Scot McKnight's reflections in the latest CT on Brian McLaren's two most recent books, The Secret Message of Jesus and Everything Must Change, is very good. Though I disagree that Willow Creek and Saddleback show trends of the emerging church (the EC is, in part, a reaction against precisely the kind of large, slick, de-iconized, corporate-feel megachurch these two congregations embody), I found the rest of the essay right on. Dr. McKnight rightly swallows the meat and spits out the bones, as an old seminary prof of mine would say. As one whose first instinct is to spit out everything when I read McLaren, I found the article helpful. (If you want to know what McLaren says in the 2 books, just get one--they say the same thing.)
Here's the best section, commenting on McLaren's portrait of the cross.
Emergents believe that penal substitution theories have not led (as they should have) to a kingdom vision. What I have been pondering and writing about for a decade now is how to construct an "emerging" gospel that remains faithful to the fullness of the biblical texts about the Atonement, and lands squarely on the word kingdom. [French philosopher Rene] Girard said something important about the Cross; so does McLaren. But they aren't enough.
The most stable location for the earliest understandings of the Cross, from Jesus all the way through the New Testament writings, is the Last Supper—and not a word is said there about violence and systemic injustice. Other words are given to explain the event: covenant, forgiveness of sins, and blood "poured out for many." Insight into the Cross must start here. In fact, I question whether a cross that only undoes violence is enough to create liberation, peace, and a kingdom vision. Can McLaren's view of the Cross create the emergent understanding of kingdom?