About the author

Ken Mafli

Ken Mafli

is passionate about Theological Anthropology and has been studying the Bible, humanity, and how we relate to God for over 20 years.

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19 Comments

  1. 1

    Jared Says

    Great interview! I must admit, I am having a tough time with saying that it is OK to allow new converts to remain within their old religion. I think that while we should not ask them to forsake friends, family, society, etc; we should encourage them to “come out” of their old way into the “new way” of the Gospel. Just my two cents…

    Reply
    1. 1.1
      Ken Mafli

      Ken Mafli

      OK, Jared, thanks for piping up! While I agree that it is a little unnerving to think about leaving new believers in their old religions – I think what Brian is calling for is a Jesus revolution within all world religions. I am not sure how that would flesh out with the boots on the ground, but as a concept, I like it.

      Reply
      1. 1.1.1

        Ryan

        That’s kind of the problem, right? Does McLaren offer up any idea of what such a happening would look like? As far as I can tell, it would mean those religions would cease to exist unless we reduce “religion” to the practice of secular ritual only. What would be left for a Hindu who cleanses his house of idols and ceases to make sacrifices? Of a Muslim who can no longer confess the Shahada? Of the “a” when an atheist becomes a theist?

        In other words: I don’t think a reduction of religion is possible, nor are Christians merely called to do good things. We make faith claims in contradiction with the faith claims of other religions, so I don’t see an alternative to a religious conversion that coincides with a new faith.

        Reply
        1. 1.1.1.1
          Ken Mafli

          Ken Mafli

          Ryan, thanks for jumping in – you raise some valid points. I personally don’t see how the old religion would tolerate it for long. If a Hindu turned disciple threw away all idols and encouraged others to do the same in preference to the One True God – it would cause no small stir and the young converts would be put out on their ear.

          It does have me thinking. I think my take away (from Generous Orthodoxy) is this: all too often we “colonize” other people with our brand of Christianity when we fail to ask why God allowed other religions to flourish in the first place. For example: while the Greco-Roman culture was pagan to be sure – it also informed early Christianity to such an extent that we still appreciate its effect on us today. And while I will not be bowing to the pantheon of Hindu gods anytime soon – I must ask how their perspectives and understandings can inform my own. We must seek to separate human experience and diversity from falsity. To say that every part of another religion is false is truly throwing the baby out with the bath water.

          Reply
          1. 1.1.1.1.1

            Jason

            I don’t think McLaren is saying that Hindus should throw out their “idols” at all or that Muslims should cease reciting the Quran. First, the range of experience and belief within these religions is as diverse and conflictive as they are within Christianity. For many Hindus, for example, these idols aren’t really worshipped in the same sense that we worship Christ. Rather, they’re representations of different aspects of humanity and the universe that are utilized to provoke reflection. For others, they’re really nothing more than cultural markers. Conceived as such, they don’t really undermine a belief in the One True God (whoever and whatever that is!). At the same time, I don’t think McLaren is saying that Hindus just need to squueze in a little bit of Jesus and a few Christian rituals to be Christian-Hindus or Hindu-Christians or whatever. It’s more about following Christ’s call for transformational love and self-sacrifice, drawing upon whatever aspects of one’s religion that will help one come closer to following that call. Or maybe I’m just projecting on McLaren because that’s what I believe :-)

          2. Ken Mafli

            Ken Mafli

            Thanks for the comment. While calling people from other religions to higher levels of transformational love is laudable, it misses, for me, the thrust of the Gospel:
            -that there is a God,
            -He loves us,
            -He wants to be in communion with us,
            -He has made a way for us to be in communion,
            -and He wants those in communion to share in His Character and mission.

          3. 1.1.1.1.2

            Jason

            Ken, how does anything I said conflict with anything you said?

          4. Ken Mafli

            Ken Mafli

            It seemed to me that your statement cut short of the full thrust of the Gospel. You seemed unsure as to who the “One True God” was and while transformational love is a goal of the Good News, it is predicated upon being in relationship with God first. If these were implied in your statement, consider my statement only a clarification. I appreciate the interchange!

