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(460.3) Spiritual Formation 2017.3 – Interpreting Key Passages in the Bible Used to Promote Contemplative Spirituality – EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY

Some of the key verses used to promote and defend CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY are usually taken out of context.  There are several contemporary authors/speakers who promote a Christian walk that moves further away from the Bible and prayer to a walk that looks INWARD and seeks to be drawn CLOSER to become UNIFIED with God in the DEEPEST part of our soul.  The problem is that Scripture discusses our sanctification and growth involving our dedication to God’s word and Biblical prayer – NOT in chasing after ancient mystical approaches that we find in the early church.   There are other religions that promote the idea of being unified with God by being unified with all of humanity – but Christianity is not it. To summarize – passages from the Bible are used to justify this seeking to be close to God in the DEEPEST part of the soul so that they can ultimately become unified with God.  But, the passages referred are usually taken out of context to arrive at their conclusion.

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In the following book, Relentless Spirituality: Embracing The Spiritual Disciplines of A.B. Simpson, by Dr. Gary Keisling illustrates a simple example of this.  The foreword was written by DALLAS WILLARD – a huge influence on the church accepting contemplative/spiritual formation.  

The book uses phraseology that quickly tips off the reader of the perspective that promotes a more mystical approach (e.g. SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES).

First, let me say that my intention is not to be critical of Keisling but rather, my review is focused on how Scripture is used to come up with relentless alternative interpretations of the Bible that may not be justified when those passages are looked at in context.

Keisling discusses the disciplines such as SILENCE and SOLITUDE.  He states that “both have complimentary roles in SPIRITUAL FORMATION”.  Solitude unfolds in two dimensions.  First, there is solitude that is in response to Jesus’ invitation: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (NIV Mark 6:31) .

Now, look at that verse again and ask yourself what is actually being said in the passage.  In context, look at the entire chapter to get an understanding of the context of verse 31.  Again, ask yourself, how should verse 31 be interpreted?

Keisling states that – “Christ’s disciples were invited to join Jesus in doing something they had seen Him do in the past and would certainly see Him to again in the future.  It was an invitation………..to be alone and draw close to God.”

Hold the phone.  Was that the reasons stated in this passage of Scripture?  Read the passage again.  Read it from another translation – NKJV: “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”.  You can read in a number of both literal and dynamic translations and they say the same thing.

=> I would say that Jesus was inviting the disciples to literally “get some rest”.  Radical idea?  This passage doesn’t say or even imply that Jesus was calling them to engage in a Spiritual Discipline of drawing close to God.  Keisling states that we are to “draw close to the Presence of the Almighty.”  

He goes on to explain that “these steps of spiritual formation are an essential part of life in Christ”.  Really?  “These steps” are an essential part of our spiritual formation – yet Christiandom is just finding out about it now?

=> QUESTION: Where does the Bible instruct us to be in SILENCE and SOLITUDE with respect to our devotional life in our walk with Christ?

=> If you find a passage in the Bible, ask yourself first – are you interpreting the passage correctly?

=> Then ask yourself is the passage asking us to engage in SILENCE and SOLITUDE as a part of our normative walk in Christ?

In my opinion, the so-called disciplines of SILENCE and SOLITUDE find themselves to be silent in the Bible.  With the huge emphasis today on this topic, I think it very important to note that many look at early church traditions (that many consider being mystical) more so than look to see what Scripture actually says on these issues.  

There are other key passages that supporters of CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER take out of context making their case for Spiritual Formation. We will look at a few in the near future.

 

 

(460) Spiritual Formation 2017.1 – EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY

We will begin a new series on the topic of SPIRITUAL FORMATION.  We have looked at this topic in the past but it was more along the lines of it being piecemeal.  I intend this series to be more comprehensive in scope.

I. INTRODUCTION – CONCEPTS & DEFINITIONS

One of the challenges in looking at this topic relates to the various definitions for the phrase SPIRITUAL FORMATION.  They range from the traditional, more common and more original meaning involving growth coming from a mystical & contemplative perspective.  Today, we find some combining this aspect with a more historical and biblical concept of discipleship or sanctification.

Here are few definitions by well-known authors today relating to this topic – the authors who have had a foundational impact on Evangelicals primarily include RICHARD FOSTER and DALLAS WILLARD, which we discuss further as we go along in this study. 

