Posts Tagged ‘tony jones’

Question to the Editor: Any Information on Adult Coloring Books?

To Lighthouse Trails:

I’ve been noticing a new trend – adult coloring books. The little research I have done links these books with Buddhism. Do you have any information on this new trend?

I just stay away from things like this, but the reason I’m asking is because my 13 year old daughter was introduced to them at Sunday School today. Thankfully I had already warned her about these books, so she knew enough to bring it to my attention. I would like to warn this Sunday School teacher . . .  who is already using these books at her school to calm the “bad” kids down.

As far as I’m concerned it’s just another way for the evil one to come into the church. I am really afraid for people; no one seems to question anything these days.

Thanks for any insight that you can give.

S.S.

Our Comments:

Much of this idea has been propagated by Sybil MacBeth’s Praying in Color book series. While there is certainly nothing harmful about adults coloring, in and of itself, the idea behind MacBeth’s praying through coloring does have a contemplative spirituality premise. On MacBeth’s website, she gives 8 reasons to color while praying:

1) You want to pray but words escape you.

2) Sitting still and staying focused in prayer are a challenge.

3) Your body wants to be part of your prayer.

4) You want to just hang out with God but don’t know how.

5) Listening to God feels like an impossible task .

6) Your mind wanders and your body complains.

7) You want a visual, concrete way to pray.

8) You Need a new way to pray.

In Sybil MacBeth’s book, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God, the book is endorsed on the back cover by emergent writer Phyllis Tickle (a colleague of Brian McLaren). In that book, MacBeth speaks frequently about the contemplative practice called lectio divina, a meditative practice. With Tickle’s endorsement and the promotion of contemplative practices, we must question what MacBeth’s “new path” to God is. A look at the endnotes in the book may provide an answer to that question. She cites Thomas Merton (panentheistic contemplative Catholic monk), Parker Palmer (New Age sympathizer), and Tony Jones (contemplative emergent leader).

In a 2015 Religious News Service article titled “Coloring books for grown-ups: Calming — but a spiritual practice?,” it states:

Alison Gary used to go to church on Sunday mornings, but lately she’s embraced a different ritual: staying home and coloring with her 6-year-old daughter, Emerson. . . . “Emerson and I color almost every Sunday morning,” Gary said, while her husband, a yoga teacher, cooks and listens to music. “I let my mind let go, and I feel more connected to the world, more centered. . . . Gary is not the only grown-up rediscovering the contemplative joys of what once was considered a childish pastime. . . . Many books feature circular mandalas and Zen patterns, as well as mystical peacocks. . . . While adult coloring is mostly being marketed as a balm for the stress of modern life, many fans, like Gary, also describe it in spiritual terms.

Which raises the obvious question: Can coloring seriously be considered a spiritual practice? Some may scoff, but “it can become more than just coloring, if you want it to,” said Sybil MacBeth, author of the 2007 book “Praying in Color.” . . . MacBeth shares techniques to “incorporate the intention of prayer into coloring,” by doodling names of people or events, and intercessory requests such as healing and peace. MacBeth, a “dancer, doodler and former community college math professor” married to a retired Episcopal priest, believes coloring and doodling can be powerful prayer practices — a revelation she stumbled upon by accident. (source)

Praying in color or adult coloring books is another deceptive scheme of the enemy to get people to enter the dangerous contemplative silence that is rooted in New Age style meditation.

 

 

 

 

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The “Kingdom of God” in the Emerging Church: A Theology of Despair and Hopelessness

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.

Notes:
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.
5. Ibid.
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.

 

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NEW BOOKLET TRACT: IF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering

rp_bkt-IF.jpgIF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering by Cedric Fisher 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 IF it is of God—Answering the questions of IF:Gathering, click here.

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

By Cedric H. Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IF, The Speakers: Ambassadors of God or Emergent Collaborators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References to numerous mystics and emergents

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

In the end, everyone is saved.20

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

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

IF Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Bio:

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

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

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IF: Gathering Leader/Pastor Melissa Greene—A Female Version of McLaren, Bell, Rohr, and Merton

Today, we received this letter to the editor:

Recently my church hosted an IF Gathering conference.  I had already done research and found some disturbing facts about some of the various speakers.  I wrote a letter to the leadership detailing all the information I had gathered.  I thought I would pass it along for your info.  NOTE: Melissa Greene, one of the IF Team – she has a very revealing message that is posted on her profile page which is linked to the IF Gathering page.  In her message she references several New Age and Emergent authors including , Richard Rohr, Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, Frederick Buechner and Rob Bell… Her ending comments on her message are pretty shocking.  If you have someone on your staff who has the time to listen to it, I think it would be worth the time.

