexual unions, I say swing for the wall. Please establish that religion -- but please stop trying to make this into an issue about what Jesus would "really" do.

What Jesus would really do is take the list of sins found in the Old Testament and proclaim them all from a mountainside, making all people doubt that they have any hope at all of being seen as righteous before God, and then when he had their attention and their conviction under the law of Moses, he would tell them that God saves sinners who repent. And then he would get on a cross and die for the sake of the sins of world, and raise himself from the dead to prove he wasn't kidding.

All that said, you have asked a very significant question which I think deserves more than a reading of the riot act against your spirited rejection of God's law: how can an institution with as much history as the Christian church speak to people like homosexuals who think that they are owed the moral right to adopt the forms and customs of prior peoples even though those forms and customs are explicit that these things are not for them?

Since you asked, here's what I think:

1. Somehow, the Christian church has to become, as it is called to be, the enemy of sin and the friend of sinners.

See: I'm not foolish enough to think you believe there are no sexual sins. Nobody believes that. There's nobody, for example, that thinks that Charlie Sheen is living a fine life -- and it's not just because he's been divorced more than once. I doubt that even he thinks he's a fine person for his escapades, and I doubt the people he gets involved with see their experiences as things they are proud of.

And it's easy to say to Charlie Sheen, "fella: just try to keep your pants on." He's an easy target. But it is the easy targets that help us see two things precisely: first, that there is a limit somewhere to what is and is not sexually acceptable; last, that we can draw that line and not be calling for a lynch mob against those trapped in sin but instead call them out of their sin because it is in fact destroying them.

I really do get it that the current logic is that somehow "consenting adults" should have a right to do as they please in a free society, but there's Charlie Sheen, Brian. Does it seem right that he should live that way? Is it comprehensible that his freedom should also be that matter-of-factly dangerous? Now: even if I concede that many homosexuals are not that self-destructive sexually (and I suggest that if you spent any time in the past 5 years considering this issue, I hope you spent some of it considering this sort of data), are the only dangers in life the ones which cause us health issues?

You know: the sad and morally-reprehensible Phelps clan seem to be in pretty good health. And they seem to be reasonably-consenting adults doing what they seem to think is right. But what they do is beyond the pale -- because their only objective is to heap scorn on the objects of their wrath. And they do it for their own religious pleasure, Brian -- would you agree?

So we also know that doing things which seem right to us can also be morally destructive -- of others, and of ourselves if we believe in God as Creator and not just companion.

While this letter is already over-long, and I will not work out the full case in Scripture against sexual sins, I will say this: ignoring this conclusion about morality to align it to the current trend in one form of sociology or psychology is simply self-ignorant. It abandons your own conscience and its ability and motives for drawing moral conclusions for the sake of some other objective which neither you or I would care to name.

In this, it is the obligation of the church, which has a mandate from God to call sinners to repentance, to find the right words in English to say that every sin is utterly reprehensible, but the person who sins can repent and be saved. We must not be the ones who enable sin by telling the sinner, "You do not have any problems, only differences, and in this I can just listen to and accept you."

2. The Christian church has many idols to overcome, and it will be painful to overcome them.

I bring this up because I think it is an utterly-valid objection to the apparent selectivity of some forms of church speech and culture. For example, fat people are not called to repent nearly as seriously as atheists -- even though they are both serving idols, and in some sense, their bellies. Greedy people are not called to repent with any vigor -- there are in fact television networks devoted to promoting the idea that only the Christian faith makes one healthy and wealthy, and the coalition to call these people out to repentance is pretty loose and thin. Murderers are not called out by the church, Brian: if we can agree that killing babies is the worst form of rampant oppression on the face of the globe today, doctors who kill babies in the womb can find refuge in churches all over the place and proudly say they are doing good humanitarian work.

The English-speaking church has a great deal to repent of, Brian. It has massive gulfs of moral and spiritual blindness which need more work to clean up than if BP had spilled all that crude oil on it last year. But here's the thing: the fact that the church is not perfect now does not mean it does not have any right to speak to the few things it still has not unseated.

And indeed: the only way to actually repent of what is wrong is at least to start from what the few things we can get right. What if all the church has is the fact that Christ died for sin, and that sinners must repent or be lost -- not just alienated from God but cast out from him? Should it not preach that simple truth? How can any of the things wrong with the church be corrected if this is not the starting place of the religion itself?

There's no question that real change must take place for the church to credibly preach the Gospel to the sexually-sinful -- from the licentious to the merely self-involved -- but that doesn't mean the message that all sin is sin should be mollified or set aside until all the reforms are complete. It is in fact that message only which can turn the church from its vacation in this secular paradise to the hard and narrow way of the cross.

When you abandon that, you abandon hope for all the souls both in and out of the church.

3. That doesn't change the Gospel one iota.

This is really the key issue. Even if the church is full of sinners -- and it is, as it ought to be -- the Gospel does not change, because it is not about what we can possibly do for ourselves or others. The Gospel is, and has always been, that at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly; God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That is: my problem is not that I have to accept who I am because this is exactly what God made me to be. My problem is that I am actually wretched, and I do things I do not want to do, and what I say I really want to do I cannot do. So I must cry out -- if I am not utterly deceived by my own desires -- "Who can save me? Can anyone save me?"

When we stop believing that, and stop declaring that, we are doing something reprehensible, Brian -- far worse than racism and terrorism. We are doing something which actually makes it easy for someone else to die forever, and never to see Christ as God's Son and our Savior -- but only as a final judge who will condemn them for their foolish belief that their pleasure right now was the most important thing.

So given my own sense of compassion, Brian, I end this letter to you plainly: after 5 years, I have considered this thing, and because of it, I call you to repent. Turn away from your cleverness, and your passive-aggressive moral intimidation of others, and your preying upon people who want to be seen as smart and cool and somehow also "spiritual", and turn to Jesus who is no longer hanging on a cross but justly seated at the right hand of the Father -- and repent.

Repent, Brian. Make that your new kind of Christianity -- the kind which the martyrs died for, and to which the abjectly-lost have run for millennia. I say it for your sake, and for the sake of the many you lead and mislead.

And I leave it to you in Christ's name.







115 comments:

Mark | hereiblog said...

Amen!

Kay said...

That Jesus would really do is take the list of sins found in the Old Testament and proclaim them all from a mountainside, making all people doubt that they have any hope at all of being seen as righteous before God, and then when he had their attention and their conviction under the law of Moses, he would tell them that God saves sinners who repent. And then he would get on a cross and die for the sake of the sins of world, and raise himself from the dead to prove he wasn't kidding.

My favourite paragraph. Love it. And this seems to me to be a fine conclusion to the moratorium.

And a darn sight less pompous.

DJP said...

Superb. Really excellent.

Before you try it, I already did: clicking to the right of the fifth start doesn't make a sixth one appear. Darn it.

Frank Turk said...

