(459.2) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – Dying or Reforming? (Part 2-YOGA) – EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY.

 

PC(USA) LOSSES MOUNT – A VIEW OF HOW FAR FROM HISTORICAL FOUNDATIONS THEY HAVE STRAYED.

This is a reposting of 459 since some of the original article wasn’t included in that posting.  In reviewing the PC (USA), several additional items jumped out with respect to the growing influence of mysticism and Eastern religious beliefs and practices which, like we have looked in other denominations, is a growing trend in many churches today.

For example, on the denomination’s homepage and website, several references are made towards utilizing YOGA for physical and spiritual well-being. Christians who practice YOGA today, whether they realize it or not, are participating in physical movements representing a spiritual path in Hinduism.  Saying that you are only using YOGA as a physical exercise or for relaxation doesn’t take away from the fact of what YOGA actually is.  From Christian Answers for the New Age, Marcia Montenegro, states –

The Yoga most practiced by Christians is Hatha Yoga. The poses themselves are often depictions of Hindu deities, and the hand positions mimic the hand positions seen on the statues of Hindu gods. These hand positions are called mudras and are thought to help manipulate and channel prana, a supposed divine force or breath of the universe.

The purpose of Hatha Yoga is not physical and it is not to relax; it is part of a complex spiritual path to prepare the student for more advanced meditative states and also to lead the practitioner to the realization that the true self is divine (the Atman). The goal is to dis-identify with the body and self as one’s real identity in order to reach a state of Self-realization; that is, to realize the divine nature of Self.

Many Yoga classes do not use the Eastern terms when teaching Yoga, but disguise these with other terms that sound innocuous, such as “breathing techniques” for pranayama; “energy points” or “energy centers” for chakras; “center” for meditation; “poses” for asanas, etc.

In an upcoming PC(USA) conference, the following statement is made in reference to the Gospel and YOGA –

“we know that the desire for health and wholeness is at the heart of the Gospel call. By providing benefits, programs, and resources that promote wholeness and sustain well-being, the Church helps its servants devote their best gifts and energies to God’s kingdom.

Plan members are invited to more DEEPLY root their lives and ministries through participation in worship, fellowship, and workshops focusing on the spiritual, health, vocational, and financial dimensions of well-being. Sabbath and renewal, nutrition and physical wellness, discerning retirement and leaving well, financial planning, and generosity are among the program themes under development.

Call to Health* offers challenges in all dimensions of well-being — spiritual, health, financial, and vocational — with challenges changing quarterly. This week, two new spiritual challenges begin: Practice Forgiveness and Beginner Flexibility (YOGA).

It’s no surprise that practicing YOGA yields benefits mentally, physically, and spiritually…..etc.

Similarly, there are other concerns one can see on the website. In line with the theme of Eastern Mysticism, there are promotions referencing books on topics such as Hinduism.  In fact, there were references in a sermon to citing Hindu texts in addition to praising YOGA.  Think about that for a moment.

On top of these examples, you then see references to supporting same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexuals with a declining membership numbers, you quickly see a church that is dying, not reforming.

HERE IS A REPOSTING OF JEFFREY WALTON’S ARTICLE AT JUICY ECUMENISM:

AS LOSSES MOUNT, PRESBYTERIAN OFFICIAL DECLARES: “WE ARE NOT DYING, WE ARE REFORMING”

May 24, 2017

As Losses Mount, Presbyterian Official Declares: “We are not dying. We are Reforming”

Updated statistics made available today by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of the General Assembly (OGA) show a denomination continuing a steep, uninterrupted decline in 2016. The U.S.-based denomination shed 89,893 members in 2016, a decline of 5.7% percent, dropping below 1.5 million members for the first time. A net 191 congregations closed or were dismissed to other denominations, bringing the denominational total to 9,451 congregations.

“We are not dying. We are Reforming,” PCUSA Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II declared in a statement made available on Wednesday. “We are moving towards a new future as a denomination.”

Of those who will not be moving towards that new future, 43,902 departed via certificate, while 75,064 are listed as “other”.  Deaths accounted for a decline of 26,193 members in 2016.

In 2015, the PCUSA declined by 95,107 active members. Since 2005 the denomination has reported losing more than a third of its active membership, declining from 2,313,662 active members in 2005 to 1,482,767 in 2016 (-36%).

“Despite cries proclaiming the death of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we remain a viable interfaith and ecumenical partner in many local communities while proclaiming a prophetic witness throughout the world,” Nelson stated.