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Spiritual Formation – D.Simeone

=> Richard Foster  – Author of the Spiritual Formation Bible

“By now enough water has gone under the Christian Spiritual Formation bridge that we can give some assessment of where we have come and what yet needs to be done. When I first began writing in the field in the late 70s and early 80s the term “Spiritual Formation” was hardly known, except for highly specialized references in relation to the Catholic orders. Today it is a rare person who has not heard the term. Seminary courses in Spiritual Formation proliferate like baby rabbits. Huge numbers are seeking to become certified as Spiritual Directors to answer the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction. And more.” Spiritual Formation, A Pastoral Letter by Richard Foster

=> Larry Crabb

“The next reformation is due. It will focus on what it means to know God with a power that changes who we are and how we relate. I predict the Spiritual Formation Forum will play a vital role in the Spirit’s next great movement.” Larry Crabb, The Association of Christian Counselors, Willow Creek Association

“The Practice offers Saturday morning meetings which provide a rhythm of worship, teaching on a particular spiritual discipline and time to experience or “practice” that discipline. This practice time allows participants to get a fuller understanding of how to incorporate the discipline in their daily lives.” Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek.

RESEARCH: SPIRITUAL FORMATION

SPIRITUAL FORMATION is the process of apparent spiritual development through engaging in a set of behaviors, termed disciplines. Advocates believe these disciplines help shape the character of the practitioner into the likeness of Christ.

Though superficially similar to discipleship, spiritual formation is not merely concerned with biblical exhortation and instruction in orthodox doctrine, but also with the teaching of “many practices that opened [the believer] to the presence and direction of God, and nurtured the character traits of Christ into fruition”.1

The Renovaré website states:

Spiritual formation is a process, but it is also a journey through which we open our hearts to a deeper connection with God. We are not bystanders in our spiritual lives, we are active participants with God, who is ever inviting us into relationship with him.2

HISTORY

1974
William Menninger discovers the book, The Cloud of Unknowing:

In 1974, Father William Meninger, a Trappist monk and retreat master at St. Josephs Abbey in Spencer, Mass. found a dusty little book in the abbey library, The Cloud of Unknowing. As he read it he was delighted to discover that this anonymous 14th century book presented contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God.3

Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington and others who were students of Menninger disseminate these teachings.4

 

1978
Richard Foster writes THE CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE.=> This book launched spiritual formation into mainstream evangelicalism, and continues to be used today.

In The Celebration of Discipline, Foster shares the practices of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches that originated with the Desert Mothers and Fathers.

=> The Celebration of Discipline presents spiritual formation as attainable through the “spiritual disciplines.”

=> These disciplines are seen as a means of growing in spiritual maturity and depth. “In fact, the implication was that without the use of these ancient contemplative methods true ‘spiritual formation’ was not possible.”5

1988
Dallas Willard, a close associate of Richard Foster, writes The Spirit of the Disciplines. This book “reveals how the key to self-transformation resides in the practice of the spiritual disciplines, and how their practice affirms human life to the fullest.”6 

The Spirit of the Disciplines is based on Willard’s understanding of Matt. 11:29–30. Willard teaches that the “yoke” spoken of by Jesus in this passage is to attempt to emulate the life of Christ in every way possible. Willard teaches that this emulation occurs through the practice of the disciplines.7 (For a comprehensive teaching on this passage in Matthew, read or listen to Dr. John MacArthur’s sermon, Jesus’ Personal Invitation, Part 2.)

Richard Foster founds Renovaré. This organization seeks “to resource, fuel, model, and advocate more intentional living and spiritual formation among Christians and those wanting a deeper connection with God. A foundational presence in the spiritual formation movement for over 20 years, Renovaré is Christian in commitment, ecumenical in breadth, and international in scope.”8

PRESENT
The ideas presented by Foster and Willard continue to be propagated through the works and teachings of others.
Spiritual formation is a primary teaching found in what has come to be known as the emerging church. Brian McLaren, a key leader in that movement, has acknowledged that both Foster and Willard are considered “key mentors for the emerging church.”9

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

According to proponents of spiritual formation, various “spiritual disciplines” must be practiced in order to experience true spiritual growth:

Christian spiritual formation is a God-ordained process that shapes our entire person so that we take on the character and being of Christ himself.

