Posts Tagged ‘the Word of God’
LTRP Note: While some try to insist that the “emerging church” is dead, we say it is alive. That can be proven by all the emergent books pouring off the presses of evangelical publishing houses. While the book below came out seven years ago, its influence continues on, forming (and misinforming) the next generation of “Christian” leaders. If you have children or grandchildren in Christian colleges, most likely they have been, either directly or indirectly, influenced by Tony Jones.
“This is the book to read to get the actual insiders’ view of all things emergent.” -Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus but not the Church
“This intelligent and informative book is the only insider story from one of the leading lights of the more progressive wing of the emerging movement, the former national coordinator of Emergent Village.” –
Emerging church leader Tony Jones’ book, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, may not come as a shock to those who have already read Jones’ books, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope and The Sacred Way. To those who haven’t read his other books, this one will most likely shock. Either way, The New Christians does provide further insights into the true nature of the emerging church. In The Sacred Way, Jones openly acknowledges his affinity with mysticism. With chapters on labyrinths, stations of the cross, the silence, centering (mantric) prayer, and more, Jones’ leaves no doubt that he embraces eastern-style mystical prayer practices. In An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, he takes it to the next level. The thesis of that book could be described as:
The Kingdom of God is already here on earth, includes all people, all faiths, and in fact is in all people and all of creation and can be felt or realized through mysticism which connects everything together as ONE. (see review
Those who have come to understand mantra meditation know that the usual outcome of going into altered states is a new spiritual consciousness that is open to both panentheism (God in all) and interspirituality (all religions lead to God). 1
In order to have this new spiritual outlook, one’s view of “truth” must be adjusted – Jones’ new book, The New Christians, provides such an outline for this adjustment. A theme of this book could go something this:
Emergents say they believe in truth, but they define it as something that is always changing and being refined, can never be grasped, and enfolds all beliefs, except the ones that insist there is only one truth.
It’s not really any wonder that Jones says this – he credits Brian McLaren as “helping to birth this book” (p. 253). McLaren’s view on truth resonates with the description above.
As is typical with many emerging church books, The New Christians emphatically tries to convince readers that the “church is dead” (p. 4), at least church as we have known it. Jones uses several analogies to describe present day Christianity, such as it being like the nearly-obsolete pay phones, or a dying old growth forest, or compost (rotting vegetables). He says we can almost hear the “death rattle” of “America’s church” (p. 5).
Jones explains that the movement was spawned because a lot of youth pastors had been raised in this dying, superficial Christianity and the emerging church is their way of coming of age. But anyone who has read Roger Oakland’s powerful expose’ on the emerging church (Faith Undone) knows that the movement was actually spawned by big corporate dollars, and it is very likely that these youth pastors’ discontent for traditional Christianity is more the fault of the seminaries they attended rather than their upbringing. Many of the seminaries have been heralding this “new kind of Christianity” for a long time. Incidentally, on page 48, Jones says that those who funded the emerging church through Leadership Network in the 90s weren’t too happy about the direction these young emergents were heading. “The funding for the Young Leaders Network (later to become Emergent),” Jones says, “was about to come to an end.” But this statement is somewhat misleading, giving the impression that the emergents were financially left out in the cold. The publisher for The New Christians (and for many other emergent books) is Jossey Bass, an imprint of a large corporation called Wiley & Sons and a partner with Leadership Network. Between Jossey Bass, Zondervan, Baker Books (Emersion) and Thomas Nelson, the emerging church authors are hardly left to fend for themselves.
