Q & R: Have you asked Brian?

Here’s the Q:

It seems that the ‘emergent’ position is that Jesus is the awesome and excellent hero , who had the way-humanitarian heart, dude. But that He had to bleed, and that His(God’s) blood was the only blood that could help our dire human circumstance, seems to be The-Lost-Point. I love a radical heart. I love asking hard questions of the “established” church. Believe me ..I understand the heart of a zealot. That’s not the question..Who does McLaren say that Jesus is? And what are The Scriptures?

Above is a copy of a statement I recently made and a couple of questions I had. I asked this question of someone who responded, “Have you asked Brian, Himself?” So here I am Brian, asking you ” Who do You say Jesus is?

Here’s the R:

I’m so glad that your friend challenged you about your conclusions about my work and that of my friends. And I’m glad that you followed up. We’d all be better off if we restrained our tendency to jump to conclusions and make judgments without adequate research and reflection. Thanks to both of you. You’re setting a good example. By way of response to your comment/questions –
First, maybe you could help me spread the word about a common misconception: many folks share your assumption that emergent is a set of positions or doctrines. The truth is that “emergent” is far more interesting and dynamic than a set of positions. It is a growing number of ongoing conversations about God, life, the Bible, mission, the world, our future, and the gospel. Those conversations encourage the development of deep spiritual friendships among participants – often people who never would have become friends in our more silo-ed and sectarian worlds that are polarized between “liberal” and “conservative,” insiders and outsiders, us and them. Those friendships are contributing to a growing global network, and that network could become an important component of an emerging movement of the Spirit.
Speaking very personally, I don’t know where I’d be without the friendships that have enriched my life as part of the larger emergent conversation. I constantly hear from pastors who are lonely, burned out, and asking deep questions but with no safe space and safe people to explore those questions. That was me, increasingly, from 1990 to 1995. Out of that struggle, I wrote my first book, and in the process of writing it I stumbled into contact with others asking similar questions. Now, ten to fifteen years later, these friends are still an important part of my life, and without them, I don’t know what would have happened to me.
Second, I would say that Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela and Dr. King and Aung San Suu Kyii are good examples of “awesome and excellent heroes, who had the way-humanitarian heart.” I do not restrict Jesus to the category of a great human being or hero. For me, Jesus fills and transcends that category: he is in a completely unique category. I love him, follow him, and believe about him everything thing New Testament teaches about him. I believe with all my heart that he is the Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Son of God, the Christ, the Lord, the friend of sinners, the savior of the world. That’s what I preach, teach, write about, and seek to embody in my daily life. I can’t imagine why you would say anything otherwise about me – unless you haven’t read any of my books.
And that’s the third response I want to offer. It appears from your statement that you haven’t actually read any of my books yet … or those of my friends who are part of the emergent conversation. You hold beliefs about “the emergent position” without the benefit of first-hand research. The good news is that this unhappy state of affairs is easily remedied. Really, by writing to me at your friend’s suggestion, you’ve already taken the first step.
So here are a few suggestions for next steps.
If you’d like to know what I think about Jesus, why don’t you read one or more of these:
A Generous Orthodoxy
The Secret Message of Jesus
Everything Must Change
If you’d like to know what I think about the Bible, I’d recommend:
A Generous Orthodoxy
A New Kind of Christianity
Those two books would also help you understand where I’m coming from regarding “penal substitutionary atonement theory,” which is a theory, popular since the 11th century, about why Jesus “had to bleed.” Along with them, The Story We Find Ourselves In might be helpful to you.
If you’d like to know what I think about matters of the heart (to turn one of your phrases – the heart of a contemplative zealot), I’d recommend:
Finding Our Way Again
Naked Spirituality
Obviously, I wouldn’t expect you to read all of these books (although you may just enjoy them!). But I would hope you’d read at least one … and not just to find fault, but to seek to fairly understand. It would be a natural next step from your email. God bless you, and thanks for writing.