Properly employed…these disciplines help us attain increasing levels of spiritual maturity so that we respond to our life circumstances with the mind of Christ.10

In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, as well as on his Renovaré website, Richard Foster lists these disciplines as:11

MEDITATION
Entering into a “listening silence” in order to “hear God’s voice.” Similar to the meditation of Eastern religions.
PRAYER
An “interactive conversation” with God. Practiced as contemplative prayer.
FASTING
“The voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”
STUDY
“The mind taking on an order conforming to the order of whatever we concentrate upon.”
SIMPLICITY
“The joyful unconcern for possessions we experience as we truly ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matt 6:33).”
SOLITUDE
A “state of mind” for one to be “found by God and freed from competing loyalties.”
SUBMISSION
Letting “go of the burden of always needing to get our own way.”
SERVICE
“A pattern of service as a lifestyle…At the center is found a contentment in hiddenness, indiscriminancy.”
CONFESSION
Confession of sin to other professing believers.
WORSHIP
“Entering into the supra-natural experience of the Shekanyah, or glory, of God.”
GUIDANCE
Learning to “heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus.” “It is the perception that we have heard the Kol Yahweh, the voice of God.”
CELEBRATION
Celebrating God in all facets of life.

Since the disciplines are not defined in Scripture, no concrete, definitive list is available. Consequently, Willard notes that we should not “assume that our particular list will be right for others.”12 This confirms the subjective nature of these practices.

[Christian Research Network]

 

Part 2 (2017.2) will continue on this subject matter in the next posting.

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

SPIRITUAL FORMATION & CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER BY JOHN MACARTHUR 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(446) EMERGING TRENDS WITHIN THE CHURCH TODAY: RITUALS – 5 REASONS TO NOT OBSERVE LENT

3 Rs – RITUALS, RITUALS and RITUALS

While this one posting won’t do this subject justice, it important to start this discussion within the Evangelical Church because of the increasing interests in moving closer to Roman Catholicism and mystical practices from more Protestant groups such as the Emerging Church.  This time of year, it becomes very relevant during the time of Lent starting with Ash Wednesday.

=> I don’t necessarily want to discourage someone who feels participation in these practices are valuable to their walk. I would rather bring up these issues which are becoming popular but have little biblical support and instead if steeped in ancient church history and tradition.  In the end, will a Christian move further from God and closer to tradition for tradition sake by following a path that focuses on man-made ideas and rituals. It is important to ask why these rituals are becoming popular and understand the history behind them.  The final decision is up to you as to whether you participate in them or not.  

Consider this PART 1 of a more lengthy discussion on this subject.  I may not necessarily agree with each point of the following article – Pulpit & Pen sometimes take a more harsh view of these issues than I would.  That said, there are several important points that Evangelicals should take note of.  My comments are bracketed []  – 

Five Reasons to Not Observe Lent

BY PULPIT & PEN · FEBRUARY 10, 2016

“The truly wise man is he who always believes the Bible against the opinion of any man.” – R.A. Torrey

No more than 24 hours into the 2015 Lenten season and a plethora of Evangelical #lent posts began appearing in the social media world. The Lenten season and Evangelical’s strange desire to participate, is as confounding as it is misguided. This strange situation is undoubtedly the unholy fruit of rapidly increasing Biblical and confessional illiteracy within the overall Protestant church and its many denominations.

Here are five Biblical reasons as to why we ought not observe Lent:

(1) Protestantism and Roman Catholicism do not share the same Gospel.

While some Lutherans also observe Lent, it’s fair to say that Roman Catholics comprise the majority of participants. Protestants subscribing to Sola Scriptura would do well to avoid, in the eyes of unbelievers, seeming to equate oneself with Roman Catholicism and their false gospel. In fact, most Protestants do not observe any other Roman Catholic traditions such as regenerative infant baptism, so why pick and choose random doctrines from a theological cult?

=> [NOTE: I think both Roman Catholics (RC) and Protestants may be surprised on who will be in heaven. Many Roman Catholics believe in the core principles of faith in Christ and what He has done for sins.  However, formal Roman Catholic theology strays far off into a more works-based relationship based on the ideas of man instead of being based on Scripture alone.  I would be concerned for leaders within RC as to whether they have truly believed and placed their trust in Christ alone for salvation.]

(2) Lent has become a pop culture phenomena, an opportunity for braggadocio and personal gain.