In Jones’ efforts to convey to readers that non-emerging Christians do not care about humanity and the earth, he goes into a gory detailed account of a chicken slaughterhouse where chickens are issued an electric shock and then their throats are slit. He says that the typical Christian just doesn’t care about the world’s abuses, tragedies, and woes, and says that when disaster hits, all they care about is whether “victims had invited Jesus into their hearts” (p. 18). Using extreme examples over and over to prove his points, Jones will leave many unsuspecting readers with the notion that up until now Christians have done almost nothing good for this world. And like his cohorts, Tony Campolo and Dan Kimball, who also paint a dismal view of traditional Christianity, Jones believes that the problems of the world are actually caused (at least in large part) by Christians. Jones neglects to admit that when disasters happen throughout the world, Christian-led organizations race to the scenes, often sooner than governmental agencies. While there have certainly been countless occurrences throughout history when those proclaiming to be Christian do fit Jones’ stereotype, he completely (and seemingly intentionally) leaves out the category of true Christianity that has been in existence since the beginning of the church two thousand years ago. A distorted attempt by several of today’s contemplative and emerging leaders would have us believe that true devoted Christians have not existed up until now, until paradigms like Purpose Driven and emerging spirituality came on the scene. This of course, is resulting in a growing hostility and alienation towards biblical Christianity today.
What is even more disturbing about The New Christians is Jones’ attack on truth and the Word of God. Jones insists that it is wrong to accept and believe the Bible to be true without using logic and reasoning. He states:
For the conservative, the sacred text of Christianity is indubitable, established by an internal and circular reasoning: “The Bible claims to be God’s truth, so therefore it’s true.”
Jones emphasizes the role philosophy and reasoning must play in determining whether the Bible is true and God is real. And in fact, he acknowledges how ancient atheist philosophers influenced the early beginnings of the emerging church (p. 43). But in reality, philosophy and reasoning does not bring people to Christ. Most philosophers are atheist or agnostic. The influence of philosophy coupled with the use of mysticism certainly explains why “emergents” are so confused.
Jones’ also believes that the gospel has been dormant throughout most of history, except during specific times when it was able to break through “human institutions.” He states:
And although it [the gospel] has been crusted over for eons, it will inevitably find a time and a fissure, an opportunity to blast through that crust and explode, volcano-like into the atmosphere. (p. 36)
If this were true, then God has failed to keep his gospel alive, or at best has only been able to allow it to come out of dormancy from time to time. Yet we know that there has always been a representation of the true gospel on the earth throughout history.
Ultimately, what one will come away with from Jones’ book is that Jones (and all emergents, he says) believes that truth cannot be pinned down and set in concrete. What is true for today may not be considered truth tomorrow. And he isn’t talking just about negotiable societal and cultural ideologies. He is talking about doctrine too. In fact, that is really the point he wants to get across in this book. Emergents love the Bible, he says, but they are not going to be so arrogant “[t]o assume that our convictions about God are somehow timeless” and to think they are “establishes an imperialistic attitude that has a chilling effect on the honest conversation that’s needed for theology to progress” (p. 114). This progression of theology that Jones speaks of is not limited to areas of theology that are often and legitimately debated by Christian scholars. No; Jones says even the doctrine of atonement cannot be set in stone. He says it is “arrogant and a bit deceptive” (p. 77) to suggest that there can be any one understanding of atonement. He was referencing the difference between a traditional Christian pastor versus Brian McLaren, who has called the doctrine of hell and the Cross “false advertising” for God. 2 Jones states that to “try to freeze one particular articulation of the gospel, to make it timeless and universally applicable, actually does an injustice to the gospel” (p. 96). He says we must “refigure our theology” (p. 104) and that “emergents” are “looking for a Christianity that’s still exploratory” (i.e., theology is flexible – p. 108) and “a gospel that meshes with our own experience of the world” (p. 110). “Theology is not universal, nor is it transcendent” (p. 112), he claims, but it is “temporary” and we “must carry our theologies with an open hand” (p. 114). He adds:
[E]mergents reject metaphors like “pin it down,” “in a nutshell,” “sum it up,” and “boil it down” when speaking of God and God’s Kingdom, for it simply can’t be done (p. 114).
One of those “theologies” Jones refers to is that of homosexuality. He explains: “What I can proclaim with confidence is that in a hundred years, the church will not be debating gay marriage anymore. We will have reached consensus and moved on.” He adds to that: “[E]mergents are pretty humble about the positions we hold today and about the issues that we consider most important” (p. 116).
