Biola University Continues It’s Slip Into Eastern Metaphysics (Updated)

(Originally Posted June 2013)

“Fr. Thomas Keating teaches on centering prayer who tells us contemplative prayer is a way of tuning into a fuller level of reality that is always present …”(Open mind, Open heart p.37). He explains “My acquaintance with eastern methods of meditation has convinced me that … there are ways of calming the mind in the spiritual disciplines of both the east and the west … Many serious seekers of truth study the eastern religions, …”What he is promoting is the concept of God permeating the air as prana.” (Lighthouse Trails)

Over the years I have noticed that Biola is going down a road that is based not in Christ, but in Eastern philosophy. For instance, my first encounter wit this came from an assistant pastor at a church in my town. When I was talking about how contemplative prayer came to our current faith (India, Alexandria, the Desert fathers, Thomas Merton, and then Keating/Nouwen/Foster, and the like), this pastor was shocked, and recommended a book he was studying in a class at Biola entitled, “A Seven Day Journey with Thomas Merton.” In it you have the christian faith laid into the matrix of Buddhist thought. Over the years since this jaw-dropping encounter with a pastor from a “Biblically conservative” church not seeing any problem with the book HE recommended to me, I have become more interested in where Biola was heading. And over the years they seem to put a stamp of approval on things un-Biblical. The most recent being a video presentation on Biola’s YouTube by Phileena Heuertz. She gave a presentation on, you guessed it, contemplative prayer.

In a question directed at Mrs. Heuertz elsewhere, Janice Kraus asks:

  • “I am trying to learn more about ‘Who I am’ and starting to use Mediation for purpose of changing my ways of thinking : Do you have any links for this and How can I find out who am I?”

Mrs. Heuertz responds:

  • dear janice, thanks for your honesty. i think we will all spend the rest of our life learning more about who we are. if you like to read, i recommend books by Henri Nouwen, Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr to support your journey. you can also check out my website at www.phileena.com for a list of recommended books and various blog posts that may assist you. ~be well. breath deep.

This response alone is telling. As is her recommended reading list from her site, it is a who’s who of New Age influence and Eastern metaphysics in the guise of Christianese. For instance, let’s deal JUST with Henri Nouwen whom she recommended above, and I wish to quote from my chapter on this topic, IN WHICH I quote from David Cloud’s book (pp. 317-321), Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond (Port Huron, MI: Way of Life Literature, 2008). It touches on a few other characters as well in Phileena’s reading list, like Sue Monk Kidd, but Nouwen’s alignment not with the Good News, but with Eastern metaphysics becomes clear:


QUOTE


Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Roman Catholic priest who taught at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Notre Dame. Nouwen has had a vast influence within the emerging church and evangelicalism at large through his writings, and he has been an influential voice within the contemplative movement. A Christian Century magazine survey conducted in 2003 found that Nouwen’s writings were a first choice for Catholic and mainline Protestant clergy….

Nouwen did not instruct his readers that one must be born again through repentance and personal faith in Jesus Christ in order to commune with God. The book With Open Hands, for example, instructs readers to open themselves up to God and surrender to the flow of life, believing that God loves them unconditionally and is leading them. This is blind faith.

“When we pray, we are standing with our hands open to the world. We know that God will become known to us in the nature around us, in people we meet, and in situations we run into. We trust that the world holds God’s secret within and we expect that secret to be shown to us” (With Open Hands, 2006, p. 47).

Nouwen did not instruct his readers to beware of false spirits and to test everything by the Scriptures. He taught them, rather, to trust that God is leading in and through all things and that they should “test” things by their own “vision.” Nouwen claimed that contemplative meditation is necessary for an intimacy with God:

“I do not believe anyone can ever become a deep person without stillness and silence” (quoted by Chuck Swindoll, So You Want to Be Like Christ, p. 65).

He taught that the use of a mantra could take the practitioner into God’s  presence.

...Nouwen's Last Book

At the end of his life, in the last book he ever wrote (Sabbatical Journey), Henri Nouwen said the following:

  • Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.

Even though such a statement does not at all fit within biblical Christianity, and in essence denies the very foundation of Christ’s work on the Cross, Henri Nouwen is touted as a great spiritual figure by countless Christian leaders, pastors, seminary professors, etc.

(A response from the editor at Lighthouse Trails)

“The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart … This way of simple prayer … opens us to God’s active presence” (The Way of the Heart, p. 81).

He said that mysticism and contemplative prayer can create ecumenical unity because Christian leaders learn to hear “the voice of love”:

“Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love. … For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required” (In the Name of Jesus, pp. 6, 31, 32).

In fact, if Christians are listening to the voice of the true and living God, they will learn that love is obedience to the Scriptures. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).

Nouwen, like Thomas Merton and many other Catholic contemplatives, combined the teaching of eastern gurus with ancient Catholic practices. In his book Pray to Live Nouwen describes approvingly Merton’s heavy involvement with Hindu monks (pp. 19-28).

In his foreword to Thomas Ryan’s book Disciplines for Christian Living, Nouwen says:

“[T]he author shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Moslem religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian and does not hesitate to bring that wisdom home” (Disciplines for Christian Living, p. 2).

Nouwen taught a form of universalism and panentheism (God is in all things).

  • “The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being” (Here and Now, p. 22).
  • “Prayer is ‘soul work’ because our souls are those sacred centers WHERE ALL IS ONE … It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realization of THE UNITY OF ALL THAT IS” (Bread for the Journey, 1997, Jan. 15 and Nov. 16).

He claimed that every person who believes in a higher power and follows his or her vision of the future is of God and is building God’s kingdom:

  • “We can see the visionary in the guerilla fighter, in the youth with the demonstration sign, in the quiet dreamer in the corner of a cafe, in the soft-spoken monk, in the meek student, in the mother who lets her son go his own way, in the father who reads to his child from a strange book, in the smile of a girl, in the indignation of a worker, and in every person who in one way or another dreams life from a vision which is seen shining ahead and which surpasses everything ever heard or seen before” (With Open Hands, p. 113).
  • “Praying means breaking through the veil of existence and allowing yourself to be led by the vision which has become real to you. Whether we call that vision ‘the Unseen Reality,’ ‘the total Other,’ ‘the Spirit,’ or ‘the Father,’ we repeatedly assert that it is not we ourselves who possess the power to make the new creation come to pass. It is rather a spiritual power which has been given to us and which empowers us to be in the world without being of it” (p. 114).

