Archive for the ‘Dominionism’ Category
“Ed Silvosos’ paradigm is no different than many others who have come into the church before basically “rethinking everything into a new strategy.” Using the magic word of ‘transformation’ (a word originally found in theosophy of the New Age movement), it has found itself as one of the many new platforms for ‘mission strategies’ now being employed by the New Apostolic Reformation.” – Mike Oppenheimer
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
Do you know anything about Dr. Ed Silvoso who, from this announcement below, is coming to Tulsa? Someone sent me this announcement and I did some Internet research on him re: his bio, etc. Can you tell if his “transformation” is anything like Rick Warren’s?
While we don’t have anything about Ed Silvoso on our site, we are familiar with the transformation movement. It’s not exactly like Rick Warren’s agenda. It is more along the lines of the NAR movement and the redeeming the cultures movement. Silvoso and other leaders in the transformation movement may have good intentions, but they are kind of like the salesman who promises miracles with his product, and people buy it because of all the hype, but in the end, the product doesn’t deliver. Since the 1980s, the transformation movement leaders have promised that entire cities were going to be changed dramatically and violence would be reduced throughout our society if Christians followed their ideas on unity and prayer. But look where we are today in this world. Cities are not being transformed, and society is growing darker and more violent, just as Scripture tells us it will because men’s hearts will grow colder and further away from Christ.
Here are a few articles that will provide information on Ed Silvoso and the transformation movement:
The Global Transformation of Redeeming Cultures by Mike Oppenheimer
Transformations or Re-transformation? A Paradigm Shift for Evangelism by Mike Oppenheimer
Ed Silvoso & Transformation Africa by Herescope
NEW BOOKLET:Beware of Bethel: A Brief Summary of Bill Johnson’s Unbiblical Teachings by Bill Randles is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Beware of Bethel: A Brief Summary of Bill Johnson’s Unbiblical Teachings, click here.
Beware of Bethel: A Brief Summary of Bill Johnson’s Unbiblical Teachings
By Bill Randles
What would you think of a Bible school that sends young people out to literally prostrate themselves on the graves of deceased preachers so that the students can absorb “the anointing” that lingers on the graves? What about a church in which a mist containing feathers, gold, and jewel dust descends on the worshippers in the sanctuary? How about a church conference which features prophetic “tattoo readings” as one of the workshops?
What would you expect of a church which is a combination of the Word of Faith error and the prosperity gospel of Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin, the signs and wonders of Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn, the false assumptions of the “spiritual warfare” and hyper-deliverance movement, the “prophetic movement,” and the gnostic mysticism of the Toronto Blessing?
You don’t have to wonder any longer, for there is such a “ministry” which is currently the most recognizable and influential face of the prophetic movement. I refer to Bill and Beni Johnson who co-pastor Bethel Church in Redding, California and its related ministries including “Jesus Culture” youth band and Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry.
Bill Johnson, a noted conference speaker and leader, is the author of several best-selling books and considered to be an apostle and leader within the Apostles and Prophets movement. Hundreds of thousands have been affected by his ministry and have attended retreats and conferences where they have been “imparted” with “the anointing.”
In order to fully understand this prophetic movement in its current state, we must examine the teachings and ministry of Bill Johnson in the light of the Word of God. Didn’t Jesus warn us not to be naïve but that “every tree is known by its fruits”?
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
The primary “fruit” of any professed prophet would be the teaching. (The same would go for any pastor or apostle or anyone who stands in the name of God).
Let’s examine some of Bill Johnson’s teachings which go errant on so many levels that it is hard to decide where to begin. For the sake of brevity, I will address four areas of concern: a) The Word of Faith Movement; b) Johnson’s teachings on the Incarnation; c) the anointing (Holy Ghost); and d) his theology of experience. I urge you to be the judge according to the test in Deuteronomy 13.
I. The Word of Faith Movement
It doesn’t take long to see by reading his books that Johnson is a proponent of the Word of Faith teaching, popularized by Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland. Therefore, it is necessary to give a brief overview of WOF teaching to be able to see where Johnson is coming from.
In a nutshell, the WOF teaching is based on a gnostic interpretation of the Fall and of redemption. The following is my paraphrase of their explanation:
When God created Adam, He gave him all dominion over the earth, to rule and reign as God’s regent. However, when Adam fell, by obeying Satan, he handed that God-given dominion over to Satan, who became the “god of this world.” God, the Father, couldn’t just come in and take the dominion back—Adam had given it away.
God had to find a way for a man to come in, as a man, and undo the folly of Adam, gaining back the authority given to Satan by Adam. Jesus is that man. (The WOF teachers do acknowledge that Jesus is God but believe that He “laid aside His own Divinity” in the Incarnation).
As a man, Jesus came into the world, resisted all of the temptation that Adam and Eve and the human race succumbed to, and died on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
But there is a twist, for the WOF teachers insist that salvation wasn’t secured for man in Jesus’ death on the Cross as a substitute for our sins. Rather, Jesus first had to descend into hell and suffer the torment of Satan and his minions until God was satisfied that it was enough and could legally raise Him from the dead.
Of course, the Word of God says that Jesus’ death on the Cross was sufficient, and that when He said, “Telestai!” (It is done), it really was done. But Copeland and Hagin teach that it wasn’t finished until Jesus had literally “become sin” and endured demonic torment in hell.
The Fall, according to WOF, was as much about the loss of power and authority as it was about sin and alienation from God. Therefore, salvation is about restoration of power and authority, as well as forgiveness of sins. We get the power back and can now exercise dominion over this life and take authority over evil.
Because of this skewed view, WOF is a power religion. This is why WOF Christians frequently speak in terms of authority; they “bind and/or loose” angels and demons; they decree, rebuke, and otherwise speak in terms of “releasing” peace, grace, or mercy into this situation or that.
The essence of this theology is the restoration and practical use of the “authority to the believer.”
The ideal in WOF circles is that of the born again man of power and authority, the miracle man who has come in to the “revelation knowledge” of “who he is in Christ,” and demonstrates the power of “the anointing” to a lost world. There have developed extensive mythologies around truly historical figures such as John Alexander Dowie, John G. Lake, and William Branham. These are the men who really “took authority,” they say, and showed us all what any believer could do if he had but the faith and “anointing” to do so!
The WOF is an offshoot of an earlier expression of these very ideals, the Manifested Sons of God (MSG), once repudiated by the Assemblies of God in the 1940s but now widely embraced in this new form. MSG is based upon an erroneous interpretation of Romans 8:19, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”
Traditional Christianity has held that this verse refers to what happens at the bodily coming of the Lord. When Jesus returns, the curse on Creation will finally be removed, and the true children of God will be manifested.
But the MSG teach that this verse means that the Creation is waiting for the church to attain to the knowledge of the power and authority, in order to “manifest” our Sonship to the world, through signs and wonders. All of this must occur before Jesus can come back!
This is the context in which to understand where Bill Johnson, Jesus Culture, and the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry are coming from, as they seek to bring the church into the power and anointing of their “mystical revival.”