Other global Presbyterian denominations have continued to distance themselves from the PCUSA in response to the actions of its General Assembly to permit the ordination of practicing homosexuals in 2011.

“We are well-respected for our priestly and prophetic voice within Christendom,” Nelson asserted. “Our challenge is to see the powerful opportunities that are before us while declaring with Holy Spirit boldness that God is doing amazing work within us right now.”

In early 2016, a meeting of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) predicted membership losses of approximately 100,000 for both 2015 and 2016 and 75,000 each year thereafter through 2020.

The decline contrasts with several years of steady growth among some other reformed denominations in the United States. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) – which spit from one of the PCUSA’s predecessor bodies – has reported growth for each of the past five years, rebounding from a short period of decline that began in 2008. Separately, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO) have reported significant growth each year, partly due to receiving congregations which sought dismissal from the PCUSA.

The PCUSA reached peak membership in 1965 at 4.25 million. During the past several years, more than 500 congregations have opted to leave the denomination. Finances have also declined. While the church’s investment income has increased, the PCUSA saw declines in contributions, capital and building funds and bequests in 2016. Expenditures also dropped.

The rate of decline has accelerated since the denomination’s General Assembly voted to change the definition of marriage from “one man and one woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman” in 2014. The change allows clergy to perform same-sex marriages.

PCUSA controversies are not limited to human sexual expression. At the church’s most recent General Assembly in Portland, Oregon in 2016, an Islamic leader offered a prayer during the service in which he referred to Mohammed as a prophet alongside Jesus and decried “bigots” and “Islamophobes.” The prayer stirred up controversy and eventually precipitated an apology from PCUSA officials.

Political issues have also polarized the denomination in recent years. After a decade of heated debate, backtracking, and suspenseful votes, the PCUSA voted for divestment from three companies that do business with Israel. At 2016 General Assembly, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement successfully prompted Presbyterian commissioners to passed a resolution stating that the PCUSA should: “Prayerfully study the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel…”

Over the last forty years, the makeup of the United States has changed considerably, yet the PCUSA remains overwhelmingly homogeneous: according to 2016 statistics about the racial composition of congregations, the denomination is 90.93% white.

“As we are challenged to become a more racially diverse denomination in order to grow into the future, it is imperative that we invite new immigrants into our congregations as members,” Nelson advised

 

(459) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – Dying or Reforming? – EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY.

As Losses Mount, Presbyterian Official Declares: “We are not dying. We are Reforming”

JEFFREY WALTON at JUICY ECUMENISM writes this article today on the effect of issues such as homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and related gender issues are having a dramatically adverse effect on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).   Officials from the denomination stated – “We are not dying.  We are Reforming.”  It is an amazingly bold statement to contradict God’s word and then declare that they are the reformers?

https://juicyecumenism.com/2017/05/24/pcusa/

PCUSA Stated Clerk Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson II

May 24, 2017

 

As Losses Mount, Presbyterian Official Declares: “We are not dying. We are Reforming”

Updated statistics made available today by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of the General Assembly (OGA) show a denomination continuing a steep, uninterrupted decline in 2016. The U.S.-based denomination shed 89,893 members in 2016, a decline of 5.7% percent, dropping below 1.5 million members for the first time. A net 191 congregations closed or were dismissed to other denominations, bringing the denominational total to 9,451 congregations.

“We are not dying. We are Reforming,” PCUSA Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II declared in a statement made available on Wednesday. “We are moving towards a new future as a denomination.”

Of those who will not be moving towards that new future, 43,902 departed via certificate, while 75,064 are listed as “other”.  Deaths accounted for a decline of 26,193 members in 2016.

In 2015, the PCUSA declined by 95,107 active members. Since 2005 the denomination has reported losing more than a third of its active membership, declining from 2,313,662 active members in 2005 to 1,482,767 in 2016 (-36%).

“Despite cries proclaiming the death of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we remain a viable interfaith and ecumenical partner in many local communities while proclaiming a prophetic witness throughout the world,” Nelson stated.

Other global Presbyterian denominations have continued to distance themselves from the PCUSA in response to the actions of its General Assembly to permit the ordination of practicing homosexuals in 2011.

“We are well-respected for our priestly and prophetic voice within Christendom,” Nelson asserted. “Our challenge is to see the powerful opportunities that are before us while declaring with Holy Spirit boldness that God is doing amazing work within us right now.”

