April 01, 2007, ©2007
by Philip D. Perkins
Erwin McManus is a dynamic communicator and Southern Baptist pastor in California, known for his love of Celtic pagan worship mixed with biblical worship and his popularity among Emergent religionists (the Emergent or Emerging church.) In this article I explore and expose a number of lies he presented in his book, The Barbarian Way published by Thomas Nelson. This needs to be known by Southern Baptists. Many godly people are Southern Baptists. However, the fact that this denomination is currently being flooded by Emergent/Emerging heretics is unfortunate, yet inescapable. McManus has actually made the cover of the Southern Baptist magazine Home Life, a production of Lifeway Christian Resources. It is coming into our churches, colleges, and seminaries. For instance, Lifeway carries books and videos by Rob Bell who has claimed that the truth of the virgin birth is of little or no importance to the Christian faith on page 26 of his book Velvet Elvis.
This aritcle will deal only with a few of the false teachings of Erwin McManus in The Barbarian Way. I will give the lies in my own words in bold italics, followed by the page number, the quote and an explanation as to why I consider McManus’ teachings to be false. Number ten is a denial of the substitutionary atonement–the heart of the gospel.
LIE #1. Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu prayer are the same and addressed to the same God. Page 14. We read, "Every devout believer--in fact, any person of faith from any religious persuasion, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or whatever--believes in prayer, but we all know prayer is supposed to be us talking to God." Actually, no. Christians do not believe in prayer. Biblically informed Christians believe in God. Since they believe in God, they pray to Him. Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims do not pray to the same God as Christians. Some pray to Allah and some to ancestors and some to various gods in the Hindu pantheon. Those are the gods they believe in. And, yes, many pagans believe in some sort of magical power in prayer. Some that call themselves Christians do as well. However, biblically informed Christians do not practice any sort of witchcraft or sorcery. They simply speak to their Father. The power is in Him, not in their prayer or some formula for speaking to a deity. Even the act called prayer in other religions is different than Christian prayer. Further discussion of this can be found at: http://dontadddontsubtract.blogspot.com/2007/03/why-i-dont-believe-in-power-of-prayer.html .
This man is a Southern Baptist pastor. Why is he equating Christian prayer to that of other religions that don't even acknowledge the Christian God?
LIE #2. There are other sources of truth beside the Scripture. Page 14. Pastor McManus has found another source of spiritual knowledge has emerged. How does he know this? Because he watched the movie "Braveheart." (How can one argue with that?) He writes, "One of my favorite characters in Braveheart was the Irish guy who joined William Wallace in his crusade. Remember him, the crazy guy who talked to God?" McManus then relates that this character said God had told him that Wallace's fight was to be "fashionable." This is then seen to indicate to McManus that the fight he is calling the readers to is "fashionable" and only the "finest people" will involve themselves. Obviously a flattery to enlist the naive. At any rate, he calls the young and naive to listen to God for information they will not get from the Bible on pages 14-15.
LIE #3. We are saved to engage in a religion that glorifies self. Page 14 again. At the top we read, "You have been recreated to live in a raw and primal spirituality." This is a lie on three levels. First on the level of the individual believer, the Spirit says in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." This is in contrast to McManus' vision of barbariansim for the young Christian. Second, as to God's ultimate purpose, His glory is the reason for our salvation. I Chronicles 22:10 says this about the saving work of Christ: "He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever." Isaiah 43:6-7 says,
"I will say to the north,
'Give them up '
And to the south, 'Do not hold them back '
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made."
Third, on the level of how God and His saints relate to the rest of the world, Malachi tells us that the point of salvation in God's plan for the nations is the glory of His name. "'For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,' says the LORD of hosts."
