Archive | November 2016

(424) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: MYSTICISM & POSTMODERNISM IN YOUR CHURCH – Part 2

POSTMODERNISM WITHIN THE C&MA:

From Part 1 of this series, we can see the influence at Nyack & Alliance Theological Seminary of POSTMODERNISM.  It is not even a matter of opinion.  There is one professor, DR. JAMES DANAHER who proudly and publically declares himself to be an EVANGELICAL POSTMODERN.  

In his brief profile on zoominfor.com, Danaher describes himself as an Evangelical Postmodern.  http://www.zoominfo.com/s/#!search/profile/person?personId=139293042&targetid=profile

(1) WHAT IS POSTMODERNISM ? 

Millard Erickson defines postmodernism from his book  – Postmodernizing the Faith: Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism (pp. 18–20). (1998)Grand Rapids, MI: Baker –

This modern period has, in turn, given way to the postmodern, and its ideology to postmodernism. This represents the convergence of several movements in different intellectual disciplines. In many ways, the beginning inspiration was from the French school of literary criticism known as deconstruction. In history, there is the new historicism, in which history is not merely the objective discovery of the past, but actually creates it. In philosophy, neo-pragmatism holds that words refer not to objective, extralinguistic entities, but to other words. Certain basic motifs have emerged, countering the modern view.

1. The objectivity of knowledge is denied. Whether the knower is conditioned by the particularities of his or her situation or theories are used oppressively, knowledge is not a neutral means of discovery.

2. Knowledge is uncertain. Foundationalism, the idea that knowledge can be erected on some sort of bedrock of indubitable first principles, has had to be abandoned.

3. All-inclusive systems of explanation, whether metaphysical or historical, are impossible, and the attempt to construct them should be abandoned.

4. The inherent goodness of knowledge is also questioned. The belief that by means of discovering the truths of nature it could be controlled and evil and ills overcome has been disproved by the destructive ends to which knowledge has been put (in warfare, for instance).

5. Thus, progress is rejected. The history of the twentieth century should make this clear.

6. The model of the isolated individual knower as the ideal has been replaced by community-based knowledge. Truth is defined by and for the community, and all knowledge occurs within some community.

7. The scientific method as the epitomization of the objective method of inquiry is called into question. Truth is not known simply through reason, but through other channels, such as intuition.

This has huge implications. If truth can’t be known or objective truth can’t be discovered, then how can Christians base their beliefs on what the Bible says?  This is quite shocking to see inside a denomination that is known for discipleship, evangelism and missions that occur around the world.  Why go to foreign lands to spread the Word if everything is relative and uncertain?

(2) POSTMODERNISM – Dr. JAME DANAHER

The postmodern views of James Danaher stand out when reading about his conversion (see below).  

In line with the rise of mystical practices within the C&MA, POSTMODERNISM is becoming normalized within the denomination.  Sounds wild and harsh?  Yes, but it is true.

In particular, Dr. James Danaher is promoting Roman Catholic (& Eastern religions) mystical approaches to spirituality.  Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise with the C&MA’s history of having a more mystical approach as a part of their origins. But today, it is becoming more of an issue when seminary professors outright promote Roman Catholic mysticism and this will influence the next generation of C&MA pastors.  Don’t think so?  It already is having this effect.

(3) EVANGELICAL VIEWS FROM OUTSIDE OF THE C&MA

All of these issues come to the forefront when you can read about someone like Postmodern Evangelical Dr. James Danaher from sources not affiliated with the C&MA.  In Danaher’s case, it is not that unusual because not only has he given lectures, talks, and YouTube presentations, but he has written several books on the subject.  But, again, that makes this subject even more urgent to be aware of and understand.

There are several sources we could look at. For this posting, I will look at what Dr. Robert Wilkin wrote in an article for the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society summarized in this article https://faithalone.org/grace-in-focus-articles/postmodern-doubts-and-theological-education-part-1/

I will summarize his article by taking some liberties to quote extensively from Wilkins in a bullet point format. Unless identified otherwise [], these bullet points are directly from his article.  He starts by providing some background into what an EVANGELICAL POSTMODERN believes –

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNISM by ROBERT N. WILKIN

I. INTRODUCTION

  • Evangelical Postmoderns embrace doubt.They aren’t sure God exists.Hence they aren’t sure the Bible is God’s Word, that Jesus is the Savior, that there is life after death, that they have everlasting life, etc.
  • Evangelical Postmoderns put a high premium on EXPERIENCE.

II. POSTMODERNISM IS DOUBT

  • The modern era, the one before the Postmodern era, was an age of reason and rationalism and experimentation.  Generally the modern era is held to have started with the Industrial Revolution (or the Enlightenment) and to have ended around 1945 with the end of WW2.  A person with a modern mindset believes that there are lots of absolute truths today. The modern would say that 2 plus 2 equals 4, the earth is not flat, the boiling point of water at standard pressure is 100 degrees Celsius, that George Bush is President of the United States, etc.
  • Postmoderns do not think that way. Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain.  Nihilism, the idea that life makes no sense and that there is no real meaning in life, is the philosophy of Postmoderns.

III. EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNISM IS EXPERIENTIAL, WITH ALL OUR DOUBTS SUPERSIZED

  • Evangelicals with a modern mindset still believe that God exists, that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, that the Bible is without error, that there is life after death, that there is heaven and hell, etc.
  • Evangelicals with a Postmodern mindset are not sure if God exists. They aren’t sure if Jesus rose bodily from the dead. They believe the Bible is a human book with errors in it. They are not sure if there is life after death.
  • Evangelical Postmodernism places a high premium on skepticism and doubt. Evangelical Postmoderns view those who are sure of things as being arrogant and out of touch with reality.
  • They really are opposed to the idea that we can be sure of something simply because the Bible says it is true. Indeed, according to Evangelical Postmoderns faith and doubt always coexist. The Evangelical Postmodern is not sure of anything.
  • Thus Evangelical Postmoderns often speak of their convictions, by which they mean things which they affirm as true, though they realize they may not be true. Whenever they speak of what they believe, they do not mean things they are sure of. They instead mean things which they have convictions about, even though they doubt that these convictions are true.

=> If this sounds confusing to you, then you have the heart of Evangelical Postmodernism. It is all our doubts supersized.

IV. CHRISTIAN CONVERSION IS AN EXISTENTIAL ENCOUNTER, NOT BELIEVING IN JESUS FOR EVERLASTING LIFE

  • As you might imagine, such a view has a dramatic impact on evangelism. An Evangelical Postmoderndoes not focus on certain truths that must be believed. He does not focus on the guarantee of life that can never be lost to all who simply believe in Jesus.
  • [Dr. Carl Raschke, The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004)] –
    • [Singer/songwriter] Rich Mullins in the most radical way challenged both Christian literalism and legalism. He constantly stressed what the philosopher Kierkegaard had described as the task of “becoming” a Christian, as opposed to “being” a Christian. Becoming a Christian requires intense faith and spiritual discipline. It has little to do with intellectual conviction and even less with outward evidence of moral purity and perfection. Becoming a Christian, as Kierkegaard explained with irony, is not climbing a ladder of spiritual, let alone material, “success.” It all comes down to submitting oneself constantly to God through confession of our failures and presumptions and in taking what Kierkegaard himself referred to as the “leap of faith,” a leap into the fearful and unknown.
  • In a Postmodern contextone becomes a Christian over time by encountering God through others who are themselves becoming Christians.
  • The issue is not doctrine to be believed. Indeed, one must make a leap of faith into the fearful and unknown. While it supposedly has little to do with intellectual conviction and even less with outward evidence of moral purity and perfection, yet the way one becomes a Christian is EXPERIENCING the truth and being compelled to obey it.

V. THE GOSPEL IS NOT OTHER-WORLDLY OR ETERNAL: IT’S ABOUT PEACE OF MIND NOW

  • The ramifications of Postmodernism for Evangelism are truly frightening. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not proclaimed by Evangelical Postmoderns. It is considered “literalism and legalism.”
  • Of course, since Postmoderns supersize their doubts and consider certitude to be a terrible thing, there is no possibility of believing state- ments like, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47) or “He who lives and believes in Me shall never die [spiritually]” (John 11:26). The best one could say is, “That’s a nice story.”

VI. “SALVATION” FOR THE EVANGELICAL POSTMODERN IS A NEW AND TRANSFORMED LIFEHERE AND NOW

A. SALVATION ISN’T ABOUT ETERNAL BENEFITS SINCE MANY EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNS ARE NEAR UNIVERSALISTS

  • Another important aspect of the gospel according to Evangelical Postmodernism is what they believe a person gets. What is salvation?
  • Conservative Evangelicals think of “salvation” as gaining eternal life or being saved from hell. That is not necessarily what the Evangelical Postmodern thinks.
  • For one thing, some, if not many, Evangelical Postmoderns are either universalists or what some have called near-universalists. They believe, if we can use that term since they really aren’t sure of anything, that few, if any, will spend eternity in hell. All, or nearly all, will be in the king- dom of God, whether Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, agnostic, or atheist.

B. SALVATION IS PRIMARILY (OR EXCLUSIVELY) ABOUT PRESENT BLESSINGS

  • For at least some Evangelical Postmoderns “salvation” is a here-and- now deliverance from our fears, guilt, and hang ups. It is a sense of spiritual well being in the present life. It is not related to life after death.
  • It is probably safe to say that for most Evangelical Postmoderns the gospel is the good news that those who humble themselves before God will have a mighty experience that gives them inner peace. That peace can be maintained by regularly continuing to humble oneself before God.
  • Evangelical Postmoderns are very concerned about ECOLOGY. So in one sense individual “salvation” has as its aim the purification and cleansing of the entire earth. What Evangelical Postmoderns want is peace on earth through massive numbers of people encountering God.
  • Will McRaney at pastors.com has an article entitled, “Sharing Christ with Postmoderns.” He gives a list of Postmodern evangelistic methods and one of them is “More earthly benefits—less eternal benefits.”
  • In the case of many Evangelical Postmoderns, some, if not many, are solely concerned with earthly, here-and-now benefits. There is little or no concern about eternal benefits because that is not a concern for many in Evangelical Postmodernity.
  • Pastor and author Kary Oberbrunner wrote an article entitled, “Un- packing Postmodernism: Is a Postmodern Ministry Really What You Are After?” In a chart comparing modernism and Postmodernism one of his points of comparison is “view of salvation.” Oberbrunner says the modernist views salvation as something which occurs at “a point in time,” where the Postmodernist views salvation as “a way of life.”
  • In the concluding paragraph of an article called “The Postmodern Gospel,” written in January of 2006, DR. JAMES P. DANAHER, who is the head of the Department of Philosophy at Nyack College, a Christian school sponsored by the Christian and Missionary Alliance Denomination, writes as follows: 
  • The good news of the Postmodern Gospel is that, with the end of modernity, we now have an ever greater opportunity to order our lives, not based upon understanding of some universal and objective truth, but rather upon an intimate understanding of a truth that is personal and subjective—indeed a truth that is a person (John 14:6).  
      • => Note that there is no mention here at all of any benefits of the Post-modern gospel beyond the grave. What Danaher talks about is “an ever greater opportunity to order our lives.”
      • => Note too that Danaher DENIES any universal or objective truth. If our truth is not universal, this implies there is another truth out there that allows other religions to find a way to order their lives around a different person, maybe Mohammed or Buddha.

