Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Brian McLaren's Way Too Generous Heresy

My friend Alex, a PhD student at Southern Seminary, linked me to Al Mohler's blog with a long waited review of Brian McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy. I have been waiting for the blood letting to begin from Dr. M an dother members of my delightful home denomination.

Have fun reading it. Yes, I know it is disjointed, provincial, supercilious and lacks even a fundamental understanding of what Brian is trying to accomplish (or what Emergent is), but Dr. M is a smart guy and doesn't let his academic credentials get in the way of a good "ass whoopin."

Actually, Al is just steamed his place on the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals was taken by Brian. If Al had liked Brian's book and been generous himself, I would have questioned everything I believe and become a fundamentalist premillenial dispensational islamicist Baptist evangelist (or something like that).

My favorite uninformed quote from this blog "When it comes to issues such as the exclusivity of the gospel, the identity of Jesus Christ as both fully human and fully divine, the authoritative character of Scripture as written revelation, and the clear teachings of Scripture concerning issues such as homosexuality, this movement simply refuses to answer the questions." (I made the quote hot pink to disturb him). It is always refreshing to learn something about yourself you did not know. Next time I wonder about my belief system, I will just email Al.

I actually like the guy. He is about the smartest, most well-spoken (though uninformed) member of the Christian Right.

Actually, I just got some breaking news from Lifeway. Dr. Mohler will be joining with D.A. Carson for a new book entitled Malevolent Orthodoxy (Generosity is for girly-Man Theologians): Why I am a Parochial + Patriotic+ Fundamentalist/ Calvinistic + Rigid/ Angry + Republican/ Warmongering + White/ Southern + Flag Waving/ Rush Loving + Manly + Modern/ Propositional + Baptist + Complete Christian

It is just a piece of satire hopefully poking a little fun at Brian's book title, while using some words and views Al has espoused on his website and in his writings and speeches. By using words that could be provocative and could be construed as name calling, I hope to point out the ease of this practice, all to common, especially by those of my heritage and the need to stop labeling others so as to discredit their arguments (hey, I took out homophobic and unreflective). By the way, malevolent is in my thesaurus as an antonym for generous.


Rick said...

I recall that slavery was once orthodox for Mohler's denomination. Is it no longer orthodox? Three of my best friends in ministry are SBC pastors with MDIVs. I love the guys but their theology sucks. :)(In my opinion) Funny how they are always worried about who is right and truth. One pastor has no trouble lying about his identity and intentions while living in a foreign country. Deception, lying, and manipulation are okay in GOd's eyes as long as one is doing it all for Jesus. That is why I give folks like Mohler very little credit.


dave paisley said...

Beautiful title ;)

Maybe the two of them could start by writing "An Old Kind of Christian", "Less Ready Than You Realize" and "A is for Armageddon - The Language of the Hidebound Dispensational Millennialist Church"

Will said...

Holy Crap. I thought I was going to bust open from laughing. Good stuff. Shame that there is such fodder there to make such eloquent satire.

Rick said...

The review shows what happends to people with a foundational worldview,
for them Brian has to answer the questions, and people are going to Hell
if he doesn't.

The bizarre things is that Mohler accuses Brian of not being orthdodox,
claiming his form of biblicla christianity is...has the guy ever read
any church history? :-)

I've added you to my new reader, looking forward to learning with you


Jason Clark sent this to me as a comment, and I added it.

marc said...

does anyone here plan on engaging mohler in a substantive way?

for example:

The bizarre things is that Mohler accuses Brian of not being orthdodox,
claiming his form of biblicla christianity is...has the guy ever read
any church history?
how about pointing out to those of us who may not know any better how Brian is historically orthodox.

unless of course answering that specifically is a pomo taboo,

or the red-herring of slavery in the SBC. Because someone is connected to a group that did something morally questionable a person within that group now has no grounds to critique or comment on any subject. I would hate to be a sinner in your world.

I'm neither a southern baptist, nor a fan of mohler's, but how bout a little honest interaction instead of the pomo equivelent of self-congratulatory sarcastic saber rattling.

Bob Robinson said...

That's the funniest book title I've read in a LOOOOOONG time!

Thanks for the side-splitting laughter.

My conversation with Steve Camp about "A Generous Orthodoxy".

the holly said...

thanks for the great use of satire...

the holly

marc said...

Bob Robinson said...
That's the funniest book title I've read in a LOOOOOONG time!

