Dr Walter Martin and a New Kind of Preaching.


It was 1983. I think. 1984.The late Dr Walter Martin was in Perth, Western Australia where I was studying at Bible College. And I went to hear him preach at Thornlie Church of Christ where John Bond was pastoring at the time.

Images-10Walter Martin was preaching on the foolishness of God and he used 4 Biblical stories to illustrate this part of God – Moses, Abraham, David, and then Jesus on the cross. I had never heard anyone use story in such a way. More than 20 years on and I can still remember the sermon.

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This conflicted with the way we were taught to preach – a sermon like Jesus used to preach with a sharp introduction, 3 points with flowering illustrations and a conclusion [which i sometimes employ when preaching at very conservative churches]. But this new kind of preaching [it seemed new to me] seemed natural and right and honoring to the narrative of the Bible. I guess I began using a narrative approach to preaching from that point on. And the more I read my Bible, the less I found evidence of “feeding the sheep with a 3-pointed pitchfork’.

The most important part of Walt’s message was the actual Scripture verse he was highlighting with narrative – in this case “The foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor 1:25). He didn’t have any of his own propositional points to push as titles and the biblical stories he used all undergirded the Bible itself. In a world (call is ‘postmodern’ if you want) where the source material is considered more reliable than someone’s construct (sermon), the storytelling approach to preaching is now quite common.


Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)


  • Thanks for pointing out this gentleman to me, it always encourages me to fid people that were/are doing things differently. I spent a large amount of time when I first began my blog writing about the nature of preaching , the need to reform preaching, as well touched on narrative preaching. I believe that narrative preaching is essential in the post modern world. WE crave to hear stories or people, it allows us to connect with them, play with them, become them. Narrative is a very powerful form of passing on information, it occured is many cultures for over a thousand years. And it should be reignitied as a means to pass on information about the most powerful story we know.

  • Dr. Martin was a world-renowned apologetic authority on cults, world religions, and aberrant Christian teachings. I am certain he would not consider it a complement to be painted as a postmodern-emergent, storyteller leader.
    Dr. Martin preached on the road and addressed “topics” in that endeavor as an itinerate preacher with a specialty. Most of his recorded sermons are from that stage of his life and ministry. However, that does not mean that when he preached to a local church of which he was an elder or preacher, that he didn’t believe in preaching expository.
    I am not defending the “three point sermon” format you mention, but rather taking issue with Dr. Martin being classified as a “storyteller,” as opposed to one who exposits the Scriptures. Dr. Martin “taught preachers how to be preachers,” and he taught the importance of expository preaching, not storytelling.
    To the average preacher’s position of being an overseer of a local church, he advised expository preaching, not storytelling. Dr. Martin however, was not “average” in his own ministry and preaching, which is why most recordings are not expositional preaching from him.
    I do agree with you, that because of his many experiences in the world of counter-cult apologetics, he often used colorful antidotes to get his point across. In this you are correct.
    You can listen to Dr. Martin on the web. This page shows new sermons every month. The one currently posted on “The Cult of Liberalism” is quite prophetic for our culture today.

  • Actually Walter spoke in Australia in June 1984, first in Perth, then in Brisbane.
    The sermon “The Foolishness of God” was distributed as a “One Way Library” cassette during the 1970s by Vision House publishers.
    Walter’s audio-tapes are now available to purchase from http://www.waltermartin.org and quite a few are loaded up in “Real Player” files each month as “tape of the month”. The foolishness of God is available to buy from the website which is administered by Walter’s daughter Jill and son in Law Kevin Rische in California.
    I met Walter in Brisbane and then again at Sydney airport before he flew home to California.

  • Tony, I dont know if he “taught the importance of expository preaching” or not.
    All i know is what i saw. and what i heard.
    And i liked what i saw and heard and it influenced me greatly.
    And if you are suggesting that Dr Martin’s style of communication would not be appropriate for effective communication in today’s emerging culture, then i would disagree
    and i hope that we have more preachers like Walter Martin – people who understand the narrative sweep of Scripture and can present it in its narrative context in a way that connects and challenges.
    thanks for the link. i assume many of these “sermons” were not given in churches on sunday mornings but rather in more academic contexts?