In early 2016, a meeting of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) predicted membership losses of approximately 100,000 for both 2015 and 2016 and 75,000 each year thereafter through 2020.

The decline contrasts with several years of steady growth among some other reformed denominations in the United States. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) – which spit from one of the PCUSA’s predecessor bodies – has reported growth for each of the past five years, rebounding from a short period of decline that began in 2008. Separately, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO) have reported significant growth each year, partly due to receiving congregations which sought dismissal from the PCUSA.

The PCUSA reached peak membership in 1965 at 4.25 million. During the past several years, more than 500 congregations have opted to leave the denomination. Finances have also declined. While the church’s investment income has increased, the PCUSA saw declines in contributions, capital and building funds and bequests in 2016. Expenditures also dropped.

The rate of decline has accelerated since the denomination’s General Assembly voted to change the definition of marriage from “one man and one woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman” in 2014. The change allows clergy to perform same-sex marriages.

PCUSA controversies are not limited to human sexual expression. At the church’s most recent General Assembly in Portland, Oregon in 2016, an Islamic leader offered a prayer during the service in which he referred to Mohammed as a prophet alongside Jesus and decried “bigots” and “Islamophobes.” The prayer stirred up controversy and eventually precipitated an apology from PCUSA officials.

Over the last forty years, the makeup of the United States has changed considerably, yet the PCUSA remains overwhelmingly homogeneous: according to 2016 statistics about the racial composition of congregations, the denomination is 90.93% white.

“As we are challenged to become a more racially diverse denomination in order to grow into the future, it is imperative that we invite new immigrants into our congregations as members,” Nelson advised.

 

(458) SPIRITUAL FORMATION – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

SPIRITUAL FORMATION & CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER BY JOHN MACARTHUR 

We will look at the topic of Spiritual Formation.  Additional postings are planned. This one is from John MacArthur.

I can’t say I always agree with John MacArthur, but I must also say that I respect his view of the Bible and his gift of teaching from the Bible.  A valuable and rare gem in today’s world of television personalities and among authors invited to speak at churches and seminaries.

He answers a question about CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER and SPIRITUAL FORMATION in the church.  He brings up the point that in the Evangelical Church today, many are following after a so-called DEEPER path to becoming close to God.  They are “Digging DEEP to find their spiritual core and spiritual center” with Bible words thrown on top to make it all sound good.  The assumption is that Spiritual truth is something originating inside of you and found intuitively.  MacArthur is quick to say – Not true – it is outside of you.  It is in a book – God’s word.   Divine revelation is external to you.  Looking deep inside of you is not where God’s truth lives.

It is when that truth gets into our minds, then we can look at that truth inside of you (e.g. in your mind).

Popular teachings today are re-introducing MYSTICISM to the church. Ancient so-called wisdom from early church fathers, Roman Catholicism, and Emerging Church leaders such as Dallas Williard and Richard Foster have become popular today withing the church.

Christian leaders are confused themselves about this subject and it has embedded itself in Christian colleges, seminaries and now churches.  More to follow.

 

(457) 61% CHRISTIANS AGREE WITH ‘NEW SPIRITUALITY’ – Emerging Trends in the Church Today.

Practicing Christians Agreeing with ‘New Spirituality’

From several perspectives, this blog exists to inform Christians of some of the nonbiblical influences that have developed within Christianity from other religious philosophies. Even more so, it is important to understand that point out how much of these trends are occurring from within the church itself.  New practices are being combined with Christian beliefs and practices along with new words and phrases used to describe these practices that are not found in Scripture.

From my perspective, similar trends in the church today reflect a departure from the practice of biblical discipleship.  More and more churches seek to spread the latest fad for growing the church while leaving behind one of our most important callings from God’s word – discipleship. Christians today are less equipped, less knowledgeable, less experienced in the basics of the faith.  This has impacted all Christians but especially younger Christians growing up in a church that succumbed to these trends.

The book of Jude reminded believers of their duty to fight for the truth.  This is such an important issue to Jude when he took up his pen to write about our common salvation, he was compelled by the Holy Spirit to encourage us “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

3 aBeloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our bcommon salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you ccontend earnestly for dthe faith which was once for all edelivered to fthe 1saints. 4 For certain persons have acrept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand 1 bmarked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn cthe grace of our God into dlicentiousness and edeny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (NASB)

Survey: 61 Percent of Practicing Christians Agree With Some ‘New Spirituality’ Beliefs

BRANDON SHOWALTER , CP REPORTER

May 10, 2017 | 12:28 PM

A new survey reveals the scope of influence of non-Christian belief systems on the mindsets of practicing Christians, with large percentages of them agreeing with ideas from other faiths and secular philosophies.

