(412) Emerging Trends in the Church Today: The Goose Chase & Brian McLaren

The Wild Goose Festival continues to attract and pull in people from many different faiths including Evangelicals.  The following article gives an update to this year’s festival with regards to a question about Brian McLaren. While I personally may have used other descriptives in the article describing those who attend this festival (i.e. I don’t know who or how many are in apostasy, “slapping the face of God”, who is or isn’t a Christian…etc.), the author makes some other very good points about how we form our view on issues relating to the authority of the Bible. The topic of how one views the authority of Scripture is a vital question which influences many in the Evangelical Church today especially with regards to social issues. Also, it is important to be aware of aberrant and/or false teaching that can influence many within the church when many don’t have their footing based on the authority of God’s word in our lives.

 

The Goose Chase Brian McLaren Finds Himself In

Brian McLaren Wild Goose Chase

I had a call last week from one of our supporters, wondering if I knew that Brian McLaren, Emerging Church leader, and writer, is involved with the Wild Goose Festival. For these who do not know, the Wild Goose Festival is a gathering of the fallen away, eager to share and celebrate their apostasy with others eager to applaud them for having the courage to slap the face of God. I don’t follow the festival circuit very closely, so I was unaware of McLaren’s participation. When I asked the caller why this seemed so important to him, I was told that McLaren was teaching a pro-gay message. That is not really surprising to me. In 2012, McLaren officiated at his son Trevor’s same gender marriage ceremony. How could McLaren, ordained as a pastor in an Evangelical denomination, justify this level of support? Very easily. He places experience above Scripture as authoritative. As the Christian Post noted:

It had just been a couple of years when McLaren shifted his thinking and abandoned the traditional view of homosexuality being a sin that he grew up with.

“I had gone through my change in this view before I ever guessed that any of my kids might be gay,” he said on the radio program.

“I was a good kid, I believed what I’d been told. And as a pastor, I started having gay people come out to me and what became clearer and clearer to me is that their experience was not explained by the theology I inherited,” he explained. “And that it would be unjust to continue to uphold what I’d been taught. Maybe I could say it like this: My call to love God and love my neighbor was in conflict with what I’d been taught the Bible required me to say and do.”

We posed the question in 2008, “Is Brian McLaren a Christian?” In this article we demonstrated that McLaren had pretty much abandoned the historical-grammatical understanding of Scripture in favor of the Social Gospel of the late 19th and early 20th century liberal, Walter Rauschenbusch, Jesus Seminar co-founder, John Dominic Crossan (see our Hysterical Search for the Historical Jesus), Socialist and Black Liberation Theologian Cornell West, and Karl Marx, among others.

Since then, he has further “evolved” to practice and endorse pagan rituals and practices, tossing out even more of what, to use his words, “the Bible required me to say and do.” He is a man in pursuit of “spirituality,” but he judges the validity of spiritual claims and practices on experience and not on God’s revelation in Scripture. At a number of conferences over the past several years, he facilitates pagan rituals to help attendees become more “spiritually aware” and “attuned.” So, McLaren’s Wild Goose Chase to the Wild Goose Festival makes perfect sense. Participant Frank Schaffer (New Age son of the Late Francis Schaffer) says in the promotion:

One of the reasons I love Wild Goose Festival is we don’t come here labeled atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, whatever. We come here as human beings on a journey. A lot of us alienated from our religious path on a journey somewhere else. Wild Goose Festival is the one place I go every year where I know I am not alone.

The speaker lineup is a veritable who’s who of false teachers – Jim and Joy Wallis of Sojourners magazine, LGBTQ  activist and workshop leader from Willow Creek Chicago, Darren Calhoun, Emergent leader Doug Pagitt, defrocked Roman Catholic priest turned earth worshipper Matthew Fox, and others.

The sessions include:

  • Yoga for Social Change
  • Do Progressive Christians Need Satan?
  • Brian McLaren and Social Intelligence
  • The Cosmic Christ and the Struggle for Eco-Justice – Matthew Fox
  • Can We Talk? An LGBTQ+ Sharing Circle

Brian McLaren’s Wild Goose Chase to the Wild Goose Festival makes perfect sense. It is a modern day “Corinth in the woods” where any and all religious expression and belief is embraced and lauded, provided no allegiance to the one true God is required or holy living as He prescribed is expected.

To paraphrase 1 John 2:19:

They emerged from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they emerged, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Don and Joy Signature 2

 

© 2016, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

 

http://midwestoutreach.org/2016/07/28/the-goose-chase-brian-mclaren-finds-himself-in/

 

 

(411) Emerging Trends in the Church Today: Transgender Baptist Preacher

TRANSGENDER BAPTIST PREACHER ALLYSON ROBINSON SAYS ‘ANGEL OF REASON’ TOLD HIM BIBLE WAS WRONG

“Allyson Dylan Robinson is a minister of the gospel, trained for the task, and ordained to the gospel ministry by another community in which she has served as pastor,” former leader Amy Butler wrote at that time. “Over the course of her journey, God has invited her to step into the faithful witness of a new identity, a true identity, and a new name.”

