Freed to live through the death of another.

Allen "Breaks the Back" of Emergent Morality

Gay activist Chad Allen, star of “The End of the Spear” (soon-to-be-released) was on Larry King Live the other night with Al Mohler and others. The topic of discussion was “gay love” (as brought up by the film “Brokeback Mountain“) and “gay marriage” (in the United States). Mohler was fantastic, as always, and very biblically-centred.

But it wasn’t him that caught my attention. It was Chad Allen.

And it wasn’t because Mr Allen is a brilliant man or a wonderful orator or anything like that. He didn’t have anything particularly insightful to say that hasn’t been said before. But what struck me this time was his profession of faith–what that faith looks like, how it is defined, and how it effects his morality.

Here are some excerpts from the transcript:

  • My parents, they had a hard time. We’re friends again, we have a wonderful family relationship. But I have to say, if they’re going to speak about absolute transcendent truth, I need to tell you, I know absolute transcendent truth.

    I have a deep relationship with God and my understanding. It’s very powerful, and it’s taken its own shape and form. And I am very much at peace in the knowledge that in my heart God created this beautiful expression of my love.

    Listen, Larry, we are going to be different, we’re going to disagree on the details of this and we probably always will.

  • [I judge how it’s right for me to live my life…] By the standard that I judge all of my actions. These days I judge all of my actions by my relationship with God of my understanding. It is a deep-founded, faith-based belief in God based upon the work that I’ve done growing up as a Catholic boy and then reaching out to Buddhism philosophy, to Hindu philosophy, to Native American beliefs and finally as I got through my course with addiction and alcoholism and finding a higher power that worked for me.

    You know, I had to sit down with that same God today and say, “Do you want me to go on this show? Do you want me to speak the things that are in my heart? And if not, I’m happy not to go. Do you want me to make this movie?” It’s the same God that I go to for every decision.

Here’s the question that I kept coming back to, over and over again: How would the emergent movement respond to this man, while remaining faithful to the Bible’s standards for morals and marriage?

He has had a genuine experience. He claims his grasp of absolute truth is real. His faith is existential. He talks to “God” and knows what “God” wants him to do.

Somehow the emergent church which was designed to speak so well to our culture has unwittingly left itself unarmed when it comes to morality. This is why, I can only hope, that the end of emergent will be sooner rather than later, because it can not work pragmatically, which exposes its faulty theological and epistemological roots.



  1. Call Me Ishmael

    “How would the emergent movement respond to this man, while remaining faithful to the Bible’s standards for morals and marriage?” Well, speaking as one leader of the movement, I think McLaren has already answered that question. According to Time magazine, “Asked at a conference last spring what he thought about gay marriage, Brian McLaren replied, ‘You know what, the thing that breaks my heart is that there’s no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side.'” There’s your answer. McLaren would rather avoid the emotionally painful responsibility of giving a biblical answer.

  2. Rielly McLaren

    I’m sure that is a complete summary of everything Brian McLaren probably said, because Time magazine would never take a Christian out-of-context.

    Without a doubt, we can understand a whole movement’s position on morals and marriage, from what looks like a quotation lifted from a larger discussion that you have failed to quote. Naturally, we can come to the same conclusion that Brian McLaren is just some guy guided by his emotions. ‘call me ishmael’ seems suspicious of reductionism at it’s best.

    I believe all these things should break our hearts. Gay marriage should break our hearts; at the same moment, should not the big blunder of the way Christians have historically treated homosexuals break our hearts as well, as though it is some super sin?

    Either way, your blogs caught my attention. I would like the original blogger to answer a few questions pertaining to the broad sweeping statements he made.

    1. How has the emergent church left itself unarmed to deal with these issues?

    2. You seem to assume that The Emergent Church operates purely and only on an existential level. Can you back this up? I emphasize words like “only, and purely”.

    3. What theological and epistemological roots are faulty?

    I hope this gives fuel to the discussion as I try to think through these issues as well.


    Rielly McLaren

  3. JLF

    Thanks for the comments, guys. Rielly, I appreciate your passion for avoiding “strawman” arguments and the like. I share your concern.

    For starters, on this issue, however, I would point you here, to get it from the horse’s mouth.

    Then you could check out another source more reliable than myself, here. If you’re willing to accept that our conculsions here are not out in left field, you may be more open to hearing the arguments themselves. Sometimes I fear that because we’ve seen so many people abused and taken out of context, that we refuse to accept any rejections of their positions, insisting that they’ve somehow been fabricated. Unfortunately, in this case, they have not.

    In the article by Mr McLaren that I’ve linked to above, I respect his pastoral heart… I really do. I think what he’s arguing for is much needed in so many circles, and I acknowledge the great political pressure surrounding this issue.

    But being “pastoral” must not, will not, can not ever mean abandoning truth. Period.

  4. Brad


    I agree with your last statement, being pastoral must never mean abandoning truth. And i think Mclaren would agree as well, the article you pointed me to in no way made me think that mclaren had abandoned truth, i just think he takes the truth question more seriously than others…the homosexual question is extremely complex, and in the pursuit of truth, it desrves careful examination, not some sort of simplistic appeal to Scripture, as if those who are reformed are the only ones who take Scripture seriously.

    As for whoever posted the original blog, i am very curious as to how these two topics ended up related. The questions concerning how the emerging church would answer someone like Chad Allen seemed random at best. Has the emerging church become the new whipping boy for theological bullies? I am afraid to be the bearer of bad news, but i somehow think the emerging church will not disappear as soon as you might like.

    So let me close with two questions of my own, for both Jules and the intial blogger. First, how would each of you respond to Chad Allen? Second, how could your particular Church tradition improve adn move to become more like the church Christ intended?

  5. Stace


    Can you clarify something for me please? Why is the homosexual question so complex? I don’t understand. It’s seems pretty clear to me throughout Scripture. I am not saying that this sin is a “super sin”, however it is SIN period. Is murder a complex issue, is adultery, is greed, pride and the list goes on.
    I read the article by Brian McClaren….if someone came to his church and asked what position the church takes on lust, would he be writing this long article?
    We are to share the gospel with homosexuals as we would with other sinners. You guys can use all your fancy bible college words, but the basic truths remains the same. Sin is sin. Preach the Gospel in love.

  6. JLF


    1) In response to your first question (how would I respond to Chad Allen?), I would like to offer this as a far more biblical and equally (if not more) pastoral approach.

    2) For our church (tradition?) to grow and become more like the church intended, I’d like for us to “excel still more” in becoming authentically-biblically-defined in all of our emphases.

  7. JLF


    It’s beyond the scope of this discussion to get into how we define emergent/emerging, but this post here should help the discussion along with regards to your questions.

    In him,

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