However, reading Jones’ book is probably not going to help readers get a grasp of just what these positions are. Jones’ is all over the place with his ideas and ultimately says even these ideas are forever changing and being reformed based on the experiential and “comes in all sorts of forms” (p. 160). Quoting Brian McLaren, Jones goes so far as to say that the moment we think we have truth and theology figured out, “we cease being faithful…. The Bible is a companion on the faith journey, not a textbook of proofs” (p. 168).
In the end, Jones leaves his readers with this: “Jesus did not have a ‘statement of faith'” (p. 234). In other words, Jesus was just as vague and unsure about what is truth, atonement, righteousness, the gospel, as are the emergents today. But this is a complete and horrible distortion of Jesus Christ, who did indeed have a statement of faith. In fact, everything He said was a statement of true faith, and He spoke as one knowing exactly what truth is:
For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:29)
And He also stated: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)
Jones says that end-times, last-days thinking Christians “propose the dubious theology that the world is going to get worse and worse and worse until it gets so bad that God has to intervene” (p. 98-99). And like many, such as Tony Campolo, Jones suggests that those who believe in wars, increasing sin, “false teachers,” and “antichrists” are the cause of environmental issues (p. 100). In reality, while it is true that every person in the world who owns a car contributes to pollution, many of the earth’s major environmental problems stem from abuse of land by corrupt governments and profit-hungry corporations (i.e., human sinfulness), not because of Christians who believe what the Bible says about Christ’s return. That’s absurd!
Finally, and not in any way least, Jones makes a case for mysticism when he says that “[E]mergents will use all of the means available to them to quest after this truth we call God.” He says this on the heels of explaining that his wife (a Yoga instructor), has gotten into alternative health. Jones say emergents “quest after God using the tools of the medieval mystics and the ancient monastics (i.e., contemplative prayer)…. some will even be open to sources of truth that are external to traditional [biblical] Christianity, be it philosophy or another religious system (p. 159).” And it is in these other religious systems that Jones and the New Christians find “truth.” He puts it well:
In the aftermath of the myth of objectivity [absolute truth], of fideisims and airtight systems, we’re left to embrace our subjectivity, to revel in it, for it’s only when we accept our own biases that we allow them to be shaped by contrary opinions and biases. One place where this is most poignant is interreligious dialogue” (p. 155).
Fellow cohorts who place their names on The New Christians endorsement include Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Dan Kimball, Jim Wallis, Mark Ostreicher (former head of Youth Specialties), and a number of others who have proven over time that they too have joined the ranks of a spirituality that cannot lead people to Christ but only to confusion and lostness. And it is for this reason we hope that The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontiers will not end up on the library and classroom shelves of Christian colleges and seminaries and certainly not in the youth groups of Christian churches and organizations.
4 Reasons Why Holman Publishers Should Not Have Inserted an Article by a Contemplative Author into Their King James Bibles
Recently, Lighthouse Trails learned that Holman Bible Publishers (the oldest Bible publisher in America) has inserted an article by a strong contemplative proponent into several of their King James Version Bibles (some of which Lighthouse Trails WAS carrying) including: the Ultra Thin Reference Bible, the Pocket-Sized Bible Classic, the Large Print Ultra Thin Bible, and the Personal Reference Bible. The article in the Bibles is titled, “Why You Should Read the King James Bible,” written by the late Calvin Miller (died 2012). This is a major issue, and let us tell you 4 reasons why we believe Holman should not have done this:
1. Calvin Miller is an advocate for contemplative/centering prayer. Ray Yungen discusses Miller in A Time of Departing:
In Into the Depths of God, [Calvin] Miller encourages readers to engage in centering prayer and explains it as a union between man and God:
“Centering is the merger of two ‘selves’—ours and his [God’s]. Centering is union with Christ. It is not a union that eradicates either self but one that heightens both” (p. 107).
Into the Depths of God is an exhortation in contemplative spirituality and is brimming with quotes by Thomas Merton and other contemplatives. Miller speaks of the “wonderful relationship between ecstasy [mystical state] and transcendence [God],” and says that “Ecstasy is meant to increase our desire for heaven” (p. 96) (A Time of Departing, p. 186).
