Archive | November 2015

unCHRISTIAN BY DAVID KINNAMAN

(372) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: UNCHRISTIAN BY DAVID KINNAMAN.

I will continue to offer book reviews by both myself and by others who are much more qualified to offer reviews.  This review of David Kinnaman’s book unChristian is by Bill Muehlenberg.  He gives a balanced review and hits on some issues that I also find to get my attention.  This book plays into the common appeasing approach some Christians have today when addressing controversial issues.  Muehlenberg states that confronting issues is usually not going to be the popular thing to do especially when talking about sin and on social issues for example.  In many cases, a message needs to challenge the 072710_1_ftchearer and not just tickle their ears to confront their life and be open to accepting the true good news of the Gospel.

Baker, 2007. (Available in Australia at Koorong books)

Yes and no is how I respond to this book. Yes, we all have failed to properly represent Christ to a watching world. Yes we have been ungracious, hypocritical, uncharitable, and many other things at times, thereby unnecessarily turning some people off to the gospel.

But no, that is not the whole story. Imagine if one could be free of all these negative traits, and present the good news of God in a totally loving and gracious manner. Would that mean everyone would flock to Christianity?

Well, we don’t have to imagine very hard – it has already happened. Jesus came and lived among us, representing God perfectly, full of grace, love and beauty. And guess what? While many people flocked to Christ, many people rejected Christ. The most perfect example of Christlike behaviour was met with mixed results.

That message almost never comes through in this book. It is all about how we fail to measure up in the eyes of non-Christians. Indeed, the book begins with these words: “Christianity has an image problem”. Is that it? Is that the simple reason why people don’t become Christians?

It may be part of it, but it surely is not all of it. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). Indeed, he also said this: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put
to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matt 24:9).

Rejection of the followers of Jesus is bound to happen, just as Jesus was rejected. So in one sense, no matter how loving, gracious, tactful and diplomatic we might be, we have no promise that this will result in the successful reception of our message.

I have written this up at length in my previous article: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/04/02/on-rejecting-christianity/

Here I wish to focus on just two of the book’s chapters. Six reasons are offered as to why people reject Christianity. The two highest ranking ones were “Antihomosexual” and “Judgmental”, which comprise chapters 5 and 8 of this book.

I have written on both of these topics quite often, so pardon some repetition here. As to the issue of homosexuality, my response is again, yes and no. Have some believers been un-Christlike and unloving in their dealings with homosexuals? Yes.

But again, that is not the end of the story. While many of us can and should lift our game here, there is more to it than just that. At the moment one of the major assaults on faith and family is the militant homosexual lobby. While we need to seek to lovingly reach individual homosexuals with the gospel, we also must deal with the public policy side of things as well.

That is, there is a very real place for standing up for the God-given institution of heterosexual marriage, and resist the demands for same-sex marriage and homosexual adoption rights. The case for that has been argued fully elsewhere by me and others.

And to affirm the Biblical mandate that human sexuality is only permissible within the confines of heterosexual marriage is something we must strongly affirm. To take such stands will of course offend and alienate many homosexuals, and their various supporters. How can it not?

But as always love and truth must go hand in hand. We can seek to lead all people, including homosexuals, into the kingdom, while taking a stand for biblical truth, which includes the core belief that we are all sinners in need of a saviour.

That message will of course offend. Paul can speak of the offense of the cross for example. Speaking truth in love will always be controversial, divisive and offensive. And when Paul tells us that no unrepentant homosexual will enter the kingdom of God, just as no unrepentant adulterer or thief will enter it (1 Cor. 6:9-11), that is truth we must proclaim, even though many will take offence at it.

If our only concern was to get non-Christians to like us, and to eliminate any image problems we might have, then all we have to do is gut the gospel of its radical demands of repentance and holiness, and we will get along swimmingly with everyone.

But to speak the truth about a holy, just and righteous God who demands repentance and a changed life (with the help of Christ) will always cause an image problem, and will always lead many to want nothing to do with biblical Christianity.

I find the chapter on judgmentalism to also be problematic. Consider how the term is defined: “To be judgmental is to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded, and marginalized”.

Is that bad? Is it unbiblical? To be honest, it seems to be a perfect description of just what we find in Scripture. Consider the story of Jesus and the rich man as found in Matt. 19:16-30. This seems to portray the very thing that Kinnaman is condemning.

In this pericope Jesus pointed “out something that is wrong in someone else’s life” (the rich man), and what was the result? The rich man went away sad, we are told, because Jesus was judging his love of riches. That sounds a lot like making the rich man “feel put down, excluded, and marginalized”.

The truth is, whenever we proclaim that a person is alienated from God because of his sin and selfishness, and that he needs to repent and ask for forgiveness, that is going to result in such feelings. It cuts right across human pride to point out such things, and the first reaction many will have is, “you are being so judgmental; you are putting me down!”

So in one sense this can never be avoided. The cross judges all people as sinners, marginalising them and putting them in a box. The good news is, however, that there is a way out of our fallen, condemned position. Indeed, it is impossible to preach the good news of the gospel without first preaching the bad news.

That will offend many, it will alienate many, it will cause many to hate the gospel. But that is what we are called to do. Sure, by all means let us seek to be as Christlike, as winsome, and as tactful as possible. But rejection, anger or indifference will nonetheless still be the reaction of many.