Thanks for the side-splitting laughter.
Bob I find it a bit odd that you would take Steve Camp to the woodshed and spank him soundly for using the term McSharin', but have no problem busting a gut over a less than irenic depcition of a christian brother in the name of satire. Apparently piety varies by what board one posts to...

james said...

I too think it was a terrific use of satire Rick, and not done in an unbiblical manner. In fact, like Bob, I chuckled heartily.

Marc, i don't think I know you, so it is nice to meet you. Rick is using a kind of humor not unlike some of the language of the prophets. If you've visited this blog frequently, Rick often tackles some difficult issues in a more direct manner, though I don't think addressing them in serious discourse is always the required method. Gosh, the prophets might be incredibly boring to read if this were the case.

I've actually been member of Rick's congregation, and consider myself glad to have been a sinner in "his world" as you say.

All due respect, (and i do mean this in the nicest way possible) but lighten up a bit.

Even Paul used a bit of satire to critique the church from time to time, when his message was not well received.

marc said...


thank you for your encouragement to lighten-up. If there is another blog where people are having a serious interation on this topic, I would love to go there and stop ruining the spirit of levity here.

I guess I don't feel that by calling something "satire" you then have free reign to characterize someone in a negative way. I guess one thing that bothers me is the incosistency I see when Bob beats up someone for a single, and might I add, much more inocuous turn of phrase than what Rick said.

Again, and to my point, how does this satire advance understanding and/or communication between Mohler and the emergent church. Its like lets all sit around and laugh at this poor misguided brother stuck in his foundationalism, and captive to erroneuos meta-narrative interpretations of scripture and propositional thinking.

Also, by salting your satire with "I really like this guy" or "hey I left out homophobia" as if your not really saying the guy is a homophobe, and if he is, how is helpful to call him names? If Mohler is callin names, take him to task on it on a point by point basis, reprove a brother where he wrong.

I guess I just don't take "biblical" joy in this kind of humor, although I really like the Simpsons and I thought I knew what satire was.

Yes, I am new to this blog, I got to it off of tallskinnykiwi because I am interesed in learning more about the emergent church and really appreciate the emphasis on all life as worship and incarnational Christianity, as well as reaching out to whatever culture we are in as student-follwers of Christ.

My fear is that what emergent has to offer is as narrow and opinionated as the church it tends to criticize. I know many as follwers of Calvin and/or Derrida, but fewer of them as follwers of Jesus.

If through his satire, Rick was really reaching out to Mohler, and in a biblical way, speak to him as Jesus would speak, for his (Mohler's) benefit. Then I guess I have to read more and understand more about emergent and its use of satire as a tool of encouragement.

Thank you James for at least addressing some of my points. And I am sorry if people are taking true Jesus saturated joy in this "satire" that I spoiled the fun. I really didn't want to do that.


Kristi said...

To Marc,

Your comment that "I know many as follwers of Calvin and/or Derrida, but fewer of them as follwers of Jesus" sounds incredibly judgmental.

It actually has the same tone as a good deal of what Mohler had to say about the emergent movement and Brian's book. Something to consider...

I think since you are not Southern Baptist (and unfortunately I grew up SB with all the baggage it carries with it), it would be helpful to point out to you that--again, aside from the whole thing being satire on someone's personal blog--one does not just "take him to task on it on a point by point basis, reprove a brother where he wrong."

These people (Mohler included) think they are RIGHT, in all capital letters. They (the people in power)do not listen to the masses, even in their own congregations. It is the biggest travesty in my opinion of this particular denomination.

So when any of us uses satire for issues such as this one, it might be because we feel the need to vent and know that we are powerless to do much else to bring about change in these people's minds and hearts.

Hope this helps.

marc said...

Thank you for your comments Kristi.
I guess I wasn't very clear in my Derrida /Calvin comment. What I was getting at is I run in calvinist circles, (and when push comes to shove would admit to being a calvinist), and know many folks (even myself at one time) who put their calvinism above their following jesus, just as i have friends who put their following of philosophy above their walk with jesus.

As to being judgemental, anytime one asserts something about anything subjective, they are making a judgement. My experieince is that when one refers to another as "judgemental" it is because they don't agree with the "judgement" of that person.

I apologize if its bad form to post my thoughts on someones personal blog... but its linked and out there in the ether, If you only want people that agree with you to post on this blog, i suggest making it private.