Sadly, as Lent has become more in vogue, society has grasped ahold of the practice and it’s becoming increasingly secularized. With the massive growth in the seeker-sensitive church model and their desire to bring the world into the church, it should be no surprise that many Protestants “giving up” something for Lent do so quite publicly (which is addressed in point #4). Further, Lent is quickly becoming yet another tool in the global ecumenism movement with [other religions]….etc.

(3) We should be fasting year round. While we are not Biblically required to fast, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial.¹ There are countless Biblical examples of people fasting for a wide range of reasons, (e.g. before an important decision Acts 13:2, Acts 14:23) and at all different times of year. It’s a strange concept that leading up to remembering and celebrating Christ’s resurrection, where Liberty was greatly enlarged (WCF 20.1), one would do so with a sullen face. As Doug Wilson rightly points out, “…the glory of that liberty should feel, taste, and smell like glory, which means gladness and simplicity of heart (Acts 2:46). It does not mean a couple of months with no chocolate.”²

(4) Public announcements of Christian piety, especially in the area of fasting, are Biblically questionable. It’s interesting that a season promoted as denying self has grown into something illustrative of American consumerism. As mentioned at the outset, professing Evangelicals post pictures and status updates all throughout the strata of social media advertising their self-imposed restrictions and ashy foreheads. Without belaboring the point, Christians are called to fast in a spirit of humility as indicated in, but not limited to, Matthew 6:16-18, Isaiah 58:3-7, Psalm 69:10, and Nehemiah 1:4.

(5) While all churches utilize some kind of liturgy, teaching about repentance should not be limited to the Lenten season. Some have argued that Lent is a beneficial addition to a church’s liturgical calendar because it ensures the teaching of repentance at least once per year. The contention is that if repentance is only being taught from the pulpit once each year, there are much bigger problems than the observation of Lent. Repentance is a necessary response to the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. Along with unwavering faith in Christ and His work on the cross, a life of repentance is a sign of a regenerated heart. This is not a subject to be given attention merely in the Lenten season. This is a subject that so permeates the true believer’s walk with Christ it should be an almost weekly reminder and a daily necessity in the regenerate heart.

Carl Trueman said it well when he wrote, “…just as celebrating July the Fourth makes sense for Americans but not for the English, the Chinese or the Lapps, so Ash Wednesday and Lent really make no sense to those who are Presbyterians, Baptists, or free church evangelicals.”³

The rest of the article can be found at http://pulpitandpen.org/2016/02/10/five-reasons-to-not-observe-lent/

 

(443) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: Martian Scorsese’s Movie – Silence

SCORSESE’S MOVIE – SILENCE. 

While I haven’t seen the movie yet, the reviews so far for this much anticipated new Martin Scorsese’s movie presents it as an emotionally powerful movie with allusions of service and faithfulness by being……faithless. Yes, once you read this review that line will make more sense.

There are several positive reviews – I just read one by Ryan Duncan from Crosswalk.com.  There are a few negative reviews – for example – Esther O’Reilly of The Stream.  O’Reilly goes further by concluding that the movie is blasphemous.

The following article by C.H. Fisher goes a bit deeper reviewing the movie.  While I haven’t decided if I fully agree or disagree with any of the reviewers, what concerns me the most is the turn towards Buddhism through contemplative and ancient Roman Catholic mysticism. This is a serious concern because it takes the audience and points them away from Christianity and more towards Mysticism. It also is a reflection of how syncretic Christianity is becoming now as newer, alternative beliefs have creeped into the church.

Also of note, in the past Martin Scorsese produced “The Last Temptation of Christ”.  

Silence: movie promotes Contemplative Spirituality and sanctions apostasy

C.H. FISHER

“Silence” is the latest movie by Martin Scorsese, who also produced “The Last Temptation of Christ.” I have read several reviews by professing Christians who are recommending it without reservations. Additionally, the Dove Foundation awarded the movie 4 out of 5 doves. Charisma News asks, “Is Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ Prophetic?” CBN also presented a rave review. Christianity Today entitled its review, “Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ Asks What It Really Costs to Follow Jesus.”

Another review in CT is entitled, “Silence Review: Hollywood’s Gift To The Church That Might Just Save Your Faith.” And what is the message of “Silence” that might save your life? The message of the movie is antithetical to true faith.