The radical extent of Nouwen’s universalism is evident by the fact that the second edition of With Open Hands has a foreword by Sue Monk Kidd. She is a New Ager who promotes worship of the goddess! Her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine was published in 1996, a decade before she was asked to write the foreword to Nouwen’s book on contemplative prayer. Monk Kidd worships herself.

  • “Today I remember that event for the radiant mystery it was, how I felt myself embraced by Goddess, how I felt myself in touch with the deepest thing I am. It was the moment when, as playwright and poet Ntozake Shange put it, ‘I found god in myself/ and I loved her/ I loved her fiercely (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 136).
  • “Over the altar in my study I hung a lovely mirror sculpted in the shape of a crescent moon. It reminded me to honor the Divine Feminine presence in myself, the wisdom in my own soul” (p. 181).

Sue Monk Kidd’s journey from the traditional Baptist faith (as a Sunday School teacher in a Southern Baptist congregation) to goddess worship began when she started delving into Catholic contemplative spirituality, practicing centering prayer and attending Catholic retreats.

Nouwen taught that God is only love, unconditional love.

“Don’t  be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, and disappointment to the One who is love and only love. … [Pray] `Dear God, … what you want to give me is love–unconditional, everlasting love”’ (With Open Hands, pp. 24, 27).

In fact, God’s love is not unconditional. It is unfathomable but not unconditional. Though God loves all men and Christ died to make it possible for all to be saved, there is a condition for receiving God’s love and that is acknowledging and repenting of one’s sinfulness and receiving Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Saviour.

Further, God is not only love; He is also holy and just and light and truth. This is what makes the cross of Jesus Christ necessary. An acceptable atonement had to be made for God’s broken law.

In his last book Nouwen said:

“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God” (Sabbatical Journey, New York: Crossroad, 1998, p. 51).


UNQUOTE


This radical rejection of the major tenants of the Christian Worldview, and acceptance of major tenants within Eastern metaphysics causes all sorts of interpretive problems for Phileena. Take for instance her understanding of the clear thesis/antithesis Jesus sets up in comparing His mission and how the world should understand the absolute worldview entwined in that mission. Here is a great Commentary on these words spoken of in Matthew 7:13:

Enter ye in at the strait gate,…. By the “strait gate” is meant Christ himself; who elsewhere calls himself “the door”, John 10:7 as he is into the church below, and into all the ordinances and privileges of it; as also to the Father, by whom we have access unto him, and are let into communion with him, and a participation of all the blessings of grace; yea, he is the gate of heaven, through which we have boldness to enter into the holiest of all by faith and hope now; as there will be hereafter an abundant entrance into the kingdom and glory of God, through his blood and righteousness. This is called “strait”; because faith in Christ, a profession of it, and a life and conversation agreeable to it, are attended with many afflictions, temptations, reproaches, and persecutions. “Entering” in at it is by faith, and making a profession of it: hence it follows, that faith is not the gate itself, but the grace, by which men enter in at the right door, and walk on in Christ, as they begin with him. (Source)

Here is how Phileena sees it, and it is more about her and her experience than about Jesus and the source for grace:

What makes this personalizing Jesus’ message all-the-more odd is that in reality Phileena believes in some form of universalism — and we know this by the authors and people whom she recommends as well as posting a video of Thomas Keating recently (a small portion of which is below, right) on her front-page of her blog. Making one wonder how universalism is now understood as the narrow way? For instance, let us now deal with Thomas Keating’s universalism:

A KUNDALINI BREAK

This short video sample is from Chapter 6 and Chapter 8 of our video, The Submerging Church. It goes into how the Emergent Church are bringing the Contemplative Prayer, Mysticism and New Age practices into the church.


QUOTE


…Keating combines contemplative practices with humanistic psychology, eastern religion, and New Age, and he has been deeply influenced by his pagan associations.

He believes that man has a “false self” built up through one’s life experiences and this false self is filled with guilt because of a false sense of sin and separation from God. The guilt supposedly is not real and the false self is “an illusion.” The objective of contemplative techniques is to reach beyond this false self to the true self that is sinless and guiltless and already in union with God.

This is a universalistic doctrine that denies the fall and salvation through faith in the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

Keating says:

“As we evolve toward self-identity and full self-consciousness, so grows the sense of responsibility, and hence guilt, and so grows the sense of alienation from the true self which has long ago been forgotten in the course of the early growth period. This whole process of growth normally takes place without the inner experience of the divine presence. That is the crucial source of the false self. … THERE’S NOTHING BASICALLY WRONG WITH YOU, it’s just that YOUR BASIC GOODNESS has been overlaid by emotional programs for happiness which are aimed at things other than the ultimate happiness which is your relationship with God” (Keating interview with Kate Olson, “Centering Prayer as Divine Therapy,” Trinity News, Trinity Church in the City, New York City, volume 42, issue 4, 1995).

Keating describes thoughtless meditative prayer in Hindu terms as being united with God in a mindless experience.

“Contemplative prayer is the opening of mind and heart, our whole being, to God, the Ultimate Mystery, BEYOND THOUGHTS, WORDS, AND EMOTIONS. It is a process of interior purification THAT LEADS, IF WE CONSENT, TO DIVINE UNION” (Keating interview with Kate Olson, “Centering Prayer as Divine Therapy,” Trinity News, Trinity Church in the City, New York City, volume 42, issue 4, 1995).

Keating describes centering prayer is “a journey into the unknown” (Open Mind, Open Heart, p. 72).

Keating wrote the foreword to Philip St. Romain’s strange and very dangerous book Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality (1990). Keating says, “Kundalini is an enormous energy for good,” but also admits that it can be harmful….

….He recommends that kundalini “be directed by the Holy Spirit.” He postulates that the meditative prayer practices of Catholic mystics such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross might have been associated with kundalini energy. Keating concludes by saying: “This book will initiate Christians on the spiritual journey into this important but long neglected dimension of the transforming power of grace.”

Kundalini is a Hindu concept that there is powerful form of psychic energy at the base of the spine that can be “awakened.” It is called the serpent, is purely occultic, and has resulted in many demonic manifestations.

[….]

Keating and the Snowmass Conference published eight “Guidelines for Interreligious Understanding,” including the following.

✦ The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate reality to which they give various names: Brahman, Allah, Absolute, God, Great Spirit.

✦ Ultimate Reality cannot be limited to any name or concept.

✦ The potential for human wholeness–or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transformation, blessedness, nirvana–is present in every human person.