Perhaps I can tie these two chapters on homosexuality and judging together with a story of a former homosexual who came to Christ. The first half of his story as a homosexual and his dislike of Christianity would have nicely fit in a book like this.

But the second half of his story would not likely be found in a book such as this, and one wonders why. His story is entitled: “Thank You For Offending Me”. Here is an abbreviated version of his story:

“Let me just say a hearty ‘THANK YOU’ to my wife, and my parents and family, and my friends, who cared enough about me to offend me! I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I consider the ramifications in my life had the people in my world bought into the lie that to love me was to affirm my homosexuality. When I left my wife to pursue homosexuality, she boldly told me that she knew God could work in me and in our marriage and that she would not pursue divorce. She protected her interests but always professed her love for me and her desire to work through this together.”

He concludes with these moving words, “Today my marriage is restored and has grown beyond my imagination. I have three beautiful children and am living out the call on my life to vocational ministry. Healing has happened in my family relationships, and I am closer to that cadre of friends than ever before. As I listen to people debate the ‘gay’ issue and talk of affirmation and inclusivity of homosexuality, I wonder where I would be today had Stephanie accepted my claim that I had always been gay and would always be gay and pursued divorce like I wanted her to do. I wonder where I would be if my parents had joined PFLAG [Parent and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] and supported me in my quest to live homosexually.

“I wonder where I would be if my friends had encouraged me to divorce Stephanie and had rallied around me in my homosexuality. I wonder where I would be if my pastors and spiritual shepherds had encouraged me to accept the very thing I needed to lay before the cross of Christ. I shudder at the thought. I know it must have killed them to think of losing me, but they loved me enough to take that risk. THANK YOU, dear friends, for your offense to me. At the time, the Truth you shared was the aroma of death to me (II Cor. 2:15) but today it is the sweet fragrance of LIFE.”

I write his whole story up here: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/02/22/caring-enough-to-offend/

His story offers the full picture, the proper biblical balance, which seems to be lacking in this book. It seems this book is more concerned about making excuses for sinners than for standing up to the harsh and radical demands of the gospel. I am sure that was not the author’s intention. But it ends up coming across that way.

So if I have to rate this book out of five stars, all I can do is give it two stars. 

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CHRISTIANS MYSTICALLY ENCOUNTERING GOD BY MARSHA WEST

(371) EMERGING TRENDS IN YOUR CHURCH TODAY – CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

In my opinion, one of the most dangerous but subtle, under the radar, trends in the church today is a gradual moving away from the Word of God as our authority in our spiritual walk and an inclusion of other more “pagan practices” finding greater similarities to outside philosophies and religions – particularly Eastern religions.What makes this dangerous is how accepting the church is to these concepts.  It is encapsulated in Christian sounding jargon and promoted by well-known authors and teachers. It becomes the newest trend with best selling books at the Christian bookstore that gullible Christians jump on the bandwagon with.  It promises thinMysticism-2gs such as – newness in your walk, a deeper experience of God, a fresh take on your relationship with God….etc.  Ultimately, it can cause many Christians to move further from God as they begin to follow after non-biblical practices instead of God’s word. A range of effects could result in some from becoming less effective for God to a falling away from a close walk in their faith.It is common to hear or read these authors and teachers start a conversation by saying something to the effect of – “are you tired of not getting much from your reading the Bible?”, “do you want a deeper experience of God?”, “do want to follow what the early church saints did to experience the fullness of God?”, your time in prayer doesn’t mean much to you as it once did in the past”….etc.  RUTH HALEY BARTON starts out her best-selling book Sacred Rhythms explaining her walk using similar phrases.  Also, at the local “DEEPER LIFE 2015” conference at my church, DR. ROB REIMER describes a period of time that his wife is struggling in her walk with God (using similar descriptions above) and he finally told her to STOP reading the BIBLE and basically look for God through other means – in her case, she EXPERIENCED God through a series of dreams. Without intending to judge the dreams and her experience, I would only call into question the advice to stop reading the Bible and instead encourage her to follow after these other experiences.  It can be dangerous to pursue experience over the Word of God.  The number of similarities begin to add up quickly upon hearing Dr. Reimer promoting Ruth Haley Barton in his books and in his classes at Alliance Theological Seminary.

In reality, some of these experiences take on a mystical form that was born centuries ago in ancient Roman Catholicism and Eastern Mysticism.  Also, included is the topic of YOGA – which is also finding itself to be a more common experience IN many Evangelical Churches (including some churches in the Christian & Missionary Alliance ).  This article by Marsha West hits on many of these issues that the church is experiencing today (additional highlighting by IronDuke) –

Christians Mystically Encountering God

By Marsha WestFor a couple of decades there has been a big push by numerous evangelical leaders to incorporate pagan practices into the visible Church.  These unbiblical practices have their origins in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, likewise the New Age movement.  Roman Catholic Trappist Monks fully embraced Eastern religion’s pagan practices.  Through the writings of Thomas Merton, Basil Pennington, William Menninger and Thomas Keating these practices have been introduced into mainline Protestant churches as well as independent, nondenominational, charismatic and Pentecostal churches.Those who wish to develop a more meaningful prayer life are urged by popular evangelicals such as Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Rick Warren, John Ortberg, Ruth Haley Barton and Tony Campolo, just to name a few, to undertake a mystical prayer practice called The Silence.How does one achieve The Silence?  By practicing eastern-style mantra meditation aka Transcendental Meditation (TM).What is the goal of TM?  To gain “ultimate knowledge of God by a direct experience that bypasses the mind.”What must one do to attain this sort of mind-altering experience? Settle into a quiet comfortable place and with eyes closed repeat a word or phrase from Scripture over and over until the thinking process shuts down to the point of silence…..and, low and behold, the practitioner will allegedly have an encounter with God in the spirit realm.

