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(480) POSTEVANGELICAL, POSTCONSERVATIVE, POSTMODERNISM (Part 1) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

CERTAINTY:  A PLACE TO STAND (Part 1)

(1) INTRODUCTION

A very useful book by Dr. Grant Richison with a Forward by Dr. Norm Geisler.

Richison, G. C. (2010). Certainty, a Place to Stand: Critique of the Emergent Church of Postevangelicals (pp. 19–20). Grant C. Richison. 

The book describes the rampant uncertainty in the church today.  So much so that some of the most popular Christian teachers and leaders actually have their own brand of theology that teaches uncertainty as true doctrine.

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Dr. Geisler states that “In a day when the evangelical trumpet is making an uncertain sound, every Christian leader needs to read this book. It shows the need to be anchored to the Rock in our efforts to be geared to the times. At no time in our generation has there been a greater need and a clearer call to return to a surer foundation than that which is laid for our faith.”

The book is a critique of the EMERGENT CHURCH of POSTEVANGELICALS.

Richison also promotes a few other books that will give the reader a view of the POSTCONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT for what it really is:

  1. The Evangelical Left by Millard J. Erickson (Baker Books, 1997)
  2. Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church by D.A. Carson (Zondervan, 2005)
  3. The Courage to be Protestant by David Wells (Eerdmans, 2008)
  4. Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times edited by Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth and Justin Taylor (Crossway Books, 2004) – critiques Renewing the Center by Stanley Grenz.
  5. The Emerging Church, Undefining Christianity by Bob DeWaay (Bethany Press International, 2009)
  6. Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement (B & H Academic, 2009) is a balanced book critiquing the emergent church movement.
  7. Why We’re Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be), by Kevin DeYoung and Tel Kluck (Moody, 2009).

 

(2) DEFINITIONS:  

It important to familiarize yourself with important terms that today are part of the common Christian vernacular.  Throw in several words originating from Eastern mystical religions, your grasp of the contemporary language scene would be complete. 

First, Richison differentiates postmodernism between philosophical and functional:  

Philosophical postmodernism is a belief in a system; the function of postmodernity manifests itself in how people live their normal lives but without a clear understanding of the philosophy. Philosophical postmodernism gives no direct extrapolation to functional postmodernism; we find functional postmodernism in television, movies, and business. Not all postmodernity (the function) comes from postmodernism (the philosophy)

Certainty is lack of doubt about some state of affairs. Certainty admits degrees. Evangelicals do not affirm certainty about all things exhaustively. A proposition is certain if no other proposition has greater warrant than it does.

Absolute certainty is lack of any doubt. The Bible presents its thoughts with certainty, not tentatively (Luke 1:4; Acts 1:3). God’s Word is the criterion for truth. Certainty comes by an act of God through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4–16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). Absolute certainty is the supernatural foundation for knowledge.

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

Postconservatism is belief in postmodernism by evangelicals who are sometimes called “postevangelicals.” This is the belief system behind those in the emergent church who want to soft pedal truth.4

Emerging church is a broad term describing churches that seek to contextualize the gospel by method to postmodern philosophy. Not all emergent churches are postconservative in philosophy but are what we call “doctrine-friendly” or “truth-friendly” churches.

Emergent church is a particular term for an official network of contextualizers committed to postmodern Christianity. All their thinking is emerging; they do not claim certainty of truth. They deconstruct previous evangelical thinking about certainty and other essential doctrines of Scripture. They emphasize narrative theology rather than propositional truth. Presentation of Christianity is by missional living rather than by statements of the gospel. They presume that historic evangelicalism is non-authentic, not involved with non-Christians, obsessed with doctrine, and not operating by Christocentric living.5 This group is not “truth-friendly.”

Coherent truth is the basis of the emergent approach to reality, wherein facts and objective truth are not necessary and only a general coherence of an idea is needed.

Correspondent truth is the view that truth must correspond to facts, objectivity, and reality.

Missional is the term used for attempting to incarnate the gospel with personal and community testimony rather than presenting the gospel through propositions. Postconservatives use the word “missional” in the sense of “improving society now.” It is a way to correct society’s evils.

