“Imagine a World, A New Vision for God’s Kingdom on Earth” – These are the words used to describe the upcoming “Big Event 2007” with Brian McLaren held at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, Severna Park, Maryland in February. With workshops titled “What are the world’s greatest problems?” and “Youth in Today’s Challenging World,” at a quick glance to most, the conference would seem benign. But just what does this mean, “A New Vision for God’s Kingdom on Earth,” or as a PowerPoint presentation* (link removed) says about the event, “the kingdom of God is here now”? The PowerPoint presentation also quotes McLaren as saying:
…if we have a new world, we will need a new church. We won’t need a new religion per se, but a new framework for our theology. Not a new Spirit, but a new spirituality. Not a new Christ, but a new Christian.
What this kind of language means is that we should not be thinking about those mansions in the sky that Jesus promised, or about a second coming or an Armageddon. No, we should believe that the Kingdom of God is already here, and once the people of the world come together in unity and peace, then that Kingdom will be realized fully. While the thought of having a world without hunger, war, and disease is a wonderful idea, it is not what the Bible says is going to happen before Jesus Christ returns. According to Scripture, there will never be a time when lasting peace will reign on the earth, prior to the physical return of Christ. Thus our focus as Christians should not be to eliminate global problems, but rather our focus should be to bring the gospel message (and yes help the poor, needy and afflicted as Christians have and continue to do through many means) to all the nations of the world.
So just why is it wrong to try to bring the Kingdom of God to earth in the manner that McLaren and other emergents and contemplatives suggest? The detriment in it is that these efforts will culminate in bringing about a world ruler that the Bible warns about called the anti-Christ, and such efforts will not cause people to accept Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives but will actually deceive them into worshipping a false christ.
As many of you may already know, New Agers such as Alice Bailey, Marianne Williamson and Neale Donald Walsch were/are working to establish a “Kingdom of God on earth” as well. Those who adhere to New Ageism believe that this utopia will come about by a critical mass of humanity meditating together which will help the rest of the world realize their oneness with each other and that God dwells within every part of creation including every human being.
To understand that McLaren (and many other emerging/contemplative teachers) shares an affinity to the New Age emphasis on unity through meditation, we point you to a book called Reimagining Christianity by Episcopalian Bishop Alan Jones (San Franscisco’s Grace Cathedral). In the book, Jones states:
…the life of contemplative prayer, … Loved and in communion with all things, the soul is born in and out of the secret silence of God. This silence at the heart of mysticism is not only the meeting point of the great traditions but also where all hearts might meet.1
In another section of Jones’ book, he says:
But another ancient strand of Christianity teaches that we are all caught up in the Divine Mystery we call God, that the Spirit is in everyone, and that there are depths of interpretation yet to be plumbed…. At the cathedral we “break the bread” for those who follow the path of the Buddha and walk the way of the Hindus (p. 89).
Brian McLaren is drawn to Jones’ spirituality. On the back cover of Reimagining Christianity sits McLaren’s endorsement:
It used to be that Christian institutions and systems of dogma sustained the spiritual life of Christians. Increasingly, spirituality itself is what sustains everything else. Alan Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply.
If only more Christians could understand that the premise behind these ideas ultimately leads to the denial of the Cross. Many New Agers and New Age type “Christians” say that a loving God would not send His son to a violent death. In Jones’ book, he says the doctrine of the Cross is a vile doctrine. But God did send His Son to the Cross so that many might have salvation.
Hearing the words of this conference “Imagine a World,” I am reminded of a song that hit the best selling charts many years ago during the hippie revolution that depicts a world that seeks after peace but without the Prince of Peace:
“Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today …
“And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.”
For those who believe the Bible to be the truly inspired Word of God, we know that this Kingdom of peace will not come to the earth until He returns in glory.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
*: You may need to have PowerPoint on your computer for this to work.
1. From page 174 of Reimagining Christianity, as quoted from page 175 of A Time of Departing, 2nd ed.