My wife and I were reminissing about Northpark and figured that my time-line was off a bit — and that my date of initial attendance was a bit off. I (and then we) actually attended Northpark for 10-years, not 12… hence the change in the title.
Postmodern, Cultural-Marxism in the Church
Why this post? While airing the churches dirty laundry is not the best option, it is an option to warn others of misuse of Scripture, pastoral staff that is not sound in the essentials, and a general refusal to come to terms with what historic Christianity has considered the “fundamentals.” As you will see the doctrine of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and other essentials are rejected by the authors of the books given to me by a pastor at NorthPark. I deal with these books in-depth in my chapter entitled, “Emergen[t]Cy ~ Investigating Post Modernism In Evangelical Thought.” But below is primarily a “review”/rejection of a book used in a men’s college class at church by pastor Bob Hudson… and ultimately was the last straw for me at a church I truly loved and that my wife and I truly enjoyed.
We loved its members, and our kids grew up in the children’s ministry here. My leaving this church of 12-years was not an easy decision, but came about because of the lack of doctrinal protection in the core of the pastoral/deacon group of persons. Pastors in particular are admonished to cleave to sound doctrine so that they could be good ministers of the gospel (1 Tim 4:6). And the church was growing so fast and the head pastor is soo gracious that the aberrant teachings slipped under the rug.
After leaving this church I found that the pastoral staff at another church I was considering were also in need of simple doctrinal adherence and the creeping of Eastern philosophy likewise was rearing its head… unchallenged in this church.
My last semester at seminary introduced me to a previously unknown movement within evangelical circles known as the “Emergent Movement.” In reality, it is merely liberal theology repackaged to look like the core of the Gospel… when in fact, it is the jettisoning of core doctrines that are the foundational to the Gospel. 2 Timothy 2:15 reads: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”
As I said, my introduction to this movement came about at Seminary because of some of the books recommended to me in my syllabus, which led me down a rabbit hole of reading. This trail sparked conversation between one of the new pastors and myself… he assured me that the movement wasn’t all that bad, and that I needed to read up on the topic. So, we had some coffee at my house and we had a cordial meeting and he left me an armful of books. (I will post some of the content and the authors thoughts on salvation — from this armful of books given to me by a pastor from an “conservative evangelical church — in an appendix at the end.)
I read them… Wasn’t all that “bad” ~my ass.
One night alone in prayer might make us new men, changed from poverty of soul to spiritual wealth, from trembling to triumphing ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon
In one of the books for instance, and this would be important to a well-liked sermon at my old church on core doctrines that one shouldn’t sway on,
What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin, you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew Language at that time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first ‘time she had intercourse?
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2005), 26.
This reading led me to other instances like the following November 2004 Christianity Today article written by Andy Crouch, titled “Emergent Mystique,” Rob Bell said,
“We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life” (emphasis added). Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, predated Bell in his popularizing of interspirituality by “[opening] the door for Christians to explore other traditions, notably Taoism (Chinese witchcraft), Hinduism and Buddhism.”
Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart:Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999), 39.
Merton of course is famously known for saying that he sees “no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can” (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” [Monastic Studies, 1969] 7:10).
I can list more instances that threw red-flags up for me, but needless to say I had a coffee infused meeting with my pastor, and I thought we were on the same page. I had a few more short discussions with him and some of the other deacons, but it wasn’t until a young man came up to me and mentioned the book the pastor who handed me the armload of counter-Christian books was using in the men’s college group that I knew I needed to protect my family from bad teaching.
Much like the author I too wore Rage Against the Machine shirts (p. 97 – I think my oldest son still wears some of my old shirts) mainly because I genuinely like the music, and secondly, my reasoning behind wearing Rage Against the Machine shirts was that often times conversation would open up with young people that would lead to me talking about the bands radical Marxist leanings. It was a chance for me to lead these misguided persons towards a healthy-well-balanced understanding of American history and ideals, separated from the Howard Zinn type histories that many of those teaching them would infuse their young minds with. (See my RIP of Zinn’s passing.)
Shane, in contradistinction, wore the shirts of this band with full knowledge of and support for this class warfare idea found only in Marx and Engels manifesto.
I say this confidently only after reading Irresistible Revolution.
