Monday, March 13, 2006

Brian McLaren on

I would like to commend to you this link to Brian McLaren's lecture on the Emerging Church given at Princeton. It is Intellectually stimulating and Ecclesiastically challenging. I'm eager to hear your responses.

Click here to listen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the link and the information from Mclaren. I cannot get enough of this stuff, I suppose you can say I've begun a remodel and cannot stop. I appreciatte you endorsing the study of these authors for the sake of the new restoration. Many of us have been reading quite a bit of Newbigin, Brueggemann and McLaren and can no longer imagine seeing theology from any other perspective. Thanks

March 13, 2006 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...


I'm just curious who "many of us" are.


March 13, 2006 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Jeremy Bacon said...

Listening to this presentation was downright painful. On the one hand, I was hired to chaplain a congregation that desperately and sometimes explicitly longs for the 1950s. Few had heard of C. S. Lewis (much less Leslie Newbigin), and the last major change was switching the pew Bibles to the NEW King James Version. And yet their past is exactly the future McLaren prophesied. They have watched their children leave the faith, and they escort their sociopathic grandchildren to church desperately hoping that the building will somehow miraculously infect them with God.
He certainly will not be caught from anything else they experience. My take on the fading “institutional” church is that, as the State Church (or whatever McLaren’s phrase was), it was supported by the culture. As such, it didn’t really make any difference if it genuinely connected people to God. In the past, the culture let us get away with some very bad habits. Now the old forms of “church” that I experience each Sunday are stale and the congregation members have long since forgotten what an actual spiritual experience is like. I flounder to find some way to smuggle God into any function of our congregation. I am, in fact, one of those seminary students stuffed full and sent out only to be broken by a godless institution.
Yet the congregation is not evil. They are merely empty. They need Christ just as much as any fringe dweller attracted to the emerging dialogue. And yet the emerging dialogue echoes the same note as the church growth movement, “It is easier to give birth than raise the dead.” Sure, someone could start a new, innovative ministry, but it wouldn’t help these people. Quite frankly, they would be dead before its effects are felt. So what’s the solution? Turn everyone in my congregation into an emergent pastor? Convince them all to abandon the old ways and pioneer the new?
Maybe. It’s an interesting thought. They’re not blind. They’re desperate. They know things need to change. Who knows how far they’ll follow me?
Oddly enough, throughout McLaren’s talk, I kept thinking of Wild at Heart. God has called us to a time when all is wilderness, and He desperately needs leaders who are not tame. There is no map, there are no stars, there is only a light to our feet showing one step ahead. Only an unflinching courage resting on a radical faith can navigate the completely unseen path.
I am a fool to assume that I fit that description. Yet perhaps that’s the point. If the courage was mine, I could take some of the credit. If the path was clear, I could take credit for knowing it. As it is, it is painfully clear that I am nothing. Perhaps God has seen fit to break an entire era of church history in this way, so that He might become greater, and we might become less.

March 14, 2006 at 1:04 AM  
Blogger stephen said...

This lecture was very helpful. As was Jeremy's response.

I suppose I have a slightly bad taste in my mouth from Brian McLaren (and much of the "emerging church"). I found his Generous Orthodoxy the thelogical equlivant of "can't we all just get along?" Perhaps I hadn't heard enough from their side. Perhaps I get tired of hearing negative comments on the Evangelical Church. Don't get me wrong, I see much that needs to change in the Evangelical Church, but I feel like it is like my big brother. I can make fun of my brother, but when an "outsider" does so I readily come to his defense. (McLaren does mention this in the fist part of his lecture.)

Perhaps I had misjudged McLaren because if there is one thing a cynic cannot stand, it is another cynic.

What McLaren mentioned concering the relation between our orthodoxy and orthopraxy was really quite challenging.

Sorry for the disjointedness of my comments, it is late.

March 17, 2006 at 2:01 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Bacon said...

I'm with you. I really want to dialogue with people from mainline denominations, but the call to dialogue can't be a call to give up my identity. Unfortunately, the few mainliners I've been able to encounter are a bit . . . twitchy when it comes to people who think Jesus is the only way to God. I guess I'm hoping that building some relationships might make more substantial dialogue possible.

March 17, 2006 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...


Mr. Bacon,

I guess I know a few mainliners what'd hold John 14.6 pretty close to their hearts.

