Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2012

(revised 04/06/17)

I remember growing up in the Evangelical Friends (EFCI) denomination. As late as the 1960s, we would often sing the song “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. One of the verses contains the phrase “though none go with me, still I will follow.” That is how I feel nowadays about the EFCI – that I am walking alone. (Actually I no longer belong to the denomination, but am trying to reach the denomination since so many of my relatives and friends still belong.)

I’m sure there are born again, biblically sound, spiritually mature Christians in the EFCI.  But for the most part, churches in the EFCI have not stayed close to their first love (especially in Northwest Yearly Meeting, where contemplative heretic Richard Foster first became popular). Specifically, I have heard of very few EFCI churches that preach and sing every Sunday about our blood-bought salvation, the bloody atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary to save (rescue from eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire) those who sincerely repent of their sins. I hear very few passionate invitations to unsaved attenders/seekers/sinners to turn from their sinful ways and accept Christ as Saviour and Lord. And it has been decades since I’ve seen an EFCI tract rack with “hellfire and brimstone” tracts, or heard Evangelical Friends singing old-time gospel hymns such as “There is a Fountain Filled With Blood.”

Regarding the loss of emphasis on “the Blood and the Cross” – not just in the EFCI but in many evangelical denominations – I have reposted an excellent sermon on this below. Click here for the original source of the sermon. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

The Offense of the Cross
by Josef Urban

“And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased” (Galatians 5:11). Paul’s Gospel had teeth. It bit hard into the kingdom of darkness and ripped chunks from it wherever it came. He didn’t make his message smooth and soft in order to suit the fancies of the religious majority. His Gospel was a sharp word that exalted Christ, lifted the cross up high, proclaimed total commitment to Christ the King, and utterly stripped man of all self-reliance, shattering self-righteousness, tearing down false religion, and leaving men stripped bare before God in utter dependence on His free grace alone to save them.

And of course, with a Gospel like this, Paul suffered persecution wherever he went. Yet he didn’t dare water-down the potency of the truth of God. He didn’t compromise his message in order to make it more acceptable to the people. He didn’t pervert it to make it look pretty. He proclaimed, “This is the way, the only way! Walk ye in it!” and pronounced a thundering “Anathema!” on anybody that dared to tamper with the message and preach another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9).

Yet this is exactly what was happening in the church at Galatia. False teachers had come in and deceived the brethren by perverting the Gospel. They were preaching that in addition to believing in Christ, it’s necessary to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses. They were adding to the Gospel, changing the message to make it more acceptable. Paul said of them: “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12). False teachers and false brethren today are rarely found preaching circumcision as necessary for salvation. However, they are still doing the same thing to the Gospel, adding to it and taking away from it in order to make it less offensive and more acceptable to the religious folk who fill the churches, in order that they don’t have to suffer persecution for the sake of the message. They take away the “offense of the cross” and in doing so, take away the heart and substance of the Gospel.

Paul’s Gospel exalted the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul preached salvation solely through the finished work of the cross, and preached abroad that those who are to be saved by grace must identify themselves with this bloody cross. He preached that men need to believe in Christ, and that the result of believing is an identification with the cross. He gloried in the fact that he was “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). He preached that the sinful flesh needs to be crucified; that the carnal man has to be put to death. Any who refuse to thus nail themselves to the cross are unworthy of the great, glorious Gospel of Christ. Any who water down the Gospel and dilute the message to make it more acceptable to carnal men or to tailor to the religious status quo, refusing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel are enemies of the cross, serving their own bellies, minding earthly things, and will face destruction (Phi. 3:18-19). There is no compromise here. Those that don’t like the message are the enemies of the cross.

Paul’s Gospel was offensive, highly offensive. He boasted that his message contained “the offense of the cross” and would not dare to cause such offense to cease. To him, the fact that there was such an offense was proof that he was preaching the true Gospel. He knew that the true Gospel would stir up devils and provoke the wrath of wicked men, and thus at times cause offense. And he continued to preach this true Gospel to the very end, even though it was “foolishness to those who are perishing”, because he knew that it was the power of God to those who believed and embraced it, resulting in salvation (1 Cor. 1:21). In addition to demolishing Satanic strongholds and turning multitudes from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, the result of preaching this was angry mobs, getting stoned, being whipped and scourged, getting thrown into prison, being hated everywhere he went, and ultimately being beheaded in Rome.

Why doesn’t our “gospel” today get us persecuted? Why does it sit so well with the religious masses? Why doesn’t it bite and cut and wound and hack and kill false religiosity? Because it’s not God’s Gospel! It’s not the sharp, two-edged sword that pierces hearts and slashes through false religious ideologies. It doesn’t wound the consciences of hardened sinners and cause them to cry out in godly sorrow, “What must I do to be saved?” It doesn’t tear away the false foundations and strip away their false hopes, and so it leaves us building on a faulty foundation that’s not going to stand when the floods of God’s just judgment come against it. There’s no digging deep in plowing up the hardened ground by preaching the offense of the cross and calling for deep repentance, so there’s not a solid foundation laid that will endure to life everlasting. The result is that multitudes are trusting in a false “gospel” that pampers the flesh and are blindly walking down the wide road that leads to destruction.

In taking away the offensiveness of preaching heart-repentance from sin and biblical justification by faith and the necessity of bowing to the Lordship of Christ, and in taking away the offensiveness of the message of the cross, we have destroyed the foundation of the Gospel. We need to get back to the offensive message of self-denial, crucifixion to the world and the flesh, of dying to sin, and of preaching salvation as the sovereign work of God’s free grace, given freely to men on the basis of faith in Christ alone apart from any merit or work of their own. Perhaps when we get back to preaching the unadulterated truth of the real Gospel, men and devils will come against us in opposition too. Perhaps when we get back to preaching the truth, we will find that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that the same Gospel has always had the same results, in the 1st century and in the 21st century.

The problem today is that the modern church has a severe lack of holy troublemakers. What I mean is that the great Spirit that brought about reformations in church history is largely void in today’s church, though it is sorely needed. The Spirit of Elijah is gone from our midst. Elijah was a holy man of God. He preached an offensive message, a message of repentance and God’s judgment against sin. He had power with God, and as the judgment of God against the sin of Israel, there was no rain at Elijah’s word for three and a half years. After that time, Elijah appeared to the wicked king, Ahab, and Ahab shouted out, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” (1 Ki. 18:17). Elijah was a holy troublemaker to the sin, false religion and Baal worship of that day. But it wasn’t Elijah that caused the main trouble; it was the sin of Israel. Elijah responded to the wicked king: “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim” (1 Ki. 18:18).