Our final goal is ‘union with God,’ which is a pure relationship where we see ‘nothing.’(Source)

Wow.  Sounds a bit New Age, doesn’t it?  No doubt about it! And because it is New Age, why, pray tell, do shepherds of the flock not have a problem pushing this sort of practice on their sheep?Yoga-Christian-300x300

Undoubtedly many Christians have never heard of The Silence.  Be that as it may, terms such as Contemplative prayer; centering prayer; lectiodivina; Divine presence; sacred word; transformation/transforming union; listening prayer; soaking prayer; and breath prayer may ring a bell.  But it matters not what term we use; what matters is that to pray The Silence is unbiblical.

Former New Ager Marcia Montenegro wrote an in depth essay on Contemplative Prayer (CP) entitled “Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer?” Marcia warns us that,

The influence of Buddhism and Hinduism on Contemplative Prayer … is apparent. Words such as “detachment,” “transformation,” “emptiness,” “enlightenment” and “awakening” swim in and out of the waters of these books. The use of such terms certainly mandates a closer inspection of what is being taught, despite the fact that contemplative prayer is presented as Christian practice. 

Themes that one finds echoed in the CP movement include the notions that true prayer is: silent, beyond words, beyond thought, does away with the “false self,” triggers transformation of consciousness, and is an awakening. Suggested techniques often include breathing exercises, visualization, repetition of a word or phrase, and detachment from thinking.  (Source)

Evangelical pastor Gary Gilley also tells us what to watch out for:

[C]ontemplative prayer is not the same as prayer defined biblically; “sacred reading” (also called lectio divina) of Scripture is not the same as Bible study; meditation (mystically encountering God) is not the same as knowing God and so forth. Many of the same terms are used, but as the classical liberals, and the more recent emergents, are fond of doing, they take our terms, including biblical ones, and give them new definitions and twists. (Source)

Spiritual Disciplines

Paul wrote, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). This sort of training promotes Christlikeness. The ESV translates “train” as “discipline.” To “train yourself for godliness” means a call to holy living.  It also means hard work.  According to the John MacArthur Study Bible study notes, “train” is an athletic term “denoting the rigorous, self-sacrificing exercise an athlete undergoes. Spiritual self-discipline is the path to godly living.”  Training such as this has been termed “spiritual exercises” or “spiritual disciplines.” As a result of “spiritual disciplines” many Christians now practice Contemplative Prayer.  Many CP practitioners believe that they’re receiving direct revelations from God.  “From years of studying mystics of all stripes,” says Ken Silva, “I can tell you their perceived revelations then trump the texts of Holy Scripture for them.  In other words, rather than testing these experiences by God’s Word, now these (CP) practitioners … are instead using their feelings to interpret the Bible through what they think God is saying.  I’m telling you, the tragic fact is, the mainstream of professing Christendom is rapidly devolving into all kinds of silly superstitions.” (Source)

D.A. Carson explains the spiritual disciplines thusly: 

Nowadays spiritual disciplines may include Bible reading, meditation, worship, giving away money, fasting, solitude, fellowship, deeds of service, evangelism, almsgiving, creation care, journaling, missionary work, and more. It may include vows of celibacy, self-flagellation, and chanting mantras. In popular usage, some of these so-called spiritual disciplines are entirely divorced from any specific doctrine whatsoever, Christian or otherwise: they are merely a matter of technique. That is why people sometimes say, “For your doctrine, by all means commit yourselves to evangelical confessionalism. But when it comes to the spiritual disciplines, turn to Catholicism or perhaps Buddhism.” What is universally presupposed by the expression “spiritual discipline” is that such disciplines are intended to increase our spirituality. From a Christian perspective, however, it is simply not possible to increase one’s spirituality without possessing the Holy Spirit and submitting to his transforming instruction and power. Techniques are never neutral. They are invariably loaded with theological presuppositions, often unrecognized.  (emphasis added) (Source) 

As I said above, many Christians feel like something is missing from their prayer life and they long to “connect with God” in a more meaningful way.  So they’ll do just about anything to “cultivate intimacy with God,” including unbiblical meditation.  The irony is that they’ll attempt to defend an unbiblical practice by quoting Scripture.  Take for example Joshua 1:8:

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Some Christians will argue that Joshua 1:8 shows that God approves of this mind emptying type of meditation.  Wrong!  The text is instructing us to meditate on God’s Word, not to empty our minds.

I’ll explain biblical mediation in a moment. But first let’s look at how Webster’s defines meditation:

The words Ponder, Meditate, Muse, and Ruminate are synonyms and mean to consider or examine attentively or deliberately. PONDER implies a careful weighing of a problem or, often, prolonged inconclusive thinking about a matter; MEDITATE implies a definite focusing of one’s thoughts on something as to understand it deeply; muse suggests a more or less focused daydreaming as in remembrance; RUMINATE implies going over the same matter in one’s thoughts again and again but suggests little of either purposive thinking or rapt absorption.

Now let’s look at Psalm 119 to see what the Bible teaches on meditation:

  • I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. (119:15).
  • Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. (119:23)
  • Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works. (119:27)
  • My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes. (119:48)

See also: 119:78, 119:97, 119:99,119:148.

