Brian McLaren’s Mystical Third “Jesus”

by Understand the Times with Roger Oakland  
“The Third ‘Jesus’ of the Emerging Church”

In A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren describes his spiritual journey, which took him from a conservative Christian upbringing to a Pentecostal Jesus and eventually led him to say, “About that time, quite by accident, I met a third Jesus.”1 This following account gives important insight that we should pay attention to–because many are following this same path. McLaren describes:

[B]y my mid-20s, I had met the conservative Protestant Jesus, the Pentecostal Jesus, and the Roman Catholic Jesus.2

McLaren found that the Protestant Jesus was too limiting. His dissatisfaction led him on a quest for something more. McLaren found what he was looking for in the mystics:

I discovered other Roman Catholic writers—twentieth-century writers such as Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Romano Guardini, and Gabriel Marcel, as well as the medieval mystics and others.3

From these mystics, McLaren’s whole attitude toward salvation and spirituality changed. He began to emulate Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen as illustrated when he states:

I didn’t think of them as different saviors … But I was still unsatisfied, especially because I sensed that if Jesus were truly the Savior, he wasn’t just my personal Savior, but was the Savior of the whole cosmos.4

This third Jesus McLaren discovered was the same Jesus Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen had found, who both came to believe that God dwells in all persons and that all paths lead to God. This third mystical Jesus is very much in tune with the New Age version of Jesus. McLaren’s journey on the path that Merton and Nouwen had traveled led him to the same conclusions as the mystics he discovered. Contemplative prayer, spiritual formation, the interspiritual path–they inevitably lead all who follow them to the same non-biblical conclusions, and if not repented of–ultimate spiritual destruction. (from Faith Undone, pp. 120-121)

1. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 59.
2. Ibid., p. 62.
3. Ibid., p. 59.
4. Ibid., p. 62.

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