[As stated above] At Nyack.edu there is an interview with Dr. Danaher that includes a section entitled, “My conversion to life in Christ.” Here is what Danaher says:

  • I had an EXPERIENCE with the Lord when I was eighteen, but it was an EXPERIENCE and not a conversion into a radically new and different life. Twelve years later, I had another God EXPERIENCE but again without the kind of surrender that marks the beginning of a transformed life. God was faithful still and, two year later, with a third EXPERIENCE, there was a surrender and the beginning of a transformation that has continued for the past twenty-five years.

     

  • As a committed Evangelical postmodern, it is not surprising that Danaher emphasizes experience in telling of his conversion. He tells of three difference experiences with the Lord. Evidently Danaher hadn’t surrendered sufficiently the first two times for transformation to begin.

    It is telling that we read nothing about faith in this testimony. Nor is anything said about Jesus Christ in this testimony. And nothing is said about everlasting life, justification, or the kingdom of God. As with many postmoderns, Danaher sees surrender to God as a condition of temporal transformation, which is a common understanding of salvation among Evangelical postmoderns.

Note what is present here: a repeated emphasis on “experiences with God,” repeated discussion of “a transformed life,” “a radically new and different life” is the aim, and surrender is the condition of this new life.

 

VII. BOTH FAITH AND THE OBJECT OF FAITH ARE NON-ESSENTIALS IN EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNISM

  • One way to summarize the gospel according to Evangelical Postmodernism is to recognize that it isn’t about faith or the object of one’s faith.
  • My point is that Evangelical Postmoderns do not have any sine qua nons. There is nothing that must be believed in order to be born again.
  • The issue for Evangelical Postmoderns is not some essential doctrine. There is no essential doctrine for them. The issue for them is a personal encounter with God which is gained by personal surrender to God.
  • If you don’t realize this, you will find yourself misunderstanding what an Evangelical Postmodern is saying.
  • When an Evangelical Postmodern speaks of his conversion, he isn’t saying anything about what he believes or even about his eternal destiny. He is talking about an encounter he had with God that has given him peace of mind.
  • When an Evangelical Postmodern speaks of when he became a Christian, you may wrongly interpret that to mean that he is referring to when he came to faith in Christ for eternal life.
  • If an Evangelical Postmodern were to speak of his salvation, you would most likely be wrong to think that he was talking about his secure eternal destiny, or even his insecure eternal destiny. He would most likely be talking about the peace of mind he has experienced as a result of his encounter with God.
  • I recommend you evangelize Evangelical Postmoderns. Don’t assume they are merely confused believers. Ask them if they are sure that they will spend eternity in Jesus’ kingdom. When they indicate that they aren’t sure of that (or anything at all), show them that this is what Jesus promises to all who simply believe in Him.
  • When you evangelize an Evangelical Postmodern, you are essentially challenging their entire way of looking at the gospel, and indeed, of reality in general. You are calling for a radical paradigm shift.

IX. CONCLUSION: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNITY IS NOT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST

The good news that Jesus Christ preached is found in verses like John 3:16, John 5:24, and John 6:47.   Jesus promises everlasting life, life that can never be lost, to all who believe in Him.  While there is a present benefit to the believer, that benefit is not an ordered life, a cleaner planet, or more joy and peace. The present benefit is that the believer has God’s irrevocable life and that life is one which is full of great potential.

The emphasis in what Jesus gives, however, is on the eternality of the life. It never ends. It goes beyond the grave Jesus promises a new glorified body to the believer (John 11:25). And He promises a new earth in which righteousness dwells (Revelation 21–22).

=> The gospel of Postmodernism isn’t even vaguely close to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Evangelical Postmoderns have abandoned propositional truth found in the Bible and with it they have abandoned the promise of everlasting life that Jesus makes for those who simply believe in Him.

=> In place of believing in Jesus for everlasting life is surrendering to God for an ordered, transformed life here and now. When man creates his own gospel, the resulting message is not good news at all. The gospel of Evangelical Postmodernism is bad news.

 

(423) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: MYSTICISM & POSTMODERNISM IN YOUR CHURCH – Part 1.

THE ENNEAGRAM – MYSTICISM & POSTMODERNISM in THE C&MA.

Hopefully, you quickly raised some red flags after reading Part 1 and Part 2 of the series on the Enneagram.  It is difficult to ignore the influence of beliefs such as Gnosticism, esoteric Christianity, divination, Eastern Mysticism…….etc. It is a history that includes a wealth of mysticism, beliefs, and practices that don’t originate from the Bible.  

To give you an idea of how quickly that this tool is spreading within Evangelical churches, let’s look at a church that I am most familiar with – the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church.

Again, there is much to look up to and emulate in the C&MA’s history of missions and discipleship.  The people are dedicated to spreading the Gospel and living a life pleasing to God.  That is why it is even more difficult to understand why/how the church is going down a mystical path starting in their colleges and seminary (e.g. Nyack).  Therefore, the point of this is not to criticize any one person but to raise up these issues, engage in further discussions and find biblical solutions to them.  For those not in the C&MA, don’t worry, YOUR church, more likely than not, is already being influenced by these trends.

A major concern is that as more and more professors teach concepts that are not historically Evangelical, unorthodox, and ultimately nonbiblical, you end up with a church that grows further away from its roots and beliefs and most importantly further away from a close walk based on Scripture. Mysticism has more of an emphasis of looking INSIDE of YOURSELF.  This runs in the opposite direction for churches that are more evangelistic and missions focus.  Some of these churches will be educating the next generation of pastors to look inside of their  own “DEEP” feelings to UNITE with God instead of looking to sharing God’s light with the rest of the world.

Here are some examples of this trend working in a top-down process starting from professors at seminaries and Bible colleges to local church officials and pastors – 

(1) Last year, the Western Pennsylvania C&MA was hosting a conference in which the meeting topic was – “Restoring Garden Intimacy“.   Typically these events are open to local pastors and church leaders.  Several of the slides from the meetings revealed a couple of alarming issues. 

  • Some slides discussed the use of the ENNEAGRAM.  One slide stated the following:  

    “Using the Enneagram Assessment I tend to exhibit the traits of a #3 One Who Needs to Succeed”

    • => QUESTION: Why use a tool based not on the Bible, but has its orgins based in beliefs such as Gnosticism, mysticism, numerical divination…?
  • Another slide quoted RICHARD ROHR from his book The Enneagram.  As you may recall, Rohr is a Franciscan Priest and mystic within the Roman Catholic Church.  What is so alarming is that Richard Rohr promotes the Enneagram with its rich history of non-biblical development?  Richard Rohr’s theology is a mixture of unorthodox beliefs, aberrant theology, and in several cases – out right heresy.  His views span the range from – and this is just a sampling – 220px-richardrohrofm
    • homosexuality advocacy,
    • promotes Roman Catholic mysticism,
    • he believes that no blood sacrifice was needed to pay the penalty of sin,
    • includes pagan ritualism – Rohr’s almost uncritical adoption of religious rituals alien to the Gospel brings us to the main problem with his theory of male initiation.
    • refers to God as “she“, 
    • promotes contemplative prayer 
      • => QUESTION:  Why are leaders from protestant Evangelical church using a tool being taught by a mystic Roman Catholic monk who believes in seemingly everything under the sun except what the Bible teaches?
  • Other mystical elements on the presentation slides included the use of spiritual disciplines such as SILENCE and SOLITUDE to name a few. The problem is that these concepts don’t have biblical support unless one forces a meaning out of verses that, in context, do not apply to the meaning being promoted. 

What is becoming very obvious is the fact that some of the C&MA clergy and some of Nyack college/ATS Seminary professors are following after these alternative routes in their personal walks.  Is the C&MA opening itself up to the inclusion of error and false teaching creeping into the church from within?

With the inclusion of New Age principles such as those associated with the Enneagram, we can also start to see a further breakdown of the authority of God’s word.   How better to introduce error into the church than to get people inside of the church to believe, to teach, to focus on other sources of guidance over and above the Bible.

(2) Dean, Dr. Ron Walborn – ALLIANCE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY – clearly includes methods that don’t have their origin in the Bible. One of them is  SPIRITUAL FORMATION.  It is  part of the core education of students at the seminary.  His wife actually teaches courses in SPIRITUAL FORMATION.  So what?  Well, while there may be plenty of Scripture being studied and “good sounding” issues learned, there is also an emphasis on topics that include ancient church practices that follow after Roman Catholic mysticism.  http://www.nyack.edu/content/SFATSWelcome

  • SPIRITUAL FORMATION: A movement that has provided a platform and a channel through which contemplative prayer is entering the church. Find spiritual formation being used, and in nearly every case you will find contemplative spirituality. In fact, contemplative spirituality is the heartbeat of the spiritual formation movement.
  • CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY: A belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in MYSTICISM and the OCCULT but often wrapped up in Christian terminology.  The premise of contemplative spirituality is PANTHEISTIC (God is all) and PANENTHEISTIC (God is in all).  Common terms used for this movement are “spiritual formation“, “the silence“, “the stillness,” “ancient- wisdom”,  “spiritual discipines,” and many others.

To some, these definitions may seem a bit too harsh or not applicable to what is offered at ATS?  If they seem harsh or not applicable, I have to ask why are they using them to describe their program? Words have meanings. If they use these words to describe the program at ATS, how have they differentiated their meaning from the meaning normally used by others?

