McLaren has definitely rejected this faith of his grandfather. He says the Bible is “not a look-it-up encyclopedia of timeless moral truths” (A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 190). He rejects “the exclusive, hell-oriented gospel” (A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 120, f. 48). He says that the book of Revelation is not a “book about the distant future” (The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 176). He says the kingdom of God is not a future thing but is “about changing this world” (The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 23). He says, “I don’t think it’s our business to prognosticate the eternal destinies of anyone else” (Reimagining Christianity, p. 92).
But McLaren has not only rejected his grandfather’s faith, he has rejected his grandfather’s God. McLaren’s grandfather’s God poured out His righteous vengeance upon Christ to atone for man’s sin, but McLaren mocks this God, calling him “a God who is incapable of forgiving, unless he kicks somebody else” (McLaren, http://www.understandthetimes.org/mclarentrans.shtml and http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2006/01/brian_mclaren_p.html). He presents his grandfather’s God as a tyrant who “gets his way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination. McLaren says that the “power of the blood” gospel that his grandfather believed “raises some questions about the goodness of God.”
In his new book Love Wins, Bell says that a God who would send people to eternal hell is not a loving God:
“A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear” (Love Wins, Kindle location 47-60).
Bell’s description of the exclusive gospel is exactly what his grandparents believed.
In Love Wins there is a photo of a painting that hung on a wall in Bell’s grandmother’s house. It depicts heaven as a shining city on the far side of a dark, burning, fearsome chasm. Bridging the chasm is a cross upon which people are walking toward safety. When Bell asked his sister if she remembered the painting, she replied, “Of course, it gave us all the creeps.” As well it should if you haven’t been saved! The painting depicts the truth of the gospel. There is a heaven and there is a hell and only through regenerating faith in Christ’s cross can hell be escaped.
Bell has plainly rejected the doctrine of heaven and hell that his grandparents held:
“Are there other ways to think about heaven, other than as that perfect floating shiny city hanging suspended there in the air above that ominous red and black realm with all that smoke and steam and hissing fire? I say yes, there are” (Love Wins, Kindle location 357-368).
But Bell has gone even further. He has rejected the God his grandparents worshipped.
Bell claims that the God who would allow multitudes to go to eternal hell is not great or mighty (Love Wins, location 1189-1229). He calls the preaching of eternal hell “misguided and toxic,” a “cheap view of God,” and “lethal” (location 47-60, 2154-2180). He implies that this God is not a true friend and protector; he says there is something wrong with this God and calls Him “terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (location 1273-1287, 2098-2113). He even says that if an earthly father acted like the God who sends people to hell “we could contact child protection services immediately” (location 2085-2098).
It is obvious that Bell wants nothing whatsoever to do with the God worshiped by his grandparents.
Bell’s god is more akin to New Age panentheism than the God of the Bible. He describes God as “a force, an energy, a being calling out to us in many languages, using a variety of methods and events” (Love Wins, location 1710-1724).
“There is an energy in the world, a spark, an electricity that everything is plugged into. The Greeks called it zoe, the mystics call it ‘Spirit,’ and Obi-Wan called it ‘the Force’” (Love Wins, location 1749-1762).
Bell also worships a false christ. His Jesus is “supracultural ... present within all cultures ... refuses to be co-opted or owned by any one culture ... He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even now that they are coming exclusively through him ... there is only one mountain, but many paths. ... People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways ... Sometimes people use his name; other times they don’t” (Love Wins, location 1827-1840, 1865-1878, 1918-1933).
The false emerging God is depicted in the novel The Shack by William Young. The book is all about redefining God. It is about a man whose becomes bitter at God after his daughter is murdered and has a life-changing experience with God in the very shack where the murder occurred; but the God he encounters is most definitely not the God of the Bible.
Young says the book is for those with “a longing that God is as kind and loving as we wish he was” (interview with Sherman Hu, Dec. 4, 2007). What he is referring to is the desire on the part of the natural man for a God who loves “unconditionally” and does not require obedience, does not require repentance, does not judge sin, and does not make men feel guilty for what they do.
In that same interview, Young said that a woman wrote to him and said that her 22-year-old daughter came to her after reading the book and asked, “IS IT ALRIGHT IF I DIVORCE THE OLD GOD AND MARRY THE NEW ONE?”
This is precisely what the emerging church generation is doing.
Young admits that the God of “The Shack” is different from the traditional God of Bible-believing Christianity. He blasphemously says that the God who “watches from a distance and judges sin” is “a Christianized version of Zeus.” This reminds me of the modernist G. Bromley Oxnam, who called the God of the Old Testament “a dirty bully” in his 1944 book “Preaching in a Revolutionary Age.”
Young depicts the triune God as a young Asian woman named “Sarayu” * (supposedly the Holy Spirit), an oriental carpenter who loves to have a good time (supposedly Jesus), and an older black woman named “Elousia” (supposedly God the Father). God the Father is also depicted as a guy with a ponytail and a goatee. (* The name “Sarayu” is from the Hindu scriptures and represents a mythical river in India on the shores of which the Hindu god Rama was born.)
Young’s god is the god of the emerging church. He is cool, loves rock & roll, is non-judgmental, does not exercise wrath toward sin, does not send unbelievers to an eternal fiery hell, does not require repentance and the new birth, puts no obligations on people, doesn’t like traditional Bible churches, does not accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God, and does not mind if the early chapters of the Bible are interpreted as “myth.” (See “The Shack’s Cool God” at the Way of Life web site, www.wayoflife.org.)
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