“25 yrs ago I lost the Christianity of my youth. Found a deeper faith embracing silence, centering prayer, doubt, mystery, Jesus. Recognized my own deep brokenness & moved toward the brokenness of the world. 25 yrs later, the world’s overwhelming pain pushes me again into silence.”
With several previous articles on SF on this blog, we have already looked at more detailed definitions and explanations of the topic. This is just to bring in a middle of the road view.
- Do you think the biblical references given are referring to SF?
- How many of the DISCIPLINES listed come from the Bible?
- What is the origin of SF? Do you see the direct ties to Roman Catholicism? New Age? Mysticism? Historical ancient teachings? Psychology and Philosophy...etc.
- Words used to show these types of teachings include a focus on the deep, inner world, intimacy, and union with God in this internal perspective,…etc.
- In the history of the Protestant Church, would you consider SF a more recent trend or one long established since the Reformation?
Keep in mind, there is much more background information that could be added to this article explaining in more detail specific issues relating to Roman Catholic teachings, mysticism, philosophy as well as biblical views on these subjects,…etc. This is just a general article.
Some previous blog posts on Spiritual Formation:
Spiritual formation may refer either to the process and practices by which a person may progress in one’s spiritual or religious life or to a movement in Protestant Christianity that emphasizes these processes and practices. It may include, but is not limited to,
- Specific techniques of prayer and meditation[page needed]
- A focus on spiritual disciplines and practices[page needed]
- Reference to historical religious philosophy and techniques
Many authors[who?] have attempted to define spiritual formation. Christian religious writers and institutions have differing definitions due to their various conceptions of it. Some authors suggest that it is discovery of “leadings of the heart,” renewal of the mind (sanctification), walking in the spirit, or a type of character formation. In Care of Mind, Care of Spirit, psychiatrist Gerald G. May offers, “Spiritual formation is a rather general term referring to all attempts, means, instruction, and disciplines intended towards deepening of faith and furtherance of spiritual growth. It includes educational endeavors as well as the more intimate and in-depth process of spiritual direction.”
Christian spiritual formation is often understood as a long-term process in which a believer desires to become a disciple of Jesus and become more like him. This process requires engagement of various sorts by the individual and religious community but is enacted and guided by the Holy Spirit. Dallas Willard wrote that “spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.”
Approaches to Spiritual Formation
- Theological Training
- Certificate Programs in Spiritual Direction
- BA and MA Programs accredited by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
- Bible Studies
- Independent study/reading the classics from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
- Corporate worship
- Volunteer service
Practice of religious exercises
- Lectio Divina
- the study of scripture
Ordinary experiences of everyday life
- Work and play
- Family life
Some people regard leadership development as a process of spiritual formation. Building on the emphasis of Christian spiritual formation in leaders, leadershipexpert Timothy H. Warneka wrote:
Today’s world cries out for people who can lead with a global perspective. We need leaders who lead from the heart as well as the mind, leaders who understand that decisions made about even the smallest of organizations affect the entire global community. We need leaders who can act ethically, intentionally, and with respect for existing citizenry as well as for future generations. We need leaders who can address problems from an integrated, holistic perspective—the only place that solutions for today’s most pressing problems will be found. Most of all, we need leaders who understand that the primary function of a leader is to serve, not to be served.
- Isaiah 43:1 (New International Version)
But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
- Ephesians 4:11-13 (The Message)
He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
- Romans 8:29 (New International Version)
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
- Romans 12:2 (New International Version)
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 (New International Version)
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
- Galatians 4:19 (New International Version)
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
Many authors and speakers write that believers can attain spiritual growth through the practice of religious disciplines. Such disciplines may be understood as means of exercising and strengthening one’s religious and spiritual capacities, a means of accessing a spiritual reality directly, or a manner of making oneself available to the activity of God.
Spiritual disciplines, as a strategy towards spiritual formation, have risen and fallen in popularity over the centuries. Christianity asserts two things: first, transformation of the heart is a work only God can accomplish, and second, we are saved not by our works or efforts, but by God’s grace, that is, His unmerited favor; the church has often been tempted to marginalize the usefulness of these disciplines so as not be confused with preaching “justification by works.”
However other scholars respond by saying that, it is not salvation that is at stake, but rather the need to develop people of genuine Christ-like character to live in the world and confront its values.
Quaker theologian Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline, includes several internal, external, and corporate disciplines one should engage in through his or her Christian life. These include the following internal disciplines: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study. External disciplines include: Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service. Finally, corporate disciplines, those that are completed within the body of the church are confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
History of the Protestant Movement
Spiritual formation in general has been integral to most religions, including Christianity. The religious ideal typically presupposes that one be changed in some manner through interaction with spiritual realities. Therefore, to trace a historical origin of spiritual formation is to examine the history of religion in general.
However, the history of spiritual formation as a specific movement within 20th century Protestantism is possible. James Houston traces the history of the movement to post-Vatican II reformers within the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, who sought to find ways to educate and train new priests in a manner that was appropriate to VATICAN II ideals. This formative perspective began to spread into and was adopted by the Association of Theological Schools, and as an increasing number of evangelical schools began joining them in the 1970s and 1980s, the ideals spread throughout the academic and theological strata of Christianity, particularly in the United States. While initially aimed at academic and pastoral leadership, Houston notes that the Protestant ideal of the priesthood of all believers pushed churches to expand this formative ideal to all individuals.
On a popular level, the formation movement emerged, in part, with the publication of Richard Foster’sCelebration of Discipline in 1978, which introduced and popularized a set of spiritual disciplines as historical practices BEYOND Bible study, prayer, and church attendance that may lead to religious maturity and spiritual growth.
Validity of Ideals
While some Christians understand spiritual formation to be an integral part of their religion, others perceive it as a diluting of the faith or an attempt by competing religious ideals to infiltrate Christian doctrine and lead adherents astray. Some individuals and organizations, such as Lighthouse Trails Research, interpret spiritual formation as a front for non-Christian mysticism or Roman Catholic influence to enter the Protestant church, which they see as damaging religious doctrine and leading Christians to engage in dangerous practices or leave the faith entirely.
Because spiritual formation has been used, in recent decades, to describe a loose but semi-coherent set of practices and ideals within American Protestantism, many have accused it of merely being a “fad”. Such persons dismiss it because of this trendiness, but others have argued that to relegate it only to a small sub-group within the church is to neglect its necessity to Christian practice.
- E.g., Keating, Thomas (2009). Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer. The Crossroad Publishing Company. ISBN 0824525299.
- E.g., Foster, Richard (1998). Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0060628391.
- E.g., Hall, Christopher A. (1998). Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers. IVP Academic. ISBN 0830815007.
- Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca Laird. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit HarperCollins Publishers, 2010, p xix
- Larry Christenson, The Renewed Mind: Becoming the Person God Wants You to BeBethany House, 2001
- Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 909.
- Tennant, Agnieszka. “The Making of a Christian”, Christianity Today, London, 27 October 2005. Retrieved on 14 August 2014. ] ,
- May, Gerald G. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction. 1st HarperCollins paperback ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 6.
- Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002) p. 22.
- Warneka, Timothy H. (2007). Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership. Asogomi Publishing International. ISBN 9780976862758. Retrieved 2014-09-03.
- Willard, Dallas (1999). The Spirit of the Disciplines. HarperOne. p. 4. ISBN 0060694424.
- Keating, Thomas (2006). Open Mind, Open Heart. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 11. ISBN 0826418899.
- Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg (2015). Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. IVP Books. pp. 17–20. ISBN 0830846050.
- Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: A Path to Spiritual Growth. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). pg v
- Houston, James. “The History of Spiritual Formation – James Houston and Bruce Hindmarsh | Open Biola”. Open Biola. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- “Welkom in onze Spirituele Community”. spirituelecommunity.nl. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
- “Seven Things I Hate About Spiritual Formation”. CT Pastors. Retrieved 2017-04-24.
- Dallas Willard. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002).
- Dallas Willard. The Spirit of the Disciplines. (New York: Harper & Row, 1988).
- Ken Boa. Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).
- Gerald G. May. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction. (San Francisco: Harper, 1982).
- Richard Foster. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978).
- David Benner. Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998).
- Oswald Chambers. My Utmost for His Highest (Discovery House Publishers, 2014).
- Thomas A Kempis. The Imitation of Christ (Lulu Press, 2010).
- Henri Nouwen. Spiritual Formation. (Harper Collins, 2010).
- John BunyanThe Pilgrim’s Progress. (Uhrichsville Ohio: Barbour and Company.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Cost of Discipleship. (Simon and Schuster, 2012).
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together. (Simon and Schuster, 2012).
- Don Postema. Space for God: Study and Practice of Spirituality and Prayer. (Faith Alive Christian Resource, 1997).