Into the Depths of God is riddled with favorable quotes by and references to a number of contemplative mystics. In addition to Thomas Merton, there is Evelyn Underhill, St. John of the Cross, Esther de Waal, Kathleen Norris, Hildegard of Bingen, Annie Dillard, Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Anthony (a Desert Father). In Miller’s newer book, The Disciplined Life, Miller again turns to the mystics. Miller also wrote The Path to Celtic Prayer (Celtic spirituality is another avenue through which contemplative is entering the evangelical church).
2. Secondly, Calvin Miller resonates with emergent teacher Marcus Borg. In Miller’s book, The Book of Jesus (2005), Marcus Borg writes an entire chapter for the book. Miller would never include an entire chapter of his own book if it was written by someone he did not resonate with. As Lighthouse Trails has revealed in past articles and books, Marcus Borg denies the tenets of the Christian faith including the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, and His atonement for sin. Roger Oakland discusses Borg in Faith Undone:
Borg explains in his book The God We Never Knew that his views on God, the Bible, and Christianity were transformed while he was in seminary:
“I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product, the product of two ancient communities, biblical Israel and early Christianity. As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God. . . . I realized that whatever “divine revelation” and the “inspiration of the Bible” meant (if they meant anything), they did not mean that the Bible was a divine product with divine authority.” (p. 125)
This attitude would certainly explain how Borg could say: “Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world” (p. 125) (from p. 196, Faith Undone).
There’s no possible way that Calvin Miller could have been familiar with Borg’s writings and not been aware of his blatantly anti-Gospel stance. This is a common problem that Lighthouse Trails has had in the past and continues to have that people we are critical of tend to resonate with those who are blatant in their New Age views, but they themselves appear to be relatively benign to the larger evangelical community (see Beware the Bridgers) (Also see a book review of one of Borg’s books.)
3. As we have shown above, Calvin Miller holds to contemplative persuasions. And yet, these Bibles have an article written by him within their pages. What this will do is point Bible readers to Miller and his writings and possibly even to Marcus Borg and his writings. To have Calvin Miller’s article in a Bible seems to be a terrible dichotomy: i.e., the Bible points people to the Gospel’s message of the Cross and man’s sinful state and need of a Savior while contemplative, as a movement, points people to man’s supposed divinity and diminishes the need for a Savior.
4. In view of Calvin Miller’s contemplative propensities, let’s briefly examine his article in the Holman Bibles, “Why You Should Read the King James Bible.” In the article, he lists three reasons why the KJV should be read: 1) it is the version your parents and grandparents read 2) it has literary and poetic strength and beauty, and 3) there is ease in memorizing verses in the KJV because of its “high literary resonance.” While these reasons all produce merit, the article seems to turn the KJV into more of a poetic book than the Word of God. While Lighthouse Trails is not in the category of what some call King James Only (in that that is the only version someone can get saved through), we do see it as a standard high above many of the Bible versions available today. Thus we have come to trust it more than others. We find it noteworthy of these two things: one, that emerging church figures (such as Phyllis Tickle who suggest it is a lovely book of poetic literature but not an authority in our lives and Tony Jones who minimizes the authority of the Bible as the Word of God) have done much to disregard the Bible as God’s inspired Word, and two, that the Holman Bibles include someone (Miller) who resonates with a man (Borg) who rejects the basic fundamentals of Christianity and Miller himself speaks of the poetic nature of the Bible.
Another Possible Ramification:
There are serious implications and possible ramifications regarding what is going on here. For instance, something many may not have considered: The King James Bible has no copyright on it because of its age. Bluntly put, anyone can do anything they want to that Bible and still call it the King James Bible. As an example, in some of Holman’s editions, they have changed the spelling of some words (e.g., Saviour to Savior). This might not seem like a big deal to some people, but how do we know what a particular publisher is changing and not changing? If they can change the spellings of words, they can also omit or change words and phrases. For instance, they could change or remove references to homosexuality (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:9, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27) or to the deity of Christ (e.g., Romans 9:5, Isaiah 40:3 – see more). While we do believe that the Lord will preserve and protect His Word, the “editing” of the Kings James Bible could become a free-for-all to emergent-leaning publishers.
