Recently I spent a few days in Escondido, California, basking in the mid-teen temperatures (sorry, folks, I still think Celsius when it comes to temperatures), enjoying the sunshine… and taking part in the TruthXchange 2011 Think Tank. The theme of the conference was One-ism: A Poison Pill for the Church?
Building on the messages from The Exchange Conference in 2010, the Think Tank addressed issues of the gospel, social justice, environmentalism, spirituality, missiology, gender, worship, education, eschatology, literature and epistemology (that is, thinking). While my full notes would be too intense (I’ve got something like 12,000 words worth), I wanted to share some highlights from the sessions I most appreciated.
The One-ist Gospel
Brian Mattson spoke on the One-ist gospel by examining Brian McLaren’s most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, asking two key questions:
Is McLaren’s Christianity new—and is it really Christian at all?
The answer to both of these questions, says Mattson is no. McLaren’s new kind of Christianity is nothing more than classical Enlightenment liberalism. Mattson’s analysis suggests that the gospel put forth in this book (and by many like-minded thinkers within the Emergent stream of evangelicalism), is actually Universalism, which is necessarily Gnostic, not Christian.
In the Gnostic gospels, you’d run across a motif that runs through all of them; it’s not enough for the Gnostics to claim that the “violent, tribal deity” is a lesser God—they call Yahweh, the God of the Bible an ignorant God; “the bastard child deity of a screw-up.”
The explanation is elegant and simple. The God revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures claims to be the only God. He actually says “I am the only God and there is no other.” His ignorance is manifest in his claim of exclusivity.
On the one hand there’s a God who claims to be the only God, to whom all allegiance is owed. On the other, there’s a group of people saying, “no, this cannot be true because divine love is universal.”
The question is, how do they know?
They know because they are “Gnostic.” He can claim that he is the only God to whom all allegiance is owed, but they know better.
All claims to Universalism are claims to have access to spiritual knowledge beyond bounds of God’s revelation. It goes all the way back to the first temptation in the garden; his “new kind of Christianity” is actually the oldest kind of heresy. [Read more…]