Libby?

Detoxed Pentecostal said...

Now we're talking! Taking it up a notch. I doubt he'd want to do coffee though or have a 'conversation'. Nonetheless, whether he realizes it or not, your rebuke is his gift.

Jeff and Abi said...

Well done Frank. That may be the finest bit of writing I have read from you, and that takes some doing. Thank you for this.

Frank Turk said...

Because this letter was originally so much longer, I have to say that it's flattering to have anyone like it - I think it leaves out much that needed to be said.

But you only have you coffee break today to read it, so it could't be a book on the subject.

Could it?

Jason Kanz said...

This was great and I agree with Kay. I have already reposted that paragraph as a great distillation of the Gospel. Thanks for what you do.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Five stars for the title alone! Another five stars for the actual letter, most especially that paragraph that Kay noted. I appreciate how intentionally gospel-oriented this (and so far, EACH) open letter has been, Frank.

Robert said...

Great letter, Frank. I am sure that the original was at least twice as long because there is so much to say. If McLaren spent as much time humbly reading the Word of God as he does incoherently rambling about things, he might actually see that God has set the standard and we all fall woefully short. Instead, he'd rather compromise in order to make people feel better about their sin. Does Brian somehow imagine that if he were put in Isaiah's place in Isaiah 6 that he wouldn't really be a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, but rather that he is a man who isn't so bad living amongst a people who are just misunderstood and are not so bad? Maybe I'm wrong, but it sure sounds like what he is talking about here.

That said, the only reason I can come to the Word of God in humility is because God opened my eyes to the wretch that I am. I pray that God will do the same for Brian and the many peopel lost in the "emergent" craze.

Kay said...

Yes, Frank, Libby :-)

donsands said...

That was well done. Brian is an enigma. I pray our Lord will bring him to read this, and even answer you, though his answer may be beyond comprehension, unless he simply repents of his "passive-aggressive moral intimidation of others".

Thanks for speaking the truth in love, with a humble boldness.

"You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say." -Martin Luther

Stefan said...

"How can any of the things wrong with the church be corrected if [the Gospel] is not the starting place of the religion itself?"

In the very act of preaching and hearing it, the Gospel becomes the vehicle of transformation in the body of Christ.

Ulrich Zwingli must have had a similar thought, when he kicked off the Swiss Reformation by simply preaching through the Bible, starting with Matthew 1:1.

Stephen said...

Amen!

Measured, detailed, and firmly gracious... a truly Christian approach.

LORD bless you!

Al said...

First Dan's excellent post on the passive aggressive wife and now the passive aggressive EmChurch leader. This week is quite possibly the high-water mark for TeamPyro.

May your wounds strike Mr. McLaren faithfully.

al sends

Rhology said...

God bless you for including the image of the "I'm always everywhere and always angry" jihadist guy.

Sunday said...

Pancakes, the most delicious idols.

Seriously though, thanks for this post. I got 'The Truth War' by John MacArthur for Christmas from a friend who is also a pastor, maybe I should read it now that this whole 5 year moratorium thing is ending.

Also, I agree with Kay on that paragraph. Love it so much! Thanks again! :D

Frank Turk said...

LIBBY!

David Regier said...

Just as when the Bible condemns homosexuality, it's not condemning homosexuality; when McLaren declares a five-year moratorium, he's not declaring a five-year moratorium.

Jim W said...

"The Gospel is, and has always been, that at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly; God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".
The problem is, that although I don't believe Brian has ever come right out and said, his contemporaries (Pagitt, Jones, et al)have pretty much avowed that this is NOT what they believe the Gospel to be. Instead, they lean towards the first sentence of that paragraph: because it is not about what we can possibly do for ourselves or others. Leave out the not and you have more what McLaren and company believe, i.e. the social gospel.
So, while, this is a fine letter and absolutely true, it will run right off McLaren’s back. He won’t “hear” it, because it isn’t what he believes the Bible to be about. After all, your thinking is colored by Platonic reasoning which completely changed what Jesus was actually all about ;)

Scooter said...

I read this letter and the first thing that comes to mind is: S-E-R-V-A-T-U-S!

I propose a new moratorium: All Emergent leaders are required take the 5 years of classes they slept through. Classes such as:

Reading 001 - How You Can Know and Understanding What Dead People Actually Said

Church History 002 - Not All Christians of the Past Were White, Type-A Males Suppressing the Minority View

Theology .001 - Moses Didn't Know What Carbon Credits Were

Logic .101 - Ambiguity ≠ Depth

Scooter said...

Almost forgot: donsands, were does that Luther quote come from? It's really good.

DJP said...

Scooter's comment will be hard to top.

David Rudd said...

i thought these open letters were for Christians in places of influence?

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Excellent article, Frank!

It amazes me that we "so often" speak the loudest to people who are the hardest of hearing. We write diatribes long into the wee hour of the night, kick the volume up a few decibels more, and breath God’s Word out with incredible force and fury, all to people who will never know the truth or its amazing ability to change a sinner’s heart.

Do we do it for ourselves, or for them: truthfully? Few people that I have known over the years, whose hearts were stone, are still just as cold, if not more frigid and frozen then before. But, as God’s children, we still pray that God would yet grant them salvation. That is the amazing power of Christ’s love. So, the diatribe must continue, for we cannot close by saying, in all honesty......The End.


I, too, loved the part Kay pointed out. Amen!

Sharon said...

@Frank Your best post yet! (asopposed to "Your Best Life Now" . . . but that's another thread)

I'm prayerfully hoping Brian will, indeed, repent and become a dynamic Bible teacher, preaching "the whole counsel of God."

A Musician by Grace

donsands said...

Scooter,
I googled it. I was looking for his most famous quote: "Here I stand.", and came upon this one.

The I google some more and found that it's in this book by Ray Comfort as well on page 50:

http://www.amazon.com/Luther-Gold-Pure-Refined/dp/0882706462/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1295452123&sr=1-1

Where it was quoted originally, not sure?

I think Ray use the Reformation Society to do his background work, from what I read. And Dr. Peter Hammond has an article quoted in the book.

I'm thinking of buying this book after skimming it.

Frank Turk said...

I am out of pocket for blogging until after lunch. Don't have too much fun without me -- and please: be nice to each other. We probably won't get the tone police over here until/if Challies links up, but that said mind your manners and stick to the items in the open letter. Running with scissors apologetically is not a virtue.

Chris H said...

For ease of use, I just like to send Tone Police officers to this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9XorvaC4qs) to see if they get the point.

Mark B. Hanson said...

MET:

We write these things because, in the words of C. S. Lewis, "The very man who has argued you down, will sometimes be found, years later, to have been influenced by what you said." (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 73)

Sarah : ) said...