  • Andrew,
    I wasn’t trying say that he couldn’t communicate in today’s culture, because I think he could. I also agree with you that we need more preachers (and apologists) like him. He will probably go down in history as the single greatest apologetic theologian in the realm of cults and aberrant theological teachings, and most all counter-cult ministries reaching out to cultists today have their roots somehow back to him and his research.
    Dr. Martin was the original “Bible Answer Man” and founded the Christian Research Institute (www.equip.org). Many of his messages that are recorded were done so as he traveled to schools and churches to preach on particular topics like “How To Witness To Mormons, JWs, etc.” His work in the occult is very in-depth too. His most popular book is “Kingdom of the Cults.”
    On the link I sent in the last post, the monthly archive that his daughter and son-in-law keep up, there are links at the bottom called “Essential Christianity,” after a book of Christian essentials he wrote by the same name. These are recordings from his Sunday School class, where he teaches expositionally sometimes and sometimes answers questions, and teaches topically. Dr. Martin was also a pastor of a church earlier in his ministry, but those messages are not recorded (to my knowledge), but in teaching “preachers how to be preachers,” as he put it, he taught expository preaching.
    I was not refuting that Walter Martin would not communicate today. What I was speaking to originally was what I thought you were classifying him as a “storytelling” pastor vs. of a standard expository preacher. He did tell amazing stories and communicated well, but he was not a “one-liner-proof-texter in the middle of a story” type of preacher. He abhorred preachers who preached like that, and spent his ministry Biblically refuting it. I was just making that clear.
    P.S. For those that interested, if you make email request on the audio page I sent above, sometimes they will use those requests to put message up the next month that people have a desire to hear. Of the ones that are up now, I recommend: “The Lying Prophets,” “Seven Campus Curses,” and “The Cult of Liberalism.” Those will speak to our culture for sure!

  • thanks tony
    nice of you to come back and clarify
    I actually listened to much of Walter Martin’s teaching by tapes in the 1980’s – especially in regards to Mormons and JW’s.
    great to hear people are still tapping into his material and that his legacy is still strong
    may God give us all legacies like that!!!

  • Andrew,
    It is nice to see you reference Dr. Walter Martin, and I certainly don’t doubt that you got what you did from this particular sermon. That said, as one who has studied his materials in great depth for years Martin would have been decidedly against the philosophy of postmodernism.
    His doctorate was in the early Church Fathers of the first five centuries and he was well versed in philosophy and was a semantics scholar certified to teach logic and apologetics at seminary level. As such he would often refer to “the historic orthodox Christian faith,” something that is denied by most Emergents I’ve encountered. In fact, Dr. Martin’s ministry could be summed up as a “bold presentation of the absolute truth of the Christian faith.”
    I am not trying to offend here, but that just doesn’t square very with what the emerging church “stands” for. Dr. Martin, a renouned authority of cults having their origins in the United States would have certainly labeled this movement as such.
    In regard to the Emergent Church I have begun to use the term Christian “agnosticism” largely due to his debate with Dr. T.J. Altizer and his mutually exclusive terms of “Christian atheism.” And even the concept of debating, which he did often, would seem to run across the grain of the EC. Just some food for thought…

  • Ken
    sorry for the delay. went to our little baptist church this morning and the preacher tackled Romans 8, bringing the fruits of the weekly Bible study into the Sunday service
    last week I preached and finished off a series on Elijah
    now .. . your comment.
    debate . . .
    debate is sorely needed in todays world, whatever you call it [i no longer use the word postmodern because of the confusion and misscommuncation]
    without debate, false ideas and idols will reign supreme. which is why many in my world allow a time of interaction after preaching or teaching
    allow comments in their blogs . . .
    Dr Martin left us a wise and godly example of debate – one which gave respect and was gentle.
    i remember when he was talking about going to Salt Lake City – he told the Mormons to check their own sources to find what they really said. That really impressed me. Being confident of what he believed, he was able to dive into other worlds without compromise,
    and, like Paul in Athens, he knew their writings and could point them to primary sources that they respected.
    that also challenged me to do research well and not fear other belief systems.
    i am sure in todays world, he would be pointing out new idols and gods and constructs set up in the pretense of truth that need to be deconstructed.
    lets learn from him and do likewise.
    the emerging culture needs exegeting – the culture around new media, internet, blogosphere – there are many gods and many traps. Lets walk carefully and be careful how we build.
    what elements of the new media emerging culture do you think Walter MArtin would give warning against?

