McLaren Razes Hell

Brian McLaren takes a whirlwind tour through the blogosphere this week stopping off at five influential blogs to discuss his new book, “The Last Word and the Word After That.” Join the conversation:

For more on Hell check out “Hell-the Furnace of Fire” by John MacArthur, Dorothy Sayers on Why Hell Is a Non-Negotiable, and’s links to articles on Hell, Judgement & God’s Wrath.


interesting piece Don. I don’t know that I was aware of this McLaren character, but I enjoyed doing some reading on him and the pomom crowd. Sounds an awful lot like neo-gnosticism to me.

I like the way you balance it with the links to the truth about God’s wrath.

This McClaren guy along with Carlton Pearson and his “Gospel of Inclusion” seem to line up really well with the false teachers of II Timothy 3:5

“having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”


I really enjoy your Blog Don, and agree with most of what is on here but I have to disagree with mark’s last response. This group seems to be very misguided and more concerned with giving God ultimatiums but they do believe they love God. I think it is important for the sake of unity that we do not just dismiss them as “false teachers” but rather a result of a consumerism church culture. By just dismissing emergents we only fuel their fire and justify their radical perspectives, as you read through their blogs you see a group of people who seem to relish at developing an us against them mentality. I say we just tell them that we love them and that God is not “becoming” but alreay is as Piper would say, and therefore it is not a day to “re-invent the church” but to just make his glory known.

By just dismissing emergents we only fuel their fire and justify their radical perspectives, as you read through their blogs you see a group of people who seem to relish at developing an us against them mentality.

Isn’t “an us against them mentality” the very nature of all heresy?

Ryan (first one)…
I do not advocate “dismissing” them in any way. I believe they (the EC folk-McClaren et al) need to be engaged, and yes in love. Love is not in question here. Scriptural truth is. Even a cursory examination of the material from McClaren shows that not only are they willfully ignoring church history and the full counsel of God, they are quite literally attempting a re-write of scripture. We can and should, speak the truth in love-and give no quarter.

The EC movement is much more insidious than the pseudo-Christian cults because they have snuggled under the evangelical umbrella. They need to be marked, engaged and loved.

I agree with your last remarks about the EC church being engaged with love, but I guess it is the “marked” attitude that worries me. I believe that these truly are our brothers and sisters in Christ and not insidious individuals. As someone who is from the same generation as many of the EC followers I can say that this movement is more a response to a message that just did not match up with the the they have seen around them. This is why Jim Wallis and Brian McLaren have become so popular because they radiate a gospel that is concerned with doing, moving and engaging a world of marginalized people. Rather I think it is time we see what is behind their desire to breakaway, and I think if we do we will find a common ground of wanting to see the Gospel more fully lived out.

I’m twenty-nine, yet I disagree. The Emerging Church is not without virtue but some of what I have read lately is heretical, and I don’t use that term lightly . The Emergents’ alleged popularity is irrelevant.

Hey I understand what your saying, and I can go without the term “marked.” Yet, I am very concerned with what I read. They are re-defining terms, making it difficult to connect. I’d like to see McClaren come down on the Deity of Christ, really talk about it in terms of orthodoxy. I wont dogmatically state that a strong belief in Eternal hell-fire is a requirement for salvation, but a strong belief in Jesus Christ, that He is who he claimed to be,is. It concerns me when someone starts down that slippery slope of writing off His plain teaching.
That would give me a comfort level about whether these guys are real or playing. At least on a cursory review, my spidey sense is really tingling. Thanks for the good discussion. Tell me more if you will.

I enjoy the discussion to and would like to say first off I am not emergent. However, I can see after reading “Generous Orthodoxy” and McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christian” trilogy, what makes them so appealing.
The emergents place a very high value in trying to live out the Kingdom of God, from redeeming the environment to being a blessing to all nations, and meeting the needs of the poor in a continual and impactful way.
In a church culture today where millions drive the giant brand new SUV’s to church every weekend and then go home to their big houses, you can not help but here the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Always preach the Gospel and when needed use words,” well we have a middle class of consumerism whether they know it or not preaching a gospel to so many others including the next generation that just does not buy it considering the fruit. Another big complaint of the EC movement is the way Jesus has been taken from savior to political spokesman; I do believe this is a valid point and one we could all benefit from considering. I mean with Jesus being King, and the good news I find it counter productive to tie our own political agendas on to his coat tails. Rather lets encourage the lame and the blind to come and touch his coat tails and be healed of their inequity. This seems much more fitting of a Savior who came to save the lost and love the castoffs, not head up the GOP.
Well that is all for now, but let me just leave one last thought. I am not saying we have to go all postmodern and give up on capitalism or anything like that but rather follow in the footsteps of guys like John Piper, and Mark Driscoll of who believe “God is the Gospel” and this truth effects everything from racial harmony to the aids crisis in Africa, I do not believe that emergents have cornered the market on a comprehensive gospel, but I do think they have brought up some points we would all do well to consider.

