(456) THE BENEDICT OPTION (Part 2) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

It is ironic that as the church celebrates the 500th anniversary of 41QY+zZAzfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_the Protestant Reformation, current trends today shows a church that has blended many of their differences, theological principles, and practices together. On the surface, that may seem like a good thing to see the church unified.  

In some respects, reality says that some of this actually has benefited the church. Interaction on several social issues that at times consume the headlines such as abortion and same-sex marriage have benefited from a unity in presenting a biblical view on these issues that otherwise usually gets silenced by the gatekeepers of a secular society.  I would hope that this unity continues to stand strong when based on biblical principles.  The unity isn’t always shared by Christians by and large.  Several Protestant denominations approve of either abortion and/or gay marriage.  Some will even go as far as approving gay ordination of ministers within their particular denomination.  On the Roman Catholic side, on some of these issues, the Church has been a strong tower with respect to upholding biblical principles.  But like some Protestants, the lay Catholic may hold a personal view that is far from what the church teaches.  In addition to that, we have a Pope today who routinely makes statements that imply (directly or indirectly) some difference of views on issues long held by the church for centuries.

That said, biblical unity shouldn’t depend on the views from various Christian denominations. Rather, biblical unity settles on Christ and a truly a biblical view of the issues.   The important consideration is not necessarily what your church believes but rather what does God say in His word.  There lies an important difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.  Roman Catholicism upholds church tradition on equal authority with the Bible. Protestants hold the Bible as the ultimate authority.  It is a key difference between the two groups – insurmountable to many.  There are several other major differences, but just to state one more key difference is the view of how one becomes a Christian – a works-based versus grace through faith alone based approach.  Again, a huge difference between these two groups.  

Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option, was a Roman Catholic and now adheres to Eastern Orthodoxy.  Dreher writes in his book about the need for Christians today to learn to apply the practices of the sixth-century monk, Saint Benedict. Benedict was the founder of the monastic Benedictine order.  The reason is that Dreher believes that there is no reverse of the culture war which began with the sexual revolution in the 1960s and ended in the defeat for Christian conservatives (pp. 3,79) and there is no hope of being reversed (p. 89). Dreher points to the time of Saint Benedict where the monastic community formed in the early centuries of the church with the intent of preserving the faith for future generations.  In his view, the monastic system preserved the faith through the medieval period (pp. 4,29,236).  He takes that further to state that in order for our faith to survive today, we must “learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West” (p. 4).  Therefore, the Benedict Option is a call to undertaking the long and patient work of reclaiming the real world from the alienation brought on by modern-day life.

Dreher traces the moral fall of modern society to five landmark events that rocked Western civilization:

  • In the fourteenth century, the loss of belief in the integral connection between God and Creation—or, in philosophic terms, transcendent reality and material reality.
  • The collapse of religious unity and religious authority in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.
  • The eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which displaced the Christian religion with the cult of Reason, privatized religious life, and inaugurated the age of democracy.
  • The Industrial Revolution (ca. 1760—1840) and the growth of capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • The Sexual Revolution (1960—present) (p. 23).
    • [G. Gilley @ tottministries.org]

I would agree that these events “rocked” society at the time, but I don’t necessarily attribute all of these events as responsible for the fall of society?  Some of these events clearly adversely affected society (e.g. sexual revolution) but with the others listed, one will need to ask what would the alternative have been if some of these events listed above didn’t take place?  In other words, the alternative would most likely have been far worse (alternatives to Democracy, Growth of Capitalism….etc.). 

Specifically, Dreher’s Catholicism comes out with his listing of the Protestant Reformation as being responsible for the collapse of religious unity and authority.  Again, a series of events that “rocked” society but in this case, a unity developed against the traditions of the church (Roman Catholicism), the authority of the Pope and instead focused more on God’s grace found in His word. People began looking at the Bible for truth – even to the point of giving up their life for the spread of God’s word. So much more could be said on this issue.

With little surprise to me, in addition to putting down the Reformation, Dreher introduces several aspects of contemplative mysticism, also found in early Roman Catholicism. Practices are recommended which have little similarity to Biblical practices and instead mirror mystical practices from other Eastern religious beliefs (e.g. Eastern Mysticism)

Check out a few of these in the following quotes from his latest book.

In this quote, contemplative practices such as praying the Jesus Prayer repeatedly, lectio divina, silent prayer, stilling the mind…..etc.