  • and Ken
    i probably havent studied Martin nearly as much as you but please tell us
    what is the link between Altizer of the “God is Dead” movement and the thousands of new vibrant churches impacting the emerging culture with the claims of the living God?

  • Andrew,
    Thanks for asking. Dr. Martin’s first area would be an examination of many EC leader’s neo-orthodox (at best) view of the Bible. And after having done that he’d refer you to his tape “The Cult of Liberalism” where he’d inform you that once you veer from the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible it won’t be long until all you have is Christian terminology devoid of the original meaning.
    Then you (figuatively) end up with your social “gospel” of impacting the world with your own concepts of the living God. And therein, in my view, is the connection with the EC’s Christian “agnosticism” and liberal theology’s “God is dead.” Same core denial of the Bible and same compensating for it by man-centered social work. The United Way feeds and clothes people, but they are not Christian.
    Dr. Martin would also consistently point out to those of us who studied his materials: “You cannot trust your own reason because it is carnal and sold out to sin, corrupt, degenerate , and will rationalize every sin you want to name.” I’d say that’s a far cry from those I’ve read in the EC.
    And another of his most often stated ideas was: “Word smust mean what they are defined to mean in standard lectionaries and encyclopedias or we have lost the means to commnicate.” I mean nothing personal, but herein I am afraid we have just seen the EC in a nutshell.

  • Ken
    in your research, which emerging church networks or movements, in your opinion, have gone down this trail?
    and which countries are more guilty of this than others?

  • Dr Walter Martin and a New Kind of Preaching

    You may recall a few days ago Jim had a bit of a discussion with Emergent Andrew Jones regarding the Lord’s Supper. If you have a few minutes and you feel up to it, you might find the little dialogue…

  • Andrew,
    With all due respect, you have already asked me “what elements of the new media emerging culture do you think Walter Martin would give warning against?”;
    And, “what is the link between Altizer of the “God is Dead” movement and the thousands of new vibrant churches impacting the emerging culture with the claims of the living God?”
    Both of which I politely addressed but you have seemingly ignored in order to ask more questions. How about you do me the courtesy of interacting concerning my answers. After all, you were the one that said “debate is sorely needed in todays world.” It’s hard to do that unless you are willig to speak to the points I make. I hope you understand.

  • Ken
    I am enjoying our chat and I fear that if i answer your concerns, then you might not come back to talk to me anymore.
    You probably will not get the EC in a nutshell from me . . or from any one blogger . . . but I hope you will take from my stuff and add the good parts towards a wider understanding of the church in the emerging culture.
    btw – emerging church to me is that part of the church that is responding to and starting up in the “emerging” culture and is displaying signs of “emergent” behavior. Its a big world and you will find many fundamentalists, reformed, liberals, etc coming under that umbrella.
    But words must mean what they are supposed to mean – which is why I continue to tell people to buy some books on emergent theory and understand how the word is being used in all the disciplines [“Emergence” by Steven Johnson is a good starter]
    Emerging Church networks and churches are more defined and easier to discuss. EmergentVillageUSA, commonly mistaken for the sum of the emerging church by your colleagues, is not such a network nor a church.
    I hesitate to say this, because i might lose you at this point. When I start quoting Scripture and affirming major Christian creeds, then my comments on fundamentalist sites get banned and I get ignored.
    But here we go
    On the issue of Liberalism and social gospel, I affirm with the Lausanne Convenant, that
    “God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. . . The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into his Church and responsible service in the world.”
    “We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”
    I understand your reluctance to affirm the LC which your readers would call “ecumenical” but I hope you can appreciate teh need for such creeds and statements when working in many countries and seeking to fulful the Great Commission and maintain the unity of the body of Christ at the same time.
    and its important to have some words that mean the same thing across different countries adn cultures. as Walter said.
    i affirm a trinitarian missiology which embraces a theology of the Spirit – I believe in the supernatural working of God and therefore have no problems with seeing the miracles of Christ as actual historical events – thus i reject the “liberal’ tag.
    Do you believe in miracles today, Ken?
    I have prayed for people and demons have come out of them.
    [edited – name of organization removed] A particular mission sent a missionary couple home because a dead baby rose from the dead in response to their prayers. There is room for that in my theology. Is there room for that in yours? If not, then tell me the difference between your theology and the liberal’s which denies the power of God.
    Its an important question because without an experiential understanding of the Spirit’s power, you will, as you said, “(figuatively) end up with your social “gospel” of impacting the world with your own concepts of the living God.”
    And our reasoning is always suspect. As for me, I stand with Dr Walter Martin who said “You cannot trust your own reason because it is carnal and sold out to sin, corrupt, degenerate”
    We need a strong theology of the Sprit (who leads us into all truth adn reminds us about Jesus) AND a strong theology of the Son AND and strong theology of the Father.
    This is why I appeal to my fundamentalist friends, who I love, to move towards a a more balanced, biblical, trinitarian missiology.