In his teaching on the Incarnation, Bill Johnson states, and rightly so, that Jesus Christ is God. But Johnson also emphasizes to an unbiblical extreme that Jesus completely laid aside His deity:
Jesus had no ability to heal the sick. He couldn’t cast out devils, and He had no ability to raise the dead. He said of Himself in John 5:19, “the Son can do nothing of Himself.” He had set aside His divinity. He did miracles as man in right relationship with God because He was setting forth a model for us, something for us to follow. If He did miracles as God, we would all be extremely impressed, but we would have no compulsion to emulate Him. But when we see that God has commissioned us to do what Jesus did—and more—then we realize that He put self-imposed restrictions on Himself to show us that we could do it, too. Jesus so emptied Himself that He was incapable of doing what was required of Him by the Father—without the Father’s help.1
There are several problems with this teaching of Johnson’s. For example, it is theologically inaccurate to say that “Jesus had no ability . . .” and that Jesus “set aside His Divinity.” It is dangerously close to being a denial of the deity of Christ, for divinity by definition cannot be “set aside” nor could God ever be said to lack ability in any sense.
In the Incarnation, the eternal God became a man, though He never ceased being God. He always had all power, but restrained Himself, declining the prerogatives of power and majesty, which are inherent to Him, that He might live and die for us as true man.
Another problem with this is that Johnson asserts that Jesus performed miracles to “set forth a model for us . . . to show us that we could do it (the miracles) too . . .”
This is at the very heart of the Word of Faith teaching from which Johnson has emerged. Supposedly, we as individual believers can and should be doing all of the miracles of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit. To Johnson, Jesus came in the flesh, partly to show us that we too could do what He did!
This quest for miracle power is misguided and has led many into deception. Jesus didn’t do His miracles to “show us that we can do it.” The miracles of Jesus are manifestations of the merciful God, whether they be the ones in the Gospels, or in the Book of Acts, or those done in His name throughout the world today. “These signs will follow those that believe.” We are not to seek them. It is only a “wicked and adulterous generation (which) seeks after signs.”
Johnson actually posits that any believer has the potential to experience most of what Jesus experienced in the Gospels, even the Transfiguration! He states:
Most all of the experiences of Jesus recorded in Scripture were prophetic examples of the realms in God that are made available to the believer. The Mount of Transfiguration raised the bar significantly on potential human experience . . . The overwhelming lesson in this story is that Jesus Christ, the Son of man, had the glory of God upon Him. Jesus’s face shone with God’s glory, similar to Moses’s after he came down from the mountain.2
Johnson seems to fail to appreciate that though Jesus became “as one of us” in the Incarnation, His uniqueness cannot be safely diminished. Imagine a spirituality spent seeking to attain a transfiguration! No wonder Johnson’s students go to such lengths seeking “glory” experiences.
III. The “Anointing”
The second aspect of Johnson’s teaching that is dangerous and has led to the reckless mysticism in which so many associated with Bethel are involved is what he teaches about the Holy Spirit, particularly “the anointing.” Johnson states:
Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah . . . [Christ] is a title that points to an experience. It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title. He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.3
First of all, here is an example of a teacher setting forth an unbiblical separation between the person “Jesus” and the word “Christ.” This is a very dangerous thing to do; it is similar to what the New Age movement claims, and it is being done towards a similar end.
New Agers want to establish the (false) idea that Jesus was merely an enlightened person, one who was anointed (Christed) at thirty years old, very similar to other remarkable human beings such as Gandhi and Zoroaster. This “anointing” is a self-realizing experience.
Johnson seems to be trying to establish that just as the man Jesus had to be anointed with the Holy Ghost in order (as a man) to do the miracles He did, we too can have the same experience to do the same thing, for Jesus is our model.
The Bible doesn’t do this with the word “Christ.” The apostles never relegated Christ as being a title, nor as being an experience. Christ is a designation of Jesus’ deity. Scripture insists that Jesus is the Christ, and it refers to Jesus as Christ, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself . . .” Christ is an eternal person, the second person of the godhead, chosen of the Father, and thus anointed with the Holy Ghost.
When Jesus came into the world, He already was Christ; he never had to become Christ, nor can anyone become Christ unless he is a false Christ (i.e., antichrist).
On the same subject—the “anointing”—Johnson continues:
The word anointing means “to smear.” The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism. The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit.
The outpouring of the Spirit also needed to happen to Jesus for Him to be fully qualified. This was His quest. Receiving this anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ, which means “anointed one.” Without the experience [the anointing] there could be no title.4
Do you see the problems Johnson’s teachings on “the anointing” raise?
For example, did Jesus become the Christ at His baptism? If “Christ” is only valid upon an experience, what was Jesus before the Holy Ghost came upon Him in the Jordan? Was He merely an unqualified “man with a title” up until then?
Johnson’s view on the Christ is strikingly reminiscent of an error which emerged early in the history of the church and was repudiated as heresy. It is called adoptionism. It holds that Jesus was a devout man who did not become “Christed” until He was thirty years old when He was anointed of the Holy Ghost. It was by the Holy Ghost that He did His miracles, but the “anointing” left Him when He died on the Cross. If Jesus could do these things (through revelation knowledge and the anointing), so could any other believer.
There is a passage in 1 John 5 that refutes this very error about the Christ:
This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. (1 John 5:6)
The heretics were teaching that Jesus was not Christ until He was baptized in water and anointed with the Spirit. He remained Christ until He shed His blood. But the apostle insists that “He came by water and blood;” that is, He was already Christ when He was baptized and remained so on the Cross, and through His resurrection. The designation, “Christ,” was and is more than an experience; it is inherent to Jesus, the Divine God/man.
IV. The Emphasis on Experience, De-Emphasis on Doctrine
Finally, Bethel (and Bill Johnson) is actually dangerous in its approach to doctrine and experience and has exposed its followers to the following practices:
Grave soaking trips5
Visualization, contemplative prayer, and meditation practices
Chanting, soaking, and spiritual drunkenness
“Toking” the Holy Ghost to get “high on Jesus”
In addition to “normal” prophetic words, those who attended Bethel’s “Power and Love Conference” in February 2014 received readings based on their tattoos and piercings. Doug Addison can interpret the hidden messages on your body and even train you to do the same. You don’t even have to fly to where he is; for the reasonable fee of $150, he can tickle your ears over the phone for thirty minutes.6
Believe me when I say I have just scratched the surface of the irrational, unbiblical, and even anti-biblical practices of Bill Johnson’s influential ministry. How do confessing Christians become so undiscerning?
There is one aspect of Bethel that is perhaps the most dangerous. Johnson, like so many Pentecostals and evangelicals who have preceded him, has a strong anti-doctrinal emphasis. To the neo-mystics of the New Apostolic Reformation, doctrine has a deadening effect and is valid only to the extent that it induces experience. Doctrine is “the letter which kills” and leads to “head knowledge” as opposed to the personal experience of God, based upon individual revelation.
Those who insist on adherence to true doctrine are caricatured as Pharisees. There are familiar clichés in these circles such as “God is offending the mind to reach the heart,” and “a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with a doctrine.” These kinds of preachers often delight in saying, “I am going to upend your theology now . . .” as they unveil the latest nugget of their own revelation. Bill Johnson, in illustrating this, stated:
Jesus made a frightening statement regarding those who hold to Bible study vs. experience, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). If our study of the Bible doesn’t lead us to a deeper relationship (an encounter) with God, then it is simply adding to our tendency towards spiritual pride. We increase our knowledge of the Bible to feel good about our standing with God and to better equip us to argue with those who disagree with us. Any group wanting to defend a doctrine is prone to this temptation without a God encounter . . . Jesus did not say “My sheep will know my Book;” it is His voice that we are to know.7
Johnson is deconstructing those who seek scriptural knowledge as being in danger of “spiritual pride,” increasing in knowledge in order to “feel good about their standing with God,” and to be better able to win arguments with those who disagree with them! What a pastor! It is almost as if he would discourage the desire to grow in scriptural knowledge!
