McLaren Calls Out Machen's Warrior Children

The boomer evangelicals are converging. In a brief, undated blog post (HT: Jeff Locke) McLaren has seized the analysis of “Machen’s Warrior Chidren” offered by another boomer critic of Reformed confessionalists, John Frame, to characterize them as thosewho “seem eager to repeat and redo faithfully in the 21st century exactly what Calvin said and did in the 16th.” You can read the post for yourself, but as one of Machen’s Warrior children I can say that McLaren’s only partly right. I won’t take the time to try to respond to Brian’s characterization of confessional Reformed folk here but only to ask whether he’s actually engaged us fairly.

Since we’ve taken the time to read him maybe he could do us a favor and take the time to read us? I’ve written two pieces interacting with Brian and his movement. First, “‘Whoever Will be Saved’: Emerging Church? Meet Christian Doctrine” in Reforming or Conforming. In this essay I challenged Brian not to conform to the Westminster Standards but to the Athanasian Creed.  Second, chapter six of RRC is an open invitation to Brian and everyone associated with the emerging/emergent church movements to consider whether they have understood (or made bad assumptions about) confessional, Reformed Christianity.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Scott:

    Thank you for your continued interaction with some of these contemporary issues facing the Church.

    Touching on Machen and subsequent history, I think it is pertinent to the larger background of this discussion (and not entirely self-serving) to announce that George Hutchinson’s valuable work, The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, is now online.

    The ten chapters, in pdf format, are linked from a table of contents page:

    When we’re talking about Machen’s warrior children, it is important to have a fair and accurate idea of our genealogy.

    [I hope you don’t mind my fitting this in here, and I pray it is appropriate.]

  2. To be called a warrior-child of Machen and to be said to be repeating what Calvin did…

    Thanks Mr. McLaren, that means a lot. You made my day. I can scarcely imagine a greater compliment.

  3. I am no fan of McLaren, and I think his teachings and political stands are harmful to the church. Having said that, I thought his post was actually quite irenic as well as accurate.

    What you call his “characterization” is actually quite accurate and acceptable to those he’s describing, as Echo_ohcE demonstrates. He is also correct that Reformed Christians have been among his harshest critics (and rightly so), and given that, I’m surprised that he did not strike back in equally harsh terms.

    • Elnwood,

      Have you read Mike Horton’s interaction? Have you read my essay? Are those harsh?

      Do you know what he’s doing to historic Christianity?

      is asking a Christian to adhere to the Athanasian Creed “harsh”?

  4. Dr. Scott,

    I have not read your essay or Dr. Horton’s — I was not referring to you personally when I mentioned “harsh critics.” Whether McLaren was referring to you or not, I do not know.

    As I noted in my above posts, I am agreement with these harsh critics (I wrote “rightly so.”) I’m not trying to debate you.

    • E,

      Frame refers to me as one of the bad guys. Brian cites that essay to justify his account of the “wrong” sort of Reformed folk.

      Mike Horton and Bob Godfrey are also bad guys in that essay. That’s crazy. Those are sweet guys. I probably am a bad guy but not those guys.

  5. Since we’ve taken the time to read him maybe he could do us a favor and take the time to read us?

    Haha. Good one, RSC.

  6. Dr. Clark,

    To be sure, anyone writing against “Machen’s Warrior Children” is targeting the Westminster professors and the OPC specifically just by the title.

    But, you know, I’m like rubber, they’re like glue…

    What they say bounces off me…and God sees too!


  7. I agree with Paul regarding Frame. Certainly you and Frame differ on issues, and Frame is up front about the disagreement. As far as I understand, he is accurate on WTS-CA’s position regarding Norman Shepherd and the Law and Gospel distinction.

    However, I don’t see where he calls you or the others “bad guys,” much less imply that Horton or Godfrey are not “sweet men.” Frame is pointing out disagreements over doctrine, but I don’t think he is attacking your, Horton’s, or Godfrey’s character.

    • Elnwood,

      Then you misunderstand the entire piece. The point of Frame’s piece is to show how that he loves Jesus, is meek and mild and we warrior children are still fighting tired old fights that lead to nothing. If only we would listen to John we would be Frame’s Pacifist Children. He sits atop history, all three perspectives in hand, surveying the landscape while we mere mortals toil below benighted and ignorant.

  8. If McLaren does not like the critiques of him made by Machen’s Warrior Children, if may be due to the fact that the critiques sound a lot like those made by Machen himself, against the Modernists of his day. That is, if McLaren has ever read Machen.

  9. You know, you’ve got to wonder how many other facts are wrong in an essay that says, “The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) originated in a split from the RCA in 1822.”

    Yes, I know about the history of the English-speaking Classis Hackensack and its merger with the Dutch-speaking CRC. But that’s obviously not where the CRC came from — it ignores the Afscheiding and the Van Raalte decision to join the RCA on the grounds that the RCA wasn’t the same as the Hervormd (NHK) back in the Netherlands, and then the decision by a minority of his followers in Michigan that the RCA was liberal for reasons such as the fact that the RCA sang hymns and allowed Protestants who were not Reformed to come to communion.

    Those are details that perhaps someone can be forgiven for not knowing. But anyone who can’t get the dates right of when one of the largest Reformed denominations started may have other problems of a more serious nature in his facts elsewhere in his essay.

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