Liberal theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) said that the idea of Jesus’ death on a Cross as a substitution for the sins of others was a slaughterhouse religion.1 In his book, The Modern Use of the Bible, Fosdick explains his views, saying that Jesus Christ going to the Cross should be looked at as more of an example of a life of service and sacrifice and not compared with “old animal sacrifices” and “made ‘a pious fraud’ played by God upon the devil” (p. 230). Fosdick believed that the idea that God would actually send His Son to death on a Cross to take our place is the basis for a violent and bloody religion. Fosdick rejected the biblical message of the Cross. And a long trail of “Christian” teachers have followed suit.
In 1991, William Shannon, (author of Silence on Fire – about Merton) said this:
He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger — a God who is still all too familiar to many Christians — is a caricature of the true God. This God does not exist. This is not the God whom Jesus Christ reveals to us. This is not the God whom Jesus called “Abba.” (p. 110).
Brennan Manning, in his 2003 book Above All, cited Shannon almost word for word, insisting that such a God could indeed not exist.
There are others too who embrace this mindset. Alan Jones in his book, Reimagining Christianity, calls the doctrine of the Cross a vile doctrine. Brian McLaren calls the doctrine of the Cross (and Hell) false advertising for God. And this leads to something very interesting we would like to draw your attention to. Fosdick was the pastor of Riverside Church of New York City from 1925 to 1946. While Fosdick has been long gone, Riverside Church has maintained the liberal ideologies of their former pastor. Last October, in honor of Fosdick, the church held the 5th Fosdick Convocation. The First Fosdick Ecumenical Convocation on Preaching was held October 16-19, 1978 with speakers most of us probably have not heard of, but the 2006 event included speakers most of us know of quite well — Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo. But what is most disturbing isn’t that McLaren and Campolo are part of a celebration honoring Fosdick. Rather, it is that evangelical leaders are STILL seeing McLaren and Campolo as compatible spiritual fellows. Just recently we reported that Josh McDowell and Kay Arthur shared a platform with mystic promoting Campolo. Arthur’s ministry replied to questions about this with something to the effect of, we will go anywhere and speak with anyone if we can get our message out. In other words, the end justifies the means, and we can do whatever it takes to accomplish our goals. But this attitude completely contradicts Scripture:
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us….
And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. (II Thessalonians 3:6, 14)
We pray that Christian leaders will stop insulting truth by clinging to that which is against the message of the Cross. If Brennan Manning, Brian McLaren and others in the contemplative/emerging camp choose to reject this message of a blood atonement, they certainly have the freedom to do that. But can not the body of Christ ask leaders like McDowell and Arthur to stand firm and “withdraw” from those who publicly teach such heresy? Or has Christendom just become a free for all circus where leaders run around associating with anyone they please for the sake of personal or ministry gain and then condemning those who say they are wrong? While they say it is to get the message out, in reality it is an insult to God the Father who gave His Son to pour out His blood for our sins.
In conclusion, let us ask this question: Is McLaren right? Is Fosdick correct? Is the idea of blood being violently spilled a “slaughterhouse religion”? Not according to Scripture that tells us without that sacrifice there can be no redemption. And that is something the devil would not want us to believe. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).