So over the past decade or so, there has been an extremely large number of books trying to redefine how to preach, do church, approach theology, and Christianity as a whole. These authors make the charge that we need to change Christianity in order to reach the emerging post-modern culture. All of the authors endorse one another's books, and claim they are having a "conversation" about how to be Christians. They claim we've approached it incorrectly for many years. I would argue that this movement is not only negative, but wrong at its core.
One of the favorite claims of these authors is that Jesus' death on the cross wasn't to pay for our sins. The reason Jesus suffered and died on the cross, according to these people, was to show us an example, and also show us the injustice in the world. Really? They need to ask Paul why he wrote in Romans 3:24-26:
being justified as a gift by His grace through the
redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The word "propitiation" in Greek is hilasterion, which refers to assuaging God's wrath by being an atoning sacrifice. In fact, in the NIV, it translates that word "atoning sacrifice." This doctrine, called "substitutionary atonement," is affirmed by the Bible in numerous other places such as Isaiah 53, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 2 John 4:10, and many many more. One of the authors, Steve Chalke, has gone so far as to call this act of God "cosmic child abuse" in his book The Lost Message of Jesus (pg. 182). I would point him to John 10:17-18:
"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may
take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My
own initiative I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it
up again. This commandment I received from My Father."
Brian Mclaren, probably the most outspoken figure in the emergent church movement, endorsed Mr. Chalke's book. He has stated that "clarity is overrated," but in his book The Secret Message of Jesus he clearly asserts that the church has always misunderstood the message of Christ. Really? So two thousand years later, and McLaren has finally figured it out!? Oh thank goodness.
The fact is that McLaren and these other emergent writers are focused on this world, as evident in McLaren's book Everything Must Change. He offers his alternative explanation that "the Bible instead is the story of the partnership between God and humanity to save and transform all of human society and avert global self-destruction" (94). They all are very humanistic and focus on this world and disregard parts of the Bible they don't like (i.e. hell, which Jesus talked about more than heaven). They say Jesus' focus was on helping people in this world and helping the physical environment (one of McLaren's big issues is global warming). Jesus made it clear that His kingdom was not of this world. Humanity has a sin problem. He came to save us of our sins.
That being said, we should ABSOLUTELY help the poor, the suffering, the hurting. We are also to be good stewards of what God has given us. We are commanded to show Christ's love to the world. We should want to sacrifice for others because of what Jesus did for us. That's one thing I agree with McLaren and the other emergents on. Perhaps some in the church recently haven't focused on this enough, although I think they overstate this. The church in general has given massive amounts to charities and does tons for the suffering not only in the US, but all around the world. The Christian church is historically responsible for hospitals, universities, charities, etc. However, you can build mud huts and feed people till the sun goes down and they will still not be saved. The ultimate focus shouldn't be on this world. While feeding and providing for people, you need to share the gospel. Christ came to save their souls from eternal suffering and separation from Him. Jesus is "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 b).