Do you think he'll answer or will he need another five year moratorium to respond to this letter?
Mr. Turk, thanks for being willing to wade through the garbage infested nonsensical reasoning for us and to bring some much needed biblical clarity. At the risk of sounding like a bigot and hateful, I must say I whole heartedly agree, and would count it an honor to be in the company of such as our Lord who was falsely said by the Pharisees to have His authority and power from Satan.
On the matter of a book, sounds great. "Dear Brian,..."
I'm just concerned you will have trouble containing all the errors he promotes in one volume. Love in Christ!

www.crumbsundermytable.blogspot.com

K. Töpfer (aka Martial Artist) said...

Centurion,

Had I the power to do so, I would create a Golden Spike Award, signifying that the author of a blog article had "nailed it" and this article would be the first recipient of that award.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Strong Tower said...

"Running with scissors apologetically is not a virtue."

But you don't understand, I can't make you say what you wanted to unless I make you say what you didn't.

Just being pestiferous.

Rachael Starke said...

Just to be different, this is my favorite paragraph:

"When we stop believing that, and stop declaring that, we are doing something reprehensible, Brian -- far worse than racism and terrorism. We are doing something which actually makes it easy for someone else to die forever, and never to see Christ as God's Son and our Savior -- but only as a final judge who will condemn them for their foolish belief that their pleasure right now was the most important thing."

The idea of ever saying or doing that, even one time, should terrify people.

The idea that someone has made a lucrative career out of it? Beyond horrific.

Well done.

donsands said...

"Beyond horrific."

Yep.

My pastor asked the church, "What's the worse thing that could possibly happen to you? Think about it. Cancer? Lose your home? Break your neck? Nothing in this life is the worse thing that could happen to you.
To die without Christ is the worse thing that could ever happen to a person. To be judged and condemned to hell is the worse thing that could happen to a person."

Robert said...

@Mary,

I know this will sound simple, but I would say/hope that we do not do this for them or for ourselves, but rather for our Lord Jesus Christ. The pastor at the church I just started attending wrote the congregation an e-mail this morning in which he talked about us being the slaves of Christ and realizing that He bought us with His blood. Thus, we should follow Him loyally because He has brought us out of slavery to sin.

With that in mind...Jesus told us to make disciples...and the Bible instructs us to protect against false teachers. I would say that Frank is two for two with what he has done in this letter...and that we should also be two for two if we have the right motive and attitude when we are "kicking up the volume a few decibels". May we keep speaking the truth of the Word of God in His boldness and strength so that we can present Christ as Lord and Savior instead of letting people only know Him as Lord and Judge, as which He is equally glorious and righteous.

Stefan said...

"Running with scissors apologetically is not a virtue."

Words to live by.

Andrew Perriman said...

Turn away from your cleverness, and your passive-aggressive moral intimidation of others, and your preying upon people who want to be seen as smart and cool and somehow also "spiritual"...

Take out the "passive" and it sounds to me like the pot call the kettle black. It's not the way forward, Frank. It's just bullying. It's an excellent piece of polemic, I agree, and it merits all the sycophantic comments, but it doesn't solve the problem.

And just out of curiosity, when did Jesus condemn homosexuality?

Frank Turk said...

Andrew --

I love you, dude, for being committed to your beliefs and your way of life. I hope that our exchange today will free you from it.

I can answer your question -- but only if we can agree on two premises:

1. The Bible does reliably (note: not inerrantly, but reliably, as a historical source) report the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

2. Other sources of Jesus' words and actions are derivative of the books in the Bible, and therefore must be corrected by the Bible.

Can you agree to those premises? I will post my answer whether you agree or not, but I want to see if there's any way we can even agree on what Jesus actually said.

Frank Turk said...

BTW, I agree that a lot of these comments are from people who love this blog and what Dan, Phil and I stand for. My objective in writing these letters is not to shower the fans in self-referential love: it is to open the door for people like Andrew who need to engage someone who isn't going to hit them in the face with a coke bottle.

Eric said...

I won't derail Frank's interaction with Andrew, but I would like to make an observation about Andrew's comment. Andrew concludes after reading Frank's letter that "it doesn't solve the problem", which no doubt is true. Andrew also asserts that "its not the way forward". I'm not sure what exactly Andrew would imagine is "the way forward", but I would like to suggest that if the "problem" needing to be solved is a disagreement over the scriptural teaching on the morality of homosexuality, then appealing to the plain reading of scripture and the proper application of the gospel is a good start on the way forward.

donsands said...

"..who need to engage someone who isn't going to hit them in the face with a coke bottle."

Amen.

Blue Collar Todd said...

McLaren did break his silence on the issue just recently. He hopes for a gay awakening in our churches.

Frank Turk said...

My statement to respond to Andrew:

Jesus unequivocally denounces all sin as defined in the Jewish canon when, in Mark 7, he says this:

"What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”

There are no categories of sin left untouched by Jesus in this statement, and under these umbrellas he re-affirms what he said in Matthew 5, that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. To say that homosexual sin (cf. Lev 18) is not included here, but for example embezzling or gossip is actually included is simply unbelievable – it’s a poor reading of the text both historically and lexically.

Jesus denounced all sin. This is what everyone one of us must deal with.

DJP said...

I am not seeing how affirming and embracing the Lordship of Jesus, and the truth of His Gospel (as Frank does), is neither the way forward nor responsive — unless someone simply factors out the Lordship of Jesus.

And isn't that the issue, in the first place?

How would a meta of thoughtful folks who intelligently agree with Frank look different from this meta?

Or is it just assumed that no one who agrees with Frank can rise above the level of sycophant?

Frank Turk said...

Someone has to turn the other cheek to advance the discussion DJP. It will not be the other side -- because to admit as much as they would ahve to to turn the other cheek woul leave them without any excuses left.

All we have to do is remember that such ones as these we once were and try to help them out.

Steve said...

@Andrew:
I have no doubts about homosexuality remaining a sin but think you nailed it with your analysis of the original post. Frank's analysis is good, and the points are all well taken, but this is not a productive means of correction.
The level of rhetoric only whips up the choir into an emotional froth while raising barriers against those who need to hear the message.

" . . . I cannot and will not recant .. May God help me. Amen"

Frank Turk said...

You folks do know, I hope, that Andrew Perriman is a well-know and published author who has advanced ideas about post-biblical Christianity, and is a major voice in developing one thread of Emerg* "theology" (a term I use in quotes becaue it is not really theoilogy but philosophy referencing God).

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

@ Robert and Mark Hanson:

Thank you both for responding. I was not being critical for writing this or any diatribe, which confronts false teachers. Far from it, I DO THIS, till the wee hours of the night, myself. I have expressed my hatred for what false teachers promote all over the Christian web, including here. I hate every false way.

Some think I am way too bold, so I actually work at toning it down a bit. I am just sadly aware, that no matter how much we kick up the decibel, it seems to always fall on deaf ears, and I am also thankfully aware, that God may yet grant salvation, to the praise and the glory of His grace.

