McKnight on MacLaren

An interesting article by Scott McKnight ran in the latest issue of Christianity Today. Dr. McKnight has been a friend to the emergent church movement. He is a bright man who, no doubt, loves the Lord. McKnight gives the emergent folks much more credit than do I. That is what made his article in CT stand out a bit. The article focuses primarily on Brian MacLaren but along the way he makes some good observations about the broader movement.

He writes:

"Very few emergent folks I have encountered have any chance of returning to a robust, traditional evangelical faith. As emergents learned and listened in their evangelical churches and institutions, they realized they could not accept much of what they were being taught. Though they remained within the comfortable confines of these institutions, their faith became ironic. Yes, they were Christians, but not quite what most people meant by that term.

“Evangelical thinkers such as D. A. Carson, R. Scott Smith, John MacArthur, and Kevin DeYoung and Ted Cluck (authors of Why We’re Not Emergent) warn of the dangers of emergents’ theological drift and draw lines in the sand. The emergents I know are numb to both the warnings and the lines; they have heard those warnings and they have crossed those lines. They are surprised by neither and are not likely to turn back. Instead, they are building a new theology that ‘emerges’ from the story they find themselves in—namely, the shift from modernity to postmodernity.”

What was most interesting to me about the article was the series of questions that Dr. McKnight asks Brian MacLaren. I was happy to see McKnight express concern over MacLaren's lack of doctrinal clarity and, yes, charity toward those who challenge him:

“Despite his many proposals in these last two books, McLaren would rather ask a question and create a conversation than propound a solution. This style is an attribute of a good teacher. Yet having said that, I want to voice the frustration of many: McLaren’s willingness to muddy the waters, which is characteristic of Generous Orthodoxy, goes only so far. Many of us would like to see greater clarity on a variety of questions he raises.

“McLaren grew up among evangelicals; we’d like him to show the generosity he is known for to those who ask theological questions of him. The spirit of conversationthat drives much of his own pastoral work urges each of us to answer the questions we are asked, and the Bible encourages those who ask those questions to listen patiently and to respond graciously. The lack of the latter has so far inhibited the former. This can be taken as a plea on behalf of all concerned to enter into a more robust, honest conversation.”

I am not quite as charitable in my assessment of emergent as is Scott McKnight. That said, he is on the right track in this article. I trust he will continue down this path and call Brian MacLaren and other emergent leaders to reconsider their positions.