Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren

Brian D. McLaren is a prominent, controversial voice in the Emerging church movement. He was recognized as one of "Time" magazine's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America," [cite news |url= |title=Brian McLaren - Paradigm Shifter |publisher=Time Magazine | date=2005-02-07] and is the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland.


Born in 1956, Brian McLaren graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with degrees in English (BA, summa cum laude, 1978, and MA, 1981). His academic interests include medieval drama, romantic poets, modern philosophical literature, and the novels of Dr. Walker Percy. He is also a musician and songwriter.

After several years of teaching English and consulting in higher education, he left academia in 1986 to become the founding pastor of [ Cedar Ridge Community Church] , a nondenominational church in the Baltimore-Washington region. The church has grown to involve several hundred people, many of whom were previously unchurched [cite web |url= |title=Cedar Ridge Community Church: What to Expect |accessdate=2008-05-18] . In 2004 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.Fact|date=October 2008

McLaren has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors since the mid-1980s, and has assisted in the development of several new churches. In spite of the intense criticism levelled at McLaren by Evangelical leaders, he remains a popular speaker for campus groups and retreats as well as a frequent guest lecturer at seminaries and conferences, nationally and internationally. His public speaking covers a broad range of topics including postmodernism, Biblical studies, evangelism, apologetics, leadership, global mission, church growth, church planting, art and music, pastoral survival and burnout, inter-religious dialogue, ecology, and social justice.

McLaren is on the international steering team and board of directors for Emergent Village; a growing, generative friendship among missional Christian leaders, and serves as a board member for Sojourners and "Orientacion Cristiana". He formerly served as board chair of International Teams, an innovative mission organization with 15 nationally registered members including the United States office based in Chicago, and has served on several other boards, including Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, and Off The Map [Off The Map Homepage]

McLaren is married and has four children. He has traveled extensively in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, and his personal interests include ecology, fishing, hiking, kayaking, camping, songwriting, music, art, and literature. [cite web |url= |title=Brian McLaren's biography from official website]


Many of the books that McLaren has authored, including the "A New Kind of Christian" trilogy, deal with Christianity in the context of the cultural shift towards postmodernism. McLaren is a proponent of the emerging church movement, which rejects what emerging Christians perceive to be the influence of modernism in the Evangelical church in favor of a postmodern epistemology which guides their faith and praxis. McLaren believes this epistemology enables him to approach faith from what he considers a more Jewish perspective which allows faith to exist without objective, propositional truth to believe. He also creates an antithesis between personal trust in God and belief in his propositions:

:"I believe people are saved not by objective truth, but by Jesus. Their faith isn’t in their knowledge, but in God." -- Brian McLaren [cite web |url= |title=response to email question at official website |date=2004-09] Applying this epistemology to his theology, McLaren suggests on pp.80-81 of "More Ready Than You Realize", that new Christian converts should remain within their specific contexts.

:I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … rather than resolving the paradox via pronouncements on the eternal destiny of people more convinced by or loyal to other religions than ours, we simply move on … To help Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and everyone else experience life to the full in the way of Jesus (while learning it better myself), I would gladly become one of them (whoever they are), to whatever degree I can, to embrace them, to join them, to enter into their world without judgment but with saving love as mine has been entered by the Lord ("A Generous Orthodoxy", 260, 262, 264).

Often McLaren's postmodern approach to hermeneutics and Biblical understanding prompts him to take a less traditional approach towards issues considered controversial by fundamentalists, such as homosexuality.

McLaren believes this more "humble," approach to such controversial issues enables him to dialog with others in a less judgmental way:

:"Even if we are convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful, we still want to treat gay and lesbian people with more dignity, gentleness, and respect than our colleagues do." [cite web |url= |title=Brian McLaren on the Homosexual Question: Finding a Pastoral Response]

Many participants in the emerging church "conversation" express respect and admiration for McLaren, and he enjoys close fellowship with many of its participants.

McLaren favors what he calls a "generous" approach to biblical hermeneutics, claiming that the foundational and objective hermeneutics of Evangelicals leads them to political conservatism. McLaren has been an outspoken advocate of issues such as social justice and peace.

Though McLaren is opposed to what he asserts are oppressive, Evangelical, biblical hermeneutics, his own hermeneutic is often called into question. Often McLaren's own view on interpreting the Bible seems to call for others to rethink the whole process of interpretation. In his book, "A New Kind of Christian", McLaren writes (via his main character Neo),

"Our interpretations reveal less about God or the Bible than they do about ourselves. They reveal what we want to defend, what we want to attack, what we want to ignore, what we're unwilling to question..." ("A New Kind of Christian", 50)
Quotes such as these reveal the influence Derrida and Foucault's postmodern philosophy of language has had on McLaren. For McLaren, the locus of meaning has shifted from the author or the text to the reader. As a postfoundationalist, he questions not only the evangelical claim to certainty in faith, but also the ability to interpret according to authorial intent.


