Wilson Debates McLaren image

Wilson Debates McLaren

Before whizzing off stateside to hang out with the scholarly big dogs, Andrew took part in a debate with Brian McLaren about whether we have misread the Bible.

You can see the debate here, though ‘gentle conversation’ would probably be a better descriptor than ‘debate’ – it’s hard debating someone as lovely as McLaren. McLaren is certainly a much less feisty individual than Steve Chalke, with whom Andrew has previously discussed these issues, even if he is wrong for the same kind of reasons.

One example McLaren used in questioning the way evangelicals describe the Bible as authoritative is the apparent ‘logjam’ in the Old Testament between the Law and the prophets: for example, the way in which the OT both demands sacrifice and rejects it as worthless. (The segment begins at 9 minutes into the second video.) McLaren takes Jesus’ quoting of Hosea 6:6 (“I demand mercy and not sacrifice”) as evidence of the tension between the Law and the prophets, with Jesus pointing us in ‘the direction we should go’: which, presumably, means being much nicer and more embracing than has tended to be the case.

This example struck me as I recently preached on Psalm 51, in which we find a similar tension over sacrifice – not separated by hundreds of years and hundreds of pages, but within a couple of verses. Psalm 51:16 says, “You will not delight in sacrifice or I would give it,” while verse 19 says, “you will delight in right sacrifices.” Huh?

Of course, within the context of the Psalm it doesn’t take much exegetical digging to work out the resolution to this conundrum: David is expressing the fact that simply making a sacrifice won’t atone for his sin with Bathsheba. God cannot be paid off like that. However, when the hearts of God’s people are rightly directed towards him, he does indeed delight in their sacrifices.

I wouldn’t want to overstretch the point McLaren was trying to make but it does seem odd to me that he could miss such an obvious point. It’s almost like he’s missing the very point Jesus was making. Huh?

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