Brian MacLaren
Brian MacLaren
Brian MacLaren

Ok, I am now officially fed up with these guys that pass themselves off as some kind of Christian leader. I found a page on the website of Brian McLaren, founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, MD, with the heading, “Theory of Atonement.” The text is partially quoted here as follows: (original link is found here)

“Could you elaborate on your personal theory of atonement? If God wanted to forgive us, why didn't he just forgive us? Why did torturing Jesus make things better?

This is such an important and difficult question. … Short answer: I think the gospel is a many faceted diamond, and atonement is only one facet, and legal models of atonement (which predominate in western Christianity) are only one small portion of that one facet.

Dallas Willard also addresses this issue in “The Divine Conspiracy.” Atonement-centered understandings of the gospel, he says, create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else. He calls us to move beyond a “gospel of sin management,” to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, rather than focusing on an alternative theory of atonement, I'd suggest we ponder the meaning and mission of the kingdom of God.”

I find these statements to be so offensive that I must comment on them. First of all a little background. Atonement is not just one facet of the diamond of the Gospel, it IS the Gospel. In order for God to be God, He must be Holy first and foremost. The fact that He is the Creator and Giver of life in and of itself demands that we bow to His authority and that if He declares a matter to be true, by definition, it must be true. It also stands to reason that He has all rights to do as He pleases to, or with anyone He chooses.

Man is the rebellious creation of the most righteous and Holy God. When given the choice to serve God and enjoy fellowship with Him, Man made the choice to strive to be like God, which is the sin that banished Lucifer from God forever. At that moment, Man's spirit died (Ephesians 2:1) and his will became enslaved to his sin nature, and God would have been just to send Adam and Eve straight to Hell without any recourse. Isaiah 64:6 says “…all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” If our righteousnesses are sickening to God, imagine what our sin is to Him!

But God chose not to immediately banish Man to Hell (I know, some of you emergents don't BELIEVE in a literal Hell, but that's fodder for another discussion). Romans 5 tells us that by His grace and through our faith (which itself is a gift of God Ephesians2:8-9) we are reconciled to God. Only by the work of Jesus's death on the cross and His resurrection is atonement made for our rebellious sin. The ONLY payment that can be made for sin is the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).

Second of all, Dallas Willard's comments that “atonement-centered understandings of the Gospel … create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else.” This is highly offensive to me because it demonstrates that Mr. Willard has no regard for the sacrifice that the blood of Christ accomplished and that that sacrifice it is not enough for the payment of sin. Life is in the blood and atonement can only be made through the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11). In order for Man to be redeemed and have his sin atoned, a perfect sacrifice had to be made and Christ was that perfect sacrifice.

I am growing so tired of hearing these emergent pastors talking about questioning everything. The way they are questioning seems to come from a doubter's heart. Do we really want to be led by someone who doesn't even know what they believe or worse yet, bases their belief system on the shaky foundation of their own intellect. All questions are able to be answered in the proper context of the Bible. It is the infallible Word Of God and is relevant to all generations. Doctrine must be taught and must be studied in its proper context in order combat this kind of heresy. Our concern must be for the souls of those that these emergent pastors are leading astray. The Bible has stood the test of time and will forever stand. Doctrine is the foundation that is strong and sure enough to build all of our lives upon. Psalm 94:16 asks us, “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?” Are we willing to stand for the truth, or are will more willing to let people die in their sin, but feel really good about themselves in the process. I pray that God makes me one of the former!

Bob Kauflin

I am a huge fan of Glad. Their Acapella Project is an all-time favorite CD of mine. One of their former members is Bob Kauflin, who is now the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is also one of the featured speakers for the Desiring God National Conference in September. This is a video clip of Bob explaining the power of sound theology in the lyrics of our songs and how singing them helps us to retain the theology in those lyrics.

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I am making an attempt to get through a particular book written by one of the most visible pastors in the Emergent Church movement, and it has been a real struggle. While none of what he says can be called an outright lie or heresy, he is definitely coming from a more humanistic perspective, and what disturbs me is that many people with whom I would associate have been caught up in this kind of thinking. First of all, Please forgive me for not giving the name of the book or the author, but my purpose here is not merely to attack an individual, but to encourage the reading of God's Word and the study of theology, from which many Liberals and Emergents have attempted to dissuade us. Second, the main concern that I have regarding books like this is that since they approach their subject from the “God wants you to be happy now” philosophy, they deny the importance of preaching the whole Gospel. This includes the part that we are wretched sinners only deserving the full wrath of God and that just by the fact that He does not insinerate us immediately is the beginning of His grace to us, which is then completed in the work of Christ on the cross and in His resurrection.

In this particular book, the author is encouraging the reader to question what they believe about the Christian Faith in order to find a “new” perspective. While some questions are good, many can come from a rejection of what has been substantiated for centuries as sound doctrine. 2 Timothy 2:23 says, “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” When we begin questioning things such as the divinity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the doctrine of original sin, and the very existence of Hell itself, we are in danger of denying the established foundation of the Christian Faith, which causes the very disunity many Liberals and Emergents accuse more conservative and orthodox believers of effecting. Many of these questions are already answered in the Scriptures, but many times the questioner simply does not want to accept the answer.

But it is so important that we take the time to read and study the Scriptures in their proper context in order to rightly understand the truth that God has provided for us in His Word. Paul earlier in 2 Timothy taught the importance of the study of God's Word, and in 2 Timothy 2:15 he says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When we commit ourselves to the study of God's Word, we can be rock solid in our defense of true Christianity and not be swayed by anyone who is just not satisfied with the answers that are right before them in Scripture.

I am concerned that many who follow these pastors who preach an easy to believe “gospel” are living with a false sense of security and will have a rude awakening when they stand before a righteous and holy God and He tells them “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23) It's frightneing to think of how many false converts there may be in the pews of our churches. If we are not willing to stand for the preaching of the Gospel (law to the proud, grace to the humble,) we only show that we do not care about the souls of men (Romans 1:16.) Worse yet, when we neglect the Gospel and theology, we are showing that we do not care about the character of God and are not delighting ourselves in Him. The greatest danger of the “God wants you to be happy now” philosophy is not what they actually say, but what they refuse to say regarding sin and repentance.

We must be willing to trust that God has His ultimate glory in mind when he gives hard answers to hard questions. The fact the He IS God validates His very words and actions, and that in and of itself shows that those words and actions are righteous. God is not only the standard bearer, but is the standard Himself. If we do question God, we must do so with an attitude of humility, a desire for clarity, and a heart seeking only His Glory.