In my view, enagagement and communication are the tools of sharpening one another. Not bomb throwing and name calling in the name of satire.

Also, could you fill me in on the enigmatic "these people". Again the lack of specifics and actual points of difficulty you have with Mohler make it harder for me to figure out what all the fuss is about.

Rick said...

Ahhhh, what fun we are having. We are close to the most comments I have ever had on one of my postings, which, I must say, was one of the top reasons for this posting (I am such a sell out- anything for higher traffic).

A couple of things...

1) I have the same heritage as Dr. Mohler and members of the Christian Right. I have been a Southern Baptist for over 25 years. As Al Pacino says in GIII, "I keep trying to get out and they keep pullin me back in."
It is a heritage stained by racism and slavery. I am very glad we have noticed our past sins and think that 1 day, we will look back upon this time period as a dark period where we followed America, Political power and a political party above Jesus. I might add that slavery was more than "morally questionable."

2.) I am glad that all but 1 of the readers could tell my tone and understood the satirical nature of the blog. The discalimer was a bit of a give-away. To Marc, you can criticize the quality of the satire (if I was good at satire, I would not be writing a blog- I would be writing for The Onion, Daily Show or Simpsons), but it is not fair to criticize the intent of my satire. By the way, satire usually depicts something or someone in a negative light- usually because of the actions of that individual.

3.) As to my contacting Dr. M for a little one-on-one, I must point out that he chose to publicize his beef with Brian's book in a very public forum (and not choose to speak to a brother he was branding a heretic). I am putting my thoughts in a small space on the net for a few readers to look at (to inform of the actual read and to laugh a little). I am sorry your sensibilities were offended by my brand of humor. It is not my job to call Dr. Mohler. It may be Brian's or a leader from the Emerging Church (which i am not). My purpose is not to "enlighten" Dr. Mohler. Just as his was not to "enlighten" Brian. It is to take his ideas and use satire to see how it looks when he expresses his ideas to those who are not in his world.

4.) From a strict Webster's definition, this posting is satire. Look it up. Also, those that do not have power are the ones that brandish the weapon of satire because they no they do not have the power to change things through debate or having the powerful listen to them. It is what Swift, Kierkegaard and Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy and C.S. Lewis have used- good role models and company- to confront the powers that be. I am not as good at it as they are, but I am learning.

5.) It is fine that you come to my blog and express your opinion, but I take much of your comments as judgemental attacks upon the character of the other commentors and what they find funny. See your comments towards Jason, Rick and Bob.

6.) I do not think it is Jason's job to point you to church history in the comments section of a blog. Maybe you want his email address and you can directly email him yourself instead of doing the same thing you say everyone else here is doing (see your comment "how about pointing out to those of us who may not know any better how Brian is historically orthodox.
unless of course answering that specifically is a pomo taboo"). Again, I will not give you the page numbers, but see Keirkegaard, Lewis, Pascal, George fox, Roger Williams, Origen, even Jesus himself for some of the thoughts Brian is expressing.

7.) You are welcome at this blog, but if you notice, their are other blogs that may be as serious in their discussion as you desire them to be. I am sorry to say, this is not one. I rant. I use satire and I use my own opinion to point out a few of the things that bug me in this Christian ghetto in which we choose to live. That is why I call it "Cheaper than therapy." This blog is my therapy or my prozac, but with less side effects on my body or wallet. Look to the links on mine or Andrew's blog for better examples.

8.) If you have an issue with Bob, you may want to discuss it with him. I do not think he hangs out on this site, so he may not understand how bothered you are by his comments here or on his site.

9.) If you do not take Biblical joy in this, that is your prerogative. I would just ask you to not judge those without power as they have a little fun.

10.) I am sorry to disappoint you that my purpose is not to reprove Dr. Mohler, enlighten Dr. Mohler, to reach out to Dr. Mohler or engage Dr. Mohler. Yes, I am not being like Jesus. Thanks for pointing out. I am sorry, but this blog is not a Bible study. It is a warts and all attempt to deal with some of the stuff I see in this world in an honest manner. If you look at the archives, you will see it has never attempted perfection. I have been fighting this fight a long time within the world of the SBC and Religious Right. I have befriended, loved, debated, fought, reproved and prayed with. They do not listen to me. So, I put things out there for my friends (many of which are SBCers that understood the disclaimers on this posting and did not get their feathers too ruffled). Plus, Dr. Mohler can handle it. I have seen him handle Phil Donahue. I think he could handle my little blog if he stumbled on it. He might even have a good laugh. By the way, I did not call him a homophobe. I left it out, pointing out, once again, that things he has expressed in the past could be used against him, as he has done with many on his blog. He chose the public forum. Anyone who does is fair game. Me too (but anyone taking shots at me is wasting their time, with as little traffic as I generate).