In his book, Shane makes the argument that you have to be an atheist to be a Marxist. Besides flying in the face of history this is only a small value in Marxism — granted an important one — however, Marxism is much more than merely a belief in disbelief. or disbelief,in the divine. In fact, the divine is merely transferred to this world in dialectical materialism, and a push for utopia creates the “divine” in man and his anthropogenic fundamentalism… as exemplified in Shane’s writings. Take note as well that I argue that Mormonism is a form of Dialectical materialism and is closer to atheistic Marxist philosophy than to Christianity. Last time I checked Mormonism is riddled with the Divine as is atheistic Buddhism. (In other words, to be “religious” does not require the Divine” as Shane posits.) Not to mention how the Communists (atheists) used religion:
A poignant example of this comes from the Bolshevik Revolution. While this was an atheistic movement with a view of religion as “the opiate of the masses” used by a few powerful people to control said “masses,” the Soviets themselves tried to use religion to “control the masses.” One early attempt by the Bolshevik Revolution to take over the spiritual was through the Renovated Church (also known as the Living Church Movement) which was meant to reinterpret the teachings of Christ and the Apostles towards a Soviet end. During one of the short-lived attempts here by the Soviets we find this official “statement of faith:”
✦ The Soviet power does not appear as a persecutor of the Church. ✦ The Constitution of the Soviet state provides full religious liberty. ✦ Church people must not see in the Soviet state a power of the anti-Christ. ✦ The Soviet power is the only one which tempts by state methods to realize the ideals of the Kingdom of God. ✦ Capitalism is the “great lie” and a “mortal sin.”
(Taken from the first chapter to my proposed book, Worldviews: A Click Away from Binary Collisions. Here is a quote taken from this first chapter from Edgar C. Bundy’s book, How the Communists Use Religion [Wheaton, IL: Church League of America, 1966], 12. I will put this caveat here; however, it applies to the whole: I will quote authors with whom I do not necessarily agree with. I often quote authors that are: atheists, pagans, fellow Christians, politicos, homosexuals, evolutionists, and the like… merely because I quote an author, this quotation does not mean that I support their work as a whole.)
Back to the story. After the young man told me about the book, I purchased my own copy, and began reading it, coming to page 34 I read the following:
Who knew you could make so much money writing a book? For the sake of transparency, I want you to know that all the money I get from the sales of this book, both the advance and the royalties, is being given away. This is not a noble act, of charity. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Besides, this is not just my story, and I am not just exploiting the stories of others. This book has emerged from a movement of communities of faith and struggle, inspired by local revolutions and ordinary radicals, anchored in life among the poor and marginalized. So it is not only a responsibility but a joy and honor to share the profits with all of them. [Here he referenced a footnote] May we continue to feed each other hope as we dance God’s revolution together.
(Emphasis added to the Marxist/Leninist language)
This is how the footnote read:
In appendix 1 at the back of the book, you will find a list of ordinary radicals with whom I enthusiastically redistribute the money I receive from the publication of this book through the Simple Way’s Jubilee Fund.
Here is that appendix:
View pages by clicking here: 360, 361, and 362. It was about midnight when I got on my computer and followed these URL’s Shane provided. My jaw dropped, again-and-again. I prayed for hours after this encounter with the radicalism being taught our young men at a supposedly “conservative” evangelical church.
It didn’t take much time in this appendix, unfortunately, I didn’t have to. The following is some of what I found merely by following the links Shane provided in his book. (I emboldened the main site referenced in Shane’s appendix. Following that I either a) include a quote that represents some positional statement of that site, or b) simply went to that sites “links” section and linked out to whom they recommend themselves. Although I could have listed many links, I think the few I chose make the point. I would say enjoy… but…
✦ Liberation theology ✦ Feminist theology ✦ The Catholic Worker movement ✦ Theologies and biblical reflections emerging from the peace movement and faith-based resistance communities ✦ Gay and lesbian theology ✦ Jewish renewal
Jesus Radicals is a web-based community of Christians exploring Christian anarchism and a belief that the Gospel rejects militarism, capitalism and the state and promotes a message of justice and love.
A statement found in this site from the site’s admins:
For our nation in which money is readily available for warfare and weapons builders, like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and while the very term security is used synonymously with weapons and military might: not with jobs, universal health care, healthy communities, education, a non-toxic environment, a future, All: We lift up the stones of our arrogance.
