Archive for the ‘Defending the Faith’ Category
In 2009, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled “The Shack Author Rejects Biblical Substitutionary Atonement.” The article was largely based on an interview that The Shack author William Paul Young did. Below is a partial transcript of the interview between Young and a pastor named Kendall Adams. When your Christian friends, family members, pastors, and church members tell you they are going to go and see the upcoming movie, The Shack, ask them if they really understand what The Shack author believes. You may listen to the entire interview by clicking here. You can also pass out Warren B. Smith’s article/booklet The Shack and Its New Age Leaven and Substitution: He Took Our Place by Harry Ironside.
On the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (that Jesus Christ took the penalty for our sins on the cross):
Adams: “On page 120 [of The Shack] where God says, you know, I don’t punish sin, sin is it’s own punishment, you know, this is when Mack , um, is having a hard time with his view of God pouring out wrath, etc. But then when it says, “Mackenzie, I don’t need to punish people for sin. I guess when people read the scripture my question is, doesn’t God…hasn’t God, and doesn’t He…punish sin?”
William Young: “Some of it is semantics, we’re dealing with the concept of the wrath of God and, and here’s an underlying question. “Do you believe that God does anything that is not motivated by love?”
Adams: “Well I think in scripture we have wrath, we have justice, we have mercy-”
Young: “I understand…but…”
Adams: “…we do have love, so…”
Young: “Do you believe that God does anything that is not motivated by love, cuz love is his onthological character, it’s his being, justice is an activity of God, uh, wrath is an activity of God, so…”
Adams: “So you do believe though, that he does punish sin…”
Young: “I..I believe in the wrath of God, absolutely, but, but the wrath of God is, is always couched, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the ungodly (undecipherable word here) and unrighteousness of men, it’s not against the men, it’s against everything that is damaging them, hurting them, causing them to sin against eachother, everything that is contrary to his nature, and um…so…”
Young “I, I absolutely believe in the wrath of God, yes, but I believe it’s motivated by love .”
Adams: “But this love also, and just as you quoted, you know, you mentioned uh the lake of fire, etc., it does say that there is torment day and night, so there is punishment, torment…”
Young: “Ya, and it, it is in the presence of the Lamb.”
Adams: “Here’s my question, if God doesn’t punish sin, what is the cross then, because if Jesus took our punishment on the cross, if he died for our sins, he was taking our punishment. If God doesn’t punish sin it seems like that demeans the whole concept of the cross.”
Young: “Oh, not at all. Look, the cross is, is the plan of God from before the foundation of the world, to redeem us back from being lost, being in the grip of our sin and lostness and idolatry and everything else, it’s absolutely essential. There’s no hope for any human being let alone the human race apart from the cross.”
Adams: “So you do believe that Christ was punished, then, for our sin.”
Young: “I believe that, that Christ became sin for us.”
Adams: “I mean that he was a sacrifice, that he was punished, he took…”
Young: “Uhuh…by who?”
Adams: “The Father.”
Young: “Why…why would the Father punish His son?”
Adams: “Because sin demanded justice, it, it demanded-”
Young: “Oh, it, but it, where was Father when the Son was on the cross?”
Adams: “In your book, when it says, um, Mack had a problem with ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and God basically says, ‘Mack, I never left him’…”
Young: “That’s right.”
Adams: “When Jesus said ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ it…”
Young: “Ya, he’s quoting, he’s also quoting and doing the cry of David in the Psalms, and in Psalms that’s totally reconciled within the Psalms. The next thing that he says, even though that’s exactly what he feels for the first time as a human being who was born of the spirit, baptized of the spirit, filled with the spirit, for the first time, he doesn’t sense the presence of the Father, and in that he cries out. But Paul the apostle comes up later, and Jesus first says, but into your hands I commit my spirit, so he’s still saying, you’re here. And Paul says, where was God the Father? For God the Father, 2 Cor. 5:19, was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them. So where was God the Father? You…and where did reconciliation happen? I believe it happened on the cross. And it says that God the Father was in His son reconciling the world to himself.”
Adams: “Ya, many see that as Christ being the agency of our reconciliation but that when, you know, that Christ was taking the wrath of God upon him, I, I take it that you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t agree that the cross was a place of punishment for our sin.”
Young: “No. I don’t, I am not a penal substitution …reformation…point of view.”