The Apostle Paul says the following:

Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. (2 Tim 2:7)

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think [mediated] on these things. (Phil 4:8)

Could the Almighty have made the meaning of meditation any clearer? God has also made it abundantly clear that He forbids His people to indulge in any form of pagan idolatry.  So practicing mystical mantra meditation is going against God!  This alone should be enough to scare individuals away from this type of approach to prayer.

When it comes to pagan practices God leaves no room for doubt: Do it and die spiritually…even physically, as in King Saul’s case.

Yoga Meditation

Over the years I have dealt with “Christian yoga” in several of my columns.  So I’ll briefly touch on it here for the simple reason that a large number of professing Christians have wholeheartedly embraced the Buddhist practice of yoga.  Even churches offer yoga classes with a Christian spin on it!  Not surprisingly, enterprising Christians head up successful yoga businesses such as “Holy Yoga,” “PraiseMoves and “Yahweh Yoga” (YY) just to name a few.  YY’s website promises to “increase the kingdom of Jesus Christ by establishing, providing and maintaining a Christian yoga studio and teaching academy that honors God in all business and ministry endeavors. Yahweh Yoga seeks to…empower men and women to de-stress, to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and to improve their mind, body and spirit…”

It’s not a stretch to say that the language used to promote YY comes right out of the New Age handbook.

In one of my columns entitled Can A Pagan Practice Be “Christianized” I drew attention to the fact that:

Yoga is being marketed to mainline churches with the assurance of creating stress reduction, developing self-confidence, and improving concentration. It is also marketed to business and industry, athletes, senior citizens, students, teens and adolescents. Because of our fast paced life-style, who wouldn’t want to reduce stress? This is why yoga classes have become so popular.Yoga-2

Now here’s the main reason Christians should avoid yoga. Christian apologists John Ankerberg and John Weldon maintain that, “The basic premise of yoga theory is the fundamental unity of all existence: God, man, and all of creation are ultimately one divine reality.” To explain the basic premise, the authors quote from an editorial in the Yoga Journal: 

“We are all aware that yoga means ‘union’ and that the practice of yoga unites body, breath, and mind, lower and higher energy centers and, ultimately self and God, or higher Self. But more broadly, yoga directs our attention to the unity or oneness that underlies our fragmented experiences and equally fragmented world. Family, friends, the Druze guerrilla in Lebanon, the great whale migrating north — all share the same essential [divine] nature.”

This quote alone should raise concerns among Christians but when looked at in light of Bible expositor John MacArthur’s comments extracted from a CNN Primetime interview where he was asked “Should Christians practice yoga,” it ought to be completely clear that Christians should not participate:

John MacArthur…wondered why Christians would want to “borrow a term that is part of a false religion” (that clashes with historic orthodox Christianity). MacArthur contends that Christians shouldn’t put themselves in weird physical positions, empty their minds, focus on him or herself, and try to find the “god within” as a way to relieve stress. “This is practicing a false religion,” he said rather pointedly. Then he boldly shared the gospel. He said in order to have a whole and complete life, Christians must go to the Word of God, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “The idea of Christianity is to fill your mind with biblical truth and focus on the God which is above you.”

We can be thankful that there are a few Christian leaders in America who are willing to stand up for the truth.

In conclusion, “Christian mysticism” has emerged from false religious systems.  But instead of fleeing from magical mystical practices, scores of Christians have embraced them!  The brethren must be warned that Scripture strictly forbids uniting with pagans and apostatesMoreover, those who profess Christ must be admonished not to participate in Contemplative Prayer or any sort of mantra meditation for the reason that spiritual harm can result from it.

Copyright by Marsha West, 2013.  All rights reserved.

http://bereanresearch.org/christians-mystically-encountering-god/

Why is Sex is the Canary in the Coal Mine?

(370) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY:  SEX IS THE CANARY IN THE COAL MINE?

Why is Sex is the Canary in the Coal Mine?
August 14, 2014 by Jonathan Miles

Canary in Coal MineIf you are not familiar, dear reader, the term “Canary in a coal mine” is an expression rooted in history. Coal miners would bring a canary down into the coal mine to detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or methane. The deadly gases would kill the canary before it would kill the miners, giving the humans time to retreat. Modern coal miners don’t use canaries much anymore. These days, to be a canary in a coal mine is to serve as a detector of something dangerous that is often unseen until it has done its damage. It is often an overused metaphor in the ongoing circus that is financial forecasting:

“I tend to look at financial markets as being the canary in the coal mine,” Fed Governor Frederic Mishkin said in a discussion about inflation, adding that “the canary has not keeled over.” “I don’t think the canary is wheezing,” New York Fed President Timothy Geithner chipped in. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke had the final word: “I think the canary is still getting decent breath here.”

So what do I mean by “Sex is the canary in the coal mine”? I mean that if you want an indicator, a detector, of traditional Christianity in a post-modern culture, then sex is the canary in the coal mine. I don’t suggest that traditional Christianity is noxious but I sure do intend to make the connection that its dangerous. Traditional Christianity is as dangerous as a young man in Roman occupied Palestine talking about the coming of the kingdom of God and the end of the powers that be. As dangerous as saying “Jesus is Lord” with the unmistakable implication, “Caesar is not.”

So why is one’s attitude about sex the indicator of whether you are a traditional Christian or a progressive Christian?