11.) I am glad you have a good fear for emergent. But, I know many folks in emergent. None of them are followers of Derrida. A few follow Calvin as they felt he followed Jesus. But, every one of them I know (and I know lots) attempt to follow Jesus. Just as I believe Dr. Mohler does. I may make fun, but I would never say Mohler follows President Bush and not Jesus. I am arrogant, but not that arrogant.

12.) Satire is what I use, not what Emergent uses. I do not speak for Emergent. There are other sites which might (if you notice, I don't mention them a lot on my site). I speak for Rick Bennett. Judge me, not Emergent. I am a fan of the Seminoles and Cardinals. Do not judge those teams if you do not like me. I am Southern Baptist. I know you do not judge them by me. But, delve deeper. Look at Emergent and how it expresses itself. Look at Dr. Mohler, The SBC and Religious Right and how they express themselves. Look in the mirror. If you feel comfortable after those things, then I can give you some stones to throw at all of us (I am partial to limestone- not as heavy, hurts less).

By the way, I am not offended at your subtle digs using phrases such as "taking true Jesus saturated joy in this "satire" that I spoiled the fun" and "I just don't take "biblical" joy" among others. While sensing a tinge of judgmentalism (ahh, "aren't we all just a little"), I enjoyed the use of sarcasm, biblical or not.

Thanks again for coming over and causing some controversy. I do appreciate it. Ask anyone. I always enjoy it. Invite Al over. The more readers the better. Hopefully in the midst of your righteous indignation (nothing wrong with that) you have thought about something. That is all I care about.

You ae always invited to come over and take me to the woodshed. Just be careful with the commentors.


Rick Bennett "aka DJ Word"

Rick said...

remember my warning to my readers, quoting Wendell Berry

"I am a man crude as any, gross of speech, intolerant, stubborn, angry, full of fits and furies. That I may have spoken well at times, is not natural. A wonder is what it is."

You were warned.

Marc said...


All I can say is wow... I really feel like you thoguhfully engaged and rightly chastised me in some areas. I also think satire and sarcasm are useful. Maybe it is simply the quality of your "satire", although I'm still judgmentally beleiving your rant to be ultimly unhelpful :-).

If I knew Al Mohler, I would encourage him to dialouge directly with Brian or even a lil or blogger like you. I'm not anyone important either, just a person trying to follow jesus and live like he wants me to.

Of course slavery is horrible but not all the SBC were slave holders and to paint with such a broad brush seems ultimately unhelpful as well.

As to your Wendell Berry Quote, you did indeed give ample warning to all who may trespass here.

I wish you well in your interdenominational battles that ultimately God would be gorified and Jesus would be sureme in every way in the SBC.

I'll just shut up (for now ;-))and continue to read yours and other blogs, hoping to learn something that might help me be more like Christ.

Your Brother in Chrict,

marc said...

BTW if things get dull around here and you need some pot-stirring, my email is . Shoot me a note and I'd be happy to come by and say something inflamatory.

In Jesus,

P.S. I am also a big Soren K. and CSL fan. I am presently reading his (cs) Reflections on the Psalms.

Paul said...

I'm trying to figure out what all the fuss is about. It seems to me that Marc has a perfectly good grasp on the use of satire as can be seen in such comments as: "unless of course answering that specifically is a pomo taboo," "the pomo equivelent of self-congratulatory sarcastic saber rattling" (which was quite good), "Apparently piety varies by what board one posts to..." (although he might have really been questioning the piety of Bob. I'm not sure), and, of course, my favorite, "And I am sorry if people are taking true Jesus saturated joy in this "satire" that I spoiled the fun" [that was REALLY good].

Bob Robinson said...

That was an interesting read...