... An Aside To The Above BRANDYWINE Comment:
Their “cost of war” [which use to be on the above “Brandywine” site] counter on this site is B.S. by the way. But that is neither here nor there. I will post this short exchange between radio talk show host Michael Medved and a caller to exemplify the “cost of war” misunderstanding that was prominent during the Bush years (see my PAGE on military spending):
Above all, we need to hear more and more about the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. “We are all members, one of another. Where the health of one member suffers, the health of the entire body is lowered.” “An injury to one is an injury to all,” [as] the old I.W.W.’s (The Industrial Workers of the World) used to say. [The IWW — FYI — is a communist/Marxist organization]
In none of the letters sent to us in protest was there recognition of the fact that the writer, Gonzales, was as much opposed in his own way to the Marxist-Leninist position as we ourselves. His position is that of the anarchist, pleading for the principle of subsidiarity, calling for “secular monasticism,” using that expression when speaking to the clergy in order to make them understand the idea of farming communes, or collectives, or cooperative farms.
I.W.W. — The Industrial Workers of the World – http://www.iww.org/ (a socialist/Marxist organization)
→ The I.W.W. was one of the earliest “anarcho-sydicates” of direct action, sabotage, and were distinguished from the rest of the early socialist, Left-Wing movements by their admission of violence to gain the end results. ~ Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee, 1957, 1985; 1st Elephant Paperback Edition, 1989), 17, 22.
Economic justice: ESA, on the whole, promotes an economic theory that once would have been called socialism, but which now, on the basis of historical considerations and semantic charity, is usually referred to as “democratic capitalism.” ESA describes itself as “pro-poor,” which means, in practical terms, that government-directed flow of capital is a necessary condition of economic justice. “Economic justice” is itself considered to be more a matter of equal distribution than fair return. Some argue that, over the past few years, Sider has drifted more towards the right. He certainly speaks with approval of “market economies,” but remains, with ESA and its partners, wary of “free market economies.”
Environmental protection: ESA is the source and current partner of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), which has recently become famous for its “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign. Basically, ESA’s position on the environment is: (1) The earth’s resources are running out, which entails the need for major lifestyle changes for (primarily) Western nations and (primarily) middle and upper class individuals. (2) The profligacy and abuses of (the rich people in) the West have contributed mightily to the instability of the global environment (e.g., “global warming”); hence, major changes are in order. ….
The situation in Guantanamo is desperate. Over 100 prisoners are on hunger strike, and the strike just passed its 150th day this week (also the beginning of Ramadan). 45 are being forcibly fed by tubes snaked through their noses. And all this under the backdrop of indefinite detention, folks who have been waiting for trials for over 10 years and over half of whom have been cleared for release but remain trapped in the nightmare.
A growing number of folks are feeling the urgency — many are on solidarity fasts, and recently Mos Def underwent a forced feeding to demonstrate its horror. Some of us are exploring a possible delegation to Guantanamo, others will be at a vigil at the White Houseon Monday. Track the developments here: www.witnesstorture.org.
Obviously one can see the extreme political nature of this book and how it rejects history for one superimposed by Chomsky and Zinn, as well as in Shane’s continued commentary on the world around him. Lit-sen Chang many years ago foresaw this radical nature of the current emergent movement, as, it incorporates an old lie:
As Dr. Carl F. H. Henry pointed out: “The Chicago evangelicals, while seeking to overcome the polarization of concern in terms of personal evangelism or social ethics, also transcended the neoProtestant nullification of the Great Commission.” “The Chicago Declaration did not leap from a vision of social utopia to legislation specifics, but concentrated first on biblical priorities for social change.” “The Chicago evangelicals did not ignore transcendent aspects of God’s Kingdom, nor did they turn the recognition of these elements into a rationalization of a theology of revolutionary violence or of pacifistic neutrality in the face of blatant militarist aggression.” (Cf. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, “Evangelical Social Concern” Christianity Today, March 1, 1974.) The evangelical social concern is transcendental not merely horizontal.
We must make it clear that the true revolutionaries are different from the frauds who “deal only with surface phenomena. They seek to remove a deep-seated tumor from society by applying a plaster to the surface. The world’s deepest need today is not something that merely dulls the pain, but something that goes deep in order to change the basic unity of society, man himself. Only when men individually have experienced a change and reorientation, can society be redirected in the way it should go. This we cannot accomplish by either violence or legislation” (cf. Reid: op. cit.). Social actions, without a vertical and transcendental relation with God only create horizontal anxieties and perplexities!