Adams: “But isn’t that the heart of the gospel? Is that the heart of the gospel?”
Young: “No! Ha, no! The heart of the gospel is that we are, are so pursued, the heart of the gospel is in Ephesians 1:5. He predestined us before the foundation of the world to be adopted as sons and everything is by, for and through Jesus, and when Jesus dies, all die, all die.”
Adams: “But all the sac- all the sacrifices in the Old Testament, they were for the sins of the person, as they laid the hand on the lamb, or, or the Passover, you know the lamb’s blood was shed and put on the doorposts so when the death angel came it passed over, that way…”
Young: “And, and I understand uh, ya, I’m not saying that I don’t agree with some sense of substitutionary atonement.”
Adams: “But you disagree…”
Young: “But it’s way broader (muffled) than that.”
Adams: “But if you reject a penal substitution that Christ died as a penalty for our sins, it seems like that is the, that is the Christian faith.”
Young: “I don’t know if you’re aware, but that’s a huge debate that’s going on in theology right now within the evangelical community.”
Adams: “It is, and I, and I, and I would say everything hangs on that, I mean, there’s so many scriptures that Christ died for our sins, 1 Corinthians 15:3 -”
Young: “Oh, and, and I, I agree with that, I, he became sin for us..”
Adams: “No, he died for our sins. Romans said, the Father delivered him over for our sin. If he didn’t, if he wasn’t delivered for my sin…”
Young: “I’m not disagreeing with any of those passages at all, it’s just that how do we understand it? And how do we define what exactly took place? And I’m saying, that there is a huuuuuge amount of disagreement among theologians, about what all that means.”
Young: “And so there is, you know, a degree of ambiguity there. And uh, what I’m saying everything that happened there, is the purpose of father, son and holy spirit, and that purpose is, our redemption, is salvation, reconciliation, and I don’t see, um, that it’s necessary to have the father, uh, punish, in that sense, the son!”
Adams: “Ya, we could, this is, I think this is an important issue.”
By Roger Oakland
Both the Old and New Testaments consist of numerous references that provide the guidelines required for a leader to be classified as a good shepherd. It makes sense that we would look to the Scriptures for guidance because the Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and should be our ultimate authority when it comes to discussing this topic.
First, the Psalmist describes the Good Shepherd as the one who goes ahead of the flock to lead the sheep. He is a true leader always on the lookout for their safety.
Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (Psalms 77:20)
But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. (Psalms 78:52-53)
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. (Psalms 80:1-2)
Second, a good shepherd is constantly aware of where his sheep are in relationship to himself and concerned about their well-being. He is always searching them out when they are lost or remaining behind and does all he can to bring them back to the flock.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. (Luke 15: 4-6)
Third, a good shepherd shows tenderness for the weak, the ewes, and the young lambs. He attends those who are sick and in need of special care.
I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick. (Ezekiel 34:16)
And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir. (Genesis 33: 13-14)
So he [David] fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands. (Psalms 78:72)
While many other characteristics of a good shepherd are found in the Bible, there is one more in particular I want to include. A good shepherd watches out for and protects his sheep from wild beasts or predators such as wolves that feed upon the sheep. The good shepherd will lay down his life to protect them with a strong dedication and commitment as we see here:
And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock . . .Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. (1 Samuel 17:34, 36)
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)
There is a connection between the term good shepherd and the well-known term pastor. While Christians have made this connection and given this title to leaders who stand behind pulpits, oftentimes these leaders are not being true to the biblical qualifications. Walking in the flesh (human nature) rather than the Spirit, these men are driven by man’s fallen nature which seeks power and attention thereby corrupting what it means to be a pastor. This, of course, has impacted Christianity throughout the ages, but over the past several decades the problem has accelerated to the point where we are now witnessing this present apostasy ravaging churches throughout the nations.
Addressing this topic is not easy nor will it be welcomed by many. Efforts to be helpful will be met by an avalanche of opposition. So many of today’s Christian leaders believe they are above reproach and should not be challenged. In fact, they find biblical correction useless and unnecessary, especially when headed down Apostasy Road. However, the Bible is clear that God has serious concerns about those who pervert the Word of God and lead the sheep astray. For such, serious consequences lie ahead.