LIE #4. Christians who exhibit discipline, self-control, and submission to proper authorities in the church don't really love and obey Jesus. Page 15. McManus writes, "Barbarians (folks of whom McManus approves) are not welcome among the civilized (church) and are feared by the domesticated (folks of whom McManus does not approve.) The way of Jesus is far too savage (good to McManus) for their sensibilities." The parentheses were added for clarity based on the content of the entire book. Notice the three-fold drive-by smear against real Christians. First, obedient Christians are weak--domesticated in McManus' terms. Second, obedient Christians are fearful. They are scared of the barbarian. Third, obedient Christians don't obey Christ. Instead, they think He is savage.
LIE #5. Jesus was a savage Who lacked self-control and obedience. Page 15 again, and see the same quote as point four. Jesus' obedience and self control are on display throughout the gospels. Even at His clearing of the temple, He didn’t show uncontrolled anger. He started by taking the time to make a whip, beat the dickens out of enough of the phonies inside to scare everyone else out of the temple and gave them a short lesson on the theology of worship, complete with at least one biblical quote while doing so. In addition, He constantly told all who listened that He did only what the Father told Him to do. This exhibits both self-control and obedience, not savagery and barbarianism.
LIE #6. John the Baptist preached the avoidance of God's wrath through repentance to only the religious class. The irreligious are, evidently, just fine and don't need that message. Page 22. Here our misguide to hysterical Christianity writes, "...his (John the Baptist) fire-and-brimstone message was entirely directed toward the religious, not the irreligious...He had no patience for domesticated religionists who were drowning in their own self-righteousness." (Notice the self-righteous tone of the author here.) Yes, in Erwinland only the irreligious are righteous. The rest of you are just on the way to hell, unless you repent of your repentance.
The slight of keyboard here is accomplished by equating the corrupt religious authorities of John's time with ALL religious authorities today--well, except for Erwin, of course. The point is, don't trust or submit to your dad or your pastor or your church or your denomination. They are bad, like the Pharisees. McManus and you are righteous, like John, Moses, and Paul. Your dad and your pastor are self-righteous. You and Erwin are not self-righteous. How do we know that? Well, because Erwin says so.
McManus simply lied about the whole thing. John preached the whole gospel to the whole crowd--Pharisees, Sadducees, and commoners. Read what the Spirit says in Luke 3:7-9: "So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, 'You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham for our father," for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.'"
The truth is that he did not even begin in Jerusalem. He started in the wilderness and the people of Jerusalem came out to hear him while he was still out there in the country of the Jordan.
LIE #7. John the Baptist was not an ascetic like we all thought for lo these past 2000 years. No, every Christian, Christian cleric, Christian theologian, pastor, priest, nun, pew-sitting believer or non-believer, and each and every choir member who ever existed from Pentecost until the advent of Erwin McManus has been seriously wrong. John was an uncivilized, mouth-foaming, uneducated, out-of-control barbarian. Page 22. Erwin prattles, "He (John) was a barbarian in the midst of civilization. And frankly the civilization made him sick." This is truly a monument to the biblical illiteracy and spiritual laziness of the typical Evangelical. Anyone who can swallow a line like this is obviously due for a scriptural tune up. Such a person doesn't read the Bible much. McManus made a bet that a lot of young, naive, church-going males would be stupid enough to buy his book. And his story. He won the bet.
Where in Scripture is there any indication that civilization made John the Baptist sick? No where. Where in Scripture is there any indication that civilization as a concept or a practice is evil apart from the effects of the fall? No where. One must be reminded that God told man to go out and multiply--hence, civilization is mandated by God Himself.
To further this ridiculous idea, Erwin says King Herod was "civilized" and John was a "barbarian" in Chapter 2. Herod, you might recall, had taken his brother's wife. John preached against this barbarity and Herod jailed him for it. Yet, in Erwinland, the sexually uncontrolled drunk is civilized and the tea-totalling, mostly vegetarian preacher is the barbarian. Just what sort of glasses did Erwin use to read the New Covenant anyway? Or did he bother?