But on the other hand, it is the ones seeking “deeper knowledge” (than that which Scripture reveals?) and a deeper “encounter” with God (experience) whom Johnson considers to be blessed. Imagine a young person sitting under a steady diet of this, and you will see why Bethel, Jesus Culture, and the School of Supernatural Ministry are given over to the most sensual mysticism!
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
To order copies of Beware of Bethel: A Brief Summary of Bill Johnson’s Unbiblical Teachings, click here.
(See related booklets.)
1. Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, first edition, January 1, 2005), p. 50.
2. Bill Johnson, Face to Face with God (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2007), p. 200.
3. Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2005), p. 87.
5. http://beyondgrace.blogspot.com/2011/07/bill-johnson-and-john-crowders-leaven.html; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrHPTs8cLls https://www.facebook.com/photo.
7. Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth, op. cit., p. 93.
To order copies of Beware of Bethel: A Brief Summary of Bill Johnson’s Unbiblical Teachings, click here.
By Bob DeWaay
Imagine a world where the polarity of time is reversed so that history moves backward toward Paradise rather than forward toward judgment. Consider a world in which God is so immanently involved in the creation that He is undoing entropy1 and recreating the world now through processes already at work. Think of a world where the future is leading to God Himself in a saving way for all people and all of creation. This imaginary world is our world viewed through the lens of Emergent eschatology.
Several acts of God’s providence brought me to know the nature of Emergent theology and its unique eschatology. The first happened in 1999 during my final year in seminary when the seminary hired a new professor, LeRon Shults. Shults, a theological disciple of the German Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, became my professor for a logic class. Shults often described his beliefs with this simple statement: “God is the future drawing everything into Himself.”
Some years later, several people suggested that I consider writing an article examining a new movement called “The Emerging Church.” For my study I carefully read Brian McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy.2 What baffled me about his theology was that his views were nearly identical to those refuted 40 years earlier by Francis Schaeffer, who had called it “the new theology.” But as Schaeffer so clearly showed, the result of this theology is despair because under it there is no hope of knowing the truth. But the Emerging writers describe their theology as one of hope. If there is no hope of knowing the truth about God, man, and the universe we live in (as they claim), then how is hope the result? It turns out that a theology from the 1960s, first articulated in Germany when Schaeffer was writing his books, is the answer.
That leads to a second providential event. A woman in our church handed me a book that she thought might be of interest in my research: A is for Abductive – The Language of the Emerging Church.3 Under the entry “Eschaton,” the heading “The end of entropy”4 appears. It then says, “In the postmodern matrix there is a good chance that the world will reverse its chronological polarity for us. Instead of being bound to the past by chains of cause and effect, we will feel ourselves being pulled into the future by the magnet of God’s will, God’s dream, God’s desire.”5 Reading this brought my mind back to 1999 and Shults’ interpretation of Pannenberg: “God is the future drawing everything into Himself.” Could this be the ground of Emergent “hope”?
The third providential event was the debate with Doug Pagitt, the 2006 event on the topic of The Emergent Church and Postmodern Spirituality. That event gave me the opportunity to ask Pagitt, a nationally recognized leader in the Emergent movement, whether or not he believed in a literal future judgment. He would not answer either way but did state that judgment happens now through consequences in history. His refusal to answer that question convinced me that the Pannenberg/Shults eschatology was behind the movement!
The fourth providential event was a meeting with Tony Jones with the goal of setting up another debate. It turned out that they did not want another debate, but Jones offered to answer any of my questions about Emergent. I responded by e-mail asking about Stanley Grenz, Wolfhart Pannenberg, LeRon Shults, and Jürgen Moltmann and their influence on Emergent theology. Jones replied that Grenz (who, as I will later show, praises the theologies of both Pannenberg and Moltmann) was influential and that Jones himself was studying under a professor named Miroslav Volf who had studied under Moltmann. Also, he helped me with his comment that their hope-filled belief generally leads them to reject eschatologies that “preach a disastrous end to the cosmos.”
The fifth providential event was when I fell and fractured my ankle while trimming trees. The broken ankle required that I sit with my leg elevated for a full week in order to get the swelling down. I had found a copy of Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope that I knew I had to read to prove my thesis. Reading Moltmann was so laborious that finishing the book was not likely to be completed quickly. But because of my immobility I finished Moltmann, taking notes on the contents of every page. The same week I read Moltmann, I obtained the just-published An Emergent Manifesto of Hope with Pagitt and Jones as the editors. I read that as well and found Moltmann cited favorably by two emergent writers.6 In that same book, Jones describes why this theology is so hopeful for them: “God’s promised future is good, and it awaits us, beckoning us forward. We’re caught in the tractor beam of redemption and re-creation, and there’s no sense fighting it, so we might as well cooperate.”7 Or as professor Shults always said, “God is the future drawing everything into Himself.”
All of this leads me to my thesis: That the worldview represented by the theology of Grenz, Pannenberg, Moltmann, and Shults is the bedrock foundation of the Emergent Church movement. Their language and ideas present themselves on the pages of many Emergent books. For example, McLaren writes, “In this way of seeing, God stands ahead of us in time, at the end of the journey, sending to us in waves, as it were, the gift of the present, an inrush of the future that pushes the past behind us and washes over us with a ceaseless flow of new possibilities, new options, new chances to rethink and receive new direction, new empowerment.”8 Here is Pagitt’s version of it:
God is constantly creating anew. And God also, invites us to be re-created and join the work of God as co-(re)creators. . . . Imagine the Kingdom of God as the creative process of God reengaging in all that we know and experience. . . . When we employ creativity to make this world better, we participate with God in the recreation of the world.9
These writers often refer to “God’s dream.” Apparently they mean that God imagines an ideal future for the world that we can join and help actualize. When this dream becomes reality in the future, it will be the Kingdom of God.
This series of providential events in my life worked together to help me accurately understand a movement that works very hard to stay undefined. Definitions draw boundaries. Definitions are static. But definitions are necessary in order for us to understand anything. With no defined categories we would be hopeless human beings because, for example, we need our rational minds and valid categories to distinguish between food and poison. Definitions are valid, and no amount of philosophical legerdemain can change that reality. Definitions, to their way of thinking, impede the process of the “tractor beam” of redemption they are experiencing. They consider definitions too “foundationalist,” as we will discuss in a later chapter. I believe that I can now define the Emergent Church movement more accurately because I understand what they believe.
The Emergent Church movement is an association of individuals linked by one very important, key idea: that God is bringing history toward a glorious kingdom of God on earth without future judgment. They loathe dispensationalism more than any other theology because it claims just the opposite: that the world is getting ever more sinful and is sliding toward cataclysmic judgment.10 Both of these ideas cannot be true. Either there is a literal future judgment, or there is not. This is not a matter left to one’s own preference.
(Used with permission.)
Note: In September 2009, Bob DeWaay attended the “2009 Emergent Theological Conversation” (http://www.jopaproductions.com/moltmann-conversation-0) where Jurgen Moltmann was a guest speaker. This substantiated DeWaay’s findings regarding Moltmann’s significant influence in the emerging church.
1. Entropy is the principle by which physicists describe heat loss in a closed system. The existence of entropy is a proof that the universe is not eternal because if it were infinitely old it would have already died of heat death.
2. CIC Issue 87, March/April 2005. http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue87.htm
3. Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, and Jerry Haselmayer, A is for Abductive – The Language of the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003).
