Tag Archives: Brian McLaren

Is Social Justice Biblical?

I realize that the title above will be an unpopular assertion, but before you rush to dismiss it or to leave a contrary response, please hear me out.  Social justice is without question a huge buzz word these days within not only the secular media, but within the evangelical church as well.  Because of this dichotomy, the phrase is often misused, misapplied, and generally flawed in its assumptions.  Here is the definition of social justice from Wikipedia  :  “Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating an egalitarian society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being.”  Interesting, though a broad definition to say the least.  The idea that social justice creates an “egalitarian society” essentially means equality of religion, politics, economics, social status, or culture, i.e. that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or moral status.  (see also Wikipedia : Egalitarianism)  Digging a little further into the definition of social justice we find the following statement: “Social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution.”  When we hear the term “social justice” from the media, this is generally in reference to the redistribution of wealth mentioned here.  Primarily taking from the “rich” and giving to the “poor” by means of taxation or other government mandate.  Is this the same message that so many evangelicals are trying to convey?  Well, because social justice is such a vague term, it mostly likely depends on who you ask as to what definition you get.  In his newly released book Generous Justice, pastor Tim Keller offers the following distinction:

“I used the term “generous justice” because many people make a distinction between justice and charity. They say that if we give to the poor voluntarily, it’s just compassion and charity. But Job says that if I’m not generous with my money, I’m offending God, which means it’s not an option and it is unjust by definition to not share with the poor.”[1]

 

It would be helpful at this point if we defined “justice” and “charity”.  Dictionary.com defines justice as “the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness” also, “the administering of deserved punishment or reward”.  The same site defines charity as “generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless; something given to a person in need; alms; benevolence; Christian love; agape.”  Just as Keller states, quite the distinction, but his own statement is troubling.  He asserts that some say giving to the poor voluntarily is compassion and charity but that the Bible claims a lack of generosity is offensive to God and thereby is not voluntary, but a mandate.  The difference between these two statements of Keller’s can be summarized by saying: “I want to give to the poor” vs. “I have to give to the poor”.  The former is a movement of the heart, the latter a letter of the law.  To his statement Keller adds, “It’s biblical that we owe the poor as much of our money as we can possibly give away.” [2] Does that sound any different than the definition we read earlier which is so prevalent in the media?  Quite simply, it’s no different.  To say that “we owe the poor as much of our money as we can possibly give away” is to assume somehow that the “rich” of this world are indebted to the “poor”.  Where in the Bible does it state that?  (Actually Keller’s statement can be argued as to ask based on what standard is someone defined as rich while another is defined as poor?, but that might be a separate post)  What Keller has done is to erroneously replace the government mandate with biblical mandate, tag it with the social justice label, and state that it basically calls for redistribution of wealth also.  This is not in line with Scripture as he asserts, but is quite contrary as we’ll see in a moment.

Tim Keller did not provide the reference to Job in his interview with Christianity Today, so we are unable to follow up on his statement, but other times he has used Job 31:16 as a defense for his argument so it is there we can look for Biblical evidence.  In Job 31, Job is giving his final defense, his final argument as to his undeserved condition and in verse 16 he includes “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired….”  Is Job saying here that he neglected to give the poor as much of his money as he could possibly give away because he owed it to them?  Well we know that in Job 1:3 he was the richest in the land and we know in Job 42:10 that the Lord restored to Job twice as much as he had before his dire circumstances.  To conclude from Job 31:16 that Job was obligated to give to the poor is a poor exegesis for the purposes of defending the concept of social justice.  Job wasn’t talking about compulsion to give as a duty, but rather neglect to give from an improper heart.  In 2 Corinthians 9:7 we read “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Keller is not alone in his call for social justice, Emergent Church leader, author, and activist Brian McLaren asks, “And could our preoccupation with individual salvation from hell after death distract us from speaking prophetically about injustice in our world today?”[3] McLaren adds, When Matthew, Mark, and Luke talk about the Kingdom of God, it’s always closely related to social justice…. The gospel of the kingdom is about God’s will being done on earth for everybody, but we’re interested in getting away from earth entirely as individuals, and into heaven instead.”[4] Equally troubling are the views of pastor and author Rob Bell, who shares McLaren’s association with the Emergent Church.  In a 2009 interview with Christianity Today the interviewer asks Bell to expound on his statement of “Jesus wants to save us from making the Good News about another world and not this one.” To which Bell replies,

