In response to my last post, a friend pointed out how McLaren came from a conservative evangelical background, and so therefore is familiar with all of the arguments we on the “inerrancy team” might use to defend our position.
But my contention remains that he has never been on my team (or even listened to the arguments made by some of the brilliant men and women on my team), because in refuting my position he doesn’t even come close to accurately portraying it. The conservative evangelical who he paints in the book is a detestable person, concerned only with money and position, eager to condemn others to hell, from the cab of his gas guzzling SUV, while reading a pro-slavery book with a Fox News sticker on it. I’m with him in condemning that guy. Not sure that guy exists on a large enough scale to write a book about, but I am totally for outing that guy.
If that is what McLaren was as a conservative evangelical, I’m really glad he’s a neo-hippie post-Christian universalist these days. Anything is better than being a smug, hate-filled Bible-thumper.
McLaren sees a “constitutional” reading of the Bible (where you are forced to abide by the rules of, say, God…) as the root problem. And then he goes about proving how you can’t read the Bible like a constitution, using the Book of Job. He claims that if the Bible is 100% God’s word, then you have to trust all of the words of it, even the parts that contradict each other. Like Job’s friends, who say one thing, and God (or the “character called God” as McLaren would have it), who says something different. Rev McLaren, if you think that my understanding the Bible to be inerrant means that I have to take the clearly wrong things (like when Satan speaks in scripture) and the clearly right things (like when Jesus speaks in scripture) with the same level of authority, it is no wonder you left our team. Not one reputable theologian would recommend such a foolish way to read the Bible. Wise biblical scholarship takes into account the author’s original audience and intent, the context (historical and literary), and many other factors. To say the Bible is God’s word doesn’t mean I must stop using my brain to read it.
One root issue is that the God of the Bible doesn’t fit into Brian McLaren’s box. He sees God as nice, pleasant, and always extending compassion and kindness. Like a benevolent politician, God’s just here to make you the type of person you already have the capacity to be. A perfect God who would kill his enemies for their rebellion has no place in McLaren’s paradigm. So, in an effort to not totally throw out the Bible, he is forced to reinterpret it so that the more “primitive” views of God in the Old Testament were given because the more simple original readers couldn’t handle the gracious God who would emerge later. In a later post I’ll talk briefly about how insulting that is to folks like John Owen, Moses, Paul, David, etc.
The problem with this “trajectory theology” where interpretation changes based on original reader’s level of understanding is that frequently in the early books we see a gracious God. (the book of Jonah, for example, or the fact that he kicked Adam out of the garden and made garments for him–from a sacrificed animal–in the FIRST book of the Bible) And toward the end of the Bible, after the “primitive” God had revealed himself to be the pacifist Jesus, we still see that same Jesus condemning people to hell, calling people names, and affirming everything that God did in the Old Testament. Not to mention the fact that Jesus speaks of the last days in ways that make it sound an awful lot like a war that God wages against his enemies.
It is impossible to both read the Bible honestly and take away from it that God changed from Genesis to Revelation. He’s full of grace and truth from the beginning to the end. He kills his enemies that refuse to repent and he redeems his enemies that humbly acknowledge that they aren’t right. He’s both gracious and violent. And the cross is the ultimate statement of both grace (toward us, his enemies) and violence (toward his own Son!)
So yes, Rev McLaren, God revealed more and more of Himself as the pages and books of Scripture were revealed. But far from correcting earlier errors, in every case God’s revelation clarifies and upholds all revelation before it. Without making any mistakes.
What say you, reader? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Comment below.