✦ Prayer is communion with Ultimate Reality, whether it is regarded as personal, impersonal or beyond them both

This is blatant universalism, and it is fruit of contemplative spirituality and interfaith dialogue. 

Keating is past president of the Temple of Understanding, founded in 1960 by Juliet Hollister. The mission of this New Age organization is to “create a more just and peaceful world” by achieving “peaceful coexistence among individuals, communities, and societies.” The tools for reaching this objective are interfaith education, dialogue, mystical practices, fostering mutual appreciation and tolerance, and promotion of the contempt of global citizenship. ….


UNQUOTE


This goes a long way to show that Phileena parrots (see right) the universalist line that incorporates Eastern metaphysics into its ethos. And it should be yet ANOTHER wake up call to Biola… the question is, who is listening over there?

In another portion of a video presentation by Phileena, she mentions the types of prayers under contemplative practices, as well as giving a partial history or etymology of the practice. She forgot, however, to include that before the desert mothers and fathers the practice came first through/from India through Alexandria, to these early “mystics.”

Ray Yungen makes this point in his excellent article, “THE DESERT FATHERS – BORROWING FROM THE EAST


QUOTE


….In the early Middle Ages, there lived a group of hermits in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They are known to history as the Desert Fathers. They dwelt in small isolated communities for the purpose of devoting their lives completely to God without distraction. The contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks who promoted the mantra as a prayer tool. One meditation scholar made this connection when he said:

The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East … the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.

Many of the Desert Fathers, in their zeal, were simply seeking God through trial and error. A leading contemplative prayer teacher candidly acknowledged the haphazard way the Desert Fathers acquired their practices:

...Seekers or Finders?

…Thomas Keating who teaches on centering prayer explains, “He is acquainted with eastern methods of meditation …and writes “many serious seekers of truth study the eastern religions,…”

But a Christian is no longer a seeker but a possessor of the truth – when he walks by the word of God and in the Spirit. A believer in Christ does not call himself a spiritual seeker (beginner or seasoned) they have found the truth in Jesus Christ. But this is what the emergent movement is about, they are restless not finding peace in Christ they continue their spiritual journey

(From Let Us Reason ministries)

They took him and brought him to the Areopagus, and said, “May we learn about this new teaching you’re speaking of? For what you say sounds strange to us, and we want to know what these ideas mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new. Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:

  • TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

(Acts 17:19-23)

It was a time of great experimentation with spiritual methods. Many different kinds of disciplines were tried, some of which are too harsh or extreme for people today. Many different methods of prayer were created and explored by them.

Attempting to reach God through occult mystical practices will guarantee disaster. The Desert Fathers of Egypt were located in a particularly dangerous locale at that time to be groping around for innovative approaches to God, because as one theologian pointed out:

[D]evelopment of Christian meditative disciplines should have begun in Egypt because much of the intellectual, philosophical, and theological basis of the practice of meditation in Christianity also comes out of the theology of Hellenic and Roman Egypt. This is significant because it was in Alexandria that Christian theology had the most contact with the various Gnostic speculations which, according to many scholars, have their roots in the East, possibly in India.

Consequently, the Desert Fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere–anything could be utilized to reach God. If a method worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus. A current practitioner and promoter of the Desert Fathers’ mystical prayer still echoes the logical formulations of his mystical ancestors:

In the wider ecumenism of the Spirit being opened for us today, we need to humbly accept the learnings of particular Eastern religions … What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source, but its intent … this is important to remember in the face of those Christians who would try to impoverish our spiritual resources by too narrowly defining them. If we view the human family as one in God’s spirit, then this historical cross-fertilization is not surprising … selective attention to Eastern spiritual practices can be of great assistance to a fully embodied Christian life.

Do you catch the reasoning here? Non-Christian sources, as avenues to spiritual growth, are perfectly legitimate in the Christian life, and if Christians only practice their Christianity based on the Bible, they will actually impoverish their spirituality. This was the thinking of the Desert Fathers. So as a result, we now have contemplative prayer. Jesus addressed this when he warned His disciples: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do.” (Matthew 6:7)

It should be apparent that mantra meditation or sacred word prayer qualifies as “vain repetition” and clearly fits an accurate description of the point Jesus was making. Yet in spite of this, trusted evangelical Christians have often pronounced that Christian mysticism is different from other forms of mysticism (such as Eastern or occult) because it is focused on Jesus Christ….


UNQUOTE


So again, to be clear, Biola is pushing a form of Eastern Metaphysics and universalism onto its student body.

How sad! Where is the adherence to the word and Jesus’ own warnings? Or does experience trump all else in Western Christianity?

The best resource in one-place on this topic is Lighthouse Trails. They have the most books, articles, and media on the matter. Apprising Ministries as well has a in-depth “category” section that helps narrow down topics and people in the movement (right hand column of their site). I recommend also my review of a book used at Biola, as well as my reasons for leaving a church after 12-years of investment (this post is a bit choppy, I apologize). Also, I recommend highly my chapter from my book on the matter as well, it is entitled “Emergen[t]Cy – Investigating Post Modernism In Evangelical Thought.”

UPDATES will appear below here and may include my thoughts to comments made about the above post from FaceBook or elsewhere (I may edit a bit my remarks to make understanding here easier):


UPDATES


M.S. mentioned the following:

  • I am a current student at Biola and have not currently nor ever experienced what this article suggests. That does not mean it does not happen, but I have not witnessed it.

I respond:

I imagine that like in most large universities there is a divide… Like in the apologetics program — I doubt this topic will come up at all, but in the Biblical counseling or psychology type classes I bet this is touched on. In fact, a pastor showed me a book he was using in the classroom there (offered to let me borrow it, I got a used copy instead). He couldn’t see anything wrong with it, so I wrote about all the “wrongs” in it for him: “A Seven Day Journey with Thomas Merton” (http://tinyurl.com/cfalael). The book wasn’t being taught — at Biola — with a critical eye or a discerning spirit… but as wholly acceptable.

Mind you, when I had this discussion I had recently left my church of twelve years for getting elbow deep into the emergent movement. I tried to hang in there for a year, had a few discussions with the pastor, whom I knew and respect still, but the last straw came when the men’s college class started using the book “Irresistible Revolution,” by Shane Claiborne, with a forward by Jim Wallace.

So while I am not on campus at Biola and am not intimate with the vibe… I can tell you that most practices of centering prayer and the like are not founded in solid Biblical practice but as Ken Kaisch (quoted by Ray Yungen — linked in my post) said:

It was a time of great experimentation with spiritual methods. Many different kinds of disciplines were tried, some of which are too harsh or extreme for people today. Many different methods of prayer were created and explored by them.