  • Andrew,
    The concerns I’d have would strictly be dictated by the fact that unfortunately I haven’t much time to discuss this with you. You might be surprised to know that I’m not easily offended, I don’t take this personally, and am more than happy to “agree to disagree agreeably,” which Dr. Martin himself also stressed. Please know nothing is being written here in any other way but a sincere, but frank manner, as Dr. Martin would also say: “Tact isn’t necessarily my strong suit.” 🙂
    I am well aware that those in the EC do not feel there can be a “nutshell” view in the first place. And when I was called as a pastor-teacher I was given advice I have never forgotten: “You must learn to listen to everyone because God can speak through anyone.”
    The “emerging culture” idea is where we’d part company a bit because I see no Biblical warrant that the Church “emerges” to adjust to a particular culture, though I recognize your point and the freedom you have to hold it. As far as those who are coming under that “umbrella,” it would seem to me they would be beginning to take head out on the road Demas took when the “fire” apparently got too hot for him. (2 Timothy 4:10)
    Your stating you agree words must mean what they mean would place you in a minority of EC leaders and pastors I have read and dialogued with. I’m sure you are aware that “emergent” theology isn’t really new as it is another variation of attempts at finding ways of getting the Gospel message across on foreign mission fields through the years. Due to growing apostasy sadly, now the mission field is actually advancing into the “Christian” community itself. If it helps you to understand, men like me who are critics of Emergent do understand the claims that this is a diverse movement. However, within its diversity there are growing common threads e.g. neo-orthodox view of Scripture and praxis over doctrine.
    However, you quote Scripture and you wouldn’t lose me, as I said it’s simply a lack of time to continue this further. By the way, I am not a cessationist, or an evangelical or a fundamentalist; I am doing my best to simply do what Christ is calling me to do whether anyone agrees or not.
    Yes as LC states, God is Creator and Judge, but who said the Lord is seeking “reconciliation throughout human society”? True, His desire is that any perish, but clearly there are those who will. The mission of the Church is to preach Christ’s Gospel and to make disciples, teaching them to obey everything He taught us in the Bible. By definition this will always be divisive and controversialbecasue it cuts across mankind’s selfish totally depraved nature. The goal is not, of course, to offend on purpose – and I often teach those the Lord brings to me: “We must share the Gospel as gently, lovingly and patiently as we possibly can, but we can never adjust it for anyone.”
    You state: “We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”
    That would definitely put you in a minority compared to Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Richard Foster, etc., all major players in shaping this movement you are with, though I suspect not necessarily for you personally. My question is why even be aligned with men like this who deny the inerrancy of Scripture and will only grow worse as their mysticism deceives them even further? If you haven’t listened to it get a copy of Dr. Martin’s “The Cult Of Liberalism” and you will hear his first-hand account of studying seminaries that went liberal. Every one of them, without exception he says, began with a denial of inerrancy just as Barth opened that door. As Martin said – “The Bible isn’t a divine mailbox wherein we receive communiques from Heaven; the biible is the message.” Huge difference!
    As far as your “creeds” comment, this would be a bit of a straw man as no one is advocating doing way with creeds and statements per se, what we are saying is does the creed or statement stay true to the historic orthodox Christian faith or as does the LC, does it compromise the Biblical principles recaptured during the Reformation to include the apostate Church of Rome? That alone shows that God’s justice isn’t necessarily going to bring “peace and brotherhood,” it is going to separate those who love Him more as opposed to those who love their fellow man more.
    You also say: “and its important to have some words that mean the same thing across different countries adn cultures.” Obviously I agree, however we can’t compromise Biblical principles in the course of trying to reach these people because in the end there is absolutely nothing the human being can do to convert another anyway. This is the sole agency of God the Holy Spirit and He is the Author of the Bible many Emergent leaders ignore or “adjust” to their postmodern philosophy. As Dr. Martin would put it: “The Deity takes an extremely dim view about that.”
    You write: “as Walter said. i affirm a trinitarian missiology which embraces a theology of the Spirit – I believe in the supernatural working of God and therefore have no problems with seeing the miracles of Christ as actual historical events – thus i reject the “liberal’ tag.”
    Walter would not have used those words, he would have used the term I used above (the historic orthodox Christian faith) as a way to firmly and without question let people know exactly where he stood. In fact, though I take some criticism for it, I use language much the same way in that it is usually quite clear where I stand on an issue. One might not agree, and that’s between them and God, but at least they’ll know exactly what they will get from me.
    I can live with that because something Dr. Martin did say was: “If you’ve entered the ministry as a popularity contest, you have entered the wrong field.” And as I have said on a few occasions my personal theology is squarely between Dr. Marton’s and that of A.W Tozer. I will not limit omnipotence.
    You say: “Its an important question because without an experiential understanding of the Spirit’s power, you will, as you said, “(figuatively) end up with your social “gospel” of impacting the world with your own concepts of the living God.”” The problem with the new evangelicalism, of which the EC is undoubtedly a part, is so-called “Christian” mysticism – not unlike sections of the charismatic and Pentecostal communities, of which I have had much personal experience. What happens with mysticism is it always becomes “experiential” determines the way Scripture is then interpreted. I tell you in the Lord from my own experiential relationship with Him that God wishes me to tell you in no uncertain terms it must be the reverse – and especially so in this era of rapidly accelerating apostasy.
    You write: “And our reasoning is always suspect.” Again, within the movement you have chosen to align yourself you are in the minority. Men like Richard Foster and other leaders and mentors within the EC place high value on their “reasoning” that their mystical encounters are indeed with God. How do they know that? They don’t. Do you seriously think that Dr. Martin would be silent about men like Richard Foster? And how would you know that what I just told you above from Christ is accurate?
    We must go to Scripture as Dr. Martin consistently drilled into us. That’s why, though I disagreed with him on issues (e.g. his view of millions of years of creation) I know he was sent by God because he spoke according to the Law and the Testimony. Men like Foster and McLaren don’t; I would urge you to clearly and publicly separate yourself from men such as this.
    Andrew, next is an example again of an EC straw man: “We need a strong theology of the Sprit (who leads us into all truth adn reminds us about Jesus) AND a strong theology of the Son AND and strong theology of the Father.” Who is saying we disagree with that? God the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, yet Quakers like Foster tell us He is already in all men (classic mysticism), this is spiritually dead wrong. Postmoderns tell us we cannot fully grasp the concept of Truth (I do not say you say this) yet this is also wrong because Christ specifically said: “You will know the Truth.” The inclusiveness of your friend Doug Pagitt denies God the Son Who said He was the “only” way – even for Jews who also must be born again through their Messiah, Christ Jesus of Nazareth, by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
    And the Bible clearly teaches us that no one can even know God the Father except through the Son, and no one can know the Son except the Father draws Him, and the Father draws him by the Spirit. This would seem to be a strong theology of the Trinity wouldn’t you say? All of what I said is right in line with Reformed theology (I am also not a Calvinist), and with what Dr. Martin himself so often called “the historic orthodox Christian faith, but it runs counter to what so many leaders and theologians in the movement you have aligned with are teaching.
    Then you say: “This is why I appeal to my fundamentalist friends, who I love, to move towards a a more balanced, biblical, trinitarian missiology.” Andrew, in return this is why I appeal to you, whom for Christ’s sake I love (trust me I’ve spent the past year studying these issues almost exclusively), to move back toward a Bible-based theology devoid of apostate Roman Catholic mystical elements and drop the idea that men like myself, in line with Dr. Martin (whom you say you respect) don’t believe in doing missions.
    As he often pointed out the social good that the true Christian faith – as I have discussed it here- has done dwarfs anything “agnostic/liberal” concerns (much more in line with the EC philosophy) have ever done. As I have said, no one is objecting to feeding people etc., we are denying that we do social work thinking that it’s pleasing God, because the preaching of the Gospel itself is first in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. And then from that flows the love of God through His people to further assist those (least of Mine) in need. We can never the reverse this porcess because I tell you in the Spirit that God will only His Word, and not our concepts of it. I pray this is at least food for thought…