4. Ibid. 113.
6. In An Emergent Manifesto of Hope,Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones editors (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007); Moltmann is cited favorably by Dwight Friesen on page 203 and Troy Bronsink page 73 n. 24.
7. Ibid. Tony Jones, 130.
8. Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy; (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004) 283.
9. Doug Pagitt, Church Re-imagined(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003/2005) 185.
10. Please note that classical amillennialism also believes that the world is facing future judgment. Emergent is not merely opposed to dispensationalism, but any version of eschatology that asserts that God will bring cataclysmic judgment at the end of the age.
Is religion to blame?—War, Religion, and the Interfaith Global Peace Agenda by Carl Teichrib i is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Is religion to blame?—War, Religion, and the Interfaith Global Peace Agenda by Carl Teichrib, click here.
“Is religion to blame?—War, Religion, and the Interfaith Global Peace Agenda”
[A]ll modern trends point to the specter of a terrifying, bigger and more pitiless conformity.1—Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
If a global motto exists, it would have to be “Give Peace a Chance.”2 From every corner of the world, from every academy and institution, from every school, public office and even many churches, the cry for global peace is being sounded.
Peace is a noble idea; but since mankind has had a written history, we have never known true peace. The scattered, bleached bones of human history testify to this brutal truth—millions upon millions of times over.
So is mankind incapable of achieving ultimate peace on Earth? In a nutshell, yes. But accepting this reality doesn’t imply that we are to automatically embrace conflict and strife. If anything, it gives us a window into who we are and how we operate. Unfortunately, the view from this window isn’t very pretty.
How do we collectively respond to this sad state of affairs? By perpetuating a lie!
Religious Guilt and the Death Factor
It has been popularly said that religion is responsible for the majority of the world’s conflicts. Posted on a BBC News Talking Point discussion board on the relevance of religion, one commentator boldly asserted, “Just look around the world today. Religion is the cause of all war and hate.”3
Expounding on this line of thinking is an Internet petition seeking “world peace” by the outright banning of “organized religion.” This petition, which needs to be viewed for what it is—an exercise in dissent—makes it very clear that organized religion “in all its factions, is responsible for most of the worlds wars and the entire ‘War on Terrorism.’” A number of petition signers, some showing immense tolerance by resorting to obnoxious and crude language, repeat the mantra “Religion is the cause of all wars.”4
In a more serious fashion than this off-beat online petition, interfaith founder of the metaphysical Integral Institute and a contributor to BeliefNet.com Ken Wilber writes:
Throughout history, religion has been the single greatest source of human-caused wars, suffering, and misery. In the name of God, more suffering has been inflicted than by any other manmade cause . . . for every year of peace in humankind’s history there have been fourteen years of war, 90% of which have been fought either because of, or under the banner of, God by whatever name.5
Has religion really inflicted “more suffering” than any other man-made cause? Is this assumption, one shared by a large segment of society, an accurate notion? Certainly it’s a position that’s well ingrained.6 Demonstrating the imbedded nature of this popular impression, history professor Pat Johnson writes:
I challenge my classes to comment on the following statement: Organized religion has caused more suffering, wars and violence than any other cause. Almost all the students raise their hands in agreement.7
Logically, if religion has been the major cause of the world’s wars and death, then religion should shoulder the burden of responsibility towards making peace. Today, this rationale underscores much of the global interfaith movement, including the 2005 United Nations Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace.8
But can the finger of guilt really point to religion as the primary cause of war and strife?
The Killing Century
In analyzing this hypothesis of religion’s global war guilt, let’s examine the role of religion as the primary killing factor in the bloodiest century of all time—the last one hundred or so years. As Winston Churchill explained during the MIT Mid-Century Convocation:
Little did we guess that what has been called the Century of the Common Man would witness as its outstanding feature more common men killing each other with greater facilities than any other five centuries together in the history of the world.9
So was religion the prime death factor, the “single greatest source” of war and suffering, for this very cruel and brutal century?
In order to understand the answer to this question, let us take a look at the major wars and human-caused genocides that occurred during this time frame. And in order to do this in the space allotted for this booklet, we need a lower stop-limit number—let’s say 1.5 million as a minimum death total.
Please bear in mind that this list will not be able to separate-out all examples. Some, such as the death figure for World War II, could be broken down into holocaust tabulations, single battle totals, etc.—but we’ll try to keep it simple.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that many historical conflicts and killings lack accurate death tabulations, and in some instances the numbers given in our list may actually be too low.
Other problems arise from the lack of concrete death totals. For example: the Mexican uprisings of 1910-1920 variably run between 750,000 and 2 million dead, likewise the decades-old Rwanda/Burundi conflict falls into this statistically difficult range. Because of the variance in accounting up to the 1.5 million mark, I will leave out these two examples along with many others that display complex numerical discrepancies up to the 1.5 million figure.
However, the following death-inventory will suffice for our brief review.10 Notice how few of these mass-killing events had classical religion as its central cause. And yes, religious factors do come into play in some instances, yet even in these examples there are other causes and motivations that go beyond religion.
Congo Free State (1886-1908): 8 million—with some estimates up to 13 million; control of colonial profit and power base.
Feudal Russia (1900-1917): 3.5 million; political control and consequences of political struggle.
Turkish Purges (1900-1923): 3 to 5 million; political control before and surrounding the Ottoman collapse, Islamic/ethnic factors within political/national expansionism—Pan Turkism.
First World War (1914-1918): 15 million; balance of power.
Russian Civil War (1917-1922): 9 million; political control.
Stalin (1924-1953): 20 million—with some estimates up to 60 million; political control.
China Nationalist Era (1928-1937): 3 million; political control.
Second World War (1939-1945): 55 million; German/Japanese expansionism, balance of power
Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945): 17 to 24 million; Japanese expansionism into China. Note: this number may or may not include the Henan Famine of 1942-43, which started as a drought but was horrifically accelerated by the Chinese government in Chongqing. If the numbers for the Sino-Japanese War do not include the Henan Famine, than add 3 to 4 million more dead. Furthermore, it must be recognized that the Sino-Japanese War blended into the Pacific Theatre of World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Soviet Repatriations—Victims of Yalta (1944-1947): 1.5 to 2.8 million; end-of-war and post-war repatriation of “Soviet citizens” from Western Allied-controlled territory to the Soviet Union.
Post-World War II German Expulsions (1945-1950): 2.2 million—with some estimates at 5 million; post-war retributions and displacement actions of Germans from Eastern Europe, consequences of Allied policies and Soviet “reparations in kind.”
Yugoslavia (1941-1987): 1.5 to 4.8 million; political control, ethnic/religious issues play an important role. Note: The history of conflict, genocide, and democide in the Balkans is complex and the accuracy of the numbers are difficult to ascertain. That said, the numbers given represent WWII and up to the immediate post-Tito era.
Chinese Civil War (1945-1949): 2.5 million; political control.
Mao Zedong (1949-1975): 45 to 70 million; political control and consequences of collectivist policies. Note: Approximately 45 million perished during Mao’s Great Leap Forward alone, due to starvation, collectivized and forced labor, beatings, and executions. The higher number of 70 million would include the death toll of the Great Leap Forward.
North Korea (1948-today): 2 to 3.5 million; political control and consequences of collectivist policies. Note: The numbers may be much higher due to famine/starvation.
Korean War (1950-1953): 3 million; political control.
Second Indochina War (1960-1975): 2 to 4 million; political control. Note: The higher figure represents the expanded capacity of the Second Indochina War beyond Vietnam and into surrounding nations.