If you were a lawyer trying to prove a case before a judge.  The amount of evidence is staggering.  ATS is not only including these mystical programs but training future church leaders to use these programs in the church.  One could look at these types of words which describe their program as initial evidence.  But then, you can look at other areas such as the professors at Nyack/ATS – you will see several who promote these concepts as defined above through the books & articles they write, the lectures they give, and first-hand accounts of students who have taken these courses.  In their writings, they refer to mystics – both ancient historical mystics and modern day influences that promote a belief system that looks less like it came from the Bible and looks very closely related to Eastern Mysticism.  Let’s look now at one of these professors – 

(3) DR. JAMES DANAHER (@ NYACK) – At Nyack Christian and Missionary Alliance College in Nyack, NY in the fall of 2011 Dr. James P. Danaher, professor and chair of the Philosophy Department, taught Roman Catholic Father RICHARD ROHR’S The Naked Now to his Nyack students.  Some Evangelical commentators come out and call Rohr’s writings heretical.  Danaher not only taught this book but he even posted lectures on YouTube for the world to see.  This is very troubling because now you have someone representing the C&MA denomination (a professor at their leading higher education institution) spreading questionable (at best) teaching from a Roman Catholic mystic – RICHARD ROHR.

Clutching the book in his hand,  Danaher read aloud sections of The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See to his students.  Stopping to discuss each part he continuously ENDORSED ALL Rohr wrote.  He especially wanted to emphasize to his students that they rid themselves of all or nothing thinking, and let themselves be open to the “Yes!”  He tells the students they are “now here, (New Age for “nowhere”) or in the past” but where we want to go “is to get out of our minds” so we can “just be present.”  And how can one “be in the moment?”  Danaher answers: “Through CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER.”  (what comes to my mind are sayings commonly associated with Eastern religions that while using simple words that should be easily understood, in the end, their meaning makes little sense.)

  • CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER, also called Centering Prayer or Listening Prayer, has been taught by Roman Catholic monks Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington, as well as by Quaker Richard Foster, and is being advocated by many others. There is no one authority on this method, nor is there necessarily a consistent teaching on it, though most of the founding teachers quote medieval mystics, Hindu, and Buddhist spiritual teachers.
  • According to http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org, “Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating.  It should be added, “During the twenty years (1961-1981) when Keating was abbot, St. Joseph’s held dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu representatives, and a Zen master gave a week-long retreat to the monks. A former Trappist monk who had become a Transcendental Meditation teacher also gave a session to the monks.” 
  • 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.

=> This is not something that can be taken lightly.  As much as I love the C&MA, if these trends continue, they will end up changing the core foundation of the church. I know that may seem difficult to see at this point and I hope that I am wrong!  But, when you have leaders in the church teaching the next generations of pastors using influences ranging from Gnosticism to Roman Catholic and Eastern Mysicism, what else do you see as an outcome. Do we need to go through the Bible and see how many times God warns against mixing in customs and practices from other religions?  The OT is full of episodes warning the Israelites the potential harm that this represents.  In the NT, Paul is very clear – “Teach no other doctrine”.  Read the Pastoral Epistles and you will get an often repeated warning against the rise of false teachers from WITHIN the church.  Again, a simple principle but vitally important in our walk – the further you move away from the Bible, the more error that creeps into the church.

We will look further at these trends in Part 2.

 

(422) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: MYSTICISM & THE ENNEAGRAM (Part-2)

THE ENNEAGRAM

This is Part 2 of our look at the Enneagram.  The use of the Enneagram is being marketed as a tool that Christians can use to classify someones personality.  There is a great deal of baggage in the history of the Enneagram.  Popular Emerging Church authors/teachers use and promote the Enneagram – some of whom include RUTH HALEY BARTON, RICHARD ROHR…etc.  RICHARD ROHR, O.F.M. is a Franciscan friar ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church who has written many books and speaks at many conferences throughout the year.  Unfortunatly, several of his theological viewpoints are not biblical nor are they historicly Christian.  Unfortunately, a growing number of Evangelical Churches are involved using the Enneagram and following after some of these false teachings creeping into the church.


Again, I will look first at my church and denomination.  As stated previously, the CHRISTIAN AND MISSIONARY ALLIANCE CHURCH is moving quickly down a path that is seeking to include MYSTICISM and EARLY CHURCH RESOURCES mainly from the early Roman Catholic church.  The move in this direction is being driven by several people inside C&MA colleges and seminaries.  Professors such as DR. JAMES DANAHER are mixing in mystical practices from Roman Catholic sources including RICHARD ROHR.

=> ANYBODY involved in the C&MA should be very concerned about this direction!

Other outlets to mysticism are even provided by the Dean of Alliance Theological Seminary, DR. RON WALLBORN in areas such as SPIRITUAL FORMATION.  These people come highly respected, but the blatent direction they are taking not only strays far from Scripture, but it goes against some of the core beliefs/statements of the C&MA.  The impact of introducing mysticism (Roman Catholic & Eastern Mysticism) into a Christian’s walk can be risky that may not initially show up but over time could have the effect of moving people further away from God.

(A.) HISTORICAL BACKGROUND – INTRODUCTION

The history of how the ENNEAGRAM developed involves many different belief systems over many different years.  It is difficult to shorten this summary, but it will give you an understanding of the large amount of baggage that is associated with the development of the Enneagram.  If you have utilized, plan to utilize or know someone who has utilized the Enneagram, you especially should read this background.

The man credited with bringing the ENNEAGRAM figure to the West is George Ilych Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian from what is now Soviet Georgia.  From Gurdjieff’s book – Meetings with Remarkable Men, a sort of autobiography, his family wanted him to study for the Orthodox priesthood, while his own interests were in studying science and technology. Gurdjieff ultimately rejected all of the above because of his fascination with the occult. Astrology, mental telepathy, spiritism and table turning, fortune telling, and demon possession all held his interest as a youth. He did not follow after his priest’s warnings about these things nor did find science to be the source of providing answers to life’s challenges.

Therefore, in his late teens, he set out to pursue these occult “sciences,” traveling throughout central Asia, the Mediterranean basin, Egypt, Tibet, and India. After reading about a special school in an ancient Armenian book, Gurdjieff went looking for the esoteric Sarmouni school, allegedly founded in Babylon around 2500 B.C.

In 1897, while in Afghanistan, Gurdjieff stated that a dervish (a type of Muslim mystic or Sufi) introduced him to an old man of the Sarmouni sect he had been searching for. It is believed that this man arranged for an expedition to take Gurdjieff to the Sarmouni monastery in central Turkestan.  He learned their mystical dancing, psychic powers, and the ENNEAGRAM. The Sarmounis used the enneagram as a means of DIVINIATION to foretell future events as well as a tool to represent life processes, such as PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION (hey, they sound like authors associated with the Emerging Church) and they used it as a symbol of the conscious and unconscious states in human beings. He later would use these to form his own school for attaining enlightenment.  

Later, Gurdjieff formed a group, the Seekers of Truth, as his companions in the quest for enlightenment and (full) consciousness. It is claimed that they journeyed to Tibet to make contact with the “awakened” inner circle of humanity and to learn the wisdom of the tulkas, the supposedly reincarnated Tibetan lamas (monks). There is more.  After a period of time, Curdjieff snuck into Mecca and Medina, the centers of Islam, but failed to find inner truth there. Then he went to Bokhara, where the Bahaudin Naqshbandi band of Sufis lived.7

These Naqshbandi Sufis, also called the Khwajagan or “Masters of Wisdom,” claimed to be the “World Brotherhood,” composed of ALL nationalities and religions, teaching that “ALL were united by God the Truth.” Sounding somewhat similar to GNOSTICISM, the Naqshbandis believed in a legend of an inner circle of humanity who formed a network of highly evolved people wth special knowledge and they supposedly watched over the human race and affected the course of its history.  The Naqshbandis believed in additional aspects of this legend including a perpetual spiritual hierarchy headed by the Kutb i Zaman or “Axis of the Age,” a personal spirit receiving direct revelations of the divine purpose. This spirit, it was claimed, would transmit these revelations to humans through other spirits called the Abdal or “Transformed Ones.8 Gurdjieff and his followers believed that these spirits, “demiurgic essences” from a higher level than man, were responsible for maintaining planetary harmony and evolution. 

The Naqshbandis also taught Gnostic doctrines. Their understanding of faith was that it arose “from understanding” which is “the essence obtained from information intentionally learned and from all kinds of experiences personally experienced.” Only understanding can lead on to God and only experience and information allow one to acquire a soul.11 This is GNOSTICISM – a clear departure from Christianity.   In Christianity, it is God who comes to humans, offering to dwell in our hearts through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christianity is not reserved for only those who are the so-called “enlightened ones”.  Christianity is available to the poor and the rich, the brilliant or the retarded,…etc.  Salvation by faith is a gift from God.

In Paris (and the New York branch of the Institute, which opened in 1924), he taught “esoteric Christianity” along with a program to help students reach the highest levels of consciousness. His Sufi/Gnostic-inspired doctrine included the belief that everyone has three personal centers: the mental, located in the head (path), the emotional, located in the heart (oth), and the physical, located in the belly (kath). One prime cause for people being spiritually “asleep” or “mechanical” was the imbalance of these three centers within each person. His Sufi dances and other exercises were designed to restore balance to these three centers and move the person closer to an alert spiritual state.

Gurdjieff also taught that everyone has an essence and a personality. The essence is “the material of which the universe is made. Essence is divine — the particle of god in our subconscious called Conscience.”13 The personality is a mask of compulsive behavior which covers the essence. Though everyone is born in essence, by age of three or four, they choose a personality ego style.  One can’t return easily to the essence, but with slow, deliberate, conscious work one can arrive at it again.14 Note that Gurdjieff’s doctrine of “essence” represents PANTHEISM ( believe that everything is God). Enneagram teachers who recommend that students return to this essence rarely understand what Gurdjieff meant, but his words make it clear that he did not have a Christian sense of God. This is one reason he claimed to teach “esoteric Christianity”; orthodox Christianity proclaims we are creatures of God, not divine particles.300px-Enneagram.svg.png

Gurdjieff used the enneagram in his teachings as seen by its frequent appearance in his disciples’ books (though not in his own). The Sufis had used the enneagram for NUMEROLOGICAL DIVINATION. (Numerology is an occult “science” which holds that the characteristics of people and virtually everything in the universe are determined by numbers, and that such characteristics can be divined if the people or things’ individual numbers can be identified [e.g., from their names or dates of birth] and the meaning of those numbers can be determined.) The Sufis searched for the mystical meanings of the decimals .3333…, .6666…, and .9999… (based on dividing the number one by three), and of the decimal .142857… (based on dividing the number one by seven and containing no multiples of three).15 The multiples of three correspond to the triangle inside the circle, and the decimal .142857 (derived by dividing seven into one and resulting in a repeating decimal that never contains three or its multiples) corresponds to the points on the circle that connect the six-sided figure.

