Brian McLaren and the Judgment of Men
Here’s an interesting article from Baptist Press, SBTS Prof: McLaren 'Serpent-Sensitive,’ regarding comments made by Emerging Church guru Brian McLaren. The comments, made at the stick-your-finger-in-the-air-and-see-which-way-the-cultural-winds-are-blowing Willow Creek Community Church, pertained to hell and the second coming. Not surprisingly, McLaren doesn’t fancy these doctrines.
In the article, Southern Baptist theologian Russell D. Moore makes short-work of McLaren’s nonsense. “When McLaren questions the existence of hell and the hope of the second coming, he is not a 'new kind of Christian’ [title of McLaren’s book]. Such things are neither new nor Christian.”
Preach it, brother! (See, I can sound like a Baptist.)
Is God Just in Punishing?
Simply put, if we believe that God will ultimately enforce his will by forceful domination, and will eternally torture all who resist that domination, then torture and domination become not only permissible but in some way godly.
In the article, Professor Moore does a great job revealing McLaren’s folly by shining the light of Scripture upon those doctrines, so I won’t repeat that case here. I will, however, comment on a common claim by those on the theological left: God would be unjust and/or unloving if He punished men.
When God created man, he created him “good, and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness”; however, after succumbing to the temptation of the devil, our first parents rebelled against our creator. Because of this disobedience, “our nature became so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.” Furthermore, because of our corrupt nature, “we are wholly unapt to any good and prone to all evil.” This means that we are not only born with Adam’s guilt (because he represented us all before God), but we also “daily increase our guilt” through our own sins.
Although God is merciful, He is also just, and will not allow our sins (i.e., not conforming to, or acting against, His law) to go unpunished. How can mortal man escape this just judgment? How can we sinful mortals repay a debt owed stemming from crimes committed against an infinitely holy God? How can we “escape this punishment and be again received into favor?” Answer: Satisfaction must be made “either by ourselves or by another.”
But, because we “daily increase our guilt,” we ourselves cannot make such satisfaction. Furthermore, no “mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin.” It seems hopeless. The only way to bridge the chasm separating us and God is to have a mediator and redeemer “who is a true and sinless man, and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is at the same time true God.” But who is such a mediator and redeemer? “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is freely given us for complete redemption and righteousness.”
(All quotes taken from the Heidelberg Catechism, Q and A 6 – 18.)
God as Judge
As seen above, mankind has rebelled, and continues to rebel, against his God and has earned the Creator’s wrath. God, however, has made a way of escape—faith in Jesus Christ. By rejecting that way of escape, men will stand before the Just Judge of the Universe and give an account. Their punishment will fit their crimes; since these men can never repay the dept owed, they will bare God’s wrath for eternity. This is just. It also matches their desire—they wanted nothing to do with God, and they’ll get their wish, forever.
It would be unjust for God to simply say, “Hey, no problem. I’m a loving God. Here’s your Get Out of Jail Free card.” For example, if Mr. McLaren was robbed and assaulted, and went to the police to swear out a complaint, would he be satisfied if they said, “We caught the guy, but let him go because we’re a loving police station”? Do you think Mr. McLaren would respond, “Great! I’m so glad that there was no forceful domination.” On the contrary, I bet he would rail against such an injustice.
The truth is, if you sacrifice justice for love, you have likewise sacrificed love—for love demands justice. Thankfully, this is a false dilemma—one does not have to be sacrificed for the other. God is both loving and just—and we see both God’s love and His justice in the doing and dying of Christ.
Mr. McLaren’s complaint falls on its face because it would be unjust and immoral for God not to render just judgment—of course, the criminal always complains about the judgment against him.
PS. Mr. McLaren, I recommend The American Heritage Dictionary. By looking up the definition of words such as “torture” and “punishment” you’ll take the first step in learning the difference between the two.