Conclusion: Perhaps it would be a good idea to check inside your own Bibles and ones you are giving as gifts and make sure there are no articles written by contemplative and/or emerging authors. If any reading this feel compelled, here is the contact information for Holman Bible Publishers. If you do contact them, please ask them to remove the article by Calvin Miller in their Bible editions.
Note: Lighthouse Trails has put in two calls into Holman, but we have not yet heard back from anyone regarding this matter. Update: On the afternoon of April 8th, shortly after this article was posted, we received a phone call from someone who works at Holman Publishers. She is going to be passing this article onto the editorial department. We were told that LifeWay Resources is the parent company of B & H (Broadman & Holman).
Holman Bible Publishers
127 9th Avenue N
Nashville, TN 37234-0002
NEW PRINT BOOKLET TRACT: How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church
How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church, written by Roger Oakland, is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tracts. The booklet is 16 pages long and sells for $1.50 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. This booklet is specifically geared toward passing out to those who are involved with contemplative/emerging/seeker friendly churches. Below is the content of the booklet. The book also contains a bonus section titled “Who are the ‘Change Agents’ of the Emerging Church, listing over 50 names to look out for when trying to make sure your church does not go emerging. To order copies of How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church, click here.
“How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church”
by Roger Oakland
The world is changing. So is the Christian evangelical church. There was a time—not that long ago—when the Bible was considered to be the Word of God by the majority of evangelical Christians. Now that we are well into the third millennium and the post-modern, post-Christian era, the term evangelical can mean almost anything. What has happened? Why is this happening and what is the future for mainstream Christianity?
For the past several years, I have been speaking around the world on current trends that are impacting Christianity. After these presentations, I am approached by Christians who come from many different church backgrounds. Many are expressing their concerns about what is happening in their churches, troubled by the new direction they see their church going. While they may not always be able to discern what is wrong, they know something is wrong and that it needs to be addressed.
Further, many have told me they have attempted to express their concerns with their pastors or church elders. In almost every case, they were told they had a choice to make—get with the new program or get out of the church.
This move towards a reinvented Christianity (one designed to “reach people”) seems to be here for the long haul. It is not just a passing fad. I am often asked by concerned brothers and sisters in Christ to provide an explanation in order to help them understand what they have encountered. They want to know why these changes are underway and what to expect in the future. As well, they want to know what, if anything can be done, to stem this tide. It is for this reason I am writing this commentary—to provide biblical insight regarding the Emerging Church and where it is heading in the future.
The Gospel According to the Scriptures
Throughout church history, various trends have come and gone. While culture changes from place to place, biblical Christianity has always been based upon the central message of the Bible which is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message never changes.
This gospel message is about who Jesus Christ is, and what He has done. A child can understand the gospel message. This message proclaims that life here on planet earth is finite and that life after death is eternal. The good news is that we can be saved from our sins if we will repent and simply ask for forgiveness and follow Him.
How we respond to the gospel message during the time we have on earth determines where we spend eternity—heaven or hell. Jesus, the Creator of the universe, provided a way and the only way we can spend eternity with Him. It is a matter of making a personal decision whether or not we will accept the plan He has provided.
God’s adversary does not want mankind to understand the simple message. His plan is to deceive the world. If he can blind people from the gospel or convince them that they believe the gospel when indeed they do not, his plan has been successful. Throughout the ages, countless billions have been duped, either rejecting the truth, or believing that they had believed the truth when instead they had been deceived.
The Gospel According to Postmodernism
Times change! However, the gospel must remain the same no matter what else changes. We are now living in the postmodern era. In a sincere attempt to reach the postmodern generation with the gospel, it seems many Christians have become postmodern in their thinking.