Furthermore, the social activists are in fact ignorant of the social issues, they are not experts in the social sciences. They simply demand an immediate change or destruction of the social structures, but provide no blueprint of the new society whatsoever! They can be likened to the fool, as a Chinese story tells, who tried to help the plant grow faster by pulling it higher. Of course such “action” only caused the plant to wither and die. This is exactly what the social radicals are doing now! And the W.C.C. is supporting such a tragic course!
We must challenge them [secular social activists] to discern the difference between the true repentance and “social repentance.” The Bible says: “For the godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret; but worldly grief produces death” (II Cor. 7:10). This was the bitter experiences of many former Russian Marxists, who, after their conversion to Christ came to understand that they had only a sort of “social repentance”—a sense of guilt before the peasant and the proletariat, but not before God. They admitted that “A Russian (Marxist) intellectual as an individual is often a mild and loving creature, but his creed (Marxism) constrains him to hate” (cf. Nicolas Zernov: The Russian Religious Renaissance). “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one…. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10,23). A complete change of a society must come from man himself, for basically man is at enmity with God. All humanistic social, economic and political systems are but “cut flowers,” as Dr. Trueblood put it, even the best are only dim reflections of the Glory of the Kingdom of God. As Benjamin Franklin in his famous address to the Constitutional Convention, said, “Without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.” Without reconciliation with God, there is no reconciliation with man. Social action is not evangelism; political liberation is not salvation. While we shall by all means have deep concern on social issues; nevertheless, social activism shall never be a substitution for the Gospel.
Lit-sen Chang, The True Gospel vs. Social Activism, (booklet. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co: 1976), 9.
There seems to be a correlation as well in Shane’s book that some are saved because of their works. He mentions in this light, Mother Teresa. I do not know ultimately if Mother Teresa was truly saved or not… only God knows this… that being said, I can say that if Mother Theresa believed the following…
Among the all-too-accessible examples that could be cited, consider the following excerpts (chosen because they are representative of the genre, not because they are outstandingly bad) from Novena Prayers in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, a booklet published by the Sisters of St. Basil with official church approval (Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur):
Have pity, compassionate Mother, on us and our families; especially in this my necessity (here mention it). Help me, 0 my Mother, in my distress; deliver me from all my ills; or if it be the will of God that I should suffer still longer, grant that I may endure all with love and patience. This grace I expect of thee with confidence, because thou art our Perpetual Help (p. 5).
We have no greater help,
no greater hope than you,
O Most Pure Virgin; help us, then,
for we hope in you, we glory in you,
we are your servants.
Do not disappoint us (p. 16).
Come to my aid, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation, and to thee I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou art more powerful than all hell together; not even from Jesus, my Judge, because by one prayer from thee, He will be appeased. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation, I may through negligence fail to have recourse to thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, therefore, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace to have recourse to thee, 0 Mother of Perpetual Help (p. 19).
Elliot Miller and Keneth R. Samples, The Cult of the Virgin: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Mary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books/Academic, 1992), 57. An astute reader pointed out that the above actually comes from an Eastern Orthodox liturgy officially authorized for use by the Catholic Church.
…No matter what her good works are or would be, this dedication to other than Christ clearly — according to Scripture — negates the adherent from salvation. There is good evidence that this Marion worship was employed in Mother Teresa’s faith. Shane also talks of and quotes Gandhi approvingly, which seems odd. Odd because Gandhi was a racist and ordered, in racially tainted radio broadcasts, his followers to kill Zulu’s (blacks). Gandhi only used “peaceful” protests with the British because militarily India could not cope with the British and Gandhi was a good politician first and knew where to draw his lines and which strings to pull.
I wish I could say differently, but the book is just bad from beginning to end. Noteworthy as well is that it is not a proper resource for a church to use, at least a church that claims conservative Evangelical mores. Obviously no book is COMPLETELY bad, and there are noble points in it… I mean who wouldn’t want to stamp out poverty worldwide and stop all wars as Shane says? The question for me is: How has this worked in real life? Shane makes a myriad of claims about war and poverty that do not fit reality, but, rather, are closer to some make believe candy-land Utopian dream. To wit I wish to debunk some of Shane’s thinking:
Again, Shane exudes noble ideas in the book. Who could argue the goals? They just may not be very realistic, that’s all. On pages 123-124 you find a portion of what Shane’s “ministry” does on “an average day”:
“We are about ending poverty, not simply managing it. We give people fish. We teach them to fish. We tear down the walls that have been built up around the fish pond. And we figure out who polluted it. We fight terrorism — the terrorism within each of us, the terrorism of corporate greed, of American consumerism, of war…. We spend our lives actively resisting everything that destroys life, whether that be terrorism or the war on terrorism. We try to make the world safe, knowing that the world will never be safe as long as millions live in poverty so the few can live as they wish. We believe in another way of life — the kingdom of God — which stands in opposition to the principalities, powers, and rulers of this dark world.”
