Malone University, in a bold move that should be applauded, brought Brian McLaren to campus. He spoke in Chapel on Monday morning and then debated Bryan Hollon, a theology professor at Malone on the topic, Emerging or Diverging: In What Direction is the Emerging Church Movement Headed?
I talked some with Brian before his morning message in Malone’s Chapel. I was pretty impressed that he recognized me. I first met Brian back in 2003, and I spent a weekend with him back in 2004 as part of a learning cohort on how to reach an emerging generation of post-Christian people. Besides this blog which has been engaging in the issues of the emerging church since its inception, I have also been involved with the Emergent Cohort for Akron-Canton, where we talk about the issues of how the Christian faith needs to be lived and proclaimed in the 21st Century.
First, I’d like to make some general observations about McLaren's visit to Malone. Later this week, I'll go into detail about what McLaren said, what Hollon said in debate, and what the audience contributed.
McLaren’s morning chapel message was very good. He talked about the Kingdom of God and how that message was radical for its time in that it was in opposition to the Kingdom of Caesar. McLaren pointed out that while Caesar’s kingdom was one of peace through violence, Jesus’ kingdom was one of peace through sacrifice. Very moving and very biblical. One person I met that morning said she came expecting to hear heresy, and found nothing in the message that wasn’t solidly biblical and applicable.
The debate that evening was open to the public, free of charge. And many people came. There were protestors handing out print-outs in the parking lot listing quote after quote from McLaren that they felt proved that he is a heretic. The crowd inside felt very split. There were as many staunch proponents of McLaren as staunch antagonists. My hope was that there were just as many who were open-minded and discerning, seeking first to understand before coming to judgment.
At times the event felt like an inquisition - the questions from the floor were often inappropriately hostile. However, McLaren kept his cool and was always very gracious. He certainly has some controversial positions theologically, and I think that Bryan Hollon, the professor from Malone that debated him, did a very good job of pointing those out. He was gracious as well, saying that McLaren had a lot to offer the church in terms of understanding the theology of the Kingdom of God and very authentic ways of reaching young people in today's culture.
Next: What McLaren said
other post in this series
Brian McLaren: Six Stages of the Emerging Church Conversation
Cage Match: Bryan Hollon vs. Brian McLaren (Well, Not Exactly)
McLaren at Malone: My Musings on the Mêlée