Jeremiah’s warning to the spiritual leaders of his day is a good reminder for us today. Consider the similarities to what is happening at present:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. (Jeremiah 23: 16-17)
As in Jeremiah’s day, our modern-day prophets speak of peace and prosperity. But if they were truly speaking for the Lord, they would be preaching of repentance from sin and faith toward God as becomes apparent below:
For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. . . . Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. (Jeremiah 23:18-25, 27)
The prophet Jeremiah concludes this passage with an urgent appeal to the shepherds of the land not to speak falsely but to proclaim the Word of the Lord. We have a powerful Gospel that needs to be proclaimed to an increasingly godless world, but the words of peace and prosperity we hear are only vanity, while God’s Word shall never return void:
The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. (Jeremiah 23: 28-30)
While we have the Good Shepherd to follow—a Shepherd who is faithful and true—our own earthly shepherds and leaders should remember with soberness that leaders will be judged more strictly than others (James 3:1). It is a calling that should never be taken lightly.
(This is an excerpt from Roger Oakland’s new book, The Good Shepherd Calls)
Evangelical Universities & Seminaries Offering Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation – Going into the Deeper Waters of Contemplative Spirituality
Over the past decade, while most evangelical colleges, seminaries, and universities have allowed the influence of the Spiritual Formation movement into their schools to one degree or another, not all of them had gone so far as to create a Master’s Degree program in Spiritual Formation. In fact, ten years ago, there weren’t that many schools that had Spiritual Formation degree programs. But things are changing rapidly. Today, a large number of the evangelical seminaries and universities have such degree programs.
These schools that offer such a degree have taken the plunge into the deeper waters of contemplative spirituality. And while there is currently an effort by some of these schools to convince the church that there is a “good” Spiritual Formation, the fact is, where there is Spiritual Formation, there is always a trail that leads to the mystics as Lighthouse Trails has pointed out for many years.
Below is a partial list of Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries that offer Masters Degrees in Spiritual Formation. Some of these are Spiritual Formation specializations or concentrations tacked onto Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degrees. In other cases, Spiritual Formation programs are tucked inside Christian Leadership degrees and Christian Formation and/or Soul Care degrees.
These seminaries and universities are where the church’s next generation of pastors and leaders are coming from. The church has been hijacked and is being held hostage to spiritual deception, but few seem to care. The only thing we are learning from Christian leaders today is “Simon Says” and “Follow the Leader” because most will not speak up on this vital issue. On the contrary, they promote it.
Baylor University – Spiritual Formation and Discipleship
Barclay College – Master of Arts: Spiritual Formation
Biola University – Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care
Carey Theological College (BC) – Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation
Corban University – Master of Arts in Christian Leadership
Dallas Theological Seminary – Spiritual Formation Cohort (under the DMin degree)
Denver Seminary – MA in Christian Formation & Soul Care
George Fox University – Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Specialization
Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary – Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Evangelism
Grand Rapids Theological Seminary (ie., Cornerstone University) – The Master of Arts in Christian Formation
Johnson University – Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Formation & Leadership
Lincoln Christian University (IL) – MA in Spiritual Formation
Logsdon Seminary (TX) – Master of Arts (Religion) Spiritual Formation
MidAmerica Nazarene Unversity – The Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Christian Counseling
Moody Bible College – Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship
Multnomah University – The Master of Arts in Christian Leadership with a Spiritual Formation Emphasis
Nazarene Theological Seminary – Master of Arts in Christian Formation and Discipleship Degree
North Greenville University (NC) – Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship
Northwest Nazarene University – Master of Arts: Spiritual Formation
Pepperdine University – Spiritual Formation and the Christian Mission
Phoenix Seminary – MDiv in Spiritual Formation
Richmont Graduate School – Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Direction
Seattle Pacific University – Master of Arts in Christian Leadership
Southeastern University – Master of Arts in Ministerial Leaders
Spring Arbor University – Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation & Leadership
Western Seminary – M.A. in Ministry and Leadership (Concentration in Spiritual Formation)
Silence: Movie Promotes Contemplative Spirituality and Sanctions Apostasy But Gets Backing By Christian Groups
By Cedric Fisher
Silence is the latest movie by Martin Scorsese, who also produced The Last Temptation of Christ. I have read several reviews by professing Christians who are recommending it without reservations. Additionally, the Dove Foundation awarded the movie 4 out of 5 doves. Charisma News asks, “Is Martin Scorsese’s Silence Prophetic?” CBN also presented a rave review. Christianity Today titled its review, “Scorsese’s Silence Asks What It Really Costs to Follow Jesus.”