“The story is about God’s intentions to bring about a new heaven and a new earth, and the story begins here with shalom—shalom between each other and with our Maker and with the earth. The story line is that God intends to bring about a new creation, this place, this new heaven and earth here. And that Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning, essentially, of the future; this great Resurrection has rushed into the present.”[5]

Note here that the resurrection Bell talks of has nothing to do with Jesus dying for the sins of those who believe, has nothing to do with forgiveness of sin, with grace, mercy, God’s wrath poured out on His own Son.  There’s no talk of becoming a new creation in Christ when those who believe in Him are raised from the dead with Christ.  No, instead Bell’s talk of “resurrection” signifies the beginning of a new heaven and earth, i.e. one of the central goals of social justice that McLaren mentioned earlier and the primary focus of the Emergent Church mission.

What then is our response to this?  Am I saying that as members who make up the body of the Church that we should not help the poor, widowed, and orphaned?  Certainly not!  What I am saying is that phrases like “social justice” are not always benign and laced with good intentions.  They are often agenda driven and in this case can often be used to subvert the true Gospel message***.  Social justice was spawned out of liberalism in the late 19th century and today’s movement is simply repackaging of that same program.  Theologian and Author Dr. R.C. Sproul offers much needed balance on this topic,

“The false assumption of this so-called social justice was that material wealth can be gained only by means of the exploitation of the poor. Ergo, for a society to be just, the wealth must be redistributed by government authority. In reality, this so-called social justice degenerated into social injustice, where penalties were levied on those who were legitimately productive and non-productivity was rewarded — a bizarre concept of justice indeed.”[7] 

Likewise, Sproul provides guidance for direction of the Church with regards to helping those in need, “The choice that the church has is never between personal salvation and mercy ministry. It is rather a both/and proposition. Neither pole can be properly swallowed by the other. To reduce Christianity either to a program of social welfare or to a program of personal redemption results in a truncated gospel that is a profound distortion.[8]

Our definition from earlier was that social justice should be a means by which all men are brought to equality, through economic means, regardless of race, religion, economic status, social status, culture, etc.  This however assumes that we are on unequal ground from the start.  When it comes to equality we have 2 distinct biblical themes which we can apply: 1) All men are equally created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) 2) None are righteous and all have fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:10, 3:23) It is helpful for us to return to the ground level and work up from there.  We must ask then based on the biblical equality of men, what is justice?  From our dictionary.com definition earlier justice was “the administering of deserved punishment or reward”.  From the Bible we read of justice in Isaiah 42:1-4:

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
   my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon Him;
   He will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up His voice,
   or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed He will not break,
   and a faintly burning wick He will not quench;
   He will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
   till He has established justice in the earth;
   and the coastlands wait for his law.

The ESV Study Bible offers the following note on this passage: Justice is “the key word in 42:1-4.  In the Bible, justice means fulfilling mutual obligations in a manner consistent with God’s moral law.  Biblical justice creates the perfect human society.  The messianic servant is the only hope for a truly just world.”  Biblical justice is dependent on the Messiah, Christ Jesus.  Like Isaiah says, He will establish justice.    