THE NATION’S FIRST TRANSGENDER BAPTIST PREACHER SPOKE TO A NATIONAL BAPTIST GATHERING ON APRIL 8, EXPLAINING THAT THE DOCTOR WHO DELIVERED HIM AS A BABY WAS WRONG IN DECLARING HIM A BOY, AND THAT IT WAS AN “ANGEL OF REASON” THAT CAUSED HIM TO ACCEPT HIS INCLINATIONS TO IDENTIFY AS A WOMAN.

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s starting as a trickle, but you are looking at the future of the Christian church in America and ultimately around the world. It is collapsing to become the Laodicean mess that Jesus said it would be in the last days before the Rapture. The only ‘revival’ coming will be the false revival of worldly church that puts personal feelings, emotions and desires far above that of Bible doctrine. Here we have a transgender ‘preacher’ who says that an ‘angel’ appeared to him to tell him that the Bible is wrong on homosexuality, and the world celebrates his ‘courage’. Last days.

Daniel Robinson, who goes by the name Allyson Robinson, had been studying to be a pastor at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in 2005 when he began to wrestle with his gender identity as never before. He had struggled with his desire to be a man since childhood.

“I have known my entire life that the world was wrong about me, that on the day I was born, when the doctor took a cursory glance between my legs and authoritatively declared ‘It’s a boy,’ he was wrong—dead wrong,” Robinson told the Alliance of Baptists in St. Louis this month.

He said that one day in his early seminary days he contemplated suicide, but an “angel of the Lord” that he called “reason” stopped him.

“What if God hasn’t fixed you because you’re not broken?” Robinson said he heard inside of himself.

“That can’t be true,” he thought. “The Bible says I’m broken.”

“WHAT IF THE BIBLE IS WRONG?” THE VOICE SAID. “WHAT IF YOU’VE BEEN READING IT WRONG?”

Robinson told those gathered that in that moment he “sacrificed his certainty” and hoped that God would count it as “righteousness.”

In other appearances, Robinson has explained that he went into therapy but kept his gender identity issues as secret until graduating from Baylor due to the seminary’s policies about homosexuality and transgenderism. He also took a position as pastor of Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple, Texas during his time at Baylor.

Robinson’s wife, Danyelle, expressed her support about his desire to identify as a woman.

IN 2014, HE WORKED AS A TRANSITIONAL MINISTER AT CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH IN WASHINGTON, D.C., AND WAS ORDAINED THERE AS A WOMAN.

“Allyson Dylan Robinson is a minister of the gospel, trained for the task, and ordained to the gospel ministry by another community in which she has served as pastor,” former leader Amy Butler wrote at that time. “Over the course of her journey, God has invited her to step into the faithful witness of a new identity, a true identity, and a new name.”

Robinson now speaks as an itinerant preacher and appeared at Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner’s renaming ceremony last year.

Frankly I consider Job, Gautama Buddha, Joan of Arc, Rumi and Johnny Cash to be my spiritual predecessors far more than Augustine, Aquinas or Barth,” he told the Alliance of Baptists this month. “My hymnal has a lot less Isaac Watts and Fanny Crosby, but it’s full of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tupac and Beyonce.”

However, some have come to the opposite conclusion of Robinson, and state that it is not healthy to support and affirm a person’s desire to live as those of the opposite sex.

As previously reported, Walt Heyer, a 75-year-old man who obtained a sex change operation in the 1980’s to live as a woman for eight years before reverting back to his biological gender, now leads a ministry in which he shares his story with the world of how Christ redeemed his life and gave him hope.

Nobody’s ever born a transgender,” he told the Daily Mail last January. “They’re manufactured as a result of something, a developmental childhood issue that has yet to be determined for many people.”

All of them have some level of depression, and we’re not treating them,” Heyer lamented. “We’re just cutting off body parts and giving them a new name and a new gender.”

“God designed man; He designed women,” he also said in a video recorded last year. “God will redeem the lives of people who struggle with gender identity issues just like I did. He redeemed my life, and I’ve been free from it as a result of that.”