Another review in CT is titled, “Silence Review: Hollywood’s Gift To The Church That Might Just Save Your Faith.” And what is the message of Silence that might save your life? The message of the movie is antithetical to true faith.
The title of Lumindeo’s review of the movie is “Silence—A Christian’s Contemplative Guide.”1 In the “About” section of the Lumindeo website, it is described as “a network created by and for passionate followers of Jesus Christ.” If Lumindeo consists of passionate followers of Jesus Christ, why don’t they know that Christianity never grew in apostasy, but always in persecution and martyrdom?
Crosswalk likewise implies that it is a Christian-themed film with the statement, “Theologians, look no further: this movie is jam-packed with spiritual themes.”2 Spiritual themes, perhaps, but Christian themes? Not by any stretch. Crosswalk reveals a misunderstanding of true Christianity in the following statement. Click here for footnotes and to continue reading.
By Harry Ironside
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1·3)
I. THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
IN VIEW of the exhortation of our text above, we naturally raise the question, What is the vocation wherewith we are called? And that leads us to turn to various portions of the New Testament to consider what the Spirit of God has been pleased to reveal concerning that marvelous society to which every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has been joined by the Holy Spirit.
What is the church? How do we become members of the church? What are our responsibilities as belonging to the church? What is the destiny of the church of God?
I want to be very elementary and shall begin at the beginning by turning to the first place in the New Testament, where we read of the church—Matthew 16. Here, immediately after Peter’s remarkable confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” we read:
[A]nd Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven, and I say also unto thee that thou art Peter [thou art a piece of rock] and upon this rock [I take it this rock refers to the blessed truth that Christ is the Son of God] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:17-18)
Notice, “I will build My church.” Observe, our Lord Jesus Christ did not here speak of something that was in the process of building. He did not say, “I am building My church,” or “I have been building My church,” as though it had been in course of construction either throughout the centuries before Christ came into the world or during the time He was on earth as man, but He spoke of the building of the church as something still in the future.
The gates of hell [that is, the gates of the unseen world] shall not prevail against it.
I get great encouragement from that statement of my Lord, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church that Jesus builds. Sometimes people are very pessimistic regarding the future of the church. They see atheism and unbelief rolling in like a flood and the cults and isms appearing like mushrooms, and they are afraid that the true faith of the church of God will be overthrown by all these things, but we have the assurance of the Lord Jesus Christ that so long as the church of God shall remain in this scene, it will remain undefeated.
An army does not take the gates of the city out to war with it, and the church does not sit on a hill and the gates of hell surround her, but the church of God is a conquering spiritual army carrying on a battle against the powers of hell, and they shall not prevail against her. A right-thinking man does not shut his eyes to the signs of the times and will not be ignorant of Satan’s devices, but he knows that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world, and the church of Jesus Christ will not retire from the scene a defeated company.
Here Christ called it “My church” for the first time. He was not speaking of any separate company. He was not speaking of any particular sect or denomination. He was speaking of the aggregate of the redeemed in this time of grace and called them “My church.”
Now let us look further: there were saints of God in the world from the beginning, right down to the time Jesus uttered these words. In a sense, these saints constituted churches. Stephen spoke of the people in the wilderness as a church, an assembly, but we must distinguish between any such companies and that unique company that Christ called “My church.” This church of which He spoke could not come into being until He had died on the Cross, had been raised from the dead, was received up into glory, and sent the Spirit down into the earth, which He did at Pentecost.
Matthew 18 records the next place Christ spoke of the church, and this time it is about discipline in the church, and it would apply just as well to the congregation of Israel. He used the word “church” here in a narrower sense than He did in chapter 16. He spoke of trespass:
[I]f thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone-if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more . . . if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church. (Matthew 18:15, 17)
This is not very often done now. The command is to tell it to the called out company, not to the whole world. The church here is not the aggregate of all the redeemed but a local company in any given place. We are not able to tell it to the whole church of Jesus, but, meeting with a company of believers in a given place, which company of Christian people is an assembly of saints, we should go to them and bring the matter before them, and they will act on behalf of their glorified Lord.
There is not one other word regarding the church in Matthew.
