NPR ran a story on Brian McLaren last week, so I thought I’d weigh in, as one of the “young” evangelicals the story talks about. Here’s a line taken from the article. (read it in it’s entirety here)
Campbell adds that young believers are more flexible about Christian doctrine in general.
“We also know that — particularly within the evangelical community — the younger you are, the less likely you are to take the Bible literally, to believe that the Bible is the inerrant ‘word of God,’ as compared to a book of moral precepts,” he says.
And let me be the first to say that the article may be true. Young people like me may be more likely to believe lies. But, at least in my case, my mother is far closer to McLaren than I am. It’s not a generational issue. Mom’s not real big on commenting on blogs (she’ll likely email me). But the blanket statement that older = more theologically conservative is patently false and a lazy generalization.
Here’s what astounds me: the article says that the main reason older folks hold to more conservative views of scripture is because the older generation is less traveled, has met fewer folks who are of other faiths, and are therefore far more comfortable condemning them to hell. What a shocking statement about how dumb/bigoted older folks are. It’s pure academic and chronological snobbery to say that we young folks know more than our parents because we’ve experienced a more “global” classroom and life. And it’s a direct affront to the older generation to say that they are “comfortable” condemning anyone to hell. Many of the theologically conservative folks I’ve met are also the ones most passionate about getting the good news out to the most people. No matter their age.
I’ve been to about 9 countries, not counting my own. I’ve met folks that were raised Muslim, raised in various eastern faiths, and raised Atheist/Humanist. Folks as different from my upbringing as night is from day. Yet I am still a conservative evangelical. I still believe that the Bible is God’s Word, and not just a book of moral precepts (in fact, take a brief look at the “moral” example set by many of the “heroes” of the faith–David, Moses, Paul, Peter, etc–before you call the Bible such a ridiculous name). If I have changed any since my youth, it is indeed a shift from strict dogmatism to reasoned faith. But the dogmatism of my youth was based not in any sort of reason, but rather insecurity. I didn’t know why I believed the Bible, just that it was the linchpin holding my faith together. So I spent a great amount of time and energy defending my linchpin.
These days, thanks in large part to some great teachers, pastors, friends, and a lot of study of history, I know many more reasons why I can trust the Bible. But unlike McLaren might think, I have more concern for folks from other nations, cultures, and languages than I have ever had in my life. In my pursuit of truth and a reasoned faith, I haven’t had to toss out belief in the authority of the Bible, I’ve had to cling to it. Without a literal Savior saving me from a literal hell of self-centered “spirituality,” I would have no reason to pursue social causes like justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, and assistance to the poor and underprivileged. Also, I wouldn’t care that people were going to hell, if it were imaginary.
The tired caricature of a bible-thumping hellfire preacher more concerned with money and “soul winning” than with loving people is one we’ve earned as conservative evangelicals. But McLaren’s response seems like lazy ignorance of the fact it is a caricature that almost totally misrepresents those of us who hold to an authoritative Bible. In the excerpt at the end of the above-referenced article, McLaren quotes a critic of his as saying that Jesus only came to save people from hell, not with any social agenda. I don’t know a single one of my friends, no matter how conservative, who would agree with that statement. Not one.
What an ignorant caricature of our entire team, Rev. McLaren! How about refute Tim Keller, DA Carson, JI Packer, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, or some other reputable representative of our team? Because they can simultaneously hold to a authoritative Bible and love/help the poor? Yeah, you’re right. A lot harder to take aim at folks who really work toward advancing both the gospel and social implications of a gospel-centered worldview.
As others have said, I think with this book, Brian McLaren has finally taken off his shepherd costume to reveal the wolf underneath. Please, folks, don’t follow the wolf. He’s aiming to blow your house down.