Archive for the ‘Contemplative Churches’ Category

Dr. George Wood Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article on AoG Resolution 3 and Israel

Also see Part 1: “Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel ” and Part 3: “A Further Unveiling of Assemblies of God Resolution 3 & the Serious Implications”

By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails

On July 28th, Lighthouse Trails posted a commentary by Lighthouse Trails author Cedric Fisher titled “Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel.” This commentary set off a fire storm on the Internet, and on Saturday July 29th, Lighthouse Trails editors received an e-mail from Dr. George Wood (General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God). Dr. Wood is familiar with Lighthouse Trails because of a controversy in 2013 where Dr. Wood gave his blessing and permission for contemplative emergent Ruth Haley Barton to speak at the 2013 AoG General Council Conference resulting in some Lighthouse Trails articles addressing the seriousness of such promotion.

Shortly after Lighthouse Trails editors received the e-mail from Dr. Wood on the 29th regarding our recent posting of Cedric Fisher’s commentary, we learned that the e-mail was being distributed on the Internet. Because Dr. Wood has made his e-mail public, we are responding in the public arena; and because his e-mail stated that the commentary we posted is “false, meretricious, and slanderous,” we are compelled to issue this response. Below is Dr. Wood’s e-mail to Lighthouse Trails editors in its entirety (in black bold) along with response comments by us in indented non-bold green paragraphs. (After you have read this section, please see a response written by Cedric Fisher regarding Dr. Wood’s e-mail.)

Dr. George Wood, General Superintendent of AoG

Dr. George Wood’s e-mail to Lighthouse Trails:

I don’t know exactly who to address this to, so I have included all the email contact points provided on your website.

I am asking you to retract and apologize for the totally incorrect article you published on July 28, titled, “Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel.”

Here are the facts, as opposed to the lies given by Cedric Fisher.

1. Resolution 3 doesn’t mention Israel at all. It has nothing to do with Israel. As general superintendent, I am not indicating my support or opposition to this resolution as it comes from delegates to our General Council – but, I can tell you for a fact that you can search this resolution with a microscope and you will find no reference to Israel, nor will you find any intention that this resolution applies to Israel. Here’s the full text of the resolution: http://generalcouncil.ag.org/-/media/GC17/2017GCResolutionsBooklet.pdf?la=en.

Our Response: It is true that Resolution 3 does not mention Israel at all, and Cedric Fisher never said that it did. However, the resolution absolutely connects Israel with the Resolution when it states: “Furthermore, the Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the General Presbytery approved the 12 Assemblies of God position paper entitled, ‘Church Mission and Peacemaking.’” It is in that position paper that Israel is discussed and clearly rebuked as the guilty party for causing conflict. There is no mention of Islamic/Muslim wrong doing in the position paper. We realize that some reading “Church Mission and Peacemaking” may not see how it is implicating modern-day Israel, especially if they are not familiar with the present efforts to put most or all of the blame on Israel for Middle East conflict.

2. The AG position paper is titled, “Church Mission and Peacemaking.” Lighthouse Trails added “and Israel,” even though the position paper doesn’t mention issues regarding the modern state of Israel. Here’s the position paper: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Church-Mission-and-Peacemaking.

Our Response: The phrase “and Israel” was mistakenly added twice in one sentence. We have now corrected that error. However, this does not change the context of the position paper. Dr. Wood says that the position paper doesn’t mention issues regarding the modern state of Israel, but we believe that is exactly what that position paper is doing.

3. “Israel–the Church’s Response” is not a position paper. It’s what we call a “common concerns” article. It was written by the Office of Public Relations over 15 years ago. Here’s the article itself: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Israel-the-Churchs-Response. Here’s the topic index of other common concern articles: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index.

Our Response: Cedric Fisher’s commentary did call both papers “position papers” when in reality “Israel – The Church’s Response” is not an official AoG position paper. Rather, it is listed under AoG Beliefs on their website and described as “based upon [AoG] common understanding of scriptural teaching.” (source: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index)

4. By mixing quotations from the position paper and the common concerns article, Lighthouse Trails concocts a belief that simply doesn’t exist.

Our Response: We don’t agree with Dr. Wood’s assumption here. To say that an argument can’t be proven by using different credible (and related) documents is faulty reasoning.

5. The article goes on to talk about Rick Warren’s PEACE plan, which is NOT mentioned in Resolution 3, the position paper, or the common concerns article. It then states, “Resolution 3 is an attempt to present a more powerful statement of disassociation with Israel.” But Resolution 3 doesn’t mention the contemporary state of Israel at all, let alone “a more powerful statement of disassociation with Israel.” This is simply a lie.

Our Response: As for Rick Warren’s influence within the AoG, this could be proven in a number of different ways (not to mention that he is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s AoG General Council along with Mark Batterson (Circle Maker) and Priscilla Shirer (contemplative teacher)), but we will provide this one piece of documentation. In a 2008 Time Magazine article titled “Rick Warren Goes Global,” it states:

“Warren is particularly excited by the hands-on involvement of some of the larger players in the Evangelical community. “A guy was going, ‘I’ll take Mozambique,’ and another guy was going ‘I’ll take Nigeria,’ ” he said happily, adding that he’s already secured personal commitments from influential leaders in the Salvation Army and the Assemblies of God (the largest Pentecostal denomination.) “They’ve said, they’re in, and they have to get their boards along,” he reported.” (emphasis added; source: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1809833,00.html?xid=rss-nation).

Since 2008, the Purpose Driven paradigm has continued to have a major influence in nearly all evangelical denominations, including Assemblies of God. 

Regarding Dr. Wood’s statement that it is a lie to say that Resolution 3 is anti-Israel, it is not. This resolution was worded in such a way as to not appear to be directly implicating modern Israel. 

6. “AoG General Superintendent George O. Wood and other leaders of the denomination appear enamored with Warren to the extent they are virtually subservient.” That would be news to me, Rick Warren, and other leaders of the denomination. Furthermore, there is no denomination more active than ours in evangelizing Muslims.

See our response in point #5.

7. As is typical of Lighthouse Trails, you engage in six-degrees-of-separation conspiracy mongering. Even though neither Don nor Jodi Detrick wrote Resolution 3, he is mentioned because he is married to her, and she is mentioned because she allegedly promotes “contemplative spirituality.” This isn’t research; this is nonsense.

Our Response: Actually, Cedric Fisher’s mentioning Jodi Detrick because she is the wife of the chairperson of the AoG 2017 Resolutions Committee is certainly not “six-degrees-of-separation conspiracy mongering.” First of all, this is a husband and wife who are both highly active in AoG leadership; this is hardly “six-degrees of separation.” Second, the issue that took place with Dr. Wood and the AoG General Council in May of 2013 was no minor issue. Dr. Wood allowed Ms. Detrick to bring in a hard core New Age sympathizer to teach AoG women at the AoG General Council Conference that year. Lighthouse Trails wrote three carefully documented articles explaining several aspects as to why Barton should not be allowed to teach Christian women. After our first article (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11431), Dr. Wood issued a public statement defending Ms. Detrick’s choice of speakers (and he incidentally mentioned Ms. Detrick’s husband as he felt the association was important for people to know – the very thing he condemned Cedric Fisher for doing). Our second article in 2013 included Dr. Wood’s response defending the choice of Ruth Haley Barton (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11554). Incidentally, Cedric Fisher (a former AoG pastor who was not an LT author at that time) wrote an article addressing the issue with Barton (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11569). He made some very valid points, and his article from 2013 is worth reading to better understand the dilemma.