Ethiopia (1962-1992): 1.5 to 2 million; political control and the exasperation of famine conditions, ethnic issues come into play.
Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1971): 1 million but up to 3 million due to starvation; political control, religion and ethnic issues played a role.
Pakistan-Bangladesh Genocide (1971): 1.7 to 3 million; political/economic and social control over East Pakistan, ethnic and religious issues come into play.
Khmer Rouge (1975-1978): 2.5 million; political control and collectivist policies.
Afghanistan (1979-2001): 1.8 million; political control, Soviet expansion, religion (Islam) and tribal/ethnic factors played a role in internal strife.
Second Sudanese War (1983-2005): 2 million; historical ethnic struggles, Islamic issues played a key role, resource control and usage.
Congo (1998-today): 3 to 5.5 million; political control and regional debasement, ethnic strife, resource and territorial control.
The sheer horror and brutality of mankind throughout the twentieth century cannot be properly demonstrated in a simplistic chart. However, it’s more than apparent that the principal causation of the majority of these awful events—especially those with death numbers more than five million high—cannot be laid at the feet of classical religion.
Remember Professor Johnson and his statement, “Organized religion has caused more suffering, wars and violence than any other cause”? Professor Johnson just baited his students, and as the good professor tells us, “Almost all the students raise their hands in agreement.” He adds:
I then demand that they provide dead bodies as evidence. They usually mention the Crusades and one or two other religious wars they might have heard of but in none of their examples can they come up with a million deaths . . . I then point out that most of the people who have died as a result of war, have done so in the 20th century and that most of the killing was done in the name of secular ideologies. I then ask them who is the ‘baddest’ of them all. Most guess Hitler. I then tell them that he is rated #3. Some then guess Stalin, and I inform them that most scholars place him at #2 with 20 million killed. Almost no one gets #1 who, of course, is Mao who starts with an estimated 45 million. I then point out that the top two were Communists, and Hitler was a radical proponent of Social Darwinism. All of these ideologies are based on atheistic systems.11
Matthew White, a librarian who has done a tremendous amount of study in genocide/war issues and is the author of the online Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century, gives this Q&A response to the question of “religion”:
Q: Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?
A: No, of course not—unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century—Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union—no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion.12
Major John P. Conway, studying at the US Army Command & General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, commented in an article “War and Religion: Is Religion to Blame?”:
Most times, it can be argued that religion may play a key and significant role in the conduct of warfare on a psychological and cultural level, but is it the cause of warfare? Do nations, states and kingdoms wage war over religion? Is religion a primary cause of conflict between governments? Many have argued that it is. Another popular statement is, “Religion has been the cause of more wars than any other factor throughout history.” This is commonly accompanied by “people have been killing each other in the name of God for centuries.” Upon closer examination, these statements exude an element of mythology versus fact . . . A fundamental analysis of past wars commonly attributed to “religion,” as the causal factor, may reveal an uninformed and reactionary misjudgment. Throughout the course of history, the cause of warfare between sovereign states, kingdoms, and governments is attributable to many factors, but can rarely be attributed to “religion” as is so often the assertion.13
Major Conway continues:
[I]t becomes apparent that those who make the claim “religion has been the cause of more wars than any other factor in history” may speak from ignorance or have ulterior motives for the assertion. Further, this type of assertion seems rooted in anti-religion posturing . . . Men and nations have a history of warfare and the root of conflict is power and gain . . . Occasionally war is fought over religion, as is perhaps the case during the reformation period in Europe. More often than not however, the cause of war can’t be laid at the door of religion.14
Certainly religion plays a motivational and ruse factor in various conflict scenarios. All kinds of pretexts can be used in inciting and snow-balling hostilities; in 1969, for example, soccer played a key role in exploding tensions between Honduras and El Salvador. But as a whole the main cause of the major genocides and wars of the last one hundred years lie outside of purely religious stimulus. Moreover, even wars that contain a deep religious element often have multiple causation, including economic, political, and territorial grievances.
None of this is to say that religion is innocent when it comes to strife. Historically, we can cite the Catholic Crusades and the resulting Reformation genocides, and the mass slaughters done in the name of Allah—such as during the Wars of Apostasy.15 In modern times, we can see the effects of Catholic-Protestant clashes in the British Isles, Hindu-Islamic hostilities in India, the Islamic-Christian slaughters in Sudan, Buddhist-Hindu warfare in Sri Lanka, Moslem-Christian fighting in Indonesia, and the constant struggle in the Middle East between Israel and her Moslem neighbors. Islam as a religious/cultural/political system does play a dominant role in many regional conflicts and localized tension-points. However, in terms of the largest concentration of outright killing capacity, communism, national socialism, and imperial expansionism—all power struggles based on centralist political methodologies—have been the grandest contributor to war and human-caused mass death. Nothing else comes even remotely close.
Clearly, to exert that “religion is the cause of all war and strife” demonstrates a severe degree of historical naivety or deeply distorted emotional blinders or the outright broadcasting of disinformation for an ulterior motive (see Major Conway’s previous quote).
For the students of Mr. Johnson’s class, naivety is the most probable reason for their belief in this religion-war mythology. But for others, ulterior motives exist.
Wrong Assumptions, Wrong Peace
When wrong suppositions are employed, wrong results are guaranteed.
As already demonstrated, the war/religion assumption is nothing short of faulty. While religions today and historically have been culpable (Islam is a prime example in both modern and ancient contexts16), religion has not been the prime cause in every instance of war and strife, not even in the most extraordinary cases of the 20th century. Embracing this mythology as fact, the quest for world peace already finds itself building on a shaky foundation.
But regardless of the incorrect nature of the above point of view, many religious authors and spiritual leaders hold to this assumption. Then, taking motivational cues from this war theory, a response is formulated around another faulty assumption.
In a nutshell, this line of reasoning goes as follows: As faith communities are to blame for the world’s sorrows, then religions need to unite under a common umbrella to ensure peace and security prevails. Therefore, by uniting faiths in the push toward world peace, the divisions that drive humanity to mass violence will be bridged. Today’s global interfaith movement takes this approach, as do many such as Ken Wilber.
Postulating this idea of religious unity under the assumption of religion’s historical war burden, Wilber states:
If humanity is ever to cease its swarming hostilities and be united in one family, without squashing the significant and important differences among us, then something like an integral approach seems the only way. Until that time, religions will continue to brutally divide humanity, as they have throughout history, and not unite, as they must if they are to be a help, not a hindrance, to tomorrow’s existence.17
So what does it mean to be religiously “united in one family”?
Marcus Braybrooke, president of the World Congress of Faiths, explores this theme in his book, Faith and Interfaith in a Global Age:
My hope—though certainly not the hope of all in the interfaith movement—remains that dialogue will eventually bring convergence or, at least, that theology will become an inter-religious discipline or “global theology.”18
German Catholic theologian Hans Küng describes a similar pan-spiritual unification:
[A]fter intra-Protestant and intra-Christian ecumenism we have irrevocably reached the third ecumenical dimension, ecumenism of the world religions!19
Küng and Braybrooke’s concept of interfaith or interspirituality is shared by a large assortment of spiritual thinkers and even some religions. John Davis and Naomi Rice—both connected with the Coptic Fellowship International—succinctly tell us:
[T]he ultimate objective is a fellowship of religions, and the gradual appearance of a world-faith, which in its broader concept will be able to encompass all humanity.20
Similarly, the Bahá’í International Community, the global representative of the Bahá’í faith, openly asserts, “The key to interfaith harmony and co-operation is to focus on the essential oneness of all religions.”21
To a global public sick of war and bloodshed, the above unification ideology becomes a very appealing venue. Yet this postulation flies in the face of anthropology, sociology, history, and theology. The belief sets of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Animism, Hinduism, New Age, and so on, are fundamentally and irrevocably disconnected from one another—including who God is (or is not), the constitution of Man, the problem of evil, and the redemption solution to humanities failed state. Furthermore, the concept that all religions are “equally valid” is logically inconsistent when their theologies are in opposition to each other.