The title of Lumindeo’s review of the movie is, “Silence—A Christian’s Contemplative Guide.” [1] In the “About” section of the Lumindeo website it is described as “a network created by and for passionate followers of Jesus Christ.” If Lumindeo consists of passionate followers of Jesus Christ, why don’t they know that Christianity never grew in apostasy, but always in persecution and martyrdom?

Crosswalk likewise implies that it is a Christian-themed film with the statement, “Theologians, look no further: this movie is jam-packed with spiritual themes.” [2] Spiritual themes, perhaps, but Christian themes? Not by any stretch. Crosswalk reveals a misunderstanding of true Christianity in the following statement.

“The Christians in the film are Jesuit Catholics…”

The truth is that “Silence” is not a Christian film. It was not produced by a demonstrable Christian and has nothing to do with biblical Christianity. National Catholic Reporter declares the movie as, “Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ is his most Catholic film.”[3] I agree with that assessment. “Silence” is Roman Catholicism presented as true Christianity.

The major theme in “Silence” is about renouncing Christ when threatened by martyrdom. In fact, the apostate Father Ferreira urges the Jesuit Rodrigues to apostatize by insisting, “If Christ were here He would have acted. Apostatized. For their sake. Christ would certainly have done at least that to help men.”

In fact, Rodrigues is overtly presented as a “Christ” in the film and the people worshipped him. When he apostatized, it was to the people as if Christ had apostatized.

Furthermore, Ferreira’s statement is a heretical interpretation of Christ’s mission. Christ declared that He came to die for our sins. His sacrifice was to deliver us from the penalty of sin, death, and to provide for us eternal life. If we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father. (Matthew 10:33)

Rodrigues hears a supernatural voice, presumably Christ, who tells him to apostatize. The voice says, “Come ahead now. It’s all right. Step on Me. I understand your pain. I was born into this world to share men’s pain. I carried this cross for your pain. Step.”

Rodrigues obeys the voice, steps on the fumie, and goes on to denounce Christianity. That iniquitous deed was followed by an apparent conversion to Buddhism. (Thomas Merton, the priest who introduced Contemplative Spirituality, also called The Silence, into Roman Catholicism, likewise became a Buddhist-sympathizing Catholic.)

The supernatural voice presented an extra-biblical revelation, which is actually heresy. God’s word declares that trampling on Christ is egregious and punishable by God.

“Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” – Hebrews 10:29

Additionally, Christ did not come to “share men’s pain,” but to bear our sin and pay the penalty for it. Trampling on Christ is despising His sacrifice and rejecting His grace. Christ declared that no one can be His disciple unless they take up their cross and follow Him. A cross is to die on. “Silence” violates everything Christ taught about discipleship.

“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:25

In my opinion, the blood of the martyrs will cry out against Martin Scorsese and everyone involved in this film on the Day of Judgment.

“Silence” is also a spiritually seductive lure into Contemplative Spirituality. Throughout the movie there are poignant references to God’s silence. Rodrigues prays, but God does not answer. At one point he declares, “Despair is the greatest sin, but in the mystery of Your silence, it crowds my heart.”

In another scene Rodrigues ponders silently, “Lord, I feel the weight of their fate. Those who have died. Those who will die. Like the weight of Your silence.”

Makoto Fujimura, the cultural and special adviser to Scorsese during the film, stated, “…the film is not about the silence of God, but God’s voice in silence.”

Near the end of the movie the supernatural voice is heard again and declares, “I suffered beside you. I was never silent.”

Rodrigues, now a Buddhist, replies, “It was in the silence that I heard your voice.” In my opinion it is an unadulterated suggestion that as a Buddhist he heard Christ in The Silence.   He never heard Christ as a professing Christian until right before he stepped on the fumie.

Scorsese said at the screening of Silence,My way into spirituality happens to be Roman Catholicism.”   Of course, Roman Catholic spirituality is “the Silence” or contemplative spirituality. Consider Scorsese’s understanding of Christianity in his response to the following question. “The Last Temptation of Christ’ and ‘Silence’ — in your art and mind where do these two films find each other?”

“… But for myself, as a believer, unbeliever, doubter, have faith, not have faith, go through life, making mistakes, I don’t know.