I appreciate what Frank is doing. Amen!!!

Frank Turk said...

Steve --

I am legitimately curious. How do you square that opinion against McLaren's obvious equation of those who read the Bible to say Homosexuality is a sin with terrorists and racists? That is: why is your opinion accurate about my post, but does not apply to McLaren's original essay from 5 years ago?

Frank Turk said...

For those who want to hear Perriman describe his view of things himself, check this link.

SolaMommy said...

Frank the only thing that could have made this any better would have been a line or two from "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

Unless you're saving that for an open letter to Bono.

Frank Turk said...

I've given up on using song lyrics in these letters. I know it's a fun hook, but trying to work them in consume valuable time I'd rather use making my own points.

I'm not eschewing the practice -- if they occur to me I'm not above it. I'm just more concerned with making the right point.

Rob said...

Is that Dave Ramsey with an accordion?

As opposed to just an open letter, why not print this and send it off. I did this once and sent a letter to George Lucas (shortly after the prequels) and was surprised to get an actual letter back... from his secretary. At least he supposedly read the letter (per the secretary's response.) If anything, it might improve the likelihood of a response.

Brad Williams said...

For the record, Andrew's comment about sycophants is precisely why I rarely comment here. I'm desperately trying to rise above being a boot-licking toady. Its just so hard! :)

Thanks for holding my feet to the fire, Andrew!

Frank Turk said...

Phil thought we'd go to 200 comments today.

I suppose there's always tomorrow.

donsands said...

"..and we're pastors, evangelists, church-planters, and disciple-makers, not political culture warriors." Brian

This truly is a false statement. I saw Brian at a Shane Claiborne concert. He was the music at break time.
And it was big time political. I guess you could call it left-wing.

Also we have this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eUkc9GCMEQ

"I'm desperately trying to rise above being a boot-licking toady" -Brad
Me too. Pray for me. No sarcasm intended.

Paula said...

Rob said, "As opposed to just an open letter, why not print this and send it off."

When I was in 5th grade I read in the newspaper that my hero, John Denver (don't judge me), was a pot smoker. Devastated, I sent him a letter, begging him to tell me it wasn't true. A few weeks later I was so excited to receive a letter back from him...until I read it...

"Don't let this come between you and the value music has for you."

No affirmation, no denial, no apology, no nuthin'

I suspect this is the kind of response, if any, Frank would receive from McLaren. He's not exactly known for his clarity and forthrightness. This is a public matter and needs to be dealt with in a public forum so that those who follow him and are influenced by him can hear a cogent response to his flawed philosophy.

Steve said...

@Frank:
"Steve --

I am legitimately curious. How do you square that opinion against McLaren's obvious equation of those who read the Bible to say Homosexuality is a sin with terrorists and racists? That is: why is your opinion accurate about my post, but does not apply to McLaren's original essay from 5 years ago?"

Frank, thank you for engaging me on this. I have no interest in defending McLaren or anything he says. I am 100% on your side in this fight and only want your gifts of analysis and writing to be used more effectively to persuade those who don't understand as clearly as you do what is so wrong with McLaren's message.
Your clarity of thought and gift with words could be very instructive to someone deceived by McLaren, if only seasoned with a little salt.

David Ould said...

oh frank; you hater, you.

Here's my thought

I think I'm going to invent a new term for this kind of thing; "Marshmallow". These guys present as sweet and acceptable as marshmallows but the reality is they're as pliable and initially tasty as the aforementioned whipped and processed sugar, but just as dangerous to the health, and wouldn't stand up to even a little roasting in the fire.

Mr. Fosi said...

I'm not surprised that this post didn't hit Phil's 200 mark prediction. It's been my observation that people who follow McLaren closely enough to want to defend him aren't able to do so because his philosophy turns their brains to mush.

Even so, you are right, Frank to remind us that these people are not our enemies. We were all dead in trespass and sin and we don't fight against flesh and blood. There is still time for McLaren to repent and trust in Christ's blood alone.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...
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Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

As I reread Brian’s list of impressive sources to consult for wisdom and guidance, in this highly controversial matter concerning homosexuality, here: “scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields.” I found the list to be woefully inadequate.

He forgot the Yellow Pages. Yes, the Yellow Pages. There is an encrypted message somewhere between Dominoes Pizza and Pneumatic Equipment Components that solves this puzzle once and for all.

Whatever happened to “My Sheep hear my voice (John 10:27)?"

Just tryin to get to 200, Phil.

Love the marshmellow fluff, David.

Man of the West said...

...when did Jesus condemn homosexuality?

Same time he condemned pedophilia and bestiality, of course.

Sorry. 2nd time in two months that particular line of swill's been trotted out in my presence. All I can say is that if your argument is that homosexuality might be okay because, after all, Jesus didn't say anything about it, I submit that the same is true of a whole host of other revolting evils, and you have indirectly made a case--a flawed case, yes, but a case nonetheless--for the acceptability of each and every one of them.

Good day's work, that. Not.

James Joyce said...

I know this was intended as an open letter to Brian McLaren, but I found a lot of it to be an open letter to myself.

Thanks for the pointed reminder on where I came from, what I can fall into and where I need to keep my heart and mind focused.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Cor 6:9-11

As my former pastor likes to say, "Where would we all be without all the 'buts' in the Bible."

Sunday said...

To me, it's the conviction behind the posts and the refusal to be anything but firm that shakes me out of my lethargy toward studying and learning and acting on God's Word. I look at Phil and Dan and Frank and see where I want to be, where I should be, if my faith matters as much to me as I say it does. (I'm speaking of passion for God here, because I'm new at this whole thing, and am constantly aware of how little I know as far as the bible goes.)

I'm not saying they're perfect. I'm not saying they don't make me uncomfortable. I'm not saying they don't challenge me. I'm not saying I always agree, or that they don't occasionally offend me.

They do all of those things, and they do them well. And I'm better for it. That's why I read here. Not because I necessarily agree with every little thing, but for the challenge of it. They shake up my preconceptions, my world-view, and my unconscious assumptions and challenge me to think them through. To read the bible, to study it, to marinate in it. To make my thinking line up with it.

I hope Brian does read this. I hope he's offended, challenged, and uncomfortable. And I pray he goes to the bible and searches for the Truth, much as I end up doing every time I read a post here.

After all, that could have been me, if the church I randomly picked from the yellow pages by closing my eyes and pointing had been Emergent instead of the Wesleyan church I ended up at. So I'm gonna add him to my prayers tonight, and thank God that I ended up somewhere pretty decent despite my ignorance.

And now I'm gonna go read some more in Romans and head back to lurker-ville. All this bold posting is making the introvert in me kinda anxious. :P

chiefofleast.com said...

This hopeless sycophant thinks you have some great points.

