McLaren and Religions

Here's one of the worst things Brian McLaren has said according to many critics.  It's found in A Generous Orthodoxy.

I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equalmaking adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts.

This is a key passage for the Kentucky Baptist Convention who disinvited McLaren from speaking at their evangelism conference (also here).

This is a key passage for Stand to Reason founder and president Greg Koukl, who after quoting the above passage in a blog post then writes...

"Be forewarned. The Emergent Church is the most theologically corrosive view/movement/trend in a long time. The Seeker movement and the "Laughing Revival" of the last decade pale in comparison. And it’s consuming millions, especially young people. We’ll keep you posted."

This is a key passage for Al Mohler in his well-traveled review of aGO where he appears to say this quote brings into question McLaren's commitment to Christian mission in the world.

What does Brian McLaren really mean in this controversial quote?  Here is an excerpt from a recent interview with McLaren.

In an interview last week with Kentucky Baptists' newspaper, The Western Recorder, McLaren suggested the controversy was mainly a semantic one.

"I'm not saying I don't care if people are Christians or not," he said. "I'm saying I want people to be followers of Jesus, but to be a follower of Jesus in some situations may not require them to affiliate with the Christian religion.

"This is a very well-known reality in missiology," he added. "Many Southern Baptist missionaries are building disciples in communities of disciples ... that are meeting in homes or other places, but they are not affiliating with the Christian religion and disaffiliating with their own religion.

"This is especially the case in Muslim countries. They're affiliated as followers of Jesus but for a whole number of reasons, they are not saying, 'I'm an affiliate of the Christian religion.'"

Noting that "there were followers of Jesus before the word 'Christian' was invented," McLaren said, "They were first called Christians at Antioch - so I think we've got a biblical case for people being followers of Jesus without having to use that word.

"The issue," he insisted, "is that people confess Jesus as Lord. I'm interested in helping people actively be disciples of Jesus as Lord."

Read the whole article (HT: Joe Thorn email)

McLaren isn't saying we don't need mission, or that we should let new Christians syncretize.  He is talking about public association among believers in certain contexts.  He is talking about what he thinks is best to be a faithful witness in certain contexts.

As people convert they become disciples, but they may not publicly proclaim their conversion through joining a publicly recognized Christian church.  I used to be on track to go overseas as an SBC missionary.  During that time I heard one young, theologically strong SBC missionary speak who works with Muslims.  I also followed up and talked with him personally after his speech, and then through email later on.  His remarks about new converts is almost exactly the same as McLaren's.

I encourage critics of McLaren to respond to his clarification.  I think it's an important issue because it's such a contested quote.