Can someone please give me an analogy to explain why some people go to Hell when Jesus died for the world?
Can someone please give me an analogy to explain why some people go to Hell when Jesus died for the world?
ROB BELL NOOMA EXPOSE STIRS UP DUST
They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. (1 John 4:5, NKJV)
Apprising Ministries is pleased to bring you the video clip below about Rob Bell, a very influential pastor in the emerging church, where Cameron Buettel shares his thoughts concerning the Rob Bell Nooma DVD “Dust.” Let’s get this straight once for all: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Jesus is God; God hopes for nothing because He already knows all things, therefore God cannot have faith in anyone or anything. This is just more man-centered mumbo jumbo because disciples of Jesus don’t convert anybody; God does.
So think about this the next time someone teaches you about God: If you really love the Lord, you’ll be exalting Him. To quote that old theologian of rock relevance, Dr. Bo Diddley — “Tell me, who do you love?” Soli Deo Gloria!
The Scoop'a on NOOMA -- Part 1
By Greg Gilbert
Here’s the scoop on the Rob Bell video series storming through youth rooms and sermon series across the country.
This February, Zondervan Publishers released the nineteenth in a series of videos called NOOMA. No series gets to the nineteenth installment unless it is extraordinarily successful, and the NOOMA videos are surely that. In churches and youth groups across the country, they have become something of a phenomenon.
All ten to fourteen minutes in length, the NOOMA videos feature Rob Bell, pastor of Michigan’s Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest-growing churches in America, and a leader in the "emergent church." From a production standpoint, the NOOMA videos are excellent. Exceedingly cool staging, great music, understated but engaging drama, and an easy but earnest style from Bell make them undeniably compelling.
But it isn’t just technical merit that has catapulted the NOOMA videos to such popularity. Nor is it simply Bell’s natural ability to communicate and tell a story, though that may be part of it. At the end of the day people are watching these videos because they believe Rob Bell is teaching them about Christianity and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In parts 2 and 3 of my review, I’ll make some comments on each of the videos, and then comment at length on some of the most theologically important ones. But here in part 1, I want to give you the gist. Watching eighteen of these videos in quick succession gives one a good idea of what Bell and NOOMA are trying to communicate overall. And, popularity aside, the result is not particularly encouraging. I have reviewed some of Rob Bell’s work on this site already, and the weaknesses in his understanding of the gospel noted in those reviews trouble these NOOMA videos as well.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE
First, though, we should give credit where it’s due: Bell is an extraordinarily gifted communicator. The NOOMA marketing campaign bills him as a "storyteller," and that is a spot-on characterization. But he’s not merely a storyteller. He teaches too, and in a way that is far from boring. There’s a reason people fill up stadiums across the nation to hear him speak.
On top of that, the videos are pitch-perfect in their production, from camera angles to music to lighting. Part of their appeal is the way the content is woven together with the setting. In one video or another, Bell speaks to his audience from a park bench, a diner booth, an airport waiting area, a concert hall, his own living room—you name it. Every now and then he has to pause for the environment to intrude—a waitress brings coffee, a large group walks for an uncomfortably long time in between him and the camera, a plane screams as it takes off. I’m sure every second of that is scripted, but it’s effective scripting. It makes you want to shoo the large group out of the way so you can hear what Bell has to say next.
SUNDAY SCHOOL WITH A DOSE OF COOL
Maybe the first thing you’ll notice beyond their technical excellence is that the NOOMA videos are not highly theological. Every now and again, there is one that delves into something that approaches theology proper, but on the whole the messages are relatively simple—Sunday School lessons with an extra dose of cool. There’s a video on how to deal with an anger problem; another expounding on the true meaning of sex; another explaining that God wants our hearts and not just our religion; another telling us why God doesn’t always give us everything we ask for; another explaining that grief over a loved one’s death is not wrong and should point us to hope in God’s plan to restore the world.
All this is fine, and will no doubt be helpful to many people.
PREACHING THE GOSPEL
But Bell intends to do something more in NOOMA than provide "life lessons." He intends to preach the gospel. In fact, he says so repeatedly, with statements that run something like, "That’s the gospel, that’s the good news that Jesus brought us." And that’s where these videos become more significant than cool youth Sunday School lessons. They become dangerous.
The gospel as Bell communicates it in NOOMA runs something like this: All of us are broken, sinful, selfish, and prideful people. We carry around the baggage of our hurts, our resentments, and our jealousies. As a result we are just a shell of the kind of people God intends us to be. But our God is a loving God who accepts us and loves us just as we are. He can comfort us, heal us, and make us whole, real, authentic, living, laughing people. Not only that, but Jesus came to show us how to live revolutionary lives of love, compassion, and acceptance. By learning from his teachings and following him, we can live the full and complete lives that God intended.And that’s about it.
That’s not just the introduction that leads to an explanation of the cross, atonement, the resurrection and salvation, either. So far, at least, that’s what NOOMA holds out as "The Gospel." Full stop.
THE CROSS? THE RESURRECTION?
In the videos I watched, there’s almost no exposition of the cross. I only remember it being mentioned twice, once to say that Caesar killed Jesus and once when Bell says, "The cross is like God saying, ‘I don’t hold your past against you.’" Well, kind of. But that hardly exhausts the meaning of the cross, does it? At the very least, he ought to have continued that sentence by saying something like, "I don’t hold your past against you, because I held it against my Son." But then I suppose that sort of uncomfortable thought would have destroyed the smoothness of the presentation.
Even the resurrection—which usually plays an enormous role in Emergent theology—doesn’t get much emphasis here. NOOMA is all about "Jesus’ teachings," but only a select few of those. You won’t hear Bell talking about the teachings of Jesus that focus on ransom, blood, new covenants, and rebirth—much less judgment, sheep and goats, and "Depart from me." For Bell, Jesus’ teachings are apparently limited to his ethics, and Bell’s gospel is evidently limited to a call for people to embrace those ethics and "live like Jesus."
I have a theory about why Emergent church types seem to be able to communicate so well with "our generation," why they’re able to relate so well to people who have always been hostile to the gospel. You can chalk it up to some kind of "authentic" style if you want, but I’d contend that a big part of their ability to communicate the gospel without offense to people who have always been offended by it is that they leave out all the offensive parts!
HEY ROB, TRY THIS
There’s no denying that Rob Bell is a tremendous natural speaker and communicator. He’s good at telling stories, using his face to emphasize a point and his eyes to arrest your attention. But before we get too far with the infatuation, somebody should point out that it’s actually relatively easy to "connect" with the world when you’re talking about handling anger, or the true meaning of sex, or how closely God holds you to his chest when you’re facing a storm in life, or how disgusted God must be with that guy preaching the sermon about hell.
The harder thing—and the thing that would really test Bell’s mettle as a communicator—would be to make a NOOMA video about substitutionary atonement, for example. Not one that re-thinks it and re-casts it for a generation that doesn’t like that kind of thing, but one that addresses "He was crushed for our iniquities" with the same unflinching "honesty" and "authenticity" as it addresses "Love one another." Would that installment of NOOMA be received with the same enthusiasm the others have enjoyed? What if he made one about the final judgment, and the fact that "No one comes to the Father but by me?" How well would that be received among the audience Bell has built?
I don’t think every ten-minute video needs to contain a crash course in systematic or biblical theology. Christian life and doctrine is a vast and rich universe of truth, and if Rob Bell wants to do ten minutes on sex, ten on anger, ten on this or that, that’s obviously fine. It’s always easy to say by way of critique, "That ten minutes should have said more than it did." So that’s not where I see a problem with NOOMA.
The problem is that in the videos which aim to present the Christian gospel, the gospel presented is woefully incomplete if not outright wrong in places (which we’ll discuss at more length in the second part of this series). Yes, there’s sin and even grace in NOOMA; God loves us as we are, with all our junk, as Bell puts it. But beyond that there’s little to no cross or resurrection, no atonement, no substitution. Once we’re told that God accepts us as we are, all that follows is a call to live as Jesus lived in order to make the world a better place—which if it weren’t so hip would just be called "moralism," or even "Pelagianism."
WHAT’S MISSING; WHAT’S NEEDED
I have said in several places on this site that there is much about the Emergent theological storyline that I find compelling. Who wouldn’t be excited by the idea of God’s people—broken, sinful people accepted by him just as they are—living and working to diffuse God’s grace and love throughout the whole of society? So far as it goes, that’s a great and biblical vision, and there’s a reason it resonates with people. But, in my opinion, where the Emergent church and these videos go wrong is in telling the world that that . . . is . . . the gospel.
It’s not. Good as that storyline might be, it is finally too small and too colorless. For God to lovingly accept us as we are no matter how ashamed we might be of ourselves is nice and all, but it’s a pretty pale gray compared to the Bible’s story of a just and loving God sending his Son to take the punishment of a rebellious people so they can live with and for him forever.
If you want to engage a "new generation" looking for authenticity, honest answers, and a willingness to look unflinchingly at human sin and suffering, that’s the gospel that will do it. Unfortunately, that’s also the gospel that these NOOMA videos, at least so far, seem unwilling to talk about.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
In addition to being the official reviewer extraordinaire at 9Marks, Greg Gilbert is the director of research for the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an elder at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
March/April 2008, ©9Marks
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Rob Bell’s NOOMA videos have made quite a splash in the Christian world. In some ways that’s not terribly surprising. The little videos are masterpieces of technical production, and Bell has just about perfected the art of looking into a camera and making you think you’re having a nice conversation over coffee, or on a subway platform, or between breaths as you plant a tree together. It’s all very compelling, not at all "churchy," and so Christians look at it and think, "Wow, I could show this to the guy I buy coffee from every morning and not be embarrassed. This is great stuff!"
In some ways I don’t blame them for saying that. Bell’s approach is undeniably fresh, and it will communicate with people who are immediately turned off by a suited guy in a pulpit with a fake green plant in front of it. In that sense, NOOMA is good. Really good.
But that’s not the end of the story. Once you get past the razzle-dazzle of the videos’ style and really listen to what Bell is saying, you start to wonder if maybe they’re not so good after all. Watch the videos with a discerning eye, and certain questions start nagging you: What’s the cross for again? Why did Jesus die? How do you become a Christian? Hold on—did he just say that everyone has the Spirit of God living in them already? Jesus has faith in me? I am the gospel? What in the world does that mean?
Most of the videos in the series don’t really get at the most important questions about what the gospel is. Most of them talk about practical topics like sex, anger, materialism, loving your enemies, and the like. But there are a few that really focus on the gospel itself and try to answer the question, "What does it mean to be a Christian?" The best way to get at the heart of NOOMA’s presentation of the gospel, I think, is to watch the episodes titled Trees, Luggage, Dust, Rhythm, Breathe, and You. Of course there are places here and there in the other videos that speak about the gospel, but I think the crucial points are made in those six.
In Part 1 of this review, I argued that, at the very least, the gospel Bell presents in NOOMA is incomplete. Essentially, it boils down to the assertion that God loves us just as we are, wants to heal us of our brokenness, and calls us to live a life of love and compassion just like Jesus did. There is very little about the cross, very little about the resurrection, and nothing about how sin separates us from God or deserves his righteous anger.
But the problem doesn’t end with incompleteness; it’s not just what is left unsaid. The concern is worse than that, because if you take the videos on their own terms, and if you take Bell’s presentation of the gospel at face value, what you end up with is actually something very different from biblical Christianity. You end up with a "gospel" that misleads people about their relationship with God, is inexcusably unclear about the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and finally makes Christianity little more than a banal moral system that tells people to live in a certain way.
NOOMA MISLEADS LOST PEOPLE
Let me explain what I mean when I say that the gospel presented in NOOMA misleads lost people about their relationship with God. The Bible could not be clearer that the consequence of sin and rebellion against God is that we are separated from him, our relationship with him is severed, and we are brought under his judgment and condemnation. "Your sins have made a separation between you and your God," Isaiah says (Is. 59:2). And Paul writes in Romans 1 that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
These facts—that sin separates human beings from God, and that God judges sin—constitute one of the most important themes in the entire Bible. It explains why everything else was necessary—the sacrifices, the priests, the prophets, and especially Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s why Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). He was separated from God so that his redeemed people would not be.
Bell doesn’t say any of that in the NOOMA videos. In fact, he seems to tell lost people exactly the opposite—that they are already in relationship with God and even forgiven of sin, and that the only problem is that they just don’t realize it. Whether because of shame, or embarrassment, or sheer ignorance, they’re hiding under the covers (see Lump) when a loving, merciful God has already forgiven them, is already in relationship with them, and is just waiting for them to realize it and start acting like it.
Take the video titled Rhythm, for example. Bell compares God to a song that is playing throughout the universe in every heart and soul. "The song is playing all around us all the time," he says. "The song is written on our hearts. And everybody is playing a song. See, the question isn’t whether or not you’re playing a song, the question is ‘Are you in tune?’" In other words, are you living the kind of compassionate, loving life that harmonizes with the song that’s already playing in your heart? Here’s the last line of that video: "May you come to see that the song is written on your heart, and as you live in tune with the song, in tune with the Creator of the universe, may you realize that you are in relationship with the living God."
Now, that language is bewilderingly slippery. Is everybody playing a song, or the song? Who is Bell talking to exactly when he hopes they realize that they are in relationship with the living God? The lost person who’s hearing this for the first time? The person who’s been living "in tune with the song" for a while? None of that’s clear.
Or take this passage from Breathe:
Life is fragile, and yet at the same time we’ve been breathed into by the creator of the universe. And this divine breath is in every single human being ever. . . . We’re these sacred, divine dirt-clods. And yet we possess untold power and strength. Your life is but a breath, and yet you were made by the creator of everything. Now for thousands of years, people have understood that this physical breath that we all possess is actually a picture of a deeper reality. In the Bible, the word for breath is the same word as the word for spirit. In the Hebrew language, it’s the word "ruah," and in the Greek language, it’s the word "pneuma.’ . . . Breath, spirit. Same word.
The divine breath is in "every single human being ever," and everyone knows that breath and spirit are the same word. Well, alright so far. Every human being has a spirit. But then:
The first Christians took hold of this idea, and they took it way farther. They actually believed that the Spirit of God resides, or can literally dwell, live in a person. One scripture in Romans 8 says that if the pneuma (Spirit of God) who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then God will give you life. Another scripture says that what the Spirit of God does living in you is it sanctifies. Now the word sanctify, it means to, like, purge, or to clean out. What it essentially means is that when you let God in, when you breathe, what happens is you become aware of all the things you need to leave behind, everything you need to let go of. . . . Jesus said that what the Spirit of God does is it guides us into truth. Is there anything you need guidance in?
Again, who’s he talking to here? It’s hard to believe that he’s suddenly quit talking to lost people and shifted to talking only to those who have repented and believed in Jesus. Yet he’s talking about the Spirit of God dwelling in us, and what that means in our lives. Does Bell think that the Spirit of God dwells in "every single human being ever"? When he puts the phrase "when you breathe" right next to the phrase "when you let God in," is he saying that the way you let the Spirit of God into your life is just by taking a breath? When he says that the early Christians "took this idea way farther" and began to talk about the indwelling Spirit of God, does Bell realize that they only applied that idea to people who were Christians? Or does he still think that’s true of "every single human being ever"?
Here’s how it ends: "A person doesn’t have to agree with this for it to already be true. God has already given us life, in the breath we just took, and the breath we took before that, and the breath we’re gonna take and the breath after that." Okay, but are we back now to talking about just breath and just spirit of the kind that every human being has? Or are we still talking about the Spirit of God?
And what about this, from Luggage: "It’s like right at the heart of [Jesus’] message is the simple claim that God has forgiven us of all of our sins, doesn’t hold any of our past against us—because none of us have clean hands, do we? . . . So when I forgive somebody, I’m giving them what God has given to me. . . . May you forgive as you’ve been forgiven. May you give to others what’s been given to you." Again, who’s he talking to? Who’s been forgiven? If I’m not a Christian, and I’m hearing all this for the first time, am I supposed to see myself in that statement? Am I supposed to walk away thinking I’m already forgiven?
To be fair, I wouldn’t draw any hard conclusions from this on its own terms. The language is just too slippery, to the point that it almost seems designed for one to be able to interpret it however one wants. If you’re lost, you can hear it and walk away convinced that the Spirit of God is dwelling in you, that you have life, and that you’ve been forgiven of all your sins. But then again, Bell could come back and say, "No, I didn’t mean that at all."
Actually, I wish he would say that. Then we could chalk it all up to the consummate communicator not communicating very well. There’s a passage in one of Bell’s books, however, that leads me to think that Bell really is asserting that life, forgiveness, and even the Spirit of God is already possessed by every single human being ever. The only hitch is that some people don’t realize it. Here’s the relevant passage from Velvet Elvis (page 146):
The fact that we are loved and accepted and forgiven in spite of everything we have done is simply too good to be true. Our choice becomes this: We can trust his [God’s] retelling of the story, or we can trust our telling of our story. It is a choice we make every day about the reality we are going to live in.
And this reality extends beyond life.
Heaven is full of forgiven people.
Hell is full of forgiven people.
Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust.
Ours or God’s.
I don’t know how else to understand this: What Bell is asserting here is a bizarre kind of universalism in which every human being is forgiven and yet some forgiven people end up in hell anyway. The NOOMA might be slippery, but this passage from Velvet Elvis isn’t at all, and that may offer some insight on what he’s actually saying in NOOMA. The only way I can see to understand it is that Bell is telling lost people that they are forgiven, that they are in relationship with God, even that the Spirit of God lives in them and is waiting to guide them and sanctify them if only they’d wake up and realize it.
That kind of thinking though is devastatingly misleading to lost people. To be lost is not merely to be ignorant about the fact that you are already in relationship with God, forgiven, free, and full of his Spirit. To be lost is to be separated from God and under his judgment. That’s a crucial part of the gospel, not just because Bell’s alternative involves the absurdity of forgiven people suffering in hell; it’s crucial because, unless you understand that God hates sin and judges it, the cross doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it becomes kind of superfluous. The fact is, somebody could hear Rob Bell’s version of the gospel in NOOMA and walk away feeling forgiven and Spirit-filled without a single thought about Jesus’ death. And at that point, what you have is something quite other than Christianity.
NOOMA IS UNCLEAR ABOUT THE MEANING OF THE CROSS
All that may actually go a long way toward explaining why the Emergent movement seems to have so much trouble with the cross: They can’t really find a place for it. It doesn’t fit neatly into the storyline. I’ve written about this in another place, with particular regard to Brian McLaren’s work. But it’s true of Rob Bell’s material in NOOMA, too. Blood atonement just doesn’t find a natural home in the Emergent story, so even though it can’t be ignored entirely, the cross doesn’t get mentioned very often. And when it does, it’s never with any clear explanation of its meaning.
I didn’t keep a count of exactly how many times the cross makes an appearance in the eighteen NOOMA videos I watched, but I am certain that it doesn’t get any extended treatment, much less a video to itself. But where it is mentioned, the viewer is left utterly unclear as to what Jesus’ death does, or why it matters.
Here’s what Bell says about Jesus’ death in Luggage:
It’s like right at the heart of his message is the simple claim that God has forgiven us of all of our sins, doesn’t hold any of our past against us—because none of us have clean hands, do we? I mean we’ve all wronged someone, but with Jesus there’s no condemnation, there’s no list of wrongs, there’s no judgment. It’s like the cross is God’s way of saying, "I don’t hold your past against you."
There’s nothing necessarily wrong there, but then again, the whole idea of these videos is to talk to non-Christian people and tell them about Jesus Christ. Exactly what are they supposed to gain when Bell says that the cross is God’s way of saying that he doesn’t hold their past against them? At the very least, that’s pretty thin stuff to offer up as an explanation of what most Christians consider to be the center of their faith.