This often happens today. When a man of God rises up and starts preaching an offensive message of the cross, of dying to self, of God’s judgment against sin, of the true Gospel, he is often accused of being contentious, or factious, or as a troublemaker. Yet it is not the Gospel that is the trouble, even though many times people don’t like it. The real trouble is the sin in the church and false religiosity. The true problem is the worship of the Baal’s, of “another Jesus” that is so often preached today that resembles a nice, soft, fluffy teddy bear that is the sinner’s accessory for life-enhancement more than He resembles the ferocious, triumphant Lion of Judah that demands absolute worship and obedience who demands that all be reconciled to Him or else be ripped to shreds when His wrath is kindled but a little (Psa. 2:12). –Now, the wrath of the Lamb isn’t the only attribute of our blessed Lord, nor should that be all we preach. Jesus is a friend of repentant sinners, and full of mercy and love such as no finite mind can fathom, freely wiping away the sins of the most wretched on earth and bestowing on former rebels of the Kingdom the greatest riches of the Kingdom. However, the truth is that there is a great lack in the majority of the professing church nowadays of preaching the full counsel of God, and reasoning of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come, and thundering forth the terrors of the Living God that shall one day soon fall grievously on the head of the wicked.

This is what we need today, when there has been such a soft “gospel” preached for so long, when the multitudes of religious masses fill the churches, comfortable in their sin, living at ease in Zion in lukewarm pleasure-seeking religion, serving a “Jesus” that is not the Jesus of the Bible, but is rather the bi-product of their own worldly culture and carnal thinking. We need zealous men who burn with Holy Ghost fire that have not been tamed-down by the religious status-quo, who will turn over the tables of the money-changers in the house of God, who will by the might of the Spirit smash the idols of materialism and greed, who will tear down the altars of the golden calves they call, “Jehovah”, who will prophesy against the false prophets of “another Jesus” the true word of the Lord. We need those who love Jesus enough to take a stand against the Devil and be persecuted for preaching a sharp, convicting message, that even though it offends, it also gloriously contains real power to deliver from sin and save souls.

The Apostle Paul was a holy troublemaker too. When he came to a certain city, the people cried out, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Act. 17:6).When he stood on trial before the Governor, he was accused of being one who stirred up trouble everywhere he went. They said of him, “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Act. 24:5). Paul was accused of being a ringleader in a troublemaking sect, because he tore down the religious status quo wherever he went by preaching a pure message of Christ and Him crucified, and utterly despised every false way that seeks to counterfeit or pervert the Gospel of God. The religious masses of his day didn’t like, and the ones of our day don’t like it, either.

Yet this is what we need today. We need preachers with a reformation Spirit to demolish the false foundations of Christian thinking we have in our modern day, and to exalt the old fashioned Gospel of the cross. It is only the real Gospel, the one that often offends both men and devils, that is the truth which can save those who believe. Perverting it, diluting it, changing it, and adulterating it will only lead to deception and destruction. We need to see the restoration of the true Gospel in the church, the one that has teeth that bites chunks into the cotton-candy “gospel” of our time, the one that is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces hearts, the one that is mighty through God to demolish the strongholds of Satan, the one that God uses as the chief instrument to ignite a fire in the hearts of men and to bestow the grace of saving faith in His precious elect.

I’m not saying that we should purposely try to be offensive. We should never purposely offend anyone simply for the sake of being offensive or trying to conjure up a rude awakening by the methods of the flesh. We should be filled and dripping with the love of Christ when we share the Gospel, evidencing the blessed fruit of the Spirit, led by the Spirit of Truth and speaking not as mere men, but as the oracles of God. We should actually go out of our way to ensure that the way we act and what we do doesn’t unnecessarily offend anyone so as not to put stumbling blocks in their way from accepting the Gospel. Paul said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). No matter the amount of self-denial involved, Paul would go out of his way to make sure that the way he acted and what he did helped people to understand the Gospel, not push them further away from it. We must give honor to whom honor is due, and respect to all by all means as long as it doesn’t compromise the Gospel in any way. And while all this is certainly true, we have to check ourselves, because if the Gospel that we’re preaching isn’t offending anybody, it’s some heavy evidence that what we’re preaching isn’t the true, biblical Gospel of the cross. We must never, never, water down and adulterate the pure truths of the Word of God in order to make it more acceptable to the unregenerate!

Yet, today, there is a huge movement sweeping through the professing church that does this very thing. They take away expounding on the threats of God’s holy Law and warning of the judgment to come. They don’t mention the fury and wrath of God. They don’t preach the Biblical message of God’s holy hatred of sin. They don’t preach the blood of Christ and its utter necessity for making propitiation and appeasing offended Deity. They take away the preaching of repentance. They don’t preach the power of His resurrection and His grace that gives us victory over sin. They don’t expound on the necessity of the New Birth and of a definite conversion experience. Instead, they preach philosophy, psychology, and ear-tickling sermons that make rebels feel really good about themselves in their current state before God. They preach positive self-improvement, self-esteem, and self-help. And the masses just eat it up and want more!

Their strategy is to remove the “hard sayings” from the Word of God and to only preach what unregenerate sinners like to hear in order to grow their churches and increase their attendance and membership. They think, “Let’s not preach about the wrath of God against sin because it’ll offend somebody; instead let’s just preach how God loves everybody no matter who they are or how they live”. And by preaching a sugarcoated “gospel” their goal is to grow their meetings –and it works. It’s not a rare thing to find a huge mega church in every city in the US that uses these very methods of ear-tickling half-truth “gospels”. They call it, “seeker-sensitive”. But, as one preacher put it, “There’s only one seeker and that’s God!” There are none that seek after God, apart from a work of grace in their hearts after God has first sought them. We should labor to make our churches God-friendly. And we can only do this when we preach the whole truth!

What example did Jesus lay down for us to follow? Did He take out important truths from the Gospel, truths that people didn’t like to hear, in order to please men and make more disciples for Himself? –Certainly not! To the contrary, His preaching cut through all the false pretenses and impure motives of those who seemed to be seeking God, and He would expose the hearts of the people and proclaim the very truths that they didn’t like to hear!

In John 6, after multiplying bread and feeding a multitude, a great mass of people followed Him. But their motive wasn’t the love of the truth and the glory of God and to honor Jesus for His mighty miraculous power. Their motive was selfishness, because they were following Him because He fed them with bread. Jesus didn’t mince words –He cut straight through their impure motives and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (Jo. 6:26). Jesus continued to preach and expound on the truth, revealing their false motives and proclaiming that He is the true bread which came down from Heaven. This offended them, and they began to murmer against Him (vv. 41-42).

Many were offended at His word. Did He know they would be offended? –Of course! The words He spoke were not even His own, they were the words of the Father Himself, the very words of God. Not one word was spoken outside of the direct order of God. It was God’s plan to preach to these people in such as a way as to turn them back from following Jesus because, again, they motive was not pure and acceptable before God. He would rather have a few wholehearted followers than a multitude of lukewarm self-centered hypocrites who appear to follow Jesus outwardly while inwardly their motive is to gratify their own selfish desires.

In this discourse Jesus continued to say what some of the most offensive things one could possibly say to a Jew: He made Himself out to be greater than Moses, their greatest prophet, and on top of this, made the shocking statement that one must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. What an outrage this must have caused! These are people who won’t even touch shrimp or ham, let alone eat flesh and drink blood! They were certainly offended. And not only were the Jews in general offended, but many of those who were at that time His disciples, who were following Him, were offended as well:

“Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (Jo. 6:60-65).

