Brian McLaren: DaVinci Code Not As Dangerous as Left Behind

Brian McLarenWhen the doctor tells you that the blood gushing from your severed artery isn’t nearly as dangerous as your athlete’s foot, you know you’ve got an incompetent physician, and it’s time to get a new one. We don’t put ourselves under the care of those who can’t distinguish life-threatening conditions from benign ones. On the contrary, we fire them.

Likewise, no one should subject themselves to the leadership of pastors who cannot distinguish damning doctrinal errors from non-damning ones. The more I hear from Pastor Brian McLaren, the more I fear he is not competent to be a leader of God’s people. Recently, he commented on the error-ridden The DaVinci Code and said,

“Frankly, I don’t think it has more harmful ideas in it than the Left Behind novels” (source).

The problem with what McLaren says here is that he cannot (or will not) distinguish what is malignant from what is benign. No one goes to hell merely for believing dispensational premillenialism, a theology of the end times that gets portrayed in the Left Behind novels. Yet anyone who denies the Deity of Jesus most certainly will, and this is precisely what is argued in The DaVinci Code.

You don’t have to like dispensational premillenialism to see that its teachings about the end times do not come anywhere close to the damning heresy reflected in The DaVinci Code. Any pastor that cannot (or will not) see that isn’t competent to hold the office.

McLaren clearly acknowledges that there are historical and factual errors in The DaVinci Code. He says, “The book is fiction and it’s filled with a lot of fiction about a lot of things that a lot of people have already debunked.” Yet for some reason neither its factual errors nor its Christological heresy are enough to elicit a truly pastoral response from McLaren.

McLaren also says,

“We need to ask ourselves why the vision of Jesus hinted at in Dan Brown’s book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to these people than the standard vision of Jesus they hear about in church . . . Is it possible that, even though Brown’s fictional version misleads in many ways, it at least serves to open up the possibility that the church’s conventional version of Jesus may not do him justice?” (source).

Why is it that McLaren is often finding fault with Christians but seldom with Christianity’s detractors? Certainly, Christians are not perfect. But that fact is a far cry from explaining the existence of unbelief in the world. Certainly caricatures of Jesus can repel people, but so can the authentic Jesus. Sometimes people reject Christ and His gospel because they hate Christ. As a matter of fact, Jesus Himself warned us that this very thing would happen,

“The world cannot hate you; but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil” (John 7:7).

“18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you . . . 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:18, 23-25).

Does McLaren know that sometimes people hate the Lord Jesus for no good reason? McLaren can’t always account for people’s hatred of Jesus by pointing out the faults of Christians—at least not if he wants to be credible. Human sin and rebellion account for no small part of the world’s hostility towards Christ, but you probably wouldn’t know it from listening to McLaren.

At some point, we all have to go to Jesus outside the camp and bear his reproach along with him (Hebrews 13:13). And sometimes that means actually acknowledging that the world is against Christ and cannot be brought to change its opinion about Christ apart from the miracle of regeneration (John 3:3, 5).

As a pastor, McLaren should already know all of this. His failure to identify this threat emerging from outside the church makes his influence within the church all the more dangerous. After all, the apostle Paul warned that the sheep-devouring “wolves” would emerge from within the ranks of the visible church (Acts 20:29).

For this reason alone we should all be paying very close attention to Pastor McLaren—paying attention and warning our own flocks.


22 thoughts on “Brian McLaren: DaVinci Code Not As Dangerous as Left Behind”

  1. Sooner or later I’m sure that most people will be bored with Brian MacLaren. It seems that everytime that he is interviewed he feels the need to take a swipe at conservative evangelicals. He’s hardly building bridges by constantly carping and pointing the finger.

    I cam see now that it was the Apostle Paul’s fault that the Corinthians found the different Jesus preached by the super apostles so appealing. He really should have done a better job.

    Heresy is so unattractive after all.