 “Because when [Fr. Rodrigues] does apostatize, he gives up anything he’s proud of and he’s got nothing left except service, except compassion. So, he gives up his religion, he gives up his faith in order to gain his faith. Wow. How do you do that? That’s amazing. Could you do that?” – Martin Scorsese

I would answer Scorsese with an emphatic “No, you cannot give up faith to gain faith.” However, he goes on and produces the movie with the theme of abandoning faith to gain faith. Scorsese portrays the “service and compassion” of the apostate Jesuit as refined and elevated. The clear message is that committing apostasy and converting to Buddhism to avoid martyrdom is spiritually superior to faithful-unto-death Christianity. How does that compare to the martyrs in Revelation?

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” – Revelation 12:11

In summation, “Silence” is nearly 3 hours of very powerful emotional manipulation. The movie presents such a horrendously evil view of the Japanese Inquisitor that the Jesuit Rodrigues appears saintly by comparison. However, the idea of authentic Christian Jesuits is as oxymoronic as the concept of biblically validated Roman Catholicism. I believe the only good value of the movie is that it reveals the complete failure of Roman Catholicism when the religion masquerades as Christianity.

The dangers of the movie are first its heterodoxy that one can apostatize to avoid martyrdom and remain a child of God. An equal danger is the obvious allure of Contemplative Spirituality. This diabolical movie may prepare innumerable anemic professing Christians to compromise their faith under the pressure of persecution. However, it may also be a vehicle to carrying them into mystical experimentation with Contemplative Spirituality.

The potential of “Silence” to deceive millions of weak professing Christians is feasible. Could this be part of the “lying signs and wonders show” that the Apostle Paul referred to in 2 Thessalonians?

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10

[1] http://www.lumindeo.org/uncategorized/silence-christians-contemplative-guide/

[2] http://www.crosswalk.com/culture/movies/silence-movie-review.html

[3] https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/scorseses-silence-his-most-catholic-film

(442) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANS ARE INEFFECTIVE & UNPERSUASIVE

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Why Progressive Christians Are Ineffective and Unpersuasive

Feb 3, 2017 | 10:04 AM

(PHOTO: SOJOURNERS/BRANDON HOOK)  Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, holding up a “Poverty and Justice Bible” at the “Faithful Filibuster” protest, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2013.

One of the most fascinating speeches in the Bible happens in Acts 5 with Jewish Pharisee Gamaliel addressing the Sanhedrin. He warns them that if the message being preached by the Apostles of Jesus was of man, it would fail. But if it was from God, it couldn’t be stopped.

It was of God, and it wasn’t stopped.

I find that passage particularly relevant today within American Christendom.

There is a reason that liberal Christian movements like those championed by Jim Wallis, Rachel Held Evans, Shane Claiborne and others are so ineffective and unpersuasive in American culture. Rather than seeking to glorify and build the Kingdom of God, they regularly appropriate the language of Scripture to advocate for earthly, largely political causes that never address the principal need of humanity: redemption from sin.

For instance, preaching the words of Scripture when it comes to our nation’s policy towards refugees is admirable (provided it is done in context) only if you don’t ignore, downplay, or reject the counsel of Scripture when it comes to policy regarding abortion, marriage, and human sexuality. So-called progressive Christians have long chastised their conservative brethren for cherry-picking Scripture to support certain political causes. And to the extent that conservatives have done that, it has been to our detriment.

One need only walk through the graveyard of the “Religious Right” for confirmation of that reality. The Religious Right did not fall apart because it sought to apply the truth of the Bible to politics. It was when it tied the message of the Gospel to a political agenda. Before long, the Republican Party became an idol, and its success was seen as the most effective way to advance righteousness in the land. The Religious Right ceased to be about God, and thus it ceased to be.

But the same is happening with the Progressive Christianity of Wallis, Evans, Claiborne, Brian McLaren, and Tony Campolo that so desperately wants to be a formidable political force in America. In an effort to become such, they use the Bible as a weapon not against the sin and unrighteousness that plagues humanity, but against those who don’t share their politics.

Loving like Jesus means caring about what He cared about, wanting what He wanted, acting like He acted. And any rational reading of Scripture reveals that Jesus always cared first about the spiritual health of the individual, second about their physical health. Healing the physical was His way of demonstrating He had authority to heal the spiritual — which was far more important.