  • Ken
    sure appreciate the food for thought. We might be missing each other in a few places here due to our terms [missional] but this is some great advice and i like the way you gave it.
    As for being “Emergent” i am not actually connected officially with Emergent anymore except as a friend, critic, pain in the butt, and occasional partner is certain events.
    I do not see the need to separate from everyone with different views if we are aggregating around mission rather than theological agreement. You may call that “ecumenical” and so be it if that is the case.
    I do think the church “emerges” and bends and adjusts to the culture [mission-shaped] just as Christ incarnated to our culture. Incarnation is the model – As the Father has sent Me, so i send you. The early church emerged from Jewish to Gentile and every generation sees the Kingdom take human form.
    I realize the potential for syncratism and all mission efforts ina new culture must deal with that challenge.
    I have never met Richard Foster (and do not see the emerging church connection with him) but I have met McLaren, Sweet and Pagitt who is a good friend of mine. all three men, in my opinon, are godly, Christlike men who are pro-gospel and pro-church. they may not all agree with me on everything and vice-verca but I respect what they have to say and my friendship with them demands that I stand up when error and non-factual statements are made about them.
    Hey – great to talk and thanks for your generous and fatherly comments. Forgive me for not treating you with sufficient respect and making assumptions about you solely because you post on slice of laodicea. I trust you also will not box me into the sliced up version of emergent.
    As for mysticism, i was meditating on Eph 3 yesterday at church
    Pauls prayer is that they might have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge . . ”
    now how do you name that? what word?
    Ken – you and I are agreed on this but we are stuck in a prison of conflicting words
    Mysticism? Maybe. You would say no.
    Contemplative? I think so.
    Pietism? Reformers say no, some say yes.
    Tell you what – think of a name for that Ephesians 3 prayer and the resulting experience and you can count me in.