Transgender Baptist Preacher Allyson Robinson Says ‘Angel Of Reason’ Told Him Bible Was Wrong

(410) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: Exercising Their Senses

Study and Know the Scriptures

Ephesians 6:10-20

The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 lPut on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the 2wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against mprincipalities, against powers, against nthe rulers of 3the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 oTherefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand pin the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, qhaving girded your waist with truth, rhaving put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 sand having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking tthe shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And utake the helmet of salvation, and vthe sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 wpraying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, xbeing watchful to this end with all perseverance and ysupplication for all the saints—19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, zthat I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which aI am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

The New King James Version. (1982). (Eph 6:10–20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Study and Know the Scriptures

There is no doubt but that the most unhappy and discouraged Christians today are those who do not exercise their senses with respect to this Word of God.  We cannot live on snippets in the spiritual realm  We have to get down to these profound truths of the Scripture; we have to make time to read them and to read books about them.  The trouble today, as it has been for so many years, is that Christian people have not been reading their Scriptures, not troubling to understand them.  They say, “Oh, I am too busy, I have too many things to do, and life is very harassing at the present time.”   But our forefathers, who worked much harder, and for much longer hours, and for much smaller wages, found the time.  Those men used to read their Scriptures and study them  They generally bought a Bible which had a commentary at the bottom of each page, and they studied it and spent time with it.  They also read other books which helped them to understand the Scriptures.  They were “exercising their senses”; and that is what made them strong.  That was the secret of the Protestant martyrs.  It was the secret likewise of the Covenanters in Scotland in the seventeenth century.  Those men were strong because they knew their Scriptures, and they knew the truth of the Scriptures.  They had exercised their senses.  They gave time to the exercise; they lived by the Word.  And thus they ceased to be babes and became mighty, strong men.
You and I must behave in a like manner.  There is no substitute for that.  We do not sit back and “just look at Jesus” to do it all for us.  That is false doctrine: I do not hesitate to use such a term.  We must exercise our senses, and we must build ourselves up in our most holy faith.  It will not happen to us automatically; there are no short-cuts in the Christian life.  If you want to build yourself up, exercise yourself in the Scriptures.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20,” pg.88-89
Posted by Glenn E. Chatfield  http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com/2016/07/study-and-know-scripture.html

(409) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: HILLSONG’S NAKED COWBOY

(409) HILLSONG’S ‘NAKED COWBOY’ AT WOMEN’S CONFERENCE

Hillsong NYC Youth Leader Appears as ‘Naked Cowboy’ Reportedly for Women’s Conference

NEW YORK — Concerns are being raised after the youth leader at Hillsong NYC appeared as the “naked cowboy” at a recent women’s conference.

Hillsong’s Colour Conference was held on May 6 and 7 in Madison Square Garden with ticket prices set at $209.50 a person in advance and $219.50 at the door.

“Colour seeks to ‘gather, equip and mobilize’ women of all age, background and culture in the belief that together we can and will make the world a better place,” a description of the event reads. “Our team labor to create an atmosphere that will refresh heart and soul, and inspire transformation. Our desire is that worship, creativity and the presentation of God’s Word (the Bible) will honor the King of heaven and cause faith to rise, enabling the enormous potential within to become reality.”

 

But online video footage of the event shows members of Hillsong NYC engaging in patriotic shout-outs and performing the song “New York, New York” surrounded by firemen, a costumed statue of liberty, Broadway dancers—and a look-alike of the city’s notorious “Naked Cowboy.”

 

The “Naked Cowboy,” dressed in only his underwear and a cowboy hat, moves to the front of the stage at one point and blows kisses to the cheering, flag-waving crowd. Hillsong NYC leader Carl Lentz is believed to be seen in the footage, as well as Bobbie Houston and her son Ben Houston, who leads Hillsong Los Angeles.

At first, the identity of the “Naked Cowboy” was a mystery to outsiders who viewed the online footage, but one Instagram user named Kelly Amber soon posted a snapshot of the event online, writing “light and shade #colour conf.” She also tagged Ben Houston and Hillsong NYC youth leader Diego Simila in the photograph.

Followers began chiming in, “Is that Diego with his shirt off?” “His shirt wasn’t the only thing missing!

Simila has served as the youth leader at Hillsong NYC since 2010. A former model, Simila sports his last name tattooed in large script across his chest, which can be seen in the video footage.

According to an online video featuring Simila preaching at LifePointe Church in Olathe, Kansas last year, Simila was formerly a part of a boy band in California, but believed that God had called him to leave it all and attend Bible college at Hillsong Sydney. After graduating, he moved back to California where he worked as a model, until he then felt led to move to New York City.

“He lived homeless there for about three weeks and he was just jumping from couch to couch. But he was faithful, and all of a sudden in a short, short time, he winds up being asked, being told to be the Youth Pastor of Hillsong New York City, started in 2010,” LifePointe leader Patrick Norris explains to the congregation.

But some find it inappropriate to have a youth minister appear as the “naked cowboy” and parade himself in his underwear at a women’s conference presented by a professing Christian church.

“I usually don’t expect to see a near-naked cowboy gyrating from the stage of a Christian women’s conference. Nor would I see and hear thousands of Christian females applauding and squealing in delight, and spurring on the performance. Indeed if I were of the world, I’d expect these sights and sounds to come from a giant bachelorette party at a strip club,” wrote Amy Spreeman of Berean Research.