I went through to my Masters and only encountered it (this emergent influence) in my last semester of Biblical counseling. Until then it was all kosher! Even the mandatory books on the syllabus for the class were fine. But the books recommended at the bottom that were not mandatory but recommended, kicked off my four-year-long study of the issues at hand.

I am glad you haven’t encountered it as of yet ~ The Angels Smile.

But the chapel at Biola didn’t have Phileena in like they would a “Sam Harris” in or “Richard Dawkins,” someone they are clear about being un-Biblical in their view, but want to have a debate, a thesis/antithesis, or a “hey guys, we do not advocate this, but you should know about it”... type “warning.” No, this is pushed as mainstream.

QUESTION [for you] M.S. — I would be curious what your professors think about Richard Foster? Maybe over the next few months just bring him up in general conversation with folks on campus, get a vibe from them… and then message me and we will talk about it. I have noticed Foster is a good dividing line to show if people are really using the Word for doctrine and reproof, the testing of spirits (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 4:1). I would love to hear back from your sociological experiment.

An Updated Dallas Willard Tribute (Critique Expanded)

A fellow bibliophile passes (updated tribute).

….Because Dallas wrote on spiritual formation and taught philosophy at the University of Southern California, one might think he came from a background associated with richness of education and culture and resources. In fact, he grew up in very poor circumstances in rural Missouri. His mother died when he was two; her last words to her husband were: “Keep eternity before the children.”

Because of impoverished conditions, Dallas grew up in a circle of different families; electricity did not come until he was mostly grown up.

He read a book by Jack London once that contained a passage describing the world from an atheistic point of view. Dallas said that he’d never known books could contain such thoughts and ideas, and his mind was never quite the same after that awakening. He was nine years old at the time.

He became an insatiable reader. He attended Tennessee Temple and did graduate work at Baylor before receiving his Ph D in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then teaching for nearly 50 years at USC, where for a time he was director of the philosophy department. His particular area of study was the philosophy of mind and logic, and he is regarded as a leading translator and authority on the work of the German phenomenologist Edmund Husserl. He was, along with scholars like William Alston and Alvin Plantinga, a significant influence in a renaissance of evangelical thinkers in contemporary academic philosophy.

His home, like his mind, was furnished mostly with books. He had a secondary library that occupied a second house; a tertiary library that filled his office at USC. After his diagnosis, a group of us packed up well over 100 boxes of books that only made it to his quaternary library in a nearby garage, books in multiple languages stretching from Homer to the present….

(Christianity Today)

Take note that while a solid believing Christian can glean some practical wisdom and life organizing skills from Dallas Willard… this same Christian should be wary of Dallas’ theological bent. Dallas was off in his theology…he was a UNIVERSALIST in the mold of other Emergent theologians:

The short video (above) gives a critical eye into some thoughts of Dr. Willard, as well as this article by Bob DeWaay. SOLA SISTERS has some good commentary to “garnish the above:

Dallas Willard and popular author John Ortberg have teamed together to create a new product being launched right now called Monvee.  What is Monvee? Monvee, which bills itself as “the future of spiritual formation,” is an online assessment tool that is used to “handcraft” a personalized plan for spiritual development for its participants.  That sounds great, except that there’s a problem.  And that problem, one of them anyway, is Dallas Willard.

Dallas Willard, for those who don’t know him, has been a darling of the evangelical world for years.  He has been a prolific writer in Christendom, churning out very popular books such as The Divine Conspiracy (Christianity Today‘s Book of the Year in 1998), The Spirit of the Disciplines, Hearing God, Renovation of the Heart, and, most recently, The Great Omission.  But Dallas Willard, though he is identified as an evangelical, is anything but orthodox in his views.  In a recent interview, Willard made these shocking statements:

“Now, I believe that everyone who deserves to be saved will be saved no matter where they are or what they do.” 

“(God) is open and in touch with everyone in the world, and for all who seek them with all of their heart—and that is defined in terms of coming to love Him, and not just have the right beliefs about Him—but coming to love Him, and loving their neighbor as themselves.”

And then on Dallas Willard’s own website, he makes this universalist statement:

“I am not going to stand in the way of anyone whom God wants to save. I am not going to say ‘he can’t save them.’ I am happy for God to save anyone he wants in any way he can.  It is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved.”

In these statements, Dallas Willard – a professing Christian, might I remind you – is making the classic argument put forward by all skeptics who don’t want to believe Jesus when Jesus said these words: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father but by me.”  And that argument is this: what about the “good Buddhist” or the “good atheist?” I know that it feels good and more loving to think that God will save people, who to our eyes anyway, appear to be good, decent, moral people.  Our error comes when we view this problem with human eyes, and not with God’s eyes.  More importantly, we use our own standards for “good” to gauge a person’s “goodness” or “worthiness” rather than God’s holy standard.

[….]

So my final question is, if Dallas Willard is a Universalist, as it appears to me, where does that leave John Ortberg, his partner and co-creator of Monvee?  And what does that make Monvee…..a good thing or a bad thing?  We’ll look at that in more detail in an upcoming post.

The following [long] audios comes by way of Chris Rosbrough from PIRATE CHRISTIAN RADIO. They are — again — long, and allow the astute listener some insights into where the late Dr. Willard may have been missing the Gospel target.

But Dallas Willard is not the only person promoting some bad theology via New Age authors and books (like the below) and authors:

Dr. J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy for Biola, tells us in his 2007 book Kingdom Triangle that “spiritual formation should be studied…and insights gained should be implemented.” Then among the four books he would “invest” himself in “absorbing” is “Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline [which] has earned the title of a contemporary classic” (157).

Reformed theologian J.I. Packer says in the foreword of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald Whitney, said: “Ever since Richard Foster rang the bell with his Celebration of Discipline (1978), discussing the various disciplines has become a staple element of conservative Christian in-talk in North America. This is a happy thing” (9, emphasis mine).

(source)

I will explain why anyone recommending this work is either ignorant of it’s contents, or theologically soft on cults and the occult. Celebration of Discipline is a New Age book, here are some scans of a couple worrisome parts (click to enlarge). Here are pages 27 through 28 from Richard Foster’s book:

And page 170 from the 1st printing (this was changed in later printings):

The “Emerging” Gospel Void

Video Description:

This is a smaller excerpt from a larger film from the Nesch Brothers

Websites related to the Nesch Brothers:

Website;
YouTube;
Vimeo.