The research from Barna in cooperation with Summit Ministries released this week measured how much the central beliefs of other worldviews like “new spirituality,” secularism, postmodernism, and Marxism have affected the beliefs of Christians about the world and how it should be.

Their “widespread influence upon Christian thinking is evident not only among competing worldviews, but even among competing religions,” the survey report reads.

In a web-based survey conducted in March of 1,456 practicing Christians, researchers asked the sample if they agreed with several statements that are rooted in so-called “new spirituality.Sixty-one percent of them affirmed at least one of the questions.

Nearly 30 percent agreed that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” About that same percentage of people said they believe that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is.”

The influence of this spirituality has also seeped into the thinking of Christians on matters of ethics, with approximately one third believing in a form of karma. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they agreed with the statement “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad,” which although not found in Scripture appeals to a sense of justice many have.

“This research really crystallizes what Barna has been tracking in our country as an ongoing shift away from Christianity as the basis for a shared worldview,” said Brooke Hempell, senior vice president of research for Barna, in the report.

What Do Americans Think of Jesus: Man, Myth or God?

“We have observed and reported on increasing pluralism, relativism and moral decline among Americans and even in the Church. Nevertheless, it is striking how pervasive some of these beliefs are among people who are actively engaged in the Christian faith.”

Because fragments and similarities to Christian teachings exist within other systems of thought, this poses a challenge.

“[S]ome may recognize and latch on to these ideas, not realizing they are distortions of biblical truths,” Hempell noted.

“The call for the Church, and its teachers and thinkers, is to help Christians dissect popular beliefs before allowing them to settle in their own ideology.”

The survey also presented statements rooted in postmodernism, secularism, and Marxism, asking Christians if they agreed with them. Those numbers were lower than those who agreed with “new spirituality.” Still, overall, 54 percent agreed with some postmodernist views, 36 percent accepted ideas associated with Marxism and 29 percent said they believe ideas based on secularism.

More specifically, ten percent of practicing Christians said they believed the “secular” view that “a belief has to be proven by science to know that it is true.” The postmodern statement “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes” resonated strongly with 23 percent of practicing Christians. Eleven percent of respondents agreed with the Marxist statement “Private property encourages greed and envy.”

Demographically, men, often at a two to one ratio, were more open to these non-Christian worldviews than women in all categories. In about half of the survey’s questions, Americans of color were more likely than white Americans to lend credence to non-Christian worldviews.

Millennials and Gen-Xers, who came of age in a culture under considerably less influence of the Christian faith, were eight times as likely to embrace non-Christian worldviews than were respondents from the Baby Boomer and Elder generations, the study found.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/survey-61-percent-of-practicing-christians-agree-with-some-new-spirituality-beliefs-183173/#5BXtXAbXgqsLD6ME.99

(456) THE BENEDICT OPTION (Part 2) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

It is ironic that as the church celebrates the 500th anniversary of 41QY+zZAzfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_the Protestant Reformation, current trends today shows a church that has blended many of their differences, theological principles, and practices together. On the surface, that may seem like a good thing to see the church unified.  

In some respects, reality says that some of this actually has benefited the church. Interaction on several social issues that at times consume the headlines such as abortion and same-sex marriage have benefited from a unity in presenting a biblical view on these issues that otherwise usually gets silenced by the gatekeepers of a secular society.  I would hope that this unity continues to stand strong when based on biblical principles.  The unity isn’t always shared by Christians by and large.  Several Protestant denominations approve of either abortion and/or gay marriage.  Some will even go as far as approving gay ordination of ministers within their particular denomination.  On the Roman Catholic side, on some of these issues, the Church has been a strong tower with respect to upholding biblical principles.  But like some Protestants, the lay Catholic may hold a personal view that is far from what the church teaches.  In addition to that, we have a Pope today who routinely makes statements that imply (directly or indirectly) some difference of views on issues long held by the church for centuries.