II. THE CHURCH AS THE BODY OF CHRIST
The apostle Paul was the one chosen of God to unfold the teaching of the church as the body of Christ in the largest way. He was not the only one to whom this truth was revealed, but he received the largest revelation (see Ephesians 3:1-6). Paul did not write by consultation with other believers, not even with the original twelve, but he received his message as a direct revelation from Christ. The word rendered “mystery” here means, not something peculiarly difficult and mystical, but a sacred secret. The mystery Paul speaks of is something not found in the Old Testament, not proclaimed by the former prophets; it is something new. It was revealed to a body of holy apostles and prophets. In God’s due time, it was opened up to the other members of the apostolic band and those associated with, them. It is the special truth of what God is doing in this age, taking people from among the Jews and Gentiles and uniting them by the Spirit’s baptism into one body. Into what body? The body that had been formed on the Day of Pentecost.
There was no other body into which the Gentiles could be brought.
“That the Gentiles should be made fellow heirs.” Fellow heirs with whom? Those Jews who were already converted. They entered into partnership with the Jews. Paul said, “whereof I was made a minister [of this].” It was to tell the Gentiles who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ that they are no longer strangers and foreigners to the covenant promises of God but are made fellow citizens with the Jews of the household of God.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)
I like the humility of Paul. What a lowly place this mighty man of God was willing to take!
The implication is clear: the Gospel had already been preached among the Jews and many had believed, and now in a special sense it was given to him to go out and proclaim it among the Gentiles that they might enter into the same testimony and have the same blessing.
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.(Ephesians 3:10)
This is unto angelic hosts, unfallen beings, who look on redeemed men and women and learn the riches of Christ.
Here are saints on earth, since the Cross and Pentecost—many Jews, others Gentiles, come to the same common ground, God meeting them all as sinners approaching Him through the redeeming blood of Christ, which are cleansed from every stain, given a new life and nature, and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit Himself, and then everyone is linked up by the Spirit with their risen, glorified Head in Heaven; and so intimate is that union that they are as close to Him as the members of my body are to each other.
The principalities and powers looking down on the world and seeing the work of God here, that is, grace picking up sinful Jews and Gentiles and making them one in Christ, are the angels who glorify God for the work He is doing, and they learn the wisdom of God. This is what God is doing now. This body relationship is spoken of in Ephesians 4:
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
There you have this corporate union with Christ. He is the Head, and every believer is occupying some place in that body.
I do not know what part of the body I am. The members of my physical body do not know what part they are. The consciousness is in the head; so with the spiritual body, the consciousness is in the Head up yonder, and He knows what each one is placed there for. My brethren, what a wonderful thing it is for each member to be in good working order! If one member of our body is not functioning right, the whole body suffers, and so Scripture says of Christ’s body, if one member suffers all the members suffer with it, and if one be honored, all the members rejoice together. If you are not going on with God and living for Him, if your life is not a godly life, you are like some member of the body out of order and failing to function. If you are living for God and walking with God, you may not be conscious of it, but you are a help and blessing to all the other members.
III. THE CHURCH AS A BUILDING
We are not only pictured in this wonderful epistle as members of the body of Christ, but in Ephesians 2, we are pictured as each one part of a building. Here we have our heavenly citizenship. Here is a new household:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Believers constitute that spiritual house.
Notice how he used the word “fitly.” In chapter 4, “fitly joined together,” and in chapter 2, “fitly framed together.”
A master builder is very careful that every stone fits properly, that every board is properly fitted together; otherwise the beauty and perhaps the safety is marred. It is the work of the Spirit of God to fitly frame the building together. Peter speaks of us as lively stones come to the Living Stone and thus are builded together into an house of God.
IV. THE CHURCH AS THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
Ephesians 5:22-27, 30, 32:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish . . . For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones . . . This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Here, he has changed the figure. You do not sanctify and cleanse your body to present it to yourself; it is part of you. He has changed the figure from the body to the bride, and I dare say as he penned these words, he thought of Hosea when he was commanded by God to do something that was most repugnant, to illustrate God’s dealings with Israel, and typically the Lord’s dealing with the church. He had to go to the slave market to buy his wife, and the Spirit pointed her out. She was vile, filthy, contaminated, and a slave, but he took her and cleansed and clothed her, and presented her to himself, and yet she was not faithful to him, and he had to buy her back again. This is a picture of Israel. She is called the bride of God, and later on the wife. These are just symbols. Christ has to cleanse the church in order to present her to Himself a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle. It is a figure of a wife presented to her husband.