I’ve been thinking about this way too much. Not sex itself but “sexual attitudes” and why they are so polarizing. Let me define my terms: by “sexual attitudes” I mean your attitude toward pre-marital sex, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, contraception, etc. Mark Driscoll summed most of this up in his book, Real Marriage in a chapter called “Can We . . . ” except one might restate it as, “Can I . . . ” and still be consistent with traditional Christianity. Can a Christian approve of same-sex marriage and still be a bible-believing Christian? Can I be indifferent about pre-marital sex and still hold to the Bible as my moral guide?

Rod Dreher at the American Conservative puts it this way:

It seems to me that “traditional Christian” is political code for “Christians who adhere to traditional teaching about sex and sexuality.” After all, it is possible to be a traditional Christian and a socialist on economics.Think about it — for purposes of general discussion these days, what would you say separates those you would call “traditional Christians” from other kinds of Christians? Take sex out of the picture, and what do you have? If we’re not talking about sex, what are we talking about.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying traditional Christianity is all about sex or even primarily about sex. I mean that one’s attitude about sex is a very very accurate indicator about where you stand on traditional Christian views about the Bible, the Church, and the mission of the Church. I actually think Christians should take a cue from Pope Benedict who, N.T. Wright reports, kept talking about Jesus as the media kept trying to get him to talk about sex. Also don’t misunderstand this as a justification for or against political action. The question of whether or not the state should get involved in preserving a particular moral order depends on a lot more than whether or not one accepts Christian sexual theology. I think my own views on when and how to use the power of the state has foisted upon you, dear reader, enough.

My concern is that Christians understand what the divide is, why it is such a divide, and (because sexual attitude and not belief in God or economics is what divides the in-crowd and the bigoted/hillbilly/hatemongers) prepare ourselves for increasing marginalization and ever increasing legislative encroachment. We need to think about how to turn the objection and insult about our sexual attitudes to discussion about Jesus. This encroachment will not be spun as political revenge for past conservative legislative morality but, by in large, it will be. Frankly, I honestly believe there will come a time when churches who refuse to do same-sex weddings in their church will have to perform secret marriage ceremonies as St. Valentine did. If you want a close approximation of what I see as our future society read the novel The Night Sessions by Ken McLeod.

Attitudes about Sex are intensely personal unless you are a Christian. What made the whole Hobby Lobby debate so interesting is the way it pitted sexual liberty against religious liberty and its pretty clear that in the public square sexual liberty wins every time. However there has been a dramatic drift from “stay out of my bedroom” to “these choices are personal. They are so personal we need to talk about them, advocate for them, shame those who disagree, and above all celebrate publicly these individual decisions.” However, if you are Christian, sexual decisions are not merely personal. They are not merely cultural. They are cosmological. I’ve written about Sarah Ruden’s Paul Among the People. Rod Dreher, paraphrases Ruden on just what marriage meant to Christians:

Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love. Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms.

Wanna see how foreign this idea really is? Let me let you in on a story going on in libertarian circles. “Young Voices” is a libertarian program designed to help young libertarians establish themselves as writers, bloggers, and pundits. Pamela Stubbart, a young libertarian, who blogs at “This Field is Required” recently resigned from Young Voices because it admitted to its program college student and porn star Miriam Weeks aka Belle Knox. Stubbart is a libertarian. She makes it clear she wants what Weeks does to be legal. However, she doesn’t want to be associated with an organization that would have a porn star as a member: “Although the Young Voices enterprise was promising at its inception and may still do some good for liberty, I do not wish to be associated with an organization of such character.” In fact, Stubbart who admits she’s been on birth-control since she was eighteen and learned to date in NYC but dares to suggest that maybe, just maybe, sex is more than just personal recreation:

many of the changes ushered in by the “sexual revolution” are right and good, it’s so new that the dust is only beginning to settle on whether we overshot the all-things-considered optimal set of sexual norms, and what implications that will have. Notice in the abstract, though, that when there are (rightfully) fewer laws constraining sex, we need more informally-enforced social norms to guide people in this important domain of life, not fewer. A free society can allow for things like porn, prostitution, and polyamory without normalizing them. The resulting socio-political situation is essentially just as “free” for those who want to partake, but generates much less of a pernicious sexual mire for those who are meaningfully unable to navigate it successfully.

In other words, one’s sexual attitude is social in some very deep respects. The horror. One response to her post called her suggestion, a low calorie version of religious morality. A young, ostensibly non-religious libertarian is actually accused of being a stodgy religious conservative for the mere suggestion that there could be problems with the sexual revolution:

To put a finer point on it, I think you’re so far out of touch with contemporary society that Young Voices is likely much better off without you. I hope you find somewhere else where you can implore the casual daters out there to get off your lawn and turn down that music.