I just wanted to say a couple things:
1) I found the satire funny because I have one foot in the Emergent Movement and one foot in Reformed/Baptist Movement. I came to faith in a Southern Baptist-like church; I studied directly under D. A. Carson at seminary. I am very familiar with Al Mohler and listen to his radio program often. I own every Carson book published. So, it was funny because I know how close the satire hits (I felt the blow myself!) Marc, I too struggle with balancing out what Brian McLaren et. al. (in Emergent) are saying with what Al Mohler et. al. (in modern Christianity) are saying. But sometimes the satire cuts through all of that and sheds a little light on the matter (but as satire, we must remember that it is a bit cutting, a bit over-the-top--in other words, not a point-by-point rebuttal).

2) As for my taking "Steve Camp to the woodshed and spanking him soundly for using the term McSharin'" but having "no problem busting a gut over a less than irenic depcition of a christian brother in the name of satire...", I hear you. Maybe I am showing a little bit of hypocricy there. Steve, though, was trying to write a serious piece on McLaren's redefining TULIP. He was using satire in a piece that, in every other way, was a serious criticism. It just struck me as inappropriate (which Steve agreed with, and changed the article, eliminating the "McSharin'" lines).

You said, "Apparently piety varies by what board one posts to..." That was not my intent, to appear pious on my website and then less-than-so here. My conversation with Steve Camp was a serious one--which did not call for satire. Rick's post was purely satirical (and he even put a lot of disclaimers in it about his respect for Mohler--which I share). The descriptives in that book title are the types of things that the conservative evangelical church needs to wake up to (including myself!) if we are going to make an impact in the 21st Century.

marc said...


Thank you for your humble comments. I did read your discusion with SC and thought it respectful and engaging. I guess that jumping from that to this blog was too much for my humor meter by way of comparison. I aopolgize if I offended you with my comments about piety. As to Steve taking down his McSharin allusion, I tend to think it was in deference to a Cristian brother who had a problem with it and not just because it might be thought inappropriate.
I thought it was pretty cool that he did that though.

Clearly, I took exception to the "satire" here, but I should make allowances for differences in sensibilities of taste.

I also must admit to a streak of the confrontational, especially when i see something i don't understand. I tend to push to find out why people act the way they do and what they think. I am perhaps pervesly fascinated by our human condition. Since sin, people have been struggling to find a way back to God and boy do we come up with some interesting routes. Jesus IS the way of course, but even that road has its pleasing country lanes and enticing byways. I gotta keep checking, I may be standing in an alley when I think I'm walking on the road.

As to Carson, I'll pop over to your blog and ask you what you think of his chapter in Millard Ericksons book "Reclaiming the Center".

I thought I was going to shut up!!!


rudy said...

here's to running up the comment count on this post, hope it makes it to DJ Word's #1

David said...

Truly a blessed post and great interaction with the commentary.

I wish I was any good at satire...

Don't forget to check out my "house church model for political activism" at the Anti-manichaeist sometime...


Anonymous said...

Um, i don't think Mohler is ignorant of Church History. Actually, if any of you can show me any time in church history Homosexuality has been accepted that would be nice. And I think it a little weird to insult him for standing up for orthodoxy. I doubt he cares about losing any place in 25 influential evangelicals... he's not publishing books with a picture of just his face for the cover. Just cause the guy doesn't agree with your extreme non-theology doesn't mean he's a fundamentalist. But, go on, keep thinkin Mclaren actually has any basis in real christianity, and continue to insult well-informed people who actually believe truth exists and is knoweable. Sorry the gospel is so offensive to you, perhaps we should work to make it less offensive and more, shall we say, generous? But, no, you're rigth, we should be sweet to anyone trying to lead people astray.

Anonymous said...

Just beginning to learn about the emergent perspective. Due to my work I cannot fully immerse myself in all the literature right now. I have perused Brian Mclaren's Generous Orthodoxy. It seemed to me that he carefully crafts his words to avoid stating that Jesus is God. (John 1:1 states this very clearly by simultaneously affirming a distinction between the Father and the Son and yet expressing the deity of both.) From what I read I have no reason to think that Mclaren believes in Jesus as fully God and fully man (from His human conception onwards). A few months ago—before my perusal of Mclaren— I emailed an emergent church about their position on Jesus' deity. Their website did not include a doctrinal statement. After more than one attempt I still did not get a straight answer. If I ask any member of the Watchtower Society their position on this central belief they will clearly state their position. Why did this church not answer this? (As a sidenote their website affirmed that their leaders taught the ones who attended their services— but how can you teach what you won't affirm one way or another?) Do people who subscribe to the emergent perspective deny or affirm Jesus' deity? Thank you.