Unfortunately, this “kingdom now theology” that so infects the Word-Faith Movement and the name it and claim it gospel, also infects the eschatology of the extreme theological Left. Both theologies have the view that Shane enumerates when he encourages us to “take courage, as you will then have more grace as you liberate others” (p. 32). I am sorry, no person can liberate me, they and I are fallen and cannot liberate even ourselves. A great example of this egalitarianism:
“When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, Loneliness, despair, death, slaughter — they are all hell on earth. Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.”
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2005), 148.
Obviously the political and theological tome of this book is very charged, to say the least. (If you need to understand more of my reasoning, or have questions about this post I will be more than happy to talk to you — my email is in my bio section.) As a Mennonite group of churches points out as well, not only is the book politically charged, but missing anything to do with the Gospel. In writing a reason why nine Mennonite churches were withholding their kids from an event that included Shane Claiborne, the The Mennonite Brethren Network mentions the following:
…“[Mother Teresa] seemed to be giving the gospel a pretty good shot … .”
Did Mother Teresa relate the gospel of repentance and grace through faith alone to those dying, or did she only love? Claiborne wrote nothing about the lepers’ repentance and faith in Christ. Mother Teresa’s own writings testify that she did not try to convert people.
Furthermore, Claiborne’s teachings about the poor go beyond the meaning of Scripture, implying that God is mystically present in them and that his death on the cross was intended to improve poor peoples’ lives:
“Jesus was crucified … for joining [poor people].”
“People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order.”
“… when the curtain of the temple was torn open as Jesus died on the cross. Not only was God redeeming that which was profane but God was setting all that was sacred free. Now God dwelled not behind the veil in the temple but in the eyes of the dying and the poor …”
“As I looked into the eyes of the dying, I felt like I was meeting God.”
Is this possible without their repentance and faith in Christ, which are absent from Claiborne’s accounts? No.
Shane Claiborne also showed universalist tendencies when he interviewed Tony Campolo about the Muslim faith:
Campolo: [regarding Muslims] And to speak to each other with a sense that even if people don’t convert, they are God’s people , God loves them, and we do not make the judgment of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell … I think that what we all have to do is leave judgment up to God.
Claiborne: That seems like a healthy distinction—between converting and condemning. One of the barriers seems to be the assumption that we have the truth and folks who experience things differently will all go to Hell …
Claiborne: You also note in your book the encounter of Francis of Assisi and the Muslim Sultan …they came together across major religious divides and had a mystical unity … Maybe we will even find a mystical union of the Spirit as Francis did.
One thing that pained me deeply was the approval of particular authors either through word-of-mouth when speaking to pastors or pastoral desks adorned with these writers. Here is one excerpt from one of these authors that a pastor couldn’t see an issue with that gave me pause about the rest of their ministry:
When the boundaries between God-ordained practices and pagan practices are erased, as is the case in the Emergent Church, then it makes sense to find practices that are attractive to people in the surrounding culture. One such practice is Yoga. Although Yoga is a Hindu practice and intimately related to various Hindu deities, some Christians have begun to bring this pagan practice into the Church. Some claim that they have removed any religious content and are merely using Yoga positions for exercise. But this is wrong and dangerous. In the case of Pagitt’s church, Solomon’s Porch, Yoga clearly is not merely “exercise.”
Pagitt’s book, Church Re-imagined, contains a description of the church’s weekly yoga class written by the woman who leads it. She states, “We aren’t here for a hardcore physical workout as much as the chance to be together, to breathe, to relax, and to bring ourselves to a place of peace and gratitude.” The process includes having the students regulate their breathing. They also use different poses each week: “These vary from week to week, but Downward Facing Dog is a must.” The poses and breathing are designed to do something to their inner state: “This [that the chit-chat has stopped] tells me that tension has been released from the muscles, inner chatter has moved out of the brain, and self-awareness and peacefulness have settled in.”