Additionally we find that based on the sinful condition of man as we read in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death.  Therefore justice from God would be giving each person what they deserved, namely eternal death.  So it is here we ask, is it justice we want?  Or is it perhaps mercy that we desire?  The justice that society deserves is not wealth and equality in this life, but eternal damnation and separation from God.  4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-6 Perhaps a more biblical phrase would be “social mercy”.  We as a church body of believers are not called to work toward justice as defined extra-biblically, but to show mercy to those who need it.  It is not the Church’s job to demand justice and work towards that end in order to create a utopia of equality and better earthly lives for everyone.  Nor is it her role to prop up and become enabler to those who are able but unwilling.  The role of the Church is to preach the Gospel and in doing so establish mercy ministries along the way.  We are to show mercy because that is what God showed us, not justice.  We were naked and He clothed us with righteousness.  We were starved and He gave us the Bread of Life.  Thirsty yet Jesus provided Living Water.  Homeless but even now He prepares a mansion for us.  This isn’t justice, it’s mercy through the grace of God that has been given to us.  We cannot be so quick to follow men and jump on board their plans to execute justice in this world without examining what it is they are saying.  Instead we should follow Christ, the one who was executed for our justice.  He alone can bring justice to an unjust, sinful world. 

Resources:

1 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/december/10.69.html?start=1

2 Ibid

3 McLaren, The Last Word and the Word After That, p. 84.

4 Ibid., p. 149.

5 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/april/26.34.html?start=2

6 http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/505-the-emerging-church-part-2#_edn33

7 http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/do-we-believe-whole-gospel/

8. Ibid.

***For more insight into Keller’s point of view, see also his interview with Kevin DeYoung: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/10/26/interview-with-tim-keller-on-generous-justice/

Apostasy: The Wolves are Emerging

For awhile I’ll admit I was confused about the Emerging/Emergent Churches and philosophies, actually I didn’t even know who/what it was.  Until I started this blog, I was basically oblivious to their movement.  For the sake of argument, I’m not going to address the differences between the two, in fact I don’t really care.  If the mere distinction between the two names is their last three letters, then apparently the founders of each movement weren’t particularly concerned with keeping each movement separate and distinguished.  Building on the apostate discussion that I alluded to yesterday, I chose to lead off with this movement because they are the “relative” new kid on the block if you will.  Based on what I’ve read and researched, they are the most dangerous because they attract the youth groups and young people, those who have yet to accept Christ as Savior and those immature in the Christian walk.  They prey on these “babes” in Christ who as the Apostle Paul says, “…lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  Hebrews 5:13-14  It is for each of these persons that I write this post, with Christ-like love to, as Jude said, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”  Jude 22-23 It is my prayer that every person that reads this has their eyes and ears open to spiritual discernment, that they might recognize the evil corruption spread by the “leaders” of the Emerging/Emergent movement.  This is Apostasy: The Wolves.

First let’s establish the Truth.  We were given God’s Holy and inspired Word.  It was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Though there are now newer, more “relevant” translations that distort the original context, the Holy Bible in and of itself, inerrant (without error) and infallible (incapable of error).  In this regard, it is a guide for our lives and a lamp to our paths. Psalm 119:105 In fact in John 1:1-2 NKJV we learn that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.”  Later on in John we get the amazing Truth that, “…The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Through these Truth’s we can surmise that God’s Holy Word became flesh in the form of Jesus.  To deny the truths within the Bible is to deny Christ.  To say that we are incapable of wholly knowing the Truth of the Word is to say that we are incapable of knowing Jesus.  All those who have come to know Christ as personal Savior can claim the truth the Apostle Paul writes of in I Corinthians 2:16 NKJV, “For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”  We have the Word and that Word is the Truth, as Jesus stated, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 Yet these truths are contrary to the teachings of the Emerging/ent Church.  Their mission is to create confusion, doubt, and disbelief in God’s Holy Word and leave you to search for the truth internally.  What you “discover” as truth may not be relevant to the truth I find, but we can come together and each be right.  It’s the epitome of thinking outside the box.  A catchy slogan in our progressive, postmodern society, but when applied to God, it’s wholly inadequate and heretically incorrect.  Let me provide an example to explain what I mean.  These wolves teach that each of our lives are different, in that I might be a “circle”, you might be a “pyramid”, another person might be a “sphere”, and so on.  According to them, each of us can take the Bible and conform it to our individual life shape.  So for me as a circle, the Bible fits me one way, for you it fits another way and so on.  The Truth of the matter is the Bible is the box, though the living, breathing Word of God, it’s unchanging.  We can’t conform it to fit a certain ideal or belief or our lives.  Just the opposite!  It’s not the Bible that conforms to us, but our lives that conform to the Bible.  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 So these are the generic beliefs of the Emerging/ent Church.  To create complete ambiguity and confusion with the Bible; to state that each of us are incapable of knowing the Truth and those that do are arrogant.  I want to point out a few specific examples of their thinking from some of the key leaders wolves that will help better inform you as to what I mean.