Another big complaint of the EC movement is the way Jesus has been taken from savior to political spokesman; I do believe this is a valid point and one we could all benefit from considering.

It seems to me that their biggest complaint is that the political right has a monopoly on Jesus talk. Much of their “Kingdom of God” agenda is remarkably similiar to the “Social Gospel.” This latest stuff about hell is just that: social justice is more important than eternity.

Jesus never taught that. While Christians do need to teach the whole counsel of God, and not just pet sins, we also need to stand against theological liberalism and heresy. It doesn’t matter if a murderer gives to the Red Cross, he’s still a murderer. Nor do it matter if a heretic has some good points.

“This latest stuff about hell is just that: social justice is more important than eternity.”

Eternity begins now. As we enter into the Kingdom of God we find that we do not have to pick or prioritize the afterlife or today, the Gospel and God is big enough for both. I would also have to disagree that Jesus was not concerned about such matters as many of his parables where centered around helping and loving others. In fact if I remember correctly loving others was the second greatest commandment. We sell the Gospel short when we think that it is not capable of being concerned about social injustice when it really is. Now I do not want to be misunderstood here as someone who is promoting a social gospel I am not, but we do not have to run away from advancing the Gospel by reaching out to the physical needs of others.

Also, I would be slower to label others as “heretic’s.” You are also right a murderer is not justified by giving to the Red Cross, but rather by the righteousness of Christ just like you and I.

I’m not sure I understand your point. God loves the murderer, but he still has to face justice. God loves heretics, but they’re still heretics and there are Biblical commands to mark those people.

I never said that the here and now isn’t important. But this world is not more important than the next. The Emergent folks- all they seem to care about is this life, or at least McLaren and his syncophants prefer a social gospel.

McClaren thinks a God who sends people to hell is a monster. He doesn’t really understand justice. Or the sin nature of man. These are not minor differences, they’re essential differences. If you vary on a fundamental doctrine, then your something other than Christian.

We can learn from them, but they are what they are.

I guess we just disagree on this point, truth be told I just do not think we have to choose or make one or the other as more important. My understanding is that eternity is big enough to take in every moment from now to the afterlife, and all of those moments are under the Kingship of Christ. I thank you for your thoughts and the conversation, and I am glad we can discuss these matters in love.

I notice you didn’t include Edward Fudge’s “The Fire That Consumes” in your booklist. He seems to be the big Kahuna in Conditionalist circles and with all the Hell Razing going on, he pretty much puts the burn on the tradtionalist position.

What I usually tell people these days is that God is just. Justice demands that the punishment fits the crime. Eternal flames of torment seems psychotic when applied to fairly good people who just didn’t get the message of who Jesus is. In a human court, even Hitler would receive a sentence of, say, 30 million years in prison before being considered for parole.
How do we reconcile a God who is love personified with what, in earthly terms, is an unjust sentence? “Hell” is essentially a reference to a place of judgment. Biblical terms like “lake of fire” are Jewish, hyperbolic metaphors to explain the seriousness of sin. As McLaren has said, what happens next is really not much our business.
How do we motivate people without using fear? We don’t. The Holy Spirit does that. Here and now, Christ forgives sin. God has revealed His love and future plans through His Son. We tell the world about this God-man. We aren’t in the business of threatening and inquisition.

one comment on this very interesting discussion: i think we need to be careful to not constantly appeal to the slippery slope arguement. questioning doctrines of hell does not necessarily lead to questioning the deity of Christ. i think most of these questions center on defining (or redefining, if you must) what the non-negotiables are. you really have to be pretty (yep, i’m going to say it…) close-minded to not acknowledge that the emergent-type folks (whatever that means) ask really good questions…and rarely do they claim to have the only possible answer to those questions. i would recommend you actually read the body of work mcclaren, wallis, even campolo, have written for yourself, not just other people’s comments about their work. you know, be a berean about it, and be challenged, encouraged and/or disgusted by the books, one idea at a time.