Progressive Christians who focus only on physical poverty while ignoring spiritual poverty are not contending for the faith. They are a political movement that finds themselves in a flesh-driven struggle for power rather than a spirit-driven struggle for Kingdom building. They mistake seeking social “justice” for the poor with seeking eternal justification for the sinner. That is a tragic confusion.

Take Sojourners Magazine, headed by Jim Wallis (and historically associated with the shocking promotion of misery-spreading communism in Central America), which recently ran a piece describing how American Christianity had failed because it, “looked nothing like Jesus.”

Now, on the surface, one need only view the opulent auditoriums and crystal palaces of some of the country’s largest churches to recognize that there is certainly some truth to that assessment. But at the same time the progressive Christians at Sojourners are promoting that narrative, they are simultaneously running glowing accounts and magnanimous reporting about the “Women’s March” in Washington, D.C. the day after the inauguration.

This was a gathering that specifically barred many Christians, atheists, Jews, men, women and minorities for their biblically-consistent view that abortion dehumanizes innocent children. Is that the inclusivity of Jesus that Sojourners touts so often?

And speaking of looking “nothing like Jesus,” does the Wallis operation contend that

1. March organizer Linda Sarsour, who infamously attacked a fierce defender of Islamic women seeking freedom, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who suffered through Islamic female genital mutilation as a five year old, but Women’s March organizer Sarsour growled that she would take Ali’s “vagina away,”

2. Grotesque signs stating “P**** Power,” “Viva la Vulva,” “P**** Grabs Back,” “Abort Mike Pence,”

3. Placards depicting Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin engaged in perverse sexual acts,

4. The caustic rhetoric and militant feminism of Ashley Judd that manifested in a profane and coarse rant that was antithetical to the Biblical admonition of Ephesians 5,

5. Giant models of bloody tampons,

6. Posters adorned with explicitly anti-Biblical statements like, “I didn’t come from your rib – you came from my vagina,”

7. Featured speakers like Donna Hylton who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the kidnapping, anal rape with a three foot steel pole, torture, and eventual murder of a 62-year old man…

… is what progressive Christianity sees as the face of Christ?

Condemning the vulgarity of President Trump is meaningful Christian conduct (I did it in strong terms right here). Appealing to decency and respect for women is a powerful witness to the truth of Scripture. But lauding condemnation done with equal, and in some cases more disgusting vulgarity destroys that witness.

Yet that is what the Christian Left did, as evidenced on the pages of Sojourners and this Biblically offensive Facebook post from Rachel Evans:

“Seeing hundreds of thousands of pink pussy hats today reminded me of Luke 12:3: ‘Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.’ Our new president is feelin’ that one today. J”

The passage she cites is actually Jesus warning His disciples about hypocrisy — the very offense Evans commits in a post meant to condemn Trump’s crudeness while applauding it in others.

And this is the enduring problem with these liberal Christian movements. Whether flying under the banner of “social justice” or “emergent church,” the Christian Left is nothing more than what they hated in the Religious Right: political activists selectively hijacking particular words of the Divine in vanity and political approbation.

Until that changes, they will remain a movement of man, not the cross. Gamaliel tells us how that story ends.

Peter Heck is a speaker, author and teacher. Follow him @peterheck, email peter@peterheck.com or visit www.peterheck.com.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/why-progressive-christians-ineffective-unpersuasive-174006/#wCwScgeujfsS7jSH.99

(440) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: RICHARD ROHR & UNIVERSALISM

MORE ROHR & UNIVERSALISM 

Roman Catholic priest and mystic Fr. Richard Rohr has become popular among Emerging Church / Progressives and is one of the teachers being promoted by some Evangelicals and seminary instructors.  Previous postings looked at Rohr’s influence at C&MA Seminary and colleges such as ATS and Nyack (i.e. Dr. James Danaher).

The more I discover about Richard Rohr, the more I get concerned.  More Rohr doesn’t equate to more biblical.  By both historic and biblical standards, his theology not only drifts away from Roman Catholicism but also strays widely from what the Bible teaches.

Here are few more issues.  Rohr degrades who Christ is and casts doubt on the incarnation.  He believes that Jesus and Christ are distinct.

INTERVIEW – In an interview between Richard Rohr and Rob “No Hell” Bell – 

BELL: How do you explain what the Bible is to people?