Hillsong continues to astound by their complete and utter disregard for how scripture instructs Christians to conduct their lives in this present evil age,” also commented the blog Pirate Christian. “First they brought us sleezy Silent Night. Then they had the sexual pervert Austin Powers appear at their women’s conference in London and now they’ve had The Naked Cowboy appear at their women’s conference in New York. We fear to see what they have in store for their next conference.”

Hillsong’s contact information is not posted online and therefore none could be reached for comment.

(408) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY – THE DYING ART OF THINKING

The Dying Art of Thinking

Initially, I considered not posting this article written in 1992 by Ravi Zacharias because of how contemporary Christianity is using similar terminology but with different meaning and purposes in mind – e.g. here are few examples referred to in the article in a context that may be far different in how they are used today among Christians –

  • CONTEMPLATIVE  – this concept today has little to do with thinking and engaging the mind from God’s word (see SILENCE).
  • CHRISTIAN BOOKS – reading books from the CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE can do more harm and challenge Christians to move in a direction away from critical thinking – such as the inclusion of mystical practices from ancient Roman Catholicism (e.g. Desert Fathers) and Eastern Mysticism;
  • SILENCE – a form of mysticism is being promoted within Christianity, even by Evangelicals today which has more to do with disengaging your mind from distracting thoughts and instead using practices such as mantras to focus on clearing out your mind so that you are open to whatever concept enters into your mind –  wherever that thought may come from.  

Some of these practices today stray far from what the Bible teaches us to practice in areas of prayer, spirituality, edification…etc.  That said, when understanding the context of the article and realizing these differences, Ravi Zacharias identifies several gems that we all would do well to follow through with.

The Dying Art of Thinking
by Ravi Zacharias

The 17th-century French philosopher Rene Descartes (pronounced Day-Kart) is best known for his dictum, “I think, therefore, I am.” A cynic may well quip that Descartes actually put des cart before des horse, because all he could have legitimately deduced was, “I think, therefore, thinking exists.” I do not intend to defend or counter Cartesian philosophy; I only wish to underscore that thinking has much to do with life and certainty.

One of the tragic casualties of our age has been that of the CONTEMPLATIVE life—a life that thinks, thinks things through, and more particularly, thinks God’s thoughts after Him.

A person sitting at his desk and staring out of the window would never be assumed to be working. No! Thinking is not equated with work. Yet, had Newton under his tree, or Archimedes in his bathtub bought into that prejudice, some natural laws would still be up in the air, or buried under an immovable rock. Pascal’s Pensees, a work that has inspired millions, would have never been penned.

The Bible places supreme value in the thought life. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” Solomon wrote. Jesus asserted that sin’s gravity lay in the idea itself, not just the act. Paul admonished the church at Philippi to have the mind of Christ, and to the same people he wrote, “Whatever is true . . . pure . . . if there be any virtue . . . think on these things.”

The follower of Christ must demonstrate to the world what it is not just to think, but to think justly. But how does one manage this in a culture where progress is determined by pace and defined by quantity?

What is even more destructive is that the greatest demand comes from neither speed nor quantity, but rather from the assumption that silence is inimical to life.

The radio in the car, music in the elevator, and the symphony entertaining the “on hold” callers add up as impediments to personal reflection. In effect, the mind is denied the privilege of living with itself even briefly, and is crowded with outside impulses to cope with aloneness.

Aldous Huxley’s indictment, “Most of one’s life . . . is one prolonged effort to prevent thinking”, seems frightfully true. The price paid for this scenario has been devastating. T. S. Eliot observed:

“Where is the life we have lost in the living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information ?

The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries

bring us farther from God and nearer to dust.”

Is there a remedy? May I make some suggestions for personal and corporate benefit?

Study God’s Word

NOTHING ranks higher for mental discipline than a planned and systematic study of God’s Word, from whence life’s parameters and values are planted in the mind. Paul, who loved his books and parchments, affirmed the priority of Scripture: “Do not go beyond what is written.” Psalm 119 promises that God’s statutes keep us from being double-minded.

Read Great Books

The English-speaking world is endowed with a wealth of books. But much contemporary literature comes perilously close to a promiscuous religion with an appeal for the “feel better” syndrome, rather than the impetus to “go deeper.”

Read authors who stretch you and introduce you to other writings as well. Great writers stimulate your capacity to think beyond their ideas, spawning fresh insights and extensions of your own. Good reading is indispensable to impartation of truth. An expenditure of words without the income of ideas leads to conceptual bankruptcy.

Challenge the Mind

The church as a whole, and the pulpit in particular, must challenge the mind of this generation, else we betray our trust. The average young person today actually surrenders the intellect to the world, presuming Christianity to be bereft of it. Many a pulpit has succumbed to the lie that anything intellectual cannot be spiritual or exciting.