Evangelical & Roman Catholic Spirituality
Looking at the issue of Evangelical spirituality and how it has progressed today, although regressed may be a better description, it is not uncommon to get blank stares when mentioning the influence of ancient Roman Catholic and Eastern Mysticism on Evangelical spirituality. As I continue to see Evangelicals increasingly including Roman Catholic & Eastern mysticism practices, it makes one wonder if Evangelicals have lost sight as to why they became Evangelicals in the first place. Stated plainly, there is an increasingly syncretic blending of Eastern Mysticism along with Roman Catholicism practices infusing its way into Evangelical practices – which may be the most disturbing aspect of these trends.
Evangelicals participating in ASH WEDNESDAY, STATIONS OF THE CROSS, SACRIFICIAL OBSERVANCE OF LENT….etc., seem to participate without considering the biblical basis for what they do. As I researched the history of Evangelical spirituality, I discovered several bits of wisdom that can better put things in perspective.
Some would say that previously, spirituality was a drastically neglected subject among scholars. Christian experience was treated as an optional dimension of Christian life. An additive that had its place in personal devotion and pastoral work but was marginal as a subject of serious reflection. The focus was on the Church’s theology but with minimal attention to what made up the Church’s shell and its various forms.
That has changed over the last several decades. Works have appeared in spiritual theology from every perspective: Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, anabaptist, Wesleyan, evangelical, Jungian, liberationist, and even liberal. Spirituality is now discussed repeatedly with seminaries leading the way in developing new programs and classes on these issues. Christian authors include, to various degrees, some aspect of the latest buzz words to describe some type of new practices that one can participate in order to experience spirituality in new ways and seek to become more intimate with God.
(2) REFORMATION, EVANGELICALS & RICHARD FOSTER’S CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE
Over the last decade, Evangelicals have been greatly influenced by what many would consider a departure from Reformation practices to a merging of outside mystical influences originating from Roman Catholic and Eastern religions. There were always groups within Evangelical camps that were more mystical than others, but in 1978, author Richard Foster wrote, Celebration of Discipline. This book has had a massive influence on today’s Christianity. Unfortunately, the influence has helped to saturate the church with MYSTICAL CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER and the NEW AGE.
Richard Foster, a Quaker and the founder of an organization called Renovare (meaning renewal) wrote this book having no idea the impact it would have. But, even today, many Christian leaders and organizations continue to promote the book. Christianity Today proclaimed it to be one of the ten best books of the 20th century. Foster is a Quaker. Quakers are known to have a spiritual life which is grounded in the subjective “inner light” presupposition of the Friends. Dr. Gary Giley summarizes Foster’s book –
“Foster is highly steeped in the Roman Catholic mystics, drawing from dozens of them for his theology. More than that, Eugene Peterson informs us that Foster has “‘found’ the spiritual disciplines [in the mystics] that the modern world stored away and forgot” (p. 206). Foster’s views are also formed by Quaker mystics and even secular thinking, most surprisingly Carl Jung….”
•The contemplative prayer movement which has taken many to the foothills of Eastern mysticism.
•Centering prayer in which one moves to the center of God or self—an Eastern mystical practice.
•An unbiblical use of imagination which leads to occultic visualization.
•Use of rosaries and prayer wheels.
•Propagation of the Roman Catholic view of confession, penitence and spiritual directives.
Foster said in the book, that we “should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer” (p. 13, 1978 ed.). In other books and writings of Foster’s, he makes it very clear that this “contemplative prayer” is the eastern-style mantra meditation to which mystic monk THOMAS MERTON adhered. Foster is quoted as saying that “Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people”.
Thomas Merton, who said he was “impregnated with Sufism” (Merton and Sufism, p. 69) and wanted to “BECOME AS GOOD A BUDDHIST” as he could be (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West”), believed that “God’s people” lacked one thing—MYSTICISM, and this is to what they needed “awakening.” Of Merton, Foster says: “Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” And yet, Thomas Merton once told New Age Episcopal priest MATTHEW FOX that he felt sorry for the hippies in the 60s who were dropping LSD because all they had to do was practice the mystical (contemplative) stream to achieve the same results. We couldn’t agree with him more. Both ALTERED STATES are the same, but we differ from Merton and Foster in conclusions outcome—we know neither leads to God.
Celebration of Discipline has helped to pave the way for Thomas Merton’s panentheistic belief system. It has opened the door for other Christian authors, speakers, and pastors to bring contemplative spirituality into the lives of millions of people.”
(3) REFORMATION SPIRITUALITY
What is interesting to me is how Evangelical theology has developed from its Reformation basis.
The following is written by a church historian – Richard Lovelace. Lovelace was a professor of Church history at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Back in 1988, he identified several items that struck me as being very important terms of a distinction between Roman Catholic and Evangelical practices. Yes, today, with the growth of groups such as the Emerging Church movements as well as other ecumenical movements, we are seeing a return of some of these distinctives back to Roman Catholicism as well as to Eastern Mysticism. With that, many today know very little of the history of their group’s spirituality as well as little consideration for what the Bible actually teaches about these issues. Lovelace states –
The spirituality of Luther and Calvin is a reaction against western Catholic spirituality. Let me first point out the features that aroused reaction.
The absence of justification as a theological category separate from sanctification is a dominant factor shaping pre-Reformation spirituality. Luther felt that the spiritual lives of all Catholics, from the monks and nuns to the most retiring layperson, were affected by this justification gap. He also believed that this missing spiritual dimension virtually determined the whole shape of the medieval Church: “Ah, if the article on justification hadn’t fallen, the brotherhoods, pilgrimages, masses, invocation of saints, etc., would have found no place in the church. If it falls again (which may God prevent!) these idols will return.”3
This is an interesting comment on the vital force of theology and spirituality in shaping structures. The core doctrines of spiritual theology determine the shape of spirituality. But spirituality then amplifies the force of these doctrines, and it energizes and projects their.shape on the whole of theology and Church structure.
How did the absence of justification lead to dysfunction in medieval spirituality? Catholics believed that they were justified in the process of being sanctified. Since sanctification is never perfect and always in peril during our lifetime, they were imperfectly assured of their salvation. Serious believers could cure this uneasiness by martyrdom, or by the bloodless martyrdom of ascetic spirituality.
Sanctification, bearing an unnatural weight because it was expected to pacify the believer’s conscience, was a subject of extraordinary concern. But the ascetic method of sanctification was by amputation, not by healing. If the believer is having trouble with sex, give up sexual relations. If he or she is having difficulty with covetousness, give up private property. If he or she is tempted by power, give up independence. The monastery and the nunnery are sanctification machines that guarantee the surest victory over the sinful use of money, sex and power.4
Monasteries are an EASTERN religious instrument, NOT a Biblical format. And the medieval view of sanctification was subject to other eastern intrusions. The desert fathers are typically Hellenistic, if not BUDDHIST, in their assumption that spirit and matter—and especially soul and body—are enemies. “The body kills me,” says Macarius, “so I will kill it!”5
The western mystical tradition, from Augustine through Bernard and the Rhineland mystics, moved beyond this spiritual masochism to see that mortifying sin was the goal of sanctification and that this was not usually helped by punishing the body. But ASCETIC MYSTICISM characteristically views spiritual growth as the result of hard work. A central image of this literature is the ladder. One starts at the bottom, and there are thirteen steps that must be climbed, for instance, to move from pride to humility.6
Or, at the very least, there are the three steps of the Triple Way: the purging of sin from one’s life, then the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and then union with God. There are important lessons for Protestants in this structure, but we must make two observations: (1) that first step (purgation of sin) is a big one; (2) faith in Jesus Christ, and even the mention of the Redeemer, are scarce commodities in this literature. It is overwhelmingly theocentric rather than Christocentric, and it is full of nervous instructions to believers trying to cross the gap between man and God on their own footpaths.
This is not to agree with the common Protestant prejudice that nothing deeply spiritual can be going on among MYSTICS and in MONASTERIES. The problem is somewhat different: Spiritual experiences which for the Catholic doctors seem rare and hard to come by—the awesome summits of acquired or infused contemplation—appear to evangelical Protestants as common and routine possessions found among the laity, part of the birthright acquired by faith in Christ.
And this is the genius of Reformation spirituality. It assumes that the simplest believer leaps to the top of the spiritual ladder simply by realistic faith in Jesus Christ. Consistent Protestants start every day at the top of the ladder, receiving by faith what only God can give and what cannot be achieved by human efforts: assurance of salvation, and the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit. They may slip down a few rungs during the course of the day, but the way up again is not by climbing. It is by the vault of faith.
Similarly Luther stands the via triplex on its head. Union with Christ, received by faith, is the foundation of evangelical spirituality, not the final achievement. The illumination of the Holy Spirit then comes in to break up our darkness and show us our sins. Purgation of sin, finally, is a sanctification process in which we are led by the Spirit to recognize, confess and put to death the particular patterns of sin that are present in our characteristic fallen nature.
