Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:30)

Sincerely Wrong, Is Still Wrong

Apprising Ministries has been pointing out in recent posts such as The Non-Gospel Of The Emerging Church 2.0 and Philip Clayton And The Emerging Church 2.0 that A New Kind of Christianity (ANKoC), the latest book by Brian McLaren, begins laying out systematically the newer postmodern form of Progressive Christianity that this Emergent Church (EC) has been advancing with its Emergence Christianity. I’ve encountered my fair share of criticism for saying this all along, but the Lord be praised, people are finally recognizing this Liberalism 2.0 for what it is.

Since this attempt at “transforming Christian theology,” to use McLaren’s friend progressive/process theologian Dr. Philip Clayton‘s term, is still developing I would say there is a level of sincerity in McLaren’s posture of asking questions. However, don’t kid yourself, such as these new Gnostics believe that they’re on a mission from God and they’re not about to stop actively promoting what some are beginning to call a “big tent” version of Christianity. Let’s be clear; this is absolutely not merely a rehash of liberalism, rather, it’s an attempt to cobble together a new, more user-friendly, version of it.

Lord willing, I plan to begin giving you some glimpses at a few of the sources this Liberalism 2.0 is drawing from as well as some of what comprises its spiritually bankrupt theology. I began studying liberal theology many years ago, but as I began to see the EC drifting toward universalism—particularly the Emergent trinity of Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones—I began to study the works of more recent progressive Christians such as Marcus Borg and Diana Butler Bass. Bascially I simply followed the interlocking concentric circles closing all around Brian Mclaren, who’s always been the EC’s tip-of-the-spear.

You may recall that not long ago McLaren embarked on a speaking tour with both Borg and Butler Bass, with whom he is good friends. In fact, Diana Butler Bass is also associated with McLaren, his friend Tony Campolo, and new Obama spiritual advisor Jim Wallis in something called Red Letter Christians (RLC). A founding member of RLC happens to be Roman Catholic mystic and Christian universalist Richard Rohr, who’s also a Franciscan priest as well as founder of the interspiritual blackhole called Center for Action and Contemplation. And this past year or so Rohr’s become quite active around EC sectors. [1]

As I begin to give you glimpses of this Liberalism 2.0 advanced by the EC it’s important that you recognize the names of some of the major proponents; and McLaren’s friend, and fellow RLC, Richard Rohr is certainly one of them. You’ll note that on the back cover of McLaren’s ANKoC, right under the endorsement of Phyllis Tickle, is the following from Rohr:

Now and then gifted people emerge who see the situation from a higher and more helpful level. Brian McLaren is one of those seers.

In ANKoC McLaren speaks highly of a progressive/liberal theologian by the name of Harvey Cox, of Harvard Divinity fame, whose latest book is called The Future Of Faith (TFtF). On its back cover McLaren himself gushes:

This important book has not only helped me understand the past, present, future of this amazing phenomenon called Christianity . . . it has also motivated me to keep working to help make actual the possible future Cox envisions.
—Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian

You’ll need to know that fellow RLCs Jim Wallis, Diana Butler Bass, and Richard Rohr also say similar things on the back cover of this particular book by Cox, which paints a “possible future” of Christianity—that McLaren’s working to make actual—which is so inclusive that we also read the below on the back cover of TFoF by Cox as well from New Age guru Deepak Chopra:

Harvey Cox has been a voice of both reason and faith in our cynical times. Now, he offers a fresh vision for the resurrection of a new global Christianity that will restore our faith both in ourselves and in the divine.
—Deepak Chopra, author of Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment

It’s Not Exactly Your Parent’s Version Of Progressive/Liberal Theology

Here’s the central issue: When you can create a such a “missional” shift in the Christian faith that even a pantheist mystic like Chopra can sign onto this supposedly resurrected new global Christianity, it’s now safe to say that you’ve clearly departed from anything even remotely resembling the historic, orthodox, Christian faith. So what does this resurrected new global Christianity, that McLaren’s currently working to make actual, look like; very much like the progressive Christianity of John Shelby Spong, but with more emphasis on the spiritual dimension than had the old modern form of liberal theology.