[W]e are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
This reminds us that when Adam received Eve, he said, “she is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Paul is now quoting (in verse 31) from Genesis. Paul is here telling us that the mystery of marriage illustrates the relationship between Christ and the church.
We have seen the church then as a redeemed company, as the body of Christ, as a glorious building in which the Spirit of God dwells, and as the bride soon to be presented to the Lamb, Who died to redeem her. That in itself speaks of her destiny.
V. THE CALLING OF THE CHURCH
What, then, is the calling of the church of God?
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4- 7)
Sitting in heavenly places does not mean we are now sitting together “with” Christ Jesus.
Now we are sitting “in” Christ, not “with.” “With” Christ will be our happy portion by and by when Christ comes and takes us home, that in the ages to come He may show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Show means that He might exhibit. The church, then, called out of sin and darkness, redeemed to God with the precious Blood of Christ, and linked to the Head with the Spirit, will be one with Christ throughout all the ages to come, and so whatever experiences our Lord may be called upon to go through we shall go through with Him. We shall reign with Him and be with Him when He is all and in all. Our portion will be with Him through all eternity.
Let us, therefore, walk worthy of the calling wherewith we are called.
(You may read more by Harry Ironside at www.harryironside.com.)
By Mike Oppenheimer
Let Us Reason Ministries
Psalm 22 is known as the Psalm of the crucifixion, written nearly 1,000 years before Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?.” David prophesies of the Crucified One’s words in vs. 6: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” The word worm is not just describing any worm. Here it is tola,1 an insect that was crushed to get the die color of red/scarlet and used to color the robes of royalty.
Strong’s Concordance says: OT:8144 shaniy (shaw-nee’); of uncertain derivation; crimson, properly, the insect or its color, also stuff dyed with it.” Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Definition of tola: (1) worm, scarlet stuff, crimson = (a) worm – the female ‘coccus ilicis’ (b) scarlet stuff, crimson, scarlet, the dye made from the dried body of the female of the worm “coccus ilicis.”
There are two Hebrew words for scarlet or crimson that speak of a color and a creature from which the color is made. The two words can be translated two ways: “scarlet” or “worm.” In Old Testament times when people wanted to dye something scarlet, they would dip the material in the crushed dye of this insect, and the material would take on a scarlet color. These two Hebrew words occur juxtaposed in many of the passages in Exodus (26 times it is referred to). The dye was highly valued (Lamentations 4:5) as it was used to color the cloth in the tabernacle. Scarlet was woven into the fine linen of the screen for the doorway (Exodus 26:36); there was one way into the Tabernacle. This picture was fulfilled by Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Creationist Henry Morris gives further insight:
When the female of the scarlet worm species was ready to give birth to her young, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted. (Biblical Basis for Modern Science, p.73 1985, Morris)
The blood-red scarlet material seen throughout the Old Testament in various pictures and illustrations foreshadowed the Messiah’s work of redemption on the Cross. Scarlet was used in the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31); and when our Lord was crucified (His flesh rent), the veil was torn in two from top to bottom. Jesus became our “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17). He cried with a loud voice, yielding up His Spirit, and the veil of the temple tore from top to bottom, opening “a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Matthew 27:50-51, Hebrews 10:19-20). The use of animal sacrifices would no longer be used as the means to approach God.
This insect attaches itself to the tree (as Christ did for us). Peter’s favorite saying was Christ was crucified on the tree. Jesus, at His crucifixion, invoking the image of a worm, is not meant to convey his human status, but rather the color of blood. He is describing the red-stained tree of His Crucifixion. The same word is sometimes translated as “scarlet” or “crimson.”
In order to produce the dye for these robes the worm had to be crushed. After the worm was crushed, it was no longer recognizable. Christ was crushed for our sin.
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5)
What a picture this gives of Christ, the King of the Jews, the king all Kings dying on the tree, shedding His precious blood for those who reject God (Isaiah53:3). Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. Two thousand years ago, a bloody man hung on a tree (a Roman cross). It may not have looked beautiful to men, but it was acceptable to God (Isaiah 53:10).
It is here the scarlet thread of redemption is completed (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).
It was there under the wrath of God that He shed His blood for the sins of mankind. It is that crimson flow of His blood that makes it possible for us to be clothed in the robes of His righteousness.
(source: Let Us Reason)
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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’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
[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/)
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.
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.
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.