There’s a slightly more filled-out treatment of Jesus’ death in You, where Bell presents the gospel as a choice between changing-the-world-by-force-and-political-coercion-like-Caesar and changing-the-world-by-love-and-compassion-like-Jesus. Here’s his point about the cross:
Well, obviously the way they were living and the things they believed brought them—it raised all sorts of questions for those around them. Who do you believe: Caesar, who thinks that a new world, a better world, is made through his brute military and political power by forcing people to do what he says, or Jesus, who invites you to make a new and better world through loving acts of compassion and generosity? Caesar who killed Jesus on an execution stake, or God who raised Jesus from the dead? Whose way do you think is better? Who do you think is Lord? Jesus or Caesar? Whose kingdom do you find more compelling?
There’s not much there to go on, but the point seems to be that Jesus’ death was a picture of Caesar’s wrath against his life of love and compassion, and the resurrection was then another picture of God vindicating Jesus’ way over Caesar’s way. Love conquers violence. McLaren floats a similar understanding of the cross in The Story We Find Ourselves In, calling it the "powerful weakness" theory of the atonement. The problem with that, however, is that it casts Jesus’ death as a mere spectacle. It’s just God showing us that he prefers Jesus’ way to Caesar’s. But it leaves the cross actually accomplishing nothing objective.
I’ve watched several hours’ worth of NOOMA videos now, and I still have no idea what Bell thinks the cross was for. Somehow it has to do with God not holding our past against us, and together with the resurrection it’s a powerful statement that God doesn’t care for Caesar’s m.o. But that’s it. That’s all Bell gives us in eighteen different videos.
So what’s going on here? My guess is that it’s the same impulse that would lead Bell to ignore the fact that God judges sin. Wrath is uncomfortable, and it doesn’t play well in the Emergent culture. People don’t want to hear about a God who could be wrathful.
Of course, that causes problems for explaining why Jesus had to die, because, like it or not, the cross is bound up with wrath. After all, that’s what the word "propitiation" deals with. If you’re not willing to talk about a God who has wrath and is willing to use it, you’re going to be really uncomfortable explaining why the Bible says that God killed his Son. You’ll probably just ignore it. And when you can’t ignore it any longer, you’ll say something benign and cloudy like, "It’s God’s way of saying that he doesn’t hold our past against us." Then you’ll tut-tut Caesar for killing Jesus. What you won’t do is face up honestly to the fact that Scripture says, "Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him."
Here’s the thing: No one would say that the cross is a comfortable topic. It’s not. It’s a horrible moment in the history of humanity, one that embodies the most heart-wrenching truths imaginable. God the Son dies. The eternal Father forsakes the eternal Son. There’s a reason God extinguished the sun and shrouded the whole thing in darkness; the universe twisted up and broke when Jesus died. The cross is not something that’s fun to stare at, and it’s not a crazy instinct to want, at first, to avert one’s eyes from it.
Then again, it’s precisely in those grotesque paradoxes of the cross that its beauty lies. Admittedly, that beauty isn’t obvious at first glance. You have to stare at the cross to see its glory. You have to see why God the Son died, why the Father forsook the Son. You have to see the meaning of it, and not just the bare, bloody facts of the matter. Once you do that—once you’ve stared long enough and deeply enough—you start to see that it was exactly there, in its very ugliness, in the most horrific outpouring of wrath that the world has ever seen, there was love incomprehensible!
That’s the real tragedy of Bell’s approach to the cross. He’s not willing to stare at it long enough to see its glory. The wrath inherent to it is so distasteful to him, so off-putting to the audience he’s speaking to, that he ends up, sadly, without the resources to tell his listeners about the most profound and most beautiful love in the universe—that of Jesus laying down his life for those he loves, and absorbing the wrath of his Father in their place, as their Savior and Redeemer.
NOOMA TURNS CHRISTIANITY INTO A BANAL MORALISM
Of course, once you decide to demur from talking about the cross, you’ve really turned Christianity into nothing more than a banal moralism that tells people to live in a certain way. Now that’s a charge that’s loaded with irony, because moralism is one of the main things the Emergent movement is reacting against. But take a look at what they’re saying. Take a look at how Rob Bell defines Christianity in these NOOMA videos. It’s not much more than, "Live like this, not like this."
Consider the way Bell describes what it is to be a Christian in Rhythm. If you’re living "in tune with the song," you’re there. "When I’m like selfish and stingy or refuse to give," he says, "I’m essentially out of tune with the song. . . . When you see someone sacrifice themselves for another, for the well-being of somebody else, it’s like they’re playing in the right key. That’s why it’s so inspiring and powerful. They’re in tune with the song." It’s all about doing this, living like this, acting like that.
And it’s not that Bell is saying that "living in tune with the song" is the result of God’s regenerating power in the life of the believer, either. It’s just a decision you make to do it. "An infinite, massive, kind of invisible God—that’s hard to get our minds around. But truth, love, grace, mercy, justice, compassion…the way that Jesus lived. I can see that. I can understand that. I can relate to that. I can play that song!"
All you have to do is believe in yourself.
No, seriously. He says that. And really it’s even worse than that, because believing in yourself is the grand finale of a whole theological argument in which Jesus is made out to have faith in us, rather than the other way around. Jesus has faith, Bell says, that we’ll be able to live like he wants us to.
All this happens in the video entitled Dust. Having explained at some length how the Jewish rabbis would choose students to learn under them, Bell asks why it was that Peter, seeing Jesus walking on the water, got out of the boat to do it himself, and why it was that he started to sink. Here’s how Bell answers those questions:
Why is Peter’s first reaction, "If it’s you, then tell me to come to you?" Because he’s a disciple, he’s oriented his whole life, devoted his whole life to doing what he sees his rabbi doing, learning to be like his rabbi. So he sees his rabbi walking on water, and what’s the first thing he wants to do? "I wanna walk on water, too. I wanna be like my rabbi." And so Peter gets out of the boat, and he starts walking on water, and he yells out, "Jesus save me!" And the text reads that Jesus immediately caught him and said, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Now, I always assumed that Peter doubts Jesus. But Jesus isn’t sinking. Who does Peter doubt? He doubts himself; he loses faith in himself, that he can actually be like his rabbi.
So it’s not that Peter let his fear of the waves overwhelm his faith in Jesus’ power to keep him afloat. No, it’s that Peter lost faith in himself. He stopped believing that he could do what Jesus did. He was, as Jesus put, a man "of little faith"—never mind that Jesus always uses that phrase to refer to someone’s lack of faith in God, not lack of faith in themselves. Here’s the point Bell wants to make:
I mean, all my life, I’ve heard people talk about believing in God. But God believes in us, in you, in me. I mean faith in Jesus is important. But what about Jesus’ faith in us? . . . I mean, what if we can actually be the kinds of people that God created us to be? What if he actually believes that? I mean, what if he actually believes that we can be the kind of people who live like Jesus lived, the kinds of people who take action because we’re aware of all these endless opportunities around us all the time, for good, for beauty, for truth? Jesus has faith that you can follow him and you can be like him. . . .
May you believe in God, but may you come to see that God believes in you. May you have faith in Jesus, but may you come to believe that Jesus has faith that you can be like him.
So that’s it. Christianity is about living like Jesus lived—and Jesus believes we can do it if we just try hard enough.
In fact, if you take Bell seriously, "live like this" is pretty much the bottom-line of Jesus’ message to the world. As he sums it up in Trees: "My understanding of Jesus’ message is that he teaches us to live in the reality of God now—here and today. It’s almost as if Jesus just keeps saying, ‘Change your life. Live this way.’"
Change your life. Live this way.
That is moralism.
Sure, it’s a tricked-out moralism. There’s some colorless grace at the front end of it (God accepts us as we are). It also has a really great moral example in Jesus trailblazing a new way of life right under the nose of the Roman Empire, and it comes with a big story about God launching a rescue effort to put the world back together. But it’s still moralism. It makes Jesus into one more philosopher/teacher telling us all to live this way, not that way. It makes Christianity a matter of Jesus trusting us to live a certain way, rather than our trusting in Christ to save us from sin.
I realize that Rob Bell is trying to communicate with people who have never given the time of day to spiritual things. He’s trying to present Jesus to them in a way that will be accessible to them. I think that’s a noble goal, and I don’t think it’s a futile one. But I also think that the way Bell has gone about it—with particular reference to these NOOMA videos—is something far smaller than and far short of biblical Christianity.
Having watched so many of these videos, it strikes me just now how seldom Bell uses the traditional Christian language to name Jesus. He doesn’t call him Savior, or Redeemer, or Son of God, and only very occasionally does he call him Lord. Instead, he very much seems to prefer calling Jesus "teacher" or "rabbi." I’m sure part of that is that he wants to be fresh and edgy. But I think it also points to just how far these videos lower the meaning of Christianity.
The fact is, the NOOMA videos retell the story of Jesus in a pretty radical way. Though Jesus is certainly respected and honored, the point of the story no longer involves the divine Christ who died on the cross as a substitute for his people, rose from the dead, and is now enthroned in heaven, but rather Jesus the Nazarene who teaches people how to live and how to find God. Jesus shows the way, rather than being the Way. He is respected, honored, and heeded, rather than worshipped. He is "Rabbi," rather than "Savior." This is, as Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace described it recently, the replacement of "Christianity" with "Jesusanity."
Bell would never use this word, but I believe what he’s presented in NOOMA is really just another religion that’s not so much different from any other religion in the world. For the gospel of NOOMA isn’t finally about the Son of God who lovingly dies in his people’s place to redeem them from sin and save them from God’s righteous judgment. It’s about the really great teacher who says, "Change your life. Live this way."
Once you’re past the flashy packaging, that’s not really all that inspiring, is it?
Here’s a list of the NOOMA videos I was able to watch, with a brief comment on each:
001 | Rain
This is a really compelling message about God’s love for those who are broken, sinful, ashamed and afraid. Bell tells the story of being caught in a thunderstorm with his one-year-old son. Walking toward home with the baby crying in fear, he held his son close to his chest and whispered over and over again to him, "I love you, buddy. We’re gonna make it." That’s what God does for us when we come to him. He holds us, comforts us, and promises us that we’re going to make it. This video has a strong statement of our sinfulness and God’s love, but the gospel is presented as "God loves you even with your brokenness."
002 | Flame
Bell starts a bonfire in the forest as he talks about the "flame" of love. This is one of the best of the NOOMA. Bell distinguishes between the Hebrew words rayah (meaning friendship), ahavah (meaning commitment), and dod (referring to sexual love). All three are necessary for the kind of love between man and woman that God intended. Bell’s thoughts about what you end up with when any one of these is missing are very interesting and very true.
003 | Trees
Planting trees along a dirty-looking sidewalk in the city, Bell says that he wants a God who is interested in the here-and-now, who cares about what happens in this world and doesn’t just tell his followers to look forward to the next one. This is one of the most important videos for understanding the kernel of NOOMA’s version of the gospel. Being a disciple of Jesus is about being a person of peace and justice, and about joining God in his purpose to make this world a better place. To sum it up: "My understanding of Jesus’ message is that he teaches us to live in the reality of God now—here and today. It’s almost as if Jesus just keeps saying, "Change your life. Live this way."
004 | Sunday
Sitting in the Rainbow Café, Bell says that God is not concerned about our religious rituals. He wants our hearts. Taken alone, this is a good video, keying on Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees, and encouraging people to live as Christians, not just be Christians. Taken as part of the whole NOOMA package, you realize that the good exhortation here to live in a certain way is not well backed up by any true gospel.
005 | Noise
This one is different from the other NOOMA, because Bell doesn’t say much. After introducing the video with a story about how difficult it is to find silence in our world, the screen goes black, and white text asks the viewer if there is too much noise in his or her life. Do you want to hear the voice of God? Is it possible that you don’t hear because there’s not enough silence in your life? Jesus had disciplines of silence and solitude, so he could hear the voice of God. As usual, the production is fantastic—the viewer is staring out of a T.V. at Bell sitting on his couch, at least until he turns the T.V. off.
006 | Kickball
Bell refuses to buy a weird toy at a mall kiosk for his young son, because he has in mind another, better gift at a different store—a kickball. This is a good meditation on a hard question: Why doesn’t God always give us what we ask for? Bell gives the same answer that Lewis does in his "holiday-at-the-beach versus mudpies-in-the-slums" illustration.
007 | Luggage
Everybody has wounds, Bell says in this video. Some of them are small and petty, others are large and devastating. The message of this one is about resisting the impulse to revenge. Bell says that to forgive is simply to give to another what has already been given to us (see part 2 of this series for a discussion on why that could be confusing to non-Christians). This is where Bell says, quite off-handedly, that "The cross is like God saying, ‘I don’t hold your past against you.’" He also says that forgiveness is more about setting the "forgiver" free, rather than the "forgiven." The video ends shockingly with the woman we’ve been following through the airport getting into her car, driving out of the airport, and promptly getting crushed by a dump truck—the point being that you don’t have forever to forgive someone.
008 | Dust
This is Bell’s rethinking of the story of Peter walking on the water. After giving a pretty fascinating account of how the Jewish rabbi system worked, he concludes by saying that the unique thing about Rabbi Jesus was that he didn’t pick "the best of the best of the best" to follow him. He picked guys who didn’t make the cut. But the fact that he picked them meant that he thought they had the ability to do what he did. Peter thought so, too; so he got out on the water. The reason he sank was not that he lost faith in Jesus—it was that he lost faith in himself that he could be like Jesus. Faith in Jesus is good, Bell says, but what about Jesus’ faith in us? He chose us, so obviously he has faith that we can live the kind of lives that he wants us to live. Dust is one of the most questionable of all the videos. Is it really a good idea to recast faith as Jesus’ faith in us to be good? That’s pretty kindergarten, if you ask me—banal moralism, as I called it earlier.
009 | Bullhorn
A call to love people, and a gentle shot across the bow at people who believe in the traditional Christian doctrine of hell. Bell asks what conversion and condemnation have to do with the message of Jesus, and he says that the way we usually preach the gospel makes hell sound like a threat and heaven like a carrot. In the background is a very plain man in a white, short-sleeved dress shirt making some sort of preparations. At the end of the video, he gets out of his car and starts shouting at people about hell through his bullhorn in a busy crosswalk. The point of the video is that we’re to love people—disagreeing with them sometimes, yes, but always loving them. The subtext is that somehow talking about hell, judgment, and conversion is antithetical to that goal. I’ll just let Bell take that up with Jesus, who didn’t seem to agree.
010 | Lump
Bell’s son gets caught in a lie and rushes upstairs. A few minutes later, Bell finds him hiding under the covers of his parents’ bed, ashamed. What he doesn’t realize is that his father is there waiting to forgive him. Bell says that given enough time, sin will always find us out, and he calls people to come out from under the covers and stop hiding in shame from God, who loves us in spite of what we’ve done. However, Bell gives no strong call to repentance. The focus is definitely on God’s love for us regardless of our sin, and not on repentance, as it is in all the videos.
011 | Rhythm
This is one of the videos in which Bell tries to define what the gospel is. He says he doesn’t particularly like thinking of God in theological categories, but rather when he thinks about God, he thinks about a song. That song is playing throughout the universe, and the question is whether we’re living in tune with that song. "Living in tune" means living a life of love, justice, and compassion. He lightly shoves aside people who insist on thinking of God as immortal, invisible, omnipotent, and all the rest, saying that he finds it easier to look at how Jesus lived and then live like that. "I can play that song," he says. The video ends with "May you realize that you are in relationship with the living God."
012 | Matthew
Bell tells the story of his friend Matthew, who died in a car accident. This video is about dealing with grief. We find hope, Bell says, in God’s promise that he will restore the world.
013 | Rich
Bell is waiting for his car to get an oil change. This is a fairly straightforward Sunday School lesson on materialism. Here in America, we are fantastically rich, and God has given us these things so that we can do good works and join him in repairing and restoring the world.
014 | Breathe
Set in a subway terminal, this one is a fascinating meditation on breathing, the spirit, and the name of God. God’s revealed name YHWH, Bell says, is believed by some rabbis to be the sound of breathing. When we’re born, the first thing we do is say the name of God, and when we can no longer say the name of God, we die. This video contains some confusing theology about the words "breath" and "spirit" being the same. Bell rightly says that every human being has breath and a spirit, but he seems to equate all that with the Spirit of God in the New Testament. I’m not positive, but it sounds to me like he is saying that every human being possesses the Spirit of God, who sanctifies and leads into truth.
015 | You
This video starts out by showing how many of the central facts of Christianity—Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and divinity—were already being used by mystery religions in the Roman Empire. Those things wouldn’t have been too surprising to people, and wouldn’t have caused much of a ripple in the Roman Empire. What would have been surprising and controversial was Jesus’ call to live a life of love and compassion. The point isn’t made very strongly, but one wonders: is Bell really saying that the focus of Christianity ought to be Jesus’ ethical teachings, and not his death, resurrection, and identity? The gospel is about making a better world, he says. It’s the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world. God heals broken people so they can join him in healing the world. The cross was about Caesar reacting to Jesus’ life of love, and the resurrection overturning Caesar’s hostility. The video ends with "May you realize that you are the gospel." Here is the gospel according to Bell, in all its moralistic incompleteness. ‘Live like this. That’s what’s important.’
016 | Store
Bell talks about dealing with anger as a man encounters frustration after frustration in a grocery store. Straightforward, well-done message on handling anger and frustration, and redirecting that energy toward being angry at the injustice and suffering in the world.
017 | Today
This video includes more about Jesus’ resurrection than any other, but it focuses on Jesus telling Mary Magdalene not to hold on to him when she sees him. Bell’s message is that people tend to get hung up on the past—either celebrating or mourning it—but that God wants us to let go of the past and live in Today. He says at the end, "May you receive from God a new spirit, one for here, now, today." It makes one wonder: does Bell know he’s using biblical language in a thoroughly unbiblical way?
018 | Name
This is easily the weirdest of the NOOMA videos. It’s a series of shots of different people taking off one t-shirt to reveal another and another, with a word on the back of each that presumably describes the person—"lonely," "stylish," "envious," "listener," "anorexic," "GED," "HIV+," and on and on. There’s no discernible progression; the words seem mostly random to me. At the end, all the people take off the last t-shirt, and the word "name" is stenciled on each of their backs. Over all this, Bell is telling the viewer to learn to be comfortable with who God made them to be, to be comfortable in their own skin. Really? Comfortable with envy? Comfortable being jaded? What does that mean? And what does it mean to have "name" stenciled on your back when you get all your shirts off? And what on earth does Bell mean when he says at the end, "May you do the hard work of the soul to discover your true self?"
019 | Open
This video is about the role of prayer in our lives. Why does God answer some prayers "Yes" and some prayers "No?" Why does God perform a miracle in this situation and not in that situation? In the end, Bell doesn’t answer those questions, rightly saying "I don’t know why." Using Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as his model, Bell understands prayer to be neither a passive "whatever" to the will of God, nor an active rebellion against what God is doing. Rather, prayer is a means of being "brutally honest with your Maker," telling God honestly how you feel, what you’re thinking, and then being open to what God is accomplishing in the world. Moreover, prayer leads us to understand that we ourselves are a part of God’s work. "Don’t pray for God to feed the hungry," Bell says, "unless you’re willing to go feed them yourself." The theological basis of the video is that God "left creation unfinished" and is now engaged in the "ongoing creation of the world," of which we can be a part. Lots of things to wonder about there: Doesn’t God’s declaration of "very good" and his rest on the seventh day belie the idea that his work of creation was "unfinished?" Most troublesome is when Bell says that God "takes a great risk in creating," because things might have "veered off course" and not turned out like he intended. Does Bell know that’s how the, well, Open Theists talk?
Unbiblical Teachings on Prayer and Experiencing God
How Mysticism Misleads Christians
by Bob DeWaay
To a Christian, praying to God is privilege, a blessing, and a Biblically defined responsibility. We are called to pray. But a genre of literature exists that I call “prayer secrets.” Practitioners claim to have discovered new avenues of prayer that can create power, excitement, success, and even new revelations from God. These “prayer secrets” add unbiblical practices and claims to prayer in the hope of spicing up the topic to make it more interesting. And this is not a new development; mystical practices have been brought into the church under the guise of prayer since medieval times.