While I might partially agree with you that "the call to dialogue can't be a call to give up my identity," I wonder if you would add with me that the call to dialogue can't be anything less than the call to pursue a better identity.

Given that our tradition was the product of a tradition that claimed as its ideal the belief that truth exists beyond and apart from tradition, I should like to think that some other traditions out there might have a thing or two to teach me about "identity."

I had three paragraphs of positive things to say, but I just deleted them because they all sounded like idealism (not the Hegelian sort), and you don't need to hear any of that.


March 18, 2006 at 2:10 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Bacon said...

There's some jewish author, I forget his name. He made the point that too-much interfaith dialogue is an exercise in ignoring our differences or pretending they aren't there. True dialogue would be recognizing and appreciating our differences. That's basically where I'm at. That kind of dialogue would open up the possiblity of actually learning from other peoples' perspectives.

March 18, 2006 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...


As an aside: (Have you read any David Burrell yet? He's a Roman Catholic Wittgenstinian Thomist in dialogue with Jews and Muslims in philosophical theology. He's paradigmatic of the kind of dialogue you're describing. As well as the dialogue being hosted by Hauerwas and Peter Ochs in their Radical Traditions series.)


March 18, 2006 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Just popping in to say to Mark that your classes were amazing at Tulsa. I really appreciate what you said. Well, the first 2, I didn't get to stick around for the 3rd. And free books? Yeah, next time bring more!

God bless you and your amazing message.

March 26, 2006 at 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I knew some of the words you guys use.

March 29, 2006 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...

Regarding our big words: That would be my malfeasance. Pay them no mind, they're purely fustian offal.

March 30, 2006 at 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you find a job that pays you for your skills. I mean that. If I had your vocabulary I would get a job where I could use it.

March 31, 2006 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...

My vocabulary can be found at It's quick, easy, and what's more it's free!

March 31, 2006 at 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So…He knows that everyone’s wrong but he has no idea what’s right? Only that he’s closer then everyone else. Sound a little post modern to me.

I just listened to Brian’s speech and I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and a sick feeling in my stomach. He has all these subtle lines in there that just scare me, seriously. I have to admit I’ve had a bias against him ever since I heard him attack the doctrine of the reality of a hell in a radio interview. This recording certainly didn’t change that. I don’t think that everything about the emergent church is terrible, some of it doesn’t sound half bad. I appreciate his passion and his desire to see the church grow in number and maturity. And I believe he’s completely sincere. But someone can be sincere and be sincerely wrong. Passion and good intension without truth results is heresy. I’m not saying he’s there yet, but he’s on his way. Improving church is one thing, but changing the way we believe is a whole different story. Telling people not to talk about hell and sticking up for Rocker Bono when he says in more words or less that all roads lead to heaven, and changing the way we believe in the Trinity and the atonement is just wrong wrong wrong! It makes me want to cry because his ideals are slipping in the back doors of churches across America.

What I see is a man who seems uncomfortable with the God present in the Bible so he is creating a new God, or “changing the way he believes” in God. I pray that I’m wrong about him but in either case WE CAN”T DO THAT, even if it temporarily get more people in the doors of our church, and makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. God is who He is. Lighting candles and adding bits and pieces of old school worship into our services may freshen up the worship experience, but eventually people will get board with that too if their hearts arn't right with God. The problem is not what we are doing at church, but what we are failing to do. Lecto Divino and comtemplative prayer isn’t going to change things, what IS going to change things is preachers and teachers and laymen getting out from behind the hedges and faithfully preaching the message that all people are sinners in need of a savior. Believe it or not most people today don’t know that because post modern liberal teaching has presented them with a man centered view of a God who want to live in there heart and make all there problems go away because he needs THEM. Most people today are under the impression that they are good people and will go to heaven when they die because they deserve it. But it is by grace we are saved through faith, and only through Jesus Christ. God loves us more then we can understand, but he does not need us, WE NEED HIM.

So enough talk talk talking, let’s pick up our crosses and get walking. If it worked for Christ, if it worked for Peter and Paul, if it worked for Timothy and Titus then it will work for us too. Take the Gospel to the people and don’t water it down. They may not like it at first but we need to trust the Holy Spirit to do his work with the seeds we plant. HE will humble their hearts and let the foolishness of the cross drive them to there knees.

April 25, 2006 at 1:08 PM  

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