It seems obvious to evangelicals that this is a Biblical way to look at spiritual growth. The disciples, after all, were not Essene monks any more than Jesus was. They did not wear animal skins and eat locusts, like John. They were clumsy learners and listeners on the track of faith, NOT CHANTING MONKS pursuing SOLITUDE. They were annoyingly dense in their spiritual response throughout the gospels. They were cured, however, NOT by keeping SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES but by an infusion of the Holy Spirit, a whirlwind restructuring their minds, imparting a spirituality that they could never have achieved. As Paul puts it:
“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?… Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Gal 3:2–5).
Luther’s teaching cut through the Roman Catholic spirituality of achievement by stressing the thing that was most important to Jesus: CHRIST-CENTERED FAITH. Evangelical piety is first of all a spirituality of faith as opposed to one of achievement. Responding to an ascetic model of Christian experience, Protestantism adopted an essentially pentecostal or charismatic model. Spirituality comes not through laborious cultivation of the human spirit but through the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a spirituality that flourishes in the atmosphere of faith. It is NOT WORKED UP through ASCETIC EXERCISES but infused directly, as at Pentecost. In Roman Catholic terms, infused contemplation is thus the common inheritance of all laity and clergy and not the private prerogative of those with ascetic vocations.7
P. T. Forsyth summarized Luther’s approach:
Perfection is not sanctity but faith … It is a perfection of attitude rather than of achievement, of relation more than of realization, of truth more than of behaviour … It is not a matter of our behaviour before God the Judge, but of our relation to God the Saviour … It is a fatal mistake to think of holiness as a possession which we have distinct from our faith … Every Christian experience is an experience of faith; that is, it is an experience of what we have not … Faith is always in opposition to seeing, possessing, experiencing. A faith wholly experimental has its perils. It varies too much with our subjectivity. It is not our experience of holiness that makes as believe in the Holy Ghost. It is a matter of faith that we are God’s children; there is plenty of experience in us against it … We are not saved by the love we exercise, but by the Love we trust.8
Luther believed that Catholic spirituality imposed a barrier between the believer and God. Because it leaves the believer in partial darkness, unaware of the imputed righteousness of Christ, the theology of Trent leaves weak Christians feeling distant from the Holy Spirit. It discourages the laity, and wherever it prevails in modern Catholicism the result is spiritual deadness, as Henri Nouwen has stated.9
The Reformers shied away from spiritual exercises as a road to growth, though they did stress the need to hear and read Scripture in order to nourish faith and the need to pray in order to express faith. John Calvin also balanced Luther’s emphasis on justification by an intensive treatment of sanctification. Out of the material in the application sections of Paul’s letters, Calvin carefully drew an understanding of spiritual growth through mortification of sin and vivification of every aspect of the personality by the Spirit’s releasing work.
There is much more to say about the history of spirituality from both a Roman Catholic and Evangelical perspective – this just touched the surface. In future blogs, we can look at additional stages. The important now is to realize that there was a clear difference in the Reformers approach to spirituality compared to Roman Catholicism.
=> With that, Roman Catholicism has at least some influence from Eastern Mysticism/religions including in groups such as the DESERT FATHERS, MONKS, MONASTERIES, along with monks/authors such as THOMAS MERTON. A key aspect of Protestant spirituality is based on reading and meditating on God’s word along with prayer.
As with the theological differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestants / Evangelicals, the practices promoted by Roman Catholicism seemingly stray very close to if not entirely within the camp of a works-based practice – i.e. there is something that you need to do in order to obtain unification with God. But, Protestants believe there is nothing we can do to earn favor from God but rather God provides us with what we need in our walk because of Grace. We can accept that by faith. These two spirituality spectrums approach each other from opposite directions.
So, when I hear Evangelicals all to quick to participate in or start a practice in their church (e.g. during Lent – Ash Wednesday, Stations of the Cross) that they borrow from Roman Catholicism, I have to ask if they realize that some will come under bondage in their efforts to please God.
Evangelical Spirituality: A Church Historian’s Perspective — By: Richard F. Lovelace
1 I have reflected more extensively on this problem in the preface to Dynamics of Spiritual Life (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1979).
2 This is not to minimize the solid contributions of P. Pourrat, L. Bouyer and a few others who have explored the history of Christian spirituality from a Roman Catholic perspective. But in 1980 when I surveyed Roman Catholic educational institutions, most seemed unaware of spiritual theology, and few even had functioning analogues in the disciplines of pastoral theology, evangelism and spiritual formation. It appears that Thomas Merton was able to make the transition from a kind of ascetic, pietistic, Catholic chauvinism to the keen observation of world events through the lens of a well-developed ecumenical sensibility, which we see in works like Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, without losing his spiritual rootage in the Augustinian contemplative tradition. But a whole generation of Catholics seems to have attempted to dive into the world without maintaining any transcendental airhose. Perhaps one of their motivations in exploring the world has been their annoyance with asceticism and other toxic residua in the received tradition. Mainline Protestants and evangelicals after 1960 have had much the same experience in reacting to weaknesses in their own spiritualities.
3 Martin Luther, Table Talk (ed. T. G. Tappert; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967) 340.
4 My favorite analysis of the problems and provisional advantages of asceticism is still H. B. Workman, The Evolution of the Monastic Ideal (Boston: Beacon, 1962).
5 Palladius: The Lausiac History (Westminster: Newman, 1965) 58-67.
6 The reference here is to Bernard’s Thirteen Steps.
7 Sister M. Murphy, a Catholic charismatic who has worked closely with George Gallup in recent years, comments that charismatic renewal is simply infused contemplation made available to everybody in the Church. Note that Leo Cardinal Suenens, early in the sessions of the Second Vatican Council, stood up against the traditional teaching that the charismatic gifts had ended with the apostolic era on the grounds that without spiritual charisms broadly available among the laity the priesthood of believers could not be achieved.
8 P. T. Forsyth, Christian Perfection (London, 1899) 56, 7–9, 73.
9 H. J. M. Nouwen, Gracias (San Francisco: Harper, 1983).
NOT MUCH OF A MYSTERY
If you base your views on the Bible, one can easily see the contradictions, discrepancies, aberrant, and sometimes false teachings involved within popular movements today such as the Emerging Church. The problem is that many of these inclinations and teachings go unchecked and become normalized within the church. People become desensitized to their jargon and common definitions that have been used by the church for centuries change to a more ancient usage or outright usage more commonly found in other religions (Eastern religions). The Evangelical Church is in a free-fall in regards to this effect. Seminaries are required for accreditation to include these new teachings – each generation of church leaders and pastors are being exposed to these different teachings that emphasize a mystical approach to faith – one that hasn’t been a part of historic Evangelicalism and one that deviates from the Reformation view.
What does this mean to YOU?
The teaching which you ingest by hearing sermons and lectures in Sunday School classes, discussions with friends, sermons from the pulpit, church resources in the library, seminary professors teaching classes, books authored by well-known writers and teachers…..etc. all can affect your learning and can either be used to grow your walk in faith or stunt your walk in faith. Because of the subtle nature of this effect, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify these items and the potentially adverse effects of exposure to these teachings.
Lynne Hybels (wife of the mega church founder of Willow Creek, Bill Hybels), recently said the following:
She said she lost her Christianity of her youth and found DEEPER faith embracing SILENCE, CENTERING PRAYER, DOUBT, MYSTERY……etc. Her mysticism is beyond opinion – each of these descriptives carries with it a great deal mysticism directly from ancient Roman Catholic saints and commonly found in Eastern Mysticism.
This is just one view of the adverse effects of where mysticism can lead. In my Growth Group class at church, I have come across several examples of mysticism having an adverse effect on a person’s walk.
Let’s look at a few examples in the areas of popular Christian books and teachings from popular Christian leaders. This chart shows how MYSTICISM (i.e. CONTEMPLATIVE) influences Christians in the church (laypeople and pastors) using very popular books and teachings from commonly known leaders.
Who hasn’t heard of CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE by RICHARD J. FOSTER? It is one of the most popular Christian books sold within the last 20-30 years. It is highly acclaimed by Christians journals such as Christianity Today and is commonly used in churches and seminaries across many denominations. Details of this book can be found in other postings on this blog. For now, let’s just look at how easily one can follow a trail from RICHARD FOSTER back to MONASTIC practices found in ancient ROMAN CATHOLICISM. These include the repetition of words or phrases (i.e. mantras) during prayer and meditation – something clearly Jesus told us not to do in our prayer time.
You can see that popular authors such as RICHARD FOSTER and DALLAS WILLARD have been heavily influenced by ROMAN CATHOLIC monks who teach principles of mysticism. They admit that they learned some of these principles from BUDDHIST MONKS visiting their monasteries. THOMAS MERTON, a Roman Catholic monk is quoted in the chart as saying that he wants to be as good as a BUDDHIST that he can.