The yoga instructor gives a more detailed description of the last pose:
Our last pose of the evening is called “savasana”… or corpse pose. The student lies on her back letting the legs fall open as they will, the arms hang limp like empty coat sleeves. The face, the forehead, the space between the eyebrows all relax, and the person melts heavily into the floor. Eyes are closed, breathing is rhythmic. I turn the lights off, and only the glow of candles and sometimes fireplace illuminates the room. This state of being is holy. It is at this time that we become closer to God, aware of our bodies, of the divine.
Clearly, her claim is that yoga is a means to become holy and draw near to God. A corollary to this claim is that humans have a right to determine their own path to God. The Bible makes it clear that we must come to God on His terms only, not ours! It is one thing to claim the right to use practices of other religions in a non-religious way (which I believe has no place in the church), but it is egregious to claim that practices from pagan religions can make us holy and closer to God.
Bob Dewaay, The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity (2009), 128-130 (quote within the quote taken from Pagitt’s book, Church Re-Imaged).
You see, when you forgo the plum-line of Scripture and include practice as your truth… problems tend to follow. As I was looking for new churches, I started to attend what was billed as a conservative Reformational/Bible based church. At this church I was attending to find a new home church I was in conversation with an elder/assistant pastor when I mentioned Thomas Merton, to which he replied he loved Merton! Not only that but that a class he was taking at Talbot was using a Merton “biography” (of sorts) in class. He then said he didn’t see anything wrong with the book or Merton. So, I purchased the book and read it.
And this is the current state of the church apparently, not discerning enough on important doctrinal areas, and making some issues that are in house debates front-and-center.
There was a gentleman, who I am still friends with from North Park (the church I left) who contacted me, this is our conversation on FaceBook that included a couple of people:
Part of Convo One:
ME: Thanks you two for the support. …. It wasn’t the “big building,” it was the book that speaks out against churches like North Park:
1. If we have parishioners who follow the advice in the writings of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, and the like (passed on by our pastors in some way), they will leave our church due to its “suburban” nature. (pp. 62, 84, 163 of Shane’s book [as examples])
2. If our parishioners reject the emerging ethos as aberrant, then as they discuss the matter with some of our pastors, they will possibly find a church that takes a firmer stance on this up-and-coming issue within the historic faith.
Shane is also very antithetical to police (p. 122), anti-military (pp. 95-96, 122-123), and teaches a “kingdom now theology” (pp. 62, 87), calls for overthrowing a particular social order using Marxist/Leninist speak (p. 129), and the like. Pretty wild stuff even beyond the Richard Foster discussion we had.
TRAV: Thomas Watson said it better than I ever could, he said, “Toleration is the grave of reformation. By toleration we adopt other men’s sins, and make them our own”…
ME: Can I tell you that that quote hit the spot, let me explain why. On page 152 of Shane’s book we read this: “People are poor not just because of their sins, they are poor because of our sins…” Again, some of what Shane writes is true. Throughout his book he shifts blame off of the person and their position with their savior and puts the blame on corporations, the rich, the privileged white-person, the police, etc. The class warfare language is immense in this political tome [see video below]. On page 124 he equates poverty with violence (“…knowing the world will never be safe as long as millions live in poverty…”). Newsflash, many of the persons committing the most heinous crimes today (Islamo-Fascists) are rich and have had privileged education. He doesn’t make sense. [At the same time Shane negates man’s nature and the purpose for missionaries work. It is for the unsaved person ultimately to have “Life more abundantly,” which means salvation.]
Poverty exists mainly because of corrupt governments (mainly revolutionary governments) and often times because of pacifists standing in the way of liberating millions of people by force do they remain in abject poverty (like the UN). So Shane’s “sin of pacifism” inflicts more poverty and death on cultures than do the liberating forces that try to let people govern themselves (like in Iraq and Afghanistan).
Another friend mentioned that this should be handled in a more private manner I mentioned in parts the following:
Part of Convo Two:
ME: Kev, you said,
“I think you also know the leadership of NP would NEVER consciously ‘promote’ this nonsense.”
I am sorry to inform you to the contrary. Ping-pong and softball at the men’s retreat and talking about which NFL team is up that week and giving the shoulder-to-shoulder “dude hugs” may not bring out these topics, but I tend to. Where is the sound exegetic doctrine? This isn’t about “giving your testimony” versus “an apologetic,” or “pre” and “post” tribulation positions. This is about many in leadership implicitly supporting heretical views and a couple explicitly teaching it. Being “young in their theology” (as told to me during a convo with _________ means they shouldn’t be in the positions they are.