However, since these teachings change in form and packaging, I will review three books about prayer and “experiencing God” subjectively. What they have in common is a form of pietism that promises better things than to go before the throne of grace to find help in time of need, as well as other basic Biblical teachings on prayer.
Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby
Blackaby’s book, co-authored by Claude King, promises readers that they can come to know God by experience and come to know God’s will beyond what is revealed in Scripture, thereby living out a life full of adventure.1 Blackaby promises his readers that they will, among other things, learn to hear God speaking to them and learn to identify God’s activities.2 He promises to alleviate their problem of being frustrated with their Christian experience.
Experiencing God does start out with some basic facts about the gospel and has a place for people to check to indicate that they have made a “decision for Jesus.” I am glad he told his readers about such things as sin and repentance but am disappointed in the “make a decision for Jesus” approach. We have addressed that elsewhere.3 But having checked the appropriate box, the reader is quickly ushered into the realm of subjectivity that permeates Blackaby’s approach from beginning to end. For example, we are urged to evaluate our “present experience with God.”4 However, I have known people who are totally deceived and in bondage to false doctrine who are very excited about their experience with God, so such evaluation doesn’t do much good. For example, I once met a pastor who just returned from the Toronto laughing revival and was so very excited because he had seen “God” cause people to bark like dogs and quack like ducks. That is just one example why what one thinks about his own “experience with God” is immaterial. What we need to know are the terms God has laid down for knowing Him and walking faithfully with Him.
In Blackaby’s theology, the importance of God’s self-revelation through the Scriptures is de-emphasized while personal experience is given priority. He writes, “We come to know God as we experience Him. God reveals Himself through our experience of Him at work in our lives.”5 I am not disputing that God is at work in our lives if we have truly been converted. But, like other subjectivists, Blackaby de-emphasizes specific revelation (Scripture) and puts unwarranted emphasis on general revelation (what can be observed in the created order). Our personal, spiritual experiences are unreliable. People observing general revelation and interpreting their own spiritual experiences in light of it have created the host of the world’s false religions.
For example, Blackaby writes, “Find out what the Master is doing—then that is what you need to be doing.”6 Here he suggests that by observing what is around us and studying human history we can determine God’s will. He further suggests that God reveals His will by some process in history—that He hasn’t revealed it once for all. But this subjective approach cannot reveal God’s moral law which is His revealed will. Someone’s estimate of “what God is doing” is likely to be based on their own prejudices and inclinations. Let’s look at another example. Consider a person who believes the social gospel. If they see a situation where social services are being provided, they will conclude that they are witnessing “what God is doing.” In the previous example of the laughing revival, that pastor was a charismatic. His thinking led him to believe that anything that appears to have a supernatural cause done in the context of a Christian meeting must be “what God is doing.” So he saw people behaving oddly in such a context and joined it so as to participate in God’s activities. Subjective evaluations can lead to falsely attributing things to God that in fact are not from God.
God’s providence unfolding in history is what we actually observe. But providence contains good and evil. We cannot know what God’s revealed will is by observing providence. We can only know His will through inerrant, infallible, special revelation—Scripture. Even our dreams and inner impressions are part of providence and they too are a mixture of good and evil (and indifferent). They do not reveal what God is doing or His will for our lives.
Blackaby fails to distinguish these categories, and thus uses stories of God revealing things to prophets and apostles in the Bible to suggest that these experiences should be normative for us. For example he includes a section about Moses, not to prove that Moses was an authoritative spokesperson for God, but to prove that God expects all of us to gain revelation like Moses did. This is false, and we have shown it to be false in a recent article.7 In the Moses section of his book Blackaby writes, “His desire is to get us from where we are to where He is working. When God reveals to you where He is working, that becomes His invitation to join Him.”8
Such a search for “where God is working” makes no sense. God is working always everywhere as He holds all things together by “the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). Blackaby’s concept “where God is working” is vague. Is he talking about geography? God’s revealed will is to preach the gospel to all people everywhere. God works through the gospel to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment and to convert those who will be saved. There is no place off-limits, and this great work of God is not limited by geography. Blackaby’s kind of thinking causes people get on airplanes scurrying to the latest hot “revival.” But how do they know God wants them in Pensacola, for example, chasing a spiritual experience rather than preaching the gospel where they live? The simple answer: they don’t.
Blackaby’s book is filled with claims that we all need personal revelations from God, that these are binding upon us, and that if we do not gain these “words from God” we are going to fail God and live frustrated and empty lives. He claims that we are to obey these words seemingly without question: “When you do what He tells you, no matter how insensible it may seem, God accomplishes what He purposed through you. Not only do you experience God’s power and presence, but so do those who observe what you are doing.”9 This is simply wrong and is a version of works righteousness.
All that I can possibly know as God’s binding, authoritative will is what God TOLD me (Scripture) not what God “tells” me (subjective ideas that may or may not be from God). It is abusive to bind people to non-authoritative, fallible words (even insensible ones) and tell them that obeying such words is the key to God’s presence in their lives. This, in my opinion, is an attack against the gospel. We have the promise of God’s presence because of what He did for us through the cross, not because we have become mystics following ideas that enter our minds which we decided might be from Him. But Blackaby reiterates, “Obey whatever God tells you to do.”10 So, on that point I think I’ll choose to follow his advice based on what I know God has told me in the Scriptures. I know God told me not to listen to people who teach false doctrine; I am going to obey that and not listen to Blackaby.
Beyond promoting these personal revelations as laws to be obeyed (as if they were God’s revealed moral law), he further claims they are also infallible: “When we come to God to know what He is about to do where we are, we also come with the assurance that what God indicates He is about to do is certain to come to pass.”11 This is another problem, because the only things certain to come to pass are those God has predicted in Scripture. Personal revelations that we think might be from God are not certainly from God [we can’t be sure they are] and they will not “certainly come to pass.” Blackaby calls this type of word “revelation”: “When He opens your spiritual eyes to see where He as at work, that revelation is your invitation to join Him.”12 Subjective impressions are now to be considered revelation? This approach could lead to every imaginable error.
Blackaby makes personal revelations not only binding (they must be obeyed) and infallible (certain), but he also declares that they are necessary for everyone’s spiritual well-being: “If the Christian does not know when God is speaking, he is in trouble at the heart of his Christian life!”13 Furthermore, he says, “If you have been given a word from God, you must continue in that direction until it comes to pass (even twenty five years like Abraham).” That means that if someone should get one of these “words from God” and if it actually was not from God, he would be obligated to follow whatever foolhardy, insensible path the “word” led him down. Such teaching, in my opinion, is foolish and abusive to the flock.
God physically appeared to Abraham many times as “the angel of the Lord.” Abraham received special revelations. We don’t. We do not have the same certainty that our subjective impressions are “the word of the Lord.” Amazingly, Blackaby sees the problem with his approach but still presses on with it: “If you have not been given a word from God yet you say you have, you stand in judgment as a false prophet . . . [cites Deut. 18:21-22].”14 EXACTLY! That is the very claim I made in the last issue of CIC.15 If these personal words from God are taken as binding, and we speak them to ourselves and they are not totally accurate, we have become false prophets to our own selves. Blackaby evidently agrees, yet he pushes on.
The flaws of Blackaby’s subjectivism are rather obvious when you examine his claims objectively. God’s revealed will is not found by subjective experiences, but in Scripture. Looking around in the world hoping to discover “where God is working” is impossible since God is always working everywhere as He providentially brings history along toward His ultimate purposes. We will be fooled by our own prejudices because we think “God working” must look something like whatever our religious inclinations tell us it will look like. Furthermore, he has elevated fallible words that may or may not be from God to the level of infallible Scripture and elevated every believer to the status of Moses and Abraham as recipients of special revelation. Following his approach is not how we “experience God.” We cannot not know if we are experiencing God in any way other than to come to Him on His own terms, by faith. When we do, we are assured that God is with us no matter what experiences we have.
Body Prayer by Doug Pagitt
Doug Pagitt,Emergent Church leader, wrote a book (coauthored by Kathryn Prill) that claims that using various body postures can bring people closer to God and deepen one’s life of prayer.16 Here is an example of some of the claims of this book:
Engaging the body in acts of being present with God, including certain ceremonial practices, opens us up to God in new ways. People of faith in ancient times understood that such physical acts and practices as rest and worship, dietary restrictions, and mandated fabric in their wardrobes were of great value to their faith and life.17
The problem is that the Bible says that these types of practices are of NO value:
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)-- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (Colossians 2:20-23)
Furthermore, creating dietary restrictions for religious reasons is called a “doctrine of demons” (1Timothy 4:1-5).
Pagitt claims that we can connect with God through body prayers. He calls his approach a “deeper” form of prayer: “This book is meant to be a companion and a guide into deeper forms of prayer; this book is not a specific prescription of how prayer must be done.”18 I appreciate that he does not claim that these postures are mandatory. But that introduces an important question—if his postures are not mandated by Scripture (and they are not) how can they be “deeper” than the sort of prayer the Bible does teach? Such claims are the problem with all the “prayer secrets” books. Why is praying to God in the manner taught in Scripture so inadequate that people need to discover new practices that are superior to those Jesus and His apostles taught? Would God withhold something so good and important to all but those spiritual innovators who discover the secret? The Bible says, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2Peter 1:3). God did not forget to reveal to the Biblical writers key practices we need.
Pagitt teaches the same “breath prayers” that we have discussed in other articles:
As you begin to pray, close your eyes. Then inhale and exhale with deep breaths. Put your hands in a comfortable position—consider turning both hands palms up. Notice the tension in your head … and let it go as you take in a deep breath … and then exhale. Notice the tension in your shoulders and let it go, again by breathing in and then out. Notice the tension in your stomach and let it go. Move down your body doing the same.19
Concentrating on one’s breath is a way to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Jesus told us to ask the Father in His name, which we can do when fully conscious and requires no prior stress relief practice.
Some of the postures are similar in that they seem more like a technique for self awareness. One is pressing fingertips together: “There is a theory that pressing each fingertip to its corresponding fingertip activates a certain portion of our brain. Also, it is one of the gentlest ways to feel our own pulse.”20 Doing some of these practices is even confused with reconciliation which one comes through the finished work of Christ received by faith:
Start in a sitting position. Then use your arms to push your body up so you are standing. Inhale deeply through your mouth. Let your shoulders fall, release any stress in the top of your legs, and let your hips fall forward. Feel pressure on the bottom of your feet—and in that space alone. Keep breathing deeply. Allow the deep breaths to prepare you and arm you for the work of reconciliation.21
Reconciliation does not happen through some physical process, but through Christ’s blood atonement which we have received by faith (Romans 5:9-11).
It is not surprising, given the theology of the Emergent Church, that Pagitt’s approach is infused with theological immanence at the expense of transcendence. He writes, “So we extend to the rest of the world this hope: that good will be saved and increased and that God’s dreams will be done on earth as they are in heaven.”22 Pagitt claims that we are co-re-creators of the world: “God is never finished with creation, and God is never finished with us. We are constantly being re-created, and we are invited to join God as co-re-creators of the world.”23 There is no cataclysmic, future judgment of the cosmos in the theology of most Emergent Church leaders. Rather God is working in the world to transform it into a better place through the processes of history.
Pagitt’s terminology reflects a rather panentheistic worldview that is infused with God in some not totally explained way:
There is a rhythm to life. We find it in the ocean tides, in the rising and setting of the sun, in the beating of our hearts. And there is a rhythm of God—a rhythm that encompasses life, both the life we can readily see and the unseen life of the spirit. The rhythm of God beckons us, guide us, and dwells in us.24
This highly immanent theology implies that God is in the creation to be discovered, and not as the transcendent One who can only be known by His self-revelation in the authoritative Scriptures and in Christ who came in the flesh and ascended into heaven. Pagitt says, “As those who are created in the image of God, we are endowed with this rhythm.”25 Since all human beings are created in God’s image this is a universal statement, not limited to those who have been converted through the gospel. He continues, “We can find it [the rhythm of God] step into it, and live in it. This is the kingdom of God — to live in sync with the rhythm of God.”26
Sadly, the processes of “body prayer” described in this book reflect a theology that is gleaned not from authoritative Scripture but from creative efforts to create a version of prayer that is in keeping with the sensibilities of the postmodern culture. Key ideas that the Bible teaches about prayer (coming to God on His terms, grace for sinners, how we have access to God only because of the blood atonement, that God hears Christians who ask according to His will, etc.) are missing from this book. The techniques and teachings found in the book are not taught in the Bible. So the bigger question is whether God has spoken and revealed how we can come to Him or whether the means of access to God are discovered in the creation. Pagitt and his co-author leave us searching for the “rhythm of God” in the creation by means God has not ordained.
Prayer Quest by Dee Duke
The subtitle to this book is “Breaking through to your God-given dreams and destiny.” Duke speaks of our dreams and God’s dreams throughout his book. In the Bible God gave dreams to certain people. Those dreams, if interpreted by an infallible prophet, revealed God’s will and God plans. In the Bible, the dreams were from God, but they were not God’s dreams. They were the dreams of the people who dreamt them (for example Nebuchadnezzar’s in Daniel 2). Here we have to add a point of clarification: Only the dreams that are interpreted in the Bible by God’s prophets and spokespersons can be considered to authoritatively reveal God’s will.
The term “dream” in English can mean “hope for an ideal future,” as in, “I have a dream.” This denotes the hope for some better state of affairs that may or may not come into existence. Duke, in his book, is clearly not using the term in the Biblical sense as a dream a person has that has been interpreted by an authoritative prophet. Instead he says, “He calls us now to dream His dreams, to ask Him daily to display His power.”27 Duke is speaking of a hoped for future when he uses the term “dream”:
Welcome to the reality where dreams come true! God has a dream, and it is certain to happen just as He imagines it. He has placed the stamp of His image on our souls, so that we also dream great dreams. As we learn to passionately share and enjoy God’s dreams, we will see Him work in amazing ways . . .”28
This statement involves some serious category problems. Supposedly God’s dream is His imagination about the future. We (all humans evidently because all humans are created in God’s image) can dream like God. Either this is anthropomorphism run amok or some seriously bad theology. God is the one who says this about Himself: “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9, 10). God does not dream, He decrees. God calls things into being and works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). He doesn’t imagine a potential future that may or may not happen.
Concerning us, the only thing we know about what God “dreams” (using Duke’s terminology) is what is revealed in Scripture. Our own dreams about what we would like the future to bring are not going to make God do anything. Duke says, “This book is intended to help you learn to walk so intimately with God that you will see Him fulfill His dreams in and through you.”29 This brings us back to the typical “prayer secret” genre of Christian writing. Supposedly there is some key to “intimacy with God” that is not based on the once-for-all finished work of Christ, not based on availing ourselves of the means of grace by faith, but based on our own level of personal piety and the use of practices not revealed in the Bible.
Duke asks his readers, “Do you feel as though you’ve given up on dreams you had when your faith was new?” The implication is that our “dreams” (i.e., hopes for an ideal or optimal future) somehow authoritatively reveal God’s will and that we must make these come to pass by some process. But our ideas about what we hope life will be like are nothing more than ideas and may have nothing to do with God’s purposes. Our dreams are part of providence, but providence contains good and evil. Duke is treating personal imaginations about the future as if they were infallible guidance to be nurtured and followed. But personal dreams are not God’s moral law.
Here is a further definition of what Duke means by “dream,”
A dream is a desire felt so strongly that we think and meditate on it constantly until we see it in our mind as clearly as if it were reality. A dream believes that what is desired will happen; it is accomplished by anticipation and positive expectation. People who dream tend to be upbeat and enthusiastic.30
This is a very much the type of mind over matter thinking that has enjoyed popularity in self-help circles.
He gives people some practical guidance on releasing their “imagination” in prayer: “Envision yourself embarking on a day trip into the presence of God. . . . Envision yourself approaching God in His glory.”31 This is strikingly similar to guided imagery. He gives more examples of how to manage your dream time with God, including making lists of dream notes. This is a journey into the subjective realm under the guise of “prayer.”
Much bad teaching comes into the church by route of mysticism, subjectivism, and having faulty theological categories. In previous articles I carefully defined categories to help my readers avoid these pitfalls. Risking redundancy, I must again assert that there is God’s revealed will in Scripture as well as God’s providential will (containing good and evil) that is revealed as history unfolds. Though Duke wants us to dream God’s dreams about the future, he admits that these dreams we might have come from various sources. He lists thoughts from God, your own thoughts, thoughts from the world, and thoughts from Satan.32 His readers are supposed to sort through their dream notes to find ones that they think are from God. But how? God’s future providential will is not revealed and cannot be known until it unfolds in history. Our dreams about the future cannot be determined to be from God by any means available to us because they are not revealed in Scripture.
Duke reveals his lack of Biblical understanding when he cites the scripture, “My sheep know my voice,” as proof that we can figure out which of our dreams is God’s voice. That passage in John 10 is about those whom the Father has given to the Son and who consequently will respond to the gospel and follow Christ, not about listening to various subjective voices in our heads and trying to figure out which one sounds the most like Christ.
There is no need to belabor how bad this book is theologically. It starts from a series of faulty premises and bad theology and builds from there a concept of prayer that is not taught in the Bible. The term “dream” as he uses it is basically the idea of one’s imagination. The Bible tells us about those who speak in this manner: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the Lord’”. (Jeremiah 23:16).
That a publishing house like Navpress produced this book shows how little discernment there is in the evangelical movement these days.
God has not left us to fish around in the world of spirits and subjective experiences to know Him and speak to Him. God send His Son, who pre-existed as God and with God, to be born of a virgin and live in history in the flesh. The apostles heard Him, touched Him and saw Him (see 1John 1:1-3). He died for sins on the cross, shedding His blood to avert God’s wrath against our sin. He was bodily raised on the third day and He bodily ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father. Before He left He promised His followers that they could ask the Father anything in His name. He inspired eyewitnesses to write His inerrant words so that we would know the truth from Him. The Bible promises us that He hears us. It doesn’t give us a set of techniques to hear inner voices and call these techniques “prayer.”
The mystics are confident that their extra-biblical techniques and extra-biblical experiences are certainly from God and are making more pious Christians than those of us who only have prayer as taught in the Bible and the Word of God to go by. Having discovered the secrets to increased piety and “intimacy with God,” they write books so that others can become similarly “enlightened” and be saved from their “ordinary” Christian lives. Dear readers, they are selling you a bill of goods. They are not infallible apostles and prophets, they do not speak authoritatively for God, their theology is unbiblical, and their practices are not ordained by God. I have touched on three examples of this approach but there have been literally thousands of them in church history. The simple application is this: do not listen to them. They can only deceive you; they cannot make you more holy or pleasing to God. Only the finished work of Christ and His ordained means of grace can do that.
Listen to the radio series on this topic here: http://cicministry.org/radio_series....ies=divination
some info. on Hybels:
THE CURRENT END-TIME APOSTASY OF THE CHURCH
Pre-Trib Study Group Conference, 2005
There is little doubt that we are today in the midst of widespread apostasy. By that term we mean: Departure from the faith once for all delivered to the saints, for which we are to earnestly contend. I believe that apostates include two types of people:
1) Those who have knowingly turned completely from Christ and no longer even pretend to be Christians; and
2) Those who still claim to be Christians but have departed from the faith.
The latter would likewise be divided into two groups:
a) Those who deliberately twist the Scriptures, perverting the gospel "to draw away disciples after them" or who endorse false teachers (though they know better) because they want to share their fame and power-or who simply want to be "positive" so as to "offend" no one; and
b) The naive, who are genuinely deceived by false prophets/teachers.