Through these two figures inside the enneagram circle, each based on the decimals of three into one and seven into one, Gurdjieff was able to present the numerological laws of the three and the seven. He taught that “all things in life work on two laws3 and 7.” All psychological laws fall within the law of three — as wi
th the three personality centers, and all material things fall within the law of seven.16

Gurdjieff and his followers made several claims for the enneagram as a result of these numerological beliefs.

  • “Only what a man is able to put into the enneagram does he actually know, that is, understand. What he cannot put into the enneagram he does not know.”17 In other words, any information that cannot be assigned its numerical value and then run through the enneagram diagram could not be understood in terms of its true cosmic significance. (must always follow the nine points around the circle, and the “will cycle,” which follows the inner figure along the lines between points 1, 4, 2, 8, 5, 7.)18
  • The enneagram has the power to reveal the “timeless” aspect of any cosmic process, since the enneagram is a symbol of the cosmos (i.e., the universe itself is ordered according to the same numerical arrangement as the enneagram).19 
  • John Bennett, a Gurdjieff student – “enneagram is more than a picture of yourself, it is yourself….the enneagram is a living diagram and…we can experience ourselves as enneagrams.” 

(B.) HISTORICAL BACKGROUND   OSCAR ICHAZO

Many different Gurdjieff groups formed after his death. The one most influential in the spread of the enneagram of personality is the Arica training (named for a city in northern Chile), a “human potential” program founded by Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean psychologist and former Esalen instructor, are both disciples of Gurdjieff, and together (according to Naranjo) originated the enneagram of personality types. Their ideas are closely related to Gurdjieff’s thought, especially regarding the structure and use of the enneagram.

At age six Ichazo became disillusioned with the Catholic church because its teachings contradicted what he learned through occultic out-of-body experiences. He rejected what his Jesuit teachers said about heaven and hell, claiming to have been there and learned more about it than Christ and the church. He came to believe that living in one’s subjectivity was the real hell, but people could become free of it. He then studied Oriental martial arts, Zen, yoga, shamanism, hypnotism, and psychology, and experimented with Andes Indian psychedelic drugs, to learn techniques to free himself from hellish subjectivity.

Ichazo impressed a group in Buenos Aires studying“esoteric consciousness-altering techniques” with his ability, so they offered him the chance to travel to Hong Kong, India, and Tibet to study more martial arts, higher yogas, alchemy, the I Ching, and Confucianism.21

Along the way Ichazo came to believe, as Gurdjieff did, in a hierarchy of spirits and entities. This included –

  • He allegedly receives instructions from a higher entity called “Metatron, the prince of the archangels,” and the members of his group contact lower spirits through meditation and mantras.
  • Students of his Arica training are helped and guided by an interior master, the Green Qu’Tub, who makes himself known when a student reaches a sufficiently high stage of development.22 Apparently it is the same as Qutb i Zaman, the spirit in charge of the hierarchy that speaks through other spirits, as taught by Gurdjieff (see above).
  • During his spiritual searching, Ichazo learned the enneagram – possibly by applying Gurdjieff’s principle that nothing is known until placed into the enneagram, Ichazo developed a system of nine personality types, each corresponding to the enneagram’s nine points. The personality theory behind the types is based on Gurdjieff’s idea that everyone has turned away from the essence into which they were born and chosen an ego type. This compulsive ego turns people into machines and puts them spiritually asleep.
  • According to Naranjo’s report, Oscar Ichazo gave these nine compulsive ego types some “dirty” names: resent, flattery, go, melancholy, stingy, coward, plan, venge, and indolent.23 Ichazo further identified Holy Ideas and Virtues which correspond to each of the nine types when a person reaches the essence level of higher consciousness. 

Helen Palmer’s classic text on the enneagram gives a different version of the origin of the enneagram of personality, which is basically confirmed by Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo, too, had belonged to Gurdjieff groups, but found them wanting. On a visit home to Chile in the late 1960s he met Ichazo. He helped Ichazo develop the enneagram and disseminate it in America.

  • Naranjo contributed to the personality descriptions and correlated the Freudian defense mechanisms to each of the nine types. Then, in 1970, he brought a group of 50 Esalen students to Arica, Chile for Ichazo’s training in the enneagram. When they returned to California Naranjo taught the enneagram to Esalen students — including Helen Palmer, Kathleen Riordan Speeth, and Fr. Robert Ochs, S.J.25
  • Though Naranjo claims that these people had promised not to teach others the enneagram,26 the above-named people have written and lectured about it since the early 1970s. In particular, Palmer has written one of the basic texts, and Ochs introduced it to the Catholic community.

The author of the Christian Research Institute article on the Enneagram is Fr. Mitchell Pacwa, S.J.  He is a professor of Scripture and Hebrew at Loyola University of Chicago. His contact with the enneagram came through Fr. Ochs, who taught it at our Jesuit seminary. He states that students (including himself) who learned it there “dalso promised not to teach it to anyone for at least two years, until we could integrate it into our own lives. However, many of us, myself included, could not resist the temptation to share this esoteric teaching with others. Many of us led classes, seminars, and retreats based on the enneagram, spreading it throughout the Catholic community in America, Australia, and other countries.”

Fr. Michell Pacwa goes on to say that learning about the roots of the enneagram was difficult because it was shrouded in SECRECY. Its OCCULTIC background was not taught to me, and most of the Catholic teachers know little if anything about that aspect. He makes a statement that shows how he realized the influence of the occult on the Enneagram – “Once I learned about its occultic roots, however, it became clear that some of these teachings seeped through to us, despite demythologization of the system. Bad theology and poor pastoral practice have accompanied the enneagram, for which reasons I now criticize it.”

(C) CRITICISM – SCIENTIFIC AND PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS WIHT THE ENNEAGRAM. 

Nearly all the enneagram books and lecturers accept Gurdjieff’s claim that the enneagram is very ancient, originating in the Babylon or Mesopotamia of 2500 B.C. Faith in the enneagram’s antiquity is in effect a claim for its authority. In his studies of ancient literature and archaeology, Fr. Michell Pacwa found no evidence for the enneagram’s existence in ancient times, neither inscriptions nor drawings. In fact, Ouspensky’s books on Gurdjieff are its earliest appearance. John Bennett says that the symbol may go back to fourteenth century Sufis, since that was the time of the discovery of zero and the decimal point.27 The enneagram’s dependence on the decimal point for its inner shape prohibits an earlier date. However, external evidence for a medieval date is lacking; there is merely the possibility that it has mathematical roots back then.

Further, it was learned that Oscar Ichazo invented the enneagram of personality types in the 1960s.

Significantly, Ichazo’s enneagram employs the numerological background of the Sufi decimal point symbolism in understanding personality dynamics. For instance, according to the system, the number one gets worse by following the direction of the arrow on the line connected to type four; four gets worse by becoming like a two, and so forth. People improve by moving in the direction opposite the arrows; that is, a one gets better by becoming like a seven, a seven should become like a five, and so on. Remember that this inner dynamic of the six-point figure and of the triangle is based on the numerology of dividing seven into one or three into one, a dynamic rooted in occultism and divination. This occultic dynamic was Ichazo’s a priori structure into which he conformed the nine personality types and their inner principles of spiritual improvement or regression. Many people accept this and adjust their spiritual and psychological life to these principles.

=> Pacwa goes on to say that – “Even if one demythologizes the occultism, or assumes good will among those who are ignorant of the occultic roots, one must nonetheless demand an examination of this system by psychologists and behavioral scientists. What is the evidence that a resentful perfectionist (one) should seek the virtue of the happy-go-lucky planner (seven)? Why should the vengeful, power-hungry person (eight) become a helper (two) rather than seek other virtues? Besides faith in the antiquity of the system, which it does not possess, how can anyone know the best virtues to pursue for any individual type? No research has been done in this regard, yet enneagram experts suggest specific spiritual goals based on this system to their students in parishes and retreat houses. The lack of scientific study should set off alarms for anyone interested in this approach to spiritual growth.”

A second area to be questioned and tested is the existence of the nine personality types. Nine is the a priori number suggested to Ichazo and Naranjo by the occultic enneagram figure. What psychological proof do they have that only nine basic types exist? And what is the evidence that these are in fact the correct nine? This has not been researched, either.

A third area needing research is the theory of personality structure taught by enneagram experts. Following Gurdjieff, they assume everyone was born in their essence but chose an ego fixation around age three or four. Children choose these egos as a defense against their parents’ egos, but get trapped by their own defense mechanisms.

The experts also teach Gurdjieff’s theory that three centers of consciousnessmind (path), heart (oth), and belly or instinct (kath) — is true. Some associate the head center with types 5, 6, and 7; the feeling center with types 2, 3, and 4; and the belly with types 8 and 9.29 They teach Gurdjieff’s doctrine that human personality problems derive from the imbalance of these three personality centers. One goal of enneagram therapy is restoration of the interdependence of the three centers.30

=> But where is the evidence for the existence of such centers? Can psychologists confirm their existence, describe their imbalance, or test therapies that restore their balance? The enneagram industry, as Naranjo now calls it, tries to awaken these centers through “spiritual exercises” derived from yoga, zen, and Sufi practices, much the same way that kundalini yoga attempts to awaken psychic energy in the seven “chakras” of that school of yoga — a practice that is considered dangerous even by its own adherents. Why are the enneagram teachers doing this, and what is their warrant except the practices of occultists like Gurdjieff and his followers?

(D) THEOLOGICAL PROBLEMS WITH THE ENNEAGRAM DOCTRINE

In addition to the scientific and psychological problems with the enneagram, Christians have many theological difficulties with it. The frequent use of such occult practices as divination and spiritism in Gurdjieff and Ichazo immediately throws up a red flag.

=> In Deuteronomy 18:9-15 and many other Scripture passages, God our Lord forbids such pursuits. Fr. Pacwa – “Most of the “experts” I know, however, avoid the occult or know nothing about its presence in the enneagram’s background. Despite this avoidance or ignorance, theological problems appear in enneagram workshops across the country.”