As a quick anecdote, I was good friends with a guy who got sucked into the Emergent rabbit hole 5 five years ago (at a SBC church no less). He would lament over any merging of political and religious dialogue while offering his own brand of political and religious dialogue. He was a definite McClaren evangelist and would push his "Generous Orthodoxy" on everyone in a quite ungenerous way. He always ensured he got the last word in every convo with "That may be true, but..." Last I heard from him, he is a shell of his formerly passionate self, and any hint of Christianity has been replaced by unabashed liberal ideology.

This type of Emergology kills people by paper cutting them with a thousand qualifications. The leaders all the while portray themselves as quite nice, as all false prophets do I suppose...

Andrew Perriman said...

I love you, dude, for being committed to your beliefs and your way of life. I hope that our exchange today will free you from it.

I appreciate the love, Frank, but do you know something about my way of life that I don't? Not sure what I need to be freed from. In fact, I find that comment rather insulting. Not a good start.

I agree with both your premises, though I don't fully see the point of the second one.

I also appreciate not being threatened with a coke bottle.

The argument from Mark 7:21-22 is probably sound, though as far as I can tell porneia is only ever used with reference to heterosexual licentiousness. I presume Jesus was never confronted with the particular issue of homosexuality, but I can’t imagine him making an exception for Jewish men who chose to "lie with a male as with a woman" (Lev. 18:22).

I appreciate you turning the other cheek. But the condescending tone and the refusal to accept that the "other side" might have something useful to contribute to the debate rather makes a mockery of it. If you could just get down from your high horse for a minute, we might have a meaningful conversation.

On the matter of the way forward, my concern is not with the particular issue of homosexuality but with how we deal with these controversies. I think that we—all of use, not just you Pyromaniac—seriously underestimate the damage done to the witness of the church by our inability to pursue these internecine squabbles constructively and charitably.
Far more is said in the New Testament about the need for unity than about the need to be doctrinally correct. If we invested as much time and effort and rhetorical panache into the work of overcoming misunderstandings and hatreds and prejudices as we invest in vilifying one another, we might be in a better position to deal with the challenges that the modern church faces. I think that the emerging church, or what's left of it, has a rather weak grasp of scripture; but I think that they have a much better grasp of the reality of the intellectual and missional crisis confronting us than the reactionary right has.

one thread of Emerg* "theology" (a term I use in quotes becaue it is not really theoilogy but philosophy referencing God)

For a moment I thought perhaps you'd read my books. But you clearly haven't.

Finally, I appreciate the link to my blog. You will have noted, of course, that nothing in that post has a bearing one way or another on the question of homosexuality. You will also have noticed that its thrust is not at all philosophical but thoroughly biblical and partly historical. I just happen to think that the "gospel" that the Pyromaniacs so vigorously defend is a very poor and limiting summary of what the Bible actually teaches—and this has nothing to do with homosexuality, an issue over which I largely agree with you.

Thomas Louw said...
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Thomas Louw said...

Andrew said:
1 “Far more is said in the New Testament about the need for unity than about the need to be doctrinally correct.”
2 ‘challenges that the modern church faces.”
3 “Pyromaniacs so vigorously defend is a very poor and limiting summary of what the Bible actually teaches”

I think these might be the root of your problem. These three assumptions leads you down a very slippery slope that will cause you or might still cause you to abandon sound doctrine.

Number 3 first up
There is no other gospel through which man can be saved. (Man meaning humanity)
Broad is the way that leads to destruction and eternal condemnation and narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.
The Gospel cannot be added to or broadened out.
Atonement is limited, atonement is made, and atonement is given.
Through Christ ALONE.

Number 2
The challenges of the modern church has changed. Yes it has changed, as u will put it, the Christian religion as moved from the centre of the page to the margin. It is true in a way but false in another. The Christian remnant has always been on the fringes of society, even in the Victorian age true Christianity has been ridiculed and pushed to the side. It has only become more visible to us.

Number 3
Oh boy. The New Testament has many things to say about unity but, never at the expense of sound doctrine.

1 Timothy 4:1-5
“Even Christ Jesus who is about to judge the living and the dead and by His appearing and His Kingdom preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction, for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but wanting to have their ears tickled they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry."

John MacArthur once said “I would love nothing better than to have harmony, camaraderie, brotherhood among Christians and Jews around the person of Christ, but apart from Him you can't have it. But there are people who have succumbed to the social pressure to the point where they deny the Scripture.”

Andrew Perriman said...

Thomas said:

The New Testament has many things to say about unity but, never at the expense of sound doctrine.

That's true, but it does make unity a priority. I don't hear the Pyromaniacs making unity a priority.

On your point 3, I simply think that the modern defence of the "gospel" is reductionist and does not do justice to the scope of the biblical narrative (I know you guys don't like that word, but that is your problem, not mine). At risk of having a coke bottle thrown at me for trolling, may I direct you to my (admittedly presumptuous) appeal to both sides in these debates to get over their factional fixations and look more carefully at scripture in this post (with reference to Dan's recent attack on emergents).

James S said...

That Andrew Perriman thinks the thoughts, and believes and writes the words he does, is but a glaring example of a person upon whom the wrath of God rests.
Real-time. Not some time in the future, or after death during a final judgement.

Who can stop the wrath of God?

Thomas Louw said...

Andrew.
Might your factional fixations be the discarding of absolutes, not to your liking and description?

Might your choice of the terms “narrative “ and “scope” help you ignore teachings not in line with your preconceived ideas?
Do you hide behind your cognitive superiority?

Do you use word games to make the Scriptures “mean’ different things to what says?

Do let modern ‘politically correct” convictions cloud your judgement on Biblical truth?

Are you just a humanist with a Christian vocabulary?

Frank Turk said...

I'm enjoying Andrew's polemic. I am also enjoying his tacit approval of the premises I set forth.

I hope I have an hour to assist in the discussion today, but if I don't, Please treat his like a guest and not a blemish. He needs to be given high marks for engaging here when others would not have bothered to do anything but Tweet snide platitudes.

Jeff said...

Dear Andrew,

You said "Far more is said in the New Testament about the need for unity than about the need to be doctrinally correct."

My brain hurt so much when I read that, that I could read no further.

If you had said something like "much is said in the NT about the need for unity by being doctrinally correct", then I would have praised God that you had been supernaturally changed from the inside out.

For now, I'm sad to say, I will wait upon the Lord for that day to come. In the meantime, I will praise the Lord that there are those who will speak the truth as they try their best to rebuke people who refuse to admit the truth.

May God change your heart and those who agree with your apostate ideas.

With tough love (truth) in Christ.

Jeff

Jeff said...

You know what? I'm not sad to say I'll wait upon the Lord.

It's God's will that Andrew is who he is right at this moment just as it's God's will that everything is as God wants it to be, according to His pleasure.

I should speak the truth and let God do the rest.

Sorry everyone.

donsands said...

"..my concern is not with the particular issue of homosexuality but with how we deal with these controversies."-Andrew

Not sure what you mean with that statement.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

I know you know this truth.