This just isn’t a disagreement between brothers, it is many positions in a fine church being filled with people who teach or do not understand what heresy is. The pulpit (the main one, the college groups, or [any other position in any church]) are not places for experimental theology and aberrant Christian beliefs and practices… Rob Bell teaches a different Christ, Richard Foster teaches paganism/occultism, Shane Claiborne teaches Marxist/Leninist ideals and “Revolutionary Christ” (see above), Doug Pagitt teaches post-modern relativistic Gospel, Brian McLaren and psychologist David G. Benner do not think we have gotten the Gospel right yet, Thomas Merton was a Buddhist, Henry Nouwen was a homosexual Catholic/Buddhist mystic. For leaders not to know the dangers of recommending, teaching from, or following such “theology” is not something that needs to be brought before two or three brothers. These are “other than Gospel/Christian” theologies that are being injected into a once fine church by a non-existent vetting process (too much grace, no truth). Its like Obama’s Cabinet and tax issues! So my warning may throw some, but as they travel with this church… keywords like Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Richard Foster, Shane Claiborne will hopefully be etched in their minds.
Before we make it to my old “Afterward, I left all this up (above and below) because it is and has been a great help to those seeking a healthy-well balanced church in our Valley, as well as providing others who are in need of some resources to better respond to this nonsense in their home church. So I am both happy that this has been a good resource for some, but sad I even had to write it. Take note that both Pastor Dave and I agree on the facts of the case… but acting on and believing the facts are two entirely different things.
There was a final meeting between myself and pastor Dave White of NorthPark Community Church. After this meeting I wrote a caveat that I have not rejoined North-Park. The church has continued its slow decent away from doctrine and closer to unhealthy relationships.
This armful of books given to me by pastor Bob Hudson had a very universalist stint to them. Here is an excerpt from my book where I discuss this aspect a bit more:
In a Christianity Today article, Brian McLaren is quoted as saying that he does not “think we’ve got the gospel right yet…. I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.”  Agreeing apparently with Brian McLaren that we have yet to get the gospel right is David G. Benner, who says that the “spiritual climate is ripe… [for]… Jesus seekers across the world are being prepared to abandon the old way of the written code for the new way of the Spirit. Paul told us long ago we’ve been freed by the gospel to live a new way, but we’ve not known what it is or how to do it.”
McLaren says we do not have the Gospel right yet… Benner says we do not have it right either, yet, we should look to Eastern mysticism to get it correct? I don’t think so. Not only do these authors deny that the Gospel has been known or lived in the past, they teach that orthodoxy has yet to be formulated. Yet in a self-refuting manner they seem to accept universalism as an orthodox doctrine. Universalism is the idea that every “act of worship is accepted by the divine regardless of the theological cloak in which it is hidden[,] since all persons posses divinity within, all deserve the love of the Supreme.” This universalism is pointed out in an excellent book entitled, Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church:
The gospel, according to the emergent thinkers, is not about individual conversation. It is not about how people get “in.” It is about “how the world will be saved from human sin and all that goes with it….” This sounds close to the mark until we examine more thoroughly what is meant by the terminology. Their concept of “world” does not simply involve humans who don’t believe in Christ. The emergent gospel is not just bringing unbelievers to the Savior for the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of God’s righteousness. There is more, as Rob Bell informs us:
✦ Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with is maker. This has huge implications for how people present the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can come into our hearts. But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems. God’s desire is to restore all of it.
McLaren continues the thought: “Is getting individual souls into heaven the focal point of the gospel?” I’d have to say no, for any number of reasons. Don’t you think that God is concerned about saving the whole world?… It is the redemption of the world, the stars, the animals, the planets, the whole show.”According to McLaren, “The church exists for the world – to be God’s catalyst so that the world can receive and enter God’s kingdom more and more.”
When asked to define the gospel, Neo (the main philosophical character in McLaren’s novels) replies that it could not be reduced to a little formula, other than “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Narrowing this definition is not easy, but McLaren gives some insight when he writes,
✦ I am a Christian because I believe that, in all these ways, Jesus is saving the world. By the “world” I mean planet Earth and all life on it, because left to ourselves, un-judged, un-forgiven, and un-taught, we will certainly destroy this planet and its residents.
In Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones’ book, The Emergent Manifesto of Hope, we find an emphasis on this universalism:
In summary, we give the following statement of our understanding about the widening scope of salvation:
Not only soul, whole body!
Not only whole body, all of the faithful community!
Not only all of the faithful community, all of humanity!