You can see how they have influenced (connect the dots) popular Evangelical writers today than many Christians have no idea that they are “under the influence”. These monks commonly hold retreats today teaching others (Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Buddhists….etc.) their view of mysticism and they give people opportunity to spend time in SILENCE and SOLITUDE. While claiming that these principles come from the early church (e.g. the Desert Fathers), it is difficult to find biblical support for their teachings. In actuality, there are more similaries to to NEW AGE (similar to EASTERN MYSTICISM). One of the guest teachers from Alliance Theological Seminary informed our church’s congregation that he routinely spends time in retreats at a local monastery. So much could be said about this but not in this post.
Take a look at just a few quotes directly from these authors and teachers and see if you can differentiate what is biblical and what is a mystical approach to faith. If it is not found in God’s word, does it come from man’s philosophy, church traditions, personal experience? Is biblical teaching suppressed by the promotion of a more imaginative inner workings, intuitive, experiential…etc. view of spiritual issues. Should these be held higher than God’s word in influencing your walk of faith?
BRIAN MCLAREN: “This full, radiant, glorious experience of God in Jesus Christ eventually revolutionized the whole concept of God, so that the word God itself was re-imagined through the experience of encountering Jesus, seeing him act, hearing him speak, watching him relate, and reflecting on his whole career.” (McLaren, 73)
BRIAN MCLAREN: “Think of [i.e. “imagine”] the kind of universe you would expect if God A created it: a universe of dominance, control, limitation, submission, uniformity, coercion. Think of the kind of universe you would expect if God B created it: a universe of interdependence, relationship, possibility, responsibility, becoming, novelty, mutualilty, freedom. . . . I find myself in universe B getting to know God B.” (McLaren 76)
LEONARD SWEET: “Right belief” should not hold the “upper hand over a believer’s authentic experience.” (Sweet)
LEONARD SWEET: Christianity should not be viewed as a “belief system with a distinct worldview,” but as an experiential “conversation” with God and others. (Sweet)
LEONARD SWEET: Christianity is “not primarily a matter of belief,” but rather “immersion and engagement, a full-on experience of life.” (Sweet)
LEONARD SWEET: Sweet wonders with Amos Yong, “what the gospel might look like if its primary dialogue partners are not Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel or Whitehead, but rather Buddha, Confucius, Lao-tzu, Chuang-tzu, Nagarjuna, Shankara, Ramanuja, Chu His, Dogen, Wang Yang Ming, and so on.”
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Each of the above quotes could merit its own posting with an explanation of the concerns involved. Hopefully, you can see a few things that at least should raise a red flag in your eyes. Scripture will help you to see the issues involved:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)
O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:6)
Let me conclude with God’s wisdom from His word –
Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. (Proverbs 30:5)
Spiritual Direction – Part 1
While there is some degree of variability, there are primarily two forms of spiritual direction: regular direction and retreat direction. They differ largely in the frequency of meeting and in the intensity of reflection.
Regular direction can involve a one- to two-hour meeting every four to eight weeks, and thus is slightly less intense than retreat direction, although spiritual exercises and disciplines are often given for the directee to attempt between meetings.
If the directee is on a retreat (lasting a weekend, a week or even 40 days), he or she will generally meet with his or her director on a daily basis for one hour. During these daily meetings, exercises or spiritual disciplines such as LECTIO DIVINA are given to the directee as fodder to continue his or her spiritual growth. Alternatively, retreat centres often offer direction or companionship to persons visiting the centre alone.
The SPIRITUAL EXERCISES of IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA are a popular example of guidelines used for spiritual direction. (Wikipedia)
MY QUESTION: ‘Where’s the beef?” Are the origins of these traditions coming out of man’s traditions or do they come out of God’s word – the Bible? The reliance on God should be grounded in the Bible. How do you know that the what the Spiritual Director is telling someone is biblical?
Very little is usually mentioned about these issues. This may show the reliance of Roman Catholicism on church authority demonstrated by whatever the Pope, Priest says which are based on human feelings, human thoughts….etc. This is in contrast to the traditional Evangelical approach that relies on the Bible as the source and justification for a practice or belief.
ROMAN CATHOLICISM (Early Western Christianity)
Proponents of SPIRITUAL DIRECTION speak of the NT disciples engaging in mentoring as an example of this practice. The problem with this is trying to force into the Bible a teaching that doesn’t emanate from the Bible (e.g. eisegesis).
This can continue into the early history of the church. Theologian John Cassian who lived in the 4th century provided some of the earliest recorded mentoring guidelines on the Christian practice of spiritual direction. This practice was introduced in the monasteries. It consisted of placing a novice under the care of a more experienced monk. Today, many people have heard of the Rule of Saint Benedict – which are similar guidelines
Spiritual direction is WIDESPREAD in the CATHOLIC religion: a person with wisdom and spiritual discernment, usually but not exclusively a priest or consecrated in general, provides counsel to a person who wishes to make a journey of faith and discovery of God’s will in his life. The spiritual guide aims to discern, understand what the Holy Spirit, through the situations of life, spiritual insights fruit of prayer, reading and meditation on the Bible, tells the person accompanied. The spiritual father or spiritual director may provide advice, give indications of life and prayer, resolving doubts in matters of faith and morals without replacing the choices and decisions to the person accompanying. (Wikipedia)
Pastor Larry DeBruyn for CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY:
Spiritual Director: A New Gift from an Ancient Tree.
Alice Fryling says that – “Spiritual direction is a way of companioning people as they seek to look closely, through the eyes of their hearts, at the guidance and transforming work of God in their lives.”  For example, Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), who in spite of having received “no formal education in the area of MYSTICISM,” yet who became a recognized authority on the subject, became so via “the influence of Baron Friedrich von Hugel [1852-1925], her friend and spiritual director . . .” 
SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR appears to mimic the role of an EASTERN RELIGIOUS GURU who tries to affect the spirituality of others in either one-on-one or small group settings. As Fryling states, “People throughout the Christian church, including those of an evangelical orientation, are experiencing again the gifts that God gives to his people through the loving listening and the gentle guidance of spiritual directors.”  So what is the Bible-believing Christian to think of this so-called gift of a spiritual director?
We should know, first of all, that among the lists of gifts in the New Testament (Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-31; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:9-10), there is no spiritual gift of spiritual director!
Second, the central gifts for the church’s edification are those of “teacher” and “pastor-teacher.” The risen and ascended Christ gave these gifts to the body of Christ so that it might come to, “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive . . .” (Ephesians 4:11-14). The exercise of these gifts is consistent with the example of Jesus. In the gospels, He was primarily known as, “Teacher” (Matthew 8:19). Too, Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples via a two-fold process of “baptizing” and “teaching” them (Matthew 28:19-20). According to Paul’s ministry, the exercise of “the gift of teacher” is consistent with not only Paul’s example, but also with his exhortation to Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:11; 6:2). As distributed by the sovereign Spirit of the ascended and Christ, the spiritual gift designed to bring maturity and unity to the local church is “pastor-teacher,” not “spiritual director.” That is why Fryling must state that, “spiritual direction groups” are an “exciting new branch from an ancient tree . . . a practice that began in the early years of Christianity when people followed the desert mothers and fathers out to the wilderness to ask them how to know God.” 
=> There is no gift of “spiritual director” which is sourced in the Bible and bestowed by the Spirit of the Living Christ.
What is important to the church is not that people, in one-on-one, or in small group sessions, listen to spiritual directors and vice versa–though sharing fellowships have their place in the local church–but that people listen to God, and the emphasis upon listening to one another does not qualify as listening to God, for we are neither God nor gods. As the Lord said to His people through the psalmist, “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, / That Israel would walk in My ways!” (Psalm 81:13) One OT scholar remarks:
To listen . . . has the double force in Hebrew which it sometimes has in English: to pay attention and to obey. So this saying is close to the famous words of Samuel, “to obey (lit. to listen) is better than sacrifice”. 
I fear that the gift of so-called spiritual director is just another guru-gimmick which sources spirituality in religious opinions, teachings, and practices that are utterly foreign to Holy Scripture, and such a source of spirituality will not promote the unity of faith amongst believers, as does the legitimate gift of pastor-teacher, but a diversity of beliefs revealing that all the spiritual directors and listeners are being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”
For this usurping of the ministry of pastor-teacher by spiritual directors in local churches, pastors are to blame. By allowing methods to trump the message, they created the spiritual vacuum into which spiritual directors have moved in, and instead of being unified, Christians will become increasingly diversified (and apostate) as pan-evangelicalismism, under the tutelage of spiritual directors, bows before the MYSTICISM of the POSTMODERN culture.
 Emphasis mine, Alice Fryling, “A First Look at Spiritual Direction Groups,” Small Groups.com, Posted 5/11/09.(http://smallgroups.com/articles/2009/firstlookspiritualdirectiongroups.html). This article is no longer posted on the website. See also Alice Fryling, “What Happens in Group Spiritual Direction?” SmallGroups.com, Posted 6/29/09 (http://www.smallgroups.com/articles/2009/whathappensingroupspiritualdirection.html).