Apostasy, of course, in some measure, has existed as long as the church. (Most of the epistles involve, to some extent, correction of false doctrine and practice that was already in the early church in the days of the apostles.) It is the mushrooming, widespread incidence of the apostasy described under 2) above, however, among those who claim to be Christians, that I believe Scripture points to as a specific sign of the last days just prior to the Rapture.
The question, of course, must be faced whether today's apostasy (as this paper proposes) has anything to do with prophecies concerning the last days. If so, it would seem that this "sign of the last days" has been largely overlooked by many, if not most, prophecy teachers. They usually cite as "last-days signs" only "wars and rumors of wars nation shall rise against nation kingdom against kingdom famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes," unusual weather, the move to a cashless society, the revival of the Roman Empire, etc.
I have been criticized for years by those who complain, "Deal with prophecy, if you wish, but stick to your subject-don't mix in apostasy!" In fact, one cannot adequately deal with the former while ignoring the latter. When asked by His disciples, "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world," the first words from Christ identified apostasy as the foremost sign of the last days. In His response, He emphasized religious deception three times-and He specified what it would involve:
Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Christ's warning made several things clear:
1) The major sign of the nearness of His coming would be religious deception by professing Christian leaders;
2) A central feature of the deception would be false prophets showing "great signs and wonders," which, though convincing, would also be false;
3) The repetition of the word, "many," indicated that this religious deception would be widespread, apparently worldwide; and
4) The words Christs, prophets, signs and wonders, and elect indicated that the deception would be among professing Christians, i.e., inside the church.
This warning was echoed by Jude. The first reason he gave why we must "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" was the fact that "there are certain men crept in [inside the church] unawares ungodly men turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
"False Christs"?! There have been many in our day (from Jim Jones to David Koresh), who gathered followers by claiming to be Christ. There are numerous gurus in India who claim to be the latest reincarnation of Jesus Christ. The false "Christs" presented by novels, videos, and movies have multiplied since Jesus Christ Superstar beyond reciting. None is even close to the true Jesus Christ of Scripture. The "Jesus" of The DaVinci Code is a complete fraud dreamed up by atheists. The "Jesus" of the ABC-TV presentation of Judas confessed to Judas that he "blew it" in chasing the moneychangers out of the Temple: "I lost my temper."
That Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ received almost universal praise as "biblically accurate" from solid evangelical leaders is another indication of apostasy that has crept into the best pulpits unawares. In fact, it was almost all unbiblical. Christ stomping on a huge serpent slithering into Gethsemane, and Satan tempting him there; Pilate's wife giving linens to the two Marys to wipe up Christ's blood; Jesus knocked off a bridge on the way to the cross, where he dangles from a chain and confronts Judas hiding beneath it; Saint Veronica giving her veil to Christ to wipe his face, and the image of his face remaining on it as the first icon; a raven plucking out the eye of one thief on an adjoining cross; the endless beatings by Roman soldiers, giving the impression that Christ suffered more physically than any other person, and that his physical sufferings (which could only condemn us) paid for our sins; not a hint that "the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin"-all of this and more was unbiblical, much of it from the visions of a mystic nun or devices from the imagination of the director to arouse emotions. Nor did anyone seem disturbed that a sinful man was pretending to be the One who declared, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," and whom Paul described as "God manifest in the flesh."
The most prominent false Christ today is Sun Myung Moon, who openly declares that he is the Messiah come to earth to complete the mission Jesus failed to accomplish: establish the "perfect family." Yet some prominent evangelicals have spoken at conferences convened by Moon, sharing the platform that featured the man who says he is perfecting the work "left unaccomplished by Jesus."
But what is the faith, a departure from which marks one as an apostate? Some might say that as long as a person believes that Christ died for his sins, was buried, and rose the third day, he is saved. But that declaration does not express the true gospel. As defined by Paul, the gospel declares the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ according to the Scriptures. Surely that involves who the biblical God is, who the biblical Christ is, what the biblical problem between God and man is, the biblical and only means of man's forgiveness by God, and the eternal consequences as taught in the Bible for those who reject the biblical gospel. None of these is a peripheral point of doctrine to be ignored or compromised. To do so would be a departure from the faith into apostasy to proclaim a false gospel.
The entire Word of God, of course, is foundational to the faith. The Bible is one book and it is all interrelated, every part to every other. Sadly, the church and world are being robbed of the pure Word of God-and by those who claim to be evangelical Christians. Eugene Peterson's The Message (NavPress, 1993) is one example. Instead of "that the world through him might be saved," The Message says, "He came to help, to put the world right again." That sounds like social and political action, the same old "social gospel," downgrading salvation to earthly improvement, and it is found throughout this entire "version" of Scripture. John 3:31 says, "He that cometh from above is above all." The Message says, "The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God." First Peter 5:10 says that God has "called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus." The Message says God "will have you put together and on your feet." What Peterson has done to God's Word is blasphemous!
Peterson dares to change the words and meaning of Scripture! Hebrews 11:4 declares, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain," but The Message says, "It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference." Obviously, both belief and action are important and interdependent. Moreover, Peterson has robbed his readers of the major theme of Scripture: the Lamb slain for our redemption.
Men like Peterson have no conscience about changing what God says, replacing His words with their own. Yet The Message is quoted more than 80 times by Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life, which has now sold about 26 million copies, unprecedented in history. No greater promotion of this mass of heresy could be given than Warren's endorsement! Sadly, this huge bestseller quotes paraphrases far more than it quotes the Bible, encouraging a growing trend of departure from the words of God ("thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart"-Jeremiah 15:16) to misrepresentations thereof coming out of men's imaginations. This is exactly what God condemns two chapters earlier.
Yet Peterson's Message is also praised by other Christian leaders such as J. I. Packer, Warren Wiersbe, Jack W. Hayford, and Richard Foster. Peterson is "Consulting Editor, New Testament," for the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005) edited by Richard J. Foster. A host of "scholars" contributed commentaries, among them Bruce Demarest, Professor of Theology at Denver Seminary in Denver, CO; Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, MA; Tremper Longman III, the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA; Earl F. Palmer, on the Board of Trustees of the long-apostate Princeton Theological Seminary and senior pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, WA, and many others.
The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible was touted as "THE BIBLE AS IT WAS INTENDED TO BE" in a two-thirds-page ad in the July 2005 issue of Christianity Today, next to the masthead declaring that Billy Graham was the founder (of CT ) and that James I. Packer is one of the Executive Editors. It is odd that Richard Foster and some 50 "biblical scholars" would go to the trouble to create and publish this "Bible," considering the fact that Eugene Peterson, its New Testament editor, has said, "Why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? [Christians] should be studying it less, not more. I'm just not at all pleased with all the emphasis on Bible study as if it's some kind of special thing that Christians do, and the more they do the better."
Showing the apostate contempt of these men for God's Word, the Renovare explanatory notes (bringing to evangelicals the old "higher criticism" of 150 years ago and still popular among liberals today) deny the Divine authorship of much of Scripture-even that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Yet the Introduction hypocritically declares, "we read the Bible literally, from cover to cover[and] in context." Renovare cynically declares that Genesis 1-11 is neither historic nor scientific, and that the entire book of Genesis is merely a collection of myths:
Genesis began as an oral tradition of narrative stories passed down from generation to generationÉ. As these stories were remembered and retold again and again, they took on theological meaning. Over time what began as stories told were written down and collected together (Genesis 12-50), and a prologue (Genesis 1-11) was added. From this rich oral tradition many different kinds of literary material came to make up this book of beginnings. Borrowing from other creation accounts stories with parallels to ancient Near Eastern religious narrative and mythology were reshaped with monotheistic intent. These strands of varied materials were gathered and edited into the written text.
Of Daniel, the Renovare Bible declares, "We do not know who wrote it or exactly when it was written it was most likely partially written during Antiochus Epiphanes' persecution of the Jews in Babylon, which began with the desecration of the Temple in 167 BC." So it is the work of an imposter pretending to be Daniel 400 years too late! Apparently overlooked is the fact that perhaps a century before Antiochus, the Greek Septuagint was translated from even earlier Hebrew manuscripts, and it contains the book of Daniel as we have it today.
The Renovare "scholars" continually downplay the powerful Old Testament prophecies of Christ upon which the gospel is based, and which are the foundation of the faith committed to and preached by the apostles. The key prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7 of the coming Messiah, who is "The mighty God, The everlasting Father," is said to speak of "human agents." They reduce Isaiah's prophecies to "tradition," would have us believe that much of it was not written by Isaiah (there are "Three" authors), and even deny that chapter 53 prophesies Christ's sacrifice for our sins! Renovare describes Isaiah as "poetic imagination interpretive imagination Isaiah imagines," etc. The Renovare "scholars" declare: "The prophets of Israel are not to be thought of primarily as predictors of the future they were poets." Through poetry, Jeremiah attempts "to make sense of the events of his day." This is blasphemy!
The powerful prophetic promise from God in Jeremiah 31:8-14 to bring home the Jews scattered around the world is interpreted as a promise to all homeless people (nothing about Israel) and God's promise that Israel can never be destroyed (31:35-37) is ignored! Israel is treated as having been replaced by the church.
How does this relate to departure from "the faith once delivered to the saints"? The Messiah doesn't step off of a UFO and say, "Voila! Here I am!" He comes in fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies and with a genealogy that proves His authentic identity. Israel takes up most of the Bible, and its history and its prophets' inspired pronouncements are foundational to the Messiah's identity. If the Bible is not 100 percent true in what it says about Israel, then we cannot believe what else it says about Christ and our "redemption through his blood."
Incredibly, the valley of dry bones brought back to life in Ezekiel 37, which is clearly declared to be "the whole house of Israel," is interpreted as the birth of the church at Pentecost. The marriage of the Lamb to His bride in Revelation 19 is not a real event in heaven but "symbolic of the many different celebrations that bring joy and jubilation" into our lives." The thousand-year reign of Christ in Revelation 20 is not a real event, and the armies of the world coming against Christ and the saints at Jerusalem after Satan's release merely symbolize "the armies of darkness [which] surround us."
If this "trashing" of the Bible, endorsed by many leading evangelicals and tolerated without opposition from others, is not part of the apostasy, then what is? We are losing the Bible in many ways, raising a generation on the spiritual junk food of religious videos, movies, youth entertainment, and comic book paraphrases of the Bible. The Word of God is being rewritten, dumbed down, and dramatized in order to cater to the tastes of the carnal mind.
The emphasis throughout Scripture is always on the words. The Bible is not a picture book! We are to live by "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," a fact so important that Christ quoted it to Satan in His temptation. But the Bible is today being "improved" by script writers, movie directors, and actors who are replacing the actual "incorruptible word of God" by which we are "born again," with dramatic representations (the entire New Testament is now on video) that may soon be the only "Bible" youth know.
The Roman Catholic Church has been in full-blown apostasy for 1,300 years while persecuting and killing true Christians. It has never repented of this evil and is now enjoying the support of leading evangelicals in a way that would have shocked biblical Christians only 50 years ago. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) brought together the leading bishops and cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church in order to counter the Reformation. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent contain more than 100 anathemas condemning every point of the true gospel and damning to hell those who believe it. For example: "If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law [Catholic rituals] are not necessary for salvation but men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification let him be anathema"; "If anyone says that baptism isnot necessary for salvation, let him be anathema"; "If anyone says that in the Mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God [but] a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross [and] not a propitiatory one let him be anathema."
On December 31, 1995, honoring the 450th anniversary of the opening of Trent, Pope John Paul II declared that its anathemas are still in full force: "Its conclusions maintain all their value." Yet Billy Graham-like those signing ECT-has declared that Rome preaches the same gospel he does. 
Those who deny purgatory, where Rome says that in spite of Christ's "It is finished!" one must suffer in flames for one's sins, and those who deny the power of indulgences in shortening one's time of purgatorial suffering, are anathematized by Rome to this day. Yet, in The Body, Charles Colson denied that indulgences are still offered by Rome. I sent him a copy of the seventeen pages on "the revision on indulgences" from Vatican II  including Pope Paul's anathema pronounced upon those who deny that the church has the power to grant indulgences today. Colson never responded to acknowledge his error, which has led multitudes astray-and, unless it was done recently, did not correct it in subsequent editions. Isn't this apostasy?
In Augsburg, Germany, on October 31, 1999, representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and of the Roman Catholic Church signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), the fruit of 30 years of dialogue between Lutheran and Catholic theologians. (If justification by faith is that complicated, who can be saved? Paul didn't need 30 years to answer the Philippian jailor's question of how to be saved!) The choice of the city where the Augsburg Confession (foundation of Lutheranism ever since) was read, and the very day of the month on which, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenburg door, could hardly be coincidence. The Reformation was being overturned! Indeed, Charles Colson has said that "justification by faith alone doesn't mean today among evangelicals what it meant in the reformers' time."
For 1 billion Roman Catholics, nothing has changed. Catholics continue to pray to Mary for salvation, to wear her scapular (as John Paul did from childhood to his death), which declares, "Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire. Mary's promise." To wear that in reliance upon such a promise would be an abomination to any true Christian. Yet it is worn by tens of millions of Catholics. They continue to believe that "the merits and graces Christ won on the cross" can be received only in small installments that can never fully save and come only through the sacraments of the Church by Mary's agency, and they must therefore still offer good works and suffering for salvation-finally in purgatory.
The very doctrine of indulgences that angered Luther and sparked the Reformation remains a mainstay of Catholicism. (How can Colson be so wrong?) In fact, shortly after JDDJ was signed, John Paul II offered new indulgences for the "Jubilee Year of 2000": give up cigarettes for one day and receive a plenary indulgence; walk through one of the four "holy doors" the Pope opened for that year in Rome, and receive a plenary indulgence (Catholic pilgrims came by the millions to do so, ignorant that Christ is the only door to eternal life!), etc.
When the Pope opened his eyes and rose from praying on his knees in front of the first "holy door" he opened (this one at St. Peter's), he saw George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual head of the Church of England, kneeling in agreement beside him. Doesn't this denial of the gospel by Carey qualify as full-blown apostasy?
John Paul II boasted that pilgrimages to Rome for plenary indulgences began in 1300 under Pope Boniface VIII, of "blessed memory," a "pope" who had both a mother and her daughter among his many mistresses and who gave indulgences to his troops to destroy the historic city of Palestrina, slaughtering its 6,000 inhabitants and reducing it to a plowed field, which was sown with salt. Yet Boniface was hardly the most evil of the popes whom the present pope looks proudly upon as Peter's successors who have handed that authority down to him. In 1302, Boniface issued the "infallible Bull," Unam Sanctam, making absolute allegiance to the Pope a condition of salvation-still in full force today.
Martin Luther said, "We are not the first to declare the papacy to be the kingdom of Antichrist, since for many years before us so many and so great menÉhave undertaken to express the same thing so clearly." But it is no longer fashionable in "Protestant" circles to state the truth. We must only be "positive" for fear of giving offense, forgetting the far greater offense of condoning a false gospel that is sending hundreds of millions to hell. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association received the rights to publish a special "Crusade Edition" of Halley's Bible Handbook and, in doing so, removed from it everything Halley had so carefully researched and documented of the evil of the Popes and the slaughter of true Christians through the centuries. If this cover-up to avoid "offending" Catholics is not contributing to apostasy, then what is?
Zondervan published a revised version of the Handbook in 2000, which also contains no reference in its index to Albigenses, Waldenses and other evangelical Christians slaughtered by Rome by the millions. This new version declares: "The Roman Catholic Church responded to the Protestant Reformation by reforming and renewing itself worked toward ecumenism during the latter half of the 20th century and has engaged in cooperative ventures with evangelicals and fundamentalists. There are Catholics whose theology is virtually indistinguishable from evangelical theologyÉthe charismatic movement crossed over the theological dividing lines as the Holy Spirit began to work in the Catholic Church, creating a unity with other believers that could not have been achieved with theological debates."
What a perverted promotion of apostasy! When challenged about this, Stan Gundry, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief responded, "The purpose of the rewriting was not to cover up the ugly truth about traditional RCC belief but to give a more balanced portrayal of the history of Christianity." How could white-washing essential facts of official Catholic doctrine and practice, and leaving out the slaughter of millions of Christians by the Roman Catholic Church give a "more balanced" history?!
Incredibly, Zondervan is now in anti-Christian hands. It is owned by FOX News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. He has been knighted by the Pope as a member of the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great after donating $10 million for construction of a new Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles. Murdoch has consistently made TV shows aimed at destroying the family and pursues his godless ambitions through a vast empire, of which "Christian publishing" has become one part. Aren't such ungodly alliances one sign of apostasy?
Christian publishers began to put profits ahead of sound doctrine, made a lot of money by compromising in order to give customers what they wanted instead of the biblical truth they needed, then sold out to the world monetarily as they already had spiritually. Is this not part of the "end-time apostasy of the church," the major sign Christ gave of the nearness of His return?
For at least 50 years, Billy Graham has affirmed Roman Catholicism as the true gospel and has sent Roman Catholics who come forward at his crusades back to the Catholic churches they had left. Billy has praised John Paul II as a preacher of the true gospel, has declared that he and the Pope agree on almost everything, and has hailed Bishop Fulton Sheen as the "greatest communicator of the 20th century." Though Sheen preached a false gospel, claimed to turn a wafer into Christ and to offer Him repeatedly in a propitiatory sacrifice for sins, Billy thanked him for their "common commitment to evangelism" and expressed his gratitude to Sheen "for his ministry and his focus on Christ." Yet Sheen's hope of heaven was that Mary would let him in because of his 40 pilgrimages to Marian shrines at Fatima and Lourdes. When Sheen died, Billy said, "I mourn his death and look forward to our reunion in heaven."
J. I. Packer, a signatory to ECT, who called John Paul II "a fine Christian man," had many years earlier declared, "Catholics are among the most loyal and virile brothers evangelicals can find these days." Likewise John Stott said, "Evangelicals should join others in the Church of England in working toward full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
Manifestations of apostasy are legion and subversive. There are evangelical leaders who generally preach the true gospel, yet they commend, approve of, and praise those who clearly deny the gospel. Are they not contributing to apostasy? What could be the difference between leading multitudes to embrace a false gospel by preaching it oneself or leading them to believe a false gospel by commending those who preach it? Is it any less damaging to souls for Billy Graham to praise and endorse Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Pope John Paul II, and others who preach a false gospel than to preach it himself? Would not one approach contribute as much to apostasy and the eternal doom of souls as the other?
In 1984, on the Phil Donahue program, Peale said, "It's not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine." Shocked, Donahue responded, "But you're a Christian minister; you're supposed to tell me that Christ is the way and the truth and the life, aren't you?" Peale replied, "Christ is one of the ways. God is everywhere."
Peale also declared, "God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized." "Just as there exist scientific techniques for the release of atomic energy, so are there scientific procedures for the release of spiritual energy through the mechanism of prayer." "Any method through which you can stimulate the power of God is legitimate [any] scientific use of prayer."
Yet Billy Graham praised Peale many times, endorsed his books, even declaring in an interview on national TV that he knew no one who had done more good for the cause of Christ than Ruth and Norman Peale. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who had done more harm to the gospel! Based upon Billy's endorsements, how many souls followed Peale's false gospel into hell? Surely this is at least contributing to apostasy!
Billy Graham likewise endorsed and praised Robert Schuller, though his denials of the gospel are no less clear and reprehensible than Peale's. Schuller has defined sin as "lack of faith in yourself. Jesus Christ has saved me from my sin which is my tendency to put myself down and not believe that I can do it negative thinking is the core of sin Jesus died to change us from negative thinking to positive thinking [He] bore the cross to sanctify your self-esteem the cross will sanctify the ego trip!"
Beginning 50 years ago, Billy Graham has repeatedly declared that his beliefs are "essentially the same as those of orthodox Roman Catholics we only differ on some matters of later church tradition." He praised Pope John Paul II for "his strong Catholic faith" and called him "the greatest moral and spiritual leader of the last 100 years. I don't know anyone else that I could put as high as he is. He's traveled the whole world spreading the Catholic faith. And I've admired him. He and I agree on almost everything." Isn't it apostasy for the leading evangelical to praise the Pope for spreading a false gospel and damnable heresies?