So why beat around bush.

I don't get it.

I realize "but for the grace of God there go I", and so I share this truth with humble gratitute to my Lord for His grace to me.
I share this truth of the law, so that others will be convicted, and then, when they hear the Gospel of Christ, of His dying on a Cross for the sins of the world, and being raised from the dead, and He now sits at the right hand of the Father ready to forgive any sinner who comes to Him in repentance and trust, that His grace may just bring this same sinner out the darkness of judgement, and into the marvelous light of eternal life!

How Brian doesn't preach this good news bewilders me. Because he is very bright, and says he is a Christian.

Jesus died and rose! Hallelujah!

Once a person is saved, he will continue and abide in Christ, and bear fruit, 30, 60, 100, and even maybe 15 fold.

Seems some have their eyes on the bearing of fruit, even on a dead tree.
That ain't gonna happen.

Robert said...

Andrew,

What exactly is it that unifies the true church? Jesus unifies us...I know that I never had/have the innate desire inside of myself to be unified to all kinds of other people...Jesus made/makes that happen.

Now according to John 1:1 Jesus is the Word of God. And that means the whole Word of God...including doctrine. Jesus never elevates one over the other, and neither does the Bible. Paul writes that if somebody comes with a new Gospel, that person is to be accursed. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us that we should not love the things of the world...the lust of the flesh/eyes and boastful pride. And then there is this:

"You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore whoever wishes himself to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

I am saying this in love...anybody who seeks unity by compromising with the world is making himself an enemy of God. And don't think you need to argue with me about this...that comes straight from the Word of God. I hope that you will humble yourself before His Word and see that the unity Jesus speaks of is rooted in His doctrine.

Eric said...

Andrew said: "I just happen to think that the "gospel" that the Pyromaniacs so vigorously defend is a very poor and limiting summary of what the Bible actually teaches—and this has nothing to do with homosexuality..."

It looks like the Pyros are in some pretty good company, as the gospel that they so vigorously defend is the same gospel that the church has defended since Jesus established the church. And now we are supposed to understand that the church has had it all wrong, lo these many years? The narrative (not a dirty word if not misused) of Scripture points tells of a loving God who sent his Son to die for rebellious sinners, and that has everything to do with homosexuality (and all of my heap of sins). Praise God for this wonderful truth.

Andrew Perriman said...

James S: I honestly don't know what I said to merit that ludicrous denunciation.

Thomas: the simple answer to all those questions is "no".

Frank: I have no problem with the premises you set forth, and I appreciate the expression of hospitality.

Jeff: we clearly are reading different versions of the New Testament and until we sort that muddle out, there's not much point in discussing matters further. In my version much is said about demonstrating unity by loving one another, by putting others before ourselves, by imitating Christ in his willingness to become a servant, by respecting the different gifts that we each contribute to the life and mission of the church, by resisting the sinful instinct to judgmentalism, by speaking truth in love rather than scorn and self-righteousness, by not competing for attention or prominence—and by rejecting the sort of distortions of the truth that keep from us pursuing that unity that was won for us by the death of Jesus.

Donsands: I trust the preceding clarifies what I meant by "that statement".

Robert: I am not suggesting for one minute that we seek unity by compromising with the world. It's interesting you quote Galatians 1:6-9. The "different gospel" that Paul got so upset about was specifically a gospel that, in his view, threatened to undo the freedom that people had found in Christ. This is not a matter of this or that doctrine. His concern is with a Judaizing initiative that threatened the very core of his mission, and I really don't think the dispute over homosexuality, serious as it is, comes into that category.

Eric: I'm not sure you know your church history very well. I don't think it can be read quite so easily through the narrow lens of a modern conservative Reformed theology. My point, however, is not that the "gospel of personal salvation" is wrong: I think that we are all sinners in need of reconciliation with the creator through the death of Jesus. It is rather that we have lost sight of the framing narrative and the broader implications that has for understanding the vocation of the people of God. Your narrative summary simply does not do justice to the texts.

Strong Tower said...

"Far more is said in the New Testament about the need for unity than about the need to be doctrinally correct."

Let me see if I've got this correct, the correct doctrine about the need for unity is more important than correct doctrine?

donsands said...

"I trust the preceding clarifies what I meant by "that statement"."

Not really.

But, I agree with all you said. Especially "speak the truth in love".

I think the difference in us is that our hearts feel different about the Cross.
And our minds understand what Jesus did on the Cross with different priorities.

My first and foremost priority is that He gave Himself, so that I would not receive the due wrath of God. He took my punishment, when the Father pour His wrath into the cup my Savior drank.
Jesus drank my filthy sins.

I don't believe you care about that, or if you even believe that.

Do you believe the Cross; the death of Christ; His precious blood, is why you will not be judged by God's holy wrath?

Robert said...

Andrew,

Just because Paul was talking about Judaizers then doesn't mean that the same does not apply to libertarians in our day, too. I'm not saying that we do not need to preach the Gospel to all sinners. In fact, I think all sinners, including we who are saved, need to hear the Gospel every day. However, in order to present it, we first have to lay claim to some facts:

1) God created us and we owe all to Him

2) God is totally holy

3) God calls us to be holy

4) We are not holy, we are sinful

5) The Bible clearly defines sin (including homosexuality, pride, lies, coveting, gluttony)

Until we have an appreciation for God's holiness and our sin, we can't really understand the Gospel. You think it is bad to tell homosexuals to accept their desires as sin? Think about what Peter told people at Pentecost. He told them that they killed the Messiah. Do you honestly think that kiloing the Messiah is not worse to accept than that we have fleshly desires that are sinful?

We have to get past this concept that we are all OK and God just wants to take us as we are. Jesus said that unless we are humble like a child, we won't be in the kingdom of God. Saying our sin is OK is not being humble. And telling other people their sin is OK just leads to pride in that sin.

Eric said...

Andrew, I am by no means a church history expert, but I am able to track and see that the gospel that was handed down by the apostles and defended for centuries by the church is the same simple gospel defended by the Pyros. The words of Scripture and of the church throughout history are not laden with secret codes that can only be deciphered by removing the "narrow lens" that you accuse me of having. Have you considered that you may have adopted the "warped lens" of liberalism?

There is no doubt that there have been numerous fanciful and various competing gospels throughout the history of the church. But history is quite clear as to what the church has maintained and passed down through the generations, by the grace of God.

Truth be told Andrew, I fully agree that the narrative of Scripture does not stop with the simple gospel message, but goes on to tell all of the ramifications of the live-giving truth of the gospel. These ramifications are very much truths of Scripture that affect the whole of creation and likely you and I would agree very much on. The gospel of the Scripture that is defended vigorously by the Pyros and many others is not narrow and limited. In fact is it all-encompassing and comprehensive, affecting every area of our lives, every relationship we have, and every corner of creation. That is not a narrow narrative.

