By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails
The church of today is very much astir. Everywhere we turn, embellishments are being added to Christianity as if to improve it. The old ways do not seem to satisfy anymore. A great influx of new teachings and practices have exchanged the God of old as depicted in the pages of the Bible with a deity much more palatable to the post-modern mind. Brennan Manning illustrates this when he stated in one of his books, “ . . . the god who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist.”1 This “progressive” contemplative/emerging church has gone so far as to place in pulpits men who blaspheme God and who deny the atonement. But let us step back for a moment to see how emerging thought has developed. Such a statement did not come out of the blue, but as Ray Yungen suggests, a “creeping” effect made it all possible.2
Over the years, Christian leaders and pastors have stopped defending the faith and have exchanged the Word of God for things that outwardly appear very spiritual and promise a “quantum leap” into a “new spirituality.” Though there have always been those who deny Christ’s substitutionary death on the Cross, most of this kind of thought and teaching has been kept out of the evangelical/Protestant church. But as the walls of biblical truth were gradually torn down, it is no longer unusual to hear this kind of teaching in Christian colleges and seminaries. Much of what we see today began with men who pioneered the way to apostasy, then as a domino effect these ideas caught on and accelerated to the unbiblical thoughts and teachings we are witnessing in so many Christian circles today.
An example of this creeping effect can be seen in the Brennan Manning quote above from his 2003 book because it is nearly a word for word rendering of several lines from New Age sympathizer and mystic William Shannon’s 1995 book Silence on Fire.3 This book is the biography of Thomas Merton who possibly had more to do than anyone else in giving mysticism (namely contemplative prayer) that initial push whereby it has now avalanched into the mainline evangelical/Protestant churches. But it all began as a creeping or rippling effect with the initial momentum almost imperceptibly slow.
Over the last couple of decades, countless pastors and religious leaders across North America have pulled out for their evening reading books written by mystics like Henri Nouwen hoping to glean something to carry them to the next level of spirituality. Unfortunately, that quantum leap ends in the web of apostasy. As you may know by now, Henri Nouwen (also a great admirer of Thomas Merton) wrote in a provocative intellectual style that has intrigued many pastors, but what happened when these pastors stumbled upon these words:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.4
Nouwen said these words toward the end of his life after spending years involved with mysticism. And yet, pastors, leaders, and professors are enamored with Nouwen. And on goes that seemingly subtle creeping in of deception slowly but surely.
Pastors of North America, it’s not too late, but the North American church is in on borrowed time. We have become weak and spoiled, and it is time to change course, return to a no-compromise faith, the kind many of us had when we first became Christians. To straddle the fence, as has been the case for way too long, has cost the church dearly and could mean a steady erosion of biblical faith and a fall into the mire of full-blown apostasy.
While the mystics and emergents attempt to strip Jesus of who He is and what He came for, we should never forget that in Him we have a priceless treasure. Isaiah said of Him, “his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Most importantly, Jesus came to redeem us from our sins:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven, he used a number of illustrations, one of which should have special significance in our churches today:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. (Matthew 13:44)
While the emerging, purpose-driven, contemplative “progressives” of today are casting biblical doctrine on the dung heap more than ever, we should be holding on to it as something truly sacred, for it is biblical doctrine that defines our faith and gives to us living water. Hebrews 4:12 tells us:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
No wonder the devil wants to undermine and get rid of the Word of God, and he is attempting to do it through many who call themselves Christians.
Contending for the faith may cost us everything we have, but it is worth it, a jewel far about price. This life will soon be over, but eternity will last a very long time. Shouldn’t we be putting our treasures in heaven no matter what it may cost us now?
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
1. Brennan Manning, Above All, pp. 58-59 as quoted from Roger Oakland in Faith Undone, p. 195. (2003)
2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, p. 94. (2nd ed. 2006)
3. William Shannon, Silence on Fire, pp. 109-110. (1195)
4. Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, p. 51. ( 1998 Hardcover Edition)