Posted by: molly | June 29, 2008

A Generous Critique: Why I Am Not a Postmodern + Christian

The churches of Galatia had a problem: they knew the truth yet some of them were turning to a “different gospel—not that there is another one,” (Galatians 1:6) but people were trying to change the gospel. Paul addresses the issue with no room for generosity. There is only one gospel and that truth must be protected at all costs.

After clearly establishing the gospel, he reveals his disbelief that they would turn to something other than the truth. Through this theme of unity around the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, God teaches us that there cannot be any unity without the gospel of Christ.

But doesn’t this hard-lined dedication to the truth seem a little old fashioned at times? Shouldn’t we just love everyone the same? In our culture of tolerance and acceptance this old doctrine just doesn’t seem to be working anymore. Can’t we all just be right in our own way?

I recently began reading A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren, one of the leaders of the Emergent Church movement. McLaren teaches that we are all right in how we follow God as long as we get to God in the end. He is a spokesman for post-modern Christianity and he speaks seductively. His book is interesting and frank but his ideas are deadly. He nailed the problem with so much of today’s “orthodoxy” but he nailed the problem into its own coffin. Instead of going humbly to the Word to solve the problem, he turned to a “new wave of doctrine” that dangerously leads people down a path of misguided “love” and tolerated sin.

What he got right: the problem of pitting “us v. them” in issues of Christian liberty (Romans 14 type of issues) and petty doctrinal differences. This is no new problem. II Timothy 2 warns us to avoid such pointless arguments; however, the solution lies not in departing from the truth but running toward it.

McLaren ironically gives up absolute truth to attempt to solve a problem that can only be solved by the truth. If we give up our pursuit of the absolute standard of orthodoxy, we are left on a winding road to nowhere. Our goal moves from pursuing legitimate knowledge of the truth to looking for what we will establish as our personal standard of truth. We give up the very core of the gospel in a vain effort to love those who believe differently than us.

But if we give up the gospel, we cannot love. Our human thinking wants to believe that to love is acceptance. We have “not so learned Christ!” Love can only come from a humble dependence on truth of the gospel. In Galatians Paul boldly opposed Peter to his face because Peter was allowing the Jews to add the law to the Gospel. Paul could not overlook such a departure from the truth. In love, he rebuked Peter to bring Peter back to way of truth. To allow Peter to continue in his sin, harming his brothers with him, would not be loving. It would be hateful. Love and unity cannot be based on anything but the truth. Such “generosity” is not love but a false humility that arrogantly refuses to accept the truth that God has revealed to His servants.

Herein lies the final major flaw with McLaren’s solution. He spends an entire chapter of his book trying to convince you not to buy his book. This (which to me almost bordered on annoying) however is not humility. To understand that God has given us truth to guard and teach can be humility. It seems backwards but by humbly accepting God’s provision of truth for us we can humbly share this orthodoxy with others. As we humbly submit to the truth of God’s Word we learn and can share God’s work in us with those around us. This is not a proud sharing that boasts of personal goodness. It does not lord knowledge of the truth over those who do not know the truth yet. It speaks the truth in humble love, submitting to the knowledge that God alone is the Giver of all truth. The problem with “orthodoxy” today is not the truth, but the irresponsible wielding of truth.

And so I offer this generous critique. By forsaking truth in an impossible effort to love, A Generous Orthodoxy strays into the realm of false humility to combat pride. What is viewed as “generosity” is no more than a toleration of error and sin.

moses & molly

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