And the result of this whole discourse brings us to the only “666” in the Bible outside of Revelation, that is, John 6:66, which says, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” That is, many of those who were following Him were offended at His word and left their outward form of following Him. But the truth is that they never were truly following Him with all their hearts. Though they had an outward profession of faith, they didn’t have the inward work of grace to make their profession a spiritual reality in their lives. Jesus spoke the sharp, two-edged cutting word of God that sliced through their false outward profession and cut down the religious pretense, leaving nothing but the motive of the hearts exposed. Though He knew this would cause them to turn away from their outward profession, He knew that it was the best thing to do for the sake of maintaining the purity of the church at that time.

Why did He do this? –Because He knew that all those who were given to Him by His Father would come to Him, hear from Him, accept His words, have their spiritual understanding opened, and believe in Him and be saved. Those who were His own precious, elect sheep, having light from above, would understand that He didn’t speak of physically eating His flesh and blood, but of spiritually partaking of the real substance of His Being in the most intimate way –of deriving their very life from His life, and living every day in the reality of His broken body and shed blood for their salvation.

So while the hypocrites and false followers are chased away by the preaching of hard truth, the genuine and true followers are edified by it and drawn closer to Him through it. Preaching the offense of the cross, the hard truth of the word of God has a way of leaving the true children of God in awe and edified in the inner man, since most of the “meat” of the Gospel that gives us the most strength is initially hard to digest for the natural man. In light of this, for the sake of the truth of the Gospel, we must never take away any truth from it for the sake of making it acceptable to the carnal masses. If the true Gospel scares people off and offends hypocrites, let them go! It’s better to have God with us through the preaching of the true Gospel and the people against us then it is to have the people for us and God against us!

Let’s follow the example of the Lord Jesus who spoke truth without regard to its consequences. Our job is to proclaim the Gospel, and God’s job is to ensure results. We do our part, and then God will do His. But we dare not try to take God’s job by seeking to conjure up results by tampering with the message! What a damnable thing! The cross is a scandal, an offense to the world! Let’s leave it at that!

Apparently, the true Gospel that Jesus came to herald was one that was so offensive that He pronounced a special blessing on all those who were able to receive it: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:23). It takes a special blessing not to be offended in Christ. This must mean that most people, if they hear and understand the true Gospel, and see and hear the true Jesus, will in some measure be offended or will be unable to believe and be saved. This is quite the contrast to the lukewarm “gospel” we hear so often today, that offends nobody, that is easily embraced by the sinful multitudes who love to hear these humanistic ideas about God preached and are never shaken from their complacency, never get alarmed over their sinful condition, never depart from their iniquity, and never embrace the cross of Christ in identification with His sufferings or bow the knee of submissive obedience to His Lordship –things which are essential characteristics of true faith and necessary evidence of the reality of the Gospel in one’s life.

This true, offensive Gospel, far from being accepted by the world, was a scandal to the world, and the world hated it!  It ended up getting our Lord nailed to a tree. This true Gospel, according to early historical records, ended up getting the Apostle Peter crucified as well (that is, crucified upside down). It ended up getting all the Apostles martyred, except for John, who was banished as a condemned criminal to the Isle of Patmos. This true Gospel will never be accepted by the world and its ungodly system or the prince of darkness who oversees it. It will always be a scandal, an offense, a sword between those who follow it and those who refuse to (see Mat. 10:34-36). Where is this Gospel today? Surely, wherever it is, persecution tends to follow it in some form or another, but thank God; genuine salvation does too! And so does revival!

Please share this message with others!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Below I have reposted a blog which describes the apostasy of most evangelical churches today. Click here for the original post.

Pastoral Predicament

Posted by on Jun 4th, 2011 in Christianity & the Bible | 6 comments

A recent survey of Protestant pastors indicates that nearly 40% of them perceive that they are not “on the same page” – either politically or theologically or both – with the leaders of their denomination, and/or the congregations in their churches. A recent AgapePress article presented the results of this survey. It was authored by Allie Martin and Jody Brown, and entitled “Survey Reveals Discord Between Pastors, Denominations”. Martin & Brown report that Ellison Research found “19 percent of pastors are more liberal theologically than their denomination, 23 percent are more conservative, and 59 percent say their views align with their denomination’s teachings.” It also pointed out that “”Sixty percent of all evangelical pastors said that they are on the same page as their denomination politically, compared to only 45 percent of pastors in mainline Protestant churches,” Sellers says. “As a matter of fact, over one-third of pastors in mainline Protestant churches said that their denomination is more politically liberal than they are.”

I found several dimensions of this report to be significant. One aspect that struck me as intriguing here was the fact that political and spiritual (or at least religious) aspects are tied together. The research performed by Ellison appears to start with an underlying assumption that liberalism and conservatism are both dimensions of one’s political and spiritual position. I think that’s absolutely correct, but in this increasingly “politically correct” world, I’m surprised that researchers would make any such assumption. This would imply that there is not a statistically significant number of people in the congregation who are both politically conservative and religiously liberal, and vice versa. It would be interesting to see that hypothesis tested, I think. If it’s true (and I think it is,) the “separation of church and state” crowd will be appalled.

Another very interesting dimension of the findings is that there is a substantive difference in the degree of alignment in mainline denominations versus more evangelical churches. Again, though, when one thinks through this, it makes perfect sense. The liberalism that has been growing in American Protestant churches is obvious: Abandon the theologically rich hymns of the faith and replace them with shallower lyrics projected using Powerpoint; condone female ministers, gay lifestyles, and the idea that the Bible really is the Word of God, and as such is likely to be offensive to some folks when it is proclaimed honestly. Casual is more than the dress code of many parishioners in many of these churches; it is their view of Christianity. It is increasingly entertainment-like, and decreasingly focused on serious, soul-searching worship. There are a number of excellent examinations of this phenomenon, and among them are articles by Dave Mosher who says: “You will be hard pressed to find a local evangelical church that is not getting sucked into Emerging/Emergent/Emergence teachings.”, Melinda Penner, who says: “the Council’s decision to recommend our departure [from the denomination] was not based solely upon this issue but rather an accumulation of liberal decisions by the national body over the course of nearly 20 years, which caused a widening distance in our relationship with them as a conservative congregation. Thus the gay clergy decision was the tipping point after adding up many factors and a long-term trend.”, and Dave Cloud, who says: “Respected evangelical leader Harold Lindsell gave this testimony in regard to the mainline denominations: “It is not unfair to allege that among denominations like Episcopal, United Methodist, United Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY THAT TAKES A STAND IN FAVOR OF BIBLICAL INFALLIBILITY. AND THERE IS NOT A SINGLE SEMINARY WHERE THERE ARE NOT FACULTY MEMBERS WHO DISAVOW ONE OR MORE OF THE MAJOR TEACHINGS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH” (Harold Lindsell, Battle for the Bible, Zondervan, 1976, pp. 145-146.) Modernism has permeated the mainline denominations. Any call, therefore, to breach denominational barriers today, is a call to yoke together truth with error and is an open denial of the biblical doctrine of separation.”

The third dimension of interest to me is simply the large and increasing number of pastors who feel that they are not aligned in terms of their theology (and politics) with their own congregations. In my experience, at least in the case of strong pastoral leaders, the congregations tend to gravitate toward the perspectives presented from the pulpit. Congregations should be calling pastors who they believe to be teaching in accordance with their perceptions of biblical truth. If they are doing that, then why would there be such a large and growing disparity between their views and the pastor’s?

