A Theological Conversation Worth Having: A Response to Brian McLaren

We are talking about two rival understandings of the Gospel here — two very different understandings of theology, Gospel, Bible, doctrine, and the totality of the Christian faith. Both sides in this controversy understand what is at stake.

Some theological disputes amount to very little and serve mostly as exercises in missing the point, if indeed there is a point. Other doctrinal exchanges are quite different and deal with matters of central and essential concern to the Christian faith. The first sort of dispute is a waste of precious time and energy and should be avoided at all costs. The second sort of debate is a matter of both urgency and importance. The church cannot avoid and should not seek to evade this kind of theological conversation.

That is why a recent essay by Brian McLaren helps us all to understand what is at stake in the controversy over Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. Beyond this, his argument reveals a great deal about the actual beliefs and trajectories of what has become known as the emerging church. As such, his essay is a welcome addition to this important conversation.

McLaren, perhaps the best known of the leaders in the emerging church, seeks to defend Rob Bell and to act as his friend. He says that he had been waiting for an opportunity to speak in Bell’s defense, and, evidently my essay, “We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology,” afforded McLaren the opportunity he was seeking….

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