Proposition is that which corresponds to truth; it is the meaning of a declarative sentence. It is not an encounter, event, or personal experience. Biblical propositional assertions correspond to facts and reality.

Spiritual formation is not what evangelicals call sanctification, but it is rather the means whereby emergents use disciplines such as mysticism to make them feel closer to God. This is a non-biblical, extra-biblical idea. Many evangelicals use this term for sanctification and confuse terminology in doing so.

Foundationalism is an approach to reality that builds beliefs on givens. In the case of the Word of God, Christians build their beliefs on givens in the Bible. Emergents want to “rethink” everything. They do not operate on givens. It is important to distinguish the foundationalism of the Enlightenment from the foundationalism of the Bible. Biblical foundationalism does not rest on rationalism or empiricism but on the law of non-contradiction, the validity of the law of causality, and the reliability of sense perception. Without foundationalism we cannot establish truth by categories. Without the law of non-contradiction, it would be impossible to communicate adequately with others. Certainty does not require total understanding to know something for sure. To reject foundationalism is to reject rationality.

=> Just taking some time to understand what these terms mean and how they are used today in the church and by Christians in general is an important first step to understanding the direction the church is heading.  

In Part 2, we will go into detail in how widespread these terms are being used by Christians who don’t have clue to their origins and how they are used today.

 

 

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(474) WHEN EVERYTHING IS MISSIONS – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

Missio Dei – Mission of God


41gwP1-rOfL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Today, it is not uncommon to hear several variations of the basic description that most of us have always heard growing up in the church – MISSIONS.  However, we find today that people can use missions in a multitude of ways.  The modern word, “missional” is also used to describe some of these variations.

Ed Stetzer states that “People use the words mission, missions, and missional in different ways. Thus, any discussion of missional cannot be complete without asking the question, “which missional?”

The problem is that not everyone uses the same definition of these words.  My, how times have changed.  One has to define what perspective they are using the word to describe its purpose – is describing the mission of God (“Missio Dei”) in the world today; the Great Commission of the church; the modern offshoot of the EMERGING CHURCH movement; does it describe the engagement of the social Gospel out in local communities as opposed to being under an attractional model within the church……etc.?  Alan Hirsch states that “a quick Google search shows the presence of “missional communities,” “missional leaders,” “missional worship,” even “missional seating,” and “missional coffee.””

There are some basic problems with how the word is used today – especially when answering the question of what is our purpose here on the earth or more broadly – what is the purpose of the church?  Does the Bible call us to be “missional” in the sense of Missio Dei?  Or do we look at what Christ said our mission is from the Great Commission – to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES which includes a more traditional usage of the word missions?

I think the church today is moving further away from the Great Commission as described by Jesus and running on various pursuits under the banner called “Missio Dei” – the mission of God.  But is that scriptural?  It depends.  I question those who proclaim being missional and using it as the focus of the church engagement in the social Gospel or going out into the communities and moving away from the institutional church…etc., when Jesus made it clear what He commanded us to do to fulfill His purpose on the earth – the GREAT COMMISSION.   A recent blog by Kevin Deyoung discusses some of these issues in his recommendation of a new book about this topic – When Everything is Missions by Spitters and Ellison.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, l“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 mGo 3therefore and nmake disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 oteaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am pwith you always, even to the end of the age.” 4Amen.  (Matthew 28:18-20)

The New King James Version. (1982). (Mt 28:18–20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

When Everything Is Missions

 

Pastors, mission committees, mission agencies, and church leaders would do well to read the new (and short!) book When Everything is Missions, written by Denny Spitters (vice-president for church partnerships with Pioneers USA) and Matthew Ellison (a missions pastor turned parachurch president and missions coach).

The theme of the book is simple and provocative: we are NOT ALL missionaries and NOT EVERYTHING is missions, and if we don’t get these definitions correct we will not be effective in carrying out the mission Christ gave to the church.

In his foreword to the book, Jeff Lewis (of California Baptist University) notes that in his class on the global context of the Christian faith, 99 percent of his students think every Christian is a missionary, and 99 percent think he thinks that as well (12). But the old slogan “every member a missionary” is NOT really accurate. We are all called to be witnesses and disciple makers, but the Latin word missio, like the Greek word apostelein, refers to sending or being sent. A missionary, Spitters and Ellison maintain, means (a) sent (b) across a boundary to where the gospel is not known, (c) to see a church planted that (d) can reach that region with the gospel once the missionary leaves (69). When everything is missions and everyone is a missionary, this task is obscured or forgotten.