LIE #8. Education bad. Ignorance good. That is, according to the example of John the Baptist. Page 22. McManus writes, "Oh and by the way, he (John the Baptist) had no formal education, no degrees." Far from the biblical standard of studying to show oneself approved, the fictious John the Baptist of Erwinland, is into eating locusts and watching MTV as sermon prep. Again, where in Scripture are we told John had no formal training of any kind? While it's possible, it's not to be assumed. He probably did have formal training, since he was the son of a priest, Zacharias. Arguing by silence, he must not have had kidneys either, since they are never mentioned in Scripture.
LIE #9. No one could have anticipated that an austere man like John the Baptist would introduce the Messiah. Page 22. "To say the least, he was not the person whom anyone was expecting to prepare the way for the Messiah." That's right. In Erwinland, they don't have the books of Isaiah and Malachi. In fact, no Israelite ever had any notion of just how austere the prophets could be in Erwinland.
LIE #10. The gospel is not about salvation by faith for the forgiveness of sins. Page 32. Specifically, McManus states that the idea of salvation by faith for the forgiveness of sins in order to escape God's wrath "results in our domestication." If you have not read the book, the theme is in the title. He exhorts young, male church-goers to live outside the authority of the church and its leaders. He uses buzz words, "domestication" and "civilization" for evil and "barbarian" and "danger" for good. "Barbarian" includes a disdain for biblical authority. This he calls the Barbarian Way and he says the great men of Scripture were like this, too. Here is what he says: "So what is the good news? The refined and civilized version goes something like this: Jesus died and rose from the dead so that you can live a life of endless comfort, security, and indulgence. But really this is a bit too developed. Usually, it's more like this: if you'll simply confess that you're a sinner and believe in Jesus, you'll be saved from the torment of eternal hellfire, then go to heaven when you die. Either case results in our domestication."
The deception is really thick here. First, notice he equates the health-and-wealth gospel with the real gospel. Why? The believe-in-Jesus-and-get-rich-and-healed message never was the gospel of orthodox Christianity and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins has always been the gospel. So why mention both as though they are of the same weight? The former is a modern invention of the televangelist thieves. The latter is the gospel of historical Christianity.
The only reason I can think of to do this is to relate the true to the obviously false so that both will be rejected. He doesn't really define the gospel, but he does go on to indicate it involves being dangerous and barbarian. It can't be separated from those things. In this way, he plants in the minds of his readers the idea that rebelling against authority is really good. The authorities are evil.
LIE #11. Jesus' mission was not to seek and save the lost. Page 31. McManus writes, "Even then Jesus understood His mission was to save us not from pain and suffering, but from meaninglessness." Interestingly, embedded with the main lie is another even more hideous. Notice the "Even then Jesus understood..." So it seems Jesus caught onto something earlier than Erwin might expect.
NEWS FLASH FOR ERWIN: Jesus is God. He doesn't catch on to anything, because He knows all things.
McManus, here, is trying to redirect our attention. The main reason Jesus came was to be the Lamb of God Who takes away our sins. McManus wants us to believe otherwise. He wants us to forget that and concentrate on the personal fulfillment we can get. If that is the point of Christianity, why not be a Communist. Many have found Communism added meaning to their lives. Or a Buddhist, or a Shriner, or a Republican, or a Muslim, or...
LIE #12. Sacrifice and servanthood are part of unruliness and rebellion. Page 34. This is really just an example of the double talk so common in Emergent writings. On the one hand, McManus calls the young to be barbarians. On the other, one has to sound vaguely Christian to sell books through the local "Christian" book store. So put in something like this: "The barbarian way is about love expressed through sacrifice and servant hood." Yeah, that ought to do it.