Perhaps the term postmodern is new to you. Let’s examine what it means.
First, the modern era was characterized by a time of rational thinking based on factual observation. Many claim the modern era ended in the mid 1900s.
The postmodern mindset moves beyond the rational and the factual to the experiential and the mystical. In other words, in the past it was possible to know right from wrong and black from white. In the postmodern era all things are relative to the beholder. What may be right for you may be wrong for someone else. There is no such thing as absolute truth. The only thing that is absolute is that there is no absolute.
We now live in a time in history that is characterized as postmodern. Professors at universities teach students there is no right or wrong. All things are relative. The gospel message to the postmodern mindset is far too dogmatic and arrogant. They say it is necessary to find a more moderate gospel that can be accepted by the masses.
Many church leaders are now looking for ways to reach the postmodern generation. They believe they can find the appropriate methods to do so without changing the message. However, in their attempt to reach this postmodern generation, they have become postmodern themselves and have changed the message. As the gospel is fixed upon the Scriptures, the gospel cannot change, unless of course it becomes another gospel. I believe this is what is happening in the Emerging Church.
He Didn’t Come
Many have noticed that since the turn of the millennium, their churches have changed positions on Bible prophecy and the Second Coming of Jesus. Many have given up on the return of Jesus. From the ‘60s on there was an excitement about the imminent return of Jesus. The Jesus People were excited about Bible prophecy and could see signs that Jesus would descend from the heavens for His Bride at any moment.
The year 2000 was of particular importance. When Jesus didn’t show up, it seems many were apparently disappointed. “Perhaps Jesus has delayed His coming,” some have said. Others are even taking the position that He may not be coming at all, at least not in the manner we have been taught. They are now convinced that we need to be busy about “building His Kingdom” here on earth by “whatever human effort is required.”
The Gospel of the Kingdom
One of the main indicators that something has changed can be seen in the way the future is perceived. Rather than urgently proclaiming the gospel according to the Scriptures and believing the time to do so is short, the emphasis has now shifted. No longer are “signs of the times” significant. The battle cry is very different. A major emphasis among evangelicals is the idea that the world can be radically improved through social programs.
This concept, while on the surface may sound very good, has some serious biblical implications. According to the Scriptures, there will be no kingdom of God until the King arrives. All the human effort man can muster up will fall short of bringing utopia. In fact, according to the Scriptures, fallen man will lead us further down the road to a society of despair and lawlessness just like it was in the days of Noah.
Thus, this purpose-driven view of establishing global utopia may be a plan, but it is “driven” by humanistic reasoning and not led by the Holy Spirit. While it is of course good to do good unto others, all the goodness that we can do will not be good enough. Pastors and church leaders who get involved in such man-driven programs can usually be identified by certain characteristics:
Sound biblical doctrine is dangerous and divisive, and the experiential (i.e.,mystical) is given a greater role than doctrine.
Bible prophecy is no longer taught and is considered a waste of time.
Israel becomes less and less important and has no biblical significance.
Eventually the promises for Israel are applied to the church and not Israel (Replacement Theology).
Bible study is replaced by studying someone’s book and his methods.
Church health is evaluated on the quantity of people who attend.
The truth of God’s Word becomes less and less important.
God’s Word, especially concepts like hell, sin and repentance, is eventually downplayed so the unbeliever is not offended.
Spiritual Formation and Transformation
Much of what I have described provides the formula for a dumbing-down of Christianity that paves the way for an apostasy that will only intensify in the future. This trend away from the authority of God’s Word to the reinvented form of Christianity has overcome all evangelical denominations like an avalanche. Few Bible teachers saw this avalanche coming. Now that it is underway, few realize it has even happened.
However, there is another big piece to the puzzle that must be identified in order to understand what is emerging in the Emerging Church. While biblical Christianity has been dumbed-down and the light of God’s Word diminished, another avalanche of deception is underway that is equally devastating.