Finally, the dimension that I am having more trouble understanding: 23% of pastors surveyed report that their denominational leaders are more liberal than they are. It makes me wonder what is at the root of this. Are the denominational leaders, owing to their elevated standing in the denomination, “going Hollywood” in terms of relaxing their standards to be more widely accepted? I do understand the flip side, I think. The 19% who report that their denominational leaders are more conservative seems perfectly natural in light of the generally liberalizing trends in our churches today, as discussed earlier in this article. But the aspect of more liberal denominational leaders is troubling indeed.

I do understand the “Pastoral Predicament” here. Many pastors who remain faithful to the doctrinal teachings of fundamental Christianity as described by the Bible are feeling the squeeze these days, between a liberalizing denominational leadership and a liberalizing congregation. Other pastors have the challenge of denominational leaders growing further and further distanced from both themselves and their congregations. This path is slightly easier, because there is a clear way out – leave the denominational affiliation and find one closer in spiritual alignment. But even in these cases, the way forward is uncomfortable at best. It is a difficult and growing problem. I would be interested in hearing other perspectives on this.

What do you think?

6 Responses to “Pastoral Predicament”

  1. Bill, it’s always wonderful to meet a like minded brother in the Lord concerned about these issues. Thanks for linking to my blog – I hope many find it helpful. God bless you – Dave

    • Dave, it’s a great pleasure to hear from you as well. This blog is cathartic for me – I struggle to make peace with many of these challenges in my own life, and wanted to do a blog to see whether others do as well, and whether we could learn from one another. I have a very long way to go in my own spiritual journey, and I appreciate fellow Christians who are willing to lay their own opinions, experience, and insights out for me – and for others. I know it can be intimidating for some, and for others it just takes more time and energy than they are willing to invest….. sometimes, i think that says a lot, too.

  2. Bill, regarding disparities between pastors, their congregations, and their denominations, you made a lot of great observations. Excellent blog. One scenario that would make the picture a bit simpler: independent churches (particularly independent fundamentalist churches). In this scenario, there is no denominational leadership to report to. So the pastor and the congregation are the only two parties that need to be in sync, so to speak. And as you mentioned, you would think the congregation would go along with the pastor’s doctrinal stance. Regarding a biblically sound pastor: get a biblically sound, mature, godly pastor who preaches salvation through “the Blood and the Cross” of Jesus Christ, and you will draw in the same kind of congregation. Attenders who do not go along with sound doctrine will leave – you can count on it.

    • Excellent point, Dave. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I have attended independent churches before – though never really became involved in one. It was my impression that the one or two I attended were associated with other independent churches – not in the manner of a formal organization structure, but to enable inter-church fellowship and cooperation on things like mutually sponsored concerts and similar events. But I believe your point about being doctrinally accountable to a denominational structure is completely valid.

  3. Chris Huff says:

    I can relate to much of what you said. I think part of the reason pastors and their congregations do not always agree on doctrine is because of the way pastors are elected. In many denominations, the congregation has little to no say in it. A governing board within the denomination appoints pastors to serve particular churches. For better or worse, they’re stuck with each other. And congregants often don’t leave the church because they know they will likely get a new pastor in a few years anyway.

    But even when pastors aren’t appointed, the selection process is still often far from the ideal. It seems the New Testament describes pastors being called out from within the congregation itself. This allows for thoroughly knowing the individuals: their life, their doctrine, etc. But this doesn’t happen as much today (although I still hear about it from time to time). Today, a relatively unknown person is brought before the church and decided upon after hearing them preach just a couple times. After getting to know each other more, they find that they didn’t agree on nearly as much as they had originally thought.

    • I have witnessed the selection process a number of times, Chris, and your description certainly matches my experiences. Two exceptions I have seen both involved Youth Ministers who assumed the pastorate when the existing pastor left his position. In these cases, of course, the former Youth Pastor has a bit of a “leg up”, knowing the congregation, and the congregation has a substantial advantage having seen their new pastor in action over a long period of time in their midst. Thank-you for your post!

Read Full Post »

(revised 10/13/14)

I’ve thought a great deal about the message every church should be preaching regularly, that relatively few do nowadays: the “bloody” message of salvation through Christ’s atonement on the cross of Calvary.

In the early 1960s we sang gospel hymns like this in Evangelical Friends (EFCI) churches in Ohio, at every service:

“The Old Rugged Cross”
“Power in the Blood”
“There is a Fountain Filled With Blood”

… and so on. No longer – now EFCI churches in Ohio and elsewhere (like churches in many other evangelical denominations) are becoming more and more postmodern (Emerging/ Emergent).

Below is a very revealing article on how Emergents present a message vastly different than the gospel message of “the Blood and the Cross.” Click here for the original source of this article, at the Let Us Reason Ministries website. Note – two of the heretical Emergents quoted below are Brian McLaren and Leonard Sweet. McLaren and Sweet have taught at George Fox University (GFU) and/or George Fox Evangelical Seminary (GFES),  in Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM), the most liberal Region in the EFCI. Other Emerging/Emergents who have taught at GFU and GFES are Tony Campolo, Richard Foster, Dan Kimball, etc. (some as adjunct professors.)

Now on to the article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets]…

“Does the Emergent Church movement preach the gospel that saves?”
by Let Us Reason Ministries

An appeal to pursuers of the new church movements

We have a duty to be keepers, protectors and proclaimers of the gospel, it is to be the same message that was given to the apostles nearly 2,000 years ago. What has saved us is to save others.

This gospel can be changed from applying new innovations. Even Brian McLaren admits the way that emerging church presents the message can be changing the gospel:

“It has been fashionable among the innovative [emerging] pastors I know to say, “We’re not changing the message; we’re only changing the medium.” This claim is probably less than honest … in the new church we must realize how medium and message are intertwined. When we change the medium, the message that’s received is changed, however subtly, as well. We might as well get beyond our naivete or denial about this.”

This is one of the rare times I can agree with him. The method of presenting the Gospel can adopt change in its presentation when necessary; but the content of the message cannot, when it does we have another gospel. And if we are not careful the message can be changed by the method. And the message HAS already changed for many inside these progressive type movements, one of them is the emergent church movement. Without the cross as central to our lives and our preaching for salvation, church becomes just another religion with wonderful teachings about a man named Jesus. Salvation does not come from just believing in God, but in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross – this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ one is to believe and continue in. We all get saved the same way, by the message of gospel. Yet in the emergent movement they entertain and pursue other religious practices for their spirituality. Why would one do this if they have found what makes peace with God? This proves that they have not personally experienced nor possess the power of the gospel in their personal life. Paul warned about another gospel and preaching a different Jesus in Gal.1:6-9.

What kind of Jesus allows other religions teachings and practices to be taught in his church to those who are to supposed to be following Him as “the way the truth the life.”

“Is our religion the only one that understands the true meaning of life? Or does God place his truth in others too? … The gospel is not our gospel, but the gospel of the kingdom of God, and what belongs to the kingdom of God cannot be hijacked by Christianity” (Brian McLaren, An Emergent Manifesto p. 194)

Actually it was introduced by Jesus who happens to be truth incarnate, so the answer is, NO. God has not placed his truth in other religions that worship false gods. Common sense alone should tell people this fact.

