Blomberg on McLaren

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A number of evangelicals have been critical of Brian McLaren. I've never read anything by the guy, and he doesn't strike me as a very careful thinker or writer from the snippets I've seen, but he does seem to me to have many good things to say behind why he takes his controversial views. Tim Challies has been notable in his criticism of McLaren, and Jollyblogger has taken a more mixed position but still more critical than not in my opinion. Search their sites for "McLaren if you want more details. They've both written enough on him that I can't single out specific posts. I respect Craig Blomberg greatly, and he's now defending McLaren admist some smaller criticism. Having never read McLaren, I don't know how to evaluate this, but if Blomberg is right then a lot of the problems people have with McLaren could be from the combination of their not understanding him and his inability to state clearly what he really thinks, keeping it to cryptic comments in footnotes. I'd like to see what McLaren critics think of Blomberg's review of this book, because if Blomberg is right then the level of criticism I keep seeing of McLaren are really dangerous.

6 Comments

The more I'm beginning to see of these sorts of disputes, the LESS I'm inclined to believe that they are just "simple misunderstandings" or semantic disputes.

Usually when a writer is opaque, and particularly when he refuses to clarify or make more precise his words even in the face of questions and criticism, it's because he means to obscure what he's really trying to say, whether to make it more acceptable to his audience or to head off the criticism.

He could just be really a really awful writer, but really awful writers don't get published much. It's also possible that nobody understands him. But it's at least as likely that he's a decent writer, he means what his says, and his critics understand him quite well.

There is a definite element in McLaren's writings where he tries to be ambiguous. Remember, he doesn't believe in answering questions - he believes in asking them and allowing others to work out the answers. His writing is contemplative in that regard but also quite frustrating.

I found this interesting:

"As a charismatic contemplative, McLaren is open to supernatural works of the Spirit but prefers the quieter Catholic experiences to the classic Pentecostal ones and enjoys meditating on the beauty of God in creation. As a fundamentalist/Calvinist, he realizes there are non-negotiables worth fighting for, but, ironically, these most central tenets of Scripture are the double love-command, not the more peripheral issues over which Christians have too often divided. With the true, original spirit of Reformed Christianity, he stresses the semper reformanda dimension of the faith, pointing to Richard Mouw's writings as an excellent contemporary model of what he admires. To that end, he proposes that a revised TULIP could represent "Triune Love," "Unselfish Election," "Limitless Reconciliation," "Inspiring Grace," and "Passionate, Persistent Saints" (pp. 195-97)!"

Blomberg is a careful thinker and a careful reader, and if he didn't see real answers to a lot of questions he was wondering about, it may be because McLaren really doesn't want to admit that he's more conservative than he makes himself out to be.

On the other hand, it's hard to do well in the Christian publishing industry if you're a good writer and a good thinker. Probably at least 90% of the Christian publishing industry consists of books that should never have been written.

It may just be that McLaren wants to have his cake and eat it too. I wonder if that's true of a lot of the people who are calling themselves post-modern Christians. If so, then he's saying something true and then adding something that doesn't follow, which is not the same as rejecting the gospel, as I believe some of his critics have proclaimed him to have done (or am I wrong on that?)

I just ran across this post. It might be of interest to you.

Steve Camp has an interesting article about McLaren. You can read it here.

Jeremy - a few months ago I heard George Grant make a statement about the Arians that comes to mind when I think of Brian McLaren. He said the Arians were some of the nicest, most genial people in the world, so it was hard to see how anyone could criticize such nice folks. Then he said that in the Arian scheme everything was up for grabs. Arianism was a theology that could shift here and there and adapt. The only thing the Arians knew for sure was that the orthodoxy of the day was wrong, but everything else was up for grabs.
I went to a seminar at McLaren's church a few weeks ago and he spoke briefly and I actually got to have a two minute conversation with him. He's one heck of a nice guy, winsome, articulate and extremely intelligent. He's also very humble. He is very likeable and he is also very passionate about communicating the gospel to this "postmodern" generation. He's also admittedly on a journey. Everything he writes seems to be a part of the proces and no one is really sure where he is going to end up. This is what is frustrating. I want to say "ok fair enough, he's in process, let's not jump down his throat too much, after all I've been in process too." At the same time though he seems to want to dismantle Christendom as it currently stands and he hasn't given us anything real solid to stand on. And, the fact that I am complaining about not having anything solid to stand on would be evidence to him of my captivity to modernity and foundationalism. It's this criticism with no clear alternative that's driving many of us batty about him.

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