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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