 Emphasis Mine, The Very Reverend Alan Jones, “Forward,” Evelyn Underhill, The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1949): xii.
 Fryling, “Spiritual Direction Groups.”
 Derek Kidner, A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976): 53.
 “T-groups,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-groups).
The following secular article found in a city newspaper back in 2010 discusses the growth of Spiritual Direction. It states that the practice started with the Roman Catholic church but today we see it growing in the Evangelical Church. This demonstrates how quickly this has spread within the Evangelical Church. It is another avenue for drawing people away from Scripture and relying more so on human influence. Where are the warnings and checks against what the Bible teaches on any subject that may come up from the Spiritual Director? Without them, this type of practice can quickly degenerate into a flow of unbiblical advice that results in steering someone away from God’s will for their life. And, as this becomes more popular, people are desensitized as there is a subtle effect that causes this practices and associated descriptive words and phrases to become more mainstream within the Evangelical Church.
LECTIO DIVINA – Part 1
What Is Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “holy reading” and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and provide special spiritual insights. The principles of lectio divina were expressed around the year 220 and later practiced by CATHOLIC MONKS, especially the MONASTIC rules of Sts. Pachomius, Augustine, Basil, and Benedict.
The practice of lectio divina is currently very popular among CATHOLICS and GNOSTICS, and is gaining acceptance as an integral part of the devotional practices of the EMERGING CHURCH. Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2005 speech, “I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart.” Lectio is also said to be adaptable for people of other faiths in reading their scripture—whether that be the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, or the Koran. Non-Christians may simply make suitable modifications of the method to accommodate secular traditions. Further, the four principles of lectio divina can also be adapted to the four Jungian psychological principles of sensing, thinking, intuiting, and feeling.
The actual practice of lectio divina begins with a time of relaxation, making oneself comfortable and CLEARING the MIND of mundane thoughts and cares. Some lectio practitioners find it helpful to concentrate by beginning with DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS and REPEATING a chosen phrase or word SEVERAL times to help FREE the MIND.. Then they follow four steps:
Lectio—Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.
Meditatio—Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one’s own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application.
Oratio—Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is NOT primarily an INTELLECTUAL exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a CONVERSATION with God.
Contemplatio—Listening to God. This is a FREEING of oneself from one’s own THOUGHTS, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.
Naturally, the connection between Bible reading and prayer is one to be encouraged; they should always go together. However, the dangers inherent in this kind of practice, and its astonishing similarity to TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION and other dangerous rituals, should be carefully considered. It has the potential to become a pursuit of MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE where the goal is to FREE the mind and empower oneself.
The Christian should use the Scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God, wisdom, and holiness through the objective meaning of the text with the aim of transforming the mind according to truth. God said His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not for lack of mystical, personal encounters with Him.
Those who take a supernatural approach to the text tend to disconnect it from its context and natural meaning and use it in a subjective, individualistic, experiential way for which it was never intended. Here is where lectio and GNOSTICISM share a similarity. Christian Gnosticism is the belief that one must have a “gnosis” (from Greek Gnosko, “to know”) or mystical, inner knowledge obtained only after one has been properly initiated. Only a few can possess this mystical knowledge. Naturally, the idea of having special knowledge is very appealing and makes the “knower” feel important and unique in that he/she has a special experience with God that no one else has. The “knower” believes that the masses are not in possession of spiritual knowledge and only the truly “enlightened” can experience God. Thus, the reintroduction of CONTEMPLATIVE or CENTERING PRAYER —a meditative practice that focuses on having a MYSTICAL experience with God—into the Church. Contemplative prayer is similar to the meditative exercises used in EASTERN RELIGIONS and NEW AGE CULTS and has no basis whatsoever in the Bible, although the contemplative pray-ers do use the Bible as a starting point.
Further, the DANGERS inherent in OPENING our MINDS and LISTENING for voices should be obvious. The contemplative pray-ers are so eager to hear something—anything—that they can lose the objectivity needed to discern between God’s voice, their own thoughts, and the infiltration of demons into their minds. Satan and his minions are always eager for inroads into the minds of the unsuspecting, and to open our minds in such ways is to invite disaster. We must never forget that Satan is ever on the prowl, seeking to devour our souls (1 Peter 5:8) and can appear as an angel of light (2Corinthians 11:14), whispering his deception into our open and willing minds.
Finally, the attack on the sufficiency of Scripture is a clear distinctive of lectio divina. Where the Bible claims to be all we need to
live the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:16), lectio’s adherents deny that. Those who practice “conversational” prayers, seeking a special revelation from God, are asking Him to bypass what He has already revealed to mankind, as though He would now renege on all His promises concerning His eternal Word. Psalm 19:7–14 contains the definitive statement about the sufficiency of Scripture. It is “perfect, reviving the soul”; it is “right, rejoicing the heart”; it is “pure, enlightening the eyes”; it is “true” and “righteous altogether”; and it is “more desirable than gold.” If God meant all that He said in this psalm, there is no need for additional revelation, and to ask Him for one is to deny what He has already revealed.
The Old and New Testaments are words from God to be studied, meditated upon, prayed over, and memorized for the knowledge and objective meaning they contain and the authority from God they carry, and not for the mystical experience or feeling of personal power and inner peace they may stimulate. Sound knowledge comes first; then the lasting kind of experience and peace comes as a byproduct of knowing and communing with God rightly. As long as a person takes this view of the Bible and prayer, he/she is engaging in the same kind of meditation and prayer that Bible-believing followers of Christ have always commended.
Got Questions Ministries. (2002–2013). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
(471) WHY WOULD A CHURCH BAN THE BIBLE? A LOOK BACK AT THE REFORMATION ERA – Emerging Trends in the Church Today
Why Would a Church Ban the Bible?
We’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this month by exploring its hidden history. In this post, Dr. Mark Ward explains why publishing God’s Word was such a source of controversy in the Reformation era.
Maybe you’ve heard the story before: prior to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the translation of Scripture into common languages.
Now, Protestants had plenty to protest in this era, but it simply isn’t true that vernacular translation was totally forbidden. But the Roman Church did forbid it in some places at some times—and England, 1408, was one of them.
Do vernacular translations lead to confusion?
After Wycliffe translated the Latin Vulgate into English, the 1408 Constitutions of Oxford did indeed ban and even burn his work.(For good measure, the authorities also exhumed his body and burned his bones.)Records remain of Catholic arguments against Wycliffe and his followers, the “Lollards.” Catholic leaders felt that laypeople reading English Bibles would only cause confusion. Widespread familiarity with God’s words would lead to irreverence, the argument went, and it wasn’t really possible to translate the Bible with full accuracy into English anyway.
To contemporary Protestants, this way of thinking will seem foreign. Even modern Catholics may find it confounding; today, the Catholic church supports vernacular Bible translation.
But imagine you’re part of a church in a nation which has never had vernacular Bibles, just a few portions of various books available sometimes and in some places. Imagine English is not the dominant international language of trade, entertainment, and mass media that it is today. Imagine most people can’t read, that the language of educated people is Latin, and that Latin also happens to be the accepted language of the Bible—and has been for a thousand years.
Vernacular translation didn’t seem worth the risk to the health of society. Plus, English was a socially stigmatized language, like backwoods twangy English in the U.S. is today. One cleric from the pre-Reformation era wrote, “How . . . the properties of the [Greek] language can be preserved in the English tongue, or any other barbarous tongue, which is by no means governed by rules of grammar, I fail to see.”
According to Margaret Deanesly, many church leaders actually quoted Matthew 7:6 when confronted with the idea of vernacular Bibles: Neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos—“Don’t cast your pearls before swine.”
And I know how they feel. Sometimes when I see what people do with the Bible, particularly on the internet, I get frustrated. Not everything professing Christians do with the Bible is good.
Hearing—and understanding—the voice of our shepherd
But Christians are not swine; they’re sheep. Sheep must be permitted to hear the voice of Christ in a language they can understand so that they can recognize his voice and follow him (John 10; 1 Cor 14:9–11). Reformation Christians have decided, because of the Bible’s own teaching, that the benefits of giving the people the Bible outweigh the risks.
And those benefits are precious: Christ himself is one of them. As John Wycliffe and his followers argued at the turn of the fifteenth century, and as later Reformers such as Luther and Calvin and Tyndale explained in greater detail, every person needs to relate to Christ individually. There is only one mediator between God and man, and it’s Christ (1 Tim 2:5).Where else do we hear his words but in Scripture?
Early Christians translated the Bible, or significant portions, into eight major languages, including Latin, Gothic, and Armenian. But there was a many-century drought in which the vast majority of Christians went without the Bible in their respective tongues. The Reformation launched a new era of Bible translation for which all sheep everywhere should be grateful.
Read about how we got our Bibles back in the Reformation 500 timeline.
CALLING FOR A NEW REFORMATION
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it is not uncommon to hear someone or some group call for a NEW REFORMATION.