If the mere questioning of the sexual revolution is enough to get a 20 something libertarian tarred with a 1950s curmudgeon stereo-type, whoah boy what are they going to do with Christians who insist that God has a wonderful plan for your sex life but you might not like it. But more importantly we do all of this because attitudes about sex, marriage, gender etc is not just a social construct but aim at a metaphysical claim about reality. The real dividing line is whether there is any authority at all. Once you admit God is creator in the biblical sense, it changes everything. There is a purpose for human existence. There is a pattern to human happiness for individuals and society as a whole. And if the Bible is some sort of authority then what it says matters. I can’t simply construct my sexual attitude based on my experiences or the wonderful gay people I know. Yes the Bible talks about slavery as well as sex. However there is a real difference: Slavery isn’t indicative of creation and thus it isn’t necessary for Christianity. That’s why most abolitionists were Christian. But sex and marriage are indicative of creation. Marriage and sexual union is the singular metaphor for Christ and his relationship with his people. That’s not personal its theological and it will always, always separate those who accept the Christian God’s authority and those who don’t.

http://midwestoutreach.org/2014/08/14/why-is-sex-is-the-canary-in-the-coal-mine/

RICHARD ROHR’S MYSTICISM & THE ENNEAGRAM

(369) EMERGING TRENDS WITHIN YOUR CHURCH TODAY: RICHARD ROHR’S MYSTICISM IN EVANGELICAL CHURCHES – Part 4

Do you like personality tests?  Do you find them revealing?  Ever wonder about the science used in developing these tools and how accurate they are with those who utilize them?

Richard Rohr utilizes a personality tool, called the Enneagram, and it is becoming increasingly more popular in both Roman Catholic and more recently, within Protestant and Evangelical groups including with some popular authors, seminaries, church leaders and pastors.  We will look at this subject as a part of our continuing series on RICHARD ROHR – a major proponent of the Enneagram.

Like previous postings, to be transparent, let me look at my own denomination’s view – the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA).  Any guesses on how the C&MA views the Enneagram and its use?  Any takers?  Anyone…….?  Well, as far as I know, there is no official position on using this tool across the denomination.  But, as stated in my previous posting, at a local C&MA Western PA District prayer conference in September in Mars (on our planet) PA, a talk entitled “Restoring Garden Intimacy” contained references t12072660_849557615142937_2925865984476851803_nRICHARD ROHR and the ENNEAGRAM.  The C&MA seemingly continues to progress further down the path of new age and contemplative mysticism – which is unfortunate.  On several occasions over the last few years, leadership at various levels within the C&MA have taken steps down this path.  More disturbing, the C&MA Bible colleges and Alliance Theological Seminary are accelerating down this path – teaching and equipping future leaders of the C&MA.

From the last posting, looking at Rohr’s theological chart, one can easily see all of the “stuff” included in what he believes.

What is the enneagram?

ENNEAGRAM INSTITUTE

From the Enneagram Institute, it is stated that “the philosophy behind the Enneagram contains components from mystical Judaism (Kabbala) Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy”. www.enneagraminstitute.com/history.asp

A definition from the  Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions:

Enneagram (»astrology; »occult). A circle divided into nine equal points. The ennegram is rooted in the Kabbalist (see »Kabbala) tradition, astrology, and »divination. The numbers are linked to personality types. The enneagram has come into popular usage among many people today; there is a growing number of books written about how to understand and use it.

ROMAN CATHOLICISM

From within Roman Catholicism, it is commonly promoted by so-called ‘spiritual directors’ as a recommendation to measure spiritual growth.  However, many others sources refer to “the Enneagram as a popular NEW AGE tool which has found its way into Catholic practices, including parish classes and in retreat programs.”  http://www.ourladyswarriors.org

Catholic Dan Burke states that:

In America and abroad the enneagram is a very popular system of personality types.  Strictly speaking, the enneagram is a circle marked with nine points (ennea means “nine” in Greek, and gram means “line drawing”). Inside the circle two figures connect the nine points, a triangle and an oddly shaped six pointed figure. However, by “enneagram” most people mean a personality typology system based on this drawing. In workshops people learn that only nine personality types exist and that every person fits into one of them. Each type is a personality compulsion, a wrong or even “demonic” way of behaving. Once a person identifies his or her type (usually classified by a number on the enneagram), then he or she can learn how to improve or avoid getting worse spiritually.

The enneagram is particularly popular among Catholics, with parishes and retreat houses offering workshops across the country. Rarely are teachers or participants aware of its occultic origins, though this should be a source of real concern for the Christian Church. Echoes of a false, gnostic theology are heard in enneagram teachings, though its occult roots are unknown. The lack of scientific research into the enneagram system leaves it open to abuse even by people who reject or know nothing of its occult background.        http://www.spiritualdirection.com/2015/06/02/can-i-trust-spiritual-director-who-uses-enneagram#ixzz3qWSWxUqX

Many Catholic sources speak out against using the Enneagram while there are many which utilize it as a tool in their spiritual formation classes.  Historically, it’s use has received strong warning from the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Inter-religious Dialogue – stating that the its use introduces ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith,”(Sec. 1.4)

Some of these concerns include the following:

(1) SOURCE:  The first reason to avoid use of the Enneagram is because of where it came from – the occult.  Burke states –

The enneagram came from the Sufi religion and was introduced to the west by an Armenian occultist named George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, who lived in Russia from 1877 to 1947. He attended the seminary as a boy but left at the age of 13 to pursue the occult, in which he was deeply involved for the rest of his life. During his travels through Egypt, India and Tibet, he came across a group of Sufis (Muslim mystics) who lived in Central Asia, from whom he learned the enneagram. They had been using it for fortune telling through numerology and as a symbol of the nine stages of enlightenment rather than the nine personality types ascribed to it in the west. Gurdjieff believed the enneagram was a universal symbol containing secret powers, and it was he who brought the symbol to the west.

Oscar Ichazo, a Chilean occultist, later adapted the enneagram to its present use after learning it from one of Gurdjieff’s disciples. Ichazo is responsible for developing the system of nine personality types that it now contains.