  • Some enneagram experts claim that original sin begins when small children choose their ego type or fixation. This is utter nonsense to the Christian. Original sin, by its nature, is not some wrong that a person commits. Rather, because of the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve (in trying to “become like gods” by grasping for forbidden knowledge about good and bad — Gen. 3:5), all humans inherit original sin. Due to the fallenness of human nature, people are prone to commit actual sins, and frequently do so. Identifying a three- or four-year old child’s choice of compulsion with original sin is a biblically false doctrine.
  • Another theological error follows from this one, namely, humans can undo the effects of this so-called original sin of ego fixation by means of Gurdjieff’s, Ichazo’s, or someone else’s spiritual “work.” Only the saving death on the Cross of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, can remove our sin. This is a free gift of God’s grace which no human can earn or deserve. We accept this grace from the merciful God and return gratitude to Him, which is itself His gift to us. Any removal of the effects of sin — the psychological residue or ramifications of sin — may be alleviated by psychological help along with other aids, such as charity to the poor, proclaiming the Gospel, and so forth.
  • Another theological error is the claim that Jesus our Lord possesses the virtues of all nine types within Himself.31  Determining our blessed Lord’s personality type from the Gospels is an abuse both of Scripture and therapeutic technique. Jesus did not grant any interviews for a psychological profile. Nor did He personally compose the texts of the Gospels. 
  • Naranjo taught that the Holy Idea or Virtue of each type is one of the nine faces of God. First, God does not have nine faces. Jesus our Lord revealed that there are three coequal persons in the one God, forming what the church has long called the Trinity. However, these three persons are neither multiplying nor subdividing into nine faces. That is a silly way to speak, ungrounded in divine revelation or common sense.  Second, no human can turn the face of God upside-down, right-side up, or any other way. God is our uncreated Sovereign, unmoved by created beings in any direction. 

 

(E) PRACTICAL PROBLEMS 

Books and teachers frequently claim that the enneagram helps everyone to categorize not only themselves but other people around them. A basic problem is that these famous people never had the privilege of making the enneagram workshop, so they could not type themselves. 

The abuse that follows from this practice is the trivialization and abuse of relationships. People believe they have more insight into someone else than that person has: the inner dynamics of the compulsions and the expected behaviors are known to the enneagram expert better than to the person under consideration. 

Pacwa goes on to say that he “does not have much respect for the enneagram industry at this point. Its occultic roots have not been thoroughly purged (if they can be), and it has opened itself to theological error and social and psychological misuse. The lack of scientific investigation means there are no controls to determine who actually is an expert, nor which advice is helpful or detrimental, nor whether the goals of the enneagram system are sound.”  

Hopefully, by now, you can see the amount of baggage that is included in the ENNEAGRAM.  I don’t see how including occultic beliefs and practices in your  personal walk is worth the risk.  I think God is clear about how He feels about false gods and idols not mixing in with Christian practices.  It is difficult to conclude anything else but to strongly advice those considering this approach to instead completely avoid it.  The effects on one’s spiritual walk should be protected against false teachings.  

*Several sources were compiled to provide this information.  Two resources that I recommend for additional information include the following:

Marcia Montenegro from Christian Answers for the New Age:

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

Christian Research Institute:

http://www.equip.org/article/tell-me-who-i-am-o-enneagram/

 

(421) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: CHRISTIANITY TODAY, MYSTICISM & THE ENNEAGRAM (Part 1)

CHRISTIANITY TODAY: “An Evangelical’s Guide to the Enneagram”73320

It is sometimes difficult to understand how quickly Evangelical Christians can forsake the word of God to follow after new trends, new practices, and new traditions. Evangelicals are known for their reliance on God’s word for direction and doctrine, however, they are seemingly becoming more and more influenced by society and many are following after practices that don’t have their origin in Scripture. 

Related to these trends, the premier Evangelical magazine publication CHRISTIANITY TODAY (CT), continues to include articles that further move Evangelicalism from its foundation.   Articles can be seen which promote other religions such as Eastern Religions with the justification that similar practices can be found in Christianity, therefore, we might as well learn what we can from these other belief systems to better equip us in our walk.  Just as troubling is the promotion of other types of mysticism.  Common sources include ancient Roman Catholic mystical practices. These practices can be found in some Roman Catholic churches as well as related church groups.  The ironic thing is that not everyone within Roman Catholicism accepts these mystical practices and in some cases speak out against them.  

Today, Protestant Churches and para-church groups are actively learning these practices involving mysticism – either from ancient Roman Catholic sources (e.g. the Desert Fathers) or even Eastern Mysticism from Eastern religions.  In our previous posting (#420), we discussed how these practices can be mixed in with postmodernism.  This has been originally associated with a more traditional, liturgical mainline denomination that has followed after these trends.  However, today, many Evangelical groups are flocking into these practices – some of which have their origin in these other sources of mysticism and not the Bible.  

An example of these trends playing out within Evangelicalism includes the CHRISTIAN AND MISSIONARY ALLIANCE CHURCH, and their related seminary and Bible colleges. I want to stress, that I could have pulled out examples from many different Evangelical churches.  Schools like Nyack, are falling head over heals into mystical practices such as, lectio divina, contemplative prayer, spiritual formation,……etc.   Mystics such as the popular Roman Catholic priest RICHARD ROHR are becoming even more profound.  Front and center on the “Nyack’s College of Arts & Sciences January 2014 Facebook Page & Blog” is Dr. James P. Danaher’s newest book: The Second Truth complete with Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico endorsement.

Note also that Danaher’s new book is also endorsed by one Maggie Ross.  Ross, a mystic Anglican solitary, is the author of several books including Writing the Icon of the Heart, which in turn, was endorsed (no surprise) by James P. Danaher, author of Contemplative Prayer: A Theology for the Twenty-first CenturyFr. Richard Rohr, Founding Director, Center for Action and Contemplation; and John H. Armstrong, President, ACT3 Network.  (See previous blog: “The Naked Now at Nyack.”)

For more Rohr scroll down the Nyack Arts & Sciences Facebook Page to find a prominent photograph of the Oneing: An Alternative Orthodoxy (The Perennial Tradition)  explored by 21st. century thinkers including:   Richard Rohr, Mark S. Burrows, Ilia Delio, David G. Benner, John L. Esposito, Diana Butler Bass, Mary Beth Ingham, James P. Danaher, Robert Sardello, Jamie L. Manson, James D. Kirylo, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley.

James P. Danaher, Nyack College Philosophy Chair, postmodern and contemplative author of four Rohr-endorsed  books, and advisor to and writer for Rohr’s Oneing journal.  

In the most recent issue of CT is and article titled – AN EVANGELICAL’S GUIDE TO THE ENNEAGRAM.  The growing popularity of the ENNEAGRAM follows after other more traditional practices found from the early church, Roman Catholic practices and actually similar practices found in other religions such as Eastern Mysticism. If you are an Evangelical and that statement shocks you – CONGRATULATIONS – there is still hope for biblical discernment!

WHAT IS THE ENNEAGRAM?   The enneagram (ennea means “nine” in Greek, and gram means “line drawing”) is commonly promoted today as a personality analysis.  It has been a popular tool among Catholic groups who commonly offer workshops and retreats where it is introduced and utilized. 

In the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions by Nichols, Mather, & Schmidt, it is defined as follows: 

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.  [Nichols, L. A., Mather, G. A., & Schmidt, A. J. (2006). In Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions (p. 391). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.]

The following diagram illustrates this structure along with its personality types:

Untitled copy

Most people who are familiar with the enneagram, use it for classifying personality types – “What’s your number?” Christianity Today describes it as follows

Most simply, the Enneagram is a system of categorizing people with a number—one through nine—that represents a core motivation or orientation to others and the world. Clearly these “types” do not explain or capture the whole of a person—and clearly we can imagine many more types of people than nine. Rather, the numbers are what Cron calls “imprecise maps” for how a person moves through the world. Most of the time, each person is a combination of at least two numbers.

Most personality tests such as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator seek to identify personality “traits,” like introversion or intuition. The Enneagram goes deeper, looking at the motivations behind our traits. Traits are “partial giveaways” to what’s really going on, write Cron and Suzanne Stabile in the IVP book. The Enneagram aims to take users to the root.

The language of “blinders” is helpful here. Blinders assume blind spots. Put in the right hands, the Enneagram is a tool to show people how their inner life blinds them to certain patterns and motivations— even to certain virtues. But blinders also assume focus. At its best, the Enneagram aims to show why we impulsively go a particular direction in our imagination, why our hearts burn for one thing over another, or why we are exceptionally driven in certain areas and not in others.

Several mystic groups, used the enneagram for numerological divination. The enneagram was important as a means of divination to foretell future events, as well as a tool to represent life processes, such as personal transformation.  Numerology is an occult science which holds that the characteristics of people and virtually everything in the universe are determined by numbers, and that such characteristics can be divined if the people or things individual numbers can be identified .  

Historically, there have been several variations on how the enneagram is used.  One method uses the numerological background of the Sufi decimal point symbolism in understanding personality dynamics. For example, the number one gets worse by following the direction of the arrow on the line connected to type four; four gets worse by becoming like a two, and so forth.  People improve by moving in the direction opposite the arrows; that is, a one gets better by becoming like by becoming like a seven, a seven should become like a five, and so on. “Remember, that this inner dynamic of the six-point figure and of the triangle is based on the numerology of dividing seven into one or three into one, a dynamic rooted in occultism and divination”.  This occultic dynamic was a structure into which was conformed the nine personality  types  and their inner principle of spiritual improvement or regression.  Many people accept this and adjust their spiritual and psychological life to these principles.

There are three main problem areas that surface when one studies the background  of the Enneagram.  We will continue this in the next posting.

(420) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: POSTMODERNISM & MYSTICISM AT C&MA’s SEMINARY& NYACK COLLEGE

POSTMODERNISM & MYSTICISM AT ALLIANCE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY & NYACK COLLEGE.

Most of this commentary is not original from me but taken from various sites as referenced below including Nyack College at http://nyack.edu/blog/CASNews/1512, specific books listed on Amazon, Learn to Discern Granny, and various other websites including several New Age sources –

It continues to amaze and cause deeper concern to see at a high level in the C&MA (ATS Seminary and Nyack College along with several other Bible colleges within the C&MA) the extent and promotion of mysticism – including both ancient ROMAN CATHOLICISM and CONTEMPLATIVE EASTERN MYSTICISM, which both share similarities to what is commonly referred to as NEW AGE.  