          5. 1.1.1.1.3

            Jason

            Ah, I see what you’re saying. You’re right,I am unsure of who exactly the One True God is. As God said to Moses, “You can see my back, but my face cannot be seen.” Or as Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly.” But then the Bible also says that God is love and ANYONE who loves, knows and loves God. The Bible never explicitly says that we’re supposed to have a relationship with God, though that could easily be implied. I think that when we’re striving to love one another, sacrificing and giving in order to build each other up and alleviate suffering, then that’s what it is to be in a relationship with God, no matter what religion we belong to.

          6. Ken Mafli

            Ken Mafli

            Yes, I agree that there is great communion with God in sharing with His work. Here is how I, for one, believe that we can know God – it is through His Son. Jesus said in John 14:

            “‘If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father’”

            In John 5, Jesus equates Himself with God when He speaks of doing God’s work:

            “‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’ For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

            So since Christ also said, “my food is to do the will of the One who sent me” – I too see great communion with God in fulfilling His work on earth. But I think certainty can be found in the Character, Nature, and Identity of God – it is in Jesus Christ.

  2. 2

    Two Cents

    ” we can join God in God’s healing work. We must do so humbly, as servants, not as fixers or saviors ourselves.” I just thought this thought was liberating in and of itself. I puts us to the work and Him to figuring out the how and why.

    Reply
    1. 2.1
      Ken Mafli

      Ken Mafli

      Yep – I liked that as well. Good catch.

      Reply
  3. 3

    Joyce

    Very interesting interview. I have to digest some of it but I think the comment that has generated the most discussion concerns staying in one’s religion while following Jesus. I don’t see this as a conflict or a problem. For example, in Islam Jesus is a prophet and highly respected. I have some personal experience in this area that I’d rather not post publicly here but if someone wants to contact me, we can chat.

    Reply
    1. 3.1
      Ken Mafli

      Ken Mafli

      Joyce, thanks for your perspective. Yes, I agree with you that Islam holds Jesus in high esteem. But to say that He is God is blasphemy in Islamic law. I just have a hard time understanding how a disciple of Christ would be welcomed for long in any faith other than Christianity.

      Reply
  4. 4

    Deb

    I think my struggle comes from religion needing to have the “answers.” It seems to me that McLaren has just put a different slant on his “answers.” I find that many contemporary views come from a belief that the Bible was written by men, not necessarily fully inspired by God. This gives the opportunity to pick and choose what we follow.

    I am much more content not to have the answers. To trust God from who He says He is in the Bible. Less of me and more of HIm. I completely agree with our need to be humble servants. I also agree that in many instances the church could do a better job of this. I just think we need to admit that God is far greater than our ability to explain or understand Him. That’s faith.

    Reply
    1. 4.1
      Ken Mafli

      Ken Mafli

      Deb, thanks for the comment! I agree that God is much bigger than we will ever know. Our wildest dreams merely touch the fringes of Who He is. I too was touched by the call to be humble servants. It is something that I constantly have to remind myself of…

      Reply
  5. 5
  6. 6

    TJ

    Well, I answer this post humbly, as a person who is still learning and growing in Jesus and learning truth. I don’t have all the answers to all of life’s mysteries, but I know the One who does and the Book He has spoken though and every Christian should be reading and learning in, the Bible. See the Bible is perfect, in every assertion. It can’t be broken and doesn’t just give truth to religious matters as some make claim. It is truth. For instance, man was created, man fell, these things happened in space and time. As Christians, we can’t say, “I hold some parts to be true, but that stuff about creation, well, haha, that is garbage.” Ehh, see that doesn’t work. As well, we can’t believe Jesus was a good moral person, and think we will go to heaven either. It is not how things work, a person has to believe in the Biblical Jesus, the one the Bible presents as the Savior of the world. Now I can’t judge a person’s salvation, but I do know, you can’t believe that Jesus has a biological dad named Larry and go to heaven. So, with that being said, let’s try to take apart some of his points McLaren. I won’t spend time on all of them.