Thankfully there are exceptions. When living in England, our family attended a church pastored by Roy Clements, one of the finest preachers in the western world. Every Sunday at two morning services he preached a one-hour sermon to a packed auditorium.

Cambridge, being rife with skepticism, demanded a meticulous defense of each sermon text from the assaults of liberalism. An introduction of a technical nature would take up to 15 minutes of his time before he entered into the heart of his message.

I mention this to say one thing. When we were leaving Cambridge, Nathan, who was nine years old, declared the preaching of Roy Clements to be one of his fondest memories. Even as a little boy he had learned that when the mind is rightly approached, it filters down to the heart. The matter I share here has far-reaching implications. We do a disservice to our youth by not crediting them with the capacity to think. We cannot leave this uncorrected.

This is our first issue of Just Thinking. It is our hope that this newsletter will challenge your mind and stir your heart. After all, it is not that I think, therefore, I am, but rather, the Great I Am has asked us to think, and therefore, we must. And we must serve Him with all our minds.

(407) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY – SEMINARIES & SYNCRETISM

EASTERN MYSTICISM & THEIR INFLUENCE ON SEMINARIES – MINDFULNESS & BIOLA UNIVERSITY.
http://cct.biola.edu/resources/is-mindfulness-buddhist-or-christian/

By now, one quickly sees a common theme resonating throughout this blog involving the influence of Mysticism on the Evangelical church in the United States.  Both Eastern Mysticism and ancient Roman Catholic Mysticism are common topics that are discussed. Much of the influence comes from authors and teachers who write popular best-selling Christian books that you can purchase at your local Christian bookstore.  Influence also comes from the pulpit of the church – yes, Evangelical churches are becoming inundated with these trends and concepts are being interwoven into traditional biblical practices while being labeled with titles sounding very “Christian” or “religious” or just beneficial to your spiritual walk – i.e. syncretism.

What is syncretism?

American Heritage Dictionary, syncretism is “the reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief.” This is most evident in the areas of philosophy and religion, and usually results in a new teaching or belief system.

Gotquestions.org states that obviously, this cannot be reconciled to biblical Christianity –

Religious syncretism often takes place when foreign beliefs are introduced to an indigenous belief system and the teachings are blended. The new, heterogeneous religion then takes a shape of its own. This has been seen most clearly in Roman Catholic missionary history. Take, for example, the Roman Catholic Church’s proselytizing of animistic South America. Threatened with the fear of death, natives were baptized into the church by the tens of thousands without any preaching of the Gospel whatsoever. Former temples were razed, with Catholic shrines and chapels built on the same spot. Natives were allowed to substitute praying to saints instead of gods of water, earth and air, and replaced their former idols with new images of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, the animistic religion the natives had formerly practiced was never fully replaced—it was adapted into Catholic teachings, and this new belief system was allowed to flourish.

=> More recently, religious syncretism can be seen in such religious systems as the New Age, Hinduism,Unitarianism, and Christian Science. These religions are a blending of multiple different belief systems, and are continually evolving as the philosophies of mankind rise and fall in popularity.

Therein lies the problem, for syncretism relies on the whim of man, not the standard of Scripture. The Bible makes it very clear what true religion is. Think on just a few things stated in Scripture: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37); “Jesus replied, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6); “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31-32); and “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Religious syncretism is simply not compatible with true Christianity. In fact, any modification to biblical law and principle for the sake of a “better” religion is heresy (Revelation 22:18-19).

Here is an even bigger problem.  Syncretic practices are seeping into the Evangelical Church with increasing frequency and it is occurring from both a top-down and a bottom-up perspective. This snowball effect is resulting in widespread acceptance of practices that years ago would have been rejected outright by Evangelical Churches.

Let’s look at one example of these practices taking hold in the church today.  The Buddhist concept of MINDFULNESS.  We introduce it here and will go into more details in future postings.


Mindfulness
is a term used to describe a meditative state in which people direct their attention inward to become more self-aware. Mindfulness is self-examination of one’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and emotions with no judgment of their being right or wrong. The goal of meditative mindfulness is to identify thoughts and feelings about a particular issue, to live in the moment, and to accept oneself completely. When this goal has been reached, the person is said to have entered a state of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is rooted in BUDDHISM, as promoters of mindfulness readily admit, although it is often adapted for secular purposes. The ideology behind mindfulness is to achieve STILLNESS and balance of the mind.