At this level, it is becoming more and more apparent of the future direction of the C&MA denomination as more and more pastors, authors, missionaries, workers….etc. go through Bible college and seminary to become leaders in local churches and organizations across the world.

To put it bluntly – the C&MA, in its inclusion of ancient and contemporary mysticism in its education program is displaying syncretism at a minimum.  This is very serious!  Just open your Bible to either the Old Testament or the New Testament to see clearly how God views dabbling in any other religion, belief system, occultic practices….etc.  In the Old Testament, there are several, I repeat, several occasions where God warns the Israelites not to dabble in these foreign beliefs.  Entire groups of people are restricted from mixing in with the Israelites to protect them from following after anything other than God’s word.  In the New Testament, the warnings to several churches are for the leaders in the churches to proactively be on the look out for false teaching that in many cases enters and is promoted from WITHIN THE CHURCH itself. (Jude)

Have you read from 1 and 2 Timothy lately – It won’t take long, maybe try reading it now to get a sense of how Paul warns the church to “TEACH NO OTHER DOCTRINE” and to stick to following after God’s word which comes directly from God (2 Timothy 3:16).

=> If we continue where we left off in the previous posting on Nyack’s professor, Dr. Danaher, the following information shows how the C&MA, both implicitly and explicitly, is promoting a syncretic mixing of doctrine and practices from ROMAN CATHOLICISM and CONTEMPLATIVE NEW AGE / EASTERN MYSTICISM

Nyack’s Dr. Danaher Does it Again with Another Rohr Endorsement!

Front and center on the “Nyack’s College of Arts & Sciences January 2014 Facebook Page & Blog” is Dr. James P. Danaher’s newest book: The Second Truth complete with Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque,1512 New Mexico endorsement.

Note also that Danaher’s new book is also endorsed by one Maggie Ross.  Ross, a mystic Anglican solitary, is the author of several books including Writing the Icon of the Heart, which in turn, was endorsed (no surprise) by James P. Danaher, author of Contemplative Prayer: A Theology for the Twenty-first Century;  Fr. Richard Rohr, Founding Director, Center for Action and Contemplation; and John H. Armstrong, President, ACT3 Network.  (See previous blog: “The Naked Now at Nyack.”)

For more Rohr scroll down the Nyack Arts & Sciences Facebook Page to find a prominent photograph of the Oneing: An Alternative Orthodoxy (The Perennial Tradition)  explored by 21st. century thinkers including:   Richard Rohr, Mark S. Burrows, Ilia Delio, David G. Benner, John L. Esposito, Diana Butler Bass, Mary Beth Ingham, James P. Danaher, Robert Sardello, Jamie L. Manson, James D. Kirylo, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley.

Exactly who are these other authors?  What do they share in common?  What do they each contribute to Oneing?  Why would Richard Rohr select them as contributors?  For some answers go to Amazon.com books to Oneing  and click on “Look Inside.”  Notice the “Contents” which lists articles written from Rohr’s “Introduction,” to Benner’s “Ancient Wisdom for Contemplative Living,” to Danaher’s “What’s So Perennial About the Perennial Philosophy?” to Finley’s “Epilogue.”  See the listing of each contributor with personal web sites.

While researching these authors, whom I’d dub: “Rohr’s Radicals,” I’ve found most of this group to be the cream of the crop of vocal liberals who’ve embraced Rohr’s “we are all one” mantra.  And just who are the “who’s who” of Rohr’s ardent admirers? 

  • To begin there’s Mark S. Burrows, mystic poet and scholar, who translated Rilke poetry from German to English. 
  • There’s Sr. Ilia Delio OSF, an outspoken theologian scientist and author, who reimagines Christ by teaching evolutionary Catholicism or cosmic Christology. 
  • There’s David G. Benner, an ex-evangelical depth psychologist and soul care author, who left his former faith for mystical practices (contemplative prayer, lectio divina, icons) and interfaith dialog (Buddhists, Taoists)
  • There’s John L. Esposito, once a monk, who now is an expert on world religions and a spokesperson for Muslim & Christian understanding. 
  • There’s Diana Butler Bass, Episcopalian feminist, who is a contributing editor for the very liberal Jim Wallis’ Sojourner Magazine, and a friend of such Emergents as Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, and Tony Jones. 
  • There’s Sr. Mary Beth Ingham CSJ, philosophy professor and author of a book with Richard Rohr, as well as numerous books on Franciscan theologian John Duns Scotus
  • There’s James P. Danaher, Nyack College Philosophy Chair, postmodern and contemplative author of four Rohr-endorsed  books, and advisor to and writer for Rohr’s Oneing journal. 
  • There’s Robert Sardello, a leading philosopher of the soul revered by authors James Hillman and Thomas Moore, who as co-founder of the School of Spiritual Psychology has authored such books as Steps on the Stone Path:  Working with Crystals and Minerals as a Spiritual Practice and Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness
  • There’s Jamie L. Manson, a Catholic feminist and defender of the homosexual agenda, and columnist for The National Catholic Reporter
  • There’s James D. Kirylo, professor of education and defender of “Liberation Theology,” who authored the book Paulo Freire: The Man from Recife. 
  • Finally, there’s James Finley, once a monk mentored by Thomas Merton, now turned clinical psychologist who teaches such retreats as: “The Four Noble Truths of the Buddha for Us All,”  “The Interior Castle of St. Theresa of Avila, ” and  “Zen as a Path of Spiritual Fulfillment.”

On the opening page you can also find the meaning of the old English word “oneing” as used by mystic Lady Julian of Norwich.  It is defined this way: “Oneing  describes the encounter between God and the soul.  The Rohr Institute proudly borrows the word to express divine unity between all divisions, dichotomies, and dualisms in the world.  We pray and publish with Jesus’ words, ‘that we may be one.‘”  Ponder this statement!!  For “oneing’s” meaning unlocks the reason for Rohr’s purpose in promoting these mostly Roman Catholic, mystical, often radical writers.  Yes, “oneing’s” meaning is what Rohr and his cohorts are all about!
Think!  Dr. James P. Danaher, Philosophy Chair at “evangelical” Nyack is part of this group of writers promoting we are all one, and we are all divine.  And then notice the members that comprise “The Rohr Institute Advisory Board:”  James Danaher; David Benner; Ilia Delia, OSF; Sheryl B. Fullerton; and Marian Kustenmacher.  This “five some” includes: Danaher, the contemplative philosopher; Benner the mystical depth psychologist; Delio the evolutionist nun; Fullerton the mind, body, and soul literary agent; and Kustenmacher the occult enneagram specialist

=> Once again the question must be raised: “HOW CAN AN EVANGELICAL PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR BE ASSOCIATED WITH SUCH A BOARD?” 

At the CAC web site we additionally find the “Living School for Action & Contemplation” whose all-star teachers each bear witness to the Christian voice of universal awakening, grounded firmly within its mystical and transformational traditionHoping to open Christianity to more inclusive theological visions a core faculty (Rohr, Bourgeault, & Finley) and invited master teachers (ROB BELL, DAVID G. BENNER, Walter Brueggemann, Paula D’Arcy, Ilia Delio, Ruth Patterson, and Robert Sardello) will teach deep and grounded practices in contemplative prayer, chanting, and kenosis.  CAC writes:  “In the joined presence of these faculty, this School is at its heart a Mystical Christian Living School.

One can find Oneing  and many more Rohr products featured on the New Age “Contemplative-Life” page with a “Mandala” icon at the top left corner of its web page.  Read Rohr’s clear and concise definition of Oneing’s “Perennial Tradition Theme”, which is in ALL the world’s religions, is all about:

     *  There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things.
     *  There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine               Reality.
     *  The final goal of all existence is union with this Divine Reality.

In conclusion, with the above description firmly in your mind, I would ask (“I” = Learn to Discern Granny is asking)

  • why Dr. James P. Danaher can continue to teach at Nyack College, and at the same time be part of this heretical organization? 
  • I would ask why Dr. Danaher’s newest book gets top billing on Nyack’s “Arts & Sciences” page and blog? 
  • I would ask why such a completely unbiblical and radical journal would be pictured as news worthy?  
  • I would ask exactly who it is that is responsible for allowing Danaher to be part of Rohr’s organization?  Surely, not just Danaher will be held accountable; for those over Dr. Danaher will also give account for their encouragement, their endorsements, and their allowing him to continue to spread Rohr’s teachings to CMA students as well as the CMA denomination and beyond.

Acts 20:28-30:
Paul wrote this warning in his day, and it still applies!  “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.  For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, sparing not the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.”

Look and see for yourself – 

*  Danaher’s book:  Second Truth 
http://www.amazon.com/Second-Truth-Introduction-Intellectual-Philosophy/dp/1557789126/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391694275&sr=1-1&keywords=James+Danaher%2C+The+Second+Truth

Oneing  Journal: Danaher Author:  Click “Look Inside!”  for much more information.
http://www.amazon.com/Oneing-Perennial-Tradition-Richard-Rohr-ebook/dp/B00EVXACBE/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391694651&sr=1-1-fkmr1&keywords=Oneing+Journal+Rohr

* “Spirituality & Practice:”  “Living Spiritual Teacher: Father Richard Rohr”
http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/teachers/teachers.php?id=212&g=

*  “Spirituality & Practice:”  “Living Spiritual Teacher: Cynthia Bourgeault”
http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/teachers/teachers.php?id=255&g=

*  School of Spiritual Psychology: Robert Sardello
http://spiritualearthschool.com/Store/silence/

*  Nyack Blogs: Nyack College Arts & Sciences News: Announcement of Danaher’s new book https://www.nyack.edu/blog/CASNews/1722

*  Nyack College Arts and Sciences Facebook Photos:  2014  Photo of Second Truth  second row; 2013 Photos:  Photo of Oneing  Journal about seventeen rows down on far left with caption “Dr. Danaher Examines Perennial Philosophy.”
https://www.facebook.com/NyackCollegeArtsSciences/photos_stream

*  Nyack Blogs: Nyack College Arts & Sciences News:  Announcement of Danaher’s piece in
Oneing  with CAC store address where you can purchase the journal.
http://nyack.edu/blog/CASNews/1512

(419)EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: POSTMODERNISM AT SEMINARY (C&MA) – Part 2

POSTMODERNISM & SEMINARY (Christian & Missionary Alliance Church) – Part 2

In Part 1, we defined what postmodernism is.  Postmodernism has crept into the Evangelical Church.  The rise of the Emerging Church movement has been one avenue that has embraced postmodern trends both explicitly and implicitly.  