This is not to say that everyone in the Emergent church holds to the new views of the gospel but whether it is done purposely or by indifference there are many of its leaders that do, and influence its adherents that seek a church to be real. Using humanistic concepts, worldly business practices, or other religious ways to adjust the gospel to reach the various cultures, they avoid the real intent; exposing the darkness in the human heart. This can only be done by Christ being preached, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7)

The changing of the gospel message and its application come in many forms, Emergent leader Leonard Sweet explains it “Postmodern missions must have a geomantic imagination and geomantic design. What I am calling a geomantic style of evangelization will ensure harmonious habitation patterns as the gospel interconnects and interacts with all life-and landforms” (Quantum Spirituality p.168).

This changing the gospel to be relative to the environment has no basis from Scripture and is the imagination of ones heart that is conducive to the trends of our day. Earth based spirituality has nothing to do with the gospel that was preached by Paul and the apostles whose intent was to deal with sin in humanity (1 Cor.15:1-4).

If one does not understand the gospel and the requirement for our sin then they will mock the crucifixion.

Emergent Church leaders consistently, repeatedly denigrate sin, the savior, and salvation via the cross of Christ. “If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil” (Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, pp. 182-183.)

But it was love that brought Jesus to the cross. There was no other way. Christ shows us how God loves his enemies- love is the heart of the gospel. “While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, 10). The Bible declares that those who bring the gospel are the ones who bring peace (Rom. 10)

Harry Emerson Fosdick was a famous liberal pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City, (1878-1969), who denied the doctrine of the atonement, “Jesus suffered as a substitute for us”

In Fosdick’s book Dear Mr. Brown, he states: Too many theories of the atonement assume that by one single high priestly act of self-sacrifice Christ saved the world.’ Fosdick ends that statement with a pronounced—’No!” He insists, “These legalistic theories of the atonement are in my judgment a theological disgrace.”‘ Fosdick considered the idea that God would actually send His Son to die on a Cross to take our place to be the basis for a violent and bloody religion. He rejected the biblical message of an atonement and substitutionary sacrifice.

‘In an interview, Brian McLaren questioned the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death, calling it “false advertising for God”:

[O]ne of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God. (emphasis added)’ (quoted in Faith Undone by Roger Oakland p.192)

The Emergent movement wants to a re-imaginine [sic] things. the way things are going as they remove words and sayings from books you should not be surprised by a company removing the crucifixion from the Bible because it is offensive. After all the book of Urantia [see this link](which I suspect some may be reading) says it was not God’s plan for Jesus.

Brian McLaren endorsed Alan Jones’ book, “Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit without Disconnecting Your Mind.” McLaren had this to say: “Alan Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply.”

If this is authentic spirituality then the Bible has become obsolete in his view. Jones, an Episcopal priest,  holds a a similar view to the outspoken liberal Fosdick.

 Jones is the Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco that promotes the labyrinth. He is a promoter of inter-spirituality, He is also a member of the Living Spiritual Teachers Project which is a group of about twenty-five that include Zen and Buddhist monks, New Agers and even Marianne Williamson (who promotes a Course in Miracles, a book that denies almost every authentic Bible teaching of Jesus Christ.)

Jones rejects the Gospel message in no uncertain terms. “The other thread of just criticism addresses the suggestion implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry god. Penal substitution [Christ’s death on the Cross] was the name of this vile doctrine.” (Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit without Disconnecting Your Mind (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005 p. 168)

The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.”(ibid. p. 132)

Jones goes on to say, “Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine.” Alan Jones, p. 168

The apostle Paul said “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”(1 Corinthians 2:1-2). Paul preached “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:18,23). The book of Acts tells us that the apostles preached Christ crucified. Jesus even told us to pick our cross to follow him. McLaren is recommending a book that holds this to scorn. The very core of Christianity is Christ crucified by which we have our salvation.

What we are seeing are men without the Spirit of Christ leading people into an pseudo intellectual – philosophical movement that offers a new spiritual openness in the place of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. Without the preaching of the cross it neglects the true spiritual condition and need of mankind. This is not leading people to the truth of their sin by a confrontation of the gospel for salvation but instead offering a substitute without the purpose of God becoming man as Jesus. It is opening the door to thousands to go another way. This new message is integrated in the church to reach the post- modern generation that does not see any one way more valid than another. All this leads to is interfaith – accompanied with universalism.

Brian McLaren, “The Christian faith, I am proposing, should become (in the name of Jesus Christ) a welcome friend to other religions of the world, not a threat” (A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren, p.254)

The concept of syncretism is offered to have us unite with the various different religions. When we combine two belief systems we are committing spiritual adultery. Paul was greatly encouraged of his new converts “how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). Jesus wants us to worship God in Spirit and in truth. This means we do not mix other religions practices with our worship.

A Generous Orthodoxy is overly generous as it departs from orthodoxy. It sounds more like “As men approach me, so I receive them. All paths, Arjuna, lead to me. Hinduism” (Bhagavad Gita 4.11)

This takes the foundation of Christianity away. As Christians, we are not to present ourselves as having common ground with other religions, we are supposed to avoid this confusion. We are not to give any impression of our acceptance of these foreign concepts, we are to preach the gospel and contend for the faith with others who openly OPPOSE what we believe. We have every right, even an obligation by the commands in Scripture to challenge other belief systems by God’s word.

In an interview with Christianity Today McLaren said “I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet. What does it mean to be ‘saved’? When I read the Bible, I don’t see it meaning, ‘I’m going to heaven after I die.’ Before modern evangelicalism nobody accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, or walked down an aisle, or said the sinner’s prayer.” “I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy” (The Emergent Mystique, Christianity Today Nov.2004)

If McLaren does not have the gospel right, then he lacks the power of God which first and foremost brings salvation which gives us the ability to live the Christian life. The whole Christian message is that mankind is sinful, God came to earth as a man to die for our sins, for you personally – to bring us into a relationship with our maker.

So how is it he is so unsure of this? Its all very clearly written down. 1 Pet 1:25 “But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”

McLaren questions nearly everything in the Bible so how can one preach the gospel of salvation if they do not know the gospel as the truth and exercise faith in it. The Bible says if we doubt, we are double-minded and will receive nothing. This attitude is not faith but musing of the carnal nature. Then no one can really know if they are saved or anything the Scripture promises for that matter. This is the very opposite of what John wrote in his first epistle, I Jn. 5:13 “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” Having eternal life means going to heaven – Jesus said “I give them eternal life”, we should have the assurance of what He said “where I am they may be also.”

This is not just out of the box thinking but thinking outside the Bible, McLaren is not no longer theologically based but he has become a philosopher; one who is searching for answers instead of one who has found the answer.

Paul wrote in 1 Thess. 2:4-5: “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak.”

1 Cor 2:5 “that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Rom. 1:16 tells us the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes”

Rom. 10:16-17: But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith comes by believing the word found in the Bible, not just any “holy” book.

Yet Rob Bell writes in his book Velvet Elvis, that the Bible is a “human product… rather than the product of divine fiat.” (Quote in Christianity Today, Nov. 2004, p. 38.) So how can He receive faith from the word?