With the direction of the Church over the last few decades, some used to call for a REVIVAL. Those same calls are now directed towards a call for a NEW REFORMATION. These same groups are making a statement urging the Church to mimic some of the main points of the Reformation and look to the Bible for our truth and inspiration instead of looking elsewhere.
However, an even louder cry is heard from those who are calling for a NEW REFORMATION that doesn’t seek to promote the tenants of the Protestant Reformation but rather to promote a new view of Christianity. New? Well, there is nothing new under the sun. In reality, it is a retreat into Pre-Reformation darkness. The following article was written by Dr. Paul Elliott back in 2010 as he explains the EMERGING CHURCH movement and its effect on the church at large and seminaries. He makes several enlightening points that are just as important to understand today as it was several years ago in 2010. This article is taken from http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=269
The Emergent Church’s Retreat into Pre-Reformation Darkness
Paul M. Elliott
Editor’s note: Paul Elliott, Ph.D., is President of TeachingTheWord Ministries and principal speaker on The Scripture-Driven Church radio broadcast. An ordained minister with a doctorate in Biblical exegesis, he is the author of four books, including Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spiritual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Beyond (Trinity Foundation, 2004).
In recent years, the Emergent Church movement has become a headline grabbing favorite of the religious media establishment. Emergent leaders’ books line the shelves of religious bookstores. Press coverage of their activities and pronouncements is overwhelmingly favorable. The movement received national exposure in a two-hour PBS television special and on ABC’s Nightline. Emergents’ influence has spread like wildfire in colleges, seminaries and churches – mainline liberal, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical alike.
Emergent Church(1) leaders and their supporters promote the movement as “the way forward” for the church. It is, they claim, a “new Reformation” with its own “95 theses” and its own new Luther pointing the way. But the Emergents’ “way forward” is in fact a headlong, headstrong retreat into pre-Reformationspiritual and intellectual darkness.
“By Their Fruits You Will Know Them”
Most Bible-believing Christians know little about the Emergent church movement, even as it devours once-sound churches, Christian colleges, and seminaries. Many sincere Christians have been confused and even deceived. They are ready to give Emergents the benefit of the doubt because the movement’s place on the theological spectrum seems difficult to pin down. Are they liberals? Are they conservatives? Do they simply defy conventional labels?
Emergent’s own definition of their movement is unhelpful: “a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”(2) Emergents make up their theology (if it can be dignified by that term) on the fly, and it changes with the winds.
Bible-believers need not be confused by the Emergent confusion. The Lord Jesus Christ himself gave us a straightforward procedure for evaluating all men and movements:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them (Matthew 7:15-20).
We must evaluate Emergents’ fruits by the infallible standard of Scripture alone. The Bible employs none of the man-made, sliding-scale labels churches too often apply in such evaluations – liberal/conservative, classical/progressive, traditional/non-traditional, old-school/new-school. Nor does the Bible speak in terms of following a “third way” of compromise. In His Word, the Holy Spirit uses only two categories: truth and error.
The dividing line between truth and error is fixed and well-delineated in God’s Word. It is the Christian soldier’s battle front. On one side is light, on the other side darkness. There is no demilitarized zone where the forces of truth and error may meet under a flag of truce and negotiate. Unless Christians view the fruits of the Emergent confusion in those terms, we view them un-Biblically.
Those fruits include deconstruction of the Bible, grace, faith, salvation, and the church. Emergents’ deconstruction of the person and work of Jesus Christ is openly blasphemous. Emergents arrogantly proclaim that the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, is an insult to their intelligence. Man, not Christ or the Bible, is preeminent in Emergent thinking. The Emergent Church may be the most narcissistic movement in church history.
New Luther or Blind Leader?
In 2004, Emergent guru(3) Brian McLaren published what was hailed as a landmark book called A Generous Orthodoxy.(4) Phyllis Tickle, who according to her website is “a lay eucharistic minister and lector in the Episcopal church,”(5) wrote the foreword, in which she said:
Religion is like a spyglass through which we look to determine our course, our place in the order of things, and to sight that toward where we are going [sic]. On a clear day, no sailor needs such help, save for passing views of a far shore. But on a stormy sea, with all landmarks hidden in obscuring clouds, the spyglass becomes the instrument of hope, the one thing on board that, held to the eye long enough, will find the break in the clouds and discover once more the currents and shores of safe passage. Ours are stormy seas just now; and I believe as surely as Martin Luther held the spyglass for sixteenth-century Europe, so Brian McLaren holds it here for us in the twenty-first….
…The emerging church has the potential of being to North American Christianity what Reformation Protestantism was to European Christianity. And I am sure that the generous orthodoxy defined in the following pages is our 95 theses. Both are strong statements, strongly stated and, believe me, not lightly taken in so public a forum as this. All I can add to them in defense is the far simpler statement: Here I stand.
So, on that basis, the one thing that remains is to invite you to join thousands and thousands of others who have already read these words and subsequently assumed them as the theses of a new kind of Christianity and the foundational principles for a new Beloved Community.(6)
The “Beloved Community” of which Tickle speaks is a term coined by pseudo-Christian philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916). In his 1913 book, The Problem of Christianity, Royce said that the doctrine of the incarnation is not about the coming of God in the person of Jesus Christ, but the incarnation of God in the visible church. He added that “the visible church, rather than the person of the founder [Jesus Christ], ought to be viewed as the central idea of Christianity.” To Royce, the “problem of Christianity” was Jesus Christ.
Royce also said that the visible church forms a “Universal Community of Interpretation” that redefines “Christianity” to suit the conditions of the times. Royce is a favorite philosopher of the Emergents. Tellingly, his long-out-of-print book was recently republished by the Catholic University of America, an institution of the greatest chameleon-church on Earth.(7)
Confused and Proud of It
Brian McLaren is clearly comfortable in the intellectual and theological company of people like Tickle and Royce. The full title of McLaren’s “95 theses of the Emergent Church” is quite a mouthful:
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional — Evangelical — Post-Protestant — Liberal/Conservative — Mystical/Poetic — Biblical — Charismatic/Contemplative — Fundamentalist/Calvinist — Anabaptist/Anglican — Methodist — Catholic — Green—Incarnational — Depressed-Yet-Hopeful — Emergent — Unfinished Christian
Rather than being ashamed of his confused state of mind, McLaren wears this complex and contradictory title proudly. He uses each of the descriptions in the lengthy subtitle of his book as the title of a chapter within it. McLaren presents himself as the guru of a “new Reformation” built not on Biblical orthodoxy, but on a man-centered theology of paradox.
A followup book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (2007), authored by McLaren and twenty-six other Emergent thought leaders, is an equally confused and confusing theological Tower of Babel. Its architects and builders are bent on not simply tearing down the Reformation, but on taking the church back into pre-Reformation darkness. In the process, McLaren and his fellow Emergents leave no doubt that they are not really Christians at all.
The Origin of the Term “Emergent”
The Emergent Church movement is unabashedly POSTMODERNIST. Emergents’ only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Feelings and experience preclude the acceptance of propositional truth. Emergent “truth” comes through dialogue and consensus, and therefore today’s “truth” is not necessarily tomorrow’s. Theology is “conversational.” Truth itself is “emergent.”
What is the definition of “emergent”? Brian McLaren offers this:
There are many kinds of thinking. Some thought is discursive, tracing the development of an idea in a linear way. Some is polemical, staging a winner-takes-all fight between ideas. Some is analytical, breaking down complex wholes into simple parts or tracing complex effects back to simpler causes. But some thought seeks to embrace what has come before – like a new ring on a tree – in something bigger. This is emergent (or integral, or integrative) thinking.(8)
This definition of “emergence” has its roots in the philosophy of a man named Ken Wilber, who mixes elements of Christianity, Buddhism, New Age, and EASTERN philosophies into his so-called religious practice. Wilber is becoming popular as a thought leader among an ever-widening circle of Evangelical and Reformed churches and seminaries. McLaren says the definition of “emergence” is based on Wilbur’s evolutionary concept of the “Great Nest of Being” which consists of, as McLaren puts it, “these realities” –
1. Space and Time: the primal creation in which everything emerges.
2. Inanimate Matter: the domain of physics and chemistry in space and time.
3. Microbiotic and Plant Life: the domain of microbiology and botany, which embraces domains 1 and 2 and adds life.
4. Animal Life: the domain of zoology, which comprises domains 1 through 3 and adds increasing levels of sentience and intelligence.
5. Human Life: the domain of anthropology and psychology and art and ethics, which comprises domains 1 through 4 and adds increasing levels of consciousness and culture.
6. Spiritual Life: the domain of awareness of God, accessed through theology and spirituality and mysticism, which encompasses domains 1 through 5, and adds the experience of the sacred and conscious relationship with God.(9)
This kind of thinking marries Eastern mysticism and New Age thought with classical Darwinism. Everything emerges from something else, says McLaren. He then gives his first example of how he says Christians need to practice “emergent” thinking: “In whatever ways Protestants feel they emerged from Catholicism…they can’t despise their roots or reject their past.”(10) As we shall see, what McLaren has in mind is a redefinition of Protestantism as the prelude to an unconditional surrender to Roman Catholicism.