As discussed, some major fundamental issues of doctrine are affected by those moving towards a postmodern view in their church and in their personal walk.  You can see why these issues are important to understand.  For example, we talked about how some in the church today embrace the idea that there is no absolute truth. That can affect how one interprets God’s word to how one engages society on social issues.

One can see how these issues develop further in the church.  Some today believe the role of the pastors has changed.  For example, some within the Emerging Church see no need for a pastor to preach a sermon.  Rather, they say that pastors should hold a conversation with the congregation instead of preaching a sermon.  They claime  that the role of teachers and pastors are not to impart truth on their congregation since we can’t know with certainty what is truth. 

It is also more popular today to see Christians embracing the idea that “all roads lead to heaven”.  They promote a concept of a more mystical faith that says that people on the earth are united internally with God.  

Yes, as said in Part 1, seminaries are becoming a hot bed of theology that is being shaped by postmodernism and the next generatio of pastors, leaders, authors,….etc. will continue to show and pass on more and more of these beliefs.

For me, a troubling example of this is being played out in the seminary and Bible colleges of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.  The church has been a stalworth of cross culturally missions and discipleship.  But they are falling head over heals down a path of mysticism and postmodernism that it is alarming to see how quickly this is happening and how little resistance by those within the denomination who know better.

I will pick on my denomination first.  Here is one example of this at Nyack College (C&MA) – Dr. James Danaher.  This probably falls under the role of the Teacher is not to impart information.

(1.) JAMES P. DANAHER

James P. Danaher is the head of the Department of Philosophy at Nyack College, a Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) school. In 2006 a faculty interview of him was posted at the Nyack website.

Under the heading, “My conversion to a life in Christ,” Danaher says:

I had an experience with the Lord when I was eighteen, but it was an experience and not a conversion into a radically new and different life. Twelve years later, I had another God experience but again without the kind of surrender that marks the beginning of a transformed life. God was faithful still and, two years later, with a third experience, there was a surrender and the beginning of a transformation that has continued for the past twenty-five years.

As a committed Evangelical postmodern, it is not surprising that Danaher emphasizes experience in telling of his conversion. He tells of three difference experiences with the Lord. Evidently Danaher hadn’t surrendered sufficiently the first two times for transformation to begin.

It is important to note that we read nothing about FAITH in this testimony. Nor is anything said about Jesus Christ in this testimony. And nothing is said about everlasting life, justification, or the kingdom of God. “As with many postmoderns, Danaher sees surrender to God as a condition of temporal transformation, which is a common understanding of salvation among Evangelical postmoderns.” (B.Wilkin)

That Nyack College, posted such a testimony on their website reveals the degree to which postmodernity is at home there.  I find that very troubling – especially how it will play out in the future.eyes-that-see-ears-that-hear-cover

In the same faculty interview, note what Danaher says “the role of a teacher” is:

The role of a teacher is not to impart information but to stimulate imagination and create interest. Intelligence is largely a matter of interest. We are all geniuses with regard to those things toward which we have a deep interest. The job of the teacher is to instill such an interest in the student. To do so, two things are essential. You have to love your subject matter and you have to love your students. Everything else in regard to teaching is superficial.

While there is certainly some truth in what Danaher is saying, there’s also some error.

It is no surprise that this view is being played out in many Evangelical churches today.  The purpose of Sunday School is stated as building relationships, NOT, learning concepts, doctrine, teaching,…etc.  The traditional teacher is no longer called a “teacher” but rather they are now “facilitators“.  Of course, the role of the facilitator is to lead the group in discussion, not to teach. Words like “knowledge” are looked down upon and assumed to be a purely “intellectual” pursuit that is vain.

It is important to state that all of these aspects can be important in building up a church – especially in building relationships among fellow-believers. But also, the role of the teacher includes at least some impartation of information.  Scripture talks about building up the mind, and on several occasions phrases similar to “know this” grabs our attention in the Bible so that we…….know what is being said, we learn what is being said, we remember what is being said….etc.  With the core of any discipleship program if sound teaching is not the foundation, how else can believers grow in their faith? But, with postmodernism, this is no longer emphasized and in many cases, it is looked down upon.  Is there any wonder why the church seems more confused today on issues like never before?

Wilkin states that “We are not all geniuses, even in regard to things to which we have a deep interest. While loving your subject and your students is certainly important in teaching, it is going too far to say that “everything else in regard to teaching is superficial.” Communication skills, knowledge of your subject, preparation for each class session, and attention to detail are also vitally important.”

Let’s look at another example.  This time from the well-known Talbot School of Theology. This has to do with the rational vs emotional concept of our salvation.  

The Bible Is Insufficient for Sanctification

(2.) JOHN COE:

At the 2006 ETS annual conference in Washington, D.C., John Coe, Professor of Philosophy and Spiritual Theology and Director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation at Talbot School of Theology, presented a provocative paper entitled, “Spiritual Theology: A Methodology for Bridging the Sanctification Gap.” He said, “Though the Scriptures are a central and defining datum, a Bible-alone approach is inadequate and truncated in understanding the doctrine of sanctification and the process of transformation” (p. 2). He continued, “If we are going to understand all we can about the work of the Spirit in the soul, we are going to have to study and understand that work in real life as well as the Biblical text” (p. 3, italics his).

In the Q & A time I asked him if we can learn from unregenerate people like Catholics, Buddhists, and Hindus, how to do spiritual formation. He answered that while the unregenerate often have a “truncated view” of spiritual formation (note the quote above using the same expression regarding Bible-only folks!), yes, we can learn from the unregenerate how to do spiritual formation as long as we filter out the mistakes they make.

The room this took place in seated around 75 people. Every seat was taken and there were another 20 or so seated in the back and in the aisles. This was a very popular session. As far as I could tell from the questions and from the faces of the people in the audience, people were very favorable toward this presentation. (Grace in Focus magazine)

Conclusion

Wilkin rightly states that “It is time that believers wake up about what is being taught in our theological schools. It is not only liberal schools which are out of step with the Bible and with its fundamental truths. Even historically conservative schools for the most part teach the postmodern principle that we cannot be sure of much, if anything.

I have a friend with two children under age 3. He does not plan to send them to public schools, which he calls atheist schools. Maybe he is a bit too harsh. However, it isn’t just public K-12 schools that are a problem. Christian colleges and seminaries often do not promote the values that parents want their children to maintain.

It is time for Christian parents to spend as much if not more time deciding on a college or seminary for their children as they did deciding on whether to homeschool or send them to a Christian middle school and high school.

Sadly, the more impressive the academic credentials of the faculty at a school, the more likely the school promotes postmodernity and uncertainty. Degrees from prestigious schools like Harvard, Yale, Duke, Oxford, Cambridge, and Aberdeen should be red flags. Watch out. Liberal theology flows from liberal schools.”

(418) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: POSTMODERNISM & EVANGELICALISM – PART 1

Do you think that you would be surprised to find out what pastors, teachers, leaders of your church’s denomination are being taught at seminary today?

Most Evangelicals have no idea what is being taught even in conservative Christian colleges and seminaries in America today. They assume that those training for the ministry are being taught the Bible, sound doctrine, and how to teach and preach – I know, radical concepts.  For example – Teaching a literal biblical view of a young-earth creation is becoming more difficult to find in Bible colleges and seminaries today.  

The norm in most American theological institutions, among both the faculty and the students, is the idea that we can’t know absolute truth.   Many professors, students, and graduates are certain that they can’t be certain of anything!

And get this – not only are theological students and faculty not certain of their eternal destiny, they aren’t even sure that God exists! 

Should we be surprised today that in many churches, the Bible is seldom studied. In seminary,  students no longer primarily study the Bible. They primarily study what scholars and other books say about the Bible.

Sound doctrine is no longer a given among Christian students. Many diverging views are tolerated among the students and faculty, even views that radically disagree with the school’s doctrinal statement.

According to most Evangelical educators today, we cannot be sure of even foundational Christian truths. For example, many seminary and Bible college professors specifically say we cannot be sure that Jesus rose from the dead! Consider the following examples:

POSTMODERNITY IS THE NEXT REFORMATION ?

(a.) Carl Raschke is the author of The NEXT REFORMATION: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004).  He has a Ph.D. from Harvard in the Philosophy of Religion and is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Denver.

Raschke says that postmodern faith is existential, NOT RATIONAL. Faith is “a total surrender of one’s heart” (pp. 168, 210). “A rational ‘faith’ is not really faith at all. Faith does not require any kind of unimpeachable demonstration. It is a passion for God amid the contingencies of experience and the messiness of life in general” (p. 168).

“The Bible is not a system of arguable and debatable propositions. A genuine systematic theology forged from the Bible is impossible” (p. 210).

=> Here is POSTMODERNISM 

  • The Bible has errors in it, yet it is authoritative (pp. 120, 134, 143).
  • “The ‘infallible’ authority of Scripture, therefore, is not founded on the fact that it contains no ‘errors’” (p. 134).
  • “The authority of the Bible does not rest on whether it is logically and seamlessly consistent and free of ‘errors’” (p. 143).
  • Certitude is the enemy of faith (pp. 82, 150, 168, 174). Without certitude to stand on, postmodernity takes it stand on intuition!
  • “The real is relational and the relational is real. On this intuition the postmodern Christians take their stand” (p. 158, italics his).
  • “Postmodernity is all our doubts supersized” (p. 174).

Raschke admits, “At first glance the prospect appears both repugnant and frightening.” It must take a lot of glances to remove those fears. The more I look at evangelical postmodernity, the greater my fear and repugnancy grows.

(b.) We Believe in God Despite No Evidence

Wheaton of all places – According to Wheaton Professor of Philosophy W. Jay Wood, “modest foundationalists make no claims about the invincible certainty of one’s basic beliefs” (Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, p. 98). The reason is because we cannot be sure of anything based on evidence.