 

Imagine that you are at a Catholic mass in a dreary 1970s-era suburban church that looks like a converted Pizza Hut. The next Sunday you are at a high Catholic mass in New York City, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Scripture reading is the same in both places, and Jesus is just as present in the Eucharist at Our Lady of Pizza Hut as at St. Patrick’s. Chances are, though, that you had to work harder to conjure a sense of the true holiness of the mass in the suburban church than in the cathedral—though theologically speaking, the “information” conveyed in Word and Sacrament in both places was the same. This is the difference liturgy can make. (Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, pp. 106-107, Penguin Publishing Group; emphasis added)

I told the priest how, in response to a personal crisis, my own orthodox priest back in Louisiana had assigned me a strict daily prayer rule, praying the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) for about an hour each day. It was dull and difficult at first, but I did it out of obedience. Every day, for a seemingly endless hour, silent prayer. In time, though, the hour seemed much shorter, and I discovered that the peace I had conspicuously lacked in my soul came forth. (The Benedict Option, p. 59)

For the monks, prayer is not simply words they speak. Each monk spends several hours daily doing lectio divina, a Benedictine method of Scripture study that involves reading a Scripture passage, meditating on it, praying about it, and finally contemplating its meaning for the soul. (The Benedict Option, pp. 58-59)

The Reformation broke the religious unity [with Rome] of Europe. In Protestant lands, it birthed an unresolvable crisis in religious authority, which over the coming centuries would cause unending schisms. The Benedict Option, p. 45, emphasis added)

If you don’t control your own attention, there are plenty of people eager to do it for you. The first step in regaining cognitive control is creating a space of silence in which you can think. During a deep spiritual crisis in my own life, the toxic tide of chronic anxiety did not began to recede from my mind until my priest ordered me to take up a daily rule of contemplative prayer. Stilling my mind for an hour of prayer was incredibly difficult, but it eventually opened up a beachhead in which the Holy Spirit could work to calm the stormy waters within.  (The Benedict Option, pp. 227-228, emphasis added)

In a 2017 Christianity Today article titled, “The Benedict Option’s Vision for a Christian Village” by Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option, Dreher says the following. Our deciphering is in brackets:

I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church, and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself [unify by removing the barriers between Protestantism and Catholicism], while there is still time. If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith [not biblical roots, monastic roots of the desert fathers and other mystics], both in thought and in deed. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart [contemplative prayer practices – Nouwen called it moving from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical] forgotten by believers in the West [that’s what Merton taught]. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs [the cost is going to be the death of biblical truth]. (source)

Several remarks by Dreher show a promotion of contemplative practices & mysticism which today is a major concern and a major reason NOT to read or support his recommendations.  With Dreher’s turn towards Eastern Orthodoxy, mysticism plays into an even larger part of the religious practices that is promoted within the church.

Dreher’s ECUMENICAL unifying of the church glosses over why the church separated in the first place.  Even more concerning are that these are growing trends in the church today.  But the unification is in spite of Biblical truth instead of Biblical truth.  Issues ranging from how one is saved through a works-based system of man-made theology or a Scripture inspired view of grace alone is a critical difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.  It is disappointing to see some major Protestant leaders such as Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, John Piper…etc., come out stressing the importance of this book and recommending that we ought to read Dreher’s book.

Future postings will continue to look at the effect of mysticism in the church along with addressing the ecumenical trends in some parts of the church today.

(455) THE BENEDICT OPTION – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

THE BENEDICT OPTION

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A new book by Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option, is getting a great deal of exposure and write-ups across many branches of Christianity.  It is promoting a strategy for Christians to engage in our post-Christian nation that we find ourselves today.

I will most likely be writing more about the book in the near future, but for now, I will give a few comments based on reading some reviews and listening to a podcast with Rod Dreher describing his book and why he wrote it.

I heard a podcast interview at the Impact 360 Institute –

http://impact360institute.org/podcasts/should-christians-take-the-benedict-option-an-interview-with-rod-dreher

My brief review from listening to Dreher’s comments in the interview include the following comments:

Rod Dreher does make some very good points. He identifies some of the problems that Christians in our society face today. His point is well taken – college kids and young adults just don’t know about the basics of the faith and have grown up in the church but still lack discipleship in their walk.

However, where I would disagree with Dreher is in what he recommends as a solution. 

Since the popularity of groups such as the Emerging Church…etc., there has been a trend to look negatively at the church today and instead look back to the so-called “early church” to see supposed “true Christianity” as a guide to how we should live out our faith today.  The problem with this approach is, although it is not their intention, they move further from God’s word and look instead to tradition. Worse, much of their tradition is along the lines of ancient Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox mysticism. It is a mystical approach to faith that aligns itself very closely with Eastern Mysticism and includes practices that mirror practices from Buddhism, Hinduism….etc. There are many examples of Catholic and Orthodox priests and scholars having Buddhist monks teach in their seminaries on how to meditate and pray according to these traditions that align very closely with Buddhism….etc.

They don’t abandon the faith and to their credit, they include prayer and Bible study as a part of their focus. But they introduce practices that have no basis in the Bible and mix in with Christian practices. The most dangerous perspective of this approach is how it is introduced to Christians – it’s done in a very subtle manner. The results of which show that it can be difficult to identify what these practices actually are to Christians. They then use Christian sounding terms to describe these practices and Christians today have become desensitized to their actual meaning.