We believe it was appropriate for Cedric Fisher to mention the Wood/Detrick/Barton event that took place four years ago because from years of researching the contemplative prayer movement, we know that one of the “fruits” of contemplative prayer is a shift in attitude regarding Israel. While there have always been those (such as those in the Reformed camp) who have historically rejected Israel of having significance according to a biblically prophetic view and adhere to Replacement Theology, there is also now a growing number of evangelicals who are moving from a pro-Israel stance to an anti-Israel stance, and many of those evangelicals have first embraced the contemplative prayer movement. Is this just a coincidence? We don’t believe so. Those who practice contemplative meditation, over time, begin to change their views on the Atonement, the Cross, salvation, and even Israel and the Jews because the meditation experience is panentheistic (God in all) and interspiritual (all paths lead to God) in nature; and when one begins to accept panentheism and interspirituality, the Cross, the Atonement, salvation through Christ alone, and Bible prophecy (which includes understanding Israel and the return of Christ) do not fit into that mold any longer.

Dr. Wood resents the fact that Jodi Detrick name was mentioned in Cedric Fisher’s article, so much so that he has resorted to ugly name calling. We fear that Dr. Wood does not understand these vital issues, and that is why he is lashing out. 

8. The article about Ross Byar’s school is hilarious. Ross teaches “pacifism,” not “passivism.” And do evangelical Christians really want to go on record opposing the teaching of pacifism to MUSLIM students? Additionally, the Haaretz.com article cited doesn’t report that Byars’ school advocates “inner eye” mysticism. It says that on the day the journalist visited, they were learning about the mysticism of an important modern Jewish rabbi. A good education acquaints people accurately with the beliefs of others. LTR makes that look suspicious.

Our Response: Dr. Wood better read that article at Haaretz.com again. It clearly states that the teacher at Byar’s school is introducing and advocating a mystical spirituality to the students. The article states:

“Today, in fact, she’s [the teacher] trying to introduce the students to a mystical teaching from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi in British Mandatory Palestine. The big idea is his concept of the “inner eye,” and Talesnick [the teacher] wants to suggest that if you can see with it, you’re color blind. It’s a good lesson against racism.”

Cedric Fisher stated it accurately when he said the school was advocating a mystical teaching. 

9. I could pick apart the article’s references to the six authors of Resolution 3–all of whom I know personally or at least know of–but I’ll just quote this hilarious statement about Nam Soo Kim: “I could not discover any significant involvement or contributions to the AoG. As with most of the other authors, he seems to be involved with activity outside of the denomination.” For the record, Nam Soo Kim is an executive presbyter of the national Assemblies of God, a fact that is easily found on the AG website: https://ag.org/About/Leadership-Team/Executive-Presbytery.

Our Response: The fact that Cedric Fisher did not know of Nam Soo Kim’s involvement with AoG is a moot point, but we accept the correction. However, there is one author of Resolution 3 that we do know about, and that is Murray Dempster. In 2007, 80 evangelical leaders signed a document titled “An Evangelical Statement on Israel/Palestine.” A November 2007 Christianity Today article titled “Evangelical Leaders Reiterate Call for Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestine” discussed the document and listed Murray Dempster as one of the signatories. The article stated:

[O]ver 80 evangelical leaders have signed a statement indicating their belief ‘that the way forward is for the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a fair, two-state solution.'” (source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2007/november/148-33.0.html (For a list of Dempster’s credentials that include the signing of this two-state solution document, see http://www.seu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/MWD-Resume-Updated-SEU-8.1.2013.pdf)

We find this unnerving that a man, Dempster, who is a signatory for a document that calls for a two-state solution, is also a contributing author and endorser to this AoG resolution that has the potential of invoking great harm to the Jewish people; and it is equally troubling that the head of AoG is perfectly OK with this. He says that he knows all of them personally or at least knows of them—insinuating that this makes them all legitimate). According to one Jewish Christian radio host we spoke with this morning, a two-state solution would “legitimize” a Palestinian State filled with brutal terrorists who want to destroy Israel. What in the world is AoG doing playing with this kind of fire?! Cedric Fisher provided us with some thought-provoking comments today on the two-state solution:

“Some evangelical leaders insist there is nothing wrong with the Two-State Solution.  They claim that Israel advocates a Two-State Solution.  If that were true, then it would have already occurred and we would not be having this controversy.  There is a vast difference between the versions of Two-State Solutions.  Israel’s version could be summed up as, “You leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone.”  Conversely, the Two-State Solution advocated by certain evangelicals is to moderate a resolution between Israel and Palestine that involves Israel giving up the West Bank, its biblical heritage as God’s Chosen People, and other untenable concessions.  There is an effort to dismiss Israel from eschatology and brand it as just another sinful nation.

“These leaders cannot understand why true supporters of Israel view them as anti-Semitic.  They claim they are not anti-Semitic but rather that they also support Israel.  They obviously do not support the Israel that exists, but the “Israel” they have modeled for their peace plan.  I invite the reader to read the literature of these so-called pacifists for “peace.”  If they supported Israel as it presently exists, they would not be sympathetic to the Muslim narrative and attempt to coerce Israel to accept a pro-Palestinian Two-State Solution.  

10. This conclusory statement is an outright lie: “Therefore, to embrace the Palestinian and Muslim cause and reject Israel is, in essence, to be anti-Semitic. Thus, the AoG’s positions papers and Resolution 3 is oxymoronic in presentation and factitious in intent. It is an effort to unite the 60 million-member worldwide denomination with other denominations and political groups that are openly hostile to Israel.” None of the AG links the author has provided–to Resolution 3, our position paper, or even our common concerns article–embrace Islam, reject Israel, or exhibit antisemitism. The World Assemblies of God Fellowship numbers 68.5 million adherents, not 60 million (https://ag.org/About/Statistics), but the author can’t even get this basic statistic right. And I am unaware of any member nation of the WAGF that’s “openly hostile to Israel.” I certainly am not – having been to Israel over 40 times and having established the Assemblies of God Center for Holy Lands Studies that has brought thousands to Israel – including hundreds of students preparing for the ministry.

Our response: We stand behind Cedric Fisher’s closing comments. We believe AoG is facing a real threat, and the fact that their head cannot see this and has no problem with Resolution 3 is scary at best.

You should have regard for truth. But, you [do] not.

The article you published is false, meretricious, and slanderous. You should be ashamed.

Finally, there is a process in our Constitution and Bylaws by which members can present resolutions. The authors of resolutions have no guarantee that what they propose will be adopted; but, our Bylaws make provision for members to have that right.

Our Response: The men who wrote Resolution 3 are leaders in the AoG, not some renegades who have no influence in the denomination. Without intending on sounding disrespectful, the shame goes to AoG leaders who are involved in trying to pass Resolution 3 and to Dr. Wood, not Cedric Fisher and Lighthouse Trails.

Response to George Wood’s E-mail from Cedric Fisher:

I wish to thank Dr. Wood for taking time out of his busy schedule to respond to my commentary. Since Dr. Wood has insisted on more information, I will respectfully honor his request.

First, I concede that Resolution 3 does not contain the word “Israel,” and I never stated that it did. However, it contains the reference to a position paper that does mention Israel. Additionally, although “Israel—the Church’s Response” is not an official position paper, it is a position officially assigned to the “Church” and included under “Beliefs” on the AoG website. Further, Resolution 3 is presented as being about peacekeeping, but the statement it proposes to add to the Constitution includes justice and peacemaking. Here is why that is important.

We must ask, “What nations in conflict did the authors of R3 have in mind when they wrote the Resolution?”

The only nation in conflict that the majority of evangelicals are focused on is Israel. Regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the terms justice and peacekeeping are interpreted by the worldview of whoever employs them. Some evangelicals consider Israel “unjust” and even “racist” in their dealings with Palestinians. I propose that the conflict is not because Israel is unjust, racist, or rejects peace. It exists because her neighbors wish to annihilate her as stated in the following:

I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land. (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, The Jerusalem Post)

The solution that political Progressives, Liberals, Palestinian sympathizers, denominations, and some leading evangelical “pacifists” propose is a two-state solution. That attempt at “justice and peacemaking” would devastate Israel. Standing in the way of a two-state solution is the traditional, biblical, eschatological view that most evangelicals hold dear. There is currently a massive effort underway throughout Christianity to neutralize and eject that view from evangelicalism. The result, unintended or perhaps intended, is that anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in evangelicalism.