=> Welcome to POSTMODERNISM

POSTMODERNISM 

Postmodernism (PM) is a catch-all term that covers many ideas. At its base, postmodernism is belief in plurality: no one can come to ultimate truth because people come to truth from their own perspective

The term “postmodernism” literally means “after modernism” and is used to philosophically describe the current era which came after the age of modernism. Postmodernism is a reaction (or perhaps more appropriately, a disillusioned response) to modernism’s failed promise of using human reason alone to better mankind and make the world a better place. Because one of modernism’s beliefs was that absolutes did indeed exist, postmodernism seeks to “correct” things by first eliminating absolute truth and making everything (including the empirical sciences and religion) RELATIVE to an individual’s beliefs and desires.

To understand POSTMODERNISM, we must first understand the two main periods that came before, namely, the premodern and the modern. These two periods have certain points in common, but also radically disagree at a number of points.

PREMODERNISM

M.J. Erickson 9 – The premodern period was characterized by a belief in the rationality of the universe.2 It was generally thought of as a dualistic universe, or in some senses, supernatural or at least extranatural. Reality was not restricted to the observable system known as nature. Frequently this belief took the form of a religious supernaturalism: the world has been created and sustained by a God, as in the Christian tradition, or at least there are behind and beyond nature some sort of spiritual beings, as in some polytheisms and pantheisms. In any event, there is more to reality than nature. In nonreligious varieties, there is still something beyond observable phenomena. The most prominent such view was Plato’s hylomorphism, in which the most real is the unseen, specifically, the Ideas or Forms, from which all particular things draw their existence and reality by participation in them.

Further, the premodern view was teleological.3 There was belief in purpose within the universe. The entire creation, humans included, existed because there was some purpose that their existence fulfilled. In the Western religious tradition this was a belief that God has purposes that he is working out within his creation and that we and everything else are means to fulfillment of those ends. There had to be reasons for things, and these were not simply in terms of “because” (efficient causes), but in terms of “so that” or “in order that” (final causes).

History also was believed to follow some sort of orderly pattern. The story of life in the world was indeed a story, because it was going somewhere. That pattern was believed to be present because a purpose or direction was instilled into history from outside, in the case of Christianity, by the will of God. It was moving toward some goal outside itself, and one could therefore make sense of life by discerning that will or goal or pattern and by then aligning one’s personal life and actions with it.4

A number of metaphysical and epistemological conceptions were involved in premodernism. One was a basic realism, by which is meant the objective existence of the physical world. The world exists independently of its being perceived by anyone. Further, there is a correspondence theory of truth. That is, propositions are true if they correctly describe the realities they purport to describe, false if they do not. This is closely wrapped up with a referential understanding of language. Language does not simply refer to other language, but to something extralinguistic.

MODERNISM

The modern period had certain points in agreement with this premodern approach, but also several significant differences. It shared the belief in the objective reality of the physical world, in the referential nature of language, and in the correspondence theory of truth. History was believed to have a sensible pattern to it, which could be discerned through careful study. It is, however, when the reason or explanation for these conceptions is asked that the differences between the two views emerge. Although the transition between the two ideologies was prolonged and gradual, these differences became increasingly apparent. Basically, modernism retained the conception of the world but removed its supernatural or at least extranatural basis. Thus, the vertical dualism was replaced by a horizontal dualism, in which the meaning or cause was found within or behind the natural world, rather than beyond or above it. The pattern of history is to be found within it rather than beyond it. Events are explained in terms of the social realities that cause them, rather than in terms of the purpose of a transcendent God. Similarly, causation is thought of as efficient rather than final. There are not purposes for the sake of which something exists or happens. There are only causes leading to its occurrence.5

There is in modern thought a strong emphasis on rationality and certainty. This shows itself clearly in the thought of the man whom many consider the founder of modernism, René Descartes as well as other philosophers such as Immanuel Kant. 

A third development was the rise of modern science, as related to the thought of Bacon and exemplified most fully in the thought of Newton. This involved the idea that real knowledge came from the process of empirical observation and testing that science developed to the fullest. Part of the vindication for the scientific method came through technology, which is the application of the pure sciences to practical issues. The accomplishments here have been truly astounding. Communications, transportation, and medicine made huge leaps of progress. The benefits of this progress, in the multiplication of human wealth, the overcoming of disease, and the shrinking of the distances of separation among human beings, constituted a spectacular justification which theology and philosophy simply could not begin to match. The idea that nature is self-contained, so that it is unnecessary to appeal to anything outside nature to account for it, seemed to have borne bountiful results.

1. Modernism has been essentially humanistic. The human being is the center of reality, and in a sense everything exists for the sake of the human. In an earlier period, God had been thought of as the central and supreme object of value. His will was what was to be done and also determined what happened. This was beyond the scope of human control, a concept that still persists in insurance companies’ references to “acts of God.” In the modern period, however, the human is central and autonomous. Humans are now able to control nature through the use of science, and they are the ones who determine what happens in history. One can see this gradual development by visiting an art museum that is arranged on a historical basis. The shift of subject matter from God, angels, and heavenly matters to humans is quite clear.

2. Together with humanism is naturalism. Nature, as the habitat of the human, is strongly emphasized. Paralleling the shift from God to humanity is the shift from anything heavenly or ethereal to the earth. This earth is the stage on which the human drama is played out. In practice, the tendency increasingly has been to restrict reality to the observable universe, and to understand even humans in light of this system of nature.

3. With this growing interest in nature, means of investigating and understanding it were developed and refined. This is the scientific method. From being regarded as the best means for gaining knowledge, the shift has gradually been in the direction of considering it to be virtually the only means of investigating truth. Thus, other disciplines increasingly have attempted to model themselves after the methods of natural science, adopting and applying empirical research, statistical methodology, and the like.

4. Nature, rather than being thought of as passive and an object of human activity, is considered dynamic, and the sole and sufficient cause and explanation of all that occurs. Instead of human origin, for example, being thought of as an act of special creation by God, biological evolution is seen as the cause of the human. Humans are not as uniquely different from other living beings as was formerly thought.

5. Determinism is a strong element in modernism. Science was possible because there were certain regularities within reality, which could be discovered and formulated into laws. This enabled humans both to predict and to control what happened.

6. This scientific method also tended to be practiced in a reductionistic fashion. Objects of study were regarded as “nothing but” something more basic. Thus, psychology tended to be reduced to biology, biology to chemistry, and chemistry to physics.

7. There was a strong tendency toward foundationalism. This, as we noted earlier, is the attempt to ground knowledge on some sure first principles. These may be taken as indubitable first principles, or something of that type. For Descartes, these are clear and distinct ideas, while for David Hume, an empiricist, it is sense experience. The logical positivists followed basically the empiricist route, seeking to get back to certain protocol sentences. This meant that knowledge was thought to be absolute and unqualified, whereas religion had to base itself on faith.

8. There is a commitment to metaphysical realism. The objects of the inquiry in which science engages are objects external to the consciousness of the knower, existing independently of any perception of them.

9. There is a representative view of language. In other words, language refers to real objects that are extralinguistic.

10. There is a correspondence theory of truth. Truth is a measure of propositions and is present in those propositions, which correctly correspond to the states of affairs that they claim to present.

In general, modernism was seeking for an explanation that would cover all things. Darwinism accounted for everything in terms of biological evolution. Freudian psychology explained all human behavior in light of sexual energy, repression, and unconscious forces. Marxism interpreted all events of history in economic categories, with the forces of dialectical materialism moving history toward the inevitable classless society. These ideologies offered universal diagnoses as well as universal cures.

Dissatisfaction with Modernism

Gradually at first, but more rapidly of late, there has been a growing dissatisfaction with this modern way of viewing things. A sense has arisen that the modern approach has failed to accomplish that which it purported to do or that which needed to be done. There are more restrained and more radical forms of this abandonment of the modern view.7 Diogenes Allen has outlined four areas in which this breakdown of the modern synthesis has occurred, four pillars of Western society that are crumbling.8

1. The idea of a self-contained universe is dissolving. This was a widely held premise of scientific thinking. It was possible to explain the universe without any appeal to God. While it was permissible to believe in God as a matter of personal and private faith, this belief was not necessary for an understanding of observable reality.

This consensus has come under grave suspicion, however. The philosophical arguments that seemed to preclude theoretical or rational knowledge of God, as offered by David Hume and Immanuel Kant, have been seen to be failures. The developments in philosophy have been supported by those in cosmology, where the Big Bang theory has raised questions about why just this universe has arisen. While these questions do not establish the existence of God by any means, they at least render pertinent the question of God.

2. The second collapse is the failure of the modern world to find a basis for morality and society. The goal was to establish a rational ethic, to demonstrate by reason alone a universal morality and basis for society. This modernity has failed to do. The failure was not so evident as long as the members of society basically adhered to traditional values, based on Greek and Christian principles. With the abandonment of such values, however, a virtual chaos has resulted, similar to the time of the Old Testament judges, when everyone did what was right in his or her own sight.

3. Optimism regarding inevitable progress has also been lost. This was based in large part on the idea that science and technology had solved so many problems that they could surely solve any others that remained. Progress was therefore inevitable. There is grave doubt, however, that education and social reform will be able to solve the problems we still face, and others that may yet arise.

4. The fourth Enlightenment principle was the inherent goodness of knowledge. Experience has shown us, however, that knowledge is neutral, its moral value depending on those who possess and use it. So some of the major discoveries of our time have been used for great good, but there have also been applications that have resulted in great evil.

All of these, in Allen’s judgment, provided a great opportunity for Christian belief in our time, for they represent the removal of major obstacles or competitors to the Christian faith.

=> In PART 2, we will look at how postmodernism has crept into the church and what effect it could have on our walk.

NOTES
2 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica 1.2.2.
3 James B. Miller, “The Emerging Postmodern World,” in Postmodern Theology: Christian Faith in a Pluralistic World, ed. Frederic B. Burnham (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), p. 2.
4 Augustine, The City of God.
5 William Dean, History Making History: The New Historicism in American Religious Thought (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), p. 4.
6 John Herman Randall Jr., The Making of the Modern Mind: A Survey of the Intellectual Background of the Present Age (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940), chapters 11–15.
7 For a schematism for distinguishing postmodern from modern theologies, see Nancey Murphy and James William McClendon Jr., “Distinguishing Modern and Postmodern Theologies,” Modern Theology 5, no. 3 (April 1989): 191–214.
8 Diogenes Allen, “Christian Values in a Post-Christian Context,” in Postmodern Theology: Christian Faith in a Pluralist World, pp. 21–25.
9 Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology. (2nd ed., pp. 160–166). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.