Over at “The Gospel Coalition Blog,” they’ve posted a video of a discussion that occurred at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary about Brian McLaren’s new book A New Kind of Christianity. The panel featured faculty members of SBTS and was moderated by the seminary’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr. Spoiler alert, they hated the book.

Now, I’m not Southern Baptist and usually I’d leave something like this alone, but there are a couple things worth noting here. Also worth noting is though I’ve read McLaren’s other books, I’ve yet to read all of A New Kind of Christianity. So I’m not going to take issue or disagree with any of the panelists’ comments about the book…though I’m sure that after I complete it I’ll have plenty of disagreements.

Rather, what I’d like to draw your attention to here are two things. The first is that the gentlemen from SBTS offer us a new kind of panel discussion in which they assembled five faculty members who all agree that the book is rubbish and they spend an hour talking about how they all agree on this point. There is no disagreement on this panel, and no representation from the other side, let alone from Mr. McLaren himself. I know this isn’t really behind anyone’s back since it’s posted online, but when five men talk trash about someone without allowing any space for a defense, it feels a little underhanded.

Secondly, as is bound to happen when five people gang up on one, the attacks become uncomfortably personal, beginning early in the discussion when each panelist has the opportunity to say just how much they disliked the book and continuing throughout.

In the fourth minute we hear Dr. Bruce Ware admit that he’s “thought of Brian McLaren for years as a wolf in sheep’s clothings [sic],” who has finally taken off the clothing and revealed the wolf. This kind of attack culminated in Jim Hamilton’s outrageous assertion that, “He’s the craftiest of the serpents of the field and he’s following in the train of his father the Devil.” He hesitates and says, “Maybe I’m over speaking here,” before he continues, “I hope the guy repents and comes to faith.”

I’m absolutely not impartial when it comes to this discussion. McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus had a great impact in the practice of my faith. But even where there is disagreement, there should be a discussion of these disagreements wherein both sides are allowed the opportunity to speak. And, at the very least, the attacks should be limited to the book and not the author himself.

 
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Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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0 Responses to A New Kind of Panel Discussion

  1. jon says:

    Wow, it’s amazing how threatened they must be by this book to even put together such a one-sided panel. Books get published all the time that counter their conservative platform but for some reason this one has really got them all hot and bothered. The one thing they don’t realize is that to engage in this sort of thing is to only further the influence and importance of mclaren’s ideas. Any press is good press right? Anyway, if any one here would like to get the perspective straight from Brian himself, I encourage you to check out this series on theooze.tv: http://theooze.tv/shows/brian-mclaren

  2. Ian says:

    Well said. Thanks.

  3. Zach says:

    I think its the same kind of whiny victimization response here that kept the men on the panel from reaching out. I don’t know if you know them but Mohler and Ware are two of the more forward thinking leaders in the SBC and are attempting to retake it from staunch redneck fundamentalists. Its not like Paige Patterson and Johnny Hunt were running this thing. As for the personal attacks, I can’t see the discussion could refrain from being personal. So much of the emergent dogma has consisted of “my” personal story and “my” experience. The same is evident in Mclaren’s writing. Rarely is it about what scripture says and how it applies to me, its what happens to me and how can I justify it with scripture. Its the result of such a self-centered theology. Sorry if this comes of as ultra-harsh, I don’t mean it to be, but patience is getting thin with Mclaren’s continued push for such a selfish “me” centered gospel.

  4. Forrest says:

    Al Mohler’s being true to his usual form: allow no dissent and take no captives. He has destroyed what was a good forward thinking faculty and turned them into a group of mindless zombies. Sorry, Zach. There is nothing forward thinking about Al Mohler and his ilk. They are literalists whose version of literalism says “Read the Bible the same way I read it or go to hell.” If you want to talk about self-centered theology look to Al Mohler and his Southern Baptists who say “my personal experience of Jesus as my personal savior…”

  5. Rick Bennett says:

    I think Zach is missing the point. Why even bother with a panel discussion if everyone has the same view? Mohler or Ware could give a presentation dismissing the book by themselves, or they could have panel in which there is real discussion (with or without McLaren). But, it is fairly useless to have a panel of people that agree and are allowed no dissension based upon their roles in the seminary (as a graduate of an SBC seminary, I understand this is the case. they could have brought someone from another local seminary to take another side).

    Lets put it this way, would it be useful to get 5 Boston Red Sox employees to discuss the free agency dealings of the Yankees without representation of a Yankees fan or apologist? No.

    Would it be good to have a panel discussing Obama’s health care proposals consisting of Gingrich, Palin, Beck, Hannity and Cheney with no representative to take another view? If you watch Fox News, you might say yes.

    In fact, this is another example of the echo chamber that has become political, theological and ideological “discussion.”

  6. jon says:

    Yeah I agree w/ Forrest… and would add that these days, I’d never trust what comes out of a closed discussion with 5 white guys sitting in leather highback chairs, none of which have a diverse view. If you want to have an honest debate/discussion, diversity isn’t a negotiable, it’s a necessity. But, this is what I would expect from the SB’s— a controlled environment by which they could make their statements and further keep their followers thinking the way they want them to. One day they will realize that truth speaks for itself and is ready to be tested at any time. You don’t need to incubate it.

  7. Jim Hamilton says:

    I submit that McLaren’s book is outrageous, not my comment.

    For my take on McLaren’s project, please see this post: http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/brian-mclarens-new-kind-of-whole-foods-store-a-parable/

    Blessings!

  8. Jim Hamilton says:

    On the first point made in the post above: McLaren speaks in a lot of venues, and I imagine he participates in a lot of panel discussions. The “bad guys” in McLaren’s program are all orthodox Christians who are not interested in his program, which basically remakes Christianity in the image of the modern progressivism of the wider culture (no surprise if people uninterested in Christianity like McLaren’s modern progrssivism—it’s what they already believe). I wonder if these venues and panels in which McLaren participates ever include orthodox Christians who don’t want his McLarianity?

    Are those “new kinds of panel discussions” too?

    On the second point above, that the “attacks” become “personal,” two thoughts: first, we are not attacking McLaren but stating what he is doing and why we disagree with it. Second, our comments about McLaren himself are not examples of fallacious ad hominem argumentation. We are not talking about McLaren himself in order to avoid talking about his premises and arguments. Rather, we are drawing conclusions about what kind of person McLaren is on the basis of the arguments he makes and the program he advances.

    He rejects the Bible’s depiction of God. He replaces the biblical gospel with a message of liberal fascist utopianism. He thinks that Christians are the problem and that their message has caused harm, not good. He is not advocating Christianity but arguing that it must be changed. . .

    If he were to claim to be a liberal fascist, and if he advocated traditional, orthodox, biblical Christianity, would not the liberal fascists take exception to his proclamation that the only way to be saved is through faith in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead? Would they not reject his Judeo-Christian values with the moral code that marriage is for one man and one woman for life? Would they not distinguish themselves from him by pointing out that they believe in Evolution, Darwin, and Nietzsche, not Creation, Jesus, and Paul?

    If it would be okay for liberal fascists to point out the differences between themselves and McLaren, can not Christians do the same?

    Blessings!

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