Rom. 16:25-26 Paul says the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, has now has been made manifest, by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith.”

Is this true or not? Those who were saved by the word; “to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

(John 12:38) will agree, but not those who lead the emergent movement.

What they do not understand is Salvation does not come from just believing in God, but in Jesus Christ and His work done for us on the cross.

The Gospel is focused on two specific areas: who Jesus is and what He has done. It is centered on the person and work of Christ for us. The person is the who – which the gospel is focused on-God who came in the flesh

He died for you Col 1:14: “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins”

Col 1:23 One day we will stand before the Lord, holy and blameless “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard

liberalism always leads to inter-spirituality- which is what we are seeing taking place today.

Do not let any man remove you by enticing words and eloquent speech or unusual dictionary words.

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

How can one bear fruit if you are not in the vine? (Jn.15:1-2).

Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

When you do not have a basic understanding of the gospel as it is presented in the emergent church then you are cannot be saved by it.

Copyright (c) 2010 No portion of this site is to be copied or used unless kept in its original format in the way it appears. Articles can be reproduced in portions for ones personal use, any other use is to have the permission of the author first. Thank You.
—————————
Note – In the above repost I underlined titles of books and magazines – DM

Read Full Post »

(revised 02/27/14)

Many in the Evangelical Friends (EFCI) denomination have been taught that George Fox and the early Quakers were born again Christians, free of heretical teachings. But there is much primary historical evidence that, in reality, quite the opposite is true.

Regarding Quaker history, I believe various historians have reinterpreted Quaker history to match their theological biases. They have not only reinterpreted the beliefs and motives of Quakers, but also of individuals who were contemporaries of the Quakers.

For example, some historians paint John Wesley (1703-1791) as favoring theQuakers, or at least having doctrines in common with the Quakers. Click here and here for several such articles (note – I do not necessarily agree with the theological stances of these authors). Wesley did in fact favor portions of Robert Barclay’s Apology; consider this excerpt, found here:

John Wesley was very impressed by Barclay’s Apology of 1676 and in 1741 published an abstract under the title Serious Considerations on Absolute Predestination (Bristol: S. and F. Farley, 1741). This became an important publication in the context of the Wesleys’ conflict with Calvinist evangelicals led by George Whitefield and was reprinted several times.

Regarding Wesley’s favorable comments on the Quakers, see also p. 350 of this online book, as well as this Quaker blog.

Following are some excerpts describing how John Wesley opposed Quakerism. I also oppose Quakers as being theologically unsound and heretical. However, unlike Wesley, I would also view most Quakers throughout history as unsaved.

There were several Quaker Yearly Meetings which were saved/born again/evangelical, and biblically sound during certain time periods. For example, the denomination I grew up in – the EFC-ER  (formerly named Ohio Yearly Meeting “Gurneyite”) – was the most biblically sound between approx. 1892-1930 (click here for my history of the EFC-ER). It has been said that the Evangelical Friends were “more Wesleyan than Quaker”; this was especially true between 1892-1930. It is unfortunate that the Evangelical Friends never separated totally from the nonevangelical Quaker denominations. If the Evangelical Friends had read Wesley’s criticisms of Quakers, perhaps they would not have succumbed to Quaker ecumenism and the heretical contemplative/mystic teachings of George Fox’s “spiritual descendant”  – Evangelical Friend Richard Foster.

Back to the subject at hand – John Wesley. In the excerpts below regarding John Wesley’s criticisms of Quakers, I have emphasized certain points by bolding and inserted comments in [brackets].

From The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, Vol. II, by Rev. Luke Tyerman, viewable online:

Excerpt #1
Pp. 55-57:

“A Letter to a Person lately joined with the People called Quakers” [read this letter online here.] In answer to a Letter wrote by him.” 12mo, 20 pages.  Wesley takes his account of Quakerism from the writings of Robert Barclay, and shows wherein the system differs from Christianity; namely—

1. Because it teaches that the revelations of the Spirit of God, to a Christian believer, “are not to be subjected to the examination of the Scriptures as to a touchstone.”

2. Because it teaches justification by works.

3. Because it sets aside ordination to the ministry by laying on of hands.

4. Because it allows women to be preachers.

5. Because it affirms that we ought not to pray or preach except when we are moved thereto by the Spirit; and that all other worship, both praises, prayers, and preachings, are superstitious, will worship, and abominable idolatries.

6. Because it alleges that “silence is a principal part of God’s worship.”

7. Because it ignores the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper.

8. Because it denies that it is lawful for Christians to give or receive titles of honour.

9. Because it makes it a part of religion to say thee or thou,—a piece of egregious trifling, which naturally tends to make all religion stink in the nostrils of infidels and heathens.

10. Because it teaches that it is not lawful for Christians to kneel, or bow the body, or uncover the head to any man; nor to take an oath before a magistrate.

In his wide wanderings, Wesley met with numbers of friendly Quakers, of whom he speaks in terms of commendation; but their system was one which he abhorred, and, in his “[An Earnest] Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion” [read online here], he speaks of the inconsistencies of their community in the most withering terms. “A silent meeting,” said he in a letter to a young lady, “was never heard of in the church of Christ for sixteen hundred years.” And, [47] in one of his letters to Archbishop Secker, he remarks: “Between me and the Quakers there is a great gulf fixed. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper keep us at a wide distance from each other; insomuch that, according to the view of things I have now, I should as soon commence deist as Quaker.”[48]

[47] Wesley’s Works, vol. xii., p. 488.
[48] Ibid. vol. xii., p. 74.

Excerpt #2
P. 418:

“I am very far from being ‘quite indifferent to any man’s opinions in religion’; neither do I ‘conceal my sentiments.’ Few men less. I have written severally, and printed, against deists, papists, mystics, quakers, anabaptists, Presbyterians, Calvinists, and antinomians. An odd way of ingratiating myself with them! Nevertheless, in all things indifferent, but not at the expense of truth, I rejoice to please all men for their good to edification.[36]

[36] Methodist Magazine, 1779, p. 601.

Excerpt #3
On pp. 512-513, an excerpt from John Wesley shows that he viewed the Quakers as heretical – although he did not view them as negatively as some other groups:

In the year 1758, Wesley issued a remarkable volume of 246 pages, entitled “A Preservative against unsettled Notions in Religion.” In his Journal he says: “I designed it for the use of all those who are under my care, but chiefly of the young preachers.” In his brief preface, he observes: “My design, in publishing the following tracts, is not to reclaim, but to preserve: not to convince those who are already perverted, but to prevent the perversion of others. I do not, therefore, enter deep into the controversy even with deists, Socinians, Arians, or papists: much less with those who are not so dangerously mistaken, mystics, quakers, anabaptists, presbyterians, predestinarians, or antinomians. I only recite, under each head, a few plain arguments, which, by the grace of God, may farther confirm those who already know the truth as it is in Jesus.”…

The fifth piece [in Wesley’s writings against heresies] is “A letter to a Person lately joined with the People called Quakers,” which Wesley first wrote in 1748. [This letter is described in detail, in Excerpt #1 above.]

Another excerpt, found here, that shows John Wesley’s disagreements with Quaker theology:

TO JOHN FRY [1]
CITY ROAD, January 1, 1791.