Therefore, we are wary of overtures of justice and peacemaking by individuals who have been involved in efforts to impose a two-state solution on Israel.  Is it the intent of R3 authors to legitimize a worldview that undermines historical evangelical support for Israel in the name of justice and peacemaking? We can help answer that question by taking a look at some of R3’s authors.

R3 author Murray Dempster is considered by some of his peers as the “‘Grandfather of Modern Pentecostal Pacifism.” Dempster was a signer of the document “An Evangelical Statement on Israel/Palestine” that proposes a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He also signed a letter to President George Bush in July 29, 2007, calling for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that includes the vast majority of the West Bank.

Dempster is professor of social ethics at Assemblies of God Southeastern University. An online blog post titled, “Liberal Theology at Assemblies of God University?” features the testimony by David Thrower expressing concern about the influence of the Emergent Church and “progressive” adherents that question the supremacy of God and the authority and veracity of His Word at Southeastern. Thrower mentioned Dempster touting liberal theologian James Cone. However, deeply troubling was his observation concerning rampant anti-Semitism that included an on-campus lecture by pro-Palestine advocate Sami Awad. At one point in the lecture, Awad had very anti-Semitic comments mentioning that Israel did not have a right to exist. – Chelsen Vicari, Juicy Ecumenism blog; December 18, 2014, https://juicyecumenism.com/2014/12/18/squishy-theology-assembly-gods-southeastern-university/

Another R3 author, Robert E. Cooley, signed the Yale “A Common Word” Christian Response document http://faith.yale.edu/common-word/common-word-christian-response. Among the signers is Rick Warren, one of the speakers at the upcoming 57th General Council in Anaheim. The document begins:

As members of the worldwide Christian community, we were deeply encouraged and challenged by the recent historic open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world. “A Common Word Between Us and You” identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism.

The document also stated:

Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One [a name for the Muslim god] and of the Muslim community around the world. . . . That so much common ground exists—common ground in some of the fundamentals of faith—gives hope that undeniable differences and even the very real external pressures that bear down upon us can not overshadow the common ground upon which we stand together.

As I pointed out in my commentary, R3 author Robert W. Houlihan and Russell P. Spittler have made statements in support of Dempster.

How can I or anyone who is willing to take a serious look at this situation conclude that R3 is anything other than an attempt to undermine evangelical support for Israel?

Related Information:

The Berean Call Conference: Israel in the Line of Fire

DVD Exposes “Christian Palestinianism” and the Evangelical Leaders Promoting It

 Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity

Another Look: Has the Church Replaced Israel?

Terror Against Israel

 

Letter to the Editor: Even Good Churches Being Affected by Contemplative Authors

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Dear Lighthouse Trails,

A picture of Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

I visited a church in my area for the first time today. When I looked online at the church’s doctrines before my visit, the doctrines looked very biblically sound. The church’s site clearly states that the pastor preaches from the Bible verse by verse, and he did. With all of the faithfulness to the Word of God that I observed, I was very surprised to glance at some bookshelves, which was the church library for this small church, and see one of Dallas Willard’s books on the shelf! I didn’t get a chance to look through the other books, but I wish I had now for the purposes of this letter. The pastor even attended Bob Jones University, which I know you have listed as not being contemplative. These contemplative books clearly seem to be getting into the hands of pastors and Christians everywhere. A pastor’s seminary and even an individual’s denomination doesn’t seem to dictate who is reading them. As I was thinking about my experience today and doing some research on your site, I found this list of The Top 50 “Christian” Contemplative Books – A “NOT RECOMMENDED Reading List” and 25 Christian “Bridgers” to Them and am planning to share this list with the pastor from the church I visited today and others. I pray that more Christians will realize that many popular authors and teachers are leading the church toward a new, mystical spirituality and away from traditional, biblical Christianity. I pray that Christians will take heed, compare every teaching and practice of men to the Word of God, and warn others so that more know will know what is happening today within the Church.

A Lighthouse Trails reader

LTRP Note: The list of authors mentioned above can be found in Chris Lawson’s more comprehensive booklet titled, A Directory of Authors (Three NOT Recommended Lists), which can be printed directly from our blog (scroll to bottom for Print Button) or bought in booklet format.

Letter to the Editor: Purpose Driven Movement – Is There Really Something to Be Concerned About?

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I don’t normally write others with questions, but seek answers through my own research. Your posting about Rick Warren and the Purpose-Driven Church, along with books offered on your website, have been most helpful.

On June 26-29, I attended a PD conference at Saddleback Church. The church staff and spouses attended a 3-day conference on “Hope Renewed.” I was there all 3 days taking notes and listening to what was said. The speaker each day was Rick Warren.

After those 3 days, I found myself questioning what I thought I knew about Rick Warren and the Purpose-Driven Church; even realizing all that I had previously read at your site and others. After all, he seemed to have a gift for simplifying things and holding everyone’s attention. Was I wrong to think differently and was he on target? I found myself wondering why I had questioned this fine man speaking before me.

But at the end of the third day during one of the worship music sessions, I realized how sad I felt for all the attendees and how all the messages thru music were only “positive” messages about God; not much if any about our sin and desperate need for Jesus.

For as humble as Rick Warren presents himself, I couldn’t help thinking that I was missing something that didn’t seem quite right, or I was wrong to question him and the PD movement at all; and somehow the articles on your website and others were all wrong. Was it a possibility that I was in the presence of a seducing spirit or a spirit that deceives and blinds even believers in Christ? As I have reflected over the last 2 weeks, I believe that is exactly what happened.

I writing to share with you what happened – trusting that my thinking and assumptions are not wrong. I appreciate your consistent work with sharing the truth of God’s Word and that of your authors. I have not found many places to get such help.

_____________________

LTRP Note: After observing and researching Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Movement for over 15 years, we find that the evidence gathered simply cannot be ignored. If you are reading this letter to the editor and finding yourself uncertain as to what the roots, foundation, and goals of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Movement are, please read some of the articles below. For books on this issue, read A Time of Departing, Faith Undone, Deceived on Purpose, A “Wonderful” Deception, and The Good Shepherd Calls. 

Some of the More important Articles About the Purpose Driven Movement

The Peace of God versus the P.E.A.C.E. of Man

The Kingdom of God and a Man of Peace

Rick Warren’s Dangerous Ecumenical Pathway to Rome And How One Interview Revealed So Much

THE THREE LEGGED STOOL PLAN

Rick Warren’s Daniel Plan – The New Age/Eastern Meditation Doctors Behind the Saddleback Health

A Visit to Rick Warren’s Health Seminar – The Unfolding of a Global New Age Plan

The Story Behind Lighthouse Trails

The New Missiology – Doing Missions Without the Gospel

RICK WARREN RETAINS UNBIBLICAL POSITION IN NEW 2012 EDITION OF THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE

Rick Warren’s Popular Broad Way Christianity Misses the (Biblical) Mark

Looking to the Past to Unravel Confusion About Rick Warren, Islam, and Warren’s All-Inclusive “Second Reformation”

Purpose Driven Terrorism

Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity and Rick Warren’s Muslim Man of Peace 

Letter to the Editor: Former New Age Follower Shares Vital Information With Her Pastors and Church Leaders

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Several years ago, I learned that our church was planning to do a labyrinth walk.  A pattern had been set up in one of the rooms, and stations were placed along the path at which to perform rituals and meditate. From my experience in the New Age prior to becoming a Christian, I knew this was something Christians should not be doing.  I found information on the Internet about the background and purpose of the labyrinth, which I presented to our pastor.