Man’s efforts to calm the mind and rid the life of stressors—through mindfulness or other NEW AGE techniques—are an attempt to manufacture peace. From a biblical perspective, we know that only Jesus gives the peace that can exist in all circumstances (John 14:27; Philippians 4:7). No human can control emotions or thoughts on his or her own because we are born slaves to a sinful nature (Romans 6:17–23). Only through the power of the Holy Spirit who sets our minds free to think truthfully can we know true peace. If we want to practice being more aware or insightful, there are much better options than mindfulness techniques, such as Bible study and prayers for insight.

When Christians think biblically, they see things defined through the lens of Scripture. The word mindful, which means “attentive,” is not describing anything inherently wrong. Christians can be mindful of Christ by taking every thought captive for Christ and renewing their minds with the truth (2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2). But mindfulness, as promoted in PSYCHOLOGY and used as a MEDITATION technique, is not biblical. (gotquestions.org)

How can these practices originating from Buddhist practices seep into the Evangelical Church today? You are probably thinking that this is an extreme view. Surely, pastors, seminary professors, leaders…etc., would not go down this path? Right?

Well, as bad as following after Buddhist practices are, potentially more dangerous is the fact that many pastors and seminaries are openly teaching these practices to your next group of leaders in the church resulting in an implied endorsement of something that is resulting in the church being desensitized to the central issue of accepting these syncretic practices.  There are several reasons that this is occurring today – one of them is the popularity among younger Christians (e.g. “Emerging Church”) who are seeking after new and different ways to follow after God.  Unfortunately, many times, this carries with it baggage that includes Eastern Mysticism .  It is being blended in with Christian-sounding practices giving the appearance of endorsement by the church, seminaries, instructors, pastors…..etc.

Let’s look at a well-known theological conservative evangelical seminary – BIOLA University with its TALBOT School of Theology.

As many will attest, Talbot has a 60-year heritage of biblical fidelity.  The seminary couples solid evangelical scholarship with intentional character development to prepare students for a lifetime of relevant, effective ministry. The seminary’s six master’s degree programs and three doctoral degree programs are led by a faculty of nationally renowned, widely-published and actively engaged ministry leaders.

A program within the seminary is called the Institute for Spiritual Formation.  Yes, Spiritual Formation – one of many warning signs should go up.  They offer master’s programs in Spiritual Formation & Soul Care and as they state on their website, they are dedicated to deepening the life of prayer and openness of the heart to God.

Another area of study is Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought. This exists to reconnect Christian Scholarship with the Church and the Academy. The Center offers scholars from a variety of Christian perspectives a unique opportunity to work collaboratively on a selected theme. Together, they develop their ideas, refine their thinking, and examine important cultural issues in a way that is informed by Scripture. Ultimately, the collaborative work will result in scholarly and popular-level materials, providing the broader culture with thoughtful and carefully articulated Christian perspectives on current events, ethical concerns, and social trends.

This short video gives you a taste of what is being taught in the area of MINDFULNESS.  It is by Research Psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz who attempts to answer the question is mindfulness Buddhist or Christian?

Take a look at this 4 minute video and see what you think –

http://cct.biola.edu/resources/is-mindfulness-buddhist-or-christian/

What did you think – were you convinced?  Does he say anything of value or is he correct in what he says?  There maybe some items that are but overall do you see how Schwartz is trying to combine the Christian concepts with Buddhist practice of Mindfulness?  Marcia Montenegro states that

……in this video, he re-defines Mindfulness as a way to recognize if your state of mind is “wholesome or unwholesome.” Wrong!! No! Mindfulness is a process of detachment in order to get closer to enlightenment and liberation!

To summarize, the Evangelical Church today is being exposed to mystical beliefs from outside the faith in more ways than ever before.  We have seen how these beliefs are coming into the church from exposure to teachings being promoted by Christian authors.  As this posting shows, it is also being taught to the next generation of leaders, teachers, authors, professors, and pastors through seminaries.  That is very concerning because it obviously presents an image of these syncretic practices being widely and quickly disseminated without discernment to Christians throughout the church. Welcome to today’s emerging trends in the church!

 

(406) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: MYSTICISM

Mysticism: Its Origin and Impact on Contemporary Christian Thought

Zachary Doppelt

Pastor of Garden City Grace Brethren Church in Roanoke, VA

http://veraxinstitute.us/blog/36-mysticism-its-origin-and-impact-on-contemporary-christian-thought

Within Evangelical Christianity there has been a resurging interest in the writings of the mystics and their intuitive approach to God. This has been noticeable with the growing interest in authors such as RICHARD FOSTER, HENRI NOUWEN and THOMAS MERTON , as well as the leadership of such scholars such as Bruce Demarest.[1]

While many evangelicals may not be familiar with each of these names, many books being written today cite these authors as influential, often because these authors purport a form of DEEPER spirituality. Sometimes this spirituality is seated in the emotions and is predominantly experiential; however for some it is far more intricate and complex.