Do we no longer believe that "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation"? How then can we possibly condone and even praise those who preach a false gospel? Nor can it be denied that the Roman Catholic Church is dedicated to destroying the gospel that saves. If its members believed the true gospel, that Church would be out of business!
The Pope and his entire Church reject the biblical truth that Christ paid the full penalty for sin once and for all on the Cross. At the very heart of Catholicism is the lie that a wafer is turned into Christ to be endlessly sacrificed for sin in the Mass, that infant baptism makes one a child of God, and that no one can be certain of heaven. New York's Cardinal O'Connor declared: "Church teaching is that I don't know...what my eternal future will be. Pope John Paul II doesn't know absolutely that he will go to heaven, nor does Mother Teresa of Calcutta." Cardinal John Krol, as spiritual leader of Philadelphia's more than a million Catholics, admitted that his personal major worry was about "getting to heaven." There could be no clearer denial of the biblical gospel with its promise of eternal life for all who believe. Yet Billy Graham boasted of his friendship with Roman Catholic leaders and expressed only approval, never once warning those who believe Rome's false gospel that they are lost.
Instead of obeying Jude's injunction to "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints," Billy Graham has never raised a voice against heretical denials of the true faith. Charles Dullea, Jesuit Superior of Rome's Pontifical Biblical Institute, urged Catholics to attend Graham's crusades because "A Catholic will hear no slighting of his Church's teaching authority, nor of papal or Episcopal prerogatives, no word against Mass or Sacraments or Catholic practice." Indeed, Graham called the Mass "a very beautiful thing and certainly straight and clear in the gospel I believe." He has recommended Catholic books and literature, including a biography of Pope John XXIII (whom Billy commended for his ecumenical stand), which he called "a classic in devotion" and that contained page after page of John XXIII's devotion to Mary and the Saints, worship of the host and trust in the sacraments for salvation.
It is indisputable that John Paul II, whom evangelicals have praised, trusted Mary instead of Christ for his eternal destiny. In a February 1980 addendum to his Last Will and Testament of March 6, 1979,[COLOR="green"] John Paul II [/COLOR]entrusted "that decisive moment [of death] to the Mother of Christ and of the Church [and] of my hope. In life and in death, Totus Tuus through the Immaculate." Embroidered inside all of his robes was the phrase, Totus tuus sum Maria, "Mary I am all yours." His Apostolic Letter of Oct. 16, 2002, ended with these words:
O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary of Pompei, O dearest Mother, O Refuge of Sinners, O Sovereign Consoler of the Afflicted.
In "The Holy Father's Prayer for the Marian Year," John Paul II asked Mary to do what only God can do: to comfort, guide, strengthen and protect "the whole of humanity." His prayer ended, "Sustain us, O Virgin Mary, on our journey of faith and obtain for us the grace of eternal salvation." She would have to be God to do so. Yet like Graham, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, emphasized that any disagreements Protestants may have had "with John Paul II are [irrelevant] to the foundations of the faith." Land praised the Pope's "staunch defense of traditional Christian faith."  Pat Robertson enthused, "Pope John Paul II stands like a rock in his clear enunciation of the foundational principles of the Christian faith." In his 1994 video, Pope John Paul II: Startling Revelations, Jack Van Impe hailed the Pope as a staunch Christian and defender of the faith. On his television program, he claimed that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is biblical.
Popes are the worst of apostates, condoning all religions so long as they submit to papal authority, and leading billions of souls to hell! What must be said of evangelicals who commend the popes and their false gospel? Is it not apostasy to promote those who preach a false gospel and damnable heresies even though one does not preach such lies oneself?
One of the major marks of the "last days" apostasy has been an ecumenical movement led by John Paul II that has swept even evangelicals into its maelstrom. Ecumenism is one more form of the denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which "is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." Robert Schuller exhorted "religious leaders whatever their theology to articulate their faith in positive terms." He called for a "massive, united effort by leaders of all religions [to proclaim] the positive power of world-community-building religious values."
In his 1992 book, The Body, Chuck Colson called for ecumenical union with Rome. In an article titled, "Why Catholics are Our Allies," he wrote: "And let's be certain that we are firing our polemical rifles against the enemies, not [allies] fighting in the trenches alongside us in the defense of the Truth."  It would be shocking to Calvin, Luther, Zwingli and the other Reformers (and especially to the millions Rome tortured and slaughtered for their faith in Christ) to learn that the enemies of the gospel were actually their allies "in defense of the Truth"!
One of these strange "allies" is apparently Roman Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft of Boston College who, in the spirit of Rick Warren and his P.E.A.C.E. Plan, advocates a coalition of all religions to fight society's social ills. Kreeft imagines that prayer to Islam's Allah or any Hindu idol is compatible with Christianity. He praises John Paul II for gathering "representatives of all the major religions" to pray together and declaring that they all pray to the same God. He claims that God is blessing Islam to grow because Muslims are obeying His laws. Confucius is God's "prophet" in purgatory on the way to heaven; Buddha and Muhammad are both already there; Muhammad, because he honored Mary, is "closer in spirit" to true Christianity than most Protestants; through the Mass, the entire universe is being transformed into one giant Cosmic Eucharistic Christ; and everyone, including evangelicals, will be united in the Eucharist and Mary. That both J.I. Packer and Chuck Colson gave their enthusiastic endorsements on the back cover tells us much of the nature of today's apostasy.
In Los Angeles, the Pope told Rabbis Harvey Fields and Alfred Wolf that everyone serves the "same GodÉno matter what their religion." Yonggi Cho recently addressed a Buddhist convention, declaring that Buddhism and Christianity each have their way of salvation and that neither should oppose the other. John Paul II on more than one occasion gathered together for prayer witch doctors, spiritists, animists, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and other leaders of world religions and credited their prayers with generating "profound spiritual energies" that would create a "new climate for peace."
Yet with full knowledge of Rome's heresies and its alliances with paganism, evangelical leaders signed "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." That document claimed that Catholics (though they believe and preach Rome's false gospel that only damns those who believe it) are our "brothers and sisters in Christ." Billy Graham did not need to sign that document because he long has been a key ecumenical leader. Nearly 50 years ago he declared, "Anyone who makes a decision at our meetings is referred to a local clergyman-Protestant, Catholic or Jewish." Ten years later he rejoiced that "Protestants and Catholics could meet together and greet each other as brothers."
Peter Howard, executive assistant to Bishop Michael Sheridan, head of the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, warned Catholics that they must not attend Protestant services. In ecumenical response, Ted Haggard, Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), said that "New Life doesn't try to 'convert' Catholics." He said that New Life would never discourage its members "from becoming Catholic or attending Catholic Mass."
Those commending instead of contending against untrue religions encourage the lost in their false hope and deceive the world as well as the church. Is this not also a form of apostasy?
The fact that a major element of the last-days apostasy would be a false "signs and wonders" movement among professing Christians involving false prophets was declared more than once by our Lord: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." He must be referring to pre-tribulation events. "Christian" leaders would hardly be performing "signs and wonders" in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ after Antichrist is in charge of the world. And here we gain further insight that isn't as clear from Matthew 24: those performing false signs and wonders do so in Christ's name, calling Him Lord, yet they are not Christians at all. As Christ will say, "I never knew you!"
Nevertheless, those doing "miracles" in Christ's name must be professing Christians and widely accepted as Christian leaders. This is a further indication of apostasy within the church, on the part of both leaders and followers, involving a strong delusion centering upon false signs and wonders. These "miracles" are the accepted "proof" of the "prophet's" authority. The similarity in the language in Matthew 7 and 24 indicates that Christ was referring in both places to the same important last-days sign.
Paul uses similar language to that which Christ uses and adds that Satan and his minions will be behind this last-days deception and will use it to promote "doctrines of devils":
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith [apostatize], giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men [shall be] ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres [two of the magicians in Pharaoh's court] withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
Paul thus declared that the major opposition to the truth in the last days would be from false prophets who would counterfeit miracles by the power of Satan . Although only God can do genuine miracles, what Pharaoh's sorcerers did in mimicking the first two plagues was so impressive that Moses declared, "And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments." But when it came to the third, "the magicians could not."
Surely we are seeing this prophesied opposition to the truth today. There is an entire "signs and wonders" movement among charismatics led by false prophets who pretend to do miracles in Christ's name. It is precisely these "miracles" that cause millions to follow them and to believe their false doctrines. There is no clearer sign of "last-days apostasy."
Yet the great success of The Purpose-Driven Life and the growth of megachurches such as Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston (30,000 each weekend) have sparked a new optimism among evangelicals that even embraces the false "signs and wonders" movement. In Megashift, James Rutz writes:
We are now winning the world at an astonishing pace, swept along by a vast array of miracles.[God] has apparently decreed that plain folks like you and me are now a central part of an accelerated plan for a total transformation of the world. As national strongholds of sin are dismantled and pits of misery cleaned up, the true purpose of God for many nations will be revealed. We are in the early stages of total transformation of our planet. The family of Jesus Christ is growing so fast that if our growth simply continues at today's pace, most of us living today may see the fulfillment of Revelation 11:15: Now are the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah! And he shall reign for ever and ever95]
This is a delusion that harks back to the Manifest Sons of God heresy but is now gaining acceptance among evangelicals. There is no Rapture and no Great Tribulation. We are already in the Millennium, with the church taking over under the leadership of "miracle-working prophets." These people expect to meet Christ with their feet planted on planet earth, rather than being caught up to meet Him in the air and taken to heaven as His Word promises. It is one more form of apostasy that is preparing a false church to welcome Antichrist. While I don't think Rick Warren has been deluded to this extent, he avoids prophecy and his emphasis is upon changing this world rather than being raptured to heaven.
Among the dozens of false prophets we might name who claim to be part, not of apostasy but of a great "last-days revival," are Oral and Richard Roberts, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Reinhart Bonnke, the Kenneth Hagins, Rick Joyner, Kim Clement, and many others often seen and heard on TBN and elsewhere. The major one, of course, is Benny Hinn, who claims to have picked up the "anointing" from the graves of Amie Semple McPherson (founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church) and Kathryn Kuhlman (originator of the "slain in the Spirit" craze).
I watched Benny Hinn on TBN telling Paul and Jan Crouch how he knocked a man down with "the power of the Holy Spirit," and when he hit the floor his toupee flew off. To raucous laughter from the Crouches, a mischievous Benny related how four more times, when the man struggled to his feet having replaced the toupee askew, he knocked him down again just to see the toupee fly off. There was some "power" at work, but obviously not from the Holy Spirit.
Benny Hinn has been praised by evangelical leaders (including Jerry Falwell) and is the darling of the largest Christian TV network, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), upon which are regularly displayed false prophets to deceive the church and world. The extent of willing submission to false teachers is seen in the fact that even the most absurd "prophecies" on TBN are hailed, embraced, and then when they fail, excused and even declared by both leaders and followers to have been fulfilled. For example, according to a "Voice," which spoke "so loud and clear" to a pastor John Hinkle "that it sounded like a great bell" being rung in his ear, all evil would be "ripped from the earth" on June 9, 1994. Crouch and the studio audience were overjoyed by this "wonderful revelation." Crouch backed this obviously false prophecy to the hilt in at least three newsletters and on several TV shows. Pat Robertson was enthusiastic about it.
Yet anyone with a minimal knowledge of the Bible and common sense knew that "evil" is not a "thing" to be ripped from earth but resides in human hearts. Evil will certainly be rampant under Antichrist in the Great Tribulation yet to come, and even at the end of the millennial reign of Christ when Satan will be loosed, evil will manifest itself as never before in an attack against Jerusalem and Christ by millions of earth's inhabitants. Yet on June 9, 1994, Crouch claimed that Hinkle's prophecy had been fulfilled!
Of course, false prophecies too numerous to mention are standard fare on TBN, from the assurance that the appearing of Christ will take place on stage at a Benny Hinn revival-to the confident declaration that soon the dead will be resurrected by placing them in front of a TV screen on which a TBN program is being aired. Benny Hinn's false prophecies are too many to recite. For example, on December 31, 1989, claiming that he was in the very throne room of God, Hinn declared: "The Lord also tells me about '94 or '95, no later than that, God will destroy the homosexual community of America by fire."  Amazingly, as Hinn's false prophecies increase, so does his audience, growing to at least one million on several occasions. Surely this growing delusion is another sign of last-days apostasy.
Hinn can't even get his "testimony" straight. In PTL Family Devotional he says, "I got saved in Israel in 1968." But in a 1983 message in St. Louis he said, "It was in Canada that I was born again right after '68." Yet in Good Morning, Holy Spirit, he says he was converted in 1972, during his senior year in high school. But he dropped out before his senior year. When was he saved?!
"People of God," shouts Benny, "we must never speak such faith-destroying words asÉ 'If it be thy will, Lord. I am Him [Jesus]! The Word has become flesh in Meee!.... You are a little god on earth." Hinn and Crouch have declared this lie numerous times together on TBN, and Crouch stated in a newsletter that if we are not little gods, he would apologize in front of 10,000 times 10,000 before the "glassy sea." If he is a "little god," he won't be there.
In reference to critics, Hinn said, "I wish God would give me a Holy Ghost machine gun. I'd blow your head off!" The TBN studio audience loudly applauded those gracious words from this "man of God." Says Hinn, "I'm sick and tired about hearing about streets of gold [in heaven]. I don't need gold in heaven. I got to have it now."
Not to be outdone, Morris Cerullo declares, "from the beginning of time the whole purpose of God was to reproduce Himself. And when we stand up here, brother, you're not looking at Morris Cerullo; you're looking at God. You're looking at Jesus!" And in fulfillment of Christ's Word, false prophets keep coming in His name claiming to be Christ.
Making it all the more dangerous, TBN is a mixture of heresy and sound doctrine because evangelicals who preach the truth are seen on it as well. Not only indirectly by implication do they support this apostasy mill, but they are almost inevitably drawn into a more direct support by becoming part of periodic fund raising for the network. This confusing mixture of truth and error encourages apostasy today. One can hardly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints while supporting-even indirectly-the false prophets who deny it. And even there we have a contradictory mixture inasmuch as many of the false prophets know how to preach the gospel, and do so at times, making it all the more bewildering.
Paul's warning that "in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" has come true with a vengeance. A major "doctrine of devils" is the occult technique of visualizing persons or events to bring them into the present for one's private use. This is how shamans (witchdoctors) contact their "spirit guides." This occult method is widely practiced in today's church. Norman Vincent Peale taught it, as does Yonggi Cho, Robert Schuller, Richard Foster, Calvin Miller, Karen Mains, John and Paula Sandford, and others who practice "inner healing," and so do many Christian psychologists.
Visualization is widely taught in the church as a means of creating the answer to one's prayers, and even calling Christ from His throne in heaven to appear in one's presence. Of course, Christ will not oblige, but there are demons that are only too happy to appear, pretending to be "Christ" in order to further their deception.
Yonggi Cho tells his readers, "You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth He is bound byyour words. Remember that Christ is depending upon you and your spoken word to release His presence." Likewise Richard Foster (co-founder of the Renovare movement and editor of the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible) assures us that visualization in the imagination of what one desires is not mere fantasy but reality created in the mind. He writes:
Take a single event [from Scripture]. Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyal [founder of the Jesuits, fanatical defenders of the Pope and Rome's heresies] to apply all our senses to our task represent to your imagination the whole of the mystery as an active participant. And since Jesus lives in the eternal now you can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by His voice touched by His healing power. Jesus Christ will actually come to you. In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so that you can see yourself and reassure your body that you will return. Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in his presence. Listen quietly [to] any instruction given. *(Sing4Him says: This is whom Beth Moore, Lucado, Stanley are affli. with)
This is occult contact with "seducing spirits [bringing] doctrines of demons" through the imagination and is the major technique used by shamans to contact their spirit guides. Yet in full agreement, popular evangelical author Calvin Miller writes:
One door opens to the world of the Spirit: imagination. We cannot commune with a Savior whose form and shape elude usin my conversation with Christ, I see him white robed I drink the glory of his hazel eyes, thrill to the golden sunlight dancing on his auburn hair. Do you disagree? His hair is black? Eyes brown? Then have it your way. His image must be real to you as to me, even if our images differ. The key to vitality, however, is the image block by imaginary block we define him and we adore him. The Bible writers did the same.
Instead of being inspired of God, the "Bible writers" wrote from their imagination?! This is not only blasphemy, but "Christianized idolatry." The visualization described by Miller above is delusion at best and demonic deception at worst. Every pagan image is first formed in the mind before it is fashioned out of wood or stone. Most "Protestants" are not yet openly advocating the second step (icons and images in homes and churches), but that is another growing movement among evangelicals. Icons are displayed with candles to light in "prayer stations," and church members in evangelical churches "pray through the image" to reach God, joining in the practice of Eastern Orthodox and Catholics.
Like Miller, Foster, and Cho, Robert L. Wise, pastor of a large Presbyterian church, endorses visualizing "Jesus" based upon his experience during a "Healing of the Memories" session:
I began to visualize myself as a boy of eight startled to see myself carrying a large bundle on my back [of] needs and worries. "Now see if you can imagine Jesus appearing" [I was] instructed. "Let him walk toward you." Much to my amazement, I-an ordained Reformed clergyman with a doctorate in psychology-found Jesus moved slowly toward me extend[ing] His hands toward me in a loving, accepting manner. I no longer was creating the scene. Christ reached over and lifted the bundle from my back with such forcefulness that I literally sprang from the pew.
Wise was sure it was not his imagination-and we know it was not Jesus-so it could only have been a demon impersonating Christ that came alive in this occult experience. Yonggi Cho (pastor of the world's largest church with some 750,000 members) writes, "We should always try to visualize the end result as we pray [or] it cannot become a reality. Through visualizing and dreaming, you can incubate your future and hatch the results." In the foreword to that book, Robert Schuller declares, "Don't try to understand it. Just start to enjoy it! It's true. It works."
Cho and Rick Warren recently had breakfast together. In response to Rick's question concerning his ministry, Cho replied, "As a minister, you should know that prayer is the foundation of church growth and revival. [Y]ou should have visions and dreams because [these] are the vessels through which God works." He failed to tell Rick that his occult practice of visualization has been the key to his success. Cho has some good teachings, but that only commends his heretical and occult teachings and makes them all the more appealing. Lutheran pastor William Vaswig writes: "I believe imagination is one of the most important keys to effective praying God touches me through my imagination." Yet the Bible declares: "This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart," "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually", etc.
Having been mentored by Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller (who journeyed to Rome with an artist's rendering of the Crystal Cathedral to get the Pope's blessing before it was built) is a primary example of an apostate and a master of "religiously correct" doubletalk. He declares, "That's what sets me apart from fundamentalists, who are trying to convert everybody to believe how they believe. We know the things the major faiths can agree on. We try to focus on those without offending those with different viewpoints, or without compromising the integrity of my own Christian commitment." Of course, the major faiths do not agree on, but deny, who God is, who Jesus Christ is, the way of salvation, and all other biblical fundamentals. One can only wonder what "Christian commitment" it is that Schuller isn't compromising. He has declared that if he came back in 100 years and found that all of his descendants were Muslims it would not bother him.
But Schuller is not alone in his blatantly bold apostasy. A Barna poll about this time revealed that 71 percent of Americans, 64 percent of those who call themselves born again, and 40 percent of self-proclaimed evangelicals rejected the idea of absolute truth. And Pat Robertson, responding to those asking why he had signed ECT, declared: "People of faith [in which he includes Catholics, Mormons, Moonies, Jews, et al.] are under attack as never before by forces which wish to destroy all religious values, all worship, and all freedoms for Christians like you and me [so] we must lay aside certain Protestant differences to join hands to support those things upon which we all agree."
