Yesterday I began reading Brian McLaren’s latest book, “A New Kind of Christianity,” for a writing project. McLaren is a denominational preacher and foremost leader of the so-called “emerging church” movement, which is a misguided attempt to make Christianity relevant to a postmodern world. Prior to the preface, before the book even begins, there is a quote from Vincent J. Donovan that must have greatly impressed McLaren (else, he would not have given it prominence). The quote tells the tale of the emerging church mindset.
Donovan writes, “The day we are completely satisfied with what we have been doing; the day we have found the perfect, unchangeable system of work, the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected again, on that day we will know that we are wrong, that we have made the greatest mistake of all.”
Ponder that. The “greatest mistake of all” entails claiming to have the “perfect answer” that will never need to be changed. But, isn’t that precisely what the gospel is–“the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected”?
The “emerging church” is populated with epistemological agnostics, one of their greatest fears being the making of a truth claim (which sounds much like a postmodernist).
Donovan’s assertion is that, when you are convinced you have the exact right answer, that’s when you can be certain you are wrong. But such a position is self-defeating. Does Donovan know his assertion is correct? If he does, then he ought to abandon it as wrong. On the other hand, if Donovan does not know his assertion is correct, then maybe his whole thesis is shot through with error (which it is). The position is wholly untenable and amounts to agnosticism.
McLaren is a good writer, but an agnostic posture toward truth is neither biblical, nor an expeditious way to reach today’s lost souls (who, by the way, are really not that different from the folk to whom Peter and Paul preached). Rather than trying to save the gospel from extinction, we ought to let it save us.