This is best described by the Word of God giving way to experiences that God’s Word forbids. The best way to understand this process is to recall what happened during the Dark Ages when the Bible became the “forbidden book.” Until the Reformers translated the Bible into the language of the common person, the people were in darkness. When the light of God’s Word became available, the gospel according to the Scriptures was once again understood.
This trend, which is underway today, shows us that history is in the process of repeating itself. As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise of mystical experiences is alarming and these experiences are being presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling and seeing God. The postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for the fostering of what is called “spiritual formation.” This teaching suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is not a prerequisite.
These teachings, while actually rooted in ancient wisdom (the occult), were presented to Christendom post-New Testament and not found in the Word of God. The spiritual formation movement is based upon experiences promoted by desert monks and Roman Catholic mystics – these mystics encouraged the use of rituals and practices, that if performed would bring the practitioner closer to God (or come into God’s presence). The premise was that if one went into the silence or sacred space, then the mind was emptied of distractions and the voice of God could be heard. In truth, these hypnotic, mantric style practices were leading these monks into altered states of consciousness. The methods they used are the same that Buddhists and the Hindus use as a means of encountering the spiritual realm. Such methods are dangerous, and are not sanctioned in the Bible—God gives no instruction for this. On the contrary, he warns severely against divination, which is practicing a ritual or method in order to obtain information from a spiritual source. While proponents of spiritual formation (like Richard Foster) say these methods show that the Holy Spirit is doing something new to refresh Christianity, I would suggest that what is happening is not new and is not the Holy Spirit.
The spiritual formation movement is being widely promoted at colleges and seminaries as the latest and the greatest way to become a spiritual leader in these days. These ideas are then being exported from seminaries to churches by graduates who have been primed to take Christianity to a new level of enlightenment.
As well, these contemplative practices are being promoted by emergent leaders such as Brian McLaren, Robert Webber, Dallas Willard and others. Publishers like NavPress, InterVarsity and Zondervan are flooding the market with books promoting contemplative practices based on Eastern mysticism. Pastors and church leaders read these books and then promote the ideas as if they were the scriptural answer to drawing close to God.
Signs the Emerging Church is Emerging
There are specific warning signs that are symptomatic that a church may be headed down the emergent/contemplative road. In some cases a pastor may not be aware that he is on this road nor understand where the road ends up.
Here are some of the warning signs:
Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.
The centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.
More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.
The teaching that Jesus Christ will rule and reign in a literal millennial period is considered unbiblical and heretical.
The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.
The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past.
An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.
Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be reinvented in order to provide meaning for this generation.
The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.
While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.
These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.
There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.
There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.
Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.
What does the Future Hold?
If the Emerging Church continues unfolding at the present pace, mainstream evangelical Christianity will be reinvented and the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures will be considered too narrow and too restrictive. In other words, the narrow way to heaven that Jesus proclaimed will eventually be abandoned for a wider way that embraces pagan experiential practices. I call this reinvented, re-imagined form of Christianity that is unfolding—“Christian Babylonianism.”
This new form of Christianity will replace biblical faith with a faith that says man can establish the kingdom of God here on earth. The Word will continue to become secondary to a system of works driven by experiences.
An ecumenical pattern towards unity with Rome will become more apparent. Those who refuse to embrace this direction will be considered spiritual oddballs that need to be reprimanded.
Those who stand up for biblical faith will be considered the obstructions to the one world spirituality that is promoted as the answer for peace.
The best way to be prepared for what is coming is to gain an understanding of what is happening now. While there are not many who seem to discern the trend underway, there are some. Without the Bible and the Holy Spirit as our guide, the darkness that is coming would be overwhelming. However, the light of God’s Word penetrates the darkness and there are those who are being delivered from deception and see what is taking place.
I am convinced we are seeing apostasy underway, exactly as the Scriptures have forewarned. This means that this current trend is not likely to disappear. We must continue to proclaim the truth in the midst of deception with love. As Paul instructed Timothy:
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will (2 Timothy 2: 24–26).
There are still pastors and churches who are dedicated to proclaiming the truth. Find out where they are and support them. If you are in a location where this does not seem to be possible, seek out materials that are available from solid Bible-based Christian ministries and hold Bible studies in your own home.
