Brian MacLaren also take a punch at Rob Bell’s critics and defends protestant liberalism

Emergent leader and author of his famous book A Generous Orthodoxy Brian McLaren stands up Rob Bell and takes on the modern-day Pharisees (Mohler) who have declared a heresy war against him.  Yes, I do have my problems with theological Liberalism (and I cannot be liberal and proud, sorry Gavin) but I think McLaren does a great job in defending it. Frankly for those who do subscribe to theological liberalism like Anglicans (or Episcopalians as they are called in the United States), the United Church of Canada (which would be the equivalent to some Congregationalist denominations in the U.S.), some Quakers and other mainline denominations I find a lot of compassion there than I do see in some conservative evangelical churches and I can here James Pate saying, “Amen!” Here it goes:

 

– Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was institutionalism.
– Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was an excessive concern among many mainline Protestant leaders to protect their “mainline” status of privilege and power.
– Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was complicity with nationalism, a complicity that was exposed as faulty in the Twentieth Century by two world wars and Vietnam.
– Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was liturgical and organizational rigidity.
– Perhaps the fall of mainline Protestantism had more to do with complacency and a lack of visionary leadership than it did with a willingness to question traditional interpretations of Scripture.
– Perhaps mainline Protestantism isn’t dead or even dying: perhaps mainline Protestants have entered a latency period from which a new generation of Christian faith is trying to be born. (And perhaps conservative Protestantism is about to enter that latency period too.)
– Perhaps mainline Protestantism isn’t failing at all, any more than the US Postal Service is failing. (It’s actually doing more work than ever, with proportionately fewer resources than ever.) Perhaps it’s just that the times have changed, and First Class mail isn’t what it used to be, and mainline Protestants think they’re in the stamp-and-envelope business instead of the communication business.
– Perhaps mainline Protestants are in decline primarily because they haven’t been as good marketers as Evangelicals. Perhaps mainliners haven’t “pandered” to customer demands as well as Evangelicals. They haven’t adopted new technologies – first radio, then TV, then the internet – as savvily as Evangelicals have.
– Perhaps mainline decline is related to higher college attendance rates – rates that, by the way, Evangelicals are now catching up to. Perhaps conservative Christianity will fare no better in holding young adults who get a college education than mainline Protestants were. Perhaps the graphs will end up in the same place, with just a 30- or 40-year lag.
– Perhaps mainline Protestants started to decline when they became prophetic – agreeing with Dr. King about the institutional evils of segregation and the Viet Nam war. Perhaps being prophetic, which involves calling people forward to a better future, is inherently more costly and less popular than being conservative, which involves calling people back to a better past.
– Perhaps Evangelicals started to grow when they filled in the same role mainline Protestants used to occupy: the civil religion of the United States.
– Perhaps mainline Protestantism collapsed because of hypocrisy and disconnection from real-life issues, and perhaps Evangelicalism is edging ever-closer to a similar collapse.
– Perhaps mainline Protestantism was the religion of the American countryside and small town, and it declined as rural and small-town populations declined. And perhaps Evangelicalism is the religion of the American suburbs, and its fate will rise and fall with suburban life.

Of course, one can read the entire long but brilliant post here. Enjoy your reading.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Brian MacLaren also take a punch at Rob Bell’s critics and defends protestant liberalism

  1. Which Afterlife?

    In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

  2. Hey Felix, great perspective. I think you hit the nail on the head with “Protestants think they’re in the stamp-and-envelope business instead of the communication business.” IMO Protestants and Conservative Evangelicals need to get over the idea they are in the business of preserving impossible standards of “righteousness” purely on the basis of religious dogmas and traditions. They need to get back in to the business of sharing the gospel. But as we both know their version of the gospel does not come across as very “good news”. In fact, depending who you listen to, their version of the Gospel is often very bad news. IMO Christianity, at least in North America, has hit a point of no return. Churches must reform or suffer a slow death. Mainline Protestants pastors can’t simply hide behind their dog-collars and expect the world will magically follow them. Likewise, Evangelical preachers can no longer hide behind a poor bible translations and expect people to follow along blindly. There is too much alternative information at their flock’s finger tips.

  3. My initial comment was primarily about alternate views of an afterlife. Rob Bell has never claimed to be a mystic, but is open to contemplative prayer and meditation. While not a Universalist, he does respect people of other religions.

    Even within Christianity there are differing views of afterlife between Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc. In any discussion between people, there will be varying personal opinions and interpretations of scriptures. Most mystics, of any faith, would agree with Jesus: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” If you want to find Hell just read, watch or listen to the daily news or study the unkind history of humankind.

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