LIE #13. Jesus called Peter (and by extension all the other disciples and you too, Boopy) to be a barbarian. Page 35. Look at the illogic Erwin asks his readers to embrace: "Peter found himself being called to the barbarian way." He then recites John 21:18-19 as proof. (The book has "17-19," an editorial mistake, since the quote begins with verse 18.) That passage contains Jesus' prophecy that Peter would die at a very old age and in an infirm condition and it calls for Peter to submit to His will. How that leads to a barbaric way of life, I don't know. I'm sure Erwin doesn't know either. But he bet most of his readers wouldn't catch on to the nonsense. In this day and age he is right.
LIE #14. You should ignore good rules of hermeneutics and teach the young by example to be sloppy in their interpretation. Page 45. Okay, he didn't actually say it. Instead, he modeled it. This is the kind of hermeneutics a first or second year Bible school student taking his first biblical interpretation course would get an F for if he did it. He said, "...the biblical word for witness is actually the word for martyr."
Put on your thinking caps here. Hermeneutics is just the fancy word for biblical interpretation, in case you're wondering. McManus committed two hermeneutical errors not fitting for a first year bible college student. First,
he cited the New Testament word for "witness" as the biblical word for it. How about the other 70% of the Bible, Erwin? The Old Testament is in Hebrew, not Greek. Do you suppose it uses a word or two for "witness?" In fact, it did use several words, but when making a point pick your data and lie as if the rest of the data doesn't exist. Try that in court and see if you win many cases. Or even if you're still a member of the bar. Try that in science and see how many papers you get published. And get ready to teach at a back water school that couldn't get anyone else. Is Erwin that stupid or is he lying?
The second hermeneutical mistake is even worse if you can imagine. It's called the time-frame fallacy. It is a fallacy often committed by Evangelical preachers that are uneducated, sloppy, or don't care about faithfulness to the text. This book is put out by Thomas Nelson Books, an old and respected Christian publishing house which has lost its integrity as most have. I hold them responsible as well. They knew better at one time.
The time-frame fallacy works like this: To make a dramatic point in a sermon (or book) I can take a dramatic word in the English, find its Greek origin if it has one, and tie it to my text to make the sermon more exciting.
The problem with that is two fold. First, it starts with human wants and the ego or employment aspirations of the preacher/writer, instead of the text of the Word of God. Second, it's often wrong in its conclusions because the meaning of a word in its historical, cultural context is what counts, not how the word came to mean what it means or what it or its cognates will mean in the future. The origins of a word are its etymology. A common example of this fallacy is the English word "dynamite." Often preachers will use that word to juice up a sermon about the power of God, the power of the Spirit, or the power of the Christian. The Greek word for the power to do something is "dunamis." (There is another Greek word that has to do with the power of authority.) From "dunamis" Alfred Nobel made the word for his invention of nitroglycerin mixed with stabilizers, "dynamite." No New Testament author had the idea of "dynamite" in his mind when he wrote "dunamis." Here's the proof: They had never heard of dynamite because it hadn't been invented yet. So to read history backwards and say that Paul meant an explosive substance or anything like it is simply wrong. He meant "dunamis," not "dynamite."
Erwin did that same thing. The Greek word for "testify" is martureo. The noun "witness" (one who testifies, not one who sees) is "martur." As history unfolded those that died for the faith were called God's witness. As such, the Greek word provided the root of the English word "martyr" or one who died or suffered for a cause. That was not in the mind of the writers of the New Testament. They meant one who testifies whether they suffered as a result or not. (But it really jazzes up Mr. McManus' point, and selling books, not accuracy to the Word of God, is his main point, I think.)
Now I ask again, is Erwin McManus that stupid or is he lying? I'm not asking this just to make the point that McManus is no good. (I've made that clear from the beginning.) However, I ask it for this reason: If he's lying, he's unfit as a Christian leader on moral grounds. If he's that stupid, he's unfit to teach because he doesn't adequately comprehend the subject or even how to study the primary text–the Bible.
You don't need to decide. Either possibility makes it imperative that the body of Christ discard him as a teacher until he changes.
Next issue: We know the Emergent is here and here to stay. Are Southern Baptist leaders and schools giving this heresy the green light?
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