Because of the variety of notions discussed by the MYSTICS, there is little consensus on the definition of mysticism, yet it is generally consistent for mystics to seek to engage God in a way that transcends reason, even to point of having direct contact with God. This is not to say they claim to be irrational, but more appropriately “transrational.” From this framework of thinking, mystics then build their Christology and Anthropology from their hermeneutic. Thus, it is important to summarize briefly some of the historical influences of mysticism on contemporary hermeneutics, while simultaneously evaluating the ramifications this interpretive scheme has on both their Christology and Anthropology. Finally, I will compare the Biblical model of approaching God as it contrasts with the mystical.

Patristic Mysticism

In Christianity, Origen is generally considered the first Christian mystic embracing this transrational approach as he lead the church toward an experiential, intuitive reading of Scripture that was highly allegorical. For him, the traditional literal renderings could not be reconciled to his understanding of history, and he struggled making sense of apparent contradictions. Rather than accepting Scripture as it was and seeking truth by further investigation, he employed a hermeneutic allowing multiple senses of scripture to satisfy his conclusions, setting the slate for John Cassian, the DESERT FATHERS and others to continue spiritualizing God’s word. This approach also included an embracing of a pseudo unity with God (theosis) that elevated some of humanity to God like status through ritualistic readings (lectio divina)[2] and monastic counterparts to the previously accepted apostolic spirituality.

Ironically these concepts were already found in the Gnostic faith that Origen so vigilantly opposed, as they attempted to find ways to uncover secrets through various stages of knowledge or “gnosis” not too dissimilar to various hermetic and occult groups today. Further, it is evident that Origen was highly influenced by Philo, the Alexandrian Jew, who syncretized Greek Platonic ideas with Judaism, creating Hellenized Judaism that also shared many pre-gnostic ideas, including such various intermediary beings emanating from the Creator. While Origen argued against the dualism of the gnostics that found their precursors even in Biblical times, he created a form of monism that united man with the divine, thus preserving to our day the great contemplative mystical tradition found in the extremes: philosophical monism and dualism. During the apostolic age, these views were predominantly seen in the Essenes and the pre-gnostic cults (dualism) and the EASTERN RELIGIONS (monism), all failing to hold in balance both the immanence and transcendence of God. Nonetheless, this methodology continued beyond Origen and Cassian, and found home in other writings of the Patristic era through the Middle Ages and beyond, such as those of Plotinus, Pseudo-Dionysius, Saint Bonaventure and Teresa of Avila.

Further, Origen has been accused of subordinationism in the Trinity, a charge that he has not been fully severed from. His Trinitarian concepts have also been linked to his form of MYSTICISM though often intended to be complementary to his impact on theology.[3] Thus, though a direct link may not be proven, the presence in the Patristics of a low Christology (subordinationism sometimes to the point of Arianism) with an elevated Anthropology (theosis) all form a mystical approach to Scripture.

Mystical Roots of Evangelicalism

For some today, this trend is disturbing as they rightly see connections to various other religions. It is not uncommon for modern authors to speak of the “self” as it communes with God using the same language as a Buddhist and other wisdom traditions.[4] However, the foundations of mystical thought are not simply Pagan ideals that have been recently borrowed and may be easily discarded. Unfortunately, these concepts have been blended into Christianity for much of its history even into some strains of evangelicalism.

Many proponents of mysticism rightly argue that this emphasis was not only found in the late Alexandrian Patristics (Origen) but continued through the Eastern Church finding a home the writings of John Wesley[5], as well as various Pietistic and Anabaptist sources. This is seen almost instantly in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, where though Wesley understood Scripture to be the primary authority, reason, experience and tradition are also given great weight. This is not too dissimilar to the multiple senses of Scripture found in the later Patristic writings. Given the influence Wesley has had whether directly or indirectly on modern evangelicalism by way of Methodism, Wesleyan Holiness, Pentecostalism, and even modern Neo-Evangelicalism[6], it is not surprising if the mystical influences on his life and interpretation of Scripture in fact have influenced more of evangelical thought than previously understood, especially in how one approaches the Scriptures. Further, Wesley’s perfectibility of man, though only focused on perfect love, was strongly influenced by the Eastern Orthodox ideas of Theosis.[7] This perfectibility in its least elevates the ability of man, though aided by God’s grace, and connects closely to the concepts already espoused by Origen.