As I said before, this “big tent” Christianity also incorporates the speculations of emergence theory within evolutionary science because many in the EC believe that, right now, mankind is in the process of evolving upward into a higher state of consciousness. Now I’d like to draw your attention to a book, which gives us a glimpse at what this man-centered Liberalism 2.0 looks like; its by Dr. R. Scott Thornton, Director of Sacred Grounds Resource Center and is called Inclusive Christianity: A Progressive Look at Faith. Of this book Richard Rohr says emphatically:

This excellent book deserves a broad reading! Unless we bring R. Scott Thornton’s kind of faith-filled intelligent response to our Scriptures and practice, I see little ability for Christianity to heal, transform our world. With this kind of wisdom, which is merely Jesus’ wisdom, we can do just that! [2]

Leaving aside Rohr’s misunderstanding of the mission of the genuine Church of Jesus Christ, he does tells us Thornton’s “faith-filled intelligent” work and “wisdom” is right in line with the Liberalism 2.0 of McLaren, which itself is an extention of the “new global Christianity” of Cox that’s transforming Christian theology, in what his friend Philip Clayton calls the after Google world. Thornton begins right along the lines of EC leader Samir Selmanovic finding God in “the Other” religions as he tells us that the basic guidelines for “how we should live” are really essentially the same “for most religions.”

According to Thornton every one of the “major religions” encourages people “to treat each other with love.” In his opinion, because we live in such a diverse world, it then “makes perfect sense” that God would do whatever He had to that He might “reconcile with his creation”; so according to Thornton, the Lord “would approach people of different cultures in different ways.” He then goes on to share the view, consistent with classic progressive/liberal Christianity, that:

Each major religion has helped a people reach and develop a relationship with God. God’s truth is revealed to people in many different religions. Mother Teresa understood this. She wasn’t interested in proselytizing. She evangelized with her acts of compassion. She never demeaned other religions. At one point she remarked, “We ought to help Jews become better Jews and Hindus become better Hindus.” [3]

Thornton informs us that when “people are practicing their religion” sincerely, “as it was originally intended,” and provided it’s “not a distorted version,” then people “should be encouraged” to continue on with whatever faith tradition they are part of. He then quotes Jimmy Carter from his book Our Endangered Values where Carter tells us we need to break “through” the “barrier” of surrounding “ourselves in a superior fashion with people who are just like us.” Carter says that “reaching out to others is what personifies a Christian” as this is “the perfect example that Christ set for us.”

And finally Thornton gives us an example of what he’s been talking about when he tells us how:

Mahatma Ghandi lived his life in accordance with Jesus’ principles. He treated everyone with the same respect whether they were from the highest order of society or a beggar. Other than basic necessities, he gave away his possessions and devoted a portion of every day to spiritual meditation and prayers.

He led millions of followers on a peaceful revolution that helped liberate half a billion people. Ghandi refused to respond to violence with retaliation, always choosing to “turn the other cheek.” He befriended the “Untouchables” of Indian society, calling them his brothers.

Although Ghandi was extremely well versed in Jesus’ teachings from the Gospels, he never converted to Christianity. I have a hard time believing this man, who so obviously brought God’s love, peace and compassion into this world, is condemned to eternal separation from that same God.

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore believe that the truest revelation of God comes through Jesus’ teachings. However, they should never condemn another person of great faith if their religion is not Christianity. [4]

In closing this for now I’ll simply say you should be able to see that, at its core, this “big tent” version of progressive Christian theology—Liberalism 2.0—which is still being designed in the Emerging Church 2.0 by McLaren, Cox, and Clayton et al,  is an ill-fated pragmatic postmodern upgrade of modern theology and it’s own doomed attempt to try and blend the Christian faith in with the capricious culture of its time.


1. Rohr is a member of an important Emerging Church network I’ve discussed previously e.g. in TONY JONES AND TRIPP FULLER ON THEOLOGY AFTER GOOGLE