For nearly two decades, Karen Mains, author of more than 20 books and popular conference speaker, was co-host with her husband, David, of The Chapel of the Air. In her book, Lonely No More (InterVarsity Press), she tells of a Jungian therapy session with her spiritual director at a Catholic retreat center, where she is visited by the mental image of an "idiot-child totally bald head lolled to one side drooling eight years of age emaciated and malnourished" which communicates with her and reveals that it is her inner "Christ child," her "spiritual authority." David and Karen Mains were on the Board of Reference of Renovare.
Incredibly (or is it to be expected?), some of the worst heretics and practitioners of the occult have gotten together in what they call the Chrysostom Society. It began with Richard Foster, Calvin Miller, and Karen Mains, joined later by Eugene Peterson and others. "They felt it was really important to just get together, write together, and believe in each other as practitioners of a craft to the glory of God." The society has included Luci Shaw, English stylist for The Message: Psalms and the gender-neutral language Today's New International Version, and co-author of Prayerbook for Spiritual Friends and Friends for the Journey with Madeleine L'Engle, also a member.
Peter reinforces the warnings by Christ and Paul: "there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought themÉ and many shall follow their pernicious ways and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you." The language is remarkably prophetic. It is covetousness on the part both of the false prophets and those who believe their lies that allows the former to "make merchandise" of the latter. We see this in the "seed faith" teaching invented by Oral Roberts and followed by most of the other false prophets: "Send in your 'seed faith' offering to get the miracles started. I have a letter from Oral Roberts with my name in it declaring that he has been up all night praying just for me and that God has promised 33 specific miracles to me if I will send in the "seed faith" offering. Of course, more than a million others received a similar letter with each of their names put in by the computer declaring that Roberts has been praying all night for them and, amazingly, God has promised the same 33 miracles for each of them, and a "seed faith" offering is required to start the miracles flowing. It would take minimal common sense to recognize Roberts' unconscionable lie (has he no fear of God?), but it is the covetousness of recipients that blinds them to the truth in their desire to get "miracles from God" by feeding the covetousness of the "miracle worker."
Oral Roberts' many lies are legendary. There was the claim that if supporters didn't give him $8 million God would kill him. He said it would be used for scholarships for students at his medical school so they could go to the mission field. Not a dime went for that but into the attempt to salvage his hospital. And that debacle began with Roberts' claim that he'd had a seven-hour conversation with a 900 -foot-tall "Jesus" who had commanded him to build a hospital that the secular planning department knew Tulsa couldn't support. Nevertheless, the "man of God" prevailed over objections, with his "partners" pouring more than $200 million into the project. The miracles and cure for cancer this "Jesus" had promised never materialized; the 777-bed hospital never even had more than 148 patients at its peak, and it went bankrupt, a monument to a lying false prophet who, nevertheless, is highly honored in the church to this day. In 1989 (the year he began shutting down the hospital, overwhelmed with unpaid bills) Roberts was named "Christian Leader of the Year" by the International Christian Leaders organization.
Joyce Meyer says, "You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell." Most of the "Positive Confession" teachers agree with Kenneth Copeland that "When Jesus cried, It is finished! He was not speaking of the plan of redemption the cross was only the beginning. He allowed the devil to drag Him into the depths of hell. Every demon in hell came down on Him to annihilate Him. [They] tortured Him beyond anything that anybody has ever conceived. His emaciated, little wormy spirit is down in the bottom of [the pit] and the devil thinks he's got Him destroyed. In a thunder of spiritual force, the voice of God spoke to the death-whipped, broken, punished spirit of Jesus [in] the pit of destruction, and charged the spirit of Jesus with resurrection power! SUDDENLY His twisted, death-wracked spirit began to fill out and come back to life. He was literally being reborn before the devil's very eyes. He began to flex His spiritual muscles Jesus Christ dragged Satan up and down the halls of hell [He] was raised up a born-again man. The day I realized that a born-again man had defeated Satan, hell, and death, I got so excited!" This is a false gospel that cannot save-another sign of today's last-days apostasy.
The gospel is "to the Jew first" and Paul always preached it in the synagogue before going to the Gentiles. Yet some Christian leaders have claimed that there is a different gospel for Jews. John Hagee has said, "The Jewish people have a relationship to God through the law of God as given through Moses. I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah will come to redemption." In 1987, when Pat Robertson was running for president, he was interviewed by Phil Donahue, who asked him, "Do Jews go to heaven?" Pat replied, "The Jews go to heaven if they keep all the commandments of the Jewish Law. For the Jews it's a different deal."  Isn't it part of the apostasy to deny the gospel that saves to Jews?
When Robertson failed to get the Republican nomination for president, he was asked, "If God called you to run, then why did you fail to get the Republican presidential nomination?" Pat responded, "I suppose we could ask the same question of Jesus why did He fail the first time around and get crucified?"
One of the most shocking evidences of apostasy is the acclaim given to Sir John Marks Templeton by evangelical leaders. Rick Warren gave a speech and was one of five judges to determine the prizewinner in the recent "Power of Purpose" Essays contest (obviously inspired by his "purpose-driven" crusade) that was sponsored by Templeton. Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, and Billy Graham have been among Templeton's foremost promoters.
Templeton's books are New Age to the core and blatantly proclaim a false god and false gospel. Yet one of his major works, Discovering the Laws of Life, was promoted in a full-page back cover ad in Christianity Today, 4/24/94, headlined, "WILL INSPIRE MILLIONS OF READERS." The ad contained endorsements by Norman Vincent Peale (who also wrote the foreword), Robert Schuller, Billy Graham, and two prominent Catholic New Age leaders, Theodore M. Hesburgh (former president of Notre Dame University) and J. Peter Grace (head of the Knights of Malta, sworn to defend the Pope). In that book, Templeton declares: "The basic principles for leading a 'sublime life'Émay be derived from any religious tradition. Astronauts traveled into outer space [and] did not bring back any evidence of heaven. And whereas drills had penetrated the earth, they'd found oil, not hell spiritual theorists are inclined to conceive of [heaven and hell] as states of mindÉwe create our own heaven or hell right here on earthÉ. Our innate goodness is an essential fact of our existenceÉthe God within us the godhood within you is in a state of becoming perfect."
He has made no secret of his anti-Christian, anti-biblical beliefs which include:
As the religious forms of traditional Judaism and Christianity are losing their powers to inform the contemporary mind, the West desperately needs religious geniuses who can create new imaginal formsÉ. Theologians must begin to explore the vast unseen dimensions of our evolving universe. I am hoping to develop a body of knowledge about God that doesn't rely on ancient revelations or scripture [such as the Bible!] that is scientific and is not disputed because of divisions between religions or churches or ancient scripture. The truly humble shouldÉwelcome religious views from any place in the universe that is peopled with intelligent life the humble approach to theology is ongoing and constantly evolvingÉ.
Christians think God appeared in Jesus of Nazareth two thousand years ago for our salvation. But we should not take it to mean thatÉprogress stoppedÉthat Jesus was the end of changeÉ. God is billions of stars in the Milky Way. Time and space and energy are all part of God. God is five billion people on EarthÉ. God is untold billions of beings on planets of millions of other stars. God is in all of you and you are a little part of Him. The next stage of human divine progress on the evolutionary scale needs geniuses of the spirit, blazing trails for the rest of us to follow. To encourage progress of this kind, we have established the Templeton Foundation Prizes for Progress in Religion.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; Christianity is not a religion and it does not "progress" toward a better form. No Christian could possibly accept the Templeton Award as the person who had contributed the most during the year toward the Antichrist religion that Templeton is promoting. Yet Billy Graham did (1982), as did Chuck Colson (1993) and Bill Bright (1996). Colson gave his acceptance speech at the 1993 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago to an audience of cultists and occultists. On the stage behind him were representatives of many religions in their various robes. The meeting was opened with a Muslim chant and closed with a Buddhist prayer. These deluded people desperately needed to hear the gospel, but Colson did not give it to them.
Bill Bright received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in a Roman Catholic Church in Rome on May 9, 1996, with four cardinals present. He began his acceptance speech with, "Your Eminence Cardinal Cassidy." Cassidy was the Pope's representative who was the guiding hand behind Richard John Neuhaus (apostate Lutheran minister turned Catholic priest) and Colson in writing ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together). Bright continued, "The prestigious Templeton Prize, to me, because of the nature of its objective, is greater than any other prize that could be given for any purposeÉ. I would like to thank and commend Sir John Templeton for establishing this prize!" Sadly, Bright failed to present the gospel that his audience desperately needed to hear. His lengthy speech was filled with "religiously correct" ecumenical terms: moral standards unseen hand of God in my life's falling in love with Jesus personal spiritual journey worldwide spiritual awakening, etc. He came so close to the gospel (Christ had "an elaborate plan to redeem me") but didn't explain that plan. Bright referred to "His free gift of love and forgiveness" but never explained that the forgiveness is for our sins and is only possible because Christ paid the penalty we deserve.
Constraints of time and space have prevented a full recitation of apostasy and examples of the church's abandonment of the Word of God-the words of life itself. Just as His people Israel, to whom He sent His prophets to warn them of their apostasy and its dire consequences, would not listen, so it is today with many professing Christians. Glad to follow any pied piper who plays an enticing tune, and unwilling (and one day unable) to hear the Lord ("who is my strength and my song"-Exodus 15:2), they dance merrily on to judgment.
"When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Time on this earth is quickly drawing to a close. Let us determine once again to remain true to and earnestly contend for "the faith once delivered unto the saints." And in that perseverance, may our example give renewed courage and conviction to many others-and may we rescue many before it is forever too late.
 Jude 3.
 Acts 20:30.
 Jude 16.
 Matt 24:6-10; Mk 13:7-13; Lk 21:9-19.
 Matt 24:3.
 Matt 24:4-5.
 Matt 24:11.
 Matt 24:24.
 Jude 3-4.
 Isaiah 53:6-10.
 Jn 14:9.
 1 Tim 3:16.
 Washington Post, 7/30/96; 8/1/96; Washington Times, 8/1/96.
 1 Cor 15:3-4.
 Jn 3:17.
 Jer 13:10.
 "A Conversation with Eugene Peterson," Mars Hill Review, Fall 1995, Issue No. 3, 73-90.
 Richard J. Foster, ed., The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), General Introduction, xxxi.
 Ibid., 14-15.
 Ibid., 13-15.
 Ibid., From the introduction to Daniel, by James M. Rand, 1245.
 Foster, Renovare, 22, 32, 1375, 1377-78, 1384, etc.
 Lk 24:25-27, 44; Acts 9:22; 10:43; 13:15-41; 17:2-3; 18:28; Rom 1:1-5; 1 Cor 15:1-4, etc.
 Ibid., 997.
 Ibid., 982-83.
 Ibid., 982, 1068.
 Ibid., 984.
 Ibid., 1079.
 Ibid., 1080.
 Eph 1:7; Col 1:14.
 Ezek 37:11.
 Foster, RenovarŽ, 2284.
 Ibid., 2287.
 Ibid., 2288.
 Matt 4:4, etc.
 1 Pet. 1:23.
 H.J. Schroeder, trans., The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1978), Seventh Session, Canons on the Sacraments in General, Can 4.
 Ibid., Seventh Session, "Canons on Baptism," Can. 5.
 Ibid., Twenty-second Session, "Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass," Cans. 1, 3.
 Christian News, July 10, 1995, 1.
 The Gastonia Gazette, November 22, 1967.
 The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, ed. and trans. H. J. Schroeder, O.P. (IL: Tan Books, 1978), Sixth Session, Can. 30, p. 46.
 Chuck Colson, The Body, (W. Publishing Group, 1994), 271.
 Second Vatican Council, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indugences, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, January 1, 1967.
 Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, Norm 12.
 Our Sunday Visitor, June 2, 1996, 6-7.
 Halley's Bible Handbook, (Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), 997.
 Ibid., pp. 1009-1010
 Letter on file with author.
 Saturday Evening Post, January/February 1980.
 Ad for Sheen Gems: The Best of Fulton J. Sheen (video), vol. 1-2, quoting Billy Graham.
 Billy Graham, Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (HarperSanFrancisco/Zondervan, 1997), 692-93.
 The Woman I Love video (Clifton NJ: Keep the Faith).
 Nashua Telegram, December 10, 1079.
 Take Heed Ministries, Belfast, Northern Ireland, March 1999.
 Christianity Today, May 17, 1985.
 Arthur Johnston, Battle for World Evangelism (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1978), 328.
 Christian News, May 12, 1997, 11.
 Norman Vincent Peale, Plus: The Magazine of Positive Thinking, Vol 37, no. 4 (Part II), May 1986, 23.
 Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking (Fawcett Crest, 1983) 52-53.
 Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking (Center of Positive Thinking, 1987), 17.
 Hour of Power, April 12, 1992.
 Robert Schuller, Living Positively One Day at a Time (Hour of Power, 1983), 201; Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco, TX: Word Publishers, 1982), 115.
 McCalls, January 1978.
 Adelle M. Davis, Religion News Service, April 11, 2005.
 Larry King Live, February 24, 2005.
 Larry King Live, January 21, 1997.
 The New York Times, February 1, 1990, B4.
 The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 16, 1975.
 Newsweek, June 23, 1969.
 Plains Baptist Challenger, May 1975.
 Lawrence Elliott, I Will Be Called John: A Biography of Pope John XXIII (NY: Readers Digest Press, 1973).
 Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, April 11, 2005.
 Pat Robertson, The Turning Tide (Word, 1993), 279.
 Romans 1:16.
 The Orange County Register, 1993.
 Christianity Today, November 14, 1994.
 Peter Kreeft, Ecumenical Jihad (Ignatius Press, 1996), 96,
 Ibid., 96-111.
 Ibid., 158.
 Ibid. 144-45
 Our Sunday Visitor, November 13, 1988.
 San Francisco News, November 11, 1957.
 The Gastonia Gazette, November 22, 1967.
 The Gazette, October 17, 2005.
 Mt 7:22-23.
 1 Tim 4:1-2
 2 Tim. 3:1, 2, 8.
 Ex 7:22; 8:7.
 Ex 8:18.
 James Rutz, Megashift (Colorado Springs: Empowerment Press), 2005, 1-2, 27, 41.
 Praise the Lord, TBN, January 25, 1993; March 14, 1993.
 TBN Newsletter, August 1993.
 TBN, March 14, 1993.
 2 Tim 4:8; 1 Jn 3:2.
 G. Richard Fisher and M. Kurt Goedelman, The Confusing World of Benny Hinn, St. Louis, MO: Personal Freedom
Outreach, 2002, 199-200.
 Ibid., 34.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 33.
 Praise the Lord Newsletter, March 1993.
 TBN Praise-a-thon, April 1990.
 Mike Thomas, Florida Magazine, 11/24/91.
 Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, "The End Time Manifestation of the Sons of God," tape 1.
 1 Tim 4:1.
 Norman Vincent Peale, Positive Imaging (Fleming H. Revell, 1982), etc.
 Yonggi Cho, The Fourth Dimansion (Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1979), Vol I, 83.
 Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (Harper & Row, 1978), 26.
 Foster, Celebration, 26-27.
 Calvin Miller, The Table of Inwardness (Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), 93-94.
 Robert L. Wise, "Healing of the Memories: A Prayer Therapy for You?," Christian Life Magazine, July 1984, 63-64.
 .Yonggi Cho, The Fourth Dimension (Plainfield NJ: Logos International, 1979 ), 48.
 William L. Vaswig, I Prayed, He Answered (Augsburg Press, 1977), 72.
 Jer 13:10.
 Gen 6:5.
 Pat Robertson in form letter on The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc. letterhead, 4/19/94.
 "A Conversation with Eugene Peterson," Mars Hill Review, 1995.
 2 Pet. 2:1-3.
 Charisma & Christian Life, January 1990, 22.
 Joyce Meyer, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make (Harrison House, 1991), 3.
 Kenneth Copeland, TBN, April 21, 1991; "The Price of it All," Believer's Voice of Victory, September 1991, 4.
 Rom 1:16.
 Julia Dunn, Houston Chronicle, April 30, 1988, Religion, 1.
 Donahue, NBC Television, June 1987.
 Bob Slosser, "The Election According to Pat Robertson," Charisma & Christian Life, October 1988, 56.
 John Marks Templeton, The Humble Approach (Contiuum, 1981, revised in 1994), 130.
 Ibid., 48, 53.
 Eph 1:7; Col 1:14.
 Lk 18:8.
Willow Creek's Affiliation with the Emergent
One step forward and three steps back
It takes honest leadership to admit you were wrong, as in the case of willow Creek, a church that has been a seeker friendly model of ministry to many. But are we seeing steps of change in the right direction?
After an admission they were wrong and made a mistake Hawkins states “Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.”
Willow Creek thinks God wants us to “transform the planet!” This didn’t sit well with me after I first read this. Time will always give us a bearing on where one is headed. After 30 years they realized they had moved away. Well it did not take long…They are now moving to be part of the emerging spirituality, that includes Rick Warren and many other major Christian leaders who believe the church will transform cities and usher in the kingdom of God on earth before Christ returns. Hopes to transform the planet certainly has dominionist language, on the other side those who know the season we are in look forward to completely different scenario for the church.
Transforming the world before it becomes too late is hardly something you will find in the bible which makes it clear Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (until he comes again) and we are in conflict with the world that is under the influence of Satan and his kingdom that is presently ruling through
We are to become separate from the world to be any good for God’s kingdom, as we rescue individuals.
While this church seems to have had an awakening of sorts – a churches midlife crises after 30 years, the next step they take will show their direction for the coming years.
Willow creek has been known as one the most influential mega-churches in America (implementing a seeker friendly approach). When a church bases its success on growth, attendance and making the “unchurched” feel comfortable by avoiding giving them the straightforward word instead of a spiritual maturity with Christ through the word. You can say they are missing the main basis for the church’s leadership - that is to equip believers to be spiritual so they can do ministry. This can only come by knowing the word and understanding the way it was written.
Hybel's on this change they are implementing states: “We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own”
However, Hybel's on the front of their website “There is nothing like the local church when the local church is working right. The local church has been entrusted with carrying the life-changing message of Jesus Christ, and it’s the only hope I see for this hurting and broken world.
“the local church help lost people come to faith, it helps lonely, broken-hearted people cope with the brutality of evil in this world. …Lost people get found, lonely people find community, the bereaved find comfort, the committed grow deeper and stronger in their faith. In Acts 2:43 it says that sometimes people in the first church just stood in awe. Throughout the past 30 years, I have had that experience myself over and over.”
How does one say this with approval of the past and also say it was a mistake how they practiced the church? Seems to be somewhat contradictory to me.
Their new Fall 2007 Catalog gives a clear picture of their direction resources offered by New Age proponent Rob Bell, contemplative author Keri Wyatt Kent, and the Ancient Future Conference with emerging leaders Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch as well as resources by Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg. Time will tell what Willow Creek intends to do about strengthening its focus on “spiritual practices” and “transform[ing] the planet.”
Articles titles in Willow issue certainly make a statement that things are going to change: “Seismic Shifts-Rediscovering Spiritual Formation,” “Stemming the Tide,” “The Changing Face of Worship,” “Shifts in Missional Mindset,” and “The Next Great Debate.” Lectio Divina, shifting together, community transformation p.44 global shifts one city at a time. All of this has the flavor of not getting back to the Bible but being emergent and part of the new apostolic dominionism agenda.
In the first article, “Seismic Shifts,” the message is: “Change or die. ... If the local church refuses to change, it will die. ... But the winds of change are blowing. Leaders and entire congregations are making the choice to try something new. They are looking at the world, culture, norms and trends and they are daring to take a chance, venture a risk, find another way.” Bell explains that the other articles in the issue give “snapshots” of how the church is now shifting.