Likewise, Spitters and Ellison insist that missio Dei, mission, missional, and missions CANNOT be used interchangeably. Though helpful terms when used with precision, we should not assume, for example, that the missio Dei and the mission of the church are synonymous. We are not called to do all that God will do, and what we are called to do in missions is not equal to all the good we want to do as Christians. Spitters and Ellison make it clear that they do not oppose social transformation and holistic ministry, but they do not believe these are the goals of Christian mission. In fact, they argue that when the primacy of disciple making and church planting have been replaced with efforts at social transformation the results have been bad for the spiritual welfare and the physical welfare of the people we are trying to reach. In other words, “MAKING DISCIPLES who birth the local church is the KEY to both EVANGELISM and SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION. ” (45).

Spitters and Ellision do not write as armchair critics looking to pick nits over things that don’t matter. They are both deeply engaged in missions and have been for decades. Their burden is that definitions matter: “We contend that many churches do not do missions well because they don’t think about missions well” (19). We will not make progress in the mission of the church if everything is missions. That’s why we must be careful with the words we use.

It is not too late for the North American church to reassert that missionaries are sent-out ones—to cast aside the notion that everything is mission and everybody is a missionary, or that the debate is only a semantic one. We believe the future health of the Church and the advancement of the gospel in our own context is directly linked to thinking clearly about the mission task and missionary roles. To go and make disciples of all nations and send out those whom God has called for specific purposes is not only a command, it is the very lifeblood of our task—of advancing the gospel and joining in the work of Jesus to build His global Church. (80)

Should churches support Christian schools at home and college ministry on secular campuses in the United States? Should we work to have excellent and engaging youth and children’s ministries? Should we be concerned by poverty and homelessness and clean water? Yes, yes, and yes. But Spitters and Ellison remind us that if we think all of this is missions we will end up neglecting the very task laid out for us in the Great Commission. When everything is missions, missions gets left behind.

 

(474) SPIRITUAL DIRECTORS – Emerging Trends in the Church Today (Part 1)

Spiritual Direction – Part 1

To the church, the victorious and ascended Lord Jesus Christ “gave . . . some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming . . .” Ephesians 4:11-14, NASB
Spiritual direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the divine or to learn and grow in their own personal spirituality.  The person seeking direction shares stories of his or her encounters of the divine, or how he or she is cultivating a life attuned to spiritual things. The director listens and asks questions to assist the directee in his or her process of reflection and spiritual growth. Spiritual direction advocates claim that it develops a deeper awareness of the spiritual aspect of being human and that it is not psychotherapy, counseling, or financial planning.

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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.[1]

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. 

Historical traditions

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.” [2] 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 . . .” [3] 

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.” [4] 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.” [5] 

=> 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”. [6]

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.

____________________

ENDNOTES
[1] 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).
[2] Ibid.
[3] 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.
[4] Fryling, “Spiritual Direction Groups.”
[5] Ibid.
[6] Derek Kidner, A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976): 53.
[7] “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. 

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2010/02/17/More-people-turning-to-spiritual-directors/stories/201002170244

(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.

Why?

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.

 

https://faithlife.com/reformation?utm_source=blog.logos.com&utm_medium=blog&utm_content=howtocelebratereformation&utm_campaign=promo-reformation500

 

(470.1) A NEW REFORMATION – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

CALLING FOR A NEW REFORMATION

PART 1

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

Jan-April 2010

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:9780310258032_p0_v3_s550x406

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?luther2

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 CampoloMcLaren’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.

Notes:

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 TodayChristian 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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

I. INTRODUCTION – CONCEPTS & DEFINITIONS

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

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

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Spiritual Formation – D.Simeone

=> Richard Foster  – Author of the Spiritual Formation Bible

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

=> Larry Crabb

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

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

RESEARCH: SPIRITUAL FORMATION

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

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

The Renovaré website states:

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

HISTORY

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Christian Research Network]

 

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