  2. Have u ever talked to him, Luke? He’s actually a really nice guy. (I don’t recall him being that little, either. But I guess the insult doesn’t work without the belittling?)

  3. Graham, it doesn’t matter if he is nice or a pit bull. He is leading his people down a possible path of destruction. I have found that Mr. McLaren doesn’t have any solid answers just opinions based on whether people like him or not.

  4. Of course being “really nice” just amplifies the potential damage that his errant teachings do to the body of Christ.

  5. And likewise, random insults against McLaren simply amplify the point he makes against those of us that are theologically conservative – we are more concerned with being right than being good.

  6. Left Behind is some scary stuff. McLaren, especially recent McLaren, is really scary stuff. But the catastrophically scary stuff is Burk’s writings on the Greek NT. Its the stuff of nightmares!!!

  7. dr. burk,

    thank you for your insight into this issue.i think 2 timothy 4:3-4 is very applicable to this situation. people are accumulating teachers for themselves who tell them exactly what they want to hear. it is tragic that ministry can become the never-ending struggle to be as close to the world as possible instead of the holiness that we are called to in scripture. you do good work on this blog.


  8. I find it interesting that so many churches are jumping on The DaVinci Code bandwagon. It seems every church I hear about is having a DaVinci series or some “expert” who is talking about the book. Isn’t there some point at which we are only making DaVinci mania worse? Why are we so surprised that a secular author wrote lies about our faith? Did we expect him to write the truth? Did we expect lost people not to fall for it?

    I’m certainly not against pointing out the error in the book, but why so much hype? I’d love to see how many people are truly being impacted by the church’s response to DaVinci. My guess is that most people who are hearing the truth about the book are the same people who are already coming to church anyway. Nothing wrong with that, but aren’t we the ones who should know better anyway?

    Shouldn’t we, as McLaren points out, be more concerned with error within the church than error outside of the church. My guess is that people who are falling for DaVinci are the ones who are already looking for a convenient excuse to find fault with our faith. I have a lot of problems with Left Behind because it promotes a view that I’m not entirely sure is biblical, and it comes from within the church. Why are we all so comfortable with that and so bothered by DaVinci, which comes from outside the church?

  9. You’re so right. I just can’t bring myself to come on here and go with the status quo. You see right through me!

  10. -submitted last one to early, fixed spelling 🙂

    Left Behind may or may not have error in it but its still Christian. DaVinci code is closer to Gnostic heresy. St. Irenaeus would have some words of warning for McLauren promoting a complacent Christianity willing to let heresy go its, way hoping it will just blow over. If it was only promoted as fiction there might be more reason to “let it slide” as it were, but when the author claims the theories are true and when it is based on an already existing body of “legend” from Holy Blood, Holy Grail then the Church of all sorts rightly engages is apologetic against it. I’m not saying to not also engage with problems in the Church, but that does not mean to ignore problems without, we are to be the salt and light of the earth, we are not to hide the light of truth in our walls and ignore the darkness outside.

  11. Listen, I got saved by reading the Left Behind series, so in a postmodern culture this makes the LB series my doorway to the Gospel and of utmost importance to me.

  12. OK – so I didn’t accept Christ as the result of reading LB. However, Mc’s comments on LB make me wonder if Big Mac ever read the series? I have read the first three, and so far have found that the Gospel is in fact clearly presented in them, in spite of the fact that the romance scenes remind me of the Anikan/Padme drivel in the Star Wars movies. McLaren is simply mistaken. Good article Denny.

    PS – This is a shout-out to my homey Steve Hayes.

  13. Yeah, well I was saved at a Benny Hinn revival, but it doesn’t make his theology correct. OK, so I wasn’t saved at a Benny Hinn revival, but you get the point.

    I’ll admit that I have a problem with the speculative and sensational aspects of the Left Behind series, along with the dispensational thought that dominates the series (You Southern boys should agree… Oh yeah, you’re DTS boys too :-), but I don’t think it is outside of orthodox Christianity.

