The Gospel According to The Washington Post

The Washington Post has found an evangelical Christian it likes. Conveniently enough he's not a fan of the Christian right. Here are some nuggets from staff writer Caryle Murphy's September 10 profile of a "progressive" pillar of the "emerging church" movement, Brian D. McLaren.:

“When we present Jesus as a pro-war, anti-poor, anti-homosexual, anti-environment, pro-nuclear weapons authority figure draped in an American flag, I think we are making a travesty of the portrait of Jesus we find in the gospels," McLaren said in a recent interview.


"I don't see the issue of homosexuality as the simple black-and-white issue that some of my fellow evangelicals make it out to be," said McLaren, who last year was named by Time magazine among the "25 most influential evangelicals in America."

And while not happy about widespread abortions, he added, "to just say 'Okay, let's pass laws about it' seems to me to skip a number of important steps, like honest and open dialogue, persuasion and seeking to remove the conditions that make abortion so prevalent."

After sharing a few critiques of McLaren's liberal politics and liberal theology, Murphy summed up the appeal of McLaren's theology with the words of a 33-year old Ken Archer of Washington, D.C., who sniffed that "The modern Christian formula of 'I mentally assent to the fact that Jesus died for my sins and therefore I get to live forever in
heaven' . . . is entirely cognitive."

"It's a mathematical formula [that] leaves the rest of our being unfulfilled," added the Catholic University philosophy student.

Implied in the McLaren piece is that young, edgy Christians are unfulfilled with conservative, orthodox theology and that "progressive" Christianity is the wave of the future for evangelicals.

But while the theologically and politically liberal wing of the "emerging church" may be advocated by McLaren, there are other "emerging" leaders who take a cutting edge approach to church structure, mode of worship, and style, while retaining conservative orthodoxy in substance.

One such "emerging" leader is Mark Driscoll, the senior pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. A conservative church in a liberal city, it makes no apologies for historic Christianity, but rather is heavy on the teaching of Christian apologetics through expository sermons, Bible studies, and the like.

Whereas McLaren believes in salvation apart from Christ and that American conservative evangelicals have their panties in a bunch about abortion and homosexuality, Driscoll communicates a heavy-hitting, apolitical message about man's sinful nature, God's holiness, and the sacrificial love of Christ.

Driscoll is unapologetic and crystal clear about his religious beliefs, and his view of how to make the Gospel more accessible by embracing podcasts, blogs, and other technological innovations. Here's a taste of his thinking from a July 2006 interview with Christianity Today:

Are young people becoming more sympathetic to Reformed theology?

The two hot theologies today are Reformed and emerging. Reformed theology offers certainty, with a masculine God who names our sin, crushes Jesus on the Cross for it, and sends us to hell if we fail to repent. Emerging theology offers obscurity, with a neutered God who would not say an unkind word to us, did not crush Jesus for our sins, and would not send anyone to hell. I came to Reformed theology by preaching through books of the Bible such as Exodus, Romans, John, and Revelation, along with continually repenting of my sin. I am, however, a boxers, not briefs, Reformed guy. I am pretty laid back about it and not uptight and tidy like many Reformed guys.

What do you think needs to be the relationship between church and culture?

The difficulty is that there are actually three ways that faithful Christians and churches must respond to culture:

Reject—Some aspects of a culture are simply sinful and should be rejected by God's people. In our day this would include sexual sins (fornication, pornography, homosexuality, adultery), illegal drug use, and the pluralistic notion that every religion is an equally valid path to salvation.

Receive—Some aspects of a culture are the result of common grace and should be received by God's people. Examples in our day would include stewarding and enjoying creation, building community, and acts of mercy for the poor, widows, orphans, sick, and elderly.

Redeem—Some aspects of a culture are,in and of themselves, morally neutral but are used for evil, and can be redeemed for good. Examples in our day include using media portals (e.g., internet, podcast, vodcast) for the gospel, celebrating sex within heterosexual marriage, and spending money and using power in such a way that honors Jesus and demonstrates his love for people.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.