Let’s start with one of the more doctrinally confused of the movement, Brian McLaren.  Mr. McLaren is pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland.  He’s so powerful within this movement, Time magazine listed him as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005.  I don’t know if that’s a condemnation of Time’s out-of-touch assessment or just how sad the Evangelical community has become.  Here’s a sample quote from his book A Generous Orthodoxy:

“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … rather than resolving the paradox via pronouncements on the eternal destiny of people more convinced by or loyal to other religions than ours, we simply move on … To help Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and everyone else experience life to the full in the way of Jesus (while learning it better myself), I would gladly become one of them (whoever they are), to whatever degree I can, to embrace them, to join them, to enter into their world without judgment but with saving love as mine has been entered by the Lord” (A Generous Orthodoxy, 260, 262, 264).

So let me get this straight, 1) Disciples do not have to adhere to Christianity 2) It’s ok for people to stick with their world religion and still follow Jesus 3) He would gladly join a world religion to help someone learn the way of Jesus, note he did not say to come to salvation in Christ.  In this brief quote we’ve learned some interesting facts about Mr. McLaren.  He’s denied that Jesus is the only way to salvation and has paved an ecumenical path to knowing God.  Do you see what the wolves try to do?  They use pieces of the Bible, words that are familiar to us to paint their picture of what they want us to believe.  In that sense, it becomes confusing to the reader because it sounds like Gospel, but it’s far from it.  Let’s learn a little bit more, how about some “social gospel” from his book Everything Must Change:

Via Christianity Today: “McLaren tells us that he could only see this kingdom vision of Jesus when he came to a “place of cynically doubting much of what I had been told about Jesus.” To use the words of fellow emergent thinker Peter Rollins, the Northern Irish philosopher at Ikon community, McLaren experienced the “fidelity of betrayal.” He had to betray the Jesus and the gospel and the church that nurtured him to become faithful to the Jesus of this kingdom vision.”

Framing stories are the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our world, and every theological system has a framing story.  “[The conventional framing story] has specialized in dealing with “spiritual needs” to the exclusion of physical and social needs. It has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant social injustices in this life. It has focused on “me” and “my soul” and “my spiritual life” and “my eternal destiny,” but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds.”

According to him, there’s no need to focus on knowing Christ as your Savior, instead you need to focus on ecological crises and societal injustices. 

And one final point, from the website of McLaren himself, a denial the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ:

Q: You know, justification by grace through faith in the finished atoning work of Christ on the cross.
McLaren: Are you sure that’s the gospel?
Q: Of course. Aren’t you?
McLaren: I’m sure that’s a facet of the gospel, and it’s the facet that modern evangelical protestants have assumed is the whole gospel, the heart of the gospel. But what’s the point of that gospel?
Q: What do you mean? I guess it’s so that people can spend eternity with God in heaven in an intimate personal relationship as opposed to … the alternative. You don’t seem to agree.
McLaren: Well, for Jesus, the gospel seemed to have something to do with the kingdom of God.
Q: Which is the kingdom of heaven, which is going to heaven after you die.
McLaren: Are you sure about that?
Q: Aren’t you?
McLaren: This is exactly the point I was trying to make in the article. Many of us are sure we’re “postmodern” now with our candles and hipness and so on, but we haven’t asked some important and hard questions – not about postmodernity, but about modernity and the degree to which our theology and understanding of the gospel have been distorted or narrowed or made “gospel lite” by modernity.
Q: If you were intending to make me feel better, you’re not succeeding.
McLaren: Well, I hope you’ll at least think about this. And search the Scriptures, you know, to see if there’s any validity to the question I’m raising.