  • howdy.
    i’m not as familiar with walter martin as ya’ll are but i’ve heard a few of his things and i’m glad he’s still being heard–good stuffs. my favorite is his “baptism of boldness” message.
    anyway, i had a couple of thoughts reading the comments going back and forth (well, more than a couple, really, but who’s keeping track?)
    andrew wrote: “I do not see the need to separate from everyone with different views if we are aggregating around mission rather than theological agreement. You may call that “ecumenical” and so be it if that is the case.”
    it would be well nigh impossible to find a group of people that are in complete agreement, and i doubt anyone is suggesting such is necessary. i do recall, however, that the pharisees were very missional-minded jews, who crossed land and sea to make one convert, and then, as Jesus said, made them (the converts) twice as much the sons of hell as they (the pharisees) were. missional though they were, and associated with the “right” religion at the time, Jesus went out of his way to point out that they were not associated (like the whole chapter of matthew 23).
    the only emergent name mentioned that i recognize to any reasonable degree was brian maclaren. you didn’t respond regarding him specifically; what are your thoughts on him? he was interviewed on the “bleeding purple podcast” with leif hanson and they spent a good portion of that interview being upset about the doctrine of hell. at the end of part 1 of the interview, he said: “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 and voluntary sacrifice. but in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says ‘no, but that’s not really true.’ in the end, God gets his way through coersion 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.” it’d be better to listen to the whole thing for context, of course, but what are your thoughts on that quote in particular, and maclaren in general?
    you wrote: “I do think the church “emerges” and bends and adjusts to the culture [mission-shaped] just as Christ incarnated to our culture. Incarnation is the model – As the Father has sent Me, so i send you. The early church emerged from Jewish to Gentile and every generation sees the Kingdom take human form.”
    Christ was indeed incarnated into a time and a society. he didn’t fit into the culture so well, though–they tried to kill him multiple times before succeeding; so counter-cultural was he. the culture said he shouldn’t have been talking to the samaritan woman at the well. the culture said he shouldn’t have challenged the authority figures, like the pharisees, sadducees, and herod. the culture said he shouldn’t have healed on the sabbath. the culture said he shouldn’t hang with tax collectors and sinners. doesn’t sound like he adjusted to the culture. and thank God for that.
    did Jesus not say he came to bring the sword rather than peace; to turn father against son and such? that wasn’t the culture then and there, nor is it here and now.
    i’m confused about the implications of the statement that, “The early church emerged from Jewish to Gentile and every generation sees the Kingdom take human form.” jew to gentile was massive. what do you believe the church is emerging from and to now? and what do you mean by “human form”? human, as opposed to what?