Say “So Long” to the Solas
How does the Emergent Church’s “new Reformation” compare with the one that freed Biblical Christianity from the shroud of Romanism? What of the five solas, the rallying cries of that Reformation? What of sola Scriptura, the Reformers’ declaration that the Christian’s authority is Scripture alone? What of sola gratia, salvation by grace alone? What of solus Christus, the truth that salvation is through Christ alone? What of sola fide, justification by faith alone? And do Emergents believe in soli Deo gloria, that the glory belongs to God alone?
Emergents dismiss adherence to such fundamentals, says spokesman Barry Taylor, as “a constant reminder that religion can be a source of chaos and confusion.”(11) But who is it that is really living in the realm of chaos and confusion — those whom the Emergents deride as “fundamentalists”, or Emergents who have exalted themselves against the knowledge of God? How do the theological currents flowing through the Emergent Church compare with the Reformation’s great and fundamental statements of the Biblical faith “once for all delivered to the saints”? We shall allow Emergent Church spokesmen to answer for themselves, to their own condemnation.
Deconstructing the Word of God
We begin with sola Scriptura, the doctrine that the Christians’ sole authority is Scripture alone. Emergent Church leaders will tell you they are uncertain of most things. They wear ambiguity like a badge of honor. But they are certain of one thing: The Bible is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, uniquely authoritative Word of God.
What do Emergent Church leaders say is the nature of the Bible? Emergent guru McLaren says that the Bible is “an inspired gift from God – a unique collection of literary artifacts.”(12) Emergent leader Doug Pagitt agrees with McLaren, hinting at what they mean by “inspired.” The “history of the Christian faith,” Pagitt says, is that “the Scriptures come from and inform the church.”(13) In other words, they do not come from God in the sense of verbal, plenary, authoritative inspiration spoken of in passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21.
McLaren is even more explicit. He says that “the purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works.”(14) The italics are his. McLaren and other Emergents repeat this statement frequently in their writings, almost as a mantra. But there is never a word about Scripture’s telling mankind how to become one of God’s people, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Throughout their writings, Emergents assume that everybody is already one of “God’s people.” You just have to get busy doing “good works”.
But after stating that “the purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works,” McLaren follows immediately with this: “Shouldn’t a simple statement like this be far more important than statements with words foreign to the Bible’s vocabulary about itself (inerrant, authoritative, literal, revelatory, objective, absolute, propositional, etc.)?”(15)
Just how “foreign” does McLaren think these words are to Scripture? He does not hesitate to tell us, in a book with one of the most ironic titles ever: Adventures in Missing the Point, co-authored by McLaren and so-called “Evangelical left” spokesman Tony Campolo. McLaren’s and Campolo’s title reflects their fatuous belief that the Bible-believing Christian church has “missed the point” on just about everything. (Of course, Emergents have “gotten the point.”) “The Bible is an inspired gift from God – a unique collection of literary artifacts,” McLaren says. But it is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, propositional, revelatory, absolute, objective, Word of God. What’s more, McLaren asserts, “not even one-hundredth of one percent of the Bible” presents “objective information about God.”(16)
Those are some pretty absolute statements from a man who claims that little, if anything, is certain. But McLaren is just getting warmed up. The Christian church, says McLaren, has misrepresented the Bible as something containing “universal laws.” “We claimed that the Bible was easy to understand,” he laments. “We presented the Bible as a repository of sacred propositions.” All of that was wrong, he says. And, echoing the true position of the Roman Catholic Church-State, McLaren laments that “we mass produced the Bible” and gave Christians the impression that they could interpret it for themselves.(17)
Orthoparadoxy and Paradoxology
How, according to Emergents, are we to approach this “inspired” but humanly-originated, non-inerrant, non-infallible, non-authoritative Bible? Emergent spokesman Dwight J. Friesen, a professor of practical theology at Mars Hill Graduate School (Seattle) and a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the ultra-liberal National Council of Churches, says that Christ was not interested in orthodoxy but in “a full and flourishing human life.”(18) What must develop, says Friesen, is not orthodoxy – correct teaching – but a piece of Emergent doubletalk called orthoparadoxy, or “correct paradox.” Friesen writes:
Orthoparaxody represents a conversational theological method that seeks to graciously embrace difference while bringing the fullness of a differentiated social-self to the other. Through the methodology of orthoparadoxy, competing ideas, practices, and hermeneutics are seen as an invitation to conversational engagement rather than as something to refute, reform, or revise.(19)
Current theological methods that often stress agreement/disagreement, win/loss, good/bad, orthodox/heresy, and the like set people up for constant battles to convince and convert the other to their way of believing…(20)
Orthoparadox theology is less concerned with creating “once for all” doctrinal statements or dogmatic claims and is more interested in holding competing truth claims in right tension….Orthoparadox theology requires a dynamic understanding of the Holy Spirit.(21)
…see conversation starters where you once saw theological disagreement.(22)
Emergent Church spokeswoman Nanette Sawyer has added another term to the Emergent lexicon of confusion and doubt: paradoxology. Sawyer is an ordained Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) minister with degrees from both Harvard and McCormick divinity schools. Sawyer, like most of her fellow Emergents, takes refuge from the light of truth in the caverns of paradox. Those who believe the Bible’s categorical, propositional truth claims are arrogant and superficial, she says. They have not ascended to the lofty realms of higher knowledge that can only be attained by embracing paradox:
There is a beauty in paradox when it comes to talking about things of ultimate concern. Paradox works against our tendency to stay superficial in our faith, or to rest on easy answers or categorical thinking. It breaks apart our categories by showing the inadequacy of them and by pointing to a reality larger than us, the reality of gloria, of light, of beyond-the-beyond. I like to call it paradoxology – the glory of paradox, paradox-doxology – which takes us somewhere we wouldn’t be capable of going if we thought we had everything all wrapped up, if we thought we had attained full comprehension. The commitment to embracing the paradox and resisting the impulse to categorize people (ourselves included) is one of the ways we follow Jesus into that larger mysterious reality of light and love.(23)
The Gnostics, who sought to destroy the Biblical faith of the early church by leading it to a “higher” mystical knowledge beyond Scripture, would be proud of Nanette Sawyer. So would the church of Rome, whether 16th– or 21st–century. This is how we must approach the Bible, according to Brian McLaren:
Drop any affair you may have with Certainty, Proof, Argument…The ultimate Bible study or sermon in recent decades yielded clarity. That clarity, unfortunately, was often boring – and probably not that accurate, either, since reality is seldom clear, but usually fuzzy and mysterious…(24)
Find things to do with the Bible other than read and study it [and McLaren then suggests several that are forms of medieval, mystical meditation commended by the Roman Catholic church].(25)
In the recent past we generally began our apologetic by arguing for the Bible’s authority, then used the Bible to prove our other points. In the future we’ll present the Bible less like evidence in a court case and more like works of art in an art gallery.(26)
In the recent past we talked a lot about absolute truth, attempting to prove abstract propositions about God (for instance, proving the sovereignty of God).(27)
That approach, McLaren asserts, is passé in the postmodern world. Protestants have gotten it all wrong about the Bible, by using concepts of truth and error to “lay low” their Catholic “brethren”
Protestants have paid more attention to the Bible than any other group, but sadly, much of their Bible study has been undertaken to fuel their efforts to prove themselves right and others wrong (and therefore worthy of protest)… the Bible does not yield its best resources to people who approach it seeking ammunition with which to lay their [Catholic] brethren low… How many Protestants can’t pick up their Bibles without hearing arguments play in their heads on every page, echoes of the polemical preachers they have heard since childhood? How much Bible study is, therefore, an adventure in missing the point?(28)
Stone Soup Theology
Emergent theology must embrace mystery and paradox, and discard propositional truth, because of its rush to include all ideas and perspectives in the pursuit of “higher knowledge.” Emergents often refer to their approach as “conversational theology.” In the Emergent view, too many cooks don’t spoil the soup. They enrich it and spice it up.
But the dish simmering in the Emergent kitchen is actually stone soup. The recipe reads thus: Start not with God’s Word but with an empty pot. Fill it not with Living Water but with the dank and putrefying fluid of broken cisterns. Throw in any old stone just as long as it is not Christ the Rock of Offense. Then let everyone who comes along throw in any heresy he (or she) wishes, whether it’s fresh from the fertile fields of postmodernism, or stinking and moldy from the dark cells of the Middle Ages. Stir the soup constantly and mix thoroughly. You can serve this fetid dish at any stage in the cooking process. Serve hot, cold, or lukewarm. It doesn’t matter, because your fellow Emergents (and their camp followers in academia and the religious media) will say it’s delicious no matter what.