In connection with our recent articles on the women’s IF: Gathering (#1 and #2), the video below is a presentation by IF leader and pastor Melissa Greene. Greene is a young female version of emergent figures Brian McLaren, Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, and Thomas Merton all rolled into one. Greene is pretty, charming, persuasive, says she loves Jesus, and is probably very sincere, but she is heading over a spiritual cliff. And folks, look out, she and the IF women are targeting your daughters and granddaughters, and sadly countless young women will follow them, and their spiritual lives will be turned upside down.

5 Things Not to Miss in This Video:

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

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

3. References to numerous mystics and emergents

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

5. In the end, everyone is saved.

Worth – Pastor Melissa Greene – GracePointe Church from GracePointe Church on Vimeo.

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Brian McLaren’s Mystery Project Out of the Bag – CANA Initiative – A Gathering of Emergents

National Cathedral in Washington DC

Recently, a reader brought to our attention a new development within the emerging church – the Cana Initiative, a think tank comprised of “faith-engaged organizations, individuals, institutions and networks.” On the Cana Initiative website, it states:

The CANA Initiative seeks to create a healthy ecosystem for connection among existing and emerging individuals, organizations, and networks and will serve as an influential “network of networks.” The CANA Initiative is comprised of Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, and other Christians who believe the future for Christian life and mission will be different in many ways from the past and present. . . . The CANA Initiative seeks to support and encourage what is often called Emergence Christianity.

Interestingly, the first meeting that the CANA Initiative is holding is actually wrapping up today, November 21st, and is being held at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. (an Episcopal church). We posted an unrelated (but maybe actually related) article this past October titled “National Cathedral Leader: ‘Homophobia’ a Sin; Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Performed.”  

On the CANA website (started and managed by Doug Pagitt according to Domain Tools.com), it talks about how the last two decades have brought out many “emerging expressions of Christian faith across the entire religious landscape” (translated, that means interspiritual). It was just about 15 years ago that Leadership Network (under Peter Drucker’s protégée, Bob Buford) gathered together a group of young Christian men (first calling them the Young Leaders Network) and began the Terra Nova project (see chapter 2 of Faith Undone for more about Terra Nova). Some of those men were: Mark Driscoll, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Chris Seay, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt. Eventually, the group broke away from Leadership Network and became what is known as Emergent. While they did not all stay together as the years past, today, they are all advocates for contemplative spirituality (worth noting).

According to CANA Initiative, “A number of innovative leaders have emerged over recent decades. They have taken big risks and made big sacrifices. Around them, Progressive, Emergence, and Missional networks have taken shape.”  CANA has a pretty hefty list of these leaders, and CANA may be the first time they have made such a major effort to come together in a more organized fashion. We’re quite confident that atonement rejector Brian McLaren is at a top level of this organizing. In May of 2013, we posted an article titled “Brian McLaren ask for significant cash for mystery project.” That article stated:

On his blog [on May 22, 2013], Brian McLaren is making a mysterious appeal for money. Not just a few dollars, but big, bodacious financial support from those with deep pockets. What’s it for? Brian won’t say, but if you want to contribute, you could email him at a special “happy to help” address.

On McLaren’s blog, he stated with regard to this request for money: “Grace [his wife] and I recently decided to make a significant financial investment in building some behind-the-scenes support structures for this movement to take its next steps. I think the time is ripe. I’m looking for some people to join in this initiative.” Later, in another posting, McLaren stated: “We’re considering the name CANA . . . (Potential Name: CANA Initiative).”2

When you think of the negative impact (from a biblical point of view) Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, and a number of other emergent figures have had, it’s scary to think of the further impact this new CANA initiative could have on many, especially many young people. Thanks to the big bucks, the huge media attention, an early endorsement and promotion by big name figures like Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, and publishing companies whose support they have enjoyed, the Emergent pioneers are “alive and well.” We knew they had not gone away. That is why we have always disputed the notion that the emerging church was a passing fad that has dissipated. A case in point, two years ago when John MacArthur said the emerging church was in “disarray and decline,” we were compelled to speak up in our article,  “John MacArthur Says Emerging Church in “Disarray and Decline” – Evidence Shows Differently.” We’re not really sure why MacArthur and others have thought that the emerging church was dead. It made no sense. For one thing, the main driving force behind the emerging church is contemplative mystical prayer. And sadly, that is NOT in disarray and decline. On the contrary, contemplative spirituality has, for the most part, entered almost every evangelical Protestant denomination and almost every Christian seminary and college (Richard Foster and Dallas Willard having been at the forefront of bringing it in).