And keep looking up! Jesus is coming soon.
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (II Timothy 4:1-5)
To order copies of How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church, click here.
By Larry DeBruyn
Guarding His Flock Ministries and Herescope
Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Fresh Revelations, and an “Open” Canon
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Paul, 2 Timothy 4:4, Emphasis Added.
Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952), the first president of Dallas Theological Seminary, once reportedly said that all heresy is either the Bible plus, or the Bible minus. The work of radical higher criticism, as it has affected, even determined, the liberal view of the Christian faith since the late 1800s, has seen to it that there’s a lot of Bible-minus ideology amongst professing Christians now-a-days, even among so-called evangelicals. Now however, voices are emerging which advocate a Bible-plus view of Holy Scripture. One such voice has stated:
While I do believe that the Holy Bible is Divinely inspired and written by men, I do not necessarily hold to the idea that only the 66 books we now have in our (Protestant) bibles are the sole Divinely inspired books of antiquity.  (BR, Chapter 1, 1, Emphasis added) 
Why does Rob Skiba, the author who wrote this statement above, not limit inspiration of ancient books to only to the sixty-six of the Protestant canon? It appears that he and others like Tom Horn, Joseph Lumpkin, and Chuck Missler, need other books of antiquity and mythologies to integrate paranormal activity with the end-times scenario that they are seeking to create, a scenario Skiba calls, “The Genesis Six Experiment.” (BR, Chapter 2, 1-2) Click here to continue reading.
by Roger Oakland
Understand the Times
There is a pattern we find throughout the Word of God. God always warns before He brings judgment on sinful man. God is merciful and never reacts quickly without giving sinners a chance to repent. While He hates sin, He has often allowed men to carry on even if they do not respond. However there are always consequences of sin. The Bible states that the wages of sin is death. Often sin is exposed publically, and others are reminded to get right with God.
As we read through the Bible, we see how God has always raised up men and women to warn the people of coming judgments. The first time this occurred in history was before the great flood of Noah. Very few listened to Noah. God used Noah to warn, and then the judgment came. For the majority who refused to listen, they were wiped out in a global catastrophe.
Of all the prophets, Jeremiah is the one who seemed to have the toughest job. Virtually no one would listen to him as he was trying to warn the leaders of Israel about the judgment they were going to face. They had turned away from God and were following their forefathers who had turned to the gods. God used Jeremiah to warn the people and then judged the children of Israel by sending them into exile where they were forced to live in a society that was totally pagan.
If history repeats itself as the Bible states, then it would be reasonable to predict the same pattern would be repeated today. People who profess to be followers of God end up following men who follow the devil who then become Satan’s pawns. As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun.
A brief overview of what we call the “new” evangelical movement provides a good example of what is happening today. According to Bible prophecy, the Last Days will see the implementation of a global One World Religion that prepares the way for the antichrist. This would mean that we will see all religions coming together for the cause of peace. Not only will the religions of the world join up in an ecumenical unity, but so will the majority of those who call themselves Christian.
We have been watching this trend happen for over two decades. Without knowing it “Protestant evangelicals” have been seduced so that they are neither Protestant nor evangelical. Many churches and denominations have been led astray by the pied pipers of the Purpose Driven emerging church movement, which clearly embraces a false hope centered on a P.E.A.C.E. Plan that is supposed to unite all religions of the world to do good. This plan is fueled by the belief that we can get closer to God through various contemplative eastern practices like Yoga and contemplative prayer. Christ is mentioned in name, but the “Jesus” and the “gospel” is not the Jesus Christ and the gospel that is supported by the Scriptures. Click here to continue reading.
By Berit Kjos
Reason for Persecution: The Cross separates us from the world
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you… If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you… because they do not know Him who sent Me.”
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues [today it might be from churches]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”
“And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.”
Reasons for Persecution: Compromising leaders
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Following Jesus: Sharing in His suffering and promises
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues….But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven….” For more, click here.