For Bible believers whose spiritual taste buds have not been seared with a hot iron, the true taste of this theological soup is bitter irony: While Emergent theology claims to be generously inclusive, it is fatally exclusive of anything that really matters. While it welcomes any and every idea the sinful mind of man can imagine, it rejects anything from the mind of God. Certain ideas are forbidden – or if they are introduced into the conversation, they will be ridiculed and quickly rejected. Those ideas are the Bible’s propositional truths.
The results are predictable. The Emergent “God” is not the God of the Bible, but whatever Emergents make him/her/it out to be – and you will find Emergents referring to “God” as any of the three.
The Bible is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, uniquely authoritative Word of God, but a collection of literary artifacts. Its value and usefulness are determined not by any objective standard, but by Emergents’ subjective agendas.
“Grace” is not the gift of God that brings about salvation from sin and Hell, but Emergents’ gift of inclusiveness to anyone of any religion, or no religion at all, as long as all can agree on a left-wing social-economic-environmentalist agenda.
Jesus Christ may be many things, but He is not the God of the Bible. He may be a moral example, a social revolutionary, a religious iconoclast, or a radical environmentalist. As we shall see, in the Emergents’ twisted theology He may even be an insane sexual pervert. Emergents’ blasphemy of Christ knows no limits.
The Gospel: An Insult to Emergents’ Intelligence
The writings of Emergent Church spokesmen contain many recurring themes, but one is especially prominent: The Biblical Gospel of personal salvation from sin and wrath by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, is an insult to their intelligence. Nanette Sawyer, whose love of “paradoxology” we mentioned earlier, is among the insulted. Her story is typical:
My explicit rejection of Christianity happened when our family minister implicitly rejected me. When I was a preteen, he visited our house, spoke with my parents, then pulled me aside, the eldest, for a chat of our own. He asked me if I was a Christian. This is a very interesting question to ask a child who has been raised in a Christian household. Being asked such a question I was, in essence, being told that I might notbe a Christian. I responded that I didn’t know. The conversation went downhill from there and ended with my saying that I guessed I wasn’t a Christian. He told me that I had to believe [on Jesus Christ as Savior] to be a Christian and I didn’t believe it.
After that, I spent a good fifteen years defining myself as not Christian. Some of the things that I had been taught in Christian contexts, both explicitly and implicitly, were unacceptable to me. I was taught, for example, that there are good people and bad people, Christian people and non-Christian people, saved people and damned people, and we know who they are.
…I was taught that I was inherently bad, and that I would be judged for that. I was told that the only way out of the judgment was to admit how bad I was…
Thinking back on that pivotal interaction with my childhood minister, I believe the whole conversation missed the mark in a big way. He was defining Christian identity as assent to a list of certain beliefs, and he was defining Christian community as those people who concur with those beliefs…In asking me if I was a Christian, and accepting [my] answer, he essentially told me that I wasn’t part of the community. I wasn’t in; I was out.(29)
Affronted by this, Sawyer says that she later became a “Christian” through Hindu meditation and the medieval, mystical Roman Catholic practice of “centering prayer” — all while a student at Harvard, taking a master’s degree in comparative world religions. She then tells of her experience while attending the services of a liberal Presbyterian church in Boston:
The minister there invited me into the community by serving me communion without asking if I was a Christian… He didn’t ask, “Are you one of us?” He didn’t say, “Do you believe?” He simply said, “Nanette, the body of Christ, given for you.”(30)
On this basis, Sawyer says, she became a “Christian” and was subsequently ordained as a minister in the apostate PCUSA.
With all this background, you may understand the reason my statement of faith, my personal credo, written in seminary and required for ordination in the Presbyterian Church [USA], included the line: “I believe that all people are children of God, created and loved by God, and that God’s compassionate grace is available to us at all times.”
Imagine my surprise when a particular pastor challenged me on this point. He suggested that “children of God” is a biblical phrase, and that I was using it unbiblically. He believed that not all people are children of God, only Christians…(31)
Imagine a pastor having the nerve to say that to be a “child of God” is a doctrinal term with a specific Biblical meaning! How thoroughly un-postmodern can you get? Sawyer recounts her shocked reaction to this intellectual baboon: “I focused on not letting my jaw hit the floor.” She continues:
So what about the Bible on this question of the children of God? Is it unbiblical to call all people the children of God? It is true that there are many places in the New Testament that talk about the children of God as the followers of Jesus. But it is not true that this must lead us to the kind of arrogance that asserts that non-Christians are not children of God….
Even if we could answer the question of who is and isn’t a child of God, it wouldn’t help us be better followers of Jesus; it would only help divide people into more categories.(32)
Rather than submitting to the Gospel teaching that only those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior have the authority to be called the children of God (John 1:12), Sawyer goes on to misread three New Testament passages to support her contention that even the Bible itself is “undermining such an exclusionary claim.”(33)
Like Nanette Sawyer, Brian McLaren also takes umbrage at the Bible’s doctrine of salvation:
…I used to believe that Jesus’ primary focus was on saving me as an individual…For that reason I often spoke of Jesus as my “personal Savior” and urged others to believe in Jesus in the same way…(34)
Through the years…I became less and less comfortable with being restricted to the “personal Savior” gospel.(35)
McLaren says that his rejection of the Biblical Gospel is rooted in his rejection of the Bible’s teaching of eternal punishment in Hell for those who do not receive Christ as Savior. He says that “radical rethinking” of the doctrine of Hell is needed.(36) Since McLaren can’t stand Jesus’ own words on the subject (He spoke of Hell far more than of Heaven), he dares to put these words in Christ’s mouth:
“I am here to save you…not by telling you to…focus on salvation from Hell after this life (as some people are going to do in My name) – but by giving you permission to start your participation in God’s mission right now, right where you are, even as oppressed people. The opportunity to start living in this new and better way is available to you right now: The kingdom of God is at hand!”(37)
The audacity of Emergents in suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) seemingly knows no bounds.
Given these and other statements by Emergent Church leaders, it seems almost ludicrous to compare their mind-set with the salvation solas of the Reformation, but we shall do so, because it further reveals the depths of their darkness.
1. Some in the movement once used the name “Emerging Church,” but more recently its leaders, and the quasi-official website emergentvillage.org, have standardized on the term “Emergent.”
2. From the banner of the movement’s flagship website, http://www.emergentvillage.com.
3. We use the term “guru” advisedly; McLaren and other Emergent Church leaders position themselves as spiritual advisers imparting transcendental, higher knowledge – higher than the Word of God.
4. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional—Evangelical—Post-Protestant— Liberal/Conservative—Mystical/Poetic—Biblical—Charismatic/Contemplative—Fundamentalist/Calvinist—Anabaptist/Anglican—Methodist—Catholic—Green—Incarnational—Depressed-Yet-Hopeful—Emergent —Unfinished Christian (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004).
5. Her website, phyllistickle.org, describes her extensive liberal media connections. She was the “founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly, the international journal of the book industry, is frequently quoted in print sources like USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times as well as in electronic media like PBS, NPR, The Hallmark Channel, and innumerable blogs and web sites. Tickle is an authority on religion in America and a much sought after lecturer on the subject….Tickle is a founding member of The Canterbury Roundtable, and serves now, as she has in the past, on a number of advisory and corporate boards.”
6. A Generous Orthodoxy, 11-12.
7. Josiah Royce, The Problem of Christianity, 1913, republished in 2001 by Catholic University of America Press, 43 and 340.
8. A Generous Orthodoxy, 316.
9. A Generous Orthodoxy, 317-318.
10. A Generous Orthodoxy, 317.
11. Barry Taylor, “Converting Christianity” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope: Key Leaders Offer an Inside Look, Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, editors (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 165.
12. Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 75.
13. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 171.
14. A Generous Orthodoxy, 183.
15. A Generous Orthodoxy, 183.
16. Adventures in Missing the Point, 262.
17. Adventures in Missing the Point, 76-77.
18. Dwight J. Friesen, “Orthoparadoxy: Emerging Hope for Embracing Difference” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 204.
19. Friesen, 207.
20. Friesen, 208.
21. Friesen, 209.
22. Friesen, 212.
23. Nanette Sawyer, “What Would Huckleberry Do? A Relational Ethic as the Jesus Way,” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 48.
24. Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 84.
25. Adventures in Missing the Point, 85.
26. Adventures in Missing the Point, 101.
27. Adventures in Missing the Point, 102.
28. A Generous Orthodoxy, 138.
29. Nanette Sawyer, “What Would Huckleberry Do?”, 43-44. Italics are in the original.
30. Sawyer, 44.
31. Sawyer, 45.
32. Sawyer, 46-47. Italics are in the original.
33. Sawyer, 47.
34. A Generous Orthodoxy, 107. Italics are in the original.
35. A Generous Orthodoxy, 108-109.
36. A Generous Orthodoxy, 109.
37. Adventures in Missing the Point, 25.
We will look at Part 2 in the next posting.