That said, biblical unity shouldn’t depend on the views from various Christian denominations. Rather, biblical unity settles on Christ and a truly a biblical view of the issues.   The important consideration is not necessarily what your church believes but rather what does God say in His word.  There lies an important difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.  Roman Catholicism upholds church tradition on equal authority with the Bible. Protestants hold the Bible as the ultimate authority.  It is a key difference between the two groups – insurmountable to many.  There are several other major differences, but just to state one more key difference is the view of how one becomes a Christian – a works-based versus grace through faith alone based approach.  Again, a huge difference between these two groups.  

Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option, was a Roman Catholic and now adheres to Eastern Orthodoxy.  Dreher writes in his book about the need for Christians today to learn to apply the practices of the sixth-century monk, Saint Benedict. Benedict was the founder of the monastic Benedictine order.  The reason is that Dreher believes that there is no reverse of the culture war which began with the sexual revolution in the 1960s and ended in the defeat for Christian conservatives (pp. 3,79) and there is no hope of being reversed (p. 89). Dreher points to the time of Saint Benedict where the monastic community formed in the early centuries of the church with the intent of preserving the faith for future generations.  In his view, the monastic system preserved the faith through the medieval period (pp. 4,29,236).  He takes that further to state that in order for our faith to survive today, we must “learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West” (p. 4).  Therefore, the Benedict Option is a call to undertaking the long and patient work of reclaiming the real world from the alienation brought on by modern-day life.

Dreher traces the moral fall of modern society to five landmark events that rocked Western civilization:

  • In the fourteenth century, the loss of belief in the integral connection between God and Creation—or, in philosophic terms, transcendent reality and material reality.
  • The collapse of religious unity and religious authority in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.
  • The eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which displaced the Christian religion with the cult of Reason, privatized religious life, and inaugurated the age of democracy.
  • The Industrial Revolution (ca. 1760—1840) and the growth of capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • The Sexual Revolution (1960—present) (p. 23).
    • [G. Gilley @ tottministries.org]

I would agree that these events “rocked” society at the time, but I don’t necessarily attribute all of these events as responsible for the fall of society?  Some of these events clearly adversely affected society (e.g. sexual revolution) but with the others listed, one will need to ask what would the alternative have been if some of these events listed above didn’t take place?  In other words, the alternative would most likely have been far worse (alternatives to Democracy, Growth of Capitalism….etc.). 

Specifically, Dreher’s Catholicism comes out with his listing of the Protestant Reformation as being responsible for the collapse of religious unity and authority.  Again, a series of events that “rocked” society but in this case, a unity developed against the traditions of the church (Roman Catholicism), the authority of the Pope and instead focused more on God’s grace found in His word. People began looking at the Bible for truth – even to the point of giving up their life for the spread of God’s word. So much more could be said on this issue.

With little surprise to me, in addition to putting down the Reformation, Dreher introduces several aspects of contemplative mysticism, also found in early Roman Catholicism. Practices are recommended which have little similarity to Biblical practices and instead mirror mystical practices from other Eastern religious beliefs (e.g. Eastern Mysticism)

Check out a few of these in the following quotes from his latest book.

In this quote, contemplative practices such as praying the Jesus Prayer repeatedly, lectio divina, silent prayer, stilling the mind…..etc.

 

Imagine that you are at a Catholic mass in a dreary 1970s-era suburban church that looks like a converted Pizza Hut. The next Sunday you are at a high Catholic mass in New York City, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Scripture reading is the same in both places, and Jesus is just as present in the Eucharist at Our Lady of Pizza Hut as at St. Patrick’s. Chances are, though, that you had to work harder to conjure a sense of the true holiness of the mass in the suburban church than in the cathedral—though theologically speaking, the “information” conveyed in Word and Sacrament in both places was the same. This is the difference liturgy can make. (Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, pp. 106-107, Penguin Publishing Group; emphasis added)

I told the priest how, in response to a personal crisis, my own orthodox priest back in Louisiana had assigned me a strict daily prayer rule, praying the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) for about an hour each day. It was dull and difficult at first, but I did it out of obedience. Every day, for a seemingly endless hour, silent prayer. In time, though, the hour seemed much shorter, and I discovered that the peace I had conspicuously lacked in my soul came forth. (The Benedict Option, p. 59)

For the monks, prayer is not simply words they speak. Each monk spends several hours daily doing lectio divina, a Benedictine method of Scripture study that involves reading a Scripture passage, meditating on it, praying about it, and finally contemplating its meaning for the soul. (The Benedict Option, pp. 58-59)

