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January 23, 2006


Hello Doug,

Thanks for offering your readers a link to my show --I hope you, and they enjoyed the interview.

I would love if you could be more specific about the caricatures Brian used during this interview, and/or when Brian stated that raising an issue would be merely "looking to find fault". I'm not closed to the idea that its there, I just don't remember such statements.


haven't heard the interview so I can't speak to that specifically, but I can speak to McLaren et al in general on the "caricature" thing. One thing I've noticed is that him and others in the emergent camp tend to pose false dichotomies...for example, stressing right behavior over right belief. They miss the fact that the two are intimately connected and that false beliefs lead to bad behaviors.

Also, many of the critiques they level at "traditional evangelicalism" can be leveled against themselves too.

I highly doubt Brian Mclaren would deny that similar critiques could be made against himself, nor the important connection between belief and action. For example, note this quote from his soon to be released book about Jesus.

The Secret Message of Jesus: chapter 1, pg. 6-7.

"A lot of people say, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere." I'd like to challenge that belief. Believing untrue things puts you at odds with reality and can prove downright destructive. For example, try believing--however sincerely-- that you have an exemption from gravity that allows you to step off tall buildings or that traffic signals don't apply to you... and reality will quite forcefully come smashing in, contrary to your beliefs with reality during a long hospital stay. Or try believing you have funds in your bank when you don't, and your checks will bounce. Persist in your belief, and the reality of a jail cell will enlighten you and show you how little a false belief is worth.
More dangerous still, believing untrue things can turn you into a monster. Try believing God will be pleased if you fly an airplane into a tall building, that you can get away with embezzling funds, that you have a personal exemption from sexual propriety, or that your race or religion makes you superior to members of other races or religions. You will become someone nobody respects, including (eventually) you.
But seeking to believe what is true--seeking to see things as closely as possible to the way they really are, seeking to be faithful to what is and was and will be--puts you increasingly in touch with reality and helps you be a good and wise person. It can also make like a lot more fun, meaningful, and enjoyable. For example, if you have a huge inheritance in the bank and don't believe it, or if someone really loves you and you don't believe it, you're missing out on the lot, right? Having truer beliefs-beliefs more aligned with reality--makes all of the difference.
In one of my previous books, I said clarity is sometimes overrated and that intrigue is correspondingly undervalued. But what I want to say--clearly--that it is tragic for anyone, especially anyone affiliated with the religion named after Jesus, not to be clear about what Jesus's message actually was."


Hello Leif,

Doug actually wrote the book review and I was the one who linked to your podcast so I'll go ahead and repond to your question. Here are a few examples of McLaren's caricatures from the first part of the interview:

(1) At 6:20 in the interview his comments regarding Calvinists are uncharitable. And at 9:55 he speaks about the "hard core Calvinist who has everything [in terms of doctrine] sewed up" and therefore are simply irritated with others who question. This seems to be a pretty clear caricature of Calvinists. Indeed, I don't know of any prominent strong Calvinists who would claim they have every doctrine "sewn up."

(2) At 14:45 he begins a caricature of those who hold to the "traditional" view of hell. As a side note, after his comments you offer a very fair question regarding the rationality of the doctrine of hell in light of God's goodness. So I certainly applaud you for your graciousness. Again, at about 29:00 he caricatures the traditional view of hell as God getting "his way through coercion and violence and intimidation..."

I believe it is at the beginning of the second part of the interview where he suggests that those who take issue with him are merely trying to find fault (I couldn't double-check because the link was down).

Hope that helps.

Thanks for taking the time to find specifics. Let me try and address them.

6:20 -saying that calvinist wouldn't be surprised to find bad behavior in human nature is uncharitable? I don't understand.

9:55 -Isn't the qualifying term "hard core calvinists" enough to imply that he is meaning only a certain smaller population? "All sewn up" Have you heard of hyperbole? Jesus used it all the time --it is a literary device to make a point clearer. Interestingly, it was towards the religiously powerful and 'we know all the answers' kind of people that Jesus was most angry with, and used the most hyperbole. I might point out that if this if this literary device didn't exist, most christians would be walking around one eyed, or one handed.

14:45 I would not at all call this a caricature. I would call this an opinion, one of which I hold to as well. I have had man many conversations with people about the topic of hell and found that what Brian says here is totally accurate.
29:00 Same. This opinion that Brian expresses, and that I hold, is a belief --that when truly examined, the traditional doctrine of hell (eternal concious torment) is a coercive, violent, and unjust doctrine that flies straight in the face of the forgive 7*70, love your enemies, self-sacrifical love, teaching, life and death of Christ.

As for the 2nd part, the podcast description was messed up for a few minutes, but the actually mp3 has been and is available for downloading. So I'd love to hear some specifics from that show as well.



Here are two things that would be helpful in this discussion:

(1) Can you point us to 3 or 4 mainstream hard core Calvinists who are published that would fit McLaren's description (i.e. have all their doctrine "sewn up" and are just irritated by those who question)?

(2) Can you point us to the writings of 3 or 4 mainstream evangelicals who have published on the traditional doctrine of hell, that you've read?


I just saw a debate between one of Brian's good friends and a Christian that had some problems with the emergent church. I found it interesting how the emergent church guy never could answer a question directly. Funny thing is the guy debating Brian's friend wrote an article about this problem BEFORE the debate!

Brett. Great suggestions.

As for #1, this is something you would have to ask Brian Mclaren about I suppose -as he made the comment. I do not have the time in my life right now to research this.

As for #2, if you read the bibliography to my paper on hell (a dialogue of four perspectives on hell, written while at Regent College, an evangelical grad school of theology, where JI Packer teachers), you will find the sources you requested.

Funny to me is that --isn't the point of debates that they tend to make a mockery of the spirit of love and of true intelligent dialogue? Most topics are so complex that they do involve much more than the amount of time, and the type of answers, debate forums permit.

Again, thats why we have 35,000 christian denomations, and a gazillion books written on christian topics.

Soundbytes don't work.


Leif, actually this was a very easy going debate. Time limits were not really inforced. The emergent church side most of the time ended well before their "time limit". I have seen many other debates on other topics and I didn't come away from it thinking like I did this one. This is the same problem when I read emergent church books or articles on the internet. You can not get a straight forward answer on anything. Some topics that were not given a straight forward answer on during the debate was the 2nd coming of Christ, why is it ok to use things like Yoga in the church like this guy did, and is the Bible inerrant in it's original form. Simple answers can do and they can always be expounded on later. I felt as if I just came back from the Bill Clinton trial where he was arguing about the definition of "is".

Well, what can I say.
I wasn't there.

I'm not an 'emergent' person (I avoid as many labels as possible), so I can't really represent them for you. Best would probably be to try and talk to one of them personally about the problems you had.

We do live in complex times. I think that is one of the main things emergent type folks are trying to say and should be heard on --lets humble ourselves, admit to the diversity and complexity, and try and learn from each other. Otherwise we'll just self-righteously split off and form another 30 thousand denominaitons "based on the bible and only the bible".


By the way, where was the debate you mention with Brian Mclaren?


By the way, where was the debate you mention with Brian Mclaren?


Hi Leif,
I just graduated from Regent and came across this blog. I have been wanting to research hell for some time now and I would love to listen to those podcasts with Brian. How do I do that? When I click on it, a question mark comes up...

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