The Emergent Organic Worldview

Brian McLaren of Emergent Church notoriety uses the terms “Jesus worldview” and “organic worldview” interchangeably. Both phrases carry dominionism connotations because, as Herescope explained in previous posts, they also mean “kingdom worldview.” There is a deconstruction of Christian orthodoxy going on, some of which is quite disingenuous.

In his discussion of this “kingdom,” McLaren writes:

“On the one hand, kings are not absent, disengaged, distant, and presently uninvolved like a machine engineer who designed and built a clock and now has left to let it run on its own, or like a pool shark who after taking his shot steps back from the table, leans against the wall, smokes a cigarette, and lets things happen from a distance. On the other hand, kings are not, strictly speaking, in absolute control. They don’t control their kingdom the way a kid playing a video game operates the controls of the game, for example. No, in this more nuanced and organic worldview, kings have an interactive realtionship rather than either uninvolved distance or intrustive control; they have real power and authority, but that power and authority are used among citizens who also have wills of their own. The king may give orders, but the citizens may disobey. The king may make laws, but the citizens may ignore them. Then the king may respond to their incivility and so on, in an ongoing interactive relationship.

“So for ancient Jews the universe was not a simple, controlled, mechanistic system. It was a complex, organic community with both limits and freedom, accountability and responsibility. It had room for freedom both for God and for humanity. There were limits, and there was order — but there were also breathing room and real possibilities to choose and make a life. In this universe, God gives us space and time to live our lives. We have a measure of freedom, but our freedom doesn’t eradicate God’s freedom. God has freedom, but God’s freedom doesn’t extinguish ours. As we’ve said before, it’s a universe in interactive relationship with God. (In this light, Jesus’ invitation into the kingdom of God was an invitation into the original universe, as it was meant to be.)” (The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 53)

In this universe of McLaren’s, God’s sovereignty is severely diminished. Note the phrase “accountability and responsibility.” This phrase carries an entirely different meaning in a horizontal relational universe such as McLaren’s. McLaren continues with a description of what is wrong with our conception of the universe:

“In order to understand what Jesus’ signs and wonders meant, then, we need to try to expand beyond our modern, Western, naturalistic, mechanistic, reductionistic universe and make ourselves at home in this larger and more relational universe. We will understand neither signs and wonders in particular nor the idea of the kingdom of God in general if we try to shrink them into our restrictive universe. We have to meet these phenomena in their natural habitat.

“As we’ve already seen, the ancient Jews understood humanity to have been plunged into crisis because we humans have abused our freedom. We steal, kill, and destroy. We hoard, rape and plunder. We oppress, victimize, lie and cheat. We undervalue precious things and overvalue worthless things. As a result, the whole organism or community of the world has become sick, and its sickness is ugly, painful, and terminal, adversely affecting every woman, man, girl, and boy.” (p. 54)

This relational universe of McLaren’s is being marketed as a better universe than the old Western mechanistic universe. The rhetoric in the paragraphs above parallels that of the mystical environmentalists — “Mother Earth is feeling ill, Father Time is running out. . . . ” A “generous orthodoxy” indeed!

The Truth:

The First Reformation held to a biblical view of man, God and the universe. The “Second Reformation” sets about to change all of that. Since McLaren is aligned with leaders of the “Second Reformation” or “New Apostolic Reformation,” it is important to know the doctrines of the First Reformation. This “Second Reformation” reverses the First Reformation.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer, in his book Escape From Reason (InterVarsity, 1968), which we have been quoting in Herescope the past several posts, carefully dissects the biblical Reformation apart from the humanistic Renaissance. Many of McLaren’s arguments against Western machinations would be more appropriately directed if they targeted the philosophies of the Renaissance. Below is a useful series of quotations describing the biblical foundation of the First Reformation.

“[The Reformation] rejected the old and growing humanism in the Roman Catholic Church, and it rejected the concept of an incomplete Fall resulting in man’s autonomous intellect and the possibility of a natural theology which could be pursued independently from the Scriptures. The Reformation accepted the biblical picture of a total Fall. The whole man had been made by God, but now the whole man is fallen, including his intellect and will. Only God was autonomous.

“This was true in two areas. First of all, there was nothing autonomous in the area of final authority. For the Reformation, final and sufficient knowledge rested in the Bible — that is, Scripture alone, in contrast to Scripture plus anything else parallel to the Scriptures, whether it be the Church or a natural theology. Second, there was no idea of man being autonomous in the area of work of salvation — [i.e.,] Christ died for our salvation, but man had to merit the merit of Christ. Thus there was a humanistic element involved. The reformers said that there was nothing man can do; no autonomous or humanistic religious or moral effort of man can help. One is saved only on the basis of the finished work of Christ as He died in space and time in history, and the only way to be saved is to raise the empty hands of faith and, by God’s grace to accept God’s free gift — faith alone. It was Scripture alone and faith alone.

“Christians need to notice, at this point, that the Reformation said “Scripture alone” and not “the revelation of God in Christ alone.” If you do not have the view of the Scriptures that the reformers had, you really have no content to the word Christ — and this is the modern drift in theology. Modern theology uses the word without content because Christ is cut away from the Scriptures. The Reformation followed the teaching of Christ Himself in linking the revelation Christ gave of God to the revelation of the written Scriptures.

“The Scriptures give the key to two kinds of knowledge — the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of men and nature. The great Reformation confessions emphasize that God revealed His attributes to man in the Scriptures and that this revelation was meaningful to God as well as to man. . . .”

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col. 1:13-17)