If all religions are authenticated as valid, we must then admit each spiritual expression into this new “global religious club” as legitimate forms. Therefore, cults-of-death—such as the Aum Supreme Truth movement, which was accused of delivering nerve gas inside a Tokyo subway train—must be more than just tolerated; they must be embraced as legitimate sources of truth. Satanism too, along with any other anti-social belief system, no matter how disagreeable, must be accepted on par and received into this universal fold. In time, Bible-believing Christians will be singled out as unacceptable ingredients to this global ecumenical soup.
Clearly, this “world faith for world peace” assumption is also lacking in credibility. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise; after all, this flawed unity concept is designed around the first fabrication—the guilt of war.
It can never be said that a House of Truth is built on lies, yet the perfect dream of world peace is being constructed on that very foundation. Waving the flag of tolerance and solidarity, religion is looking to re-invent itself to a new level of “planetary responsibility”—devoid of truth, logic, and reality.
Indeed, as mankind sacrifices truth in the pursuit of peace, the only peace gained will come at the sacrifice of liberty. Why? Because such a system, misdirected from the onset, can only coerce and enforce. And whenever man imposes a utopian peace design—that is, the “creation of peace” at the expense of reality—it inevitably becomes a “bloody utopian dream.”22
Paradoxically, by its nature, a “world faith,” world peace structure may actually become a type of self-fulfilling prophecy, ultimately raising the terrifying banner; “Peace is the destruction of all opposition.”23
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. (Luke 12 :51)
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.—Jesus (John 14:27)
To order copies of Is religion to blame?—War, Religion, and the Interfaith Global Peace Agenda by Carl Teichrib, click here.
1. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse (Arlington House Publishers, 1974), p.17.
2. The song “Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon, recorded on May 31, 1969, has become a type of global anthem often sung at peace rallies.
3. BBC News Talking Points, “Is Religious Faith Still Relevant?” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/1885779.stm, April 9, 2002).
4. Caution: some of the language is very foul and would not be suitable for young readers, http://web.archive.org/web/20050115081421/http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/Ban%20religion/signatures.
5. Ken Wilber, “Why Do Religions Teach Love and Yet Cause So Much War” (www.beliefnet.com/story/147/story_14762.html BeliefNet column).
6. See Carl Teichrib, “Casting Stones: Christianity and the History of Genocide” (http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php/Casting_Stones_-_Part_2#Casting_Stones_-_Christianity_and_the_History_of_Genocide).
7. Professor Pat Johnson, responding to an online Christian apologetics discussion regarding war as an excuse against Christianity (http://net-burst.net/hot/war.htm).
8. The U.N. Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace was held on June 22, 2005, in conference room #4 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. A reading of the various speeches and documents that surround this event demonstrates the link between religion as a conflict force (and the guilt this implies) versus what religions can now do—unite under the banner of world peace and development.
9. Winston Churchill, MIT Mid-Century Convocation address, March 31, 1949.
10. Sources for this chart include the work of R.J. Rummel, Matthew White, and a host of other encyclopaedic resources.
11. Professor Pat Johnson, op. cit.
12. Matthew White, FAQ section on 20th century history (http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/war-faq.htm).
13. Major John P. Conway, US Army Professional Writing Collection, “War and Religion: Is Religion to Blame?” (http://web.archive.org/web/20130415011457/http://www.army.mil/professionalWriting/volumes/volume1/december_2003/12_03_2.html).
15. For more information on these historical conflicts and slaughters, see The Encyclopedia of Military History by R Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Age of Faith by Will Durant, The Crusades by Zoe Oldenbourg, Judgement Day: Islam, Israel and the Nations by Dave Hunt, Martyrs Mirror by Thieleman J. van Braght, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe, A History of the Jews by Abram Leon Sachar, and The Arabs in History by Bernard Lewis, etc.
16. See Dave Hunt, Judgement Day: Islam, Israel and the Nations (The Berean Call, 2005) and Dore Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom (Regnery Publishing, 2003).
17. Ken Wilber, “Why Do Religions Teach Love and Yet Cause So Much War,” op. cit.
18. Marcus Braybrooke, Faith and Interfaith in a Global Age (CoNexus, 1998), pp.15-16.
19. Hans Küng, Preface to Willard G. Oxtoby’s, The Meaning of Other Faiths (The Westminster Press, 1983), p.10.
20. John Davis and Naomi Rice, Messiah and the Second Coming (Coptic Press, 1982), p.111.
21. Bahá’í International Community, “At the UN, Governments and Religious NGOs Convene a Peace Conference” (One Country, April-June 2005, p.14, http://www.onecountry.org/story/un-governments-and-religious-ngos-convene-peace-conference).
22. See the “Bloody Utopian Dreams” series by Carl Teichrib: http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/teichrib/utopian-dreams-1.htm.
To order copies of Is religion to blame?—War, Religion, and the Interfaith Global Peace Agenda by Carl Teichrib, click here.
By Heather Clark
Christian News Network
LYNCHBURG, Va. – Liberty University and its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., recently invited Glenn Beck to take center stage to address thousands of students during its annual convocation ceremony, whose speech included references to Joseph Smith and Mormon theology.
The outspoken conservative talk show host, and founder of the news outlet The Blaze, compared Mormonism to Christianity during his half-hour speech and cited that the Lord gave him a message of coming back to “settle scores.”
“I am Mormon and share your faith,” Beck asserted during his spiritually-mixed charge to students, as he stood in front of a large banner bearing the university’s motto, “Training Champions for Christ.”
Beck was introduced by President Jerry Falwell, who noted that the university presented the political commentator with an honorary doctorate in 2010 as he likewise addressed the students during that time. Falwell remarked that the “Sounds of Liberty” also performed at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” event that year in Washington, which the university chancellor attended. Click here to continue reading.
By Discernment Ministries (Herescope)
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) teaches the same basic doctrines as the IHOP movement. This is because they both have the same historical roots that track directly back the old Manifest Son of God/Latter Rain cult. There is a noticeable difference, however. Mike Bickle invented his own unique verbiage in his “Bridal Paradigm” in order to update the old Latter Rain doctrines with the prophetic visions of his group of “Kansas City Prophets.” It takes some in-depth indoctrination to grasp the gist of Bickle’s message. But it is somewhat easier to figure out what the NAR is teaching. Both groups rely upon the old George Warnock “Feast of Tabernacles” allegory for their eschatology. And both are eagerly anticipating a “Second Pentecost” experience of a coming “Presence.”
A Second Pentecost?
Charisma magazine recently published an article about this titled “Spirit-Empowered Believers Praying for Second Pentecostal Outpouring.” The article reveals a meeting of a group calling itself “Empowered 21” (E21), featuring Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson, Oral Roberts University’s President Billy Wilson, and top-ranking NAR “apostle” Cindy Jacobs. These leaders met together to plan their long-anticipated “Second Pentecost,” a key component of their Latter Rain endtime beliefs. To read this entire article and for endnotes, click here.