 

“The church has been preoccupied with the question, “What happens to your soul after you die?” As if the reason for Jesus coming can be summed up in, “Jesus is trying to help get more souls into heaven, as opposed to hell, after they die.” I just think a fair reading of the Gospels blows that out of the water. I don’t think that the entire message and life of Jesus can be boiled down to that bottom line.” -Brian McLaren, from the PBS special on the Emerging Church

Seriously, Brian McLaren provides so many opposing Biblical talking points, I could post them all day long.  By now you should get the point.  This guy is a dangerous wolf.  If you see his doctrine, turn away, if you’re reading his books, put them down now and pick up the Word of God.

Next up, the increasingly popular Rob Bell.  This may come as a surprise to some of you because I realize that his books and teaching come across as “cool” and hip and appeal to the younger generations, but he too is involved in the Emerging/ent Church Movement.  Let’s review some of his more infamous quotes.

From Velvet Elvis:

“Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker.”

“When people use the word hell, what do they mean?  They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be.  Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter-they are all hell on earth.  Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.  What’s disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about Hell here and now.  As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth.” Pg 148

“Heaven is full of forgiven people.  Hell is full of forgiven people.  Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.  Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.  The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust.  Ours or God’s” p. 146

“For Jesus, the question wasn’t how do I get into heaven? But how do I bring heaven to earth?  The question wasn’t, how do I get in there?  But how do I get there, here?” p. 147

Just like McLaren, with Bell his anti-Biblical quotes can go all day.  The themes here are the same, man made solutions to the problems on earth so that they can create a heaven on earth.  They are presenting the same message, both are false gospels.  Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  Jesus will return to set up His Kingdom here during His millennial reign.  How can sinful man create heaven on earth in a fallen world?  It certainly sounds like Mr. Bell also refuses to believe in Hell as an actual place.  Those who refuse to accept Christ as their Savior are going to hell.  Your sins are only forgiven if you make the decision to receive Jesus as Savior.

 A few more as I’m sure by now you realize the apostate that is Rob Bell:

 Via Christianity Today: [The Bible is a] “human product…rather than the product of divine fiat” – Rob Bell

 II Timothy 3:16 would disagree with you Mr. Bell.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”

Again From Velvet Elvis: “What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?  But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word ‘virgin’ in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word ‘virgin’ could mean several things.  And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?” p. 26

 In this mini-diatribe of Bell’s he is creating doubt that Jesus was actually born of a virgin.  He is attempting to disassemble the entire supernatural birth of our Lord and Savior.  Think about this, if he disproves the true and holy miraculous birth, then he has disproved the entire foundation of Christianity.  This is a heretical statement!

As we conclude this expose, I want to bring one final point to light.  Both of these men and numerous others within the movement openly support homosexual marriages.  Likewise, you’ve seen how they are creating an ecumenical view of religions and attempt to throw Christianity in the mix too.  Here is their (the devil’s) plan.  They will continue in their mass deception until homosexuality becomes rampant throughout the church.  You will see them begin to promote homosexual pastors at an even greater level than what we’ve seen already.  As they begin their methodical approach to dissecting the Truths of the Bible you will then see them open the broad gate door to other religions on the platform of social issues stating that we only need to know God’s kingdom and even though Jesus showed us how to live, we don’t really need Him to save us from anything, instead all religions need to come together in one accord. 

It might seem like a personal vendetta against these men and their movement, but truthfully it’s not.  When the apostasy’s took place during the time of Paul, he felt compelled through the love of Christ to warn people of the dangers.  As Christians it is our duty  to point out false doctrines so that the Truth of Christ might be known to all.

II Corinthians 11:3-6 3But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 5But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” 6I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.”