Some years later, I came across Warren Smith’s book, Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Life.  It caught my attention, as our church was studying, The Purpose-Driven Life. As I read the book, I could see that quotations used were by New Age or non-Christian people.  Also, the statement that “God is in everything and everyone” is not true.

At the same that I was made aware of this book, I was hearing about contemplative prayer being practiced. This was done by sitting in silence for up to half an hour in order to hear from God, perhaps chanting a word over and over in order to make your mind go blank.  I had done this when I was in New Age in order to develop ESP (extrasensory perception ).  It was called “transcendental meditation,” and, I found out, would attract demons. I made a presentation to the elder board, along with another lady, to inform them of the error in contemplative practices.

It was not long after that my husband and I left that church and found one that was not doing The Purpose-Driven Life or contemplative prayer.

A few years later, we returned to that former church, which, by then, had a new pastor who was preaching directly from the Word.  As there was still some material being used promoting contemplative prayer, I used some information I had received from The Berean Call (stating that the study of psychology could lead to the  practice of contemplative prayer) to present to the pastor.  As that was exactly what had happened to me, I shared my experience with  him.  Through our Women’s leader, who is aware of the deception, I have been able to give out booklets from Lighthouse Trails, which she shares with the staff and ladies of the congregation.

Although I have not always known the result of sharing this information, I believe it has made the pastors more aware of the deception that is occurring in evangelical churches today.

Lynda

How to Find a Bible-Believing Church

                                                                   bigstockphoto.com

We have often been asked, “How do I find a good Bible-believing church?” There are many believers who are struggling to find one in their own communities. To start with, we usually recommend they make phone calls to potential churches and ask a few concise questions such as:

“Do you have a Spiritual Formation program at your church?” or “Has your church implemented aspects of the Purpose Driven Movement anytime in the past 10 years?.”

Since thousands of churches would answer yes to both or at least one of these questions, they are worthwhile to ask, and it would certainly narrow down the scope of one’s search. Here are a few other questions that could be asked:

1. Is the pastor using The Message “Bible” in his sermons and studies? Because this paraphrase is very often used by pastors and teachers who promote contemplative spirituality or emerging spirituality (as the language in The Message helps support these false teachings), it is another indicator that a church is going in the wrong direction.

2. Is the church affiliated in any way with the Willow Creek Association? Oftentimes, a church has not implemented the Purpose Driven Movement but is, rather, hooked up with Willow Creek. This is as problematic as Purpose Driven. See our article on our website titled, “No Repentance from Willow Creek—Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift.”

3. Is the church connected at all with Bethel Church of Redding, California? Bethel’s hyper-charismatic influence is huge today, and many churches are getting on board with the Bethel craze. That would include Jesus Culture too, which is an offshoot of Bethel. Before starting your search for a church, make sure you understand what the Word of Faith/NAR, hyper-charismatic movement is. Lighthouse Trails has several trustworthy authors who write about these issues. You’d be surprised to learn how extensive this influence has been in North American churches, even in ones that do not consider themselves charismatic.

3. Ask a potential church if it would mind mailing you a few recent Sunday programs. When you get them, look for some of the key terms used within the contemplative/emerging camp: missional, servant leader, soul-care, spiritual formation, transformation, transitioning, silence, organic, authentic, reinvent, spiritual disciplines, Christ follower (the term Christian isn’t typically liked too well by contemplatives and emergent) Christian formation (or Christian spirituality) (a term often meaning the same as Spiritual Formation). Just using these terms alone doesn’t suddenly make a church contemplative or emerging, but it does show that at least one person in leadership at that church is reading books of that persuasion, and eventually that person’s influence will affect that church adversely.

In addition to those three questions, be sure and visit a church’s website as there you may be able to find the answers to these questions without making the phone call. When on a website, see if there is more talk about unity, “culture,” social justice, and relevancy than about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can check out the doctrinal and mission statements but be on guard—a church can have a solid-sounding doctrinal statement and be actually going in an entirely different direction. Listen to an interview called Beware the Bridgers for some information on that. And by the way, remember who some of the more popular ”bridgers” are, closing the gap between “rightly dividing the Word” and spiritual deception in millions of people’s lives: Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Tim Keller, John Piper, etc.—those who claim to be orthodox biblical Christians but who promote contemplative spirituality and/or emerging spirituality.

When on a church’s website, you can usually find out which conferences the church is involved with or recommending to their church members. The IF: Gathering conferences are growing tremendously in popularity all across North America, but as Cedric Fisher has documented in his booklet IF It is of God—Answering the Questions About IF: Gathering,  IF is an avenue through which emergent theology is entering the church. There are many other conferences and events, usually with high attendance, taking place yearly that are pumping up Christians with heretical ideas and “theologies.” If you find out a church you’ve been researching is involved in any of these, that is a big warning sign.

Also, once your search for a new church has narrowed down to a few churches, a weekday visit to those churches’ bookstores would be important. Look for books by Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and other authors discussed and critiqued on the LT website. Chris Lawson from Spiritual Research Network has a booklet that provides an extensive list of authors who fall within the contemplative, emerging camps. It’s an excellent resource.

While searching for a good church, it would be important to find out where a particular church is at in relation Jesus Calling and The Shack. Many churches have been allowing New Age ideas into their congregations through such books. Be sure to read former New Age follower Warren B. Smith’s materials which will help you identify what the New Age is and how it can disguise itself as a better, newer “Christianity.”  You might ask about women’s and men’s Bible study groups and which books are being used at these meetings. That will tell you a lot.

When all this has been done to find a Bible-believing church, if there are any in your community that have passed the contemplative/emerging/seeker-friendly/hyper-charismatic test, maybe it’s safe to take your family for a Sunday visit. Are many of the people walking in carrying Bibles? Seeker-friendly and church-growth churches discourage that because it might “offend” unbelievers (or as they say unchurched) coming to church. Does the pastor at some point in his sermon talk about the Cross (the atonement) and salvation (and mention of hell)? These are subjects that many churches avoid because of the “offensiveness” of that message. Better to offer an espresso drink and a little rock n roll music during the service and a psychology-based, feel-good message that appeals to the carnal senses (sensual) rather than build up the spiritual man.

Once you have found a church that seems to be sound, you should not stop being discerning. That must be ongoing. That might seem like a ”paranoid” or overly concerned attitude to have, but if we remember the many verses in Scripture that talk about spiritual deception (right from the Garden of Eden all the way to the Book of Revelation), we will realize it is the responsibility of the Christian to be discerning and watchful. And the Bible frequently talks about the latter days before Christ’s return where deception will run more rampant than ever before. Roger Oakland gives a list of signs to look for to see if a church is becoming or has become contemplative/emerging. As you begin to attend a new church, this list may be helpful to you and your family:

Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.

The centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.

More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.

The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.

The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past.

An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.

Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be re­invented in order to provide meaning for this generation.

The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.

While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.

These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.

There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.

There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace—claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.

Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.

Roger has these signs listed in his booklet/article How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging into Your Church.

May God bless you and guide you in your search. It may seem like an insurmountable task, but we know there are still good churches out there because we often hear from pastors who are staying the course and are aware of the times in which we live. May God lead you to find one of these churches.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural [carnal] man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. . . . For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)

Emergent IF: Gathering Conference Coming to a Town Near You (Coming For Your Daughters and Granddaughters)!

[God] will take this hell on earth and someday show us how hell was building heaven.—Jennie Allen (founder of IF: Gathering)

Have you heard of the IF: Gathering? If you haven’t, you most likely will soon enough. The women’s movement started just a few years ago but is already making some big inroads into the evangelical scene. On the outer appearance, this looks like a legitimate Christian movement – the women who lead and speak at IF: Gathering are young and vibrant; they talk about Jesus, they go to church; some of them homeschool their kids—it all looks so Christian. But underneath this outer thin Christian layer lies an emergent atmosphere . . . and the target is your young evangelical daughters and granddaughters.