Ichazo’s history is even more disturbing than Gurdjieff’s. “At the age of six he began having out-of-body experiences, which led to his disillusionment with the church,” writes New Age expert and former enneagram enthusiast, Father Mitch Pacwa. “He could not accept Catholic teaching on heaven or hell because he had been there and knew more about it than Christ and the Church.”

Ichazo was involved in Oriental martial arts, Zen, Andes Indian thought, shamanism, yoga, hypnotism and psychology. He claims to have received instructions from a higher entity called “Metatron, the prince of the archangels.” He and his followers claim to contact lower spirits through meditation and mantras, and to be guided by an internal master, known as the Green Qu’Tub, who makes himself known when they reach a sufficiently high stage of development.

Another principal player in the advent of the enneagram in the west was Chilean, Claudio Naranjo, who brought it to the popular New Age community known as the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

From Esalen, Naranjo established a nationwide network of small Enneagram groups. Among his early students was Father Robert Ochs, S.J. by whom Father Pacwa was taught at Chicago’s Loyola University. From there, it quickly spread to seminaries and the general public.

(2) SCIENTIFIC VALIDITY:  Sometimes referred to as “JUNK SCIENCE”.  In spite of the fact that the enneagram has been subjected to little or no serious scientific scrutiny, it is being used to help people deal with personality disorders.  “Unlike some ‘personality type indices’ the enneagram remains untested by any scientific study,” writes Christopher Rees for Homiletics and Pastoral Review. “Like Sufism, the ‘dynamisms’ adopted in each Untitled copyof the nine ‘types’ depends on which guru or shaikh you prefer. There are as many ways of constructing groups and interpreting the enneagram as there are gurus. So the only apparent similarity the enneagram shares with behavioral sciences is its lack of a paradigm.”

Because the Enneagram has descriptions that read like those for esoteric systems like tarot, astrology, biorhythms, etc., advocacy of the enneagram is even more problematic for Catholics, Rees writes.

“. . . The Gnostic [salvation through knowledge] roots manifest in all enneagram systems guarantee that enneagram systems can never be reconciled with the Sacred Deposit of Faith.”

The mixture of so many non-Christian and occult elements in the enneagram, combined with its lack of scientific validity, should warn people away from its use.  “No tests, no standards, no board of examination exists, so most enneagram ‘experts’ have that title through self-declaration and workshop advertising,” writes Father Pacwa. http://www.spiritualdirection.com/2011/11/17/is-the-enneagram-something-that-i-should-be-involved-with#ixzz3qRKKSpRp

PROTESTANT / EVANGELICAL

Marcia Montenegro, (Christian Answers for the New Age) states –  

“the reference to Christianity undoubtedly refers to what is sometimes called ‘mystical’ or ‘esoteric Christianity’……………The fact that the origin of the Enneagram is spiritual, that is purpose is spiritual, and that it was passed down through teachers of cryptic spiritualities, should clearly indicate that its validity as any sort of tool to understand self or truth is questionable at best.”  http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Enneagram.html

When researching the history of the Enneagram, one finds a convoluted syncretic mixture of various mystic beliefs.  Early history shows that the Enneagram was considered an occultic tool.  This type of Christianity was a forerunner to the NEW AGE and in actuality is a GNOSTIC distortion of Christianity.  It is not that surprising that this tool is having a resurgence because our culture, in many ways, practices NEW AGE beliefs without necessarily calling them NEW AGE practices.  Terms such as YOGA, KHARMA, SILENCE & SOLITUDE….etc., are common place not only in society but in the church today.

The Enneagram is claimed to lead followers into SELF-AWARENESS and self-understanding where all aspects of the self are integrated leading to an understanding of true Self.  The Self (capitalized) is considered to be divine – by most who teach the Enneagram. 

This introduces concepts that Gnostic-based, Eastern and New Age views.

Montenegro makes some strong statements that should catch our attention becuase of the potential outcome on someone’s walk –

A simple investigation into the Enneagram reveals that its theories of personality are based on esoteric teachings and an occult worldview. The clear origin and purpose of the Enneagram is to initiate a Gnostic spiritual awakening to one’s alleged true divine Self, which is in itself an occult initiation. This is the claim and goal of virtually all occult and New Age teachings. The purpose of such initiation is a shift in consciousness, a change in the way one views reality — God, the world, others, and self.

Occult initiation can be found in many non-Christian systems, desired or not. In Yoga and certain forms of meditation, it is the awakening of the Kundalini, the alleged serpent-like power at the base of the spine; in Reiki, the teacher “awakens” or “activates” the purported healing energy within the student; in Eastern meditation, it involves being given a mantra (a word or phrase to be repeated in meditation); Eastern gurus give their followers shaktipat, which supposedly confers grace and arouses the Kundalini; and the altered states of Eastern and New Age based meditations will certainly lead to occult awakening.

Occult initiations also occur spontaneously — and unbidden — if the person is involved in Eastern, New Age, or occult practices. An occult initiation may culminate in meeting one’s “spirit guide,” a disembodied being who is supposedly one’s spiritual teacher. ****

The Gnostic initiation or awakening is the occult counterfeit of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His regeneration of the believer upon faith in Christ. This regeneration, called by Jesus being “born from above” (John 3:3; see also 2 Corinthians 5:17), is supernatural, life-giving, and from God. Gnostic or occult awakening is the kiss of death. Though it appears to open a door onto a shining vista, its light is artificial and it brings the person only into bondage. The true light is Jesus Christ: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46, KJV).