  • sorry about your confusion
    maybe it would help if you read some thoughts on why missional is not the same as missions minded
    see this post for starters
    the pharisess had a mission but they were not missional.
    The Church in Antioch was not the final destination for cultural emergence. The church does this in every country and every culture. Even in USA, the church takes new forms.
    Even on the internet – just look at us now on the blogosphere . . .
    Jesus became a Galilean and adopted the customs – and his message was at times prophetically countercultural just as our message is, especially in regards to money and greed.
    I have read so many lies against brian mclaren that i recommend people talk to him personally and get the skinny.
    he came on this blog to talk about hell.
    the blog post of brian
    I notice that the graphics on your blog, James, looks very much like the graphics that the ‘world’ uses. How will your blog be the same and yet different?

  • howdy.
    sorry, andrew, i’m pretty tired right this second and have much to do regardless. i read what you linked me up with and i’ll re-read it and comment on it within a couple of days, but i did want to clarify two things.
    i’m sure you have heard some lies regarding brian mclaren, as we’ve probably heard lies about anybody who gets talked about. i didn’t comment on what somebody else told me about brian, though; i subscribe to the ‘bleeding purple’ podcast and i transcribed the quote i gave you directly from an interview i have in itunes. i wasn’t lying and i wasn’t relying on secondary information.
    i read the link regarding brian that you gave, and it didn’t go against the quote i gave; it fit in directly with it. you mentioned talking to him personally, and i don’t know how to do that. if you meant commenting on that blog entry, it’s over a year old.
    you also didn’t comment about whether you’re in theological agreement with him.
    you wrote: “I notice that the graphics on your blog, James, looks very much like the graphics that the ‘world’ uses. How will your blog be the same and yet different?”
    i’m not sure why you brought this up. are you under the impression that i’m against technology or something? or are you referring to content rather than medium? i don’t know how i would have any graphics that one couldn’t say resemble those of the ‘world.’ as paul said, we would have to leave the world to avoid it. to clarify, i’m not against various mediums; technology is not inherently good or bad. even water could be used to refresh someone or to drown them. i’m not worried about how–or whether–my blog is the same as or different from anyone else’s. it inevitably will be the same as others in some aspects and different in others. so what?
    the only graphic i could think of that you could be referring to is my profile picture, which is based on the art style of ‘south park.’ i don’t have cable, so i didn’t know anything about the show until a year or so ago when a friend lent me the movie. it was well written structurally and technically (i study film), but was extremely blasphemous and generally offensive with juvenile humor. i have never endorsed it to anyone. i thought this artwork from a create-your-own site looked like me, though, and since i have no good images of myself (i have maybe 10 photos that include me. period.), i excersized my liberty in using it. so far nobody has expressed any concern over it, but if you wish to discuss it, lemme know. i’m not particularly attached to having the dumb little drawing–especially if it’s stumbling someone.
    and i simply must get some sleep now.
    soli deo gloria.