Brad Williams said...

Andrew,

I don't know anything about you, except that you sort of called me a sycophant, but I'm okay with that.

I do appreciate you coming over here to dialogue, and I for one sincerely hope that you will get a word in edge-wise. With so many other voices calling out at you, if you skip my questions I'm cool with that too. But here they are anyway.

First, I wonder what you believe the gosple is, in a nutshell.

Secondly, once you've defined the gospel, if people do not agree to your definition and still call themselves Christians, would you strive to maintain unity with them?

To qualify that, since the context is about the sexual immorality of homosexual practice (not the mere temptation to it), I want to say that I fully and whole-heartedly believe that anyone can struggle and even fall into any sort of sexual immorality and still be a child of God. It is the embracing of any perversion (be it adultery, fornication, etc), and calling it good or indifferent that indicates a defective understanding of the gospel.

Anyway, I wish you a blessed day, and I pray that the grace of God in Christ abounds to you.

Steve said...

I am with Brad - I want to hear Andrew's version of the Gospel in a nutshell.
I have been browsing his blog all morning and can't find a clear presentation of it. To me that is a problem.

Andrew Perriman said...

It's getting difficult to keep up with all this—and I'm conscious of the fact that the post was about my friend Brian McLaren and not about me. So if I need to shut up, let me know.

Strong Tower: "Let me see if I've got this correct, the correct doctrine about the need for unity is more important than correct doctrine?" Well, that would be one way of putting it. It just seems to me to be where the New Testament lays the emphasis.

Donsands: "I don't believe you care about that, or if you even believe that." I'm not sure what I've said to give that impression.

Robert: "You think it is bad to tell homosexuals to accept their desires as sin?" Did I say that? You guys certainly have a bad habit of putting words in peoples' mouths. "We have to get past this concept that we are all OK and God just wants to take us as we are." Don't think I said that either. My argument is not that there is less at stake than the "gospel" as you state it but that there is more at stake, that people like Brian McLaren have grasped something of that, and that both sides would benefit from turning down the rhetoric and trying to understand each other, not least for the sake of the integrity of the people of God.

Eric: "Have you considered that you may have adopted the "warped lens" of liberalism?" I'm actually probably closer to you in many respects than to liberalism. But I certainly have some sort of lens in place. Can't really be helped.

Brad: what a refreshing tone of voice! First, very briefly, I think "gospel" is a national-level or corporate-level announcement. It is an announcement to Israel that God is about to judge and redeem his people; it is an announcement to the Gentiles that the dividing wall of the Law has been torn down; it is an announcement to the pagan world that God is about to judge their idolatry and wickedness through a man whom he has appointed. What these announcements meant for individual Jews and Gentiles is strictly speaking secondary; what they mean for us is probably tertiary—but that does not make it unimportant or relativistic or liberal or immoral or anything else that contributors to this conversation seem so anxious about. Secondly, I think it is incumbent upon us to work much harder than we do at maintaining unity.

Steve: you could have a look at this post. Thanks for trying.

That will have to do for today. Thank you all for your forbearance. It's church for us tomorrow here in the muslim world, so I may not be able to check in again for a day or too, and the world may have moved on by then.

donsands said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

After reading Andrew's definition of the gospel, I am left to wonder what historical church references could be cited as having the same gospel definition. Or, could it be as I noted earlier (and as Brian McLaren has specifically said), that we are being asked to throw out the churches historical (and apparently unsophisticated) understanding of the gospel for a new and "fresh" understanding. Brian's stance on homosexuality is inherently intertwined with his understanding of the gospel.

If we don't properly understand sin, we can't properly understand the gospel. If we don't properly understand the gospel, we don't know what to do with sin, and so we begin to explain and define it away.

Frank Turk said...

And the meta goes south ...

Eric said...

Andrew,

My simplest hope for you is that you indeed to publicly profess that Jesus Christ is your only Lord and Savior and that He alone can and has saved you from judgment for your sins to a sure resurrection from the dead and an eternal life of glorifying God and enjoying His perfection.

There is no doubt that the saving power of God is able to and by necessity must save you and me despite all of our shortcomings in deed and in understanding.

Frank Turk said...

Andrew --

I'd be willing to repudiate all the other rebukes you have received in this comment thread so far if we could stick to one subject -- the broad subject of "unity", and specifically how unity is made and maintained. I think of all the things I would have disagreements with you about, this one was the one least-expected and most useful for the topic this open letter is actually about.

Here's my thought:

I see this public discussion as started in 2006 when McLaren issued a challenge to people he compared to "terrorists" and "racists" to stop talking about this issue altogether for 5 years.

Here we are 5 years later, and when it is pointed out that those he compared to "terrorists" and "racists" would say, "we recognise we have some tinder to be burned off, but that burning off happens as a result of fidelity to the message and not from a new message," your response seems to be that we are the divisive ones. We are the ones who are not engaging, and we are the ones who are putting up roadblocks.

Now: this is interesting, because to say this, you have said (either directly or indirectly) that we are ignorant, insulting, condescending, and so on -- that is, the problem is with us, and that we must change in order to move the conflict forward -- specifically to move the conflict to a place where unity is the highest value target.

OK: I receive the message.

Now here is my question as a person who wants to change in order to promote unity: why is you call to repentence -- made in terms which squarely call out my sins -- superior to my call for repentence both toward you and McLaren? That is: why can you call me to repentence and not be a person unconcerned with unity, and my calls for repentence be a clear sign that I a disregard unity as a virtue?

I want to repent. I need to know what exactly I am repenting of given the context of your complaint. What am I repenting of?

Strong Tower said...

"It just seems to me to be where the New Testament lays the emphasis."

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Seems is not a very sound approach to matters of life and death.

Beside that, all Scripture is given and none of it is to be refused. It cannot be used to cancel itself out by emphasis of one portion over against the other. Jesus makes this point clear in the temptation- every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God is necessary for life. Not just some, but all of it. Or, the end is death. He then warns his disciples not to diminish any of it, Mat 5. Not one word, if it is the word, fails to work. We are held to account for every word which does not, Mat 12. In short, "seems" is not the proper foundation to formulate unity, rather, soundness of doctrine is. The word doctrine simply means the teaching of Scripture including what unity means.

donsands said...

"Donsands: "I don't believe you care about that, or if you even believe that." I'm not sure what I've said to give that impression."-Andrew

I deleted my first answer. I thought about it, and didn't like it.

I guess it's just what you haven't said mostly, and also how you seemed to be focused on how people are to get along, a lot more than you are on Christ's fame.
I guess I could be wrong. Only you know what's in your heart; and God of course.

Lord bless you brother, and fill you with His wisdom and joy in the truth. Amen.

philness said...