Due to the length of the original file, which is worth watching in total, I will split a couple topics up for ease of watching and to continue to call the watchers attention both to the importance of the subject and to these excellent type of films.

I myself have written a bit on the topic. In fact, the longest chapter in my book deals with the topic:

Emergen[t]Cy – Investigating Post Modernism In Evangelical Thought

And I left a church due to its influence:

Leaving a Church of 12-Years ~ Tough Decisions for Faith

As well as not joining a church over its creeping influence when looking for a new home of faith for me and my family:

Book “Review” ~ A Seven Day Journey with Thomas Merton

I hope these smaller clips about the Emergent Church will help.

Roots of the Emergent Church Documentary (Updated Video)

The Real Roots of the Emergent Church – Updated Director’s Cut (3-hours long!). Here is the videos description:

Because diversity characterizes the Emergent Church movement, it is difficult to paint everyone in the movement with a broad brush. Some have observed that defining the Emergent Church is like nailing jello to a wall. All participants agree on their disillusionment with the institutional church, but do not all agree on where the church is destined to go from here. They share a common concern with many evangelicals over the state of the modern church, especially the mega-church phenomenon and “seeker-friendly” churches. For this reason, many evangelicals who observe the Emerging Church are fascinated by it, drawn to its creative approaches to worship, genuineness of many of the leaders and desire to reach Gen Xers. However, these evangelicals fail to look beyond it to understand its underlying theology, or lack thereof.

This Christian documentary film The Real Roots of the Emergent Church will take an honest look at the leaders of the Emerging Church movement such as Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, Steve Chalke, Peter Rollins, Dan Kimball, Richard Rohr, Phyllis Tickle, Spencer Burke and others. Who are they and what are they teaching? Become familiar with the postmodern Emergent Church and its popular tactic of literary deconstruction applied to the Bible. This film takes an in-depth look at what the Emerging Church believes concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, absolute truth, hell, homosexuality, mysticism, contemplative prayer, other religions, and eschatology in comparison to the Bible. Much more than candles and couches!

Subjects of this film were contacted for direct interviews. Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones and others were contacted in April 2011. No response. At a Love Wins book signing, Rob told us he would be willing to do an interview and to contact his church which was done several times with no response. We do not fault them for that knowing they are all probably very busy people. But for this reason we have resorted to their own public statements. This film is our way of joining the conversation.

Participants: Eric Ludy, Joe Schimmel, Chris Rosebrough, Bob DeWaay, Gary Gilley, Ray Yungen, Robert LeBus, Jay Peters, James Sundquist.

Dr. Martin was perhaps the 20th century’s greatest defender of the Christian faith and of God’s Word. Though the phrase “Emergent Church” was not even in use yet, in this 1987 clip Martin nailed the exact problem sweeping our churches and theological institutions today.

Postmodernism

The Postmodernism of Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) and Paul-Michel Foucault (1926-84)Geisler Book Apologetics 330

Postmodernism is often viewed as a reaction to modernism. Some see it as a form of extreme modernism. Basically, it is a radical kind of relativism that denies absolute truth, meaning, and interpretation.

Forerunners. The premodern world (before 1650) stressed metaphysics. The mod­ern period (1650-1950) emphasized epistemology, and the postmodern (1950—present) is focused on hermeneutics. The differences have been expressed in terms of an umpire:

  • Premodern umpire: “I call ’em like they are.”
  • Modern umpire: “I call ’em like I see ’em.”
  • Postmodern umpire: “They ain’t nothin’ till I call ’em.”

The forerunners of postmodernism include Hume’s radical empiricism, Kant’s agnosticism, Kierkegaard’s fideism, Nietzsche’s atheism, Frege’s conventionalism, Wittgenstein’s noncognitivism, Husserl’s phenomenologicalism, Heidegger’s existen­tialism, and William James’s pragmatism. The postmodernists Jacques Derrida and Paul-Michel Foucault added to this a form of deconstructionism, in which the reader deconstructs the meaning of the author and reconstructs his or her own meaning.

The Reaction to Modernism. Postmodernism can be seen as a reaction to modernism in the following ways:

Modernism

Unity of thought
Rational
Conceptual
Truth is absolute
Exclusivism
Foundationalism
Epistemology
Certainty
Author’s meaning
Structure of the text

The goal of knowing

Postmodernism

Diversity of thought
Social and psychological
Visual and poetical
Truth is relative
Pluralism
Anti-foundationalism
Hermeneutics
Uncertainty
Reader’s meaning
Deconstructing the text
The journey of knowing

The Result of Postmodernism. Postmodernism is an outworking of Nietzschian atheism. If there is no Absolute Mind (God), then there is

1. no absolute (objective) truth (epistemological relativism),
2. no absolute meaning (semantical relativism),
3. no absolute history (reconstructionism).

And if there is no Absolute Author, then there is

4. no absolute writing (textual relativism),
5. no absolute interpretation (hermeneutical relativism).

And if there is no Absolute Thinker, then

6. there is no absolute thought (philosophical relativism),

7. there are no absolute laws of thought (antifoundationalism).

If there is no Absolute Purposer, then there is

8. no absolute purpose (teleological relativism).

If there is no Absolute Good, then there is

9. no absolute right or wrong (moral relativism).

In brief, postmodernism is a form of total relativism and subjectivism. At its base, it is a form of antifoundationalism. Foundationalism stressed

1. Law of Existence: “Being is” (i.e., something exists);
2. Law of Identity: “Being is being” (B is B);
3. Law of Noncontradiction: “Being is not nonbeing” (B is not non-B);
4. Law of Excluded Middle: “Either Being or nonbeing” (Either B or non-B);
5. Law of Causality: “nonbeing cannot cause being” (Non-B–/–>being),
6. Law of Analogy: “An effect is similar to its efficient cause” (B—->b).

As antifoundationalist, postmodernism rejects these basic principles of thought. With them it also rejects the correspondence view of truth—that all true statements correspond to reality. Without this foundation and correspondence, one is left in complete agnosticism.

Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 9-10.

Leaving a Church of 12-Years ~ Tough Decisions for Faith

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.Aberrant Definition

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.

The book used by the leader of young men was Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne (there is a pretty in-depth review of Shane’s book here, A Humbled Resistance).

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…


Alternative Seminary (pic) — http://www.alternativeseminary.net/

Some classes they teach:

✦ 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

Example of whom this site links out to or recommends: http://www.jesusradicals.com/ This site has a “positional statement:

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.