The emerging church may have a greater end they are seeking than contemplative prayer (that greater end being total unity and oneness among all of humanity), but they cannot get there without getting a critical mass of people to have a change of consciousness, which can come speedily through meditative experiences (altered states). Unbeknownst to these emerging change agents (perhaps some of them do know), they have fallen prey to the devil’s end-time plan to bring total unity and oneness among all humanity for one purpose – so he can be worshipped by the world as God: ” that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world (Revelation 12:9).

If you want to understand where the emerging/emergent/contemplative/progressive church is heading and how they are going to get there, just read the chapter by chapter synopsis of Faith Undone. Pay attention to the sections that talk about the denial of the atonement of Jesus Christ for our sins and the kingdom of God on earth now (prior to Christ’s return) being established. We don’t know how much money Brian McLaren and his wife donated to kick off the new initiative, but we do know he and the others means business.  Watch in the future to see how many books are published by CANA initiators. In the past decade, numerous publishers have provided ample platform for McLaren and the others. Some of the more outstanding publishers catering to emergent have been: Wiley & Sons, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Baker (Emersion Books), Intervarsity Press, and NavPress. McLaren’s most recent book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World  and his 2014 upcoming book We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation are examples of what we have to look forward to from these CANA Initiators.

Here are some of the names and photos of “Initiators” of the CANA Initiative. If you type in any of these names in our search engine at the top right of this blog, you can find background information on most of them:

Rob Bell

Spencer Burke

Diana Butler Bass

Ian Cron

Tony Jones

Brian McLaren

Doug Pagitt

Mark Scandrette

Samir Selmanović

Phyllis Tickle

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Conference Alert: Philip Yancey and InterVarsity Press Join Emergents McLaren and Tickle at Wildgoose Festival

This year, from August 8th through 11th, the Wildgoose Festival will take place in Hot Springs, North Carolina. The festival is an emergent “church” event, which since its inception has included on the speaker list names like Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Jim Wallis, Richard Rohr, and Tony Jones. This year, Christianity Today editor and popular evangelical author Philip Yancey will join McLaren, Tickle, and a number of other hardcore emergent at the festival. Intervarsity Press, a long-standing evangelical publisher, is one of the sponsors helping to finance the event.

The Wildgoose Festival began in 2011, started by a group of North Americans who had been attending a festival in the UK called Greenbelt1 and were “inspired” to begin a similar event in the U.S. A history statement reads:

A place to meet each other in a renewed moment – a space for change. In the spirit of vibrant, category-defying Celtic Christianity, we saw our desire embodied in the Celtic Church’s way of speaking about the enigmatic Holy Spirit: The Wild Goose, who wanders where she will. Who can tame her? No one. Far better it is to embark on a Wild Goose Chase, and see the terrain of our faith be transformed.

Translated, what that means is that Christianity cannot be defined, or confined, to one particular set of beliefs (doctrine), that it is always changing, always transforming (thus the Bible, as Phyllis Tickles says, is a nice poetic book of beautiful stories, but not an authority from God). This has been the mantra-cry of the emergent church (see Faith Undone for a history of the current emergent church). Today, the emergent church has evolved into a full-blown Eastern-style mysticism-energized, quasi-Marxist, liberal, anti-atonement, pro-homosexual marriage “community.”

Joining Yancey, McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, and Intervarsity Press will be Richard Cizik (formerly in leadership at the National Association of Evangelicals but left after showing support for homosexual marriage), Troy Bronsink, Mark Scandrette (see Faith Undone on Bronsink and Scandrette), Ian Morgan Cron,  and a fairly large number of other emergent-embracing speakers. Past speakers have included Lynne Hybels, the now late Richard Twiss (Indigenous People’s Movement), and Doug Pagitt.

The point we want to make in this brief conference alert is that when you have one of the most prolific evangelical authors and an editor of THE Christian magazine – Philip Yancey – along with a formerly traditional evangelical publishing company – Intervarsity Press – participating in an event like the Wildgoose Festival, you can see how much the emergent church has influenced and infiltrated evangelical Christianity. And even still, Christian leaders and most pastors remain silent.

 

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Book Review – The New Christians by Tony Jones

 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.” –
Christianity Today

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.

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