Brian McLaren's written and spoken words have come under scrutiny and subsequent criticism from figures both inside and out of the emerging church movement. Generally these criticisms note that McLaren's epistemology provides no basis for doctrine and that without any basis, doctrine is abandoned in favor of "generosity" and "conversation." Conservative Emergents and Evangelicals have protested that McLaren's philosophical posture has led him to entertain and even embrace doctrinal positions that conservatives consider unorthodox.From the conservative wing of the emerging church movement Mark Driscoll has complained about McLaren's calling God a "chick", his advocacy of open theism, his downplaying of substitutionary atonement [cite news |url= |title=Interview about previous "A letter to friends of Emergent" |publisher=Out of Ur blog] , and his implicit denial of hell [cite web |url= |title=Welcome note at the Resurgence blog |last=Driscoll |first=Mark] . Evangelicals who have criticized McLaren include John MacArthur [cite web |url= |title=lecture about The Emerging Church |date=2006-01-24 |last=MacArthur |first=John] , Albert Mohler [cite news |url= |title=What Should We Think of the Emerging Church? Part One |publisher=The Christian Post |date=2005-06-29 |last=Mohler |first=Al] , Michael Horton [cite journal |archiveurl= |archivedate=2005-03 |url= |title=Settlers, Pilgrims, and Wanderers |publisher=Modern Reformation |last=Horton |first=Michael] , Millard Erickson, Norman Geisler, Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Todd Friel,and D.A. Carson [cite journal |archiveurl= |title=The Emerging Church |publisher=Modern Reformation |date=2005-07 |last=Carson |first=D.A.] . Carson has been particularly vocal in his criticism of McLaren's doctrinal views, saying "I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and [Steve] Chalke have largely abandoned the gospel"(D.A. Carson, "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church", (2005), p.186)


*"The Church on the Other Side" (Zondervan, 1998)
*"Finding Faith" (Zondervan, 1999)
*"A New Kind of Christian" (Jossey-Bass, 2001)
*"More Ready Than You Realize: Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix" (Zondervan, 2002)
*"A Is for Abductive" (Zondervan, 2002)
*"Adventures in Missing the Point" (Emergent/YS, 2003, co-written with Tony Campolo)
*"Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives" (Zondervan Emergent/YS, 2003) Leonard Sweet (General Editor), with contributors Andy Crouch, Brian D. McLaren, Erwin McManus, Michael Horton, Frederica Mathewes-Green
*"The Story We Find Ourselves In" (Jossey-Bass, 2003)
*"A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN" (Zondervan, 2004)
*"The Last Word and the Word After That" (Jossey-Bass, 2005)
*"The New Kind of Christian Trilogy - Limited Edition Boxed Set (A New Kind of Christian; The Story We Find Ourselves In; The Last Word and the Word After That)" (Jossey-Bass, 2005)
*"The Secret Message of Jesus : Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything" (W Publishing Group, April 2006)
*"The Voice of Luke: Not Even Sandals (The Voice)" (Thomas Nelson, July 2007) ISBN 0529123517
*"Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope" (Thomas Nelson, October 2007) ISBN 0849901839
*"Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices" (Thomas Nelson, May 2008) ISBN 0849901146


External links

* [ - official Brian McLaren website]
* [ Emergent Village]
* [ Cedar Ridge Community Church]
* [ A Precipice Magazine Interview with Brian McLaren]
* [ Interview: Brian McLaren Engaged with Malaysia’s Christian Leaders]
* [ Who Has the Last Word? An Interview with Brian McLaren] at "The New Pantagruel"
* [ Interviewed by David Dark]
* [ Interview on The Nick and Josh Podcast]
* [ Theopedia's entry has multimedia links and quotes]
* [ Evangelical pastor challenges tradition]
* [ An Open Letter to Chuck Colson]
* [ excerpt from The Last Word and the Word After that on]
* [ "Evangelical Author Puts Progressive Spin On Traditional Faith"] (Washington Post, September 10, 2006)
* [ "Living a Generous Orthodoxy With Brian Mclaren" (The Off The Map Podcast Episode 2)]
* [ Video interview/discussion] with Richard Land on
* [ Off The Map]

Critical References

*Carson, D. A. "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church". Grand Rapids, Michigan Zondervan, 2005.
*Erickson, Millard. "Postmodernizing the Faith: Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism". Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998.
*________; Helseth, Paul Kjoss; and Taylor, Justin eds. "Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times". Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004.
*Smith, R. Scott. "Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church". Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2005.

ee also

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