Atonement Lutheran Church — http://www.ourchurch.com/

A word from this church’s pastor:

I am Pastor Maggie Ainslie. I’ve been pastor of Atonement Lutheran Church for 9 1/2 years now. I live 4 blocks away from the church with my husband Matt….

While I think a case can be made for deaconesses, I do not think women should be pastors… per the Bible.

Brandywine Peace Community — http://www.brandywinepeace.com/

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):

Catholic Workers — http://www.catholicworker.org/

Statement found in site:

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.

Links Out from This Site:

  • Noam Chomsky Writings — http://www.zmag.org/ (self admitted Marxist/atheist — anti-American/anti-Christian)
  • Labor Net — http://www.labornet.org/ (one of the most extreme union/socialist orgs out there)
  • 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.

Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) — http://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/

Some positional statements:

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. ….


More recently, on a site Shane contributes to regularly, he said this in a post entitled, It’s Desperate in Guantanamo:

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:

“Since the beginning of the government’s ‘war on poverty,’ $15.9 trillion has been spent on welfare programs. The total cost of every war in American history, starting with the American Revolution, is $6.4 trillion when adjusted for inflation.” ~ Leftist Fairytale #2 (See also: “Understanding Poverty in America: What the Census Bureau Doesn’t Count“)

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.


 APPENDIX

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.[1]  But I don’t think we have it right either.  None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.”[2] [3]  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.”[4]

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.”[5]  This universalism is pointed out in an excellent book entitled, Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church:[6]

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….”[7] 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.[8][9]

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.”[10]  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.”[11]

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.”[12]  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.[13]

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![14]

[….]

Sacrae Doctrinae

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.[15]

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[16], 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.[17]


Footnotes


[1] 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.”

✦ http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2009/09/what-is-rob-bell-going-to-do-now-that-the-tniv-is-going-to-be-discontinued.html

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.

[2] Andy Crouch, “Emergent Mystique,” 37-38.

[3] 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?

[4] David G. Benner, Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 9 (emphasis added).

[5] 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.

[6] Gary L. W. Johnson and Ronald N. Gleason, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 285.

[7] 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.

[8] Bell, Velvet Elvis, 109-110.

[9] 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.”

[10] Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2001), 184.

[11] Ibid., 121.

[12] Ibid., 151.

[13] Brian Mclaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2004), 106.

[14] Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 82-83 (emphasis added).

[15] De Trinitate,” (12-29-04), found at:

http://theoblogy.blogspot.com/2004_12_01_archive.html (last accessed 7-17-2012).

[16] “Bell’s term for a removable doctrine,” this insight came from Truth for Christ whose main page is: http://www.truthforchrist.com/, the quote can be found at: 

http://www.truthforchrist.com/dangers-of-the-emergent-church.htm (last accessed 8-20-09).

[17] Bell, Velvet Jesus, 22.

`Niezsche, the Death of God and the Emerging Church` ~ by Bill Honsberger

This is basically a history of philosophy ending with the pseudo-hermeneutics of the Emerging Church movement.

Find Bill here: http://www.havenministry.com

This is via TrueFreeThinker (TFT)… whom I recommend with one reservation [and I hate that I have to do this]: TFT has a deeply flawed view of the New World Order type conspiracies. I was where TFT was about 22-years ago, so I sympathize. But other than that, TFT has GREAT resources available for the skeptic as well as the believer.

An Introduction to Apologetics w/ Small Critique of Beth Moore

This will be a very basic introduction to why many — like myself — believe apologetics to be very important in the believers life. A “WHY APOLOGETICS 101,” so-to-speak.

What is the word “apologetic” even mean? How do we defining the word, Biblically. Apologetics is explaining to the non-believing friends, co-workers, family, the soundness of the Christian collection of beliefs about life and the universe in easy to express ways that allows co-operation of our created will and intellect with the Holy Spirit in evangelizing those around us. We are not robots under God’s divine hand (automatons) but individuals whom God works through keeping our personality intact in sharing the Gospel effectively and showing how Christianity stands in stark contrast to competing beliefs around us. The non-believer is not expected to interpret the data of history, psychology, and morality (let alone theology and miracles), as does the Christian. However, he must be given such data as the Christian interprets it… Otherwise he is not being witnessed to by a Christian.

1 Peter 3:15 – “… and always be ready to give a defense [or answer in some translations] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Defense/Answer: is the Greek apologia, from which we get our word “apologetics,” meaning the careful, logical defense of the Christian faith showing its validity as the true saving gospel of God, our Creator and Savior. In effect Peter is admonishing believers to be always prepared to give an apologetic for the faith, especially when confronted by those who deny it and would destroy it if they could.

Jude 3 – “although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Contend: Should be “earnestly contend.” The Greek, epagonizomai, refers to athletes intensely agonizing in the grueling training for a coming contest. Thus Jude graphically stresses the urgency of defending the faith. The defense of the gospel is no indifferent matter to be left to a few specialists, but one to which all believers should be trained and committed.

Philippians 1:7 – “…whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Defending: A legal term referring to a formal defense as in a courtroom. Many modern evangelicals think the gospel does not need to be defended — just preached. Paul and Timothy are saying different here.

For instance, apologetics should stir ones knowledge base about their own faith and understanding towards positions Christianity naturally takes. Or, what are known as “truth statements,” i.e., “Jesus rose from the grave,” “God exists,” “God changed my life,” “Jesus is not like the Buddha,” “God is creator,” and the like. People often times will stop you at one of those points and ask you to elucidate. You should be prepared to.

“I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers that impose upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition”

Morimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in, Kelly James Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 207.

Apologetics is one of the steps one takes (should take) in advancing their faith past milk by increases one’s “awareness” about the world in which they live and parts of it we should separate ourselves from. This includes as well aberrant thinking in our own camp.

“Instead of thinking of Christianity as a collection of theological bits and pieces to be believed or debated, we should approach our faith as a conceptual system, as a total world-and-life view…. Raising one’s self-consciousness [awareness] about worldviews is an essential part of intellectual maturity”

Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992], 19, 9.