Not only all of humanity, all of God’s creation!
Tony Jones, an emergent leader, wrote on his blog Theoblogy, about the depths in which this movement will go in order to change or challenge sacred doctrine:
Anyway, my point in all this is that the doctrine of the Trinity is still on the table. Some people, it seems to me, would like for us to no longer debate certain “sacred” doctrines — the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the nature of scripture, the nature of marriage etc. And these persons tend to get very jumpy when emergent-types discuss these sacrae doctrinae, especially in books and at conferences that are being taped. “This is dangerous,” they say.
Yes, the Trinity is being questioned. Instead of pointing to men like Merton, Yancey, and Meister Eckhart, maybe these authors/pastors should start providing answers to their parishioner’s questions rather than asking them to question history and doctrine, ad infinitum. Rob Bell joins this bashing… sorry… questioning the doctrine of the Trinity:
This three-in-oneness understanding of God emerged several hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection. People began to call this concept the Trinity. The word trinity is not found anywhere in the Bible. Jesus didn’t use the word, and the writers of the rest of the Bible didn’t use the word. But over time this belief, this understanding, this doctrine, has become central to how followers of Jesus have understood who God is. It is a spring, and people jumped for thousands of years without it. It was added later. We can take it out and examine it. Discuss it, probe it, question it. It flexes, and it stretches.
 While these authors and pastors try not to be labeled as “liberal,” that is exactly what they are. In an interview with Rob Bell (audio of which can be found at Fighting for the Faith… right around forty minutes into the program) where he is praising the TNIV — a gender neutered Bible — Rob himself says he is in the middle of the progressive movement: “My name is Rob Bell, I’m a pastor in Grand Rapids Michigan, the epicenter of progressive culture.”
This can also be found as well under iTunes free podcasts under Fighting for the Faith, dated at 9-1-09, the podcast is titled, “What is Rob Bell Going To Do Now That The TNIV is Going to Be Discontinued?” One of the founders of the emergent movement, Mark Driscoll notes as much as well:
Emergent liberals range from those on the theological fringe of orthodoxy to those caught up in heresy that critiques key evangelical doctrines, such as the Bible as authoritative divine revelation; God as Trinity; the sinfulness of human nature; the deity of Jesus Christ; Jesus’ death in our place to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross; the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation; the sinfulness of homosexuality and other sex outside of heterosexual marriage; and the conscious, eternal torments of hell. Some emerging house churches are also emergent liberal in their doctrine. Emergent liberals are networked by organizations such as the Emergent Village, which is led by author and theologian Tony Jones (Jones is no longer a youth pastor but is involved at Doug Pagitt‘s church), along with other prominent emergent leaders such as Pagitt, Karen Ward, and Tim Keel. The most visible emergent liberal leaders are Brian McLaren and Rob Bell. Emergent liberals are commonly critiqued as those who are merely recycling the liberal doctrinal debates of a previous generation without seeing significant conversion growth; they are merely gathering disgruntled Christians and people intrigued by false doctrine. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, offers this critique:
✦ When it comes to issues such as the exclusivity of the gospel, the identity of Jesus Christ as both fully human and fully divine, the authoritative character of Scripture as written revelation, and the clear teachings of Scripture concerning issues such as homosexuality, this [emergent liberal] movement simply refuses to answer the questions.”
Religion Saves + Nine Other Misconceptions, 217.
 Andy Crouch, “Emergent Mystique,” 37-38.
 A caveat here: if he does not think liberals have it right, and then says he does not have it right either… is he then saying he is on the conservative side of the issue? If he is on the right, then where does that leave people like D. A. Carson, Millard Erickson, or myself? I guess I do not fit within what he considers orthodox… maybe we’re “fascists” of sorts?
 David G. Benner, Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 9 (emphasis added).
 David K. Clark and Norman L. Geisler, Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), 70-71.
 Gary L. W. Johnson and Ronald N. Gleason, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 285.
 Brian McLaren, The Last Word After That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005), 69.
 Bell, Velvet Elvis, 109-110.
 A humorous aside: could you imagine bickering back-and-forth with God if Job co-opted everything God created? As God would point out how small Job was in comparison to His creation, Job would respond, “no, I am part of this wide and big universe, I am not tiny! I am bigger, in fact, than that Behemoth you just showed me.”
 Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2001), 184.
 Ibid., 121.
 Ibid., 151.
 Brian Mclaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2004), 106.
 Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 82-83 (emphasis added).