The Transformation of the Emerging Church (Pt. 2)<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
 
By Ken Silva
 
As we left off last time we were looking at the following endorsement of the Very Reverend Alan Jones by one of the most influential theologians of the Emergent Church Brian McLaren. This endorsement by McLaren of Jones, who is a member of the interspiritualist group known as the Living Spiritual Teachers Project (LSTP), bears repeating as McLaren writes:
 
It used to be that Christian institutions and systems of dogma sustained the spiritual life of Christians. Increasingly, spirituality itself is what sustains everything else. Alan Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply. [1]
 
In the above words "systems of dogma" we are seeing McLaren's own bias against much of historic orthodox Christian doctrine, which would be consistent with what he revealed in his own book A Generous Orthodoxy (AGO). Further, McLaren's words of endorsement of this so-called "living spiritual teacher" show his own approval of the traditions of Gnostic mysticism cited previously. This becomes quite clear when McLaren refers to Jones being "a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality." We might take this two ways: 1) A criticism of current evangelical Protestant teachings regarding the spiritual life of the Christian, and 2) McLaren sees something "authentic" in the neo-pagan mysticism taught by Alan Jones.
 
We do have great cause for concern here. And we also have a legitimate reason to suspect that McLaren is "pushing a theological agenda" when he says that the alleged "authentic spirituality" in the work of the "living spiritual teacher" Alan Jones "stimulates and encourages me deeply." Therefore, this work of Jones does bear on the case we are making that McLaren is aligning with men like Jones and Marcus Borg, another member of LSTP, to use the mysticism inherent in the theology of the Emergent Church to attach unbiblical doctrine, most specifically concepts from Zen Buddhism, in an attempt to bring them into the Church of Jesus Christ.
 
The Buddhism Connection
We will continue to develop this further next time as we introduce the doctrine of yet another of these "living spiritual teachers," Dr. Marcus Borg, who just happens to specialize in teaching spiritual transformation. But as we begin to close this particular piece, the following excerpt from Reimagining Christianity will show with crystalline clarity why Brian McLaren would be so "deeply" stimulated and encouraged by the "authentic spirituality" of Alan Jones. Anyone even remotely familiar with the theology of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Emergent Church concerning their version of the "kingdom of God" will immediately recognize McLaren's theological agenda in the words to follow.
 
First Alan Jones opens his book by asking the typical "questions" designed to set up the need for their mystic brand of "Christian" spirituality when he says that this book "assumes that spiritually committed people, grounded in their own tradition, need not be afraid of other faiths and other stories." [2] The language used here by Jones is so reminiscent of Brian McLaren that this statement could have itself come right out of McLaren's AGO. And then to begin the subsequent discussion of the concept of transformation and/or enlightenment as it is taught in eastern religions Alan Jones introduces the subject of Buddhism as he says:
 
And it trusts that human beings have far more in common with each other than we have barriers that divide us. * Questioning and faith go together. * We needn't be afraid of each other. * What unites us is stronger than what divides us.
 
These three assumptions have helped me appreciate traditions other than my own without my having to "give up" being a Christian. For example, I've learned a lot from my friends who once abandoned Christianity yet come back to it by way of Buddhism. I have much sympathy with those who turn to that tradition for a breath of sanity. [3]
 
At this point my intent is not to critique this biblically right now, but rather to let the evidence speak for itself that we are indeed witnessing a theological agenda developing which is being attached to the Emergent Church through men like McLaren and Jones. It is obvious we are not reading words consistent with true Christian doctrine as the "living spiritual teacher" Alan Jones (that title alone should be obvious enough) whose "authentic spirituality" of his reimagined Christianity "stimulates and encourages" pastor McLaren "deeply" continues:
 
The traditional reward of Christianity is "other-worldly," while Buddhism pays off here and now in a practice that makes a difference. It is pragmatic and, at its best, leads to a personal and intellectual independence. You don't have to believe in anything to be a Buddhist––not even in God. You are, however, called to be in the world in a certain way––a way of compassion and loving kindness. For some, this is like being led out of prison. [4]
 
Next time we finish up our look at Jones' hostility toward the historic orthodox Christian faith and we introduce "living spiritual teacher" Dr. Marcus Borg, a fellow with The Jesus Seminar, who as editor/author of the book Jesus And Buddha: The Parallel Sayings exposes his obvious affinity for Buddhism.


[1] Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), back cover, emphasis mine. 

[2] Ibid., p. 11.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., p. 11,12.

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