    I think the mistake we make is to use words like “heresy” with people who are already heretics, regardless of whether they’ve seen or read The DaVinci Code or not. Everyone who has not been awakened by the grace of God is a heretic. Are we afraid that The DaVinci Code will make our world more heretical, as if those who are being decieved by it wouldn’t have just as easily been decieved by something else?

    It seems to me that Scripture calls us to, like Paul, safeguard the church against heresy, but makes no bones about the fact that the world will constantly propogate heresy. If Dan Brown were the equivelant of a “Judaiser”, then I’d be saying “Yes! We should deal harshly with this man.” But he is a lost soul who is subject to the whims of Satan. He should be made aware of the truth and what happens next is up to the Holy Spirit.

    I’m sorry, but I think responding to this stuff like it’s going to crater our faith is silly. I’m not in the McLaren camp (I’m more of a Driscoll guy), but I see his point. He is often careless in what he says, but I think he is reacting to perhaps the biggest media wing of The DaVinci Code: the church.

    One quick story: My good friend Trip Wamsley told me that a guy came to his church in the early eighties and did a seminar on the evils of rock music and backward masking. It was the first time he heard Ozzy Osbourne. He didn’t remember a thing about that seminar except the awesome opening licks of “Crazy Train.” It was his first entre’ into rock and roll. I wonder how many folks will read and watch The DaVinci Code because of the church?

    PS – What’s up Barry?!!

  14. I think McLaren makes an interesting comparison with the raging [a long-lapsed one] anti-evangelical, the retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong who dared to adopt Luther’s words for his own book ‘Here I Stand’. In fact he is a moving target, moving to who knows where like all liberals.
    Spong reserves his nastiest attacks for conservative Christians of any label.
    Spong defends any perversion and detraction from orthodoxy.
    Spong claims to represent the vanguard of a ‘new reformed Christianity’.
    His weakness is that he does it as a member of a declining liberal church, to whose decline his own theology contributes greatly.
    He isn’t attractive to woolly-minded freelance evangelicals, of whom there is legion.

    McLaren’s movement has a lot in common in what it attacks, but it is more influential and subtle because it is ‘the wolf within the flock’, wearing historical evangelical clothes, but underneath is something else entirely.

  15. This article may be well-intended, but the tone makes me cringe. And a line like this:

    “Why is it that McLaren is often finding fault with Christians but seldom with Christianity’s detractors?”

    …is, um, calling the kettle black, no?

    I’m not an apologist for McLaren, but it’s pretty obvious that his role is to challenge the church — so of course he’s going to spend more time pointing out our faults than accusing non-believers. In fact, I think the whole business of pointing out the faults of non-believers is one of the things the church should do a lot less of…

    As for the da Vinci Code being a severed artery… well, that’s a little over the top. You mean some people don’t think Christianity is true??? If that doesn’t stop right away, the church will bleed to death!!!

    **Please read the above with the cheeky tone that is intended — I don’t mean to snark. :~)

  16. I don’t really know Mc Laren or Mr. Denny. I happened upon this Blog by chance looking into the Patrick Henry upset. But i am wondering if what this pastor was maybe trying to say was that “christians” having this gloom and doom mentality concerning the end times and just trying to get as many people saved as possible because the earth is going to hell in a hand basket is doing more harm to the cause of Christ in the world than the da vinci code frenzy is. They church is obviousl asleep. that is the sad fact. i can see all these upsets as God stirring up His people for His glory. It is all quite exciting. I want to be with what He is up to. I would recommend DAYS OF VENGEANCE by David Chilton. WAY better than hal lindsey and the left behind group. Which does factor into the Patrick Henry problems at present. Tim Lahaye is a big supporter over there…

  17. The Left Behind Series is an abominiation to the fundamental Christian principles of love and forgiveness. It’s unfortunate so many people have poured so much energy into these hatefilled blatant misrepresentations of Jesus Spirit.

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