Emerging/emergent spirituality continues making serious inroads into Christianity. Churches and Christian colleges, unaware of the subtle undermining of such spirituality, are embracing teachers and leaders of this movement and pointing others to them. Often they are unaware of what these teachers really believe and teach. Mike Erre (pastor of the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton – Chuck Swindoll’s former church) wrote a book titled Death by Church: Rescuing Jesus from His Followers, Recapturing God’s Hope for His People. This book is a perfect example of how the “new” spirituality has an outer wrapping of Christianity but an inner core that exudes an entirely different spirituality. The concepts in this book are the basic concepts of the mass deception that is happening within the walls of Christianity today. In this book review, we hope to show the “big” picture of this deception.
In the pages of Death by Church (Harvest House), Mike Erre acknowledges that Jesus is Lord. He also references a number of Scriptures and talks about several different Bible stories. But for the discerning Christian who knows his Bible, it doesn’t take too long into Erre’s book to realize something is amiss, and such a reader soon begins to have a sense that he is theologically being tossed to and fro between the pages of this book and soon feeling like he is in a battle zone for the truth. Sandwiched between the Scripture references and the mention of “Jesus” is a theology that does not at all represent the Gospel.
Death by Church has a point to make–that God is saving “all of creation” (eg. p. 100) and that the “church” is not the substance of the kingdom of God (i.e., the whole of creation and all of humanity is). In fact, Erre says, the church is not the kingdom of God at all – it only points to the kingdom of God, which incorporates all of creation and, if the church does all the right things it can have the privilege of being part of that kingdom too. Erre seeks to prove his point but not just by turning to Scripture – he turns to prominent figures in the emerging/emergent church (e.g., Brian McLaren and Dan Kimball), the contemplative mystical prayer movement (e.g., Dallas Willard and panentheist Richard Rohr-a favorite of Erre’s), and New Age sympathizers (such as Marcus Borg, who believes Jesus did not see himself as the Son of God (see FMSN, p. 124), and Gregory Boyd, emerging author of Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty). Couple Erre’s frequent use of emerging/contemplative/New Age sympathizing authors with his kingdom-now theology wrapped in universalist/panentheistic overtones, and Death by Church actually takes on a pseudo-name, Death by Deception. But let’s take a closer look:
Erre states in the beginning of the book that as Christians, “We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for” (p. 22). Relying heavily on statistics and studies in this first section of the book, Erre wants the reader to know that for the most part over the “majority of the last 2000 years” Christians have “been the sponsor and center of most of Western culture and civilization”(p. 20). But this has not been a good thing, according to Erre, who says that something has “gone very wrong,” particularly with “American culture,” which has been guilty of simplifying “complicated things.” He gives an example: salvation. “We have reduced salvation into four steps that allow me entrance into heaven when I die. But in so doing, we have bypassed the gospel that Jesus preached–the gospel of the kingdom of God. This gospel deals much more with the ‘here and now’ that the ‘then’ [‘then’ meaning when Jesus died on the Cross] and there’ [there meaning heaven, our eternal home]” (p. 26). And this is Erre’s set up for the remainder of the book.
The kingdom of God theology that Erre presents is broad–in fact, very broad. That is why he turns to Brian McLaren, Alan Hirsch, and a number of other broad-minded thinkers to make his case. Erre is not merely quoting these figures in a benign manner–he clearly resonates with them and admits many of them have been “highly influential” in his life.1 He fondly and favorably tells his readers what they think and what they believe. Quoting Alan Hirsch, Erre says that “the major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism” (p. 31). He eventually defines “consumerism” as individualism, saying that there has been too much emphasis within Christianity on individual salvation and nothing on corporate salvation (ie., all of the world and creation being saved).
As with most emerging authors, Erre exalts uncertainty and doubt (always searching, never finding). He states: “Jesus brings mystery, paradox, and tension–rarely did someone get a straight answer out of Him” (p. 36), which is not true about Jesus at all. To help build Erre’s case, he turns a number of times to two Fuller Seminary professors, Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger. Interestingly, in Faith Undone, Roger Oakland discusses Gibbs and Bolger. Oakland states: “They found that emerging church leaders are not impressed with Christians who defend the faith by offering definitive answers to those who doubt the faith (p. 182).” Doubt and uncertainty are vital to the emerging church thinking–and to their mission–and without this foundation, the emerging church cannot reach its goal of an all-inclusive kingdom (that Erre seeks to present in Death by Church). This resonates with Thomas Merton who told people of other religious traditions that we are already in unity, but we just don’t realize it yet. (see ATOD, p. 159). Again from Faith Undone, Oakland quotes Gibbs and Bolger:
Evangelism or mission for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe, no matter how edgy or creative I get. It is more about shared experiences and encounters. It is about walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another.2
Oakland shows how Gibbs and Bolger are presenting an “inclusive gospel,” certainly the overall message of Erre’s book.
Ironically, Gibbs and Bolger look to emerging church figure, Spencer Burke (of The Ooze), who, according to Burke’s publisher’s website (Zondervan), has had significant connections to Erre’s former church RockHarbor Church.3 Roger Oakland reveals some disturbing things about Burke’s spirituality that sound very inline with Erre’s. Quoting Gibbs and Bolger again:
Burke’s community is prepared to learn from faith traditions outside the Christian fold. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit has been with these people all along. The community celebrates other traditions. They reach out to other traditions, and see them as beloved children of God. With a focus on kingdom rather than on church, people find that their relationship with other faiths changes.
Back to Death by Church. Erre says that “Central to the kingdom is God’s desire to renew, restore, and reconcile all things” (p. 41). Calling this a “deep theology” (p. 42), Erre says he would like to “lay a theological groundwork” (p. 45). First, he explains that a gospel that focuses on “going to heaven after you die, and praying the prayer of salvation” is “only a narrow slice of what the Scriptures teach about salvation” (p. 46). Erre adds: “His great purpose is to restore His fallen creation and renew it beyond the original” (p. 48). Numerous times throughout the book, he says that the “central theme” of the Bible is “the kingdom of God” (p. 54). But as the discerning reader pours through the pages of Death by Church, a clear and disturbing picture of what Erre means by “kingdom of God” begins to take shape–when Erre talks about the kingdom of God, he means that “the church” is “not the kingdom.” The kingdom is “something bigger.” “If the kingdom is inclusive,” Erre says, “the church should be also” (p. 78).
Erre sounds very much like New Age Episcopalian priest, Matthew Fox, who calls the “deep theology” that Erre talks about a “deep ecumenism” (“deep” meaning all-inclusive). Fox expresses this clearly:
I foresee a renaissance, “a rebirth based on a spiritual initiative” … This new birth will cut through all cultures and all religions and indeed will draw forth the wisdom common to all vital mystical traditions in a global religious awakening I call “deep ecumenism.”4
While Erre himself does not speak of the “mystical traditions” in Death by Church, many of those he incorporates into his book (Willard, McLaren, Rohr, Borg, Bell, Kimball, etc.) abundantly do in their own writings.
Erre is not shy about sharing his replacement theology views either. Speaking of a “coming restoration” (p. 88) and a “new order,” he says that the “people of God” are “the new and renewed Israel” (p. 95). Reading through the book, one realizes that Erre sees no prophetic value or plan (for the future) in Israel:
“Jesus … creates a new order–a new community, a new Israel” (p. 104).
“Jesus of Nazareth reconstructs a true Israel by choosing 12 disciples (one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel)” (p. 110).