1) Apologetics helps with correct belief (truth) and in this regard is very important:

Believers may not fully comprehend or may have genuine misunderstandings or even limited exposure to and about Christian truth, but there are doctrinal parameters outside of which a person cannot cross without suffering apostasy and divine judgment. Embracing a false Christ and/or a false’ gospel leads to dire consequences. Paul’s warning to the Galatia church concerning a different gospel dramatically underscores the importance of sound (biblical) doctrine: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8)

2) Christianity as a truth position, a worldview, necessitates an apologetic response:

Christian apologists must take the religions of the world seriously. The effective apologist will come to know other religions and their adherents with an insider’s mastery. Only then can he or she graciously expose a given religion’s flaws in light of essential Christian truth. Not an easy task for the apologist for sure, however, a well-done expose can have a powerful effect. This endeavor seems to be what Scripture calls for in terms of the apologetics enterprise. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

3) Apologetics offers People, deservedly, the proper respect:

As creatures of God, all people bear the imago Dei and therefore have inherent dignity and moral worth. Every person consequently deserves respectful treatment regardless of race, sex, social class, political, or religious belief. Christians are called by God to guard the individual right of others to believe what they choose, whether their particular beliefs are wrong, absurd, or contrary to Christian truth. This regard basically amounts to respecting human personhood, volition, and individual moral responsibility. Christians should even tolerate the practices (religious and otherwise) of others, so long as those practices are legal, moral, and prudential. However, respecting another person’s beliefs must not be misconstrued as approving those beliefs. Christians are responsible to use their powers of persuasion to convince others of truth, especially the ultimate truth of, Jesus Christ. While being socially tolerant, Christians must at the same time be intellectually intolerant of conflicting truth claims.

(#s 1-3 are from: Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004], 178-180)

Ravi Zacharias tells a story that is worth repeating, it is called “The Bell Tower”:

There’s a story of a man who used to go to work at a factory and every day would stop outside a clockmaker’s store to synchronize his watch with the clock outside. Seeing this routine, the clockmaker finally asked the gentleman, “Excuse me, sir, I see that every day you stop and adjust your watch with my clock. What kind of work do you do?” The man replied, “I’m embarrassed to tell you this, but, I keep the time at the factory nearby, and I have to ring the bell at four o clock every afternoon when it is time for the people to go home. My watch doesn’t work very well, so I synchronize it with your clock.” The clockmaker sheepishly responded, “I’ve got bad news for you. My clock doesn’t work very well either, so I synchronize it with the bell that I hear from the factory at 4:00 every afternoon.” …. Even a clock that doesn’t work may show you the right time twice a day…but it’s not because it’s keeping time.

Adapted from Ravi Zacharias, “Address to the United Nations’ Prayer Breakfast.”

Apologetics is analogous to wearing a pair of glasses:

The right eyeglasses can put the world into clearer focus, and the correct worldview can function in much the same way. When someone looks at the world from the perspective of the wrong worldview, the world won’t make much sense to him. Or what he thinks makes sense will, in fact, be wrong in important respects. Putting on the right conceptual scheme, that is, viewing the world through the correct worldview, can have important repercussions for the rest of the person’s understanding of events and ideas.

Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 17-18.

Below is a wonderful graphic of what the person seeking to use and learn apologetics properly should look like. It is from the first chapter in a book I am currently reading and it has helped me to understand the delineations  (or sub categories) to a healthy, well-balanced study of apologetics. Gregory Ganssle, in the before-mentioned book (Come Let us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics, by-the-by, this is not a good introductory book on apologetics… it is a bit technical), points out the areas of study one might find him or herself in the “theological theme” (tt) of the pyramid:

… This angle [tt] includes a variety of topics, such as the scope of common grace, the nature of general revelation, and the effects of our sinful condition on our reasoning.

Exploring these topics theologically helps us develop a realistic understanding of what we ought to expect in our encounters with those who are not yet believers. Theological themes, then, are relevant to our thinking well about apologetics.

UntitleTriangle Apologetics

As one enters into studies on topics like these, red flags may appear in your reading general books by Christian authors. Does this mean you shouldn’t read these books or get information from such people. Not necessarily. It really depends how far they twist major doctrines of the Gospel [Bible]. For instance, would I tell a person (like my wife for instance) not to read Beth Moore? Of course not. I would however, as the spiritual leader of my household, explain some of my “red-flags” I encountered in reading her stuff and mention that an author highly recommended by her is a person I WOULD  NOT read. (That being said, as I learn more about what is aberrant, I find my reading of these books has increased for my own personal apologetic studies, not as books that I incorporate into my walk.)

To better explain myself, here is the small portion that sent a red-flag up for me and is found near the end of Beth’s book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things (p. 290):


BETH MOORE


So the question is, 1) who is Brennan Manning that so influenced Beth Moore to have evoked her to [highly] recommend his book, Ragamuffin Gospel? and 2) where does he fall on the major doctrines we hold so dear to? This is where a decent study of theology comes in and should make aberrant teaching smoother to spot. I wish to allow Dr. Norman Geisler to lead off a quick summation of some of the doctrines the postmodern movement Mr. Manning finds himself in the thralls of:

Pastor Gary Gilley, after bullet pointing some of the problems in Manning’s book introduced to many people through Moore’s book, says this:

Add all of this up and we have a book that makes some good points, especially about God’s grace, but distorts so much about God and truth as to render it worse than useless—it is downright dangerous.

[…here are the bullet points that preceded the above…]

✦ The sources for his philosophy of life range from Catholic mystics to Paul Tillich to Norman Mailer to Carl Jung.

✦ His use of Scripture is scanty but when he attempts to support his views from the Bible he usually goes astray (e. g. pp. 37, 142, 166-7, 220).

✦ He confuses “loving sinners” with “accepting their sin” (p. 33) and believes that forgiveness precedes repentance (pp. 74, 167, 181). This leads to continuous hints of universalism (pp. 21, 29, 31, 33, 37, 74, 223, 232) although he never directly claims to be a universalist.

✦ He is heavily soaked in pop-psychology which taints all he says: accepting self (pp. 49, 152, 229); self-intimacy (p. 49); loving ourselves (pp. 50, 168); inner child (p. 64); forgiving yourself (p. 115); self-image (pp. 147-148); self-worth (p. 148).

✦ He accepts a postmodern worldview and calls for us to be open-minded about truth, reality and Christ (p. 65).

✦ He consistently presents a lopsided view of God. God is loving and forgiving but never a judge, disciplinarian or punisher (p. 75), contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture.

✦ God is not man’s enemy, contrary to Romans 5 that says we are the enemy of God if we are not saved (p. 76).

✦ We are told that God does not test us or promote pain (p. 76).

✦ He believes that God speaks today outside of Scripture (pp. 94, 117, 186-187, 229) and that the presence of God is a felt experience that we should seek (pp. 45, 46, 94, 162, 229).

