By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails
The “Creeping” Effect of Apostasy
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 substitutionarydeath on the Cross, most of this kind of thought andteaching 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.3This 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 decade or two, countless pastors and religious leaders across North America have pulled out for their evening reading books written by mystics like Henri Nouwenhoping 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.
Calvary Chapel and the Man Who Tried to Warn Them
This past week, we were sent a short audio clip that further reminded us of the great need to stand firm in the faith in these darkening days and continue issuing warnings. The audio clip was from a segment of Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Perspective radio broadcast. Chuck Smith received a call-in where he was asked the following question: “Is it right for a Catholic woman to marry a Christian man even though she’s pregnant with his child?” Chuck struggled his way through providing an answer, but ended up saying that the differences can be resolved because he doesn’t think “they [differences] are that great.” He added, “You know Catholics are basically Christians too.” Chuck’s son, Chuck Smith Jr. was in the studio too and added, “I think the more important questions are is he a good man and do they love each other?” Hearing Chuck Smith’s lenient words toward Catholicism, not to mention allowing his contemplative promoting son to give advice to listeners, made it hard to believe this is the same man who invited and welcomed Roger Oakland into Calvary Chapel over two decades ago. One of Roger’s main warnings to the church has consistently been about the road to Rome so much of the church is taking.
Unfortunately, Roger has been ridiculed and ostracized by much of church leadership for his strong and unwavering stand against apostasy and spiritual deception – many feeling he was too extreme and negative. But as time marches on, it is beginning to appear that, if anything, what is happening to the church is worse than anyone could have anticipated or described. We actually owe Roger a tribute and a salute for his efforts to warn the church at great personal cost. Having lost two sons and having a near death experience himself, Roger has known adversity that is reminiscent of Job. But also like Job, Roger has a new perspective on what is dear in life and for him his treasure is in heaven, and his quest is saving souls.
But Roger is not one to look for praise, so let us dispense with that for the moment. However, it would be fitting to bring our readers up to speed with what really happened with Roger and Calvary Chapel. It seems that many people are confused about the attitude of Roger Oakland and Lighthouse Trails toward the Calvary Chapel movement, and a lot of them think our motivation has been to “bring them down” or destroy the movement.
The truth is, the reason why Lighthouse Trails ever got involved with Calvary Chapel in the first place was on a favorable note: Calvary Chapel, as of several years ago, was the only denomination that decided to take a corporate and public stand against the emerging church, the contemplative prayer movement and the Purpose Driven movement.5 At that time, we were in communication with Chuck and Paul Smith in the fight against apostasy. In one e-mail Chuck wrote to us personally in the spring of 2009, he said, “Keep up the good work and be not weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap if you faint not.” Roger had already been working with them for years (as Roger’s new book Let There Be Light chronicles) pleading with pastors to protect themselves and their churches from deception. At the time, a number of Calvary Chapel pastors felt Roger was right-on in what he was doing. One pastor, after having read Faith Undone (in 2007) stood before a pastor’s conference and said that this was the best and most needed book he had read for a long time. Chuck Smith read a large portion of the book at a Wednesday night meeting at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.
So both in Roger’s case and our case, our dealings with Calvary Chapel were intended to help these pastors and their churches by providing them with research and information so they could make good decisions based on the Word of God.
However, as time went on, some of Calvary Chapel’s key leaders decided they wanted to embrace the Purpose Driven movement as well as contemplative/emerging spirituality. It seemed, almost like overnight, that Lighthouse Trails and Understand the Times went from being seen as a blessing to being seen as an enemy to Calvary Chapel. Before we knew it, our two ministries were being marginalized. Some colleagues even told Understand the Times and Lighthouse Trails to stop talking about Calvary Chapel altogether (when that didn’t happen, they distanced themselves from us). Rumors, sometimes even begun by disgruntled pastors, spread like wildfire.6
Yet, even to this day, after all that has occurred, it is our hope and desire that Calvary Chapel will rescue itself, although as a whole, a steady decline continues. We do wonder what ever happened to the pastors who at one time stood with us. Why are they silent? One of those pastors, from one of the larger Calvary Chapel churches, called us after we put out an article talking about Roger being kicked off Calvary Chapel radio (KWVE). The pastor was very upset, stating, “Our church bought over a hundred copies of Faith Undone from you! How could you write articles like this about Calvary Chapel!” The insinuation was that their buying books from us should keep us from writing about Calvary Chapel. It became evident in time to this pastor and others that losing a book customer, even a big one, would not alter our reporting. Not too long after that, we received notice that Calvary Chapel distribution had removed all Lighthouse Trails books from their distribution center (this is also talked about in Let There Be Light).
The fact remains, it has never been our intent or motive to destroy Calvary Chapel. If this happens, it will be because they did it to themselves. In the meantime, it is our hope that at least some of these pastors will take a stand.
Please keep in mind that we have never said that all Calvary Chapel pastors are heading for apostasy. On the contrary, there are a number of them who have resisted the coming tide. But now, it seems like even many of them have grown silent. If you are one of these pastors, we hope and pray you will steer the ship God has entrusted to you before you strike a bar. The Calvary Chapel vessel has been going through some treacherous waters for some time, but it seems that many now have pulled up anchor and are allowing their ships to be driven to and fro by the wind hoping they will reach the right destination by some mere chance.
North American Pastors and the Church on Borrowed Time
In his recent trip to Kenya, Africa, Roger Oakland was met with overwhelming hospitality from the pastors there. These pastors had been reading Roger’s books and are very troubled about the compromised pastors of North America and the state of the Western church.
These are humble pastors who know where their treasure lies. One day, while in Kenya, Roger was dining with some of the pastors, when he noticed one of them would not eat. This pastor, Roger discovered, was taking all his food back with him so that his family could have something to eat that day. The poverty is so great there that many living in that area are fortunate if they can have one meal a day.
In a recent Understand the Times article, Roger shares the highlights of his visit to Kenya. He hopes to start orphanages there and bring these people some practical help. He wonders too if maybe God is redirecting him to speak to pastors who will listen. Some of the pastors who came to listen to Roger had to travel at least two days journey to get there. Unlike the short 45 minute sermons in many North American churches, the sessions there went for hours.
Pastors of North America, it’s not too late, but the North American church 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 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)