by Roger Oakland
In a Relevant Magazine interview, Erwin McManus, pastor of a church called Mosaic and a popular author and speaker, states the following:
Because people don’t know where to put our community [Mosaic] they put us in the “emergent” category, and we really are a different animal than emergent. We’re not against emergent, but we are not like them.1
In the interview, McManus says, “Our dilemma is that we are trying to create an entire new category and people keep trying to put us in different ones.”2 While McManus may not be part of the emergent team, he is helping to propel emerging spirituality. Of Dan Kimball’s book, The Emerging Church, he states:
The future of the church in North America hinges on innovators like Dan Kimball and the ideas presented in The Emerging Church. Vintage Christianity can be applied to new and existing congregations to help reach the next generation.3
In 2003, McManus was one of five authors in the book, Church in the Emerging Culture. Two of the other authors were Brian McLaren and Leonard Sweet. McManus’ disclaimer that he is not part of the emerging church does not line up with his words and actions.
In McManus’ book The Barbarian Way, he tells readers they have been “recreated to live in a raw and primal spirituality” and that “Barbarians are not welcome among the civilized and are feared among the domesticated.”4 The theme of The Barbarian Wayis a comparison of the “refined and civilized”5 and the barbarian, who McManus says we should become like. Christianity is something that stands in the way though. McManus explains:
The way of Jesus is far too savage for their sensibilities [those who are “civilized”] … Why a reckless call to awaken the barbarian faith within us at the risk of endangering this great civilization we have come to know as Christianity? … It is time to hear the barbarian call, to form a barbarian tribe, and to unleash the barbarian revolt. Let the invasion begin.6
When, as I mentioned earlier, McManus said it was his “goal to destroy Christianity,” the previous statement reiterates those convictions, and the following statement shows that McManus includes not just Christianity in this upheaval but Israel as well. McManus says that Jesus doesn’t like Israel (7) (although in fact the Bible says He wept for her). He says that since God decided to destroy Israel, we should not think He wouldn’t destroy Christianity too:
Two thousand years ago, God started a revolt against the religion He started. So don’t ever put it past God to cause a groundswell movement against churches and Christian institutions that bear His name.8
McManus erroneously states that God revolted against Judaism, which simply isn’t true. In reality, God established the Law and the Prophets through the Jew whom He refers to as the “apple of His eye”:
When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. (Deuteronomy 32:8-10)
Jesus came as a sacrificial Lamb to save, and He informed His followers that the time is fulfilled—he wasn’t overthrowing a religion—He came to fulfill prophecy. And now McManus’ thinking extends to Christianity, suggesting now God will revolt against it as well.
McManus’ use of words like barbarian, savage, and other warlike terms belittle and mock anything that calls itself Christian. He exhorts readers by saying:
When an opponent beheads one barbarian, he better be prepared, for we will return in force.… We need to move together as God’s people, a barbarian tribe.… There’s a future to be created.9
The Barbarian Way tries to show that to be a barbarian is to live radically for Jesus. But explaining the barbarian life in terms of beheadings, mysticism, and rejection of Christianity will at best give a confusing message to many young readers.
McManus’ “new category” of spiritual quest sounds very much like the emergent quest. By his own admission, McManus resonates with the one element consistent throughout the emerging church—mysticism. For example, at Bethel Theological Seminary where McManus was a professor for the Doctor of Ministry of Emerging Leaders program, he taught with his brother Alex McManus, author of Into the Mystic (a promotion of mysticism). McManus sees mysticism as an integral part of the “barbarian’s” spiritual walk. He explains:
[W]e have to learn how to see the invisible and hear the inaudible. We are called to join the barbarian tribe and to embrace our call as mystical warriors.10
In another interview with Relevant Magazine, McManus explains what is the “core” of his book. He states:
The Barbarian Way was, in some sense, trying to create a volatile fuel to get people to step out and act. It’s pretty hard to get a whole group of people moving together as individuals who are stepping into a more mystical, faith-oriented, dynamic kind of experience with Christ. So, I think Barbarian Way was my attempt to say, “Look, underneath what looks like invention, innovation and creativity is really a core mysticism that hears from God, and what is fueling this is something really ancient.” That’s what was really the core of The Barbarian Way. 11
On McManus’ website, Mosaic Alliance, he includes a section called “Awaken Humanity,” which “serves the purpose of history by maximizing the divine potential in every human being.”12
(This article is an excerpt from Roger Oakland’s book, Faith Undone, pp. 206-210)
1. Interview by Al Sergel with Erwin McManus, “Soul Cravings, Q&A (Relevant Magazine, http://www.relevantmagazine.com/godarticle.php?id=7241). [Relevant Magazine has removed this link-on file at LTRP]
3. Erwin McManus endorsement of Dan Kimball’s book, The Emerging Church (Vintage Faith website: http://web.archive.org/web/20080831164223/http://www.vintagefaith.com/endorsements.html.
4. Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way, pp. 14-15.
5. Ibid., p. 32.
6. Ibid., pp. 15, 17.
7. Ibid., p. 110.
8. Ibid., p. 114.
9. Ibid., pp. 134, 138.
10. Ibid., p. 63.
11. Interview by Relevant Magazinewith Erwin McManus, “In That Smoky Room” (Relevant Magazine, http://web.archive.org/web/20070928083059/http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god_article.php?id=6989).
12. Erwin McManus “Bio” (http://web.archive.org/web/20100427101301/http://erwinmcmanus.com/bio/).