Many people are consumed with attaining a status of sorts, a notoriety if you will, based on some enlightened insight or revelation. It's usually nothing but recycled philosophic rhetoric raised from the grave. I'm only bringing this up because I watched a clip of Brian Mclaren, a popular emergent leader. He's busy recreating Christianity to make it more appeasing and relevant to a new generation of believers. This is what he said, "This is one of the huge problems with traditional understanding of hell, because if the cross is in line with Jesus' teaching, then a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn't come like the kingdoms of this world by inflicting violence and coercing people, but that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing voluntary sacrifice, right? In an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says no but that's not really true. In the end God get's His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn't the center then, the cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God. I heard one well known christian leader, who I won"t mention his name, I heard him say it like this, 'The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something God isn't capable of Himself, God asks us to forgive people, but God isn't capable of forgiving. God can't forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person he's gonna forgive. God doesn't say to you, forgive you're wife and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there's a certain sense, that a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who's incapable of forgiving unless He kicks somebody else.'"
It's hard to know where to start after hearing that. He attacks and then ridicules the basic foundations of Christianity. He obviously doesn't care much for hell, suffering and pain, substitutionary atonement, the trinitarian doctrine, and the holiness and judicial aspects of God. I've no doubt he's a nice enough guy but he's not a Christian. Lets start with a look at free will. God created us with the gift of choice. Sin is absolutely impossible without freewill. Love is absolutely impossible without free will. So, what does that have to do with Brian and his gospel? Everything! Sin, if you like, can be likened to the thorn in our life according to our "traditional understanding of Christianity." We know that this is the basis for our separation from a holy and just God. Because we have free will, we may be inclined to let this thorn of sin fester, even though we know the infection to come will lead to death. We also know the removal of the thorn to be painful. If we choose not to let God remove the thorn Brian would say that the separation to follow [hell] is false advertising and a distraction for God. God can't forgive and get's His way by inflicting violence and coercion? First, let's address the "God get's His way" business. 2 Peter 3:9 says it's not Gods' will that that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. It's not Gods will that separates, it's their will. Remember the free will God gave us that also makes loving Him possible.
"God can't forgive unless He punishes someone else." Brian clearly doesn't understand trinitarian doctrine. Jesus is divine. I would concede that his argument had some validity if this wasn't so. But the Bible states that He's God with us, our Creator, that he came out from God, and "the Word was made flesh'. According to Brian's teaching, there has obviously been a lot of distraction and false advertising for not only God but Jesus all through the old testament by those misunderstood old Prophets. The idea of a coming Redeemer was not breaking news. It's interwoven throughout the Bible. Sacrificial love, propitiation, substitutionary atonement, were a part of God's plan from the start, before the beginning. Jesus our Lord and Saviour, the Word become flesh,was God the Son hanging on that cross. It was sacrificial love aimed at reconciliation and the bridging of the gap between us and "a beyond our understanding Holiness." Pain and suffering, God's absolute will? Absolutely not. It's a loving Father taking the thorn from the flesh of His children. It was something men looked ahead to and waited for. The child may kick the dog, but to let the behavior go on unabated to the demise of the child without making a path of resolution is not a Father that loves. Still the child decides. Hell is a choice.The Father's Holiness and love is real and not impugned. The cross is still the center. The cross is still the only way to bridge the gap between us and God. God most assuredly forgives and from the beginning made that day to come a reality through His Word. Now we look to the day of His return. If He kicked anyone it was Himself. Accept Jesus, the Son of God, the Word made flesh for this one point in time in which redemption was made a reality for you.
Easter is coming once again and we will celebrate the game changer. Our hope will be realized. The thorn was removed because we had faith in the Redeemer. Death for us becomes life forever with the grave robber. Our sentence has been repealed by sacrificial love for those that chose to believe. Hell is the only other option. It's a choice, it's the separation from God only for those that would have it no other way. Choose God.
Brian has successfully made his mark and has established a huge following. He has joined the ranks of others like Rob Bell, Paul Young [The Shack], Rick Warren, Peterson [The Message] and a host of others that are busy redefining Christianity to give us their hip christ and a palatable religion that co-exists with the other world religions that will bridge the gap to a union of diverse theology we can all embrace. This not only doesn't make sense [diversity and union] it also effectively negates the need for the real Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I do think Brian is sincere, just sincerely wrong. He doesn't represent Christianity, just another blemish on it. I do think he would do well as a yoga instructor and would find an increasingly growing market for a following there and for making his mark more suitable to his teaching on hell.