The Reformation broke the religious unity [with Rome] of Europe. In Protestant lands, it birthed an unresolvable crisis in religious authority, which over the coming centuries would cause unending schisms. The Benedict Option, p. 45, emphasis added)

If you don’t control your own attention, there are plenty of people eager to do it for you. The first step in regaining cognitive control is creating a space of silence in which you can think. During a deep spiritual crisis in my own life, the toxic tide of chronic anxiety did not began to recede from my mind until my priest ordered me to take up a daily rule of contemplative prayer. Stilling my mind for an hour of prayer was incredibly difficult, but it eventually opened up a beachhead in which the Holy Spirit could work to calm the stormy waters within.  (The Benedict Option, pp. 227-228, emphasis added)

In a 2017 Christianity Today article titled, “The Benedict Option’s Vision for a Christian Village” by Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option, Dreher says the following. Our deciphering is in brackets:

I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church, and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself [unify by removing the barriers between Protestantism and Catholicism], while there is still time. If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith [not biblical roots, monastic roots of the desert fathers and other mystics], both in thought and in deed. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart [contemplative prayer practices – Nouwen called it moving from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical] forgotten by believers in the West [that’s what Merton taught]. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs [the cost is going to be the death of biblical truth]. (source)

Several remarks by Dreher show a promotion of contemplative practices & mysticism which today is a major concern and a major reason NOT to read or support his recommendations.  With Dreher’s turn towards Eastern Orthodoxy, mysticism plays into an even larger part of the religious practices that is promoted within the church.

Dreher’s ECUMENICAL unifying of the church glosses over why the church separated in the first place.  Even more concerning are that these are growing trends in the church today.  But the unification is in spite of Biblical truth instead of Biblical truth.  Issues ranging from how one is saved through a works-based system of man-made theology or a Scripture inspired view of grace alone is a critical difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.  It is disappointing to see some major Protestant leaders such as Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, John Piper…etc., come out stressing the importance of this book and recommending that we ought to read Dreher’s book.

Future postings will continue to look at the effect of mysticism in the church along with addressing the ecumenical trends in some parts of the church today.

(455) THE BENEDICT OPTION – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

THE BENEDICT OPTION

41QY+zZAzfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

A new book by Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option, is getting a great deal of exposure and write-ups across many branches of Christianity.  It is promoting a strategy for Christians to engage in our post-Christian nation that we find ourselves today.

I will most likely be writing more about the book in the near future, but for now, I will give a few comments based on reading some reviews and listening to a podcast with Rod Dreher describing his book and why he wrote it.

I heard a podcast interview at the Impact 360 Institute –

http://impact360institute.org/podcasts/should-christians-take-the-benedict-option-an-interview-with-rod-dreher

My brief review from listening to Dreher’s comments in the interview include the following comments:

Rod Dreher does make some very good points. He identifies some of the problems that Christians in our society face today. His point is well taken – college kids and young adults just don’t know about the basics of the faith and have grown up in the church but still lack discipleship in their walk.

However, where I would disagree with Dreher is in what he recommends as a solution. 

Since the popularity of groups such as the Emerging Church…etc., there has been a trend to look negatively at the church today and instead look back to the so-called “early church” to see supposed “true Christianity” as a guide to how we should live out our faith today.  The problem with this approach is, although it is not their intention, they move further from God’s word and look instead to tradition. Worse, much of their tradition is along the lines of ancient Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox mysticism. It is a mystical approach to faith that aligns itself very closely with Eastern Mysticism and includes practices that mirror practices from Buddhism, Hinduism….etc. There are many examples of Catholic and Orthodox priests and scholars having Buddhist monks teach in their seminaries on how to meditate and pray according to these traditions that align very closely with Buddhism….etc.

They don’t abandon the faith and to their credit, they include prayer and Bible study as a part of their focus. But they introduce practices that have no basis in the Bible and mix in with Christian practices. The most dangerous perspective of this approach is how it is introduced to Christians – it’s done in a very subtle manner. The results of which show that it can be difficult to identify what these practices actually are to Christians. They then use Christian sounding terms to describe these practices and Christians today have become desensitized to their actual meaning.