    First off, here is a statements that has made the world make more sense to me. All truth is God’s Truth, and the Bible is absolute truth. If so called truth does not line up with Scripture, for example Darwin’s theory on evolution, well, it is not true. So, to sum that point up, all true truth is God’s. And as Christians we should be concerned with having truth, so we don’t live in lies. Think of this, if a calculator did not provide the right answer every time you use it, would you continue using it? Think about it, if the Bible was not correct in everything it says, why use it for anything?

    Then, being seeker sensitive is not the way to be a Christian, there is no such things as a undercover Christian. We are to be bold about our faith in Christ, why? Because He is the truth. There are some scary Scriptures on denying Jesus, so in referencing the idea that McLaren makes, to say it is okay to stay in one’s religion when he receives Jesus, that is wrong. We come out from them, we separate ourselves from them. We are salt. And Jesus is not a religion, it is a relationship, so when we are saved, Jesus needs to become Lord of all. Lord over our sex life, pryer life, our money, our resources, our time, He is Lord, we don’t pray to other gods, or to people. We don’t mix hindu and Jesus. We follow just Jesus, we come out from the world. So McLaren is wrong in what he says there.

    Understand: McLaren questions have already been answered by God. These are settled issues.

    Then in response to the first question: I would of answered the scientist with a answer that could of help the man understand what God did for man, when he says, ” “I was an atheist when I came here,” he said. “Now I believe in God, so that’s progress, I guess. But what you say about Jesus’ death being a sacrifice for our sins doesn’t make sense to me. How could God punish an innocent person? Doesn’t that make God unjust? How can two wrongs – human sin plus God’s unjust punishment of an innocent man – produce a right? I’m not trying to be difficult – it’s just that this sounds highly implausible and morally suspect to me.””

    Now, I have to admit, I did not know or could not remember what penal substitution meant, haha. So, I did look it up. Then, I would of answered the scientist like this, “Well sir, God did not punish any man, He, God Himself came down as that man, Jesus and took the punishment of man. And bore our sins. Because God is the only one who could do it! God was the only one who could fulfill the Law, and bring peace to man. He took our sins on the cross and took our punishment. But again, McLaren’s answer to that first question is a whole bunch of words with no real meaning or point. It is very vague, and again unclear as to what he is saying.

    I think, though not for sure, McLaren is looking for attention with what he says. He get’s reactions. Also reading this conversation, what McLaren says is unclear as to what he is saying and vague, not really letting himself be nailed down.

    Now, I’m not God, I don’t know who is saved or not, I can’t judge. I do know you have to believe in the Biblical Jesus to have salvation. Understand: The Bible has the answers, but not everyone is concerned with the answers to their questions, some just like to ask questions. So, I don’t mean to use this thought harshly, because I love listening to women. But think about this, women like to talk, they don’t necessarily want answers to their problems. So for people like McLaren, the Bible has the answers , if people choose not to accept them, even though they are plain, stop the conversation, there others who need Jesus and will gladly accept Him if they are told. Pray for people like McLaren, but don’t waste time engaging in endless conversation that have answers already. Time can be used more efficiently. Now keep pray for people, and engaging when appropriate, but know time is precious, and people need the life Jesus has for them.

    Thanks,
    TJ
    ThoughtsHaveConsequences.com

    Reply
    1. 6.1

      TJ

      To clarify where I said this, “I think, though not for sure, McLaren is looking for attention with what he says. He get’s reactions. Also reading this conversation, what McLaren says is unclear as to what he is saying and vague, not really letting himself be nailed down”

      What I mean is McLaren seems to not let himself get nailed down to saying something concrete more often then not in this article, least that is what it appears to be to me. Now there are some definite things he says, but for the most part it seems to be not so solid.

      Reply

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