For example, terminology that includes words and phrases such as “formation”. “rhythms”, “silence”, “stillness”, “solitude”, “contemplative”...etc. are included with concepts such as meditation and prayer. The problem is that these phrases describe Eastern Mystical practices, not biblical practices outlined in Scripture. Biblical meditation is different than mediation being promoted by those promoting a contemplative faith. Eastern Orthodoxy is filled with these types of mystical practices. The take even reading the Bible and use a practice called Lectio Divina which doesn’t encourage the participant to understand what Scripture is saying but instead through repetition of words, phrases, periods of silence….etc., they are to experience a closeness to God. What? Is that what the Bible calls us to do?

In addition, patterning our walk today after a monastic lifestyle makes no sense.  Granted, Dreher states that his intention is not to recommend living like monks lived in the 6th century.  But, much of what is presented is copying the lifestyle and theology of these monks who have left civilization to live as hermits – I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind when giving us our marching order with the Great Commission.  That is biblical discipleship.  

The Evangelical Church today has been inundated with these practices. We would be wise to cut out the middleman and go directly to God’s word for our edification and spiritual growth. True discipleship has to focus on God’s word, not these alternative practices that have more similarity to Eastern Mysticism than they do the Bible.

(454) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: EVANGELICAL SCHOLARS STILL MISINFORMED ABOUT CREATION

The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures by D.A. Carson

A Book Review by

Lita Cosner

Journal of Creation 31(1), 2017865762_1_ftc

The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures is a significant contribution to evangelical scholarship. Edited by one of the foremost living Bible scholars with essays contributed from well-respected scholars from across historical, biblical, and theological specialties, this over-1,000-page book is weighty both in terms of its bulk and the level of its argumentation. There are many positive things that one can say about this book, which makes it all the more disappointing how it treats biblical creation.

Genesis: the lowest common denominator?

D.A. Carson makes the first comments in the book about creation vs evolution. He begins by contrasting Richard Dawkins and the new atheists with theist John Polkinghorne and pantheist Arthur Peacocke, the latter being “scientists who reject the philosophical naturalism of the new atheists, and find ways to think about the integration of scientific learning and fundamental Christian claims, including supernatural claims” (p. 34).

He continues on to note the need for “cautious skepticism” regarding scientific claims: “Not that many decades ago, PHRENOLOGY and EUGENICS were both almost universally espoused and commonly practiced. They were, after all, ‘scientific’. Today they are equally universally dismissed” (p. 35).

 

However,“… this stance does not sanction arrogant dismissal; it mandates respect, careful listening, evaluation, and sometimes patient uncertainty, as we refuse to be intimidated by the overconfident claims of some scientists or by the popularity of some nearly universally adopted theories” (p. 35).

So far so good. But he criticizes Christians who “appear to be utterly certain about how to read every line of Genesis 1–11”, and counsels:

“Frankly, in the light of the complexity of the hermeneutical issues raised by these opening chapters of Scripture, the question posed by Francis A. Schaeffer forty years ago is still the most pertinent one: What is the least that Genesis 1–11 must be saying in order for the book of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, to be coherent and true?” (pp. 35–36).

However, it is difficult to imagne Carson arguing for this sort of least-common-denominator theology in regard to the Trinity or the Resurrection, but in fact the doctrine of creation is every bit as foundational for the Christian faith.1

That Augustine quote!Untitled copy

Another author, Glenn S. Sunshine, in his essay, “Accommodation Historically Considered”, quotes Augustine’s famous statement in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis to the effect that

“… it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn” (p. 245).

 

Sunshine says: “Augustine’s comments in On the Literal Meaning of Genesis are among the first to address the typical modern question of the relationship between the Bible and science” (p.246). However, this quote is MISUSED when people use it to argue against young-earth creation, because evolution does not meet Augustine’s definition of ‘fact’ in that quote, and he was himself a young-earth creationist.2

Science and Scripture

Kirsten Birkett in her essay “Science and Scripture” helpfully, accurately, and surprisingly explains the case of Galileo’s persecution as an instance of the church of the day being overly pro-science, i.e. pro- Aristotelian science. While there were very good reasons at the time for being cautious of accepting Galileo’s theory (Newtonian physics, which is critical for making sense of heliocentrism, was still in the future, for one). There is very little to dispute in this retelling,  and one hopes its appearance in such a substantial collection of scholarship will help to debunk the false religion- vs-science narrative.

Sadly, there is much less to celebrate in her discussion of chronology, the age of the earth, and the days of Genesis (p. 956ff). She notes that certain Jewish and Christian interpreters had non-literal understandings of the days in Genesis, but fails to examine the text of Genesis 1 to see if the grammar itself allows for such a non-literal view. She also does not mention that a LITERAL view of the creation days was the MAJORITY view throughout church history.

Birkett helpfully recounts the history beginning from the Renaissance of the attempts to create a chronology of the world, and the calendrical problems of the period that complicated things. However, disappointingly the conclusion was that “the Bible could not stand alone” (p. 960).

She also cites Isaac La Peyrère as an example of questioning whether Adam was the real historical first person (p. 960). His goal in interpreting Adam figuratively was to reconcile “Bible chronology with the longer ones of the ancient pagans, the American Indians, and the Chinese” (p. 961). This supports the idea that “church scholars were quite aware of claims to a long history of the earth and to various degrees were prepared to accept it” (p. 961). However, the example of La Peyrère shows that there were people who were not prepared to accept it; as she says:

“… as the ideas spread, they attracted violent criticism. … Calvinist Holland and Catholic France alike con- demned it. La Peyrère was arrested by the Inquisition in Brussels. His master Conde secured his release at a price of his conversion to Catholicism. He had to publish a retraction and died a pauper” (p. 961).

 

Is creationism ‘Scripture against science’?

Birkett discusses and dismisses young-earth creation without citing one prominent young-earth theologian or scientist (and while citing their critics exclusively). It is not a fair or a scholarly way to critique someone, so the kindest thing I can say about this part of her essay is that she needs to inform herself about the actual arguments creationists use—she seems unaware, for instance, that creationists have various ways of accounting for predatory structures (discussed on p. 968).

The bias in her examination of young-earth creation is even more apparent when compared to her analysis and criticism of John Polkinghorne, which cites many of his own writings. If Birkett had similarly cited biblical creationist scholars, one might have still disagreed with her analysis, but there would be less grounds for criticizing the bias of it.

 

Positive points

It is a shame that the book is so weak overall when it comes to the doctrine of creation, because in other respects it is quite good and contains a lot of worthwhile information. For instance, the historical chapters contain a lot of evidence that inerrancy is not a modern invention, but can be found as far back as the Patristic period, through the Reformation, and in every strain of Protestant thought.

Among the biblical/theological topics, Craig Blomberg’s “Reflections on Jesus’ view of the Old Testament” was notable. He asserts:

“When it comes to the inspiration, truthfulness, authority, and relevance of the Bible of his world, Jesus could scarcely have held to higher views. … He acknowledged Scripture’s divine origin as God’s word and words. He quoted from the Bible extensively and intensively. He affirmed the inviolability of its contents down to the smallest details. To whatever degree the contents of the Hebrew canon had solidified by his day, Jesus affirmed their unity but also their tripartite division. He interpreted the historical narratives in ways that suggest he believed that at least most (and probably all) of the events narrated really happened” (p. 696).

This necessarily has implications for the Christian’s view of Scripture:

“If we are followers of Jesus, we will want to adopt his view

Untitled copy 

of the Scriptures. He believed in their fully divine origin, reliability, and authority. Therefore, our view of the Old Testament should accept their complete God-given trustworthiness and claims on our lives as well. And just as nothing in the humanity of a person requires that a given writing of theirs contain errors, nothing in the humanity of Scripture logically compels us to find mistakes in it” (p. 699).

This, at least, is something with which biblical creationists can wholeheartedly agree!

There are also sections on philosophy and comparative religions, with which some readers will doubtless disagree (one may question the wisdom, for instance, of seeing the Buddhist sutras as a possible gateway to evangelism), but which are nonetheless informative and interesting.

 

Conclusion

A review of a work like The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures will necessarily fail to address the whole book, so one is forced to cover the topics most interesting to the readers of a given review. Unfortunately, this may give an unbalanced view of the book in that on the topic of creation, it is very disappointing for young-earth creationists to find that we have once again been misrepresented. But in other ways the book is very useful and contains arguments that are of use to young-earth creationists. Because of this potential usefulness, we shouldn’t completely reject books like The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, even if we wish the authors were a bit more well– informed about creation. The very academic and densely argued nature, however, makes it most suitable for specialists.

References

  1. See a critique of the same sort of argumentation in a popular-level article at Cosner, L., Timescale and theology, creation.com/timescale-theology, 28 June 2016.
  2. See Cosner, L. and Sarfati, J., Non-Christian philosopher clears up myths about Augustine and the term ‘literal’, J. Creation 27(2):9–10, 2013; creation.com/augustine-myths-debunked.

(453)EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: DEADLY DOCTRINES

DEADLY DOCTRINES IN YOUR CHURCH TODAY

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Image taken from http://www.challies.com/articles/how-jesus-called-out-false-teachers-and-deadly-doctrine

Deadly doctrines in your church today.  Tim Challies hits the target with his recent commentary on False Teachers and Deadly Doctrines.  He includes several blunt assessments of how Christians and the Church deal with these issues and the attitudes that come from them.  He looks at how JESUS dealt with false teaching with religious authorities as well as how that message was communicated to the crowds.  Very interesting!

How Jesus Called Out False Teachers and Deadly Doctrine

March 13, 2017 

It’s a good time to be a false teacher and to espouse deadly doctrine. It seems that today’s most brazen heretic will be granted a hearing and, in all likelihood, a book deal. Novelty is appealing, orthodoxy boring. It’s the ones who sound the warning and issue the challenge that bear the risk—the risk of being labelledhaters.” There’s more patience for those who smilingly subvert the truth than for those who boldly defend it. Conviction is a sign of arrogance, while humility is expressed in uncertainty. Love, it seems, requires us to bear patiently with any amount of error. And this kind of love, we are told, is modeled after Jesus. Jesus did not judge, Jesus welcomed all opinions, Jesus would have accepted different kinds of teachings—so long as those teachings contained love and hints of truth.

A quick scan of the gospels, however, shows that this impression is a far cry from the Jesus of the Bible. It shows that society has reimagined Jesus through the relativism of our day. When Jesus interacted with people who were seeking, wandering, or misguided, he was invariably compassionate. He answered them with patience and gentleness. But when Jesus engaged with religious hypocrites and false teachers, he responded with righteous fury and bold conviction.

Today, those who love the truth must learn how to show such bold conviction through the old discipline of polemicsthe practice of engaging in public debate and dispute. The purpose of polemics is not to score points or flex theological muscle, but to rebuke peddlers of error and to express concern for those caught up in their lies. Like the ancient heretics of Crete, today’s false teachers “must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:11). As we do this well, we imitate Jesus Christ who was a skilled polemicist.

We see an example of Jesus’ polemics in Matthew 23, where Jesus speaks to the crowd about the scribes and Pharisees. What unfolds in this scene is not private pleading but public censure. Jesus publicly addresses the deadly doctrine of these religious leaders for the benefit of their victims and potential victims. He holds nothing back. He does not make time to commend them for the things they do well. He does not temper his speech to give them the benefit of the doubt. Rather, he SPECIFIES their doctrinal error and unrighteousness actions, he LABELS them with STRONG but appropriate language, he WARNS of the consequences of their error, and he CALLS his listeners to REJECT the false teachers and their deadly doctrine.

Jesus Calls Out Their Doctrinal Error
These religious authorities were masking error as truth. Jesus confronts their error by telling the crowd, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4). In the name of God, these leaders advocate a works-based system of righteousness that ignores and denies God’s free grace. Jesus gives them an example of their false teaching: “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath’” (Matthew 23:15). They have reimagined the faith so they can maintain a religious veneer even as they blatantly break oaths. They adapt their beliefs so they can remain righteous according to the letter of the law even as they violate its spirit. Jesus identifies this as false doctrine and addresses it head-on.

When we respond to error by giving it the benefit of the doubt, we come close to committing the same error as false teachers: masking error as the truth. Like Jesus, we ought to LOVE TRUTH and LOVE PEOPLE enough to CALL OUT ERROR for what it is.

Jesus Calls Out Their Unrighteous Actions
The religious authorities teach error as truth and, in consequence, act hypocritically. As Jesus warns the crowd of the doctrinal error of these leaders, he tells also of their ungodly actions. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). And again, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matthew 23:25-26). Jesus lays bare the unrighteous actions of false teachers.

Some may find it difficult to reconcile Jesus’ love and his bold rebuke in this scene, but this betrays a dangerous tendency to separate God’s love from his relentless demand for truth. It dishonors God when we call unrighteousness good (Isaiah 5:20). It honors him when we, like Jesus, call unrighteousness evil.

Jesus Calls Out Their True Identity
Having called out their unrighteousness, he appropriately describes and labels the false teachers. In Matthew 23 alone, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” six times. Besides that, he calls them “blind guides,” “blind fools,” “blind men,” “whitewashed tombs,” “sons of those who murdered the prophets,” “serpents,” and “brood of vipers.” You get the point. Jesus does not shy away from calling false teachers exactly what they are. “Jesus meek and mild” sinlessly expresses divine wrath toward those who would speak truth in the name of error, who would teach doctrines of demons under the banner of heaven.

It is true that we must always avoid slandering someone by calling them what they are not. But it is equally true that when God is slandered by false teachers who claim to teach in his name, we must call them out for what they are.

Jesus Calls Out Their Coming Judgment
Jesus ensures his listeners know the full gravity of this deadly doctrine. He knows that adhering to such faulty teaching will have the most dire consequences, so six times he repeats the word “woe.” This is a word of divine judgment, of abject misery that portends a final, miserable end. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:32). They will not, and neither will those who submit to such odious error.

As we have explored throughout this series, false doctrine is deadly doctrine. It leads both teachers and hearers to destruction. It is good and loving to warn them of this destruction, so thatthey may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).

Jesus Calls His Listeners Toward Truth
Jesus exposes the deadly doctrine and unrighteous actions of these false teachers. He appropriately describes those who espouse it, and he lays out the consequences of such error. However, polemics is not merely confronting error, but also teaching truth. And orthodoxy is not merely knowing the truth, but also submitting to it. For these reasons, Jesus appeals to his listeners to turn away from the absurdity and inconsistency of error toward God’s truth. Contrary to the scribes and Pharisees who do all their deeds to be seen by others, Jesus tells the crowd: “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).

Continue reading – http://www.challies.com/articles/how-jesus-called-out-false-teachers-and-deadly-doctrine

 

(452) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: THE SHACK AUTHOR -WILLIAM PAUL YOUNG’S JUST RELEASED NEW BOOK

What do you think of these comments by Warren Smith on Young’s new book? – 

“Shack” Author Paul Young States in Just-Released Book—Christ Is “In” Every Single Human Being

By Warren B. Smith

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; But after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, Having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

YOUNG PUBLICLY ENDORSES UNIVERSAL SALVATION
In his just-released book, Lies We Believe About God, best-selling author Paul Young openly describes himself as a UNIVERSALIST. In chapter 13, Young would have us believe it is a “lie” to tell someone, “You need to get saved.”1 Young asks himself the rhetorical questions, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?”2 He answers, “That is EXACTLY what I am saying!”3 Young then goes on to teach that “every single human being is in Christ” and that “Christ is in them.”4 With this unbiblical teaching, one recalls how Young put these same heretical words in the mouth of his “Jesus” character in The Shack. He wrote:

God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things.5

THE TRINITARIAN LIE
Young would have us believe his trinitarian lie that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit inherently indwell everyone.6 This is exactly what the false “Christ” of the New Age teaches. In fact, it is the foundational teaching of the New Age/New Spirituality/New World Religion that has progressively moved into the world and into the church.

NEW AGE IN THE CHURCH
As I pointed out in my booklet, The Shack and Its New Age Leaven,7 the teaching that God is “in” everyone is a heretical New Age teaching that has been increasingly popularized over the last thirty years by New Age authors and teachers and heavily promoted by people like Oprah Winfrey. Sadly, it is also found in the books and teachings of well-known church figures like Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, Eugene Peterson, Leonard Sweet, and Sarah Young.8 And in a November 1, 2016 Catholic News Service article titled, “Pope Offers New Beatitudes for Saints of a New Age” Pope Francis, in a Catholic Mass in Malmo, Sweden, proposed a new “beatitude”—”Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.”9

WHAT WILL THE CHURCH DO?
Paul Young wanted to have a conversation about the nature of God, and that conversation is now front and
center before the church. Will pastors and leaders and day-to-day believers contend for the faith and fight the good fight, or will they let false teachers like Paul Young have their uncontested say and have their uncontested way?

Endnotes:
1. Chapter 13 title in Lies We Believe About God is “You need to get saved.”
2. William Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books; An imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2017), p. 118.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., p. 119.
5. William P. Young, The Shack (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 112.
6. In C. Baxter Kruger’s book, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared to Dream, in the foreword, Shack author William Paul Young writes: I want to say, “Thank you, and please read The Shack Revisited.” He adds, “If you want to understand better the perspectives and theology that frame The Shack, this book is for you. Baxter has taken on the incredible task of exploring the nature and character of the God who met me in my own shack” (p. ix). On page 49 of The Shack Revisited , Kruger writes: “For inside of us all, because of Jesus, is nothing short of the very trinitarian life of God.” C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream (New York, NY: FaithWords), p. 49.
7. To read this booklet, click here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=12290.
8.  I have documented a short history of how this deceptive New Age teaching has entered the world and the church in my booklet Be Still and Know That You Are Not God. The booklet includes quotes by each of these figures. To read this booklet, click here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17572.
9. Cathy Wooden, “Pope Offers New Beatitudes for Saints of a New Age” (Catholic News Service, November 1, 2016,).

 

This article is from http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=22361

 

(451) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: DR. DAVID JEREMIAH – CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE PROMOTES NEW AGE

DR. DAVID JEREMIAH ADMITS CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE PROMOTES NEW AGE

For years now, Lighthouse Trails (Research Project) has done extensive research and has provided articles and books on these topics for Christians to learn about these issues.  One author in particular, RICHARD FOSTER, and his bestselling book from 1978, CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE (COD) has been instrumental in introducing Evangelical and Protestant Christianity to contemplative practices that follow similar practices found in Eastern Mysticism and also associated with what was commonly called New Age practices.

dj_bioFor years, they have also attempted to warn the body of Christ and to discuss these issues with leading Christians in ministries ranging from authors, pastors, television and radio programs.  One example is DAVID JEREMIAH.  Years ago, Jeremiah authored a book on the New Age – so it was ironic that he would continually refer to contemplative authors, books, resources commonly associated with the New Age.  Before you cringe, keep in mind, many or these resources fall under the description of “Christian” or “Roman Catholic” and they include people ranging from early church saints and monks to popular contemporary authors.

In Foster’s first edition of COD, he stated that “we should ALL without shame enroll in the school of CONTEMPLATIVE  prayer.” Lighthosue Trails Research Journal (Volume 5-No.1 January/February 2017) states:

Since then, and largely because of the influence of that book, contemplative spirituality has saturated the church in no small way, and many Christians have truly “enroll[ed] in the school of contemplative prayer.” Through our research, we have determined that over ninety percent of the Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities (the places our future pastors are trained at) have, to one degree or always used textbooks either by Foster or ones that point to him).

They go on to say that a copy of COD sits on the bookshelves of most Christian pastors and leaders today. 

Many Christian leaders acknowledge that there are issues to be concerned about, many have stopped short of agreeing that this is a problem. This is despite the fact that many reputable apologetic groups have written about these concerns and problems associated with combining biblical practices with practices from other religions.

=> Fortunately, today we can finally say that DAVID JEREMIAH has now stated (in print) that Richard Foster’s COD promotes New Age spirituality. 

From the same LHT Newsletter, Here are Jeremiah’s own words from his book, The New Spirituality in the chapter titled “New Age Influence in the Church” (subtitled: In this lesson we see how the New Age movement is changing the church):

Sometimes false doctrine—and in the case of this present study, New Age ideology—gets into the church from within, and sometimes from without the body. Once it infects the church it can spread like an infection. . . .

DR. NORMAN GEISLER, Christian apologist, was attending one of the most respected, and largest Baptist churches in the country. He was astounded to hear the huge choir singing a song whose lyrics included:

I [meaning God] am the grass you walk in, I am the air you breathe, I am the water you swim in.” That is pure PANTHEISM. God is not the grass, nor the air, nor the water.

Those are all elements He created, and He is totally distinct from them. It is shocking that someone in the leadership either didn’t have the discernment to recognize what the lyrics were saying [or] was too busy with musical things to notice.  llBut that’s how New Age influence enters the church—when no one is watching.

Dr. Geisler has also made some notes on the contents of one of the best-selling Christian books of our day, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Geisler noted some 15 different places in the book where NEW AGE and MIDDLE EASTERN New Age and Eastern practices were recommended for Christians—things such as Transcendental Meditation, turning from “manyness” to “oneness,” meditating on the void (nothing), and others.

David Jeremiah acknowledges that once New Age ideology “infects the church it can spread like an infection.” And surely, we have seen this take place.

LHT states that – perhaps not too many pastors and leaders read David Jeremiah’s book, The New Spirituality. Perhaps they have no idea what David Jeremiah (and Norm Geisler) think about Richard Foster’s book. If you have a pastor, and you think he might have a copy of Celebration of Discipline in his pastor’s library (and he might even be quoting from it from the pulpit), you might consider printing this article and giving him a copy. Tell him, this time it isn’t Lighthouse Trails saying it but rather is a leader whom they most likely respect saying it.

This is GOOD NEWS!  Even though it has been a long time coming, hopefully this is another step in influencing Christians based on biblical discernment and discipleship and not on what is popular or what someone’s friend is reading. False teaching coming into the church from within and through the back door can be the most subtle, least noticed but most dangerous.  Criticism of these teachings can make one look overly critical but the real issue has to do with understanding God’s view – and the best way to do this is to open up your Bible.

(450) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: WHAT THE SHACK GETS RIGHT (Review #5)

An interesting review of The Shack. Lita Cosner (of Creation Ministries International – i.e. CMI), asks what The Shack gets right?  Her point is that while the movie contains “bad theology” since many people will go to see the movie, it presents itself as an opportunity for Christians to share the truth of God’s word in addressing the problems in life discussed in The Shack.  It’s an agreement of the serious problems with The Shack but also it sees an opportunity to present the Gospel – which she states that The Shack doesn’t do. From someone who is a part of CMI, she makes some great points which fit in well with the response by both Christians and unbelievers that CMI receives on issues relating to creation.

What The Shack gets right

by

Published: 7 March 2017 (GMT+10)
Shack

It would be easy to write a standard, outraged review of The Shack. They portray God the Father and God the Spirit in human form, as females! They put words in God’s mouth that He never said! They substitute correct doctrine for mushy platitudes that sound like they came from Oprah!

All those things are true, and they’re all problems, and those problems have been very thoroughly laid out elsewhere in reviews of William Paul Young’s best-selling 2008 book of the same title, so go there and read about those issues.1 But we should ask, why did people find The Shack appealing in the first place? I think there are several reasons, and they should actually be encouraging for evangelical Christians. When we speak to people who have seen The Shack, when we understand why they were drawn to such erroneous material, we can show how the Bible gives a much more satisfying portrayal of God than The Shack ever could. In fact, if we’re prepared for these conversations, it could be a tremendous opening to discuss the biblical Gospel.

People suffer

When we speak to people who have seen The Shack, when we understand why they were drawn to such erroneous material, we can show how the Bible gives a much more satisfying portrayal of God than The Shack ever could.

Many people can identify with Mack, the main character, who is grieving the murder of his daughter. Raised with a veneer of Christianity, he struggles with the question of how could God be good, while allowing such evil things to happen? This is a frequent question we receive at CMI, and there are often emotional undertones, because unlike some other doctrinal questions, people aren’t asking a hypothetical, philosophical question. They are asking, “Why did my mom die of cancer?” “Why was my daughter born with a genetic condition?” “Why do I struggle with depression?” What is God doing when it doesn’t seem like He is hearing our prayers for help and relief?

This is a question a person has to confront if he lives long enough to experience loss or suffering of any kind, and Scripture gives a clear and comforting answer for grieving people. Unfortunately, you won’t hear it in The Shack. Instead, the movie gives vaguely NEW-AGE, UNIVERSALIST, FEEL-GOOD answers that may move someone to emotions with the convincing delivery of the actors, but which don’t actually resolve the fundamental problem.

To give the biblical answer, we have to take the focus off man, and put it on God, where the Bible focuses. The god of The Shack has his/her/their hands tied by Evil, a force outside god’s control, which exists as an inevitable consequence of human free will, and is thus part of the original creation. He/she/they can be ‘within’ evil events, working good, but he/she/they are ultimately powerless in the face of human actions. This is presented as noble, as God refusing to meddle with human choice, because God is interested in having friends, not slaves (according to the actor playing Jesus in the film). But this dichotomy has NO basis in Scripture—while Christ called His disciples His “friends”, there is an element of servanthood as well. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). God opens the way for us to have a relationship with Him, but there is no question about who is ultimately in charge.

Scripture presents a God who is sovereign over evil, and thus can promise to one day end all evil, and to work all things (even the worst things) for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This is a great comfort to people who are suffering. But just as importantly, Scripture presents evil as a corruption of God’s ‘very good’ creation. So humans, not God, are blameworthy for evil in the world, because evil was not part of the original creation, but came as a result of Adam’s disobedience.

People want a God who understands their suffering

One of the more powerful portions of the film was a conversation between Mack and ‘Papa’, where he asks where God was when Jesus was on the cross. ‘Papa’ reveals scars on his wrists identical to Jesus’, and says that what Jesus chose to do cost both of them dearly. While this falls under the heresy of patripassianism (the idea that the Father suffered with Jesus on the Cross), the fact that this is so powerful shows us that people want to know that God identifies with their suffering.

What is God doing when it doesn’t seem like He is hearing our prayers for help and relief?

Scripture clearly shows that in Jesus’ humanity, He experienced temptation and suffering, and can identify with us. The book of Hebrews has some of the most powerful statements about this. I encourage you to read the entirety of Hebrews 1-5 to grasp how the following verses fit in the author’s larger argument, but note his statements about the temptation and suffering of Christ:

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10)

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17–18).

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7–8).

So we know that God can sympathize with our suffering, because Christ experienced it during His earthly life and ministry.

People want a relational God

Many are drawn to the portrayal of the fellowship between the Persons of the Trinity and their love for and enjoyment of each other. It is misleading to portray the Trinity as three people in relationship because it can never capture the fullness of the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity, because the three Persons are one God. As humans we can never fully comprehend what that’s like.

However, Scripture clearly portrays a deep unity and singularity of purpose between the Persons of the Godhead. During His ministry on earth, Jesus often went away to pray, and the high priestly prayer (John 17) is a glimpse into the relationships within the Trinity.

People want a relationship with God

One theme in The Shack is that the trinity portrayed there invited Mack into relationship with them. And again, there is a kernel of biblical truth there, because through Christ, Christians have a relationship with the Triune God where we are very closely identified with Christ. When we trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins through His death and resurrection, we are adopted into God’s family and enjoy the privileges of sonship and close fellowship with God. This will be fully realized at the return of Christ when believers are raised to eternal life, and the entire creation is restored from the effects of sin.

What wasn’t in The Shack

The most troubling error in The Shack’s portrayal of God was the omission of the Gospel. The god of The Shack forgives simply because he/she/they love. But the atonement which makes forgiveness possible is never clearly presented. ‘Papa’ says he/she does not have any wrath, but the God of the Bible must judge sin because He is just. It is only through Christ substitutionary sacrifice in which He paid for the sins of all who would believe that God is able to be both just and merciful in His forgiveness of sinners.

Talking about The Shack

Most of us will probably have friends and family who go to see The Shack, and while we never want to encourage bad theology, this could open up some opportunities to talk about subjects that rarely come up in conversation. If people mention liking the story, ask questions! What did they like about the movie? What did they think about the portrayal of God? Was there anything that struck them as unsatisfying or simplistic? While people often shy away from being ‘preached to’, they are usually very eager to share their views! Then that opens an opportunity for you to respond.

What people are attracted to in The Shack can also help us to emphasize the biblical truth about God. And so, while this was almost surely not the intention of the directors, this could open up tremendous opportunities for Gospel conversations.

 

This article was taken from http://creation.com/shack-movie-review