For example, terminology that includes words and phrases such as “formation”. “rhythms”, “silence”, “stillness”, “solitude”, “contemplative”...etc. are included with concepts such as meditation and prayer. The problem is that these phrases describe Eastern Mystical practices, not biblical practices outlined in Scripture. Biblical meditation is different than mediation being promoted by those promoting a contemplative faith. Eastern Orthodoxy is filled with these types of mystical practices. The take even reading the Bible and use a practice called Lectio Divina which doesn’t encourage the participant to understand what Scripture is saying but instead through repetition of words, phrases, periods of silence….etc., they are to experience a closeness to God. What? Is that what the Bible calls us to do?

In addition, patterning our walk today after a monastic lifestyle makes no sense.  Granted, Dreher states that his intention is not to recommend living like monks lived in the 6th century.  But, much of what is presented is copying the lifestyle and theology of these monks who have left civilization to live as hermits – I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind when giving us our marching order with the Great Commission.  That is biblical discipleship.  

The Evangelical Church today has been inundated with these practices. We would be wise to cut out the middleman and go directly to God’s word for our edification and spiritual growth. True discipleship has to focus on God’s word, not these alternative practices that have more similarity to Eastern Mysticism than they do the Bible.

(454) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: EVANGELICAL SCHOLARS STILL MISINFORMED ABOUT CREATION

The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures by D.A. Carson

A Book Review by

Lita Cosner

Journal of Creation 31(1), 2017865762_1_ftc

The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures is a significant contribution to evangelical scholarship. Edited by one of the foremost living Bible scholars with essays contributed from well-respected scholars from across historical, biblical, and theological specialties, this over-1,000-page book is weighty both in terms of its bulk and the level of its argumentation. There are many positive things that one can say about this book, which makes it all the more disappointing how it treats biblical creation.

Genesis: the lowest common denominator?

D.A. Carson makes the first comments in the book about creation vs evolution. He begins by contrasting Richard Dawkins and the new atheists with theist John Polkinghorne and pantheist Arthur Peacocke, the latter being “scientists who reject the philosophical naturalism of the new atheists, and find ways to think about the integration of scientific learning and fundamental Christian claims, including supernatural claims” (p. 34).

He continues on to note the need for “cautious skepticism” regarding scientific claims: “Not that many decades ago, PHRENOLOGY and EUGENICS were both almost universally espoused and commonly practiced. They were, after all, ‘scientific’. Today they are equally universally dismissed” (p. 35).

 

However,“… this stance does not sanction arrogant dismissal; it mandates respect, careful listening, evaluation, and sometimes patient uncertainty, as we refuse to be intimidated by the overconfident claims of some scientists or by the popularity of some nearly universally adopted theories” (p. 35).

So far so good. But he criticizes Christians who “appear to be utterly certain about how to read every line of Genesis 1–11”, and counsels:

“Frankly, in the light of the complexity of the hermeneutical issues raised by these opening chapters of Scripture, the question posed by Francis A. Schaeffer forty years ago is still the most pertinent one: What is the least that Genesis 1–11 must be saying in order for the book of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, to be coherent and true?” (pp. 35–36).

However, it is difficult to imagne Carson arguing for this sort of least-common-denominator theology in regard to the Trinity or the Resurrection, but in fact the doctrine of creation is every bit as foundational for the Christian faith.1

That Augustine quote!Untitled copy

Another author, Glenn S. Sunshine, in his essay, “Accommodation Historically Considered”, quotes Augustine’s famous statement in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis to the effect that

“… it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn” (p. 245).

 

Sunshine says: “Augustine’s comments in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis are among the first to address the typical modern question of the relationship between the Bible and science” (p.246). However, this quote is MISUSED when people use it to argue against young-earth creation, because evolution does not meet Augustine’s definition of ‘fact’ in that quote, and he was himself a young-earth creationist.2

Science and Scripture

Kirsten Birkett in her essay “Science and Scripture” helpfully, accurately, and surprisingly explains the case of Galileo’s persecution as an instance of the church of the day being overly pro-science, i.e. pro- Aristotelian science. While there were very good reasons at the time for being cautious of accepting Galileo’s theory (Newtonian physics, which is critical for making sense of heliocentrism, was still in the future, for one). There is very little to dispute in this retelling,  and one hopes its appearance in such a substantial collection of scholarship will help to debunk the false religion- vs-science narrative.

Sadly, there is much less to celebrate in her discussion of chronology, the age of the earth, and the days of Genesis (p. 956ff). She notes that certain Jewish and Christian interpreters had non-literal understandings of the days in Genesis, but fails to examine the text of Genesis 1 to see if the grammar itself allows for such a non-literal view. She also does not mention that a LITERAL view of the creation days was the MAJORITY view throughout church history.