Another article, “Rediscovering Spiritual Formation,” a promoter of mediation Keri Wyatt Kent writes on “monastic communities” and “the emergent church.” Quoting or favorably referring to mystics like Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, David Benner, John Ortberg, etc.) Kent paints a picture that shows mysticism's role in this seismic shift Willow Creek proclaims. She correctly states that while there are some “conservative” Christians who are suspect of spiritual formation, by and large the term and “the practices” have become “mainstream.” These practices, of course, are the mystical practices that are the energy behind the spiritual formation movement.
They want to change the way we “do” church, going from seeker friendly which has worn out its travel time to the newest fad Emergent-itus.
On April 9-11, 2008 the student ministry at Willow Creek will be offering a conference called Shift. Their advertisement brochure states, “As the world of student ministry continues to shift and change, so do the needs of those who serve students. Recognizing this, our team has designed an event that is unlike any other Student Ministries Conference we’ve ever hosted.”
The brochure promises to offer the students a variety of models of ministry at the Conference. The fact is that it is balanced toward mysticism and the emergent movement. Speakers include key emergent leaders, Brian McLaren, Mark Yaconelli, Scot McKnight and Dan Kimball. (www.willowcreek.com/shift2008/AboutShift.html.
Say goodnight folks- these men will certainly bring them to the end of the road. These men they are now affiliating with go beyond their former contemporaries of liberalism preached in many colleges and by the Jesus seminar. They are leading the church to become part of one big “happy family” that is united with all the other religions that have similar goals. This incorporates a form of liberation theology where we have a society that is practicing a social justice for all. Mclarens New Kind of Christian is not a Biblical one, but a mystic. Not only do they go past the boundaries, they are leading everyone over the cliff.
Contemplative prayer spiritual formation are part of the emergent church’s break from Biblical Christianity practiced by the apostles, in its place they look to the monastic “church fathers” that tried to escape the world and live out away from civilization. They feed their hungry searchers an experiential mysticism -- this is not the same as a Spiritual man that is growing in doctrine.
The dialectic process is strong in the new paradigm churches as they move from error to even deeper error, to a place where no light can be seen. Robert Schuller has written in his classic dialectic book Self-Esteem: The New Reformation: “Classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be ‘God-centered,’ not ‘man-centered’” (p. 64.) “The Cross sanctifies the ego trip. For the Cross protected our Lord’s perfect self-esteem from turning into sinful pride” (p. 75). “And what is hell?... A person is in hell when he has lost his self-esteem” (p.14-15). McLaren and the rest of the “emergent rethink and rebuild” culture shapers are moved by the same concepts of Schuller, the similarities cannot be denied. As the old statement birds of a feather will flock together. Amos wrote 3:3 “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? The apostle John- 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
How can Hybels statement: “Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture” (empahsis mine). How can this be accomplished if they unite with those who are teaching a direction that goes away from the Scripture does not uphold absolute truth?
A motto of the emergent movement is to “rethink everything,” and replace it with “new insights” which is also a practice of the Hegalian dialectic used to reshape mass portions of the population. In his book “Everything Must Change,” thirty-four chapters end with “group dialogue questions.” Which is a advantageous way to introduce new unbiblical concepts or wrong practicies of these concepts to the readers.
For example McLaren states Jesus came to become the Savior of the world, to save the earth and everything it contains from the ongoing destruction caused by human evil (p. 79). Hardly the real meaning of salvation where Jesus said in john 3:16-19 he was sent so we would not perish, this is done by placing faith in him.
None of this has the real intent of getting back into the word but instead removes people from it. The emergent church promoters want us to rethink all of our beliefs. While in some areas this can be healthy, but what we are seeing emerge from them is not.
Brian McLaren: “The phrase “the Second Coming of Christ” never actually appears in the Bible. Whether or not the doctrine to which the phrase refers deserves re-thinking, a popular abuse of it certainly needs to be named and rejected. If we believe that Jesus came in peace the first time, but that wasn’t his “real” and decisive coming - it was just a kind of warm-up for the real thing - then we leave the door open to envisioning a second coming that will be characterized by violence, killing, domination, and eternal torture. This vision reflects a diversion, a return to trust in the power of Pilate, not the unarmed truth that stood before Pilate, refusing to fight...
If we remain charmed by this kind of eschatology, we will be forced to see the nonviolence of the Jesus of the Gospels as a kind of strategic fake-out, like a feigned retreat in war, to be followed up by a crushing blow of so-called redemptive violence in the end. The gentle Jesus of the first coming becomes a kind of trick Jesus, a fake-me-out Messiah, to be replaced by the true jihadist Jesus of a violent second coming.”
“This is why I believe that many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John’s Apocalypse are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral” (p. 144 “Everything Must Change” Jesus, global crises and a revolution of hope ).
If one were to do a Bible study on John’s Apocalypse (the book of revelation) and the other prophets they would actually see the plain truth in the Scripture- judgment is coming. While I will not at this time go into depth and refute his opinion that changes the hundreds of Scriptures pertaining the second coming from the Old and New Testament, I will at least point out the Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus in this way: 1 Thess 4:15-17: “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
In the next chapter Paul continues (5:1-3) saying: “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
Welcome to the shift that leaves out one of the most important events in Scripture besides the birth and death/ resurrection of our savior. Shift is a new age term used for many years, just as transformation is. There is a shift going on and it is from the New age infiltrating the church, only those who are strong in the word and discerning will be able to stand against the wind which is teaching people to improve the world and remove themselves from the belief of a second coming
This is a trend just like the trend before and the trend before that – except it is more dangerous. This is why the Bible says: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer” (2 Timothy 2:14-17).
1 Thessalonians 2:2-7: “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. 4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness--God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others…”
The Bible is just as relevant today then when the warnings were written. Jude 12-15: “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
we should not be fellowshipping with those who hold to such blatant error.
For research purposes- Hawkins’ video clip - www.revealnow.com/story.asp?storyid=48
Hybels’ video- the 2007 Leadership Summit- www. http://revealnow.com/story.asp?storyid=31
Reference sources use Source: Lighthouse Trails
Gary Gilley's newsletter
This is a must read or even a MUST PRINT OUT!!:
* The Message is NOT a "version" of the Bible but a paraphrase that is perverted.
EMERGING CHURCH PASTOR DOUG PAGITT
By Ken Silva pastor-teacher on Sep 9, 2008 in Emergent Church
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:18-19)
The Emerging Church Ties To The Church Growth Movement
Concerning Emergent Church pastor and spokesman Doug Pagitt “mission consultant” Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, who has been part of the Emerging Church since its inception circa 1997, he tells us:
I have always been a big fan of Doug Pagitt. We met in San Francisco in 1997 when our family was ministering with street kids. Doug was working for Leadership Network and his role was to create a group of Young Leaders that would help bridge the transition in ministry from the old to the new, and be able to explain it. That group of 10 couples later changed their name to Emergent but well befthen, we had a lot of good times and interesting conferences. The big one was 1998 New Edge Conference in Glorieta, New Mexico… (Online source)
You’ll note that Jones tells us Pagitt worked for Leadership Network. And now Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village and a parishioner of Doug Pagitt’s, fills us in further concerning this time period in the career of his pastor:
In 1997, Doug Pagitt left the employ of Wooddale Church in Minnesota and went to work for Leadership Network, a Texas-based foundation that brings together church leaders who mainly talk about building bigger churches (yes, that’s a charicature). Doug’s job was to build networks of youth pastors and young adult pastors, but being the radical subversive that he is, Doug quickly attracted some revolutionaries who thought that the whole way church is done in the U.S. needed to be overthrown.
The “Young Leaders’ Network” was born. A national conference was held in Glorieta, NM (earlier incarnations, called “GenX 1.0″ and GenX 2.0″ came before what is now simply referred to in Emergent lore as “Glorieta”). The national gathering was followed by several regional conferences, and the word was spreading — by this time, many of the individuals who are currently on the “Coordinating Group” were involved, as well as several others who have since chosen to distance themselves from Emergent.
Big changes were taking place at Leadership Network as Doug and Shelley left to plant Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis. Regardless of the work of new personnel and those of us who were volunteering, what had then become known as “Terra Nova” was doomed. Ultimately, we wanted to talk about changes in theology, and Leadership Network avoided theological conversations in an attempt to maintain a “big tent.”
After a bit of treading water, including a significant meeting in Chigago to try and salvage the Leadership Network realtionship, we had a conference call and formally decided to go it on our own, under the name “Emergent.” (Online source)
The discernment work Herescope tells is in “How Leadership Network created the ‘Emerging Church’” that there “are many interconnections between Bob Buford of the Leadership Network, Rick Warren of ‘purpose-driven’ fame, and Brian McLaren of the ‘Emerging Church’” (Online source). The point being this clearly shows us that the tres trendy Emerging Church movement is itself just another extension of the semi-pelagian pragmatic Church Growth Movement, which explains why it’s so readily blending into the rest of today’s apostatizing postevangelicalism.
The introduction to the Crosstalk radio program for May 16, 2007 informs us:
Ingrid began this edition of Crosstalk by featuring a recorded interview she conducted with emergent pastor Doug Pagitt, pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s also the co-author of a book entitled, Emergent Manifesto of Hope.
Doug discusses how he feels the gospel is understood and embedded within other social and spiritual systems. He also discusses his disagreement with the concept of the depravity of man, as well as his definition of the gospel,
Another part of the program features a portion of an interview with Dave Flemming, once a conservative evangelical pastor who eventually began to embrace a wider spirituality.
In the end we’re left with this question: Does the emergent church represent a new manifesto of hope or confusion? Pastor Bob DeWaay of Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis, Minnesota, joins Ingrid to help answer that question, bringing clarity and discernment concerning this new movement that’s challenging the Church today. (Online source)
Should We Use As Christian Teachers People Who Deny The Gospel?
Recently Dr. John MacArthur clearly stated concerning Doug Pagitt:
Let me just cut to the chase on this one: [Doug] Pagitt is a Universalist. What he was saying is real simple. He was saying when you die your spirit goes to God and judgment means that whatever was not right about you, whatever was bad about you, whatever was substantially lacking about you, gets all resolved. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Buddhist, a Hindu or a Muslim—doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian really; we’re all going to end up in this wonderful, warm and fuzzy relationship with God. That’s just classic universalism. (Online source)
Pastor Bob DeWaay, who also appears with Ingrid Schlueter on the aforementioned Crosstalk program, debated Doug Pagitt in The Emergent Church and Postmodern Spirituality Debate and afterward DeWaay told me, “I have never debated theology with someone who claimed to be a Christian that I had so little in common with.”
Whatever you make of the above assessments by those two respected pastors, Apprising Ministries can tell you that the words spoken below by Doug Pagitt from the Crosstalk program are not those of a pastor-teacher who has has been sent by Christ Jesus:
Ingrid Schlueter: So what you’re saying is that the question of whether the Gospel exists in other religions is a thrilling question that we should be asking.
Doug Pagitt: I think it’s the biblical question. Yes, I think it’s the right biblical question. I think, I find that you couldn’t read the New Testament without that question being raised and without the answers to it being the answers that we should be paying to; which is there is no culture or religion which holds God in complete isolation or purity. (15:25-15:56)
And then a bit later along the same line:
Ingrid Schlueter: So we could interpret what you’re saying as how is God at work; how is the Gospel present within Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism—all of the different religions of the world.
Doug Pagitt: Yeah, for sure because—I mean—Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, those are not—I me—they are the right way to say ‘em. They are “isms,”right; so they are a school of thought, and they are also embedded in a particular cultural setting. And so I think someone could say, “yes, I can see how God—how God is expressed, talked about, understood, through these schools of thought.” Which I find to be quite helpful and they’re not all in contrast with my Christianity. (17:05-17:47)
The question you need to begin asking your local evangelical church leadership right now is: What are men like this, who know not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, doing in our youth groups? And the video link presented here below concerns that Emerging Church Solomon’s Porch, which Tony Jones is talking about above and attends. As you watch the following ask yourself: Are we really getting a glimpse of the “missional” future of the genuine Gospel preached by our Lord Jesus Christ or rather are we looking at just another one of its counterfeits?
“[In the Emerging Church] the idea that there is a necessary distinction of…creation from creator is being reconsidered.”
Doug Pagitt (Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Churches, 142.)
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)
So Jesus died for nothing! That grieves me more than anything when I hear such gross lying!
Doug Pagitt and what he teaches equals
1 Timothy 4:1-2
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
Ed Hindson on what will happen After The Rapture of The Church
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)
Doug Pagitt: Universalism is Thrilling
Apprising Ministries has posted a piece about the teachings of emergent leader Doug Pagitt.
Doug believes that the idea of the Gospel being found in other world religions is a thrilling prospect.
Of course, it’s only thrilling if you enjoy rebelling against the clear teachings of Scripture.
Strange what thrills emerging leaders, isn’t it?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)
"I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand: for this I also believe, that unless I believe I will not understand." --Anselm of Canterbury
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
hmmm... well there are plenty of things that are fun, but are not sin.... i don't know if that makes it fair to assume that there must be some sins which are not fun. it makes me think of addiction- that is not fun- but usually the ones trapped in addiction do not want to be there anymore and it was not what they were trying to accomplish when they started abusing the substance that they are addicted to.
and, not all addiction is willful abuse. i was given morphine at my car accident, i could have become addicted if my Drs weren't as cautious as they were, and the vicodin i used to deal with the pain while healing, i was able to bear the pain enough to not to overuse the medicine. some have a harder time than others, through no real fault of their own.
so, i don't know that all sin is fun, but i can bet that the results are more often than not, no fun at all...
sorry to derail....
A Biblically based commentary on current issues that impact you
The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines
A Critique of Dallas Willard and The Spirit of the Disciplines
by Bob DeWaay
Practices called “spiritual disciplines” that are deemed necessary for “spiritual formation” have entered evangelicalism. Recent encounters with this teaching narrated to me by friends caused me to investigate these practices. The first experience involved my friend and co-worker Ryan Habbena who went back to seminary to finish his masters degree. Here is his experience in his own words:
I recently took a seminary course on the book of Luke. It was a summer intensive and was one of only two classes being offered at the time. About midway through the week, while the class was steeped in trying to discern the intent and significance of the book of Luke, we began to hear the echoes of mystic chanting coming through the walls. As it turned out, the other class being offered was parked right next to ours. The paper thin walls were carrying the choruses of a class exploring the life and teachings of Catholic mystic Henry Nouwen. We proceeded, trying to concentrate on studying the Scriptures while tuning out the chants that were carrying on next door. Perhaps what was more unsettling though is the class studying Nouwen was chock full, while there were plenty of empty seats next door for anyone wanting to learn about the inspired book of Luke.1
How can this be? A Baptist seminary was favorably studying the teachings of this Catholic mystic whose own biographers describe as having had emotional problems and homosexual inclinations.2 Soon after talking to Ryan, I met a lady who attends a Christian college. As part of her study program she was required to take a course on spiritual formation at her college. Spiritual formation in her class also concerned the study of Roman Catholic mystics and the search for techniques to help those who implement them feel closer to God. This study also explored “spiritual disciplines” which promised to make those who practiced them more Christ-like. After she finished the class she shared her textbooks with me. This article will focus on the claims of one of these text books, The Spirit of the Disciplines, by Dallas Willard.3 In our study we shall see that those promoting spiritual disciplines in courses of study called “spiritual formation” make claims that are unbiblical and dangerous.
Jesus’ “Yoke” as “Spiritual Disciplines”
Dallas Willard bases his entire spiritual disciplines book on his understanding of Matthew 11:29, 30, which says, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” Willard cites this passage at the beginning of a chapter entitled “The Secret of the Easy Yoke,”4 Willard says, “And in this truth lies the secret of the easy yoke: the secret involves living as he lived in the entirety of his life—adopting his overall life-style.”5 He also says, “We have to discover how to enter into his disciplines from where we stand today—and no doubt, how to extend and amplify them to suit our needy cases.”6 He claims that the “yoke” is to try to emulate Jesus’ lifestyle in every possible way.7 Willard interprets Jesus’ “yoke” as the practice of spiritual disciplines like solitude, silence, and simple living. He later adds voluntary banishment and others that we will discuss later.
Willard is very critical of traditional Protestant doctrine and practice, declaring it a massive failure.8 His remedy for this failure is to see the body and certain ascetic practices using the body as the means of change: “Looking back over our discussion to this point, we have connected the reality of the easy yoke with the practice of the spiritual disciplines. These in turn have led us to the body’s role in redemption.”9 He claims that we have been misguided by being concerned with the forgiveness of sins and “theories of the atonement.” He says, “Salvation as conceived today is far removed from what it was in the beginnings of Christianity and only by correcting it can God’s grace in salvation be returned to the concrete, embodied existence of our human personalities walking with Jesus in his easy yoke.”10 According to this thinking, the yoke of Jesus involves using the body in certain ways to accomplish changed lives:
Although we call the disciplines “spiritual”—and although they must never be undertaken apart from a constant, inward interaction with God and his gracious Kingdom—they never fail to require specific acts and dispositions of our body as we engage in them. We are finite and limited to our bodies. So the disciplines cannot be carried out except as our body and its parts are surrendered in precise ways and definite actions to God.11
So evidently, rather than concerning ourselves with the blood atonement, averting God’s wrath against sin, salvation by faith through grace, we should be practicing spiritual disciplines with our bodies so that we could then be more like Jesus.
The concept of Jesus’ “yoke” being interpreted as an invitation to practice His life-style is reiterated throughout Willard’s book; see pages 91, 121, and 235. This idea is the framework and logical foundation of Willard’s entire thesis. But the question is, “Is this what Jesus meant in Matthew 11:29, 30?” Let us examine the passage in context to see if teaches the spiritual disciplines.
The True Meaning of Jesus’ “Yoke”
If we want to understand Matthew 11:29, 30 it is essential that we understand the context, particularly the meaning of verse 28. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). We must understand Jesus’ offer of rest in the context of His debates with the religious leaders. Their “yoke” demanded the strict observance of Sabbath rules and their oral tradition. Immediately after Jesus’ offer of “rest” in Him, there ensued a Sabbath debate with the religious leaders accusing Jesus and His disciples of being Sabbath breakers (see Matthew 12). They plucked grain on the Sabbath and Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Jesus was offering true Sabbath rest and the Jewish leaders were offering the yoke of the Law. Jesus’ yoke was different. Jesus perfectly kept the law so that all who would come to him would enter into the true Sabbath rest that could never be achieved by keeping the rules laid down by the religious leaders.
Taking this understanding of the term “yoke” we can see what Jesus meant in Matthew 11. His words came in the middle of a dispute with Jewish leadership. He had pronounced woe upon cities that did not repent (Matthew 11:20-24). He uttered this prayer:
At that time Jesus answered and said, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:25-27)
The wise and intelligent were the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees who accused Jesus of being a Sabbath breaker and who refused to repent when they witnessed His miracles. They rejected both Jesus and John the Baptist in a most fickle manner (Matthew 11:16-19). They refused to come to God on His terms, but demanded that God the Son obey them on their terms! So Jesus pronounced the judgment of hardening on them and chose instead to reveal Himself to babes.
When Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), He was offering them what the Jewish leadership rejected—Messianic salvation. True Sabbath rest is only found in Christ (see Hebrews 4:1-9). Ironically, the people who accused Jesus of being a Sabbath breaker were the ultimate Sabbath breakers because they rejected the only one who could give true rest. They put the yoke of law keeping on the people but kept them from the one true Law keeper, Christ who died for their sins. Therefore, no matter how scrupulous and religious a person is, if he or she does not come to Christ by faith, that person is under the yoke of bondage rather than the Sabbath rest for the people of God.
There are other places in the New Testament where the term “yoke” is used in the sense of the requirement of law keeping. Two of them are very pertinent to interpreting Matthew 11:28-30. In Acts 15 the apostles gathered in Jerusalem to determine whether the new Gentile converts would be required to keep the Law. The three most prominent laws that marked off the Jews as unique were the food laws, Sabbath, and circumcision. Peter’s speech convinced the apostles that the Gentiles were not obliged to follow such Jewish laws:
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (Acts 15:7-11)
The “yoke” was being under the Law.