(read more — empahis added)

This short critique (above) by a pastor should send up some warning flares and stir in us an apologetics bent to understand more how these associations can lead a weak Christian astray. For instance, let us “rabbit trail” some positions of this Catholic mystic. Manning recommends highly and even quotes the mystic/New Ager, Beatrice Bruteau in one of his books:

See:

In Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning says that Dr. Beatrice Bruteau is a”trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness.” Who is Beatrice Bruteau and what does she believe? She is the founder of The School for Contemplation, and she believes God is within every human being. She wrote the book, What We Can Learn from the East,

“We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM, with no predicate following, not “I am a this” or “I have that quality.” Only unlimited, absolute I AM” [A Song That Goes On Singing Interview with B.B., one can read the entire section under “Human Choice” to understand just how New Age Beatrice is].

(Source)

“I AM,” of course, is one of the biblical names of God (Exodus 3:14). Why would Manning recommend Bruteau with no warning if he does not agree with this blasphemy?

This isn’t “guilt by association” — so one knows the difference — it is “guilt by proxy.” A much more powerful legal term.

In The Signature of Jesus, Manning gives this quote from the mystic Catholic priest William Shannon and the Catholic Buddhist Thomas Merton:

“During a conference on contemplative prayer, the question was put to Thomas Merton: ‘How can we best help people to attain union with God?’ His answer was very clear: WE MUST TELL THEM THAT THEY ARE ALREADY UNITED WITH GOD. CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER IS NOTHING OTHER THAN COMING INTO CONSCIOUSNESS OF WHAT IS ALREADY THERE” (p. 218).

Merton was a Trappist monk who promoted the integration of Zen Buddhism and Christianity. The titles of some of his books are “Zen and the Birds of the Appetite” and “Mystics and the Zen Masters.” He is of course famous for saying, “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” I critiqued Merton because of an associate pastor at a local Bible centered church (in Castaic) saying he loved Merton. Mentioning that his professor at Biola was using a book in class that he didn’t find anything wrong with.Very sad and maddening at the same time. Simple care in learning our doctrines in fun ways (evangelism) can be a big help in leading us away from heresy.

As with many such teachers who gain popularity by tickling ears, Manning overemphasizes the love and grace of God while ignoring His attributes of justice, righteousness and holiness. He teaches that Jesus has redeemed all of mankind. His “good news” is that everyone is already saved. Manning quotes David Steindl-Rast approvingly in his book, The Signature of Jesus (pp. 210, 213-214). Steindl-Rast, a contemplative Roman Catholic priest, said:

“Envision the great religious traditions arranged on the circumference of a circle. At their mystical core they all say the same thing, but with different emphasis”

(“Heroic Virtue,” Gnosis, Summer 1992).

Manning quotes Matthew Fox approvingly in two of his books, Lion and Lamb (p. 135) and A Stranger to Self Hatred (pp. 113, 124). Fox says:

“God is a great underground river, and there are many wells into that river. There’s a Taoist well, a Buddhist well, a Jewish well, a Muslim well, a Christian well, a Goddess well, the Native wells-many wells that humans have dug to get into that river, but friends, there’s only one river; the living waters of wisdom”

Quoted from John Caddock, “What Is Contemplative Spirituality,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1997.

Even Manning’s approach to prayer is aberrant. In The Signature of Jesus Manning promotes the dangerous practice of centering prayer, which involves chanting “a sacred word” to empty the mind and allegedly enter into silent experiential communion with God within:

“[T]he first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer. … enter into the great silence of God. Alone in that silence, the noise within will subside and the Voice of Love will be heard. … Choose a single, sacred word … repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, and often” (pp. 212, 215, 218).

This is a New Age/Eastern concept of prayer.

Not a Christian concept of it.

So where does this example leave us? It leaves us at a couple of places. Some of the critique I use above comes from a book that I would recommend to a friend/believer, but with a caveat. The author can be very legalistic and I would point out that some aspects of how the author applies their understanding of the Gospel is dealt with in Galatians (maybe mentioning Luther’s commentary on Galatians as a resource to better grasp this concept of the freedom we have in Christ). The book is Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, by David Cloud.

Likewise, I am sure the believer who is well moored in the foundational beliefs and how they work themselves throughout our culture can read Beth Moore and glean from it helpful input into one’s faith. Should it be at the top of a recommend list for one God fearing woman to recommend to another, no. Can it be of benefit as a resource for a woman struggling with issues, of course, as long as the person doing the recommending adds a cautionary note. Like I did with my recommended resource.

Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master. (Jude 3-4, The Message)

As one studies all the facets of apologetics, rabbit trails will appear, but in them all remember a key thing, harkening back to Dr. Ganssle when he mentioned that our sinful condition has even effected our reasoning skills. Building on that take note that even if we have thought through a matter, worked on it, got it to line up with orthodoxy and have sound reasoning… often times our intentions in presenting it as well as the delivery and how the other corrupted person hears it are all at play. Which is why we say the Holy Spirit must be the Prime Mover at the deepest levels for a person to be moved by a truth, by thee Truth. Quoting Dr. Ganssle again:

Each one of the three angles or themes concerning apologetics is legitimate and fruitful. Each is worthy of careful study. Despite this fact, there are two trends I wish to point out First, most of the thinking about apologetics has been on the academic themes. While this weight of attention is not in itself a bad thing, it may allow us to forget the other angles of apologetics. Second most of the criticisms of the usefulness of apologetics find there root in confusing the academic angle of apologetics with the entirety of the apologetic enterprise. Those of us who work in the academic angle bear much of the blame for this confusion. Sometimes we are overzealous about the strength of our arguments or how interesting they ought to be to nonbelievers. [This includes discussions with fellow Christians and topics.] Sometimes we neglect the large distinction between arguments that are technically strong and those that might be persuasive to a given person. Sometimes we neglect the missional themes in the apologetic task and thereby reinforce the notion that coming to believe that Christianity is factually true is the main task in our witness. By articulating the importance of the missional angle, as well as of the theological angle, we can defuse many criticisms of apologetics. (emphasis and addition in box quotes mine.)

I hope this short introduction to apologetics was and is helpful. There are three books I highly recommend as great starter points to both understanding the importance of apologetics as well as seeing the differing models of thinking in the world compared. These three resources are technical enough to invigorate the thinker as well as great introductions to the subject accessible to the layman.

  1. Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith;
  2. Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists;
  3. Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Apologetics (Holman Quicksource Guides)