Birkett helpfully recounts the history beginning from the Renaissance of the attempts to create a chronology of the world, and the calendrical problems of the period that complicated things. However, disappointingly the conclusion was that “the Bible could not stand alone” (p. 960).

She also cites Isaac La Peyrère as an example of questioning whether Adam was the real historical first person (p. 960). His goal in interpreting Adam figuratively was to reconcile “Bible chronology with the longer ones of the ancient pagans, the American Indians, and the Chinese” (p. 961). This supports the idea that “church scholars were quite aware of claims to a long history of the earth and to various degrees were prepared to accept it” (p. 961). However, the example of La Peyrère shows that there were people who were not prepared to accept it; as she says:

“… as the ideas spread, they attracted violent criticism. … Calvinist Holland and Catholic France alike con- demned it. La Peyrère was arrested by the Inquisition in Brussels. His master Conde secured his release at a price of his conversion to Catholicism. He had to publish a retraction and died a pauper” (p. 961).

 

Is creationism ‘Scripture against science’?

Birkett discusses and dismisses young-earth creation without citing one prominent young-earth theologian or scientist (and while citing their critics exclusively). It is not a fair or a scholarly way to critique someone, so the kindest thing I can say about this part of her essay is that she needs to inform herself about the actual arguments creationists use—she seems unaware, for instance, that creationists have various ways of accounting for predatory structures (discussed on p. 968).

The bias in her examination of young-earth creation is even more apparent when compared to her analysis and criticism of John Polkinghorne, which cites many of his own writings. If Birkett had similarly cited biblical creationist scholars, one might have still disagreed with her analysis, but there would be less grounds for criticizing the bias of it.

 

Positive points

It is a shame that the book is so weak overall when it comes to the doctrine of creation, because in other respects it is quite good and contains a lot of worthwhile information. For instance, the historical chapters contain a lot of evidence that inerrancy is not a modern invention, but can be found as far back as the Patristic period, through the Reformation, and in every strain of Protestant thought.

Among the biblical/theological topics, Craig Blomberg’s “Reflections on Jesus’ view of the Old Testament” was notable. He asserts:

“When it comes to the inspiration, truthfulness, authority, and relevance of the Bible of his world, Jesus could scarcely have held to higher views. … He acknowledged Scripture’s divine origin as God’s word and words. He quoted from the Bible extensively and intensively. He affirmed the inviolability of its contents down to the smallest details. To whatever degree the contents of the Hebrew canon had solidified by his day, Jesus affirmed their unity but also their tripartite division. He interpreted the historical narratives in ways that suggest he believed that at least most (and probably all) of the events narrated really happened” (p. 696).

This necessarily has implications for the Christian’s view of Scripture:

“If we are followers of Jesus, we will want to adopt his view

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of the Scriptures. He believed in their fully divine origin, reliability, and authority. Therefore, our view of the Old Testament should accept their complete God-given trustworthiness and claims on our lives as well. And just as nothing in the humanity of a person requires that a given writing of theirs contain errors, nothing in the humanity of Scripture logically compels us to find mistakes in it” (p. 699).

This, at least, is something with which biblical creationists can wholeheartedly agree!

There are also sections on philosophy and comparative religions, with which some readers will doubtless disagree (one may question the wisdom, for instance, of seeing the Buddhist sutras as a possible gateway to evangelism), but which are nonetheless informative and interesting.

 

Conclusion

A review of a work like The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures will necessarily fail to address the whole book, so one is forced to cover the topics most interesting to the readers of a given review. Unfortunately, this may give an unbalanced view of the book in that on the topic of creation, it is very disappointing for young-earth creationists to find that we have once again been misrepresented. But in other ways the book is very useful and contains arguments that are of use to young-earth creationists. Because of this potential usefulness, we shouldn’t completely reject books like The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, even if we wish the authors were a bit more well– informed about creation. The very academic and densely argued nature, however, makes it most suitable for specialists.

References

  1. See a critique of the same sort of argumentation in a popular-level article at Cosner, L., Timescale and theology, creation.com/timescale-theology, 28 June 2016.
  2. See Cosner, L. and Sarfati, J., Non-Christian philosopher clears up myths about Augustine and the term ‘literal’, J. Creation 27(2):9–10, 2013; creation.com/augustine-myths-debunked.