ROHR: I believe it’s the word of God in the words of people. It didn’t fall as a Glad bag from heaven…….When it says Yahweh says… I know they [the writers of the Bible] wouldn’t like this but Yahweh didn’t say that. They said that. Like we do. We project our own consciousness onto God to justify our own evil behavior. We still do that-but that’s a totally different narrative for an evangelical. To them, it sounds as if you’re really relativizing the Bible. But you have to start with the human if you get the divine. Protestantism didn’t really get the incarnation-they so overplayed the redemption cross salvation through the cross thing…..The incarnation solves the problem. Problem solved. I don’t need blood sacrifice to know that it’s good to be a human being.

=> As you read through that interview clip, several concerns jump out. 

(1) GOD’S WORD – He doesn’t believe the Bible is God’s word.  He states “When it says Yahweh says…….Yahwe didn’t say that”.

(2) INCARNATION -“it’s good to be a human being”. Rohr relativizes many theological issues resulting in making comparisons out of context and ultimately twisting basic biblical doctrine from its original, historically well-known and understood meaning.  

  • Rohr’s statement “it’s good to be a human being.” as his understanding of how Jesus viewed the incarnation.  Strange, to say the least?  YES!

(3) ATONEMENT – Denial of substitutionary atonement?  He states that he doesn’t need the blood sacrifice.  What does he mean?  Convoluted to say the least?  YES!

Marcie Montenegro comments on these statements and sums it up well –  

“How can Rohr think this?! On the contrary, Jesus humbled himself to incarnate! It was not to show that “it’s good to be human.” It was so he could be the perfect Lamb and die to pay the penalty for sins. Jesus came down to the human level, it was an incredible act of humility and servanthood.”

…taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:7b-8

(4) HIDDEN TRUTH – There are “hidden truths” that Christianity has lost.  In Rohr’s book, The Naked Now

downloadDrawn from the Gospels, Jesus, Paul, and the great Christian contemplatives, this examination reveals how many of the hidden truths of Christianity have been misunderstood or lost and how to read them with the eyes of the mystics rather than interpreting them through rational thought. Filled with sayings, stories, quotations, and appeals to the heart, specific methods for identifying dualistic thinking are presented with simple practices for stripping away ego and the fear of dwelling in the present.

What comes to mind when a statement saying that the truths of Christianity have been misunderstood or lost?  The implication is that we need to hear what Rohr has to say through these mystics to get the proper interpretation.  Secret knowledge that a privileged few have?  Sounds cultic if not Gnostic.  Does this not contradict Scripture and open the reader up to all kinds of potential beliefs that are unbiblical? (rhetorical)

(5) UNIVERSALISM – In this video with the “Revangelical Connection”, an interview with Rohr shows what he believes about Universalism.  

In my opinion, his belief is very dangerous because it warps one of the most basic beliefs of our faith.  The critical question is – will you spend eternity with God?  This is answered by the Universalist as a yes. They teach that in some fashion, everyone will make it to heaven.  Eternity with God is a given because eventually Hell has no meaning and doesn’t fit in with God.   Some Universalist may not promote this view outright but if you digest their theology and take it to its logical conclusion, it becomes very apparent.

Here are some important points brought up in this interview with Richard Rohr.  Much of what he says and implies here are his views and his interpretation of history resulting in statements that are either incorrect or questionable at best:

  • Rohr states that “UNIVERSALISM was the common Christian view for the first three centuries” of the early church. 
  • Rohr states that Evangelicals/Protestants don’t present the view that God is victorious.  He states – “that is what it means to be God”.  Instead, Protestants marginalize God with their theology which ends up watering down concepts such as God reigns and God is almighty.  Rohr states that “it is a surprise that anybody is saved at all”.  By Rohr’s implication, Roman Catholicism and his version of mysticism, God is going to win, will be victorious…etc.
  • Rohr further justifies his reasoning of marginalization by comparing male and female psyche with males preferring a Win-Lose scenario and females preferring a Win-Win scenario.  Historically, the male view dominated – someone loses out on eternity.
  • Rohr states that once someone sees the love of God, no one could resist turning towards Him for salvation.  Rohr states that ultimately even the Devil could not resist this.
  • One of the interviewers observes that what Rohr is saying sounds similar to ROB BELL  (surprise, surprise).  Rohr chuckles and states that Bell is a good friend of his and Bell will be teaching next year at his school – The Living School.