MY FRIEND, — The sum of what I said to you and to Dr. Hamilton was this: ‘I will revise that part of the Ecclesiastical History; and if I am convinced any of it is wrong, I will openly retract it.’ I have revised it again and again, but I am not convinced that any part of it is wrong; on the contrary, I am fully persuaded it is all the naked truth. What the Quakers (so called) are or do now is nothing to the purpose, I am thoroughly persuaded they were exactly such as they are described in this History. Your present summary exactly answers the account Barclay’s Apology given in the 135th page of the History. O be content! I love you well; do not constrain me to speak. I do not want to say anything of George Fox; but I hope he was stark mad when he wrote that medley of nonsense, blasphemy, and scurrility styled his ‘Great Mystery.’ [Click here for Part 1 of Fox’s “Great Mystery”, and click here for Part 2.] But I love and esteem you and many of the present Quakers; and am

Your real friend.

[1] In A Concise Ecclesiastical History, Vol. IV., chap. iv., is a history of the Quakers which says their first association was ‘composed mostly of persons that seemed to be disordered in their brains; and hence they committed many enormities which the modem Quakers neither justify nor approve. For the greatest part of them were riotous and tumultuous in the highest degree.’ Wesley had evidently talked the matter over with his Quaker friend John Fry and Dr. Hamilton. See letter of February 10, 1748.

FOR FURTHER READING

John Buroff’s repost of my above blog, with his comments added

Read Full Post »

Since posting this blog (which includes a repost about David Crowder’s contemplative practices and Catholic-leaning mysticism), I’ve read additional bits and pieces here and there about  Crowder’s contemplative and Emergent heresies. I decided to peruse Amazon.com, to see what I could find in Crowder’s own writings.

It didn’t take long to find what I was looking for. One of Crowder’s books is Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi (Experiencing God). It is immediately apparent  that the youthful, loved-by-youth Crowder is one of many poster children for occultish Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Spirituality, as well as the Emerging/Emergent movements.

Consider these quotes from Amazon.com. And these were found before I even clicked on Amazon’s “Read Inside” feature!

First, consider Amazon’s book description:

Praise is something we are, not something we do. Musician David Crowder redefines our perspective of God and helps us develop a habit of praising Him by reflecting on targeted psalms from The Message//REMIX.

Ideal for teens and those who love the beauty and music of the Psalms.

The above sounds okay – except for the reference the Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase. This should be a huge red flag.

In the Reader Comments, Crowder’s heresies become really evident. Consider this excerpt from the Reader Comments, by Amos M. Rawley (April 27, 2007):

Crowder uses the ancient practice of “Lectio Divina”, which he later explains. This method consists of reading Scripture not to try and pull things out of it, but rather slowly reading through a passage of Scripture, chewing it up, and just being quiet and meditating on what you just heard. Breathe it in slowly, absorb the perfume of God’s Word, let it settle in on you. Then, after some time, when settled, write your own response.

Crowder examines 21 different Psalms from the Old Testament (starting w/ Ps. 1 and ending w/ Ps. 150) in Lectio Divina style. In each of these very short chapters, he starts by writing the Psalm for the reader. All Psalms are taken from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message Remix”. This was for me reading these 21 Psalms in a new light than ever before. And the view was breathtaking. (I’m buying a Psalm book in “The Message” now, because I was so taken aback.)

After the Psalm, the reader will find Crowder’s own “lectio divina” on that Psalm. Crowder is an extremely unique writer and an amazing communicator.

[Following is a quote from his Psalm 29 “lectio divina”]: “”Let the knowledge of His transcendence bring us back to life. Let it flow like blood to sleeping limbs, and feel them tingle as they awake in awe. Shake life back into your legs and let them carry you running with wind and thunder. Shake life back into your chest and let your heart beat in pounding reverence. Let praise come face to the ground, trembling with life an awareness that we are found by a holy God.”

– pg. 70, on Psalm 29

Does a nun have to decide what to wear in the morning? No, she just puts on her habit… day in, and day out. And so should we, our Praise Habit, until it becomes “habit”ual.

On the back cover is a reference to Psalm 64:10; “… Good-hearted people, make praise your habit.” There’s a brief, three paragraph synopsis of the book, starting out, “Praise is something we are, not something we do.” This first of Crowder’s books is, on the back cover, recommended by Donald Miller (Blue Like JazzTo Own A DragonThrough Painted Desserts) and Brian McLaren (pastor, author of A New Kind of Christian, voice for the today’s emergent church). [Note – Miller and McLaren are just a few of the contemplatives and Emergents who recommend- and are recommended by – Crowder.]

Note – I plan to add more comments on the heresies of David Crowder. This is just the tip of Crowder’s deadly theological iceberg.

Read Full Post »

(revised 01/10/14)


(image source: http://provoketive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/hearing_from_god-500×250.jpg)

I mean no disrespect to the late Dallas Willard. But the truth is, he was a major heretical impetus to Richard Foster’s writing of the bestselling, heretical Celebration of Discipline.  Willard’s false teachings (as well as those of Foster, etc.) need to be exposed for what they were/are.

A number of articles have been written about the “Inner Light/Inward Light” heresy of George Fox and the Quakers. I too am researching this; I have written blogs about Quaker heresies here, as well as reposting the articles and blogs of others.

As Evangelical Friends co-pastors, Richard Foster and his Spiritual Formation mentor Dallas Willard taught the Quaker concepts of 1) the Inner Light (the light of Christ in every man), 2) direct revelation/immediate revelation/illumination, etc. Of course these teachings have been around for centuries (at least since the Gnostics I think). Many “non-evangelical” Quakers today believe in a “hybrid” of the Quaker Inner Light teachings and New Age beliefs (Christ consciousness, the inner voice, etc.).

So how exactly do “Inner Light” Quakers believe God speaks to us? Let me illustrate. Suppose a Spiritual Director were to say to a nonchristian (who has never heard the gospel of salvation), “Go sit on top of a mountain, cross your legs and hold your hands up praising God.  Engage in contemplative prayer, empty your mind, and then God can speak to you.” (Remember, this person has never heard the gospel, never read the Bible, has no concept of the Trinity, the Atonement, etc.) According to the Inner Light teaching, Christ is already in every man. (This is some mysterious presence of Christ – not the Holy Spirit.) So the person would supposedly receive direct revelations from God via the presence of Christ within him. Then – when he finally reads a  Bible – it will line up with the direct revelations he received from God. The main problem here: the Inner Light teaching does NOT view God’s Word the Bible as the primary way in which God “speaks” to us. 

I came across an excellent article by Gary Gilley. His article critiques the “hearing God’s voice” teaching of Dallas Willard  – Richard Foster’s former Evangelical Friends (EFCI)  co-pastor and heretical mentor in Spiritual Formation. Gilley’s article has been reposted on some other major discernment websites. I have reposted his article below; click here for Gilley’s original article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets]. And I have made a few grammatical corrections, such as underlining the titles of books.