Some of the IF women – photo used in accordance with the US Fair Use Act for critical review and reporting. (source: http://www.jennieallen.com/if-we-were-wild-and-full-of-faith-its-time/) (Jen Hatmaker and Melissa Greene in photo)

In a few days (February 2-3), IF: Gathering will be presenting their annual conference in Austin, Texas. The conference, called IF:2017 will also be live-streamed to many churches throughout America and Canada (and in some other countries as well). Lighthouse Trails has received a number of phone calls and e-mails by concerned parents and grandparents whose daughters and granddaughters are attending the conference, either in Austin or one of the sponsoring churches. Here is a link to the list of churches that will be holding the IF:2017 conference next week via live-stream. According to the IF website, there are over 2000 live-streamed events for this year’s event. If you multiply that by even just 150, that is nearly 300,000 women!  When you go to the list, type in your zip code, see if there is a conference being held in your city or town, and if there is, start alerting those you know. Your friends may have daughters who are attending.

This year’s event will apparently not include IF speaker Jen Hatmaker who, we have learned, dropped out of IF last year for undisclosed reasons (recently she came out promoting gay marriage, and this got her into trouble with LifeWay Resources who dropped her books at that point). Speakers for this year’s event include Jennie Allen (IF’s founder), Ann VosKamp (author of One Thousand Gifts – see section in Cedric Fisher’s article below), Lysa Terkeurst, Jennie Yang, Jeanne Stevens (Co-Pastor with Husband of Soul City Church – http://jeannestevens.com/about/) – former staff member of Willow Creek and associated with Erwin McManus: ), and Jo Saxton. You may not be familiar with these names, but we encourage you to do your research and please read Cedric’s article so you might come to understand the underlying agenda of IF. As Cedric says, we don’t question the sincerity of these women, but we do question the direction they are heading spiritually. While her name doesn’t appear in this year’s line up, Melissa Greene is  involved with IF as well (please see article below to learn about Greene’s beliefs and this video of her). Greene, a pastor, resonates with emergent leader Brian McLaren, and her church made headlines when it came out promoting same-sex marriage.

In May of 2015, Lighthouse Trails author, Cedric Fisher, wrote a booklet titled “ IF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering.” We are posting that booklet in its entirety below. If you scroll to the bottom of his article and hit the green Print button, it will format a nice PDF copy for you (you can buy it in booklet format too, but you’ll have to print it in order to have it in time before the conference). If you know a woman who is planning to attend the IF:Gathering conference next week, please print this article and give her a copy to read. Because the emergent “theology” is deceptive and spiritually dangerous, these young women need to be given a heads up.

Lest some say that Jennie Allen has cleaned up IF by not having Jen Hatmaker and Melissa Greene at this year’s event, keep in mind that Jennie Allen knew what these two friends believed when she invited them to be part of IF just a few years ago. How can we trust our daughters and granddaughters to someone who shows no discernment and who very likely will continue connecting with and inviting speakers who are of a similar emergent mindset.1 For example, Shauna Niequist (Bill and Lynn Hybels daughter) is involved with IF (they sell her book on their site, she contributes on the blog, and she is one of the speakers at IF:2017) and recently she gave her “blessing” to Jen Hatmaker’s acceptance of same-sex marriage and endorses Jesus Calling.

Once you read Cedric’s article below, we believe you will understand why we are so concerned about this movement. Writing this article reminds us of another article we wrote a number of years ago in 2008. It was titled Brian McLaren’s Hope for the Future – The Minds of Your Grandchildren.”  Since then, the emergent church has continued growing and indeed grabbing the minds of countless young people, many of them from Christian homes. We hope and pray parents and grandparents will do all they can to keep their own young people from going down that same path, this time via IF.

Don’t forget to check the list of places IF:2017 will be livestreaming to see if your town or city is hosting an IF conference.

IF IT IS OF GOD—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering

By Cedric H. Fisher

IF:Gathering came in like a storm, one of those winter events that seem to appear out of nowhere. No one saw it coming. A team of highly popular women—authors, bloggers, and speakers coming together—what a great idea. But it wasn’t novel. Professing Christians have been making pilgrimages for decades to high-energy conferences with a star list of speakers and singers. As with so many of these other conferences, IF purported to do the work of God. However, IF was unique in that it was mostly a digital event. It was greatly effective.

The IF:Gathering held its second event in February of 2015 and involved 1200 women at the physical location, with a possible 100,000 or more watching by 40,000 live links in more than 120 countries. The ongoing influence of IF after the conference has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of women all while flying under the radar of pastors and church leaders who may be accepting IF:Gathering at face value, not knowing anything about this group of high energy talented women leaders.

After reading the list of IF speakers and researching information about them, I have become convinced that IF poses a significant risk to Christian women, who unwittingly are submitting themselves to IF’s speakers and teachers. The danger? It comes in the form of emergent ideology, spiritual formation, and contemplative spirituality (contemplative prayer is a mantra-like “prayer” practice that vitalizes the “progressive” “new” Christianity (i.e., the emerging church). Thus, I am compelled to report on my findings regarding IF.

How did IF:Gathering come about and is it ordained by God? These are questions every responsible Christian needs to ask concerning anything claiming to be a new move or revelation from God. Those questions are especially important during such a time as this, a time when the church is suffering from great deception and apostasy. Is IF influencing women to draw nearer to God or rather leading them onto a spiritually dangerous path to heresy?

IF’s Beginning—A Whisper from the Sky
The 2015 IF:Gathering did not end when the conference was over. It continues to function through the network established before the conference occurred. Its influence continues through local churches and individuals who hosted the event, through social media, available videos of the event, and the “IF:Table,”* all of which have the potential to reach countless more women and evolve into a major women’s movement. If that occurs, it will help set the agenda of how the future generation perceives and implements Christianity.

The first statement on their website under “Who We Are” is:

We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.1

The founder of IF:Gathering, Jennie Allen, is a bright and energetic, best-selling author, blogger, and popular speaker. She appears sincere and dedicated to ministering to people. She and her husband have been involved in ministry for a number of years. However, since she is the founder, we must consider her activity, her influences, and her statements about the birth of IF:Gathering.

Allen is a Bible teacher who had been teaching groups of girls and young women since high school. She studied at the University of Arkansas for three years, completed her B.S. in Communications at Carson Newman College in Tennessee, and graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Biblical Studies in 2005. It would be two years after her graduation from DTS when she had an experience that birthed IF: Gathering.

Allen signed a multi-project contract in 2011 with Thomas Nelson, which included a series of seven DVD-based Bible studies and two trade books. Her first study released in 2011, followed by another one released in 2012. Her first trade book was also released in 2012. Allen’s book Restless: Because You Were Made for More and the Restless video-based Bible study were released simultaneously in January 2014, a month before the first IF:Gathering.

Allen was also one of the speakers in the neo-emergent Nines Conference in 2014, which hosted a speaker lineup that included some of the main influences in the New Christianity movement.

How did the IF:Gathering originate? There are different and conflicting explanations given by Allen. The first account was presented by Allen in the initial IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas, 2014:

About 7 years ago, a voice from the sky—that doesn’t often speak to me—but that day there was this whisper. It was the middle of the night, actually. And it was “Gather and equip your generation.” And this was ridiculous, because honestly, I was a stay at home Mom, I didn’t know anybody that could help me with that job. And it was a completely ridiculous statement. So ridiculous that I just, for two days my bones hurt, and I didn’t know what to do with it. My bones hurt, for two days.

I thought, Okay God, what do you want me to do? Wisely my friend said, “Jennie, if it’s God,” cause it may not be. All voices from the sky are not always God, FYI. But, “if it’s God, then He’s going to give you everything you need to accomplish His purposes. So just wait.” And so I waited, and that was seven years ago, guys.2

Allen eventually came to believe it was God who whispered. She would wait several years for Him to put IF: Gathering together. However, a year after the account of IF’s birth that she gave in the 2014 conference, she posted another account on her blog:

Truth is, IF:Gathering began as more of a hunch than a vision.3

A month later, and one year after her first account, Allen gave another account of how the IF came about during the IF: Gathering February, 2015:

I mean, 7 years ago, 8 years ago now, I heard a voice that . . . well, okay, I didn’t. This is like all different theologies right now. Okay, just give me grace. I don’t know, but I’m just telling you, in the night I woke up, and I was overcome with these words, “Disciple a generation.”

But I sat on it. I put it in my back pocket and said, “Okay God, if you want to do something crazy like that, you’re gonna have to make it happen.”4

I read Allen’s book, Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked my God and My Soul, written a couple of years after her experience with the sky whisperer. In her book, Allen describes deep intimacy with God and willingness to obey Him completely. However, she does not mention anything about Sky Whisperer or his commission to organize the IF: Gathering. I find that puzzling. What better place to introduce and expound on such a life-changing intimate experience and surrender than in a book describing full surrender?

I’m willing to concede that there could be a good reason for the inconsistencies of her accounts as to how IF came about. But an individual whom God supernaturally calls to accomplish a significant work should give a credible and unambiguous account of that call. One could say, “I saw a need and did my best to meet it.” However, when one says, “I heard a voice from God,” a different standard is involved. The reason is because something that has a supernatural event as an origin will have a much greater weight of influence. It presents the individual as a special agent of God, just as any of the figures in the Bible whom God used to accomplish unprecedented purposes. It almost immunizes the revelation and the individual from critical examination.

Therefore, I believe it is proper and reasonable to examine Jennie Allen’s statements concerning the origin of the IF: Gathering. The questions are: “Is Allen’s explanations of the origin of IF:Gathering convincing and does she provide viable and credible information that concludes IF: Gathering originated from God? One should prayerfully consider those questions and ultimately should ask: if it’s origin is in question and if it’s founder is involved in emergent conferences, can IF:Gathering produce good fruit? The next section concerning the speakers in IF:Gathering may help answer that last question.

For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. (Luke 6:43-44)

IF, The Speakers: Ambassadors of God or Emergent Collaborators

If Jeannie Allen did indeed hear supernaturally from God, and if God supernaturally equipped her to organize the IF:Gathering, we would expect good fruit from the conference and the speakers. We would not expect people who are influenced by emergent, New Age, and other aberrant authors and teachers. It is logical to expect that the speakers would be stellar Christian examples.

Space does not permit me to deal with all the conference speakers, so I have chosen several whom I believe need to be examined. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Sarah Bessey
After reading portions of her book, Jesus Feminist, I get the impression Sarah Bessey believes that Christianity is stuck with the Woman Suffrage movement somewhere in the 1920s. She references radical feminist, social activist, and journalist Dorothy Day in her book and seems to draw from secular feminism. From that concept, she tries to invent a need for radical feminism in Christianity, presenting bizarre commentary on the Scriptures to back up her position. The following quote illustrates her view:

Many of the seminal social issues of our time—poverty, lack of education, human trafficking, war and torture, domestic abuse—can track their way to our theology of, or beliefs about, women, which has its roots in what we believe about the nature, purposes, and character of God.5

In the back of Jesus Feminist under “Further Reading,” Bessey offers a book titled How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, which includes essays from emerging church authors Tony Campolo, John Ortberg, and Bill and Lynne Hybels. Jesus Feminist also has endorsements in the book by Brian McLaren and Tony Jones. On her blog, she lists among her favorites A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren and Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.6 She also promotes The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen.7 There’s no question that Bessey resonates with the views of these men.

With such emergent and contemplative influences, how can good fruit be produced by this speaker?

Christine Caine
Christine Caine claims Joyce Meyer as her “spiritual mother” and lists Word of Faith preacher Sheryl Brady as a dear friend calling her “flat out the best chick preacher of the word.”8 Caine has “preached” in seeker/emergent Steven Furtick’s mega church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The following is transcribed from Caine’s opening statement in Furtick’s church:

This place is a little bit like God, take this in context, in that like you are omnipresent. You are here. You are across the room. You are down the street. You are all over the worldwide web. It is like wherever you look, here we are and it is my honor and privilege to be here, I couldn’t wait.9

Caine also declared that her heart was “knitted” to Furtick. One whose heart is surrendered to God could not possibly be knitted to an individual such as Furtick. Journalist and researcher Jim Fletcher says this about Furtick:

Steven Furtick . . . mentored as he is by evangelical bigwigs like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, felt bold enough to post a YouTube video in which he sneeringly challenged what I’d call traditional Christians to basically get out of the way, because their time is past. Presumably, to Furtick, it’s the “new generation’s” time now, so step aside with your stodgy hymns and expositional preaching style. . . . Masked a bit by a pious nod toward humanitarian causes, the leadership of this group is quite nasty, albeit in subtle ways.10

Further, according to the itinerary on Christine Caine’s website, she will be speaking at NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) leader Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, California in August 2015 in the Bethel Women’s Conference. Why does this matter? It shows a pattern of being willing to associate with people and “minister” in churches that are teaching and promoting false and dangerous teachings.11

Melissa Greene
Melissa Greene is the pastor of worship and arts at GracePointe Church in Franklin, Tennessee. The church made national headlines in January of 2015 as senior pastor, Stan Mitchell, declared his church now accepts homosexual marriage.12

When I pull up Greene’s website, I immediately notice the picture of her sitting in a Yoga position. In a May 25th, 2014 message on her website titled “Worth,” Greene admits to reading emerging church pioneer Brian McLaren’s book, A Generous Orthodoxy (and McLaren spoke at GracePointe in the fall of 2014). Greene favorably quotes other prolific New Spirituality names: Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Frederick Buechner, Rob Bell, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Thomas Merton, Peter Gomes, Aldous Huxley—a list that reads like a veritable who’s who in emergent and contemplative heresy.

In “Worth,” Greene declares that, “Christianity is broad and diverse.”13 Considering that many of her influences accept all religions as being of God, there is no doubt to what she means when she states this. Greene also made the audacious statement: “The most devastating fear in people’s lives is the fear of God.”14 She attempts to validate her statement by taking verses out of context and misapplying them. What does God’s word declare?

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)

For thousands of young Christian-professing women to submit to someone like Melissa Greene could have a detrimental effect.

Jen Hatmaker
In Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wreck Your Comfortable Christianity, she makes it clear that she is influenced by a number of New Age/New Spirituality individuals. She quotes Catholic priest and contemplative activist Richard Rohr and emergent leader Shane Claiborne. On her blog, she promotes the book, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson, a book that encourages readers to draw circles around specific things in order to have more answered prayers. Batterson was inspired with this idea by an ancient sage.

In Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, she reveals that her family takes part in a Roman Catholic ritual with mystical origins, the “Seven Sacred Pauses.”15 Hatmaker got her inspiration from Seven Sacred Pauses, a book by Macrina Wiederkehr who is a spiritual director in the contemplative prayer movement. In Wiederkehr’s retreats, seekers are guided through experiences of silence, contemplation and lectio divina (a contemplative practice where words and phrases from the Bible are repeated in mantra-like fashion). The “seven sacred pauses” are seven times a day to pause and pray, which Wiederkehr describes as “breathing spells for the soul.”

Consider Hatmaker’s statement concerning the preaching of God’s Word:

I have spent half my life listening to someone else talk about God. Because of this history, I’ve developed something of an immunity to sermons.16

This is eerily similar to the sentiment of Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees), who once, as a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher, expressed her dissatisfaction (and eventual rejection) of the preaching of God’s Word. That led Monk Kidd down a path away from the Christian faith and straight into the New Age. Today, she worships the goddess Sophia.

This disgruntlement of God’s Word is so prevalent among leaders of the emerging New Spirituality church. If not preaching, then what? Is it emotionally charged conventions and books with flowering, poetic phrases that open up to spit out a toxic drop of heresy? If Hatmaker is immune to preaching, she has rejected God’s method in favor of her own.

Ann VosKamp
Ann VosKamp’s highly popular book, One Thousand Gifts, is peppered with favorable references to and quotes by various mystics, pantheists, and universalists. The following is a list of some of those influences:

Sarah Ban Breathnach, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Evelyn Underhill, Brennan Manning, Annie Dillard, Thomas Aquinas, Peter Kreeft, Walter Brueggemann, Francis de Sales, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Henri Nouwen, and Jean-Pierre de Caussade. She also quotes mystic Catholic nun Kathleen Norris on her blog.17

You may not have heard of all these names, but in my research, I have found that they all embrace a panentheistic mystical-based spirituality. For VosKamp to quote and reference so many authors in this category shows she is embracing and absorbing the spirituality of these figures.

In the last chapter of One Thousand Gifts, “The Joy of Intimacy,” Voskamp writes:

Mystical union. This, the highest degree of importance. God as Husband in sacred wedlock, bound together, body and soul, fed by His body, quenched by His blood . . . God, He has blessed—caressed. I could bless God—caress with thanks. It’s our making love. God makes love with grace upon grace, every moment a making of His love for us . . . couldn’t I make love to God, making every moment love for Him? To know Him the way Adam knew Eve. Spirit skin to spirit skin . . . The intercourse of soul with God is the very climax of joy . . . To enter into Christ and Christ enter into us—to cohabit.18

This is what contemplatives consider “intimacy” with God, as if God is more a lover or a boyfriend than the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings, and our beloved Savior. This is what millions of young Christian women are being introduced to.

The question is, are Sarah Bessey, Christine Cane, Melissa Greene, Jen Hatmaker, and Ann VosKamp really called from God as they profess to be? While I won’t question their sincerity, I must ask the questions: How can the IF:Gathering be ordained by God? How can Jennie Allen have supernaturally heard from God concerning her conference? And how could righteous God Almighty have sanctioned a movement that is so influenced by diabolical sources?

The IF:Gatherings promise great solutions, but in practice, they covertly chip away at biblical concepts of God, the Holy Spirit, and biblical Christianity. They are based on flawed concepts masked by alluring phrases. Like all other emerging church “coaches” and mentors, the IF leaders intend to solve the problem of what they insist is failed Christianity. They believe a replacement—New Christianity—is the solution.

Considering the influences of the speakers, the IF:Gatherings will lead to dangerous, alternate spirituality. The Conference overwhelms susceptible women with music, visuals, and emotional camaraderie. When their hearts are prepped and open, provocative questions are presented, and  answers that conflict with God’s word are offered.

IF the Fruit is Good
When I was a worldling, I visited the notorious Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Fresh from the Oklahoma hills, I had never witnessed anything remotely like it. One thing that fascinated me most were the barkers. The barkers were men who stood outside of the many establishments attempting to coax passersby to enter them. They were so convincing. Their skills had been honed by trial and error. Bending to the persuasive and captivating power of their words, I entered one of those establishments. Once inside, I was shocked at the total absences of morals. Although it made my cheeks blush, and my moral upbringing urged me to leave, I was with a couple of friends and didn’t want to be considered a prude. So I stayed. The longer I stayed, the more I got used to the immorality. The more I got used to it, the more I wanted of it.

The speakers at the IF:Gathering are barkers. They are luring many professing Christian women with persuasive and captivating words. A repetitive error I noticed in the Conference was that a speaker would set up a straw man, and then mix the answer to it with Scripture. She would then insist that the conclusion was a valid point. An example was when Jen Hatmaker argued that we cannot possibly know all of God. She quoted a Scripture from Romans 11:33. Her conclusion was that because we cannot know God fully, it is not detrimental to faith to have doubt. However, faith does not depend on knowledge, but trust. Lack of knowledge should not make us doubt, but rather a lack of trust. This was a prevailing theme at IF.

Hatmaker also insisted that God set us free simply to set us free; that He set us free for us. Again, this does not agree with God’s Word:

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

We were created for God’s purpose, to worship and serve Him. He set us free so we could belong to Him to honor and serve Him with all our hearts, mind, bodies, and spirits.

One constant thing that made me cringe was the cavalier attitude that some of the speakers, especially Jennie Allen, exhibited toward God. At one point, Allen, says, “Darn it, darn it,” and goes off on a rant implying that God is stupid, mean, and that His plan is absurd. The rant came only minutes after she declared she was nearly overcome with reverential fear of God.19

In Melissa Greene’s “Worth” sermon, one comes away with the following conclusions:

Certainty is bad; Questions (and no answers) is good.

The old-fashioned faith of our parents and grandparents is outdated and irrelevant.

References to numerous mystics and emergents

The “text” (the Bible) is OK, but there is so much more to be grasped.

In the end, everyone is saved.20

As I mentioned earlier, Greene admits to reading Brian McLaren, and from the content of the “Worth” video, McLaren’s spirituality has become her own. The IF leaders hope to lead as many women as possible into the same direction as Jennie Allen declares:

While I wish I were a more confident, rebellious pioneer, God had to nearly force me to the wild, new path He had for IF. I am however compelled to call as many of you as possible to the roads less traveled because there are many wandering who may never make it up to the highway.21

IF Conclusion

[God] will take this hell on earth and someday show us how hell was building heaven.22—Jennie Allen

The IF conferences are full of emotional manipulation with videos of heartbreaking stories and impassioned pleas to do something; draw near to God, have more faith, win the lost, help the less fortunate, etc. At various points in the 2015 conference, a speaker would burst out in an impassioned plea to do something about the plight of humanity as if it were the fallback position when passion was otherwise lacking.

IF’s leaders insist that biblical Christianity has failed as a viable work of God and that God and they are bringing forth a cure—New Christianity.

I fear that IF’s excellent adventure is advertisement for a mass departure from God’s Word. Rather than having their faith built up, participants are encouraged to question “traditional” Christianity. And those who are giving the answers—the IF women—are unfortunately getting their information from emergents and mystics who present a different gospel and another Jesus.

It is addictive, this linguistic confection. The mind is overcome with giddiness. But is it of God? Or is it rather a “beautiful” seduction? I believe the latter is true.

To order copies of IF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering, click here.

* IF:Table is a dinner hosted by one person on the second Sunday of each month. It is described as six women, four questions, two hours (https://ifgathering.com/new-to-the-table/)

Endnotes:
1. IF:Gathering website, “Who We Are”: https://ifgathering.com/who-we-are.
2. Jennie Allen, 2014 IF:Gathering: https://ifgathering.com/if-gathering-2014.
3. Jennie Allen’s blog, “How to Leave Normal”: https://ifgathering.com/2015/01/how-to-leave-normal, January 21, 2015.
4. Jennie Allen, IF: Gathering: https://ifgathering.com/2014/09/ifgathering-2015, February 2015.
5. Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women (New York, NY: Howard Books), p. 169.
6. Sarah Bessey’s blog: http://sarahbessey.com, December 30, 2008.
7. Ibid., July 17, 2008.
8. http://instagram.mislav.net/users/christinecaine?max_id=216035535549657297_2724891.
9. Christine Caine, Elevation Church, Code Orange Revival 2012, http://elevationchurch.org/sermons/codeorangerevival (some of her sermon can be watched at: http://www.god.tv/code-orange-revival/night-4-anything-is-possible-with-god).
10. Jim Fletcher, “‘Hip’ church gives biblical Christians new label: ‘Hater’” (WorldNetDaily, http://mobile.wnd.com/2014/12/hip-church-gives-biblical-christians-new-label-hater/#JEfipOHtSOZJfZeD.99).
11. Read John Lanagan’s article/booklet titled The New Age Implications of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson where it discusses Johnson’s propensity toward “quantum spirituality” (the belief that God is in everyone).
12. Elizabeth Dias, “Nashville Evangelical Church Comes Out for Marriage Equality” (Time Magazine, January 29, 2015; http://time.com/3687368/gracepointe-church-nashville-marriage-equality).
13. Melissa Greene, “Worth” (http://melissagreenemusic.com/tag/worth, May 25, 2014, watch video at: https://vimeo.com/97252399, 22:40 minutes to 22:47 minutes).
14. Ibid, 24:18 minutes to 24:25 minutes.
15. Jen Hatmaker, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2012, Digital Edition), Kindle location 3266.
16. Ibid., Kindle location 435.
17. Ann VosKamp, (http://www.aholyexperience.com/2006/11/memorizing-word).
18. Ann VosKamp, One Thousand Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), pp. 213, 216-217.
19. Jennie Allen, IF:Gathering; Session 1- 03.
20. Melissa Greene, “Worth,” op. cit.
21. Jennie Allen, “How to Leave Normal,” op. cit.
22. Jennie Allen, Restless: Because You Were Made for More (Nashville, TN: W Publishing, 2013), p. 74.

To order copies of IF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering, click here.

Author Bio:

As a professional musician, singer, and recording artist, Cedric Fisher was deeply immersed in the darkness of the secular music business and its trappings. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol. There was no thought of God in his life, but he dabbled in I Ching, Transcendental Meditation, believed strongly in reincarnation, witches and wizards, gods, and experienced demonic activities, including levitation and apparitions.  In 1978, while playing a gig in Lubbock, Texas, he decided to purchase a Bible. Early in the morning after the gig, he started reading it. Not wanting to read such a large book without knowing whether it would be interesting, he began reading the last chapter. After reading Revelation 3:20, he kneeled by the bed and prayed. He was gloriously saved and instantly delivered of addiction and the torment that had driven him to it!

Today Cedric is an ordained minister and the director of Truthkeepers, a web-based ministry warning about spiritual deception in the church. He and his wife, Cheryl, live on the East Coast where he pastors a small house church that he pioneered. His past experience helps him to identify diabolical darkness that masquerades as Christianity today. Cedric believes God has called him to not only prepare believers to be equipped to avoid deception and apostasy but also to expose the heresies that have inundated modern Christianity.

The “Regeneration of the Churches” – An Occult Dream Come True

By Ray Yungen

The Bible says that in the last days, many will come in Christ’s name. If one examines the “prophecies” of occulist  Alice Bailey, one can gain insight into what the apostle Paul called in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 the falling away. Bailey eagerly foretold of what she termed “the regeneration of the churches.”1 Her rationale for this was obvious:

The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished.2

In other words, instead of opposing Christianity, the occult would capture and blend itself with Christianity and then use it as its primary vehicle for spreading and instilling New Age consciousness! The various churches would still have their outer trappings of Christianity and still use much of the same lingo. If asked certain questions about traditional Christian doctrine, the same answers would be given. But it would all be on the outside; on the inside a contemplative spirituality would be drawing in those open to it.

In wide segments of Christianity, this has indeed already occurred. One Catholic priest alone taught 31,000 people mystical prayer in one year. People are responding to this in large numbers because it has the external appearance of Christianity but in truth is the diametric opposite­. This has all the indications of the falling away of which the apostle Paul speaks.

Note this departure is tied in with the revelation of the “man of sin.” If he is indeed Bailey’s “Coming One,” then both Paul’s prophecy and Bailey’s prophecy fit together perfectly—but indisputably from opposite camps and perspectives.

This is very logical when one sees, as Paul proclaimed, that they will fall away to “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). The word mystery in Greek, when used in the context of evil (iniquity), means hidden or occult!

Thomas Merton with the Dalai Lama (photo: Thomas Merton Center)

This revitalization of Christianity would fit in with Bailey’s “new and vital world religion”3—a religion that would be the cornerstone of the New Age. Such a religion would be the spiritual platform for the “Coming One.” This unity of spiritual thought would not be a single one-world denomination but would have a unity-in-diversity, multicultural, interfaith, ecumenical agenda. Thomas Merton made a direct reference to this at a spiritual summit conference in Calcutta, India when he told Hindus and Buddhists, “We are already one, but we imagine, we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity.”4

One can easily find numerous such appeals like Merton’s in contemplative writings. Examine the following:

The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others.5 —Vivekananda

It is my sense, from having meditated with persons from many different [non-Christian] traditions, that in the silence we experience a deep unity. When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only one God to be experienced.6—Basil Pennington

The new ecumenism involved here is not between Christian and Christian, but between Christians and the grace of other intuitively deep religious traditions.7—Tilden Edwards

What is happening to mainstream Christianity is the same thing that is happening to business, health, education, counseling, and other areas of society. Christianity is being cultivated for a role in the New Age. A spirit guide named Raphael explains this in the Starseed Transmissions:

We work with all who are vibrationally sympathetic; simple and sincere people who feel our spirit moving, but for the most part, only within the context of their current belief system.18 (emphasis mine)

He is saying that they “work,” or interact, with people who open their minds to them in a way that fits in with the person’s current beliefs. In the context of Christianity, this means that those meditating will think they have contacted God, when in reality they have connected up with Raphael’s kind (who are more than willing to impersonate whomever they wish to reach so long as these seductive spirits can link with them).

This ultimately points to a deluded global religion based on meditation and mystical experience. New Age writer David Spangler explains it the following way:

There will be several religious and spiritual disciplines as there are today, each serving different sensibilities and affinities, each enriched by and enriching the particular cultural soil in which it is rooted. However, there will also be a planetary spirituality that will celebrate the sacredness of the whole humanity in appropriate festivals, rituals, and sacraments. . . . Mysticism has always overflowed the bounds of particular religious traditions, and in the new world this would be even more true.9

What we are warning about is not some unprovable conspiracy theory. In fact, far from it. In March of 2016, Newsweek magazine put out a special edition called “Spiritual Living.” This glossy publication presented page after page of pure Alice Bailey spirituality. The entire issue was devoted to the mystical perception that man is divine:

The key to positive change—both internal and external—is present in everyone, and it also exists all around us. Whether through meditation, energy healing or a full-on spiritual awakening, you can transcend the physical world to better your mind, body and soul.10

That may sound kind of benign, but numerous articles in the magazine promote the idea of spirits that can indwell people. If this had been put out by the National Enquirer, then this could be dismissed as nothing more than sensationalistic or exaggerated. But Newsweek is one of the oldest and most respected news magazines in the world. When they make this kind of an effort, then we need to sit up and take notice that Alice Bailey’s religion has now come to the forefront of mainstream society. What this means according to those who are sympathetic with this is that if we are to be “spiritual,” we need to partake of Alice Bailey’s “new vital world religion.”  Sadly, more and more churches are doing just that.

Related Information:

100 Top Contemplative Proponents Evangelical Christians Turn To Today

Endnotes:

1. Alice Bailey, Problems of Humanity (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing, 1993), p. 152.
2. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing, 1976), p. 510.
3. Alice Bailey, Problems of Humanity, op. cit., p. 152.
4. Joel Beversluis, Project Editor, A Source Book for Earth’s Community of Religions (Grand Rapids, MI: CoNexus Press, 1995, Revised Edition), p. 151.
5. Swami Vivekananda’s “Addresses at the Parliament of Religions” (Chicago, September 27, 1893, http://www.interfaithstudies.org/interfaith/vivekparladdresses.html, accessed 12/2005).
6. M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living (New York, NY: Image Books, 1988), p. 192.
7. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1980), p. 172.
8. Ken Carey, The Starseed Transmissions (A Uni-Sun Book, 1985 4th printing), p. 33.
9. David Spangler, Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred (New York, NY: Dell Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1984), p. 112.
10. Newsweek magazine, Special Edition: Spiritual Living, March 2016, p. 7.


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