Beyond Wesleyan influences, Charles Finney has had a tremendous impact on evangelicalism through his revivalistic campaigns. Evangelicals such as A.T. Pierson (former Pastor of Spurgeon’s famed Metropolitan Tabernacle)[8] and Fundamentalist Jerry Falwell have given glowing praises about Finney, yet somehow they have missed his essential mysticism that blended extreme perfectibility doctrine with a Pelagian soteriology. Concerning entire sanctification (a form of theosis), Finney writes, “So that this epistle, instead of militating against the idea of Paul’s entire sanctification, upon the supposition that he was speaking of himself, fully establishes the fact that he was in that state.”[9] Thus, he connected his ideas of sanctification with a demand for continued human righteousness on the part of the sinner.[10]

In contemporary scholarly writings, Reader Response Criticism has “become increasingly prominent in biblical studies.”[11] While, like previous authors mentioned, this approach to Scripture may not be well known, the idea of the reader’s importance in determining meaning seems to be the default interpretive method of many evangelicals, rather than relying on the historical-grammatical approach of interpreting the Bible. This criticism has many parallels with mystical thought. E. M. Blaiklock in his book The Bible and I pointed out that many evangelicals responded to modernity by moving toward a mystical theology. They did so because the authority of Scripture and a simple Gospel was being questioned, and rather than being able to defend the historicity of the Word, they simply turned to a new form of spirituality.[12] Ironically, Modernists and Mystics both end up communicating the same lack of faith in God’s revealed word. This lack of trust in the authority of the Scripture naturally increases a lack of trust in such doctrines as the deity of Christ.

Thomas Martin Lindsay echoed this conclusion in his work, “A History of the Reformation,” citing what he called Pantheistic Mysticism’s ruin of the theology of Christ and an anti-trinitarian theology.[13] Therefore, the historical examples cited demonstrate the close connection mysticism has with a low Christology and an elevated anthropology.

Mysticism and the Bible

One of the major flaws in mystical theology is its theosis doctrine and a growing union with Christ, rather than understanding our judicial union in Christ that is complete (Rom. 6) as we are indwelt and sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1-2). In like manner, the Bible portrays our access to God, and even our way of gaining knowledge, in concrete terms. The apostle Paul wrote:

“… that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:2-3 NKJV).”

In using a play on words of which would later become key to the mystic mystery religions, Paul says that ἐπίγνωσιν that is complete knowledge or gnosis is found in Christ. Paul then proceeds to argue against the great heresies of the day, Hellenistic philosophy (represented in Plato), Judaic legalism, Hellenistic and Judaic mysticism and asceticism all are to be rejected for that which “you have been taught (Col. 2:6 NKJV)” as contained in the Word of God, and the one who they were worshiping, that is the Word Jesus Christ.

Even the phrase “intruding into those things which he has not seen” (Col. 2:18 NKJV), is a word play on a Greek word later used for mystery religions and the initiation rites one may experience. Paul’s express declaration is that Christ, the one that is said “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9) is sufficient.

Concerning sanctification, Paul made clear that he had not experienced divinization or entire sanctification. Though he argued that one should press on to maturity, he also commented (in contrast to Finney’s interpretation) that

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14 NASB)

For Paul and the apostles, a simple faith in Jesus for salvation and redemption, the power of revealed wisdom in allowing them to accept His claims and the simple Gospel was sufficient, and in opposition to every pagan and anthropocentric theology. Every philosophical addition was to be rejected. Man, as a sinner, is in need of grace “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJV). And only a divine Savior, Jesus, equal with the Father, could provide this very gift.

[1]See Lewis, Gordon R., Demarest, Bruce A. Integrative Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).

[2]While further research and elucidation is needed on this connection, later contemplative writers seem to connect liturgical and spiritual readings of Scripture with theosis. For an example see Cunningham, Lawrence S. Ed. Thomas Merton, Spiritual Master: The Essential Writings (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1982) p. 30.

[3]Bray, Gerald, “The Filioque Clause in History and Theology”, Tyndale Bulletin 34 (1983) 91-144.

[4]A popular example of this blending of traditions may be found in Pennington, M. Basil Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form (New York: Doubleday, 2001).

[5]For a further discussion on Eastern Orthodoxy and Wesley, even to the point of theosis, see Maddox, Randy. L. Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (Nashville: Kingswood Books, 1994) pp. 122, 303 etc.

[6]While it is outside the scope of this article to examine to what extent the various evangelical movements give credit to John Wesley and his theology, it is generally accepted that John Wesley has, through the revival movements in which he was a part, influenced the later evangelicalism.

[7] Maddox, ibid.

[8]Pierson, A.T., “The Communicable Secrets of Mr. Finney’s Power” accessed throughhttp://www.gospeltruth.net/Reminiscenses/pierson.htm 3/17/15.

[9]Finney, Charles, “Sanctification: Paul Entirely Sanctified”, Lectures in Systematic Theology accessed through http://www.ccel.org/ccel/finney/theology.iv.xxxvii.html 3/17/15.

[10]Ibid. “Justification”.

[11]Soulen, R. Kendall, Soulen, Richard N., “Reader Response Criticism”, Handbook of Biblical Criticism (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) p. 176.

[12] See Blaiklock, E. M., The Bible and I (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1983).

[13]Lindsay, Thomas Martin, A History of the Reformation (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.1910) p. 423.

 

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