  • james
    sorry to alarm you
    you seem to have given good thought to technology and graphics
    i was bringing attention to the fact that many people have double standards when it comes to the culture of Sunday morning church and the culture of their kitchen or blog.
    our philosophy should be consistent and it seems your is. much thanks.
    brian and i disagree on a few things theologically, as most people probably do with me [i must be a heretic], but we are agreed on the essentials and find each other in God’s missional plan.

  • and James –
    I also was thinking about what you said about Jesus
    who should not have been hanging with the Samaritan woman,
    or the tax collectors and the sinners
    and in the early church history,
    Peter should not have been hanging with Cornelius
    and maybe it is the fear of man that stops us sometimes from obeying God.
    For Peter to obey God, he had to break some of his own taboos and embrace a situation which threatened his reputation.
    So when i am asked why I dont break fellowship with people who do not believe exactly like I
    or worse
    if they believe something that my particular sub-group hold to be anathema,
    I have to ask why?
    Is it an attempt at holiness and purity as we suggest it is
    is it driven by the fear of man and the need to please men and the fear of losing our reputation, our careers, our good name, our potential to be invited to speak or appear at a prestigious event?
    Maybe . . . the mission of God and His purposes are higher than our little neat set of doctrines. We might squiggle and squirm when God pushes us beyond our own boundaries, like Ezekiel did when God suggested using human dung rather than animal, [read the account] but maybe this is a part of our spiritual growth – the crucifixion of self, the descrecration of our own idols.
    I have been through this experience a number of times
    . . anyone stil listening?????
    As a fundamentalist street preacher who became a missionary, I was sent to preach in churches that I hated and churches that threatened my reputation. But I did it and it was good for me.
    As an anti-charasmatic in the 1980’s [once I preached my way through MacArthur’s “Charasmatic Chaos” at my Baptist church] I had to not only preach at charasmatic and pentecostal churches where my mission sent me, but I also had to pray for healing for those that automatically ran up the front after the message.
    Cant tell you how humiliating that was for me. Or scary. What would my fundy friends and mentors say if they saw?
    Going to Fuller School of World Mission for me was really difficult but I felt strongly that God wanted me there. We used to think of Fuller as “liberal” and now I was a student in the classroom .. . . in C. PEter Wagner’s classroom.
    Once a Peter Jennings camera crew came into our classroom and Wagner asked me to stand up and pray for the prayer needs of the day [i think he asked me because i was the most conservative guy in the room and the one most likely not to embarrass him on public television] – which turned out to be healing for John Wimber who had just had a heart attack.
    And so here I am, praying healing for John Wimber, surrounded by whooping, yelling, arm-swinging charasmaniacs and Korean Power Rangers and space cadets of all kinds, and the TV cameras are pointed at me
    and all i could think about were my fundamentalist friends and churches where i preached who were going to write me off forever . . . and ever and ever!!!
    THE FEAR OF MAN . . .
    its a bitch!
    its a hussy!
    its an idol that stops us from following God and fully embracing our part in His mission to reconcile all things
    to obey is better than sacrifice.

  • Andrew,
    Thanks for that great story about how you once prayed for Wimber! LOL! Awesome.
    It reminds me of the time (in 1991) I was attending a very conservative baptist church, and I mentioned to my Pastor that I was heading to Anaheim, California, for a 1-week Holiness Conference the Vineyard was organizing. He didn’t have a fit – on the contrary, after the conference, when I came back with a video of Wimber preaching, we sat down in the basement of the church, with popcorn and pop, and surreptitiously (no one else was invited) watched the video together (what would the elders have thought if they had found us doing such a thing!)
    BTW, during that conference, I discovered Jackie Pullinger, long-time missionnary to Hong Kong’s triads and drug addicts. She had me on my knees, in tears. Powerful witness of God’s faithfulness.

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