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:8-10 (NASB)

There is much more that could be said about the Enneagram. But for the sake of concluding this introduction to this practice, one has to ask – why would a Christian want to expose themselves to any influence coming from the Enneagram?  Why does the leadership in the church not properly vet new practices with God’s word to ensure they are not misleading congregants in their personal walk?  With the C&MA, I find myself questioning the direction of church leadership more and more as they continue to introduce Christians to these speakers teaching these practices.  It is not just the C&MA – there are many other Evangelical churches that are further down this path and many don’t even realize it.

Additional information can be viewed at these sites:

http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Enneagram.html

http://journal.equip.org/articles/tell-me-who-i-am-o-enneagram-

RICHARD ROHR’S ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTICISM IN EVANGELICAL CHURCHES


(368) EMERGING TRENDS WITHIN YOUR CHURCH TODAY: RICHARD ROHR’S MYSTICISM IN EVANGELICAL CHURCHES – Part 3

Two brief examples of how prevalent the use of mystical contemplative teaching (Roman Catholicism and Eastern Mysticism including Buddhism, Hinduism, similar to New Age philosophy) is in Evangelical churches today (e.g. we will look briefly at the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination) – even down to the local district level =>

At the recent C&MA Western PA District prayer conference in September in Mars PA, a talk entitled “Restoring Garden Intimacy” contained references to RICHARD ROHR and the ENNEAGRAM  (to be upfront – I did not attend this conference).  I’m not intending to judge the conference topics or speakers.  But specifically, looking at these two items.  This all plays into the trend today of promoting syncretic teaching and practices within Evangelical Christianity with Eastern philosophies and early Roman Catholic mysticism.  So, who is Richard Rohr and what is the Enneagram? (will be explored in Part 4) 

 
(1) RICHARD ROHR
Looking at the first item – RICHARD ROHR, we reviewed Rohr in Part 2 of this posting.  Briefly stated, Father Richard Rohr is a Roman Catholic Franciscan priest. He is the founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He includes contemplative mysticism in much of what he teaches. This includes promoting the use of the enneagram, eco-spirituality, social and justice issues, contemplation, produces a newsletter called Radical Grace….etc.  He is a regular contributing editor/writer for Sojourners magazine.

His beliefs cover a wide range of interests and sometimes may not even line up with the Roman Catholic church.  He has also teamed up with contemporary Emerging Church teachers – most notable of which is ROB BELL and RICHARD FOSTER.  With these associations, he promotes “Spiritual Disciplines under the description of ‘spiritual formation’. 

Some brief additional background information – In January of 2008 Rohr was a “presenter” at Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening—sponsored by his own CAC—where in true contemplative mystic theology completely consistent with The NEW SPIRITUALITY – Rohr taught the equality of BUDDHA with CHRIST and the indwelling of God in all things:

  • The Four Noble Truths are the distilled essence of the BUDDHIST teaching. In this retreat, each of the Four Noble Truths will be introduced and explored, with emphasis given to the presence of each Noble Truth at the heart of Jesus’ call to awaken to God’s presence in every detail of our daily lives…
  • The teachings of both Jesus and BUDDHA call us to transformational honesty. They are both teaching us how to see, and how to see all the way through! They both knew that if you see God for yourself, you will see the Divine in all things. (Online source)

One of his center’s (CAC) core principles states: “We need a contemplative mind in order to do a compassionate work.” In other words the “and” in his center’s name is key — supporting the idea that if you are being formed into the image of Christ through contemplative practices, you will begin to live it out in the world.

Richard Rohr goes further and states 
  • “God’s hope for humanity is that one day we will all recognize that the divine dwelling place is all of creation. Christ comes again whenever we see that matter and spirit co-exist. This truly deserves to be called good news.
  • “[O]ne of my publishers . . . told me that right now my single biggest demographic is young evangelicals—young evangelicals. Some of my books are rather heavy. I’m just amazed.”
From Richard Rohr’s website, one can plainly see his reliance on both Roman Catholic mysticism and Eastern Mysticism (similar to New Age) with similarities to Buddhism and Hinduism.  In one of Rohr’s most recent newsletter, the following chart illustrates how his theology and thinking process has developed over the years.  Notice the reference to Eastern philosophies and early church mystics. He describes his theology in these terms, not me. TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT THIS =>
 12072660_849557615142937_2925865984476851803_n


This chart illustrates the type of theology, beliefs, and practices that Christians are being exposed to by including Richard Rohr in your church’s teachings. The sad thing is that leaders in the church are, in many cases not even aware of these issues happening under their watch.  Starting In 1 Timothy 1, Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “teach no other doctrine ” and to “teach the word” rings true as Christians today continue to be desensitized to the importance of basing their understanding on God’s word instead of outside philosophies and other religions.  With ROHR, there are several key doctrines that are he deviates from historic Christianity including – Christ’s incarnation, the need for the crucifixion, his belief in PANTHEISM,…..etc.  We will look further at some of these issues in future postings.

=> Even some Roman Catholics don’t endorse Rohr and his teachings.  The irony of the C&MA promoting Richard Rohr but even some Roman Catholics speaking out against his theology is quite amazing.  You can see a description of this from this Roman Catholic site – 
 NEXT POST (#369): THE ENNEAGRAM