Andrew,
You are right to say the church has to deal with the issue of homosexuality. And although homosexuality is by no means any different from any other sin’s it does seem to take special priority. So special in fact that a 5 year moratorium was set aside to sit and wait for the winds to reveal its solution to us. Meanwhile countless saints of men and women (who knew God) struggling with this stronghold go about with indignation unequipped for the battle and the men and women who are not yet saints continue as if all is natural. Someone on the internet is a sluggard at restoring unity.
My friend all we have is Gods word. I don’t always like it but the more I remain to its confines the lesser I hate it for it changes me and reverses my hatred towards God to that of my own sin. And it is at that point that I am at peace and on the road to understanding. Mining the nuggets of knowledge and wisdom is hard labor, but when we find her…my God is she beautiful.
Allow me for a moment and take your hand and walk with me in peace somewhere. Shall we? I want to show you something special. I want to show you some silver. Proverbs 1-3. Underline every time you find the word silver. Go ahead it’s a ten minute walk that’s all. Now having done that I’m going to leave you now but I want you to have this treasure map, a template or overlay if you will but it must be followed in order, very important. It reads like this: 1. Fear of the Lord is to hate evil. 2. Righteousness, justice, and equity (ponder, word search equity, it’s a cool six letter word). 3. Discretion (even cooler word). 4. Delivered. 5. Prostitution/Adultery- you know, cause God is a jealous God. This treasure map is the greatest secret treasure God has given to his people. Go there often its free for the taking. Go play golf, go to work, ya, ya, barbeque with the neighbors, but get there and get lost there. I don’t care how you get there, but, get there….if you can.
Andrew, I have bull dozed mountains, uprooted trees, cleared miles of brush without gloves, set chain saws on fire cause I couldn’t get them to run, dug with shovels and pick axes- man do I hate pick axes, come home having not eaten with a pounding headache, bleeding, crying out to God for having made me- a sinner. And I am convinced that there is nothing more difficult on this earth to begin cracking open the word of God on a daily basis, routinely, turning the other cheek as it beats me up, repenting on my knees, and going back at it again. It is the most difficult thing on the planet for any new believer or old believer who thought he had it all figured out to ever do or begin to do again. It is by far Satans greatest accomplishment in hindering us to be feed from the bread of life. And if there was ever a smidgening of any doubt in just the slightest that you or any of your associates may have that might be, just a little, not sure, but just a tiny bit suspect that you could be hindering men and women from the riches and treasures of Gods word or perhaps just in error……..or worst God forbid a pawn for this type of complacency. I shutter, I completely faint of the terror God would have on such a people. But if it is just you being lazy at laboring in Gods word for whatever selfish reason then hallelujah, praise the Lord there is hope.

d4v34x said...

McLaren himself is a bit of an easy target.

I nominate Glenn Beck to be the next fish.

Frank Turk said...

Why Glenn Beck? He doesn't even pretend to be Christian -- he's American first, then Mormon, then a fear-monger.

I'm writing open letters to people who are identified as Christians.

Robert said...

How about Rick Warren?

Frank Turk said...

Because there's nothing new left to say about or to Rick Warren. You have met the internet, right?

Strong Tower said...

I recall Martin Marty when he appeared at the UW to lecture on the rise of terrorism in 1991. As he had been doing for several decades, he laid the blame on fundamentalists who rigidly hold to the tenets of their faith. In that speech, who he targeted was fundamentalist (small f) Christians. Not to be confused with his own orientation as a Christian, he made it clear that "evil" fundamentalist Christians were guilty of throwing frag grenades, calling them militantly opposed to modernism. What puzzled me was his throwing incindiary grenades and saying that what he was seeking was unity and peace amid vitriolic, terroistic hate speech. His basis of unity was his own paradigmatic view, as fundamentalist as any fundamentalism. His fame was achieved only by impugning the very paradigm he rigidly propounded, Christ's own teachings.

The names change, the voice remains the same.

WV: irenio... I kid you not.

RealityCheck said...

I’m looking for a word to use instead of saying, “this would be amusing if not so ridiculous”… anyone???

I’m sure I would have heard it if I had been on the Titanic on that fateful night. The ship was going down. There were those that knew it and decided to play (or listen) to music. There were probably some that took the opportunity to rifle through the belongings of those who weren’t watching. There were those that were clueless and had no idea what was going on. Thankfully there were also those that tried to provide guidance, at the risk of coming across as a little rude, to all of those mentioned above.

And apparently, there were those that worried about the tone of those that were trying to provide that guidance.

There has to be a word to describe something (someone) so amusing, if they were not so ridiculous.

Anyone?

Rachael Starke said...

I really appreciate Frank's pastoral admonitions.

I also appreciate Andrew's willingness to engage his ideological....detractors (I was almost going to say "enemies", but we can't use those terms anymore, yes? ;).

As to what he's attempting to offer up as an argument? That breaks my heart, and makes me all the more prayerful that this conversation continues.

Robert said...

Well I figured after last week's that anybody claiming to be a Christian in the public eye was fair game. Although, I think we're better served by your choices because it takes a decent amount of research to really do this kind of thing. I hope that it will lead to some real dialogue as we have seen with Andrew Perriman on this one. I think we saw some of that with the BioLogos people last year, too, although they (BioLogos crowd) seem much more cemented in their positions when it comes to dialogue.

d4v34x said...

Mormon's don't identify as Christians?

d4v34x said...

Oh, man. The inadvertant possessive. Hang my head!

trogdor said...

d4v34x, it's not a possessive, it's a warning. Look out, here comes s!

I don't care who the next few letters are to, as long as the May 25 letter is to Harold Camping.

Strong Tower said...

National Headlines, May 25, 2011:

Frank Turk said...

Harold Camping?

Really?

I'll only do that if you readers can get me photos of the "coming back" billboards from at least 10 different states.

Phil said...

Ghana, Tanzania, California, Texas, Colorado, Maryland, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Will you do it for 7 states and 3 countries Frank? http://www.wecanknow.com/gallery.php

Frank Turk said...

Nope. You have to go out and take the pictures yourself.

Frank Turk said...

BTW, dude: that site encourages me not to bother. You can't parody that stuff or even create a punchline which capturs the real pathos there.

DJP said...

My open letter to Camping would be two words long.

Chris H said...

I had to look it up, and I was amused that they put the date of Christ's return in normal-sized font, in the middle of the sentence.

Seems to me, if I knew the date of Christ's return, it would be in 72-point font, and might even have its own paragraph.

Unless, that is, I was hoping no one would notice so I could change the date when I was proven wrong.

Just sayin'.

Ooh! DJP, would your two words be, "Preach on"? :P

donsands said...

How about an open letter to Tim Challis? Then you'd be sure to get linked.

I was really thinking of Shane Claiborne. I saw this guy, and he is really interesting;
Or perhaps Erwin Mcmanus.

Frank Turk said...

I'm closing the comments before they devolve further.

Andrew: if you'd like to chat further, please e-mail at Frank at i-t-u-r-k dot com.