“Central to understanding this call of Jesus is the idea that it concerned itself less with the salvation of individual souls and more with the formation of a renewed Israel, a community of disciples that would collectively embody the kingdom” (p. 111).
“The early Christians saw themselves as continuing Israel’s story … as messianic Israel” (p. 116).
Echoing his fellow emergent leaders, Erre minimizes “the question of what happens to me after I die” and talks about a “cosmic” Jesus who “sends His “new community, the church” into the world (p. 98). He states: “The New Testament … regularly insists that the major, central, framing question is that of God’s purpose of rescue and re-creation for human beings and the whole world” (p. 98). He calls it the “here and now” theology (p. 99). (“Our worn-out theology of escaping from this world does not do justice to the here-and-now work” (p. 99).
Erre’s theme, that all of creation is being restored and saved, is redundant through the book. On one page alone, he drives the point several times:
1. “God wants to redeem the whole person and all of creation.”
2. “The good news … is about the rule of God being applied to all of creation–every part of human beings and the world.”
3. “Our traditional conceptions of salvation are blatantly more individualist, focusing on one’s individual reconciliation with God through a personal relationship with Jesus … It is more concerned with getting souls to heaven than with bringing heaven to earth. [This resonates with Marcus Borg, who calls this old paradigm Christianity.] This narrow gospel focuses only on the salvation of the human soul, but the gospel of the kingdom s includes salvation of human beings within the context of the larger story of God restoring all of creation.
4. “[T]he consummation of the kingdom includes an entirely new creation.
5. This new and cosmic salvation is spoken of as the renewal, restoration, or reconciliation of all things.”
6. (p. 125): “One of the ways that the kingdom is larger than the church is that the focus on the kingdom is the redemption of all creation. The message of the kingdom of God is cosmic in its proportions … it [the kingdom] is ultimately aimed at redeeming and restoring all that God has made” (more on pp. 128-129; 210-211; 217).
Please understand that the view Erre is expressing in these statements is classic universalism – all are saved (which negates the Gospel message of Jesus Christ because now faith in Christ is not a requirement for salvation, and regardless of one’s acceptance or rejection of the Gospel, he or she is saved. This would mean, as New Ager Neale Donald Walsch teaches, that even Hitler would be saved).
It is important to note here that when Erre talks about God restoring and renewing all things, he is not talking about the new heaven and the earth that will take place after the events that are foretold in the Book of Revelation. He is espousing a view about a renewal and restoration that will occur prior to these events (this is called kingdom-now theology).
Erre says that this newly defined “Kingdom citizenship” incorporates those of other kingdoms as well, not just our own kingdom of God, which helps us to see “our place in the cosmic [meaning universal] story” (p. 112). This new “Kingdom” “has decreed that independence has no place in His kingdom. Instead collective interdependence is demanded,” Erre states. One term that Erre uses frequently is a term that resembles New Age leader Barbara Marx Hubbard who also speaks of a “new humanity.” When Marx Hubbard uses this term, she means man has been enlightened to understand his own divinity and now realizes all of humanity is being saved, along with all of creation. The stipulation for this “new humanity” is not whether someone has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through being born-again and regeneration through Christ–no, it is about a new humanity that has joined together and understands her cosmic divinity (see False Christ Coming).
Erre’s kingdom-now theology is expressed throughout the book. For instance on page 132, he states that the Gospel is “something bigger” than the “story of Jesus’ dying for the private sins of individuals…. it is the story of God’s kingdom being launched, on earth as in heaven, generating a new state of affairs. Atonement, redemption, and salvation are what happen on the way.” This is typical emerging spirituality that does not see atonement, redemption, and salvation as a moment in history when Jesus Christ died on the Cross but rather an ongoing process that is continually growing, expanding, changing (see our review of An Emergent Manifesto of Hope). Erre states that “the end of the age does not result in the destruction of the earth but rather in its renewal.” He says: “[R]ather that waiting for the last days, we have been living in them since the coming of Jesus. Rather than waiting for the end to come, we are already living in the end times that will be consummated when Jesus returns” (p. 198). And, “[T]he end of the age does not result in the destruction of the earth but rather in its renewal”(p. 212).
Erre believes that the church “neither initiates nor sustains [God’s] work” on the earth but must seek out where the work of God is already taking place and participate in that work. He says when we take on this view, we can then understand that the “whole of creation is now included in the scope of redemption.” “The church is not the primary location of God in the world; the world is,” he says (p. 133).
Death by Church also lays out a perfect example of what Lighthouse Trails calls “the new missiology.” In essence, Erre tells believers that “we don’t take Christ to a region or people group, but we instead show up and pay attention to the work that Jesus is already doing. We have to move away from the current mind-set about church, ministry, and mission.” (p. 136). In other words, we don’t have to tell people about Jesus because Jesus is already there among them (before they hear the Gospel and believe; i.e, they can keep their same religion and still be connected to God). This is what William Young, author of the best-seller The Shack, echoes when The Shack’s “Jesus” says he has no desire to make anyone Christian. Erre states: “We don’t do God’s work in the world; we simply participate in God’s work in the world that is already underway. … He’s always at work everywhere” (p. 162).
As if the kingdom-now theology, replacement theology, universalistic message, and new missiology were not enough, Erre presents to the reader a case for panentheism (God in all things). Given the fact that he includes Richard Rohr in his list of those he resonates with, this is no surprise. Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. His spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ) who believes in pantheism (God is all) and panentheism (God in all). Rohr wrote the foreword to a 2007 book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God.
In Death by Church, in Erre’s presentation of panentheism, Erre quotes Madeleine L’Engle: “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation” (p. 159). What she is saying here is that God (the sacred) can be found in everything (the secular). In that line of thinking, Erre himself says that his new kingdom “dismantles the sacred/secular distinction” and “all things are given over to God–including those things formerly thought to be secular or unspiritual” He adds: “Confessional worship … seeks to see everything as having been made to reflect the glory of God. … we reawaken to the possibilities of redemption in all areas of life” (pp. 158). This is the same theology as Sue Monk Kidd (see ATOD, p. 134). This concept reflects classic panentheism–God is in all things. Keep in mind, that there is a continuity of the theme that God is in everything with many of the figures that Erre turns to in his book. Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg, Brian McLaren, and John Dominic Crossan are four who hold to this view and are referenced in Death by Church. Borg is one of the leading champions of panentheisism of mainline Christianity, as is Brian McLaren through the emerging church. Rob Bell, who resonates with Marcus Borg, is also referenced in Death by Church. We want to reiterate here, Erre is not just referencing these figures–he has absorbed their theology!
We close with this. It’s vital to understand that spiritual deception can sound very Christian. That is how deception works. Ray Yungen has given a solemn warning to this effect when he comments on occultist Alice Bailey’s prediction of what her movement (the New Age) would do and how it would accomplish “world illumination”:
In light of the many who will be coming in Christ’s name, I believe the Alice Bailey prophecies can provide further insight into what the apostle Paul called in II Thessalonians the falling away. Bailey eagerly foretold of what she termed “the regeneration of the churches.” 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.
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 [emerging] spirituality would be drawing in those open to it.5
1. From Disclaimer in Death by Church at beginning of book.
2. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic of Baker Publishing Group, 2005), p. 132. (This book cites Brian McLaren on back cover).
3. One source told us that Burke may no longer be on staff at RockHarbor.
4. Roger Oakland in Faith Undone (chapter 2), quoting Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, 1988, p. 5.
5. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, LLC, 2nd ed., 2006), p. 123.