Now consider how Paul used the same term: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). The Judaizers wanted to put Christians under obligation to be circumcised and Paul called this “a yoke of slavery.”
So Jesus’ yoke is in stark contrast to the “yoke” that the religious leaders put on the people. He is offering salvation to all who come to Him by faith. Craig Blomberg summarizes this section in Matthew 11:
The sequence of thought of vv. 25-30 thus progresses as follows. The increasing polarization of response to Jesus in fact reflects God’s sovereign choices (vv. 25-26). Jesus is God’s unique agent in the outworking of those choices (v. 27). This gives him God’s authority to call people to himself (vv. 28-30). The invitation to come to Christ remains for all today, but now as then it requires the recognition that persons cannot come by exalting themselves (recall v. 23) but only by completely depending on and trusting Christ.12
Jesus’ Yoke is to Practice Spiritual Disciplines?
Therefore our conclusion is that in Matthew 11 Jesus was offering salvation to all who come to Him. Now let us examine Willard’s claim that Jesus was telling people to try to emulate His life-style. Willard claims that we are failing to practice the disciplines that would make us able to live better lives and that most Christians are failing to live lives pleasing to God. He further states that the solution is that we practice spiritual disciplines that are based on Jesus’ lifestyle and supplemented by practices of the Medieval Catholic Church. So he sees Jesus’ “yoke” as an offer to take up a life-style that will make us better people, rather than an offer of true Sabbath rest through Christ’s finished work on the cross. This is tantamount to substituting works for grace, and making Jesus an ethical teacher whose example can be followed rather than the unique Son of God who alone always does the things that please the Father. Willard offers no exegetical analysis of the passage in Matthew to defend his interpretation. In my opinion, his position is not defensible.
Does the Bible Prescribe the Spiritual Disciplines?
The spiritual disciplines are not taught in Matthew 11:29, 30 (Willard’s primary proof test), and even Willard admits they cannot be found elsewhere in scripture (we shall show this momentarily). But he is nevertheless enthusiastic about the recent rediscovery of the disciplines.
Dallas Willard is excited to tell us that finally, through the lead of people like Richard Foster, we are having a revival of the use of spiritual disciplines. Writes Willard: “Today, for the first time in our history as a nation, we are being presented with a characteristic range of human behaviors such as fasting, meditation, simple living, and submission to a spiritual overseer, in an attractive light.”13 He claims that ordinary means such as Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism are inadequate and having failed, have left most Christians as failures. He writes, “All pleasing and doctrinally sound schemes of Christian education, church growth, and spiritual renewal came around at last to this disappointing result. But whose fault was this failure?”14 The “failure,” according to Willard is that, “. . . the gospel preached and the instruction and example given these faithful ones simply do not do justice to the nature of human personality, as embodied, incarnate.”15 So what does this mean? It means that we have failed because our gospel had too little to do with our bodies.
The spiritual disciplines are supposed to remedy this deficiency. Willard says, “By contrast, the secret of the standard, historically proven spiritual disciplines is precisely that they do respect and count on the bodily nature of human personality.”16 Willard claims that Paul understood the need for such practices but that they were lost: “Paul’s teaching, especially when added to his practices, strongly suggest that he understood and practiced something vital about the Christian life that we have lost—and that we must do our best to recover.”17 Of course, had Paul bothered to write about these “lost” disciplines in his epistles, they would not have been lost.
So why did Paul fail to write about these secret, lost disciplines? Willard’s answer is that Paul had in mind, “. . . a precise course of action he understood in definite terms, carefully followed himself, and called others to share . . . So obviously so, for him and the readers of his own day, that he would feel no need to write a book on the disciplines for the spiritual life that explained systematically what he had in mind.”18 Translated that means that Paul did not write about the spiritual disciplines because everyone was practicing them. Willard goes on to say, “It is almost impossible in the thought climate of today’s Western world to appreciate just how utterly unnecessary it was for Paul to say explicitly, in the world in which he lived, that Christians should fast, be alone, study, give, and so forth as regular disciplines for the spiritual life.”19 There is a serious problem here that Willard overlooks: Paul did write about approaches like these—he wrote against them!
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)-- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (Colossians 2:20-23)
They had ascetics in Paul’s day and he rebuked them. Willard never discusses this passage which teaches explicitly that “severe treatment of the body” cannot help us find freedom from sinfulness.
Where do we find this “wisdom” that Paul failed to write about? Says Willard, “This is not something St. Paul had to prove or even explicitly state to his readers—but it also was not something he overlooked, leaving it to be thought up by crazed monks in the Dark Ages. It is, rather, a wisdom gleaned from millennia of collective human experience.”20 So the disciplines we need to be more like Christ cannot be found in the Bible, but they can be gleaned from religious history. Willard tells us, “But thoughtful and religiously devout people of the classical and Hellenistic world, from the Ganges to the Tiber, knew that the mind and body of the human being had to be rigorously disciplined to achieve a decent individual and social existence.”21
The obvious problem with this is that if this type of logic is valid, we could claim that we need Ouija Boards as part of our spiritual practice and that Paul and other early Christians must have been using them so regularly there was no need to write about them. Ironically, Willard admits that the Bible does not command us to practice the spiritual disciplines he prescribes.
To hear evangelicals like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster tell us that we need practices that were never spelled out in the Bible to become more like Christ or to get closer to God is astonishing. What is more astonishing is that evangelical colleges and seminaries are requiring their students to study practices that are relics of Medieval Rome, not found in the Bible, and closely akin to the practices of many pagan societies.
The False Gospel of Human Ability
As with most unbiblical approaches, the spiritual disciplines are based on the idea of innate human powers that can be harnessed for good. Holding a false concept of sin as a “disruption of that higher [spiritual] life,”22 Willard looks for a solution through finding our true potential, individually and corporately, through spiritual disciplines that will enable us to reconstruct the rule of God now. Willard says, “The evil that we do in our present condition is a reflection of a weakness caused by spiritual starvation.”23 Rather than wicked rebels abiding under God’s wrath, humans are bundles of huge potential who have lost their way through “disruption of the higher powers.” We supposedly have great potential: “It is the amazing extent of our ability to utilize power outside ourselves that we must consider when we ask what the human being is. The limits of our power to transcend ourselves utilizing powers not located in us—including of course, the spiritual—are yet to be fully known.”24 Willard gives this interpretation of 1John 3:2: “Because of his personal experience with spiritual powers brought to him in Christ, John sensed unimaginable greatness in our destiny.”25
So how do we tap into this great human potential? He says we must tap into the spiritual dimension using spiritual disciplines. Willard shares his definition of “spirit”: “If the missing element in the present human order is that of the spirit, what then is spirit? Very simply, spirit is unembodied personal power.”26 His idea is that “spirit” is the missing nutrient that we need to realize our full potential. The ideas of total depravity, the wrath of God against sin, the blood atonement, and the cross are either absent or distorted in Willard’s theology. What replaces these truths is the hope that we will realize our potential through tapping into the spiritual kingdom of God. This is to be done by the use of spiritual disciplines to obtain the necessary power to transform the world. The terminology that Willard uses is strange and unbiblical. For example, he writes,
“When the human organism is brought into willing, personal relationship with the spiritual Kingdom of God, ‘sucking in orderliness’ from that particular part of the human environment, it becomes pervasively transformed, as a corn stalk in drought is transformed by the onset of drenching rain—the contact with the water transforms the plant inwardly and then extends it outwardly. In the same way, people are transformed by contact with God.”27
These ideas are more akin to Eastern Religion than Biblical Christianity. Our problem is not the need to suck in more “unembodied personal power” by techniques to contact God. We are dead sinners facing God’s wrath unless we repent and believe the gospel. Willard’s concepts are foreign to the Bible. He says, “A ‘spiritual life’ consists in that range of activities in which people cooperatively interact with God—and with the spiritual order deriving from God’s personality and action.”28 This means practicing asceticism through the spiritual disciplines. He says, “The disciplines are activities of the mind and body purposely undertaken, to bring our personality and total being into effective cooperation with the divine order.”29 This depends on us: “Yet even as we reach for more grace to this end, we also learn by experience that the harmonization of our total self with God will not be done for us. We must act.”30
What results are in store for the church when we take action to tap into this spiritual dimension to realize our full potential? The church will be the incarnation of Christ and the kingdom of God will come through us, now, before Christ’s bodily return. Rejecting the pre-millennial doctrine, Willard says, “Often, we are told that the rule of God upon the earth will be fulfilled in a great act of violence, in which multitudes of people are slain by God, followed by a totalitarian government of literally infinite proportions, headquartered in Jerusalem.”31 He fails to mention that this “totalitarian” rule is the rule of Christ Himself as promised in the Bible. What is Willard’s alternative? – “I believe, to the contrary, that the coming rule of God is to be a government by grace and truth meditated through personalities mature in Christ.”32 It is amazing that he would consider Christ Himself reigning as “totalitarian” and us reigning as “grace and truth.”
For Willard, Christ is not coming for the church but in the church: “The real presence of Christ as a world-governing force will come solely as his called out people occupy their stations in the holiness and power characteristic of him, as they demonstrate to the world the way to live that is best in every respect.”33 We gain the ability to reign over the world for Christ through spiritual disciplines.
Since these disciplines were the order of the day for Rome at a period where her goal was to rule over the world, I wonder why the result was the Dark Ages? What kind of glib optimism would make us think that if we try them again, this time we will have a better outcome? Whenever theology turns to human potential and human ability aided by some type of spiritual infusion, the result is utopian dreaming. Supposedly we do not need to have Christ return in judgment and set up His Kingdom; we just need to tap into great human potential that has never been fully implemented. Willard says that Christ’s way has not yet been tried.34
According to Willard’s theology, just like Christ coming at the fullness of time during the first advent, the church will be the answer (not Christ’s bodily return) for the coming kingdom. We, not Jesus, will be the new incarnation: “[T]here is likewise a fullness of time for his people to stand forth with the concrete style of existence for which the world has hungered in its thoughtful moments and praised through its poets and prophets. As a response to this world’s problems, the gospel of the Kingdom will never make sense except as it is incarnated—we say ‘fleshed out’—in ordinary human beings in all ordinary conditions of human life.”35
By downplaying the doctrine of total depravity and the sin nature, Willard makes it seem plausible that we can be infused by divine power and establish the kingdom now. The Bible, however, predicts apostasy and the revealing of the man of lawlessness just before Christ returns in judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). Willard’s assertions lack sound exegetical work from the scriptures for their support. He needs to offer a clearer definition of the kingdom of God and provide Biblical support for the idea that we can establish it before Christ returns. Lacking Biblical support, his arguments are unconvincing.
Which Spiritual Disciplines?
The spiritual disciplines that are supposedly necessary for spiritual formation are not defined in the Bible. If they were, there would be a clear description of them and concrete list. But since spiritual disciplines vary, and have been invented by spiritual pioneers in church history, no one can be sure which ones are valid. Willard says, [W]e need not try to come up with a complete list of disciplines. Nor should we assume that our particular list will be right for others.”36 The practices are gleaned from various sources and the individual has to decide which ones work the best. Willard lists the following: voluntary exile, night vigil of rejecting sleep, journaling, OT Sabbath keeping, physical labor, solitude, fasting, study, and prayer.37 Willard then lists “disciplines of abstinence” (solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice) and “disciplines of engagement” (study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission).38
Willard offers a discussion of each of these, citing people like Thomas Merton, Thomas a Kempis, Henri Nouwen, and other mystics. We are told that practices like solitude and silence are going to change us, even though the Bible does not prescribe them. Willard writes, “This factual priority of solitude is, I believe, a sound element in monastic asceticism. Locked into interaction with the human beings that make up our fallen world, it is all but impossible to grow in grace as one should.”39 So if we cannot grow in grace without solitude, how come the Bible never commands us to practice solitude? The same goes for many other items on Willard’s list.
Willard tells us that the list of disciplines he provides is not exhaustive. Others can be pragmatically determined. He says, “As we have indicated, there are many other activities that could, for the right person and upon the right occasion, be counted as spiritual disciplines in the strict sense stated of our previous chapter. The walk with Christ certainly is one that leaves room for and even calls for individual creativity and an experimental attitude in such matters.”40 However, there is a serious problem with Willard’s logic here. Earlier he rejected such practices as self-flagellation, exposing the body to severities including being eaten by beetles, being suspended by iron shackles, and other means of severely treating the body in order to become more holy.41 Willard rejects these on the following grounds: “Here it is matter of taking pains about taking pains. It is in fact a variety of self-obsession—narcissism—a thing farthest removed from the worship and service of God.”42
Willard had admitted that there is no clear list of the disciplines and that each person might choose different practices through pragmatic means. This does not give sufficient ground for rejecting such practices as self-flagellation. So Willard resorts to arguing that those who do such things have bad motives. But he cannot really know their motives, perhaps they determined that these practices “worked” using the same means Willard offered. If pragmatic tests are the means of determining which practices are valid, and if these people feel closer to God and more like Christ through their practices, then Willard has no valid way of rejecting their practices. Having no valid argument, he resorts to an invalid ad hominem argument.
He cannot have it both ways. Either God’s Word determines both how we come to God and how we grow in grace, or humans determine these things by pragmatic means. Willard has chosen the later. But then he steps in and tells us that some practices are wrong, even though they fit his own criteria for validity. If a person feels that sleeping in a tiny stone crevice with all the heat being sucked out of his body makes him more spiritually disciplined, then who is to say that is wrong? Had he been willing to submit to the authority of Scripture, Willard could have refuted these practices based on Colossians 2:21-23.
Even though decrying some of the excesses of monasticism, Willard is fond of the monastics and thinks that the Reformation left us with no practical means of spiritual growth. He says, “It [Protestantism] precluded ‘works’ and Catholicism’s ecclesiastical sacraments as essential for salvation, but it continued to lack any adequate account for what human beings do to become, by the grace of God, the kind of people Jesus obviously calls them to be.”43 This is simply false. Luther believed in means of grace that God has provided all true believers that they might grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.44 The difference is that means of grace are what God has provided for all Christians for all ages and they are determined by God, not man. These are revealed in the Bible. Spiritual disciplines are man-made, amorphous, and not revealed in the Bible; they assume that one is saved by grace and perfected by works.
Paul wrote, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). Paul rejected the idea that we are saved by grace and perfected by works. We are saved by grace and we grow by grace. Willard seems to miss this point. Here is how he views it: “The activities mentioned—when we engage in them conscientiously and creatively and adapt them to our individual needs, time and place—will be more than adequate to help us receive the full Christ-life and become the kind of person that should emerge in the following of him.”45 Elsewhere he suggests that growth comes through human will power: “The entire question of discipline, therefore, is how to apply acts of the will at our disposal in such a way that the proper course of action, which cannot always be realized by direct and untrained effort, will nevertheless be carried out when needed.”46 It is hard to see how this is anything other than “being perfected by the flesh” which Paul said was impossible.
The Reformation understanding of means of grace was that they were God’s gracious means of working in a person of faith’s life. What ever is not of faith is sin. Even the Word and sacraments as Luther understood them were of no avail unless they were received in faith. No works righteousness could be tolerated. Willard’s approach is works oriented and man-centered; it was created by spiritual innovators who mostly did not find their practices in the Bible.
The Spiritual Disciplines as Presumption
The spiritual disciplines, as we have seen, are bodily activities that we engage in hoping to become more Christ-like. So we decide what discipline we need, perhaps with the help of a “spiritual director.” Since we have established (and Willard admits) that most of these disciplines are not prescribed in the Bible, we have to decide which ones will work for us. The problem is that this is the very opposite of what the Bible says about discipline: “and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives’” (Hebrews 12:5, 6). God, not man, determines what each of us needs because only God knows exactly what each of us needs.
For example, consider Paul’s thorn in the flesh described in 2 Corinthians 12: “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-- to keep me from exalting myself!” (2Corinthians 12:7) Paul did not determine he needed this, God did. When Paul asked for it to be removed, this was the result: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God allowed the thorn in the flesh for Paul’s spiritual good. God’s discipline is what He does sovereignly and providentially to bring each of us ultimately into the image of Christ. Willard is right that every person is different and has different needs. He is wrong that therefore we must experiment with spiritual disciplines to see what works for us. We don’t even know our own needs fully, only God does. If we need poverty to help us learn to trust God, He can arrange that. There is no need to take an oath of poverty and join a monastery.
God disciplines us in ways we could never imagine or never arrange. The Bible tells us, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Obviously everything in the universe is at His disposal. Do we think He is unable to discipline us according to His infinite wisdom? Do we suppose that we know better what we need than God does? For one person God’s discipline could be the sorrow of loosing a job and the need to trust Him to find a different one. For another it may be that God thrusts him into a situation of great responsibility that stretches him to the utmost. If we need solitude, God can grant that. He might make it so the only job we can find is being a midnight shift watchman.
What is presumptuous about the spiritual disciplines approach is that the practitioner presumes to know what he or she needs when only God knows such things. The monk who takes a vow of chastity presumes to know that he is going to be more Christ like single than married. The person who leaves civilization on a voluntary exile into solitude presumes to know that he will be more Christ like exiled than interacting with others. This is the case no matter what activity we presume will make us more spiritual. The only exceptions are those things God has ordained for ALL Christians. We are never presumptuous to, in faith, avail ourselves of those practices that God has ordained. But this brings us back to means of grace, not spiritual disciplines.47
Therefore, those things that are unique to the individual in regard to discipline God is in charge of. He disciplines every Christian for his or her own good according to His own infinite wisdom. Those matters that are necessary and common to all Christians are clearly described in the Bible; they are means of grace.
We began this discussion with a description of strange teachings and practices entering evangelical Bible Colleges and seminaries. They have been borrowed from Medieval Rome and dressed up for evangelical consumption. We have examined the teachings of one of the visible leaders of this movement. Starting with a serious misinterpretation of Matthew 11:29, 30, Dallas Willard built his entire system on the idea that Jesus’ “yoke” consists of various spiritual disciplines. The issue in Matthew 11 was Messianic salvation—finding true Sabbath rest in Christ rather than following meticulous religious rules decreed by the Scribes and Pharisees. The idea of practicing spiritual disciplines was imported to the text, not found there.
We live in an age of mysticism. People lust for spiritual reality and spiritual experiences. The danger is that unbiblical practices will give people a real spiritual experience, but not from God. Deception is the likely outcome. God puts a boundary around the means by which we come to Him and grow in Him for our own protection. If we ignore the boundary set by Biblical guidelines, there is no telling were we will end up. If however, we come to God on His terms, knowing that we have a High Priest who is at the right hand of God, and that we have access through His blood into the holiest place, we can be assured we cannot be any closer to God this side of heaven.
“Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Issue 91 - November / December 2005
This happened during the summer of 2005 at Bethel Theological Seminary in Arden Hills, MN.
Michael Ford, Wounded Prophet (Image: New York, 1999); for a review: http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/ne...item_1589.html
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, Understanding How God Changes Lives, (HarperCollins: New York, 1991)
Craig L. Blomberg, “Matthew” in The New American Commentary (Broadman: Nashville, 1992) 195.
Ibid. emphasis his.
Ibid. Willard errors in failing to tell us that this “destiny” is not one that is actualized now, but is linked to Christ’s return: 1John 3:2b –“We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.”
Ibid. emphasis his.
Ibid. 161, 162.
See Bob DeWaay, “Means of Grace” in Critical Issues Commentary, Issue 84, Sept./Oct. 2004. http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue84.htm
Ibid. 151, 152 emphasis his.
The Bible does tell us to “discipline ourselves”; but in this context: “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1Timothy 4:7, 8). Notice however that Paul is teaching the practice of godliness not “bodily discipline” to create godliness. Willard’s promotion of bodily activities as “discipline” is not supported by this text.
Published by Twin City Fellowship
Critical Issues Commentary
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995 The Lockman Foundation.