Note – Willard was just one of many who taught/is teaching the heresy of “hearing God’s voice”. Justin Taylor writes here:

Books like Dallas Willard’s Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God and Bill Hybels’s The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond and Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Hearing God’s Voice continue to popularize the idea that a true relationship of intimacy with God requires ongoing private and personal revelations as a normative part of the Christian life.[emphasis mine-DM]

Now on to Gilley’s article:

“Hearing God, Developing a Conversational Relationship With God”
Written by Gary Gilley


(image source: http://images.betterworldbooks.com/159/Hearing-God-9781596440555.jpg)

Hearing God was previous published by Regal (1984), then by Harper (1993), and finally InterVarsity (1999) under the tital [sic] of In Search of Guidance. This updated and expanded edition is published under the Formatio wing of InterVarsity Press which offers numerous books promoting spiritual formation and “Christian” mysticism. At the heart of both spiritual formation and mysticism is God speaking beyond the pages of Scripture. For this reason Hearing God is an important book, written by one of the premiere leaders within the movement. That Willard is merely updating the same message he delivered nearly 30 years ago shows that the spiritual formation movement has not changed its basic teachings. And what are they? In essence, that we can live “the kind of life where hearing God is not an uncommon occurrence” (p. 12), for “hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship and obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God” (p. 13). In other words, the maturing Christian should expect to hear the voice of God, independent from Scripture, on a regular basis and that voice will reveal God’s individual, specific will for his life. Such individual communication from the Lord, we are told, is absolutely essential because without it there can be no personal walk with God (pp. 26, 31, 67). And it is those who are hearing from God today who will redefine “Christian spirituality for our time” (p. 15).

This premise leads to a very practical problem, however, one Willard will address throughout the book in many ways. The problem is, how does one know that he has really heard from God? Could he not be confusing his own thoughts, or even implanted thoughts from Satan (pp. 235-237), with the voice of God? This is even more problematic because Willard believes that while God can speak audibly or use dreams and visions, normally His voice will come as a “still small voice” heard only within our own hearts and minds. In fact, so vital is this “still small voice” that the author devotes his largest chapter to exploring what it means (chapter 5, pp. 114-153). Yet in all of his discussion on the topic, it never seems to dawn on Willard that the original “still small voice” to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-18) was in fact an audible voice, not an inward impression or thought.

Since Willard believes that God normally speaks to us through an inner, inaudible, subjective voice (p. 130) and that it is possible that God is speaking and we do not even know it (pp. 118-120), how can we be certain when God is speaking to us? In answer Willard boldly informs us that we can only learn the voice of God through experience (pp. 9, 19, 21, 63, 143). He clearly states, “The only answer to the question, how do we know whether this is from God? is By experience” (p. 218) (emphasis his). The author will use the word “experience” over 130 times, and equivalents hundreds of times more. The mechanics of learning the voice of God is detailed on pages 217-251 but ultimately it all boils down to experience. And until we have the experience it will apparently be necessary for those who have themselves supposedly heard from God to guide us. Without such help we may not be able to detect the voice of God (p. 221). Never mind that the Scriptures never tells us how, nor supplies techniques, to know when God is speaking, nor does the Bible ever tell us that we need to learn the voice of God. This is all pure fabrication on Willard’s part. As a matter of fact every time God speaks in Scripture it is through an audible voice, never through an inner voice, impressions or feelings, and that includes Elijah’s still small voice. Willard is advocating a form of communication from God never found in the pages of Scripture; he then elevates this inner voice to the very essence of our relationship with God. He attempts to prove this not only through his own experience but also by the examples of others such as Ken Taylor, George Fox, Teresa of Avila, St. Francis, Henri Nouwen and many others (see pp. 23-27). Willard attempts to intimidate his readers as well by telling them that God’s communication in this way to early Christians was a normal experience (pp. 70, 119) (which it wasn’t), that if we are not hearing from God it may be that we are out of tune with Him (p. 90), and that the Bible and the church are inadequate for developing a personal relationship with God (pp. 140, 186).

Willard teaches many theological errors as well. For example, as might be expected the author has a low view of Scripture. He believes the Bible is God’s inspired written word given to “provide us with a general understanding of God to inspire and cultivate a corresponding faith” (p. 87). But if we want to find out what God is saying to us personally we must go beyond the Bible (p. 218). Further Willard warns us of what he calls “Bible deism,” which is the view that God communicates to us today through Scripture alone (p. 142). As a matter of fact the Bible may prove a deadly snare: “We can even destroy ourselves by Bible study; specifically, by the study of Paul’s epistles” (p. 187). And even if the Bible is inerrant in the original texts it “does not guarantee sane and sound, much less error-free, interpretations” (p. 185). Willard clearly has a postmodern understanding of Scripture (i.e. it can never be rightly understood apart from God’s present-day communications) (p. 185). In conjunction with this view of Scripture is the idea (wrongly drawn from Luke 17:7-10) that an obsession to obey God “may be the very thing that rules out being the kind of person that He calls us to be” (p. 14).

Willard teaches a number of other deviate ideas including:

• God plans His life around us (p. 47).

• We become the royal priesthood of God when we have learned to hear from God (pp. 69-71).

• Similarly we become the temple of God through the same means (p. 76).

• As well, we do not start the Christian life as the slave of God, we become His slave in time through a maturing process (p. 77).

• Based on Colossians 1:19-29 he believes the resolution of the world’s problems, although finalized at Christ’s return, begins now (p. 75).

• The gospel is not reconciliation to God by faith but, “The good news that the kingdom rule of God is available to humankind here and now” (p. 202, cf. pp. 203-204).

In order to learn to hear the subjective voice of God, Willard recommends the use of lectio divina, which is custom made for this imaginative endeavor. As a result a co-writer provides six lectio exercises to pave the way (pp. 48-51, 104-105, 132-133, 165-166, 208-209, 247-250). The ultimate goal in all of this is to have the mind of Christ (pp. 71-72) which means to Willard that “we understand what God is doing so well that we often know exactly what God is thinking and intending to do” (p. 71).

The danger of Willard’s imaginative teachings on hearing from God through an inner voice can hardly be exaggerated. Rather than turning people to the inspired authoritative Scriptures for God’s word today, Willard turns us toward the subjective, unreliable self. The result is a people who believe they have heard from God even as they turn from the Word of God itself.

FOR FURTHER READING

Amy Spreeman, God told me to tell you…

Read Full Post »

In researching Quakerism and the Evangelical Friends, I’ve come across a number of discernment articles revealing how Spiritual Formation pioneer (and Evangelical Friend) Richard Foster has promulgated the heretical “Inner Light” teaching of Quakerism’s founder George Fox.

In the following blog by Ken Silva, which I have reposted, Foster once again is exposed as teaching this Quaker “Inner Light” heresy. Click here for Silva’s original post.  Now on to the repost:

RICHARD FOSTER: THE BIBLE A RELIABLE GUIDE DESPITE INCONSISTENCIES

By on Mar 18, 2010 in AM Missives, Current Issues, Dallas Willard, Features, Richard Foster

Apprising Ministries has long been warning you about the danger of listening to neo-Gnostics like Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster. For years now Foster, along with his his spiritual twin Dallas Willard, has been teaching corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) under the guise of so-called Spiritual Formation. But what we’re actually dealing with is really a romanticized version of Roman Catholic Counter Reformation spirituality.

It’s not evangelical Protestant Christianity; and worse, this highly subjