Posts Tagged ‘tracts’
NEW PRINT BOOKLET TRACT: Understanding Paul’s Appeal at Mars Hill – and why the emerging interpretation just doesn’t work
Understanding Paul’s Appeal at Mars Hill – and why the emerging interpretation just doesn’t work written by Mike Oppenheimer is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Understanding Paul’s Appeal at Mars Hill – and why the emerging interpretation just doesn’t work, click here. There is also a bonus section in the booklet titled: “What Did Paul Mean That He Became All Things To All Men?”
Understanding Paul’s Appeal at Mars Hill and Why the Emerging Interpretation Just Doesn’t Work
Editors Note: Today, it is common to hear the argument that since Paul quoted pagan poets in Acts 17, it’s OK for Christians to quote those who teach false doctrine. Adherents of the emerging church and contemplative spirituality have basically turned Acts 17 into a license for a free-for-all kind of “I can quote anybody I like, because Paul did” attitude. In this booklet, Mike Oppenheimer takes a close look at this section of Scripture to see if this is really the example Paul was setting and also shows, on the grander scale, the outcome of practices where the Gospel is being diffused and Christianity is being absorbed into the beliefs of a particular culture.
When Paul spoke the Gospel to these religious pagans in Athens on Mars Hill for the first time, he didn’t wait to become friends first to “share his beliefs.” This is an absurd method to abide by. He took the time to explain their idolatry and the truth. No one knows how many chances he or she will get to speak to an unbeliever, so you speak as if it is your only time. You cannot be called an evangelist if your purpose is not to first bring the Gospel but instead to be friends and then give the Gospel. This is not how the apostles conducted their evangelism, nor how they taught the church to. This does not mean we ignore developing friendships, but to grow in a relationship takes time and time is not something that we all have. Friendships are not a necessity to speak the Gospel message. It wasn’t to Peter in Acts 2, and it was not to Paul on his missionary journeys.
There are those today who use Acts 17, Paul’s Mars Hill encounter with the Greek philosophers, to prove that truth is found elsewhere (or everywhere), and the Bible is not the only place that contains spiritual truth. Let’s examine the Scripture carefully and the other poets he quotes to learn the truth on this matter:
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing). (Acts 17:16-21)
Paul looked at the surroundings he was in, and all he saw was false worship. Athens was famous for their temples that were works of art. There was no other place on earth at the time where so many idols were exhibited. (Idolatry was the very thing that caused God to punish Israel over and over again.) Paul went to his brethren first as his policy was in every city (Acts 17:1-2). He reasoned with them by engaging in an argument from what the Scriptures teach. He also discussed openly the things of God with those who were not Jewish. He did not start with making similarities with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers; he started with teaching them of the death and resurrection of the Messiah. He did not begin with what they had but what they did not have. It was then that they identified him as one speaking about foreign gods (vs.18), something they had never heard of before. They prided themselves on being hip to the newest philosophy. Their interest perked; they were intrigued by Paul’s message and were eager to hear the latest teaching, so they brought him to explain to others this new teaching.
The Epicureans, named after their founder Epicurus (who lived in 341-270 B.C.), believed the chief end of living was pleasure. They believed in numerous gods who had no influence over the affairs of man, but they did not believe in the immortality of the soul.
Paul’s audience was very hard to preach to; the Epicureans believed everything evolved, as they did not have a concept of creation. The Epicureans believed that the world was made accidentally by atoms which having been in perpetual motion from the beginning had brought this form. Aristotle’s school held “that the world was from eternity, and everything always was from eternity, and everything always was what now it is.”1
The Stoics, founded by Zeno (c. 300 B.C.), believed that God who indwells all things is the world’s soul. God is in all men; all men are brothers. Furthermore, living in harmony with nature brings happiness. Stoics were men of high moral principle, yet they believed that human affairs are governed by fate.
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:22-34)
We have known this as Paul’s appeal to the philosophers on Mars Hill. Paul, though being courteous, does not compromise his message. He started with the idols as false religious worship. Their zealousness in their devotion was superstitious, and Paul points out that they even erected an idol to a god they do not know. Paul now becomes philosopher to them instead of the theologian he would be with the Jews who have the ordinances of God. He appeals to their conscience and reveals to them a knowledge of the true and living God, who alone is to be the object of their adulation. He lays a foundation, instructing them in the primary principle of the Christian faith, that there is only one God. And though they worshipped a myriad of gods, Paul appeals to them on the evidence that some of their poets acknowledged a supreme being—the knowledge of which God has planted in the hearts of all people (e.g. Romans 1:19-20), being that man is made in the image of God and though he is corrupted, still has a conscience of moral right and wrong.
Paul says elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 8:4-5: “[W]e know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.” To the believers, he instructs in 1 Corinthians 10:19-20: “What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” Paul was considerate to their ignorance in that he did not call their idols demonic. However, with these pagan philosophers he takes a different tack. He tells them we are created beings countering the Greek thought that men were gods.
Paul defines God in vs.24. Some make a big deal out of the Greek word theos being used. Paul uses the common word for God (theos); he did not use any of their gods’ names. The focus is on an unknown god whom they were treating as all the rest. Theos is a generic word; it is not a name but a title. When he used theos, they understood what he meant, that his God (theos) was not any of theirs.
The Epicureans held the view that the world was not made by God. In vs. 24, Paul states that God made the world and all things—that this God could not be confined within temples made with hands, as He is the Lord who governs both heaven and earth. Paul built a foundation first to prove this by reverting to things they could understand.
Therefore, the gods whom they worshipped in their temples was not the true God. Paul’s basis was the Old Testament, Isaiah 66:1-2:
Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD.
But to infer the absurdity of their idolatry, he helps them see their own foolishness by appealing to the writings of their own poets. In vs.25, he tells them God does not need anything from man; in fact, we need him, as He is the giver of life. God gives life; He is the fountain of all He gives breath to—both man and beast. Paul also teaches that divine worship is not enacted and established for GOD but for the use of His creatures: He needs nothing that man can give Him; for man only has what he received from the hand of his Maker. Therefore, what they have made for God cannot be a fair or accurate representation of Him.
Vs.26: “[H]e hath made of one blood [meaning Adam] all nations of men.” Paul’s emphasis is to show our common origin and the right way. This same thought appears in Acts 14:17 in the speech to the Greeks at Lystra. Paul is telling them that God is in control, not man. Certainly, these men being knowledgeable on all the beliefs of their day would have heard about the Hebrews belief of Genesis or the flood.
Vs.27: The Gentiles were not familiar with God and His ways and needed a revelation; until then they must grope after God. The true God is Spirit; therefore, He is not an idol and He is closer than they think. In one sense, He is further off because creature and Creator are separate, yet in another sense as Spirit, He is closer. Therefore, Paul is saying they do not know this God he is speaking of, yet He may be revealed to them if they seek him.
In Romans 10:20, Paul quotes Isaiah who said very boldly, “I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.” Paul is giving them a principle that God has made known in times past, for Jeremiah also writes, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). It is in this attitude that Paul appealed to the philosophers on Mars Hill.
Vs.28: “[F]or in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
They fashioned a tomb for you, O holy and high one—The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies! But you are not dead; you live and abide forever, For in you we live and move and have our being. (poem Cretica written by Epimenides (ca. 600 BCE)
God is the very source of our existence: the principle of life comes from Him. Therefore, we should not think of God as ordinary man, He cannot die like men. We are dependent on Him for our life. We need to understand that in speaking to philosophers, Paul was trying to give them the meaning of their own poets. What he did not mean is that we are all part of God or God is part of us. What he quoted was directly opposing the views of the Epicureans. Here Paul is citing poets whom they respect and brilliantly turns it on the idolatry they now practice. Paul has made a case that as men we have a necessary dependence on this God we do not know or see. He inserts their own poet’s statements as an added incentive to consider that their worship is wrong. He juxtaposes what was being said in the past for what they practice in the present.
Aratus was also a Greek poet, a Cilician who lived about 275 years before Christ. Paul was well acquainted with his and other writings because of where he was brought up. Aratus wrote a poem called “Phaenomena,” also quoted by Paul. The sentiment is found in several others, being very common among the enlightened philosophers of the day. By saying your own poets, he does not mean poets born at Athens, but merely Grecian poets, Aratus and Cleanthus being chief and in whose “Hymn to Jupiter” the same words occur.
With Jove we must begin; nor from him rove; Him always praise, for all is full of Jove! He fills all places where mankind resort, The wide-spread sea, with every shelt’ring port. Jove’s presence fills all space, upholds this ball; All need his aid; his power sustains us all. For we his offspring are. (emphasis mine)
Cilician poet Aratus also wrote: “It is with Zeus that every one of us in every way has to do, for we are also his offspring” (Phaenonlena 5; emphasis mine).
Paul used another pagan source to confirm the truth of the Bible, not the reverse; he was showing them how even their own poets had some knowledge (though corrupted) of the “unknown God.” If he was saying their poet spoke truth, then he would be endorsing Zeus, a false god, contrary to the very thing he was trying to prove.
If Paul meant that we literally are God’s offspring, He would be agreeing with the gods of Greek philosophy. He did not!
This is poetry he quoted—not doctrine or Scripture. Paul meant that all men are God’s offspring in the sense that they are His creation and dependent on Him for life. There is no biblical teaching of the universal fatherhood of God and a brotherhood of all men (John 1:12; and in the book of Ephesians, Paul teaches we must be adopted into God’s family).
Certainly, Paul’s main point is not to build a bridge to them. If Paul wanted to build a bridge, he certainly did not employ the new evangelistic ways we are seeing today. He told them what most would avoid. Paul was not making a bridge to their culture but to people who had various false beliefs on God and life. He used their poets to show a similarity in what he was conveying to be wrong, not what is right. Paul uses their own poets against their idolatry. He is not condoning their poets’ words as truth equal with the Bible’s revelation but dismantles their own views by using the poetry as a point of similarity to the Bible’s revelation.
Vs.29: Paul has taken one point of similarity and dismantled their mindset by concentrating on the unknown God—the real One that they do not know. So there is no bridging to what they believe but what they don’t believe or know. Because of what Paul has presented to counter their idolatry, he brings his argument to a conclusion that “we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” It is absurd to suppose that the original source of our existence (God) can be like gold and silver or stone and inanimate objects. We are living and intelligent beings; our nature is more excellent than the works of man’s hands, since we are like Him who formed us, so why would we even consider worshipping an object fashioned by men?
Vs.30: Paul’s invitation is for them to repent. This shows that he is not approving of anything they are doing. God is the creator of men, but to identify God with something man has made is ignorance (Romans 1:22-23). He indicts them; calling these wise philosophers ignorant is a strong accusation. In times past, God has overlooked this blindness but no longer. He commands men everywhere to repent, not just the Greeks but all people in every nation. At this point, Paul goes back to the Bible and preaches a righteous judgment coming by Christ who is the only man that was raised from the dead to eternal life.
Vs.32: “[S]ome mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.” Paul had to change the people’s belief system to bring them up to date with Christ. Their belief system was challenged first. The message of the Gospel goes out with only a few, not many, responding.
The Cross was “foolishness” to the Greeks; they had no background to this concept, especially that of the resurrection. Telling people the Good News of Jesus without telling them what is wrong with their religion or belief system rarely works. The apostles did not do this, and this was not what Paul did at Mars Hill despite that many use it as an example of making bridges. Methods of evangelism that do not deal with the issue of sin in a culture and God’s command to repent are ineffective. You can’t just preach the Gospel if the people don’t understand the language you are using. If they don’t understand the terminology, how can they understand the solution? The bad news from Genesis needs to be presented first before the Good News from the New Testament can be explained, just as Paul did in principle to these Greek philosophers. Paul started with Bible revelation and ended with the Bible’s revelation.
Humanism is the religion of our culture that explains everything without God. Our culture is permeated with philosophies. We live in a “Greek” culture today with evolution, pan-spermea, and various other concepts running rampant.
Instead of doing real evangelism, many model from Mars Hill with the opposite intent. Actually, we have a reverse of Mars Hill. Instead of Christians declaring the true God among the false, we have them accepting the false gods as true ones. They embrace the different religious beliefs as valid and a complement to Christianity. Within this unison stands a God who is still unknown to the lost. It is up to us to proclaim Jesus the Only Messiah to them.
Today’s “progressive Christianity” is not based on the Bible, and it is affecting the entire Christian body, not to mention the lost. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do” (Psalms 11:3)? We need to rebuild the foundations. It starts with Genesis, and the basics of sin and the history of man—so that the Cross can be understood by a culture that does not know God.
Editorial Note: Oppenheimer addresses these issues also in his First Nations Movement DVD lecture; Nanci Des Gerlaise addresses this in her book Muddy Waters and booklet Can Cultures Be Redeemed, and Roger Oakland addresses these issues in several of his writings and lectures.
To order copies of Understanding Paul’s Appeal at Mars Hill – and why the emerging interpretation just doesn’t work, click here.
1. From Matthew Henry’s Commentary
NEW PRINT BOOKLET TRACT: Popular Books That Introduce Children to the Occult and 5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Kids
Popular Books That Introduce Children to the Occult and 5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Kids written by Berit Kjos is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Popular Books That Introduce Children to the Occult and 5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Kids, click here.
“Popular Books That Introduce Children to the Occult and 5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Kids”
By Berit Kjos
While relatives and friends cheered their favorite team, two girls huddled in the lower left corner of the stands, oblivious to the thrills of a championship Little League game. They sat bent over a magazine. Only occasionally did they break their silent concentration to point out something special on a page.
Toward the end of the game, the two young teens finally closed the magazine and exposed the title: Sassy. Curious about its power to hold their attention, I bought a copy at the local supermarket the next day.
It opened my eyes to a new teen culture. Sassy is now defunct (and teens today are often turning to IPODs instead of magazines), but many teen magazines of the same caliber as Sassy are still available. In addition to gorgeous faces and bodies matched with corresponding beauty tips, these magazines show how to stay physically fit and stay up to date with all the latest styles and so much more.
Through compassionate interviews, Sassy brought the reader into the hearts of lesbian and gay couples. It encouraged its reader to use contraceptive devices, know the best rock groups, and see the right movies.
Under the column, “Comic Books Are Your Friends,” it gave a list of which comic books are the edgiest: The Uncanny X-Men, Batman: The Killing Joke, Lone Wolf and Club, ElfQuest, and Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.1
If this is what girls are reading, I thought, I’d better check it out. So I stopped by the local comic book store and read off the list to the salesman. He pointed to his display of the latest hits. My list matched his. Since he had sold the last Batman: The Killing Joke, he suggested I substitute with The Punisher, and Mai, the Psychic Girl—two more top sellers at the time. Since I was beginning to feel uncomfortable in his shop, I quickly bought them all.
“How old are the kids who buy these?” I asked before hurrying out.
“Every age,” he answered. “From little kids to adults.”
When I arrived home and began to skim through these contemporary “treasures,” I could hardly believe what I saw. Young children read this? Pornography, cruelty, sadism, violence, and occultism leaped out at me from the pages. In less than five minutes, I had skimmed through all I could take.
In this booklet tract, I want to give you a brief overview of what young people are being handed today in the form of books and literature. While much of this reading material is being touted as having value and virtue, the underlying sediment is anything but that.
Warrior Cats & the Occult
Led by Scholastic, publishers across the country have adapted all kinds of occult beliefs and magical rituals to the tastes of young readers. Children everywhere are learning to see paganism and syncretism (a medley of enticing spiritual lures) as more “real” and “exciting” than true Christianity.
“Erin Hunter” is the pen name for the two women authors of the Warrior books: Cherith Baldrey and Kate Gary. To popularize their love for cats, astrology, mysticism and “sacred” sites, they endowed their furry warriors with human minds and personalities. Cat lovers as young as six and seven could hardly wait for the next book in the popular series.
The first book, Into the Wild, introduces the main hero of the first series: A former “kittypet” named Rusty, who becomes Firepaw when he joins the warriors of the Thunderclan. As he rises within their ranks, Firepaw’s name is eventually changed to Firestar.
The all-powerful deity in these stories is StarClan, a growing community of departed warrior cats whose spirits are revived as stars. This collective deity hears the prayers of living cats, strengthens the faithful in their battles, guides them with omens and prophecies, and welcomes them to their starry heights when they die. Notice that the words used to describe the tribe’s relationship with StarClan sound much like the biblical words used to describe our relationship with God:
Faith in StarClan: “You’ll need the whole of StarClan on your side for this one.”2
Thanks to StarClan: “But first, let us give thanks to StarClan for the life of Redtal.”3
Prophecy from StarClan: “If StarClan has spoken, then it must be so.”4
Prayer to StarClan: Fireheart prayed silently to StarClan.5
StarClan will go with you: “The spirits of StarClan will go with you.”6
This collective “god” seems to offer the cats a relationship that resembles what God offers His people. We know that this idol can’t deliver, but few children know the Bible well enough to discern the deception. Instead, those who identify with the cat warriors will love the forces that guide them.
Divination, Omens & Full Moon Worship
As in witchcraft and sorcery, personal power and magical work requires faith in the power of ritual words and in the spiritual significance of pagan settings such as a full moon and “sacred sites.”
“Concentration and visualization are key to all magical practices,”7 explains Wiccan leader Starhawk in her occult book, The Spiral Dance. They always have been, for Satan’s tricks haven’t changed through the centuries.
Like America, ancient Jerusalem was—at first—led by the wisdom and might of our God. Yet the people were soon seduced by the occult mysteries of their pagan neighbors. So they shut their hearts to the God who loved them and succumbed to the tempting Canaanite lures. Forgetting God’s warnings, they did what they were told not to do. They trusted their idols, summoned the dead, worshiped “the host of heaven” and ignored God’s wise and loving warnings (Deuteronomy 17:3).
In our post-Christian culture, occult suggestions and practices are fast becoming part of America’s public consciousness. And, as in ancient times, many still claim to be following God in doing so. Some might even argue that it’s just imaginary fun and fantasy!
But it’s not! Jesus warned us that imagining an evil is as bad as actually doing that evil (Matthew 5:27-28). But when we trust and follow Him, He gives us the strength to resist evil—and to stand firm in Him no matter how great the pressure.
[T]hanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
The Upside-Down World of Pullman’s “Dark Materials”
More than fifteen million copies of Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, have been sold. The Golden Compass, book one, won the prestigious Carnegie Medal. In his mind-bending trilogy, Pullman plunges young readers into occult fantasy worlds that twist God’s truths into horrendous lies. Here God is despised as weak and evil, while Satan and his minions become saviors of the worlds. The biblical Fall brings knowledge and freedom, and personal “daemons” (demons) become the children’s closest friends.
Flying witches and evolving “Dust” abound in Pullman’s The Dark Materials. In this confusing cosmos of multiple universes, telepathic seekers search for answers to life’s mysteries through divination, Eastern meditation, ancient “wisdom,” and ritual magic. These occult practices are essential to the war against God and the despised old Church. There is no tolerance for biblical authority in this world of amoral license.
Do you see how this fantasy undermines biblical values? Pullman’s crafty tale pulls the readers’ minds into an occult context where—through their imagination—they experience life from his occult perspective. In fact, his methods sound just like the transformational tactics in UNESCO’s global education plan. These proven methods are designed to:
Give new meanings to old terms
Redefine God and undermine Christianity
Make suggestions that clash with traditional values
Ridicule, rewrite, or reinterpret biblical truth
Immerse readers in tempting occultism and ritual magic
Cloak mysticism in scientific language
Near the end of The Golden Compass, Lord Asriel condemns the Authority for its despised teachings on the Fall: “[I]t’s what the Church has taught for thousands of years.”8 Then he reads this false version of Genesis 3:1-7 to Lyra:
[T]he woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shalt ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and your daemons shall assume their true forms, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”9
This rejection of God matches the emerging views of today’s change agents. Church leaders, as well as environmentalists and corporate managers, are embracing an illusion of unbiblical unity through dialectical thinking which denies the validity of the Bible.10 Are your children equipped with the facts and truths to counter such lies?
Loving the Occult
“What kinds of books do you like to read?” I asked a ten-year-old girl.
“Science fiction,” she answered.
“What are some of your favorites?”
“The books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I just finished The Headless Cupid.” She recited the story to me.
“That sounds more like psychic fiction than science fiction. What do you think?”
“I guess so. But it’s real adventuresome.”
“How do you feel when you read stories like The Headless Cupid? Spooky and a little scared?”
“It’s exciting and fun. I like it.”
Snyder has written other books as well that are available at children’s libraries. I checked out The Witches of Worm, a story about a demon-possessed kitten who gets a lonely little girl into all sorts of trouble. In the end, the heroine researches witchcraft, learns an occult version of exorcism, and apparently proves man’s power to subdue the irascible forces of evil. When speaking to a librarian about these books, she affirmed, “Fifth-and sixth-graders love them!”
Preschoolers also love the scary and magical. Beautiful picture books tell ugly stories about witchcraft, magic, and sorcery. A book for toddlers, Little Witch’s Magic Spells, even comes with a toy witch.
Worn pages and wrinkled covers prove the popularity of library series like the Dragontales and Endless Quest books, where the reader is the hero. Both equip youngsters with every kind of occult power.
The latter is published by the producers of Dungeons and Dragons. In Rose Estes’ Dragon of Doom, you conquer an evil magician with your magical ring, spells, mind-linking with your companions to strengthen the force, entering into trance states, clairvoyance, mental telepathy, and the wisdom of today’s “values clarification.” Confronting the dreaded Dragon of Doom, you offer this contemporary guideline, which supposedly justifies any action: “[Destroy mankind] because you choose to and not because you have been ordered to do so. It must be your decision.”11
Libraries and bookstores offer an equally disturbing menu to teenagers. Even sixth and seventh graders devour seductive medleys of science fiction, sex, occult, and psychic adventure—including the adult horrors of Stephen King. These fantasies draw their minds into a demonic dream world where psychic phenomena, sensual highs, and occult terrors become as familiar as things like a starry night.
Harry Potter Lures Kids to Witchcraft
When you consider that the Harry Potter books have sold over 400 million copies (the films have been equally successful), it is clear to see that Harry Potter has had a significant impact on our Western society. These two comments from Harry Potter fans who disagree with my observations are revealing:
“I was eager to get to Hogwarts first because I like what they learned there and I want to be a witch.”—Gioia B.
“I like the third book because here [Harry] meets his godfather and Professor Lupin, a really cool guy” —Harry L. [This really “cool guy” is a werewolf as well as a wizard, and Harry’s godfather is a “shape shifter”.]
While children everywhere crave supernatural thrills, Great Britain, the birthplace of Harry Potter, has been a wonderland of options for exploring practical witchcraft. And plenty of youth have caught Harry’s vision. They want to learn his wizardly ways.
Two British reports on this phenomenon show us the obvious: “Popular forms of occult entertainment have fueled a rapidly growing interest in witchcraft among children.”12 The popular Pagan Federation is pleased. Though it refuses to admit new members under age 18, “it deals with an average of 100 inquiries a month from youngsters who want to become witches, and claims it has occasionally been ‘swamped’ with calls,”13 explaining: “Every time an article on witchcraft or paganism appears, we had a huge surge in calls, mostly from young girls.”14
The Twilight Vampire Phenomenon
In 2005, a book titled Twilight, written by Stephanie Meyer, was released, and soon it hit the New York Times best-seller list. The book is about Bella, a young girl who falls in love with Edward, a teenage vampire. Publisher’s Weekly named Twilight the Best Children’s Book of 2005, and the entire series won the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in 2009. In addition, all five Twilight movies have grossed over two billion dollars in worldwide receipts!15
If my goal were to undermine Christianity, incite rebellion against parents, eradicate biblical values, and spread moral chaos, I would urge teens to read the Twilight series. I would prompt them to immerse their minds and emotions in the dark, emotional whirlpool of sensual occultism. And I wouldn’t warn them of the consequences.
Of course, my real goal is the opposite: to expose this assault on biblical faith and to equip potential readers with information that enables them to resist the temptation to join the collective journey into the mind-changing realm of the occult. The following points show the raging spiritual war that’s sure to intensify in the years ahead:
1. Arousing passion for occultic settings. “Vampires and werewolves are rooted in pagan cultures around the world. The various historical expressions of these mythical creatures were dreaded, blood-thirsty manifestations of evil spirits. Linked to darkness, they were viewed as supernatural creatures of the night.
Bella’s passionate love for the mysteriously handsome Edward may be fictional, but the obsession felt by teenage readers who “resonate” with Bella is very real! Young super-fans (Twilighters) identify with her plight, sense her fears, and “feel” her passion. They love the story because it arouses strong, unforgettable emotions—the kind of enchanting thrills that can best be shared within one’s peer group, and not with parents.
2. Impact of fantasy and imagination. Fantasy and imagination can transform beliefs and values more quickly than reality. Many of our readers defend their love for occult entertainment with this standard justification: “I know the difference between reality and fantasy.” But it doesn’t matter! Believe it or not, persuasive works of fiction and virtual experiences can change young minds and embed lasting memories—leaving indelible, holographic imprints—more effectively than actual real-life experiences!
3. Desensitizing of values. When today’s youth love the emotional thrills of popular occultism, they are desensitizing their hearts and minds to its evil. And—with help from the marketing industry—they are turning America’s values upside down. It all fits the plans of our globalist leaders and that old serpent in Genesis.
“You can only have a new society,” wrote New Age author Marilyn Ferguson in The Aquarian Conspiracy, “if you change the education of the younger generation.”16
4. Cognitive dissonance. Twilight’s feel-good sensual occultism brings “cognitive dissonance.” Committed Christians (in contrast to cultural Christians) face a form of mental and moral confusion when confronted with incompatible values. Since Twilight’s worldview clashes with biblical Truth, readers are forced to make a choice: Will they heed home-taught values or the tantalizing messages in books, video games, TV series, and movies?
5. Redefining evil. Few Twilighters see their new passion as evil. After all, Edward is a relatively “good” vampire, isn’t he? Though he lusts for Bella’s blood, he restrains his craving. Other vampires (and some of the werewolves) in the saga are downright murderous, but he’s a good guy! Isn’t he? Besides, the story has spawned a noble mission.
But it all depends on who sets the standard for right and wrong—God or man! While God’s standard is like an anchor in a storm, man’s values shift with the winds. The Bible tells us:
I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life… that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for He is thy life. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
FIVE STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR KIDS
STEP ONE: PERSONAL PREPARATION
Pray as a family for discernment and wisdom. Don’t let fear of offensive literature keep your family from finding and feasting on wonderful books.
Commit yourself to a deeper knowing of the Word of God. Continue a daily Bible study program together. If children know truth, they will spot the lies.
Enjoy books together that demonstrate God’s values. Read-aloud times build in most children a deep love for reading, while they also enable you to direct your children’s taste for enriching books. When you read aloud to your children, they learn to associate wholesome books with good times.
STEP TWO: BE ALERT TO DECEPTION IN BOOKS
A crossless version of Christianity fits the New Age lie that all can be one—with or without Jesus. It denies man’s need for redemption and, in effect, makes man his own savior.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Examine gift books for children.
Be alert to what your child’s peers read.
New kinds of joke books are captivating today’s readers. The object of the humor may be sex, marriage, parents, or God. Some of the illustrations may be pornographic.
Discuss these Scriptures with your child: Leviticus 11:44, 20:26; and Matthew 5:6, 8. Review Romans 12:1-2, 9, and Romans 13:14.
STEP THREE: CHECK YOUR LIBRARY
Learn your library’s guidelines and limitations. Know its definition of adult literature and whether or not children can check it out. Children have neither the knowledge, wisdom, nor experience to make adult decisions and carry adult responsibility. Adult movies, television, and books feed children adult-sized mental stimulants that they are unprepared to handle.
STEP FOUR: JOIN IN THE BATTLE FOR TRUTH
Continue to pray with other Christian families for God’s wisdom and direction. Let God encourage you with biblical passages that promise victory to those who trust and follow Him. See Psalm 25:1, 4-5; Exodus 14:13-14; Deuteronomy 1:30; 20:1, 4.
STEP FIVE: PREPARING CHILDREN FOR SPIRITUAL WARFARE
God’s enemy fights as hard as ever to win the hearts and loyalties of our children—and he has added all kinds of high-tech tools to his arsenal. To resist his strategies, they first need to understand them and have in their hearts the Word of God. That’s why God told His people long ago to base all conversation on His unchanging truth and to teach His truth diligently to our children (see Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Everything we say must reflect the reality of God—His love, His omnipotence, His promises, and His warnings. To prove that our God is far greater than the plethora of alternatives that are out there, our lives must demonstrate faith in the midst of difficulties and His triumph in the midst of turmoil. This is possible, not by our own strength, but by His power and grace. Then, seeing His greatness, children learn to trust His promises.
Likewise, the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) begins and ends with the power of His Word. First, we put on the belt of truth, which holds all the other pieces—His righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation—in place.
The last part, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” is simply His truth and promises memorized, remembered, and affirmed as we face each day’s challenges. The world can’t understand it, and many so-called Christians despise it. But to those who love God, it brings the hope, strength, joy, and perseverance needed to walk with Him in peace no matter what happens.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
To order copies of Popular Books That Introduce Children to the Occult and 5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Kids, click here.
1. Christina Kelly, “What Now?” (Sassy, July 1988), p. 14.
2. Erin Hunter, Warriors 1—Into the Wild (Avon Books, 2004), p. 102.
3. Ibid., p. 51.
4. Ibid., pp. 4-5.
5. Erin Hunter, Warriors 6—Into the Wild (Avon Books, 2004), p. 33.
6. Ibid., p. 305.
7. Starhawk, The Spiral Dance (Harper & Row), p. 62.
8. Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (Random House), p. 373.
9. Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass (Random House), p. 371-372.
10. http://crossroad.to/articles2/Gore.html, http://crossroad.to/Quotes/management/blanchard.htm, http://crossroad.to/Excerpts/community/system-theory.htm.
11. Rose Estes, Dragon of Doom, A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Book (TSR, Inc., 1983), p. 84.
12. “TV shows fuel children’s interest in witchcraft” (August 4, 2000, http://web.archive.org/web/20010606132941/http://ananova.com/entertainment/story/television_children-entertainment-religion-paganism_926320.html).
13. Andy Norfolk, quoted in “Potter Fans Turning to Witchcraft,” (This is London magazine, August 4, 2000).
15. Statistics taken from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twilight_Saga_(film_series).
16. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy (Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1987), p. 280.
To order copies of Popular Books That Introduce Children to the Occult and 5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Kids, click here.
Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity written by Mike Oppenheimer is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity, click here. There is also an Appendix titled “Rick Warren’s Muslim “Man of Peace.”
Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity
By Mike Oppenheimer
In 2010, Terry Jones, a pastor from Florida, wanted to burn the Qur’an, which gained him national and international notoriety. In direct response to Jones’ Qur’an burning, Larry Reimer, a minister of the United Church of Gainsville, Florida, decided to incorporate reading passages from the Qur’an as part of the worship services on September 12th, 2010. Of the situation, Reimer said:
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all part of the Abrahamic tree of faith. We all believe in the same God, and in many aspects we are all trying to accomplish the same goals.1
The quote above is but one example of how a movement (and a mindset) called Chrislam is becoming increasingly commonplace in the Protestant church. A multimedia, audio-visual example of how Chrislam is being introduced into traditional church settings (in this case, a video of an Islam recital in a Methodist church) is another example of this encroaching reality and can be found on YouTube.2
This fast growing trend, pursued in the name of finding “common ground” so we might, as a body, experience spiritual unity and effectuate a more peaceful coexistence, is a slippery slope spiraling ever downward, dictating that other religions are as valid as Christianity. When one considers the condition of the Christian church today, especially given how watered down the Gospel message has become and how other spiritual elements, not of God, are continually being interspersed with it, it really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that this now is being embraced by a growing number.
What is Chrislam?
Chrislam is an ecumenical, interfaith movement that is said to be a “dialogue” with Islam. It is a syncretistic movement that openly speaks of spirituality without boundaries. Churches that embrace this movement soften and dilute John 14:6 while opening the door to allow the conversion of their people to Islam, in the context of not only professing to still be Christian but also allowed to place equal weight on the tenets of the Qur’an with the tenets of the Bible.
It was Robert Schuller, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, who began this process in America by housing the offices for “Christians and Muslims for Peace.” Schuller once told an Imam of the Muslim American Society that “if he came back in 100 years and found his descendants Muslims, it wouldn’t bother him.”3
Such a statement would never be uttered from the lips of a Bible-believing Christian who understands Scripture as it pertains to Jesus Christ, who said “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” But it would be acceptable by those who embrace and espouse the “new progressive Christianity” of our times.
The erroneous assumption here is that Christians and Muslims all worship the same God, in the context that they, along with the Jews, all originate from the seed of Abraham. Sadly, this is something we have steadily warned about for years, only to have it fall on deaf ears. When people take the name of Allah—the god of the Qur’an— and make it acceptable and interchangeable with the name of the God of the Bible, they forget that we are speaking of another “god” of a different nature, characteristics, and divinity. They even go so far as to suggest it is suitable for a Christian to pray in this name because it is the same “God,” or maintain that Muslim converts can continue to go into their Mosques and pray and worship as if nothing happened to them; this is conditioning that undermines the discernment of those who profess to be Christian to becoming all the more open to accepting the Qur’an as equal in inspiration to the Bible.
Can One Be Both Muslim and Christian?
Consider the story of Episcopalian priest Ann Holmes Redding, who, even after more than twenty years in the priesthood, has no problem stating, “I am both Muslim and Christian.”4
On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest. On Fridays, she ties on a black headscarf to pray with her Muslim group. She says both Islam and Christianity are compatible at the most basic of levels.5
Are they? Can one be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time? Can one serve two masters? According to the teachings of the Qur’an, Islam’s Jesus is not divine or God incarnate, is not the only-begotten Son of God or the Messiah, did not die on the Cross (especially not for our sins), and was not resurrected from the dead. Islam categorically denies the Gospel of Christianity—the foundational reason Jesus came to Earth. This is what Chrislam churches are willing to compromise when it comes to the truth in order to make peace!
The simple truth is, Christianity has no commonality with Islam that could ever justify putting our spiritual well-being in jeopardy in this manner. The Bible says, “[F]or what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The Chrislam movement is apostasy in action, and we can expect much more of this type of compromise.
A Common Word?
In 2007, 138 Muslim scholars and clerics sent an open letter titled, “A Common Word Between Us and You” to Christian leaders. Many of America’s top Christian leaders and known scholars responded with a signed letter to show their support in finding common ground between the two religions and yet failed to read the fine print, remaining ignorant to the fact the open letter contained a rebuke and an Islamic warning.
After this Muslim document was released, numerous Christian leaders drafted a statement called “A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You.” The response, which can be read online, states:
Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One [a name for the Muslim god] and of the Muslim community around the world. . . . That so much common ground exists—common ground in some of the fundamentals of faith—gives hope that undeniable differences and even the very real external pressures that bear down upon us can not overshadow the common ground upon which we stand together.6
Some of the Christian leaders who signed the response are Rick Warren, Leith Anderson (NEA president), Richard Cizik, Bill Hybels, Tony Jones (Emergent Village), Brian McLaren, Richard Mouw (Fuller), Robert Schuller, and Jim Wallis. In addition, pastors and professors representing many evangelical denominations and seminaries signed.
Suffice it to say, we now have Chrislam, which blends the minimalist parts of Christianity with Islam, with the intention of putting them on an equal playing field. In some churches, the Qur’an is placed in the pews right next to the Bible under the guise and garb of “loving your neighbor,” which was part of the open letter that the unsuspecting, undiscerning Christian leaders signed to have peace at any price.
This is part of a Jihad: to expose those who normally would not be interested in the Islamic religion by using peace and love quotes as the catalyst and a way to disarm before drawing a potential convert in. Muslims certainly know how to take advantage of this new openness to convert the kafirs to Islam. Islam condemns the belief in the divinity of Jesus as “shirk.” We must understand, to an authentic Christian—born of the Spirit of God—there can be no debate in this matter.
But to others who are marginal Christians or Christian in name only, those who give little credence to Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), they have no misgivings about forging a peaceful coexistence with those who demean the very religion they profess.
The False Premise of Chrislam
I find a statement made on the Human Rights First website to be most revealing:
The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., along with fifty other churches in twenty-six states, have [already] committed themselves to participating in this effort [to hold Qur’an readings]. . . . Faith Shared is a project of Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First. . . .
Christian clergy at churches across the country [hosted] readings from the Qur’an and other sacred religious texts as they welcome[d] their Muslim and Jewish colleagues.7
On the Faith Shared website (the sponsors of the above event), we are told their purpose was to:
. . . counter the Anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past year and led to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases violence.8
But think about this for a moment. The premise is very slanted. Bigotry is part and parcel of Islam, as they have no allowance for other religions, even those they call “people of the book.” Tensions and violence have come from Islam itself, from all over the world. This reaches a level of absurdity and inanity that is beyond human comprehension when you factor in the Jews of whom Islam continues to make open war against, while their religious leaders openly and solemnly vow to eliminate and blow the Jews off the face of the map—not to mention how they label America the “Christian Satan” and wish upon us the same fate. Are people deaf and blind to what is taking place? Leave it to those who stand for nothing and fall for anything to ignore the obvious. Liberal thinking and the practice of being politically correct rules over all logic, reason, wisdom, and common sense.
If we should ask: “What would Jesus do?, we know He NEVER once read or quoted from another religion of His day to promote His teaching or make it more palatable for the people. He instructed and rebuked when necessary Jews who spoke falsely—a dynamic which He certainly would have put to action in this case with all those who profess to be His true followers, claim to come in His name, and presume themselves to be a part of His church.
Tad Stahnke, director of policy and programs for Human Rights First, states:
We want to send a message to the world . . . that Americans do respect religious differences and reject religious bigotry and the demonization of Islam or any other religion.9
If I may make sense of his false statement by allowing reality to intrude . . . America has always allowed all manner of religions to freely worship as they so choose in our country, including Islam. It is the Islamic countries, however, that strictly prohibit other religions to freely worship and do so under penalty of imprisonment and even DEATH! They allow for no religious integration within the borders of their lands or with regard to their culture, show ZERO tolerance, and they certainly do not allow for any kind of integration whatsoever with their religion. That is anathema to them!
We therefore have a dilemma—that dilemma being, Islam is the one that is intolerant; Islam is the one that has sown seeds of bigotry. Islamic figures adamantly assert that it is we in America (and the Western world) who are the bigots and haters because we judge them based on their own words, from their own “Holy” book and their nihilistic actions.
Are we called of God to intentionally turn a blind eye to hundreds of implicating, lawless statements, which promote the shedding of innocent blood and have no value for the sanctity of human life like those found in the Qur’an to prove we are not bigots?! God makes it very clear that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. And yet the Muslim god, Allah, IS the “god of the sword!” In fact, this is what Allah, in essence, means: God of the Sword!
From the Qur’an—Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle says:
I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,’ and whoever says, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,’ his life and property will be saved by me except for Islamic law, and his accounts will be with Allah, (either to punish him or to forgive him).10
It’s not even remotely, nor has it ever been, a matter of whether or not we respect Muslims, but more of a question of do Muslims respect us, or others for that matter? Do we see Islam granting equal rights to those who practice other religions in their own land? Of course not. In fact, in most Islamic countries other religions are OUTLAWED. Once a culture (whether it be their own or a culture they make subject to them) is forced to abide by Sharia Law, it becomes difficult for them to allow for anything that is contrary, especially given it could result in certain death. Let’s not overlook the obvious, hidden in plain sight (a little thing called the nightly news). Of all the compromises being made in these last days, this has got to be one of the most asinine, ludicrous, short-sighted, and flagrantly ignorant vehicles for concealing the truth.
We have freedom to worship any way we want to in America. Try to have the same freedom or promote an interfaith agenda in one of the countries in which Islam is the state religion. That is, if you live to tell and make it back in one piece.
The fact is, the only religion now being used for violence is Islam. We must begin to think more critically with regard to such things, stop being like blind dumb sheep and wake up! We must start thinking for ourselves versus glibly swallowing any camel the media would have us swallow. Why are the majority of terrorists throughout the world Muslim? Have you ever thought to ask yourself this? It’s because of the Qur’an, which Muslims pattern their way of life after and not, contrary to popular belief, their ethnicity. Simply put, it is their religion that radically affects their worldview, the adherents themselves, and their respective culture.
The Outcome of Chrislam
The idea of appeasement may exhibit a certain level of tolerance to Islam, but it exhibits disloyalty to Christ on such a deep level that it can’t be qualified. Those Christians who are practicing Chrislam, compromising their faith to such an irreparable degree, are not going to be able to stand against the tide of persecution that I believe will soon be coming upon the church. You can’t uphold what you don’t know. These betrayers of the faith will very likely convert to Islam in toto as they are halfway there already. They are Christian in name only because they will not stand up for Christ or His Gospel. This proves who the true head of their “Christian”-Islamic church is. For the Lord Himself is not consulted, and they have abandoned the head of the body for political correctness and the way of the world and of man, which leads to death.
The Chrislam agenda supposedly includes reaching out to the Jews. Adherents want to read from each other’s “sacred texts.” Do we expect the Hebrew or Christian Scripture to be read or spoken of well in the Mosques? Is it too much to ask to see them do the same for Israel that they do for Islam and stand up for the Jewish peoples’ right to exist and practice their religion not only in their homeland but in Muslim lands? Not only is it too much to ask, it’s unthinkable in the minds of those who adhere to the tenets of Islam as put forth in the Qur’an.
In an article titled “Pulpit Pals: Christians, Jews, Muslims Plan Shared Worship,” the following was stated:
Religious and human rights activists are asking U.S. churches to invite Jewish and Muslim clergy to their sanctuaries to read from sacred texts next month in an initiative designed to counter anti-Muslim bigotry.
The June 26th initiative, called Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding, is co-sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First. Leaders of the two Washington-based groups said the event hopes to demonstrate respect for Islam in the wake of Qur’an burnings in recent months.11
The Berean Call posted excerpts from that article along with an interesting comment about the article by an atheist. “Even atheists, on occasion, have recognized that the real threat to themselves is not biblical Christianity, but Islam,”12 TBC stated preluding the atheists comments who said:
In the past I have stated I am not religious, but my goal is to help educate and unite Atheists and members of non-Islamic religions against a common enemy. That enemy is Islam. The good news is that our voice against Islam is clearly getting louder, the bad news is that far too many Americans who identify themselves as “Christians” are taking the easy way out and bowing down to Islam, in an effort to avoid a conflict that has been raging out of control for 1,400 years.13
Stop now and take a close look at this most disturbing excerpt from the TBC webpage. It is from the Muslim Hadith Book.
It has been narrated by ‘Umar b. al-Khattib’ that he heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim.14
“A conflict which, most regrettably, Christians (and Jews) are clearly losing!,”15 TBC exclaimed.
There are some who are hopelessly missing the mark trying to bend over backwards to respect a religion that considers itself superior to all other religions and challenges the Bible’s authority on nearly everything it says, and exchanges the truth of God’s inerrant Word for a lie.
Agenzia Fides Continental News (the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies) reports an increase in rape and forced marriage with the express purpose to make Islamic converts of Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan, a Muslim nation. This has been taking place on an even larger scale in Africa. This is what Islam allows and condones under Sharia Law? We see no repercussions for this from Islam. Is this what they want us to respect? I’m afraid so.
Muslim-Christian Coexistence Starts in Africa
In Africa, Islam and Christianity are becoming progressively more assimilated.
Nigeria, like many other African countries, has been experiencing increased violence between Muslims and Christians. What they consider to be the solution came religiously and not politically.
The most popular Chrislam movement in Lagos, Nigeria at present is called Oke Tude: Mountain of Loosing Bondage. The older Chrislam movement is called Ifeoluwa: The Will of God Mission.
Oke Tude was founded in 1999 by a Muslim man who called himself Prophet Dr. Shamsuddin Saka who was born to a Muslim family. He believed in Allah and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca four times. During Saka’s second hajj in 1990, he received a “divine call” by Allah, telling him that he had to unite Christians and Muslims together by enlightening them to the “fact” they are serving the very same “God” but in different ways:
The vision to bring mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians was revealed to me by Almighty God, when I rested near the Ka‘aba. In a dream God showed me pictures of religious intolerance in Nigeria, and He assigned me to bridge the misunderstanding between the two religions, to stop the killings. Initially, I didn’t understand the dream. On New Year’s Eve, I called several Muslim scholars to my house. They prayed and afterwards fell asleep. It turned out that they all had the same dream: in their dream they saw me bringing together Christians and Muslims. This is how it started.16
As far back as January of 2006, Christian Science Monitor did an article on the Chrislam movement stating:
Pastor Saka explains that his father was an herbalist and that both Muslims and Christians would come to him for healing. Although he grew up Muslim, and has been to Mecca on pilgrimage several times, he couldn’t comprehend Nigeria’s sectarian strife. He now considers himself a Christian, ‘but that doesn’t mean Islam is bad.’ Quite the opposite. Next to his mosque is a televangelist’s dream—an auditorium with 1,500 seats, banks of speakers, a live band, and klieg lights. On Sundays, the choir switches easily between Muslim and Christian songs, and Pastor Saka preaches from both the Bible and the Koran. His sermons are often broadcast on local TV.17
But let us stop a moment and think about what is being said here. His assertion is that “God” (Allah) told him he is the same God of both religions and to stop the killing (something which originated from the Muslims initially). This new revelation from a Muslim started this new synthetic blend that has become the “answer” for Africa’s conflicts.18
This concept has been termed, “Muslim-Christian coexistence.” However, to accept the premise and practice of the coexistence movement you must depart from faith in Jesus Christ and all that is said of Him in the Word of God. These religions are disparate and were never meant to be united but were intended to forever remain wholly separate and distinct from one another. Clearly, we have prior examples for us today:
They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them” (Jeremiah 11:10).
Islam believes Christianity has another God but will feign being of a kindred source when it is advantageous to them.
The Name of God
If Christianity and Islam share the same God and the same teachings, then the names of God from each religion would be interchangeable. One issue that continues to come up is the name Allah as an appropriate generic name for God. Some believe this name is acceptable to use inside the church.
After the Israelites were slaves among the pagans in Egypt for over 400 years, the Lord who promised and prophesied Israel’s bondage and release to their own land, did just that through Moses (Gen.15:13-18).
While in Egypt, the Israelites lived among those who had made gods of nature; even their own leader, Pharaoh, was a manifested god of nature. It was easy for God to get Israel out of the land of numerous gods, but it was not so easy to have them believe in the one God who delivered them through Moses.
In their journey to the Promised land, the Lord (YHWH) called Moses up to the mountain and gave him ten commandments on stone tablets for Israel. Exodus 20:2-5: “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” They are told not to make a likeness of God, and told, “thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”
Here we find God is jealous. Jealous of what you may ask? He does not want us to mistake other gods for Him, or worship Him the way others do their gods. One of the main ways to identify these other gods would be by their name. Exodus. 23:13: “[M]ake no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.”
God’s jealousy is not like a human jealousy. It is about truth; it is about our relationship to Him and the consequences of willfully disobeying in worship and service.
None of the gods of Egypt were like the God of Israel. This is why the true God said, “[A]gainst all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord” (Exodus 12:12; see also Jeremiah 46:25). The Hebrews did not adopt the Egyptians’ names of Amon or Ra. They knew who the true God was and did not use other name(s) in worship.
So to answer the fundamental question: do Christianity and Islam share a belief in the same God, or share the same moral code based in the Ten Commandments? The answer is NO. Their god is not our God. Their god is not the God of Israel. To call God Allah would be a travesty for the genuine body of Christ, which is bought by the blood of the Son of God. Allah does not acknowledge Israel, the Jews, Christianity, or the Bible as legitimate or from God. Consider Joshua 23:7:
. . . that ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them.
In other words, other gods of the nations are not to be included in our worship or service.
Islam says the Qur’an is Mohammed’s sign of his prophethood. Our principle example is in Deuteronomy 13:2-5 where Israel had a prophet or a dreamer that gives a sign or a wonder, and speaks:
Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. . . . he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God.
Herein lies the reason we cannot call the living Creator, who is our God, Allah—it removes one from the true God. This introduction of the name Allah as a generic name for God is being used to bring the exclusive Islamic name of God into the church and have Christians believe we all worship the same God. It is a byproduct of Chrislam, which is an intentional blending of the religions.
This syncretism has been going on for a long time, but now it is getting traction inside the walls of the church. It is being brought in by men that may even call themselves evangelical but in theology and function are not.
These concepts are presented as lofty goals under the heading of “moving forward” to forge unity. Yet we need to have a better name for Chrislam—maybe Chrislamity (Chrislam and Calamity)—as it is part of the Islamization of Christianity, and it will only hurt, not help, the preaching of the Gospel to the lost.
To order copies of Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity, click here.
1. “UCC Pastor to read Quran in Response to Dove Quran Burnings” (The Creative Seminole, http://web.archive.org/web/20101028184745/http://creativeseminole.com/2010/08/19/if-they-can-burn-it-we-can-read-it-a-ucc-ministers-response-to-burning-the-quran/).
3. Dave Hunt, “What’s Happening to the Faith? (The Berean Call, April 1998).
4. Janet I. Tu, “I am both Muslim and Christian” (Seattle Times, June 17, 2007, http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2003751274_redding17m.html).
6. Yale Center for Faith and Culture: http://www.yale.edu/faith/acw/acw.htm.
7. Faith Shared press release, June 26, 2011, http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2011/05/17/faith-shared-june-26-2011.
10. Bukhari, Hadith, Vol. 4, Book 52, p. 196.
11. Adelle Banks, “Pulpit pals: Christians, Jews, Muslims plan shared worship” (Religion News Service, May 17 2011, http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/51832311-80/initiative-religious-christians-human.html.csp).
12. Taken from https://www.thebereancall.org/node/9230.
13. Ibid., taken from “More Than 50 U.S. Churches Agree to Hold Koran Readings!!,” http://loganswarning.com/2011/05/17/more-than-50-u-s-churches-agree-to-hold-koran-readings/#sthash.WLBEAHTp.dpuf.
14. Ibid., quoting the Muslim Hadith Book 019, Number 4366.
16. Dr. Marloes Janson, “Chrislam: Forging Ties in a Multi-Religious Society.”
17. Abraham McLaughlin, “In Africa, Islam and Christianity are growing—and blending” (Christian Monitor, January 26, 2006, http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0126/p01s04-woaf.html).
To order copies of Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity, click here.
Brennan Manning’s “New Monks” & Their Dangerous Contemplative Monasticism written by John Caddock is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Brennan Manning’s “New Monks” & Their Dangerous Contemplative Monasticism, click here.
The Never-Ending Review
Little did I know when I began to read The Signature of Jesus, the time and effort that would be involved in understanding it. I am not a theologian by training. My background is in technical management in electronic component manufacturing. However, I stumbled onto something that I became convinced was very dangerous and little understood.
One reading was not enough for me to understand The Signature of Jesus. I found it was like reading a book in a foreign language. I read many new expressions like contemplative prayer, centering prayer, centering down, paschal spirituality, the discipline of the secret, contemplative spirituality, celebrating the darkness, practicing the presence, the interior life, inner integration, yielding to the Center, notional knowledge, spiritual masters, masters of the interior life, false self, and the Abba experience.1
I also encountered many writers I had never read before, including Kasemann, Burghardt, Merton, Van Breemen, Brueggemann, Moltmann, Nouwen, Küng, Steindl-Rast, Rahner, Kierkegaard, and Camus.
I had to read the book three separate times before I was confident that I understood what Manning was saying. I even read it a fourth time for good measure.
Reading this book led me to read a number of other books and articles by and about leading mystics/contemplatives. I learned about the heart of Manning’s message—centering prayer.
Ultimately, I felt I had to meet the man. I attended one conference he conducted. In addition, I purchased the tapes of another conference he conducted and pored over them. Manning conducted many speaking engagements for many years. He died in April 2013 at the age of 79.
Altogether, I spent hundreds of hours trying to understand what Manning was saying. Why did I do this? Well, I began this study because three Christian leaders whom I know endorsed Brennan Manning in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. These men are bright, well educated, experienced in ministry, and heads of major works. Yet, I had read a cautionary review of that book,2 and I wanted to read Manning for myself.
I continued the study because what I found frightened me and because I felt others needed to be warned. I came to the conclusion that the teachings of Brennan Manning are very dangerous.
There is a seductive quality to his writings. He reports grappling with and overcoming fear, guilt, and psychological hang-ups and difficulties, including alcoholism. He gives the impression that he had a very intimate relationship with God and that he had insight to a superspirituality. He regularly meditated and reports having many visions and encounters with God. He was an extremely gifted writer who was able to tug at the emotions of the reader while at the same time introducing ideas that the reader would immediately reject if they were not cloaked under this emotional blanket.
He promises his readers that if they apply his teaching, they too will gain this same intimacy with God as well as freedom from fear, guilt, and psychological hang-ups and difficulties. This is very attractive. Manning’s prescription to achieve this is not by traditional prayer and the reading and application of the Bible. Rather, the means to this end is a mixture of Eastern mysticism, psychology, the New Age movement, liberation theology, Catholicism, and Protestantism. This mixture will not deliver intimacy with God. It no doubt will lead to special feelings and experiences. Those practicing Manning’s methods will likely feel closer to God. Ironically, in the process they will actually move away from Him as a result of a counterfeit spirituality.
Ordained a Franciscan priest, Manning earned degrees in philosophy and theology. He had training with a monastic order, which included seven months of isolation in a desert cave. Years later, after a collapse into alcoholism, he shifted direction and focused on writing and speaking. He became persona non grata among the Roman Catholic hierarchy as a result of his marriage in 1982. He began writing and speaking mainly to Protestant audiences.
What Is Contemplative Spirituality?
The Signature of Jesus is actually a primer on what Manning calls paschal spirituality, which is supposedly, but not actually, spirituality centered on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Another name for this, a more accurate one, is contemplative spirituality. Indeed, one entire chapter is a call to “Celebrate the Darkness,”3 and another teaches about centering prayer, an Eastern religion, mind-emptying meditation technique.4
Manning indicates that The Signature of Jesus is about radical discipleship and authentic faith. Radical discipleship sounds good. So does authentic faith. Unfortunately, the book isn’t about following Jesus Christ or having faith in Him. It is about following “the masters of the interior life.”5
In Manning’s view, many Christians have been raised in a devotional spirituality, which focuses “more on behavior than on consciousness; more on doing God’s will and performing the devotional acts that pleased Him than on experiencing God as God truly is.”6 Contemplative spirituality, on the other hand, “emphasize[s] the need for a change in consciousness, a new way of seeing God, others, self, and the world,”7 which leads to a deeper knowledge of God.
Thus, Manning sets up a battle between two views of the Christian life. One he paints as traditional, cold, intellectual, ritualistic, unemotional, unloving, uncaring, insensitive, unattractive, and obsessive. The other he presents as new, warm, free, emotional, loving, caring, sensitive, attractive, and liberating. While he acknowledges there is a place for Bible study and corporate worship, he argues that the key is “practicing the presence” through a special form of prayer we will discuss more fully later, centering prayer. Manning writes:
Herein lies the secret, I believe, of the inner life of Jesus. Christ’s communion with Abba in the inner sanctuary of His soul transformed his vision of reality, enabling him to perceive God’s love and care behind the complexities of life. Practicing the presence helps us to discern the providence of God at work, especially in those dark hours when the signature of Jesus is being traced in our flesh. (You may wish to try it right now. Lower the book, center down, and offer yourself to the indwelling Spirit of God.)8
Daily devotions consisting of Bible study, meditation, memorization, and traditional prayers are of limited importance in the contemplative spirituality of Manning. His substitute—a type of prayer derived from Eastern mysticism, is what is really important—Practice the presence—Center down—What is really needed is freeing the mind and having an existential experience with God.
The Origins of Contemplative Spirituality
This movement began in the Roman Catholic Church, where there has been an important shift over the last few decades. Devotional spirituality is a pejorative term coined by some within Roman Catholicism who reacted against the prewar, pre-Vatican II Church, with a devotion to saints, doctrine, frequent reception of the sacraments, and approved devotional practices.
Some Roman Catholics began to advocate the “new theology,”9 which Francis Schaeffer warned of in his classic The God Who is There. Schaeffer pointed to Hans Küng and Karl Rahner (both influential in shaping Manning’s views) and Teilhard de Chardin as the leading progressive thinkers who were following in the path of Heidegger, the existentialist philosopher. To the new theology or new spirituality, language is always a matter of personal interpretation, and therefore the language of the Bible can be used as a vehicle for continuous existential experiences. A given verse has thousands of different interpretations as each person has an encounter with God. Scripture now becomes a triggering device for mystical experiences rather than a source of sound doctrine.
Schaeffer warned that if the “progressives” consolidated their position within the Roman Catholic Church, they would have both its organization and linguistic continuity at their disposal. They would then be in the position of supplying society with an endless series of religiously motivated “arbitrary absolutes” applying any sociological or psychological theory at their discretion.
Schaeffer predicted that the new theology would lead to mysticism. Karl Rahner showed the truth in Schaeffer’s prediction when Rahner wrote, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he or she will not exist at all.”10
The New Monks
In The Signature of Jesus, Manning quotes Catholic saints, medieval mystics, and monks, including Charles de Foucauld, Francis De Sales, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, and Catherine of Siena. The most frequently cited sources are part of the community of Roman Catholic clergy who are instrumental in promoting modern contemplative spirituality: Thomas Merton, Anthony De Mello, William Shannon, Henri Nouwen, Peter Van Breemen, William Reiser, David Steindl-Rast, and Basil Pennington. Although the word contemplation brings to mind a monastic life dedicated to pence and cloistered within the walls of the monastery, not so with these New Monks.11
The New Monks critique the current state of Christianity by arguing that since God is holy and is a “wholly other,” He cannot be defined by systems of doctrine. They maintain that western rationalism has crushed the knowledge of God and that we must return to a more intuitively received knowledge. We must move beyond the intellect, beyond doctrine, and beyond words to a deeper union with God. Their writings contain rather complex discussions on the nature of being and share common themes of universality, mystical union with God through contemplation (wordless “prayer”), social justice, and non-violence.
The New Monks maintain that all religions should immerse themselves in the myths of their tradition because there is power in the “collective unconscious”12 of the tradition to shape the experience of its followers. So, for the New Monk, the use of biblical language has great power within the Christian tradition. For example, the call to salvation13 is actually a call to a transformation of consciousness to be psychologically awakened to the unity and oneness of all creation. For the New Monks, all religions at their deepest mystical level use myth and symbol to say the same thing.
The New Monks believe we are born into a duality between self (the ego) and oneness (being). The ego is driven by fear of death and alienation and is the source of all suffering and woundedness. The fall, a mythical story, has a deeper more “universal truth,” which is intended to shed light on present human experience. We have fallen from oneness and harmony of paradise into alienation and a sense of separation. We must simply realize that the gulf that appears to separate “sinful” humanity from a righteous God has never existed; we are and always have been one with God. For the New Monks, this is God’s unconditional love and grace.
Thomas Merton, who is frequently cited by Manning, is the forerunner of the New Monks. Having accepted so much of the new theology, Merton remained involved in the Roman Catholic Church only by a thin affirmation of a God in Nature and a reverence for tradition. He popularized Jungian Psychotherapy in his writings about spiritual healing, agreeing with Jung’s mythic perspective of biblical doctrines.
Merton traveled to Asia on a quest to redefine what being a monk entailed and found it in Buddhist and Hindu teachings. There he discovered great similarities between monastic contemplation and Eastern meditation and determined that they were both in touch with the same mystical source. He felt the emphasis on experience and inner transformation rather than doctrine would be the ecumenical meeting place between East and West.
Merton advocated moving the practice of contemplation from its marginal state of use by only the Catholic monks behind the cloistered walls to a broader use by the common man. Dedicated to civil rights, antiwar, and liberationist activism, he came to call his fellow activists “true monks.” In The Signature of Jesus, Manning precisely echoes the themes of contemplative spirituality. It appears his intention was to bring to Protestants what Thomas Merton brought to many Roman Catholics.
Contemplative Spirituality Promotes Universalism
Both the new theology and contemplative spirituality emphasize ecumenism. Hans Küng (whose book On Being Christian, Manning says is “the most powerful book other than Scripture that I have ever read,”)14 is the author of the document, “Declaration of a Global Ethic,” which personifies the push toward religious pluralism among progressives. The document, intended to be an agreement among the world’s religions, does not contain the word God, Küng explains “because including it would exclude all Buddhist and many faith groups with different views of God and the divine.”15 Most evangelicals are familiar with ecumenism within Christianity only. However, those who hold to the new theology and more explicitly those who hold to contemplative spirituality believe in an ecumenism that includes non-Christian religions and all “faith groups.” This is a logical step for those who divorce themselves from the Gospel of Scripture and who adopt the view that all are saved (universalism).
Since universalism has traditionally not appealed to many evangelicals, and Manning is attempting to reach them, he does not make blatant statements advocating it. He shows, however, that he is indeed a universalist in two ways.
First, the people whom Manning approvingly cites believe in universalism. David Steindl-Rast is a Roman Catholic priest who promotes contemplative theology. In a 1992 article, he said, “Envision the great religious traditions arranged on the circumference of a circle. At their mystical core they all say the same thing, but with different emphasis.”16 Manning cites him approvingly twice in The Signature of Jesus.17
The New Monks frequently use the term “unconditional love” to express universality. Their push to a beyond-words, beyond-thoughts meditation experience in order to fully experience a loving deity misses entirely that apart from faith in Christ for eternal life, there can be no adequate discussion of experiencing God’s love.
Matthew Fox, cited approvingly in Manning’s books Lion and Lamb18 and A Stranger to Self-Hatred,19 is an excommunicated Catholic priest and a contemplative. He gives us another example of the universalism of the contemplatives Manning cites:
God is a great underground river, and there are many wells into that river. There’s a Taoist well, a Buddhist well, a Jewish well, a Muslim well, a Christian well, a Goddess well, the Native wells—many wells that humans have dug to get into that river, but friends, there’s only one river; the living waters of wisdom. All of us have to go down a well today; we all have to do spiritual practice to find divinity. But whether your well be Buddhist, or Christian or Sufi or Jewish, when you do your work, you will come to the same source of wisdom.20
Merton says one can work within the Christian traditions but view universalism as the broader truth:
[The contemplative] has a unified vision and experience of the one truth shining out in all its various manifestations . . . He does not set these partial views up in opposition to each other, but unites them in a dialectic or an insight of complementarity.21
Second, Manning makes statements that imply universalism. For example, he says that contemplative spirituality “looks upon human nature as fallen but redeemed—flawed but, in essence, good.”22 For Manning, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ mean that all are redeemed. There is nothing to be done to gain the life of God. Everyone already has it:
He has a single, relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of Grace.23
Manning says that God loves “all.” He is not speaking here merely of the compassion God has for the world, which moved Him to send His Son to die for us (John 3:16). He is saying that God has already restored all people to a right relationship with Him. Notice that he first says “he loves us” and then “he loves all.” Clearly “us,” the first person plural pronoun, in this context includes everyone. Then, in the same context Manning goes on to say that “we have been restored to a right relationship with God.” “We” mentioned here is the same group as the “all” mentioned earlier. All have been restored to a right relationship with God. Manning wants us to overcome our psychological fog so that we can realize it. The Good News is that everyone is already saved. The biblical view that all are lost and that only when a person trusts Jesus Christ as Savior does he pass from death to life (John 5:24) is foreign to Manning and contemplatives.
The last chapter of The Signature of Jesus is all about a revelation, which Manning supposedly received from God about final judgment. The illustration mentions by name some of the most vile men of all time, including Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, and Saddam Hussein, and implies that all of them, indeed all who have ever lived, will get into heaven.24
It should be noted, however, that there are statements in The Signature of Jesus and in the writings of other contemplatives that can be easily misconstrued to imply that there is salvation only for those who believe in Jesus. For example, Manning writes, “In any other great world religion it is unthinkable to address almighty God as ‘Abba.’” He then supports this point by approvingly quoting Peter Van Breemen:
Many devout Moslems, Buddhists, and Hinduists are generous and sincere in their search for God. Many have had profound mystical experiences. Yet in spite of their immeasurable spiritual depth, they seldom or never come to know God as their Father. Indeed, intimacy with Abba is one of the greatest treasures Jesus has brought us.25
It is important to realize that when contemplatives speak of knowing God as Father or Abba, they are not referring to regeneration. They are referring to achieving a level of intimacy with God, “intimacy with Abba.” They view all people as heaven bound. The issue for them is becoming a mystic whose experience of God transforms the life and hence the world. Their ultimate aim is to usher in a new world.
There are statements in The Signature of Jesus which could be misconstrued as well. He denounces “cheap grace”26 and says:
In the last analysis, faith is not the sum of our beliefs or a way of speaking or a way of thinking; it is a way of living and can be articulated adequately only in a living practice. To acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord is meaningful insofar as we try to live as he lived and to order our lives according to his values. We do not need to theorize about Jesus; we need to make him present in our time, our culture, and our circumstances. Only a true practice of our Christian faith can verify what we believe .27
However, Manning is not talking about salvation from Hell. He is speaking of deliverance from fear and shame. He is speaking here of coming into an intimate knowledge of God in one’s experience, not of how we gain eternal life through biblical salvation.
As mentioned above, the key to spirituality, according to Manning, is a special type of prayer, which he calls “contemplative prayer” or “centering prayer.” For the uninitiated, this may not seem ominous. It may sound like what God calls us to do in His Word. It is not. It is ominous. It is a practice derived from Eastern mysticism.
Manning writes, “The task of contemplative prayer is to help me achieve the conscious awareness of the unconditionally loving God dwelling within me.”28 He also says, “What masters of the interior life recommend is the discipline of ‘centering down’ throughout the day.”29
Manning attempts to head off the charge that centering prayer comes from Eastern mysticism and the New Age movement by saying:
A simple method of contemplative prayer (often called “centering prayer” in our time and anchored in the Western Christian tradition of John Cassian and the desert fathers, and not, as some think, in Eastern mysticism or New age philosophy) has four steps.30
He instructs the reader in the practice of centering prayer, which is a type of contemplative wordless “prayer” a technique that involves breathing exercises and the chanting of a sacred word or phrase. Manning begins “the first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer”!31 What biblical support is there for this idea?
The second step, according to Manning, is to “without moving your lips, repeat the sacred word [or phrase] inwardly, slowly, and often.”32 Once again, where is the biblical support for this practice? None is cited, because none exists.
The third step concerns what to do when inevitable distractions come. The answer is to “simply return to listening to your sacred word . . . gently return to your sacred word.”33
Finally, “after a twenty-minute period of prayer [which Manning recommends twice daily] conclude with the Lord’s Prayer, a favorite psalm, or some spontaneous words of praise and thanks.”34 While he doesn’t say how long this concluding recitation or spontaneous words might last, it seems he only expects this to be a minute or two, since the Lord’s Prayer and most of the Psalms are short and easy to read in a minute or so. This concluding recitation seems to be an afterthought, something put in to make the “prayer” seem Christian. Yet even this fourth part is biblically suspect. Jesus said, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do” (Matthew 6:7). Any routine prayer repeated each prayer session will soon fall into the category of “vain repetition,” even if it is Scripture. The Lord’s Prayer is a sample of the way we should pray that Jesus gave when He said “use not vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7).
The instruction utilizes odd jargon such as the “false self” and “crucifixion of the ego” and a curious mix of spiritual and psychological terms. To understand his language, one would need to have a more candid overview of centering prayer.35
Chapter seven is titled “Celebrate the Darkness” (a title that is decidedly not only unbiblical, but even anti-biblical; darkness is always presented negatively in Scripture (see, for example, 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:8, 11; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 1:5-10). Manning, quoting atonement rejector, Alan Jones, writes “the ego has to break; and this breaking is like entering into a great darkness. Without such a struggle and affliction, there can be no movement in love.”36 He goes on:
With the ego purged and the heart purified through the trials of the dark night, the interior life of an authentic disciple is a hidden, invisible affair. Today it appears that God is calling many ordinary Christians into this rhythm of loss and gain. The hunger I encounter across the land for silence, solitude, and centering prayer is the Spirit of Christ calling us from the shallows to the deep.37
In centering prayer, the word sin becomes a religious word attached to a method of psychological therapy, and the biblical presentation of true moral guilt is omitted.38 It is a system completely open to the manipulation of the inventors who feel the liberty to use the biblical language any way they see fit. Manning attempts to give it the validity of tradition by saying that it has been rooted in Catholic monastic practices since the 5th century.
The result of this mystical practice is that the practitioner becomes less interested in objective spiritual knowledge found in the Bible and more interested in the subjective experience, which is found through centering prayer. This may account for the antagonistic attitude toward traditional forms of faith. Manning speaks of “several local churches [he has] visited, [in which] religiosity has pushed Jesus to the margins of real life and plunged people into preoccupation with their own personal salvation.”39 Of course, centering prayer requires no interest whatsoever in one’s own personal salvation since it presupposes that all are already saved. That is what we discover when we “center down.” Manning’s attitude toward the Bible seems to be markedly different from anyone who has a high regard for it as the very Word of God:
I am deeply distressed by what I can only call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word—bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.40
In The Signature of Jesus, Manning rarely cites Scripture. Why should he, when the truly important knowledge of God comes from his experience of centering down and not from the Bible? Remember “God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book.” While Manning would acknowledge that some elementary truths of God can be found by reading the Bible, intimate knowledge of God only comes through centering prayer.41
Manning speaks much of God’s grace and love but these precious biblical concepts are actually replaced by vague notions of wholeness through an eastern religious meditation technique, Centering Prayer. Many contemplatives assert that this constitutes the spiritual journey and is the same process as integrating the conscious with the unconscious as described by Jungian psychotherapy. Manning has reinterpreted some of the most crucial biblical truths such as sin and forgiveness. The irony is that a clear biblical Gospel, if believed to be true, will produce assurance that has truly profound psychological benefits. There is no place for centering prayer in discipleship. Meditation is to be on God’s Word, not on nothingness.
Contemplative spirituality is dangerous. Christian leaders should warn their people about it. Those who are interested in a comprehensive biblical understanding of true biblical spirituality and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be warned that Brennan Manning traveled on a wholly other path and took countless people with him.
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1. Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1996 edition). See pp. 209-27, 218, 94, 115-36, 185-96, 216, 137-58, 58-59, 58, 94, 94, 170, 102, 111, 112, 30, 29, 219, 94, 224, 224, 231, 65, and 168 respectively.
2 Reviewed by Robert N. Wilkin in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1994, pp. 74-75.
3. The Signature of Jesus, op. cit., pp. 131-150. Manning tells of literally sitting in a dark room with one solitary spotlight shining on a crucifix (p. 46): “Prostrate on the floor, I whisper, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ over and over.”
4. Ibid., pp. 195-212
5. Ibid., p. 89.
6. Ibid., p. 201.
8. Ibid., p. 90.
9. Schaeffer seems to have used the term broadly to avoid clumsiness in his discussion of how modern shifts in philosophies have effected theology. The expression “new theology,” as Schaeffer uses it, encompasses neo-orthodoxy, strongly rationalistic liberal theology, theologies following Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, and theologies following in the footsteps of the religious existentialism of Heidegger. Since Manning and the contemplatives drink from all of these fountains, I have used this expression.
10. John B. Healey, “The Journey Within” (America, February 19, 1994).
11. I coined this term since these priests promote mysticism for the common man through the use of their interpretation of monastic ideas and meditation. For them every man should be a mystic and every man should be a true monk. A “true monk” is a social activist.
12. This term is from Carl Jung, whose teaching is highly influential to the New Monks. Manning also favorably cites him in The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 173 (2005 ed.) and Abba’s Child, p. 44 (2002 ed.). Jung, a psychologist who was a disciple of Freud, believed one could become whole by integrating the unconscious with the conscious; however, this process requires embracing the darkness of the unconscious. Jung was known to even use occultic techniques to facilitate this.
13. A further example of how biblical language and themes are distorted by the New Monks is found in the writings of Alan Jones (who calls the doctrine of the atonement a vile doctrine in his book Reimagining Christianity), favorably cited by Manning in The Signature of Jesus, pp. 14, 132, 141, 184 and in Abba’s Child, p. 55.
14. The Signature of Jesus, op. cit., p. 153.
15. John R. Coyne, Jr., “Ultimate Reality in Chicago” (National Review, October 4, 1993).
16. David Steindl-Rast, “Heroic Virtue” (Gnosis, Summer, 1992).
17. The Signature of Jesus, op. cit., pp. 196, 199.
18. Lion and Lamb (p. 135).
19. A Stranger to Self-Hatred (pp. 113, 124).
20. Matthew Fox, “In honor of Dr. Howard Thurman” (Creation Spirituality, Spring 1997, http://creationspiritualitymag.org/wp-content/uploads/1997/02/vol-13-howard-thurman.pdf). (Fox believes that the “second coming” of the Cosmic Christ, an awakening to mysticism, will usher in a global renaissance that can heal Mother Earth and save her by changing human hearts and ways.)
21. Thomas Merton, Contemplation in a World of Action (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1965), pp. 207-208.
22. The Signature of Jesus op. cit., p. 118 (this is italicized in original).
23. Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 2005 ed.), p. 20. See also his approving citation on the previous page of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s suggestion that God will accept into heaven sinners of every stripe (drunkards, weaklings, vile beings), including those who have taken the mark of the beast. The latter is a direct contradiction of Revelation 14:9-11. The former is only true of those who have been washed in the blood of Christ by faith. Yet Dostoevsky and Manning put no qualifier on which sinners get into heaven. All go to heaven.
24. In a 1995 sermon given at Greenbelt Seminars in Sheffield, England, titled “In Bed with God” (what kind of title is this!), Manning says, “Do you see why the revelation of Jesus on the nature of God is so revolutionary? [Do you see] why no Christian can ever say one form of prayer is not as good as another or one religion is not as good as another?” If all religions are equally good, then universalism must be true.
25. The Signature of Jesus, p. 158. Manning indicates that our “mission” is “building the new heavens and the new earth under the signature of Jesus” (p. 180). While this is a startling claim for those who know the biblical promise that it is God who will introduce the new heavens and the new earth (e.g., Rev 21:1ff.), it is consistent with the emphasis of contemplatives.
26. The Signature of Jesus, op. cit., pp. 112, 121, 134, 172.
27. Ibid., p. 33.
28. Ibid., p. 197.
29. Ibid., p. 89.
30. Ibid., p. 203.
31. Ibid., p. 198.
32. Ibid., p. 204.
35. To understand how the contemplatives view these terms, read Cynthia Bourgeault’s article “From Woundedness to Union” (Gnosis, Winter 1995, pp. 41-45).
36. The Signature of Jesus, op. cit., p. 139.
37. Ibid., p. 142.
38. Manning gives us better insight into the contemplatives’ view of sin in his book Abba’s Child (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002 ed.), pp. 153-154.
39. The Signature of Jesus, op. cit., p. 178.
40. Ibid., p. 174.
41. In his first chapters of an earlier book, Gentle Revolutionaries, Manning indicates that we all have seven “centers,” three bad (security, sensation, and power) and four good (love, acceptance, self awareness, and unitive). The unitive center is the “highest level of consciousness” (p. 104). None of this, of course, is found in the Bible. It is all consistent with centering prayer and contemplative spirituality, neither of which depends on being anchored in the Word.
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8 Things You Should Know About Boys Who Are Sexually Abused written by Gregory Reid is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of 8 Things You Should Know About Boys Who Are Sexually Abused, click here.
By Gregory Reid
I’m a male sexual-abuse survivor. I’m also a ritual-abuse survivor. I am rare, and belong to a company of men and boys, mostly silent and scared. So few have survived well enough to talk about it. I know I have to talk, because I DID survive, and because I see them in every group I meet, from five to seventy-years-old suffering, silent victims who are not really considered REAL victims by many, since the male species, in their minds, should be able to fend off any abuse. No matter how little they were. No matter how bad and scary it was. So we keep mostly quiet, to avoid the humiliation of questioning, cynical eyes that seem to say, “Come on, you could have done SOMETHING to stop it!” Can you imagine the public outrage in most places nowadays if you said that to a female rape victim? But no one really defends boy and men victims. So we’ve stayed silent. Wouldn’t you? If you’re a victim, you probably do. You probably picked this booklet up with a big knot of fear in your gut, hoping no one would suspect you might be one of the one in six boys who are sexually abused.
I want to tell you, you’ve got nothing to be afraid of. After all, being molested was something that was done to you, and you shouldn’t feel you have to apologize for looking for some hope, that you feel you have to hide because of someone else’s sins against you. Do those who are cynical have any idea what it’s like, what it feels like, how much pain it causes? Then forget about the doubters. You need a friend, and I hope you just picked it up—a booklet with a voice, one you’ll know is also maybe yours and one that is warm and real. A voice, mainly, of a brother who’s struggling out of his pain, too.
I try not to look too hard at how much progress I’ve made; I get too introspective, and then it goes into self-pity, and that’s worse than anything I can think of. When things about being molested come up, I do my best to face it. I’ve totally overcome some things (like blaming myself) but I’m still struggling with others (like being afraid that it’s written all over my forehead and people just “know”). Some struggles are no surprise, some are very fresh and event sensitive, and some knock me sideways when I’m not expecting any more to handle. But now I have hope, because little by little I’ve been healed, and I want to give a little of that to you.
I’ve written from my history, my head, and my heart. There’s not a lot of statistics, but I’ve put in a few for those who just want to help. A lot of the following is from my own experience, as graphic and real as I dare. For me, no one knew. No one should have to struggle that way. Accept this as a gift from a friend to let you know YOU’RE NOT ALONE.
I. Looking for the Signs
This is for those with children and teens, and those who work with them. It’s also for abuse survivors still not convinced that they were abused. Having one or two of these may be normal or not a sign of abuse, but the more that apply, the more likely abuse has happened.
Lack of Feelings
Aversion to Touch
Fear of Adults
Extreme Privacy Need
Extreme Control Need
Age-Inappropriate Sexual Knowledge
Extreme Need for Order
Clinging to Adults
Fear of Abandonment
Rebellion Against Authority
Rage Toward Parents, especially father
II. A Predator’s Toolkit
Most “professional pedophiles” have turned molestation into a fine science. They are precise in their plans and use well tested lures and traps to get kids in a place where they can be molested. The following is a “profile of seduction,” an overview of how a predator works.
1. Drugs (Voluntary and involuntary)
2. Alcohol (To lower the victim’s inhibitions and make them confused and vulnerable)
3. Pornography (Printed and video, to lower the sexual inhibitions and arouse the victim)
4. Music, video games, etc.
The predator is current on music trends, video games, movies, etc. and their homes often look like a kid’s paradise.
5. Prestige & Status.
To a boy or teen, hanging around with a dynamic, fun adult with a nice house and a fast car is a very powerful lure, a major ego booster.
6. Money & Gifts.
Predators shower their victims with gifts and money, which is very seductive to a kid who may not have much materially, and it also puts the boy in a place of “obligation” to the giver.
7. Physical affection.
Predators can sense kids who have little affection at home, which is something every boy or teen needs, and he slowly begins giving that affection to the boy a little at a time, making him dependent on it, craving it to feel loved and liked and special.
8. Emotional support.
Predators go out of their way to listen to a boy, sympathize with his problems, and offer help and advice as well as encouragement. This goes a long way with a kid who doesn’t feel like he’s worth much.
9. Sexual gratification.
Predators are experts on how to seduce, entice, arouse, and sexually stimulate a boy or teen; and like it or not, it can become an addiction for the boy, especially if it’s his first sexual experience. Mix that with needed affection, and soon the boy won’t know the difference between sex and affection, love and arousal.
Time is the predator’s most powerful tool. Unlike normal adults who have lives, jobs, children, families, hobbies, and other interests and obligations which all play important but somewhat equal parts in life, the predator has a job, a career, interests, hobbies, etc., only as props to support his addiction—kids. Since this is his all consuming addiction, money, time, and interests are all expended toward this one goal—to find his fantasy child or teen and molest them, photograph them, use them. Since the other things, like work and family, are just asides, they have enormous amounts of time and energy to devote to the finding of kids, the luring of kids, the prepping of kids, for the seemingly endless amount of time spent listening to kids and going places with them and buying them things and doing things with them, all in hopes of the ultimate—sex with a minor.
Once a predator determines to find a victim, this is the general chain of events that often follows:
1. He finds the desired child or teen. Befriends him, gains his trust.
2. Gains the trust of the parents so they won’t suspect.
3. Makes the boy feel important through lots of time and personal attention, makes him feel he is more important to him than anybody.
4. Flatters him. Tells him he’s handsome, smart, etc.
5. Makes plans for private time with him,
a. Counseling him,
b. Going to movies,
c. Going to the park, video arcade, beach, pool, concerts, etc.,
d. Plans a camping trip with him,
e. Hires him to work around the house or business,
f. Helps him with his schoolwork.
6. Treats him like an adult.
7. Builds non threatening affectionate physical contact.
8. Introduces or allows “adult” activities; smoking, drinking, drugs, pornography, swearing, etc.
9. Starts slowly discussing sex, gaining as much intimate knowledge of him as possible.
10. Remolds his thinking about what is “normal sex,” eventually disclosing his “normal” desires for sex with the boy.
11. Having changed his thinking, gained his trust and dependency and accelerated physical contact, the boy is now totally vulnerable to being molested.
12. The predator plans the time and place where there will be no suspicion or interference or time constraints.
13. After prepping him with alcohol, pornography, etc., while he has broken down the walls enough to start molesting him, he tells him:
All guys do it.
He knows some of his friends who do it.
He loves him.
The boy is “turned on” and that’s normal and means he wants it too.
Guilt is wrong.
He’s the greatest kid in the world.
14. After he’s molested him, he makes the boy feel he started it, threatens to tell if he has to, tells him he will be destroyed if the boy tells—whatever it takes to keep him quiet.
15. After he has outgrown his attraction for him, the predator keeps the photos or videos as a memento and searches for a new kid.
This is a general picture that doesn’t fit every victim or every predator, but fits many of them, and in that respect it is very painfully accurate. Knowing your enemy is half the battle in stopping him.
III. Myths about Abused Boys
Myth: It is not a widespread problem.
Fact: One in every ten men & boys, and some say one in six has possibly been molested in some form.
Myth: Most molesters are dirty old men.
Fact: Most predators are highly intelligent career people with community respect and a good income.
Myth: Most predators are stranger to the child.
Fact: Stranger molestation is the exception, and most boys know their molesters well, as relatives for whom trust comes naturally or family friends or people in authority who have pursued the child to seduce them over a long period of time.
Myth: Abuse must be forced or violent to be called rape.
Fact: Any time an adult lures a child to sexual acts it’s rape.
Myth: If the abuse was pleasurable for the boy, it was not rape.
Fact: Sex is a biological stimulus. Feeling pleasure may be a natural reaction, but it is still a crime that a powerful, older person took an underage child or teen and used them for their own gratification, and the psychological and emotional damage done to the child is still just as real.
Myth: Most victims become abusers.
Fact: This is largely a jailhouse excuse for predators. Some do go on to abuse: some become violent, but most just live self-destructive, miserable lives until they get help. But the fact is most boys who were molested do not grow up to molest. Furthermore, when a victim of abuse commits himself to the Lord and God’s Word as a born-again Christian, an avenue for true healing is opened.
Myth: Nonforced abuse makes the boy responsible.
Fact: No child is ever responsible for being raped.
Myth: It happens to other people’s kids.
Fact: Molestation of boys is one of the most unreported crimes that exists. It COULD be your child. Communication, unconditional love, and acceptance is the only way to keep the door open to your son if something does or did happen.
IV. What a Victim Looks Like
Boys who get molested hide well, and it’s not always easy to tell who they are. But there are certain things that make a potential victim vulnerable, and make them “desirable” to a predator.
1. Four- to sixteen-years-old.
2. “Innocent” appearance (to Predators this is very important)
3. Lonely, friendless, lost looking.
4. Starved for attention and affection.
5. Absent or emotionally distant father.
6. Sexually naive or inexperienced.
7. At a sexually awakened and experimental stage.
8. Emotionally pliable and easily trusting.
9. Identity unformed.
10. Looking for a hero.
11. Self-conscious about looks, insecure and shy.
V. What Being Molested Cost Me
The cost to a kid who gets molested is higher than most people know. It’s too easy to minimize the damage by saying, “It’s just one of those things,” or “Get over it.” Sexual violation is a violent thing even when it’s not violent. It takes so much inside. After many years, I’ve taken notice of the losses (much of which has been healed and restored), and I want to tell you about it so you’ll know.
It cost me my childhood. Repeated molestation blocked my memories, and what I did remember was covered with a haze of physical illness, stalking fear, repeat nightmares, and deep loneliness.
It cost me my ability to trust. I resented authority and feared adults so much, I wouldn’t go anyplace like a public restroom or swimming pool locker room because I’d get sick from the fear of what might happen.
It cost me my ability to be spontaneous. I kept such rigid control over my emotions, my body, and my mind, that I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t play, and being around kids could made me feel sullen, angry, depressed, alone, left out.
It cost me my sanity. Shortly after the initial abuses, I was in a complete emotional dead zone; and one night, as I sat alone in a chair, my mind filled with filth and blasphemy, and tears streamed down my face, because I loved God and I couldn’t stop this mental rape, and I just snapped after several days of this, and I started cursing and smoking and drinking, and I told God to give up on me because I was evil.
I was eleven.
It cost me my education potential. I was a brilliant child. Being molested cost me my ability to think without confusion, trance outs, and frustration. I couldn’t concentrate. I could have been a straight A Valedictorian. Instead, by the time I finished High School, I was taking four basic classes and barely passed.
It cost me my identity. Being molested created such sexual and emotional confusion that I was an old man before I was fifteen and still a boy at thirty. I felt numb and removed, like I was not there, just a piece of property for others to use and discard.
It cost me my adolescence. Being molested made me afraid of adults, men, women, crowds, public places, challenges, fights, and almost everything else including being scared to death I was gay and scared of all my emotions including anger and joy. I couldn’t date, I didn’t go to the prom, and alcohol was my only “friend.” Being a kid is screwed up and scary enough, but I carried enough guilt and fear to take down ten normal adults.
It cost me time. Being molested started me running, and I ran and kept going until I crashed in my late twenties, and then it cost me time in recovering, facing hard truth, and healing.
It cost me family. Being molested crippled my heart enough to destroy any potential marriage or children.
God has restored most of what was taken, and more. But you need to know being molested is not a “get over it” thing. It’s an evil robber whose damage goes deep and keeps taking until we can face it and start to heal.
VI. Why We Don’t Talk
I’m speaking on behalf of the many boys and men who have been molested. The “One In Six.” We sit in your classrooms, worship in your churches, socialize at your parties, work at your businesses, and sleep in your beds.
We are a mystery to you. You probably sense something is “not quite right.” We’re distant and yet long for closeness, so we pull you in and then push you away. We drink too much and laugh too loud, and then suddenly retreat, fearing we’ll call attention to ourselves—and then you’ll know or at least start asking questions. And we never, EVER cry in front of you. It’s too scary. We’re too fragile. We’re afraid if we get started, we’ll never stop.
The littlest among us don’t talk because we’re scared. We know what they did to us is wrong, but they’re big enough to hurt us or kill us if we tell. It may be our dad, and then if we tell they’ll come and take him away, and it’s our fault, and then our family will be gone, and who’s gonna take care of us then? Besides, he said he’s sorry and he loves me. That’s why he said he did it, ‘cause I’m special, and if I tell and he leaves, I won’t be special anymore.
VII. What Not to Tell Us
We may look tough on the outside or able to handle things well, but it’s mainly a disguise. We’re pretty fragile, and what you say to us when you discover where we’ve been could make the difference between us getting help or turning help away forever. That’s especially true if we’re little boys or teens. Every word you say counts. For all of us, here’s some things you should never say when you find out what’s happened to us:
1. “How could you do that?”
It was done TO me. I had no choice!
2. “Why didn’t you stop it?”
We couldn’t stop it. It was too unexpected, too powerful, they were bigger, we trusted them, and we had no way of knowing what would happen if we said no. How did we know they wouldn’t kill us or tell everyone we made it happen?
3. “Why didn’t you kick them and run?”
We were paralyzed. The fear of what was happening was so strong that we had no choice except to let it happen. WE COULDN’T MOVE!
4. “You should have told us!”
We were afraid to. We were afraid you’d hate us and blame us. They said you would.
5. “Let’s not talk about it.”
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT! When you say that, you make us feel like we don’t matter, our hurt doesn’t matter, that you’re just concerned about yourself and you don’t care about anything but getting us to shut up.
6. “What will people think of our family?”
Aren’t we family? How do you think I feel about myself? If you’re more concerned about our reputation than about me, then I’ll just withdraw and not have a family anymore.
7. “Didn’t you know you were sinning?”
No, we didn’t. And we weren’t. You forget that this was done TO us, not something we asked for.
8. “Let’s not mention this again.”
Why not? You make us feel like nothing happened, that it wasn’t any big deal, but it was, and we know it. If you won’t talk to us or let us talk, we’ll explode.
9. “Forget about the past. You can’t change it.”
But it’s changed US. We can’t forget. It’s like you’re telling a cancer patient to forget about his disease. If there’s a cure (and there is for abuse) for God’s sake don’t keep it from us by denying where we’ve been.
10. “How long is it going to take for you to get over this and get on with your life?”
I don’t know. You tell ME. I bet you don’t know, because you don’t feel this devastating anger and hurt and sense of loss. It will take as long as it needs to, and we need you to accept us no matter how long it takes. Nobody wants to get through this more than we do.
VIII. Letter to a Molester
To Whoever You Are:
Your name doesn’t matter, for to me, you were just a stranger in a Volkswagen who gave me a ride. And to you, I was just a number, a cute fourteen-year-old anonymous kid, one of God knows how many.
I think about it a lot. Even though you weren’t the first to molest me, you probably did more damage than most. At fourteen, I was just beginning to explore my sexuality, and I was vulnerable. All my sexual antennas were active, but then you knew that, didn’t you? That’s why you picked kids like me. We were easy prey; we were little enough to feel scared and overpowered by you, old enough to sexually respond to what you did.
I hated you, and I have forgiven you. Because to not forgive you meant I always lived for you, thought about you, lived in the darkness of what you did, and longed for vengeance. Five years after you raped me, I saw you while I was driving, and pressed the accelerator to the floor to kill you. You were still driving the same Volkswagen. Only God’s grace pulled back my foot and let you live. And then I knew that you bound me still. And so I forgave not because it was rational but because it was killing me, not because you deserve it but because I needed to let it go. Forgive means “give forth” and so I gave back the chains you put me in. I don’t hate you anymore. I feel nothing at all, but sadness, for what you took from me—that I can never reclaim my adolescence.
I do pray for you for repentance, if possible. And if not, for imprisonment, not to punish you (for you must loath your every breath) but to stop you. Because if you raped me, I wasn’t the first, and certainly not the last.
I pray for all the kids you raped like me. You cannot know what you took, what you destroyed. The walking wounded see your face, feel your evil touch, and blame themselves.
I wish I could tell them it wasn’t them. You knew exactly how it’s done. They were powerless, and paralyzed, and afraid.
They probably still are.
To order copies of 8 Things You Should Know About Boys Who Are Sexually Abused, click here.
The booklet you have just read is an extract from Gregory Reid’s book, The Color of Pain: boys who are sexually abused and the men they become.
Understanding the New Age, Meditation, and the Higher Self written by Ray Yungen is one of our new Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Understanding the New Age, Meditation, and the Higher Self, click here.
By Ray Yungen
What Is New Age?
My first exposure to what I later came to know as the New Age movement was in 1974 when I moved to Berkeley, California to attend a film institute. From the first day I arrived, I found “Berserkeley” (as it was nicknamed) to be a fascinating and exotic town, a place unlike any I had ever seen. The town surged with a rebellious, wacky vitality. It has been said of Berkeley that the strange and the odd are ordinary and the conventional out of place.
Berkeley had a notorious reputation as a hotbed of student protest dating from the Free Speech movement in 1964. I lived only a few blocks away from the vacant lot called “People’s Park,” which was the scene of bloody clashes between police, street people, and students in 1969. Militant Leftist rhetoric and literature were in evidence everywhere. Telephone poles displayed various manifestos and communiques from groups with formidable sounding names such as “the People’s Revolutionary Underground Red Guerrilla Commune.” Pictures of Chairman Mao and Karl Marx decorated the walls of several co-op health food stores.
There was also a very open and prevalent drug culture. Smoking pot in public was so common that it was taken for granted. I was familiar with the drug culture and radical politics through personal exposure and the media, but it soon became apparent that there was something else happening in Berkeley that I had not encountered before.
Many unfamiliar terms began to catch my attention. I met people who talked about such things as “karma” and “exploring inner space.” I frequently heard the words aquarius and aquarian, and it was commonplace to ask about a person’s “sign.”
I noticed that many of those who were using these terms were not burned-out street people but rather the articulate and well-educated. Their unusual spiritual outlook intrigued me, but I passed it off as the eccentricity associated with Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay area. Had someone told me this “aquarian consciousness” would someday spread through every facet of Western society, I would have thought them as crazy as the wildlooking street people hanging around the periphery of the University of California.
While living in the Berkeley Film House I became friends with Brian, a young man from the East Coast. Brian was personable, intelligent, and witty. With both of us being avid film buffs we enjoyed many good times together discussing the cinema,and even made plans to collaborate on a film someday.
After I had completed my film courses, Brian offered to drive me home to Oregon in his rattletrap Volkswagen bug so he could check out the beauty of the Northwest. Eventually, he settled in a city near my hometown enabling us to keep in touch.
During our visits, Brian often talked about subjects he termed spiritual or holistic. Often he spoke about Christ or “Christ consciousness” and the world peace and brotherhood which would eventually be achieved though this. It all sounded very positive.
After each of his sermons, I wondered just what it was he was trying to convey. The words he used were familiar, but the meanings he attached to them were peculiar and out of place. The exchanges I had with Brian were very frustrating at times.
Whenever I tried to present a more traditional Christian viewpoint on spiritual matters, he would become highly irritated and respond with, “The Bible is nothing but metaphor to show deeper spiritual truths,” or “The churches have completely missed the real meaning of Jesus’ teachings and have substituted rigid rules and dogma to control people instead.” Brian was adamant on this belief.
What perplexed me was how Brian had developed these spiritual ideas, which he had tried so hard to make me understand. He didn’t belong to a cult or anything of that sort, so I wondered where these ideas came from. I would ask him, “Brian, what is this?” He would shoot back, “You can’t label truth.” Although I didn’t see it clearly at the time, Brian’s spiritual outlook was a mixture of what he referred to as, “all the world’s great spiritual traditions and paths.” He talked about Jesus and often quoted from the Bible, yet he had a little shrine in his apartment to the Hindu mystic and saint Sri Ramakrishna. He genuinely felt there was no difference between the teachings of Jesus and Ramakrishna. “The great masters all taught the same thing—the kingdom of God is within,” he would declare with great conviction.
A curious spiritual movement has increasingly made itself known in the Western world. It is collectively referred to, both by its adherents and its foes, as the New Age movement. There is no question that this spirituality has the potential to impact the lives of the majority of the population today regardless of class or ethnic background.
An accurate definition of the New Age movement would be: Individuals who, in the context of historical occultism, are in mystical contact with unseen sources and dimensions, who receive guidance and direction from these dimensions, and who promote this state-of-being to the rest of humanity.
It is extremely difficult to understand this movement without first understanding the underlying belief systems and practices that accompany its agenda. Equally necessary is an understanding of where these beliefs and practices originated and how they have become pervasive.
The Age of Aquarius
The term “New Age” is based on astrology. Those who believe in astrology believe there are cosmic cycles called “Astrological Ages,” in which Earth passes through a cycle or time period when it is under the influence of a certain sign of the zodiac. These “Ages” last approximately 2,000 years, with a “cusp” or transitory period between each.
Those who embrace astrology say that for the last 2,000 years we have been in the sign of “Pisces,” the fish. Now they say we are moving into the sign of “Aquarius” or the “Age of Aquarius,” hence the “New Age.”
The Aquarian Age is supposed to signify that the human race is now entering a “Golden Age.” Many occultists have long heralded the Aquarian Age as an event that would be significant to humanity. That is why one New Age writer stated that “a basic knowledge of Astrological Ages is of enormous importance in occult work.”1
They believe that during these transitions certain cosmic influences begin to flow into the mass consciousness of mankind and cause changes to occur in accordance with the spiritual keynote or theme of that particular Age. This phenomenon is known as “planetary transformation”—an event they believe will bring “universal oneness” to all mankind. The view is that as more and more members of the human race “attune” themselves to “Aquarian energies,” the dynamics of the “old age” will begin to fade out.
Just what “energies” are we supposed to be attuning ourselves to? New Age thought teaches that everything that exists, seen or unseen, is made up of energy—tiny particles of vibrating energy, atoms, molecules, protons, etc. All is energy. That energy, they believe, is God, and therefore, all is God. They believe that since we are all part of this “God-energy,” then we, too, are God. God is not seen as a Being that dwells in heaven, but as the universe itself. According to one writer, “Simply put, God functions in you, through you, and as you.”2
The Age of Aquarius is when we are all supposed to come to the understanding that man is God. As one New Age writer put it, “A major theme of Aquarius is that God is within. The goal in the Age of Aquarius will be how to bring this idea into meaningful reality.”3
To fully comprehend the above concept, one has to understand its essence which is built on a belief system commonly referred to as metaphysics. The word translates as meta—“above” or “beyond,” and physical—“the seen” or “material” world. So metaphysics relates to that which exists or is real, but is unseen. The Dictionary of Mysticism describes metaphysics as “a science dealing with intelligent forces or unknown powers.”
Although the word metaphysics is used in non-New Age connotations, it is used in reference to the occult arts so often that the two have become interchangeable. From now on, when I use the term metaphysics, I am referring to New Age metaphysics.
Metaphysics concerns itself with the spiritual evolution of the human soul. This is called the “law of rebirth,” more commonly known as reincarnation.
Metaphysics teaches that there is the seen world known as the physical or material plane and the unseen world with its many different planes. They teach the “astral” plane is where people go after death to await their next incarnation or bodily state.
Metaphysical thought holds the view that we are constantly caught up in a cycle of coming from the astral plane, being born, living, dying, and returning to the astral existence. They believe that the reason for repeating this cycle is to learn lessons that are necessary for our evolutionary training.
The Earth plane is supposed to be the ultimate school. If a person “flunks” one incarnation, he must make up for it in the next cycle. This is called “the law of karma.” Reincarnation and karma are always linked together as there cannot be one without the other. Ultimately there is no evil, only lessons to be learned. What is the main lesson? That you are God. This is the basic tenet of metaphysical thought. How does one go about “learning” this? How is this perception achieved?
The ultimate goal in metaphysics is attuning oneself to “higher consciousness” thereby gaining an awareness of these higher worlds or realms. It is taught that the most direct way to achieve this is through the practice of meditation. Meditation is the basic activity that underlies all metaphysics and is the primary source of spiritual direction for the New Age person. We need only observe the emphasis which is placed on meditation to see the importance of it in New Age thought:
Meditation is the doorway between worlds . . . the pathway between dimensions.4
Meditation is the key—the indispensable key—to the highest states of awareness.5
Meditation is a key ingredient to metaphysics, as it is the single most important act in a metaphysicians life.6
What is meditation?
What exactly is meditation? The meditation many of us are familiar with involves a deep, continuous thinking or pondering about something. But New Age meditation does just the opposite. It involves ridding oneself of all thoughts in order to “still” the mind by putting it in pause or neutral. An analogy would be turning a fast-moving stream into a still pond by damming the free flow of water. This is the purpose of New Age meditation. It holds back active thought and causes a shift in consciousness. The following explanation makes this process very clear:
One starts by silencing the mind—for many, this is not easy, but when the mind has become silent and still, it is then possible for the Divine Force to descend and enter into the receptive individual. First it trickles in, and later, in it comes in waves. It is both transforming and cleansing; and it is through this force that divine transformation will be achieved.7
This condition is not to be confused with daydreaming, where your mind dwells on a subject. The way New Age meditation works is that an object acts as a holding mechanism until the mind becomes thoughtless, empty—silent.
English mystic Brother Mandus wrote of his adventure into these realms in his book This Wondrous Way of Life. He spoke of being “fused in Light” which he described as “the greatest experience of my life” which gave him “Ecstasy transcending anything I could understand or describe.”8
In order to grasp what this movement really entails the reader must understand what was happening to Brother Mandus. He wasn’t merely believing something on the intellectual level, he was undergoing a supernatural encounter. In truth, he had created a mental void through meditation and a spiritual force had filled it.
The two most common methods used to induce this “thoughtless” state are breathing exercises, where attention is focused on the breath, and a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase. The basic process is to focus and maintain concentration without thinking about what you are focusing on. Repetition on the focused object is what triggers the blank mind.
Just consider the word mantra. The translation from the Sanskrit is man, meaning to think, and ti-a, meaning to be liberated from. Thus, the word means to be freed from thought. By repeating the mantra, either out loud or silently, the word or phrase begins to lose any meaning it once had. The same is true with rhythmic breathing. One gradually tunes out his conscious thinking process until an altered state of consciousness comes over him.
I recall watching a martial arts class where the instructor clapped his hands once every three seconds as the students sat in meditation. The sound of the clap acted the same as the breath or a mantra would—something to focus their attention on to stop the active mind.
Other methods of meditation involve drumming, dancing, and chanting. This percussion-sound meditation is perhaps the most common form for producing trance states in the African, North/South American Indian, and Brazilian spiritist traditions. In the Islamic world, the Sufi Mystic Brotherhoods have gained a reputation for chanting and ritual dancing. These are known as the Whirling Dervishes. Indian Guru, Rajneesh, developed a form of active meditation called dynamic meditation which combines the percussion sound, jumping, and rhythmic breathing.
The Cross versus the Higher Self
The New Age and Christianity definitely clash on the answer to the question of human imperfection. The former—the New Age—espouses the doctrine of becoming self-realized and united with the universe, which they see as God but in reality is the realm of familiar spirits. On the other hand, the Gospel that Christians embrace offers salvation to humanity through grace (unmerited favor). Romans 3:24 boldly states: “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 6:23 we read:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This gift is not earned or given as a reward for earnest or good intentions as Scripture clearly states:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
This Scripture that tackles the issue of pride sharply distinguishes all of man’s religions from Christianity. Religion persuades us that man is innately good and, therefore, can earn his way to heaven through human perfectibility or, better yet, through the realization of his own divinity. Christianity emphatically states the opposite view that man needs to humbly recognize his own sinfulness and fallibility, and consequently needs salvation through grace.
The Holy Spirit, through the Scripture, convicts the sinner of his sinful and lost condition and then presents to the despairing and repentant man God’s solution—salvation through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Cross:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
[I]f you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
Salvation is entirely a gift of grace bestowed on whoever believes in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross as both God and man. Consequently, we must receive Him as Lord and Savior, understanding that it is by grace and grace alone that we are made acceptable in Christ before a holy God. Justification is God’s gift to the believer. This saving faith, also a demonstration of God’s grace, is more than an intellectual belief in Jesus’ death on the Cross but involves committing and entrusting one’s life to Jesus as both Lord and Savior—Christ’s going to the Cross was a finished work, and we as believers are now complete in Him. Nothing else can be added to this. How totally opposite from New Age thinking is God’s plan of salvation!
It all comes down to the preaching of the higher self versus the preaching of the Cross. New Agers may say God is synonymous with a person’s higher self, and the experience of God can only be discovered by way of meditation. However, the Christian admits his or her sinfulness before a Holy God and remembers he is saved only by the grace and mercy of God through the sacrificial shedding of Christ’s blood for his sins.
The message of Jesus Christ reaches out to the lost human race with the love of God who sacrificed His only begotten Son for the Swami Muktanandas of the world. The Bible teaches that man has an inherently rebellious and ungodly nature (which is evident), and his ways are naturally self-centered and evil in the sight of God. The Bible teaches that God is not indifferent to us. The sacrifice of Christ for the ungodly to reconcile us to God reveals the Lord’s love toward Man.
This explains why Christianity must be steadfast on these issues. If a belief system does not teach the preaching of the Cross, then it is not “the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). If other ways are correct, “then Christ died in vain,” rendering His shed blood unnecessary and immaterial (Galatians 2:21).
Because of this conflict, we can safely assume that Christianity is the most formidable obstacle to the New Age, standing like a bulwark against this tidal wave of meditation teachers and practical mystics. But, incredibly, many of the most successful practical mystics are appearing from within Christendom itself. Ironically, instead of stemming the momentum of New Age spirituality, it is our own churches that may very well be the decisive catalysts to propel this movement into prominence. Certain spiritual practices are becoming entrenched in our churches that, like an iceberg, seem beautiful and impressive on the surface but in reality will cause severe damage and compromise of truth.
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1. Marion Weinstein, Positive Magic: Occult Self-Help (Custer, WA: Phoenix Publishing, 1978), p. 19.
2. Anthony J. Fisichella, Metaphysics: The Science of Life (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1984), p. 28.
3. Weinstein, Positive Magic, op. cit., p. 25.
4. Celeste G. Graham, The Layman’s Guide to Enlightenment (Phoenix, AZ: Illumination Pub., 1980), p. 13.
5. Ananda’s Expanding Light, Program Guide (The Expanding Light retreat center, California, April-December 1991), p. 5.
6. The College of Metaphysical Studies website, “Frequently Asked Questions About Metaphysics, Spirituality and Shamanism” (http://www.cms.edu/faq.html).
7. “Yoga, Meditation, and Healing: A Talk with Joseph Martinez” (Holistic Health Magazine, Winter 1986), p. 9.
8. Brother Mandus, The Wondrous Way of Life (London, UK: L. N. Fowler & Co. LTD, 14th Edition, 1985), p. 28.
9. Marilyn Elias, “‘Mindfulness’ meditation being used in hospitals and schools” (U.S.A. Today, June 7, 2009, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-06-07-meditate_N.htm).
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The Peace of God versus the P.E.A.C.E. of Man written by David Dombrowski is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 10 pages long and sells for $1.50 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of The Peace of God versus the P.E.A.C.E. of Man, click here.
The Peace of God versus the P.E.A.C.E. of Man
by David Dombrowski
The subject of peace has been thought about, written about, and passed through the lips of countless people over the centuries. Human history has been racked by violence and unrest since the fall of man, making peace an evasive commodity that has only been known for relatively short periods of time.
We wanted to take a look at peace from a biblical perspective considering that the subject is being increasingly talked about in academic, political, and especially religious circles. Rick Warren, for instance, has been trying to implement and promote his P.E.A.C.E. Plan through his three-legged stool approach of melding the world’s religious, economic, and political forces into one. As he points out, just as a stool cannot stand unless it has at least three legs, he believes that we cannot achieve world peace without the blending and unifying of these three forces. The New Age movement also has a P.E.A.C.E. plan, and although the acronym utilizes different terms, the intents and goals are similar to those of the Purpose Driven Movement.
The Bible teaches that we are to, “if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Paul’s choice of words here serve as a kind of hesitation in approaching the subject of peace because he knew in his own life what an evasive commodity peace can be. Paul’s mission was to preach the Gospel, but in so doing he recounts the perils that he faced to include receiving 39 lashes five times, being beaten with rods three times, and being stoned once (2 Corinthians 11:24-25). But this was no great surprise to Paul because God had said of him, “I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). When we read of the lives of the other apostles, we learn that their lives were marked by suffering and hardship too. But the Lord had also prepared them for this in saying, “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Jesus even went so far as to describe to Peter what kind of death he would suffer for the sake of the Gospel (John 21:18). Is it any wonder, then, if our lives are marked by hardships and misunderstandings and hostility.
However, in recalling the lives of the apostles and those who have suffered before us, a very important lesson can be learned here. What is being taught in many of today’s “new” Christianity churches is that our task is to build God’s kingdom here on earth and that Jesus will return once we have created a form of Utopia here. Similarly, the Catholic Church believes we will create a Utopia once the whole world unites in a devotion to Mary and the Eucharist; this world-wide devotion to the Eucharist will be their version of the second coming of Christ.
But as all of these churches unite in trying to bring their version of peace on earth, they are sadly mistaken and ignorant of what is clearly presented in Scripture. This ignorance of the Scriptures is really a matter of choice than anything else. Just as Peter was not happy to hear what sort of death he would suffer, the emerging religious leaders of today do not want to believe the bleak picture the Bible portrays of the world before Jesus’ return. But while Peter accepted Jesus’ words, these new Christianity emerging leaders have bent and twisted Scripture in such a way as to support this Utopian God’s-kingdom-on-earth-now theology.
Unbeknownst to the multitudes who are following these globalistic leaders, these current efforts toward global peace are paving the way for the Antichrist whom the Bible warns will implement a peace plan in the last days. Sadly, much of the church of today, as apostate as it has become, is becoming deluded and conditioned to receive this satanic world leader in much the same way that the churches in Germany were conditioned by anti-Semitic teachings prior to Hitler’s rise to power. Our leaders of today are becoming modern-day John the Baptists for the Antichrist.
While it is true that some of Bible prophecy can be difficult to understand, just a superficial reading of Matthew 24 or Luke 21 should make it abundantly clear that Jesus will return to a world of violence and chaos, not Utopia. But, here again these Scriptures have been twisted or ignored—by choice.
As for the Book of Revelation, some current-day Bible teachers believe that the prophecies of the Book of Revelation have already happened (preterism) (as the Catholic Church teaches) or that these events can be prevented (as the New Age and emerging church teaches) in much the same way that Jonah’s warning to the Ninevites was turned around. The sad difference is that while the Ninevites responded by repentance, our world is moving further away from godliness. Furthermore, the Book of Revelation depicts events as they will actually happen—not as they might or could happen—because John saw in a vision the future as it will be.
There is, however, God’s call today for repentance. There are Christian believers who have been trying to spread abroad God’s appeal for repentance and His warnings about the apostasy that has already come upon us. They have been warning that judgment begins in the house of God and that judgment is upon us now too. As we shall see, judgment on the world has only begun and will intensify in the future like birth-pangs on a woman in labor. Paul said, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22).
It is rather uncanny how the world, in recent years, has witnessed so many natural disasters in the form of earthquakes, floods, and weather phenomena, while the mainstream news media has done so little to cover these events. In Japan, they had a triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear holocaust with possibly millions seriously exposed to radiation in Japan while unknown quantities of contaminated water got dumped into the ocean, and radiation permeated our atmosphere on a global scale; yet the media had little to say about this either except to almost laughingly dismiss it by saying we are getting less exposure than we get from having an X-ray in the dentist’s office. The indifference is unbelievable.
Could it be this indifference we are witnessing is part of the world-wide delusion Jesus predicted would sweep the earth in the end times? Most Americans, in particular, are living in denial—unwilling to acknowledge the storm clouds looming on our horizon. Is it because we have known little of suffering, and those living today have never witnessed our shores being invaded by war? But America will know God’s judgment, and again the reason why we cannot see it is a matter of choice rather than looking at things realistically.
Of all Americans, our Christian leaders should be seeing and hearing God’s warnings of impending judgment. But instead, they are shaking hands with the Devil and prophesying peace, purpose, and prosperity through unity and “community” to their congregations.
Sadly, our world will not know the lasting peace that our religious leaders are predicting—not until after Jesus Christ returns. Yet, God is offering peace and comfort to his own—to those who hear His Word and follow Him. But this peace is not to be found by pursuing our own dreams and goals but rather in seeking to know what God has planned for our lives. The reality is that much of the anguish we experience in life is when things don’t turn out the way we had hoped or expected. By contrast, Jesus’ apostles knew the peace of God because rather than living in the denial of the post-modern Christians of today, they abided in Christ (1 John 2:28) and fully embraced the lives that God had for them, even when they knew it could mean martyrdom.
Think again of the plight of Peter. Jesus had told him that he would suffer persecution and die a cruel death, yet we do not see Peter wringing his hands at every bend in the road wondering what horrors may await him around the next corner. Peter’s life was not one of denial or of fear, but of resolve; the same man who had denied his Lord three times made it his mission to walk with God no matter where that road took him. Consider the events of Acts chapter twelve. King Herod had just had James the brother of John killed by the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested too (Acts 12:2-3). No doubt, Herod’s intention was to have Peter executed also; and from the believers, realizing the severity of the situation, “prayer was made without ceasing” (vs. 5). Meanwhile, Peter had no expectation that an angel would deliver him that night, yet he could sleep in such a dire situation. Peter had learned to entrust his life to the Lord—combining faith and yielding to the will of God—and his heart was ready for whatever awaited him. As the chapter closes, we learn that with the turn of events, it is King Herod who dies and Peter is free.
It seems that Peter was always learning lessons in life, and here we can see that he had learned to be at peace in even the most drastic of situations, leaving the outcome in God’s hands. In his first epistle, Peter shares this perspective:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. . . . Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:12,13,19)
Like Paul, Peter had learned to be content in every situation. It is the life available to all Christians who yield to God’s will, trusting Him to bring them through every situation. How alien to this way of thinking is the church of today where the expectation is that God will make things go our way—even to the point of achieving global peace and a Utopian society. These are things that Jesus never promised us and, in fact, warned would not happen. While Christian leaders of today are speaking of establishing God’s kingdom on Earth before Jesus returns, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36—emphasis added).
Should we not, as believers in Jesus Christ, be about our Father’s business? So while we should try to live at peace with all men, our objective should be to spread the Gospel to all mankind. When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven, he never used illustrations that support the kingdom-now teachings of today. Rather, He spoke of hidden things and small beginnings. There was the parable of the mustard seed, which has a small and humble beginning yet grows into a tree (Matthew 13:31-32). Then there is the parable of the leaven, which a woman “hid” in three measures of meal, yet it leavened the whole lump of dough (Matthew 13:33). We used to wonder what Jesus meant by these parables, but over the last several years we have become aware that while the apostate church has been very visible and trumpeting their attempts to bring about a world-wide “reformation,” simultaneously an unseen body of believers all over the world has been returning to their first love and walking in repentance. I am sure that it is to this body of believers that Jesus refers to as the kingdom of heaven—not the boisterous liberal body who will sacrifice the Gospel in their pursuit of peace.
Peace is one of those unusual commodities (though very valuable), which cannot be achieved through direct pursuit. When nations have walked in repentance and pursued righteousness, God has blessed them with peace. But when nations have become vile and unruly and exchange a pursuit for God for a pursuit of things, the aspiration for peace remains out of reach.
The kingdom of heaven is less visible in its pursuits because its goals are different than the earthly ones of the apostate church. Our commission is to spread the Gospel, and it is to this cause that we need to be faithful. The kingdom of heaven is less visible in another way too—it is something that works in the hearts of people bringing about change through repentance and godliness. Compare this with Rick Warren’s “new reformation,” which is based, by Warren’s own admission, by deeds rather than creeds. All are invited to this reformation, regardless of what anyone believes. But Jesus put it plainly when He said that a man’s actions, be they good or evil, proceed from what is in the heart. A reformation based on action that does not deal with the heart is futile indeed. In order to change our world into a better place, hearts would need to change. The only way our nation could have a turn-around at this point would be through widespread repentance, but how can this happen when even the church is not walking in repentance today?
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34
Today, we often hear many Christian groups quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray . . . then will I hear from heaven . . . and will heal their land.” But there is a part of this Scripture that is usually ignored: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” All of the prayers for America by apostate leaders are in vain because these leaders (and their followers) have not even repented themselves. On the contrary, they continue to promote and exalt a kingdom-now, dominionist, mystical, experiential “gospel.” Just look how popular books like The Shack and The Purpose Driven Life have been with new ones like these on the horizon every day. These books make people feel good about themselves, but they do not bring the heart to repentance.
Unfortunately, the peace that our world desires will not be known because its pursuits are ungodly. For the true believer, however, peace is an achievable commodity. Jesus promised His disciples peace when He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27—emphasis added). Notice that Jesus says two things here: First, the peace He gives is not like the peace the world gives. In other words, don’t pursue peace from the world. Secondly, Jesus speaks of the heart. Peace, for the Christian, is a matter of the heart. And, as I alluded to before, Christians with false expectations (who are living in denial) will be disappointed again and again and live lives of anguish. The Bible says that “fear hath torment” (1 John 4:18). But the disciples faced their fears; they acknowledged the fact that they would encounter persecution and hardships, then they entrusted their lives to God as unto a faithful Creator. After all, the God who made us is also able to take care of us. And He has promised to abide in us (I John 3:24) if we abide in Him.
Even though we cannot and will not know the day or the hour of Jesus’ return, Jesus did instruct us to observe the seasons. Right now, we are at that place Jeremiah speaks of where he says, “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). In a time when pastors should be leading their churches in repentance and evangelists calling our nation back to righteousness, we have peace plans underway. The future of our nation and our world is bleak, so we should not be offering false assurances that will only be dashed to the ground.
The Bible offers peace for the true believer, but it is a peace that transcends what the world has to offer. Looking to the world for peace will only lead to disappointment. The peace God gives is of the heart, and it does not depend on our circumstances. It results from looking reality in the face but then looking to God and keeping our eyes on Him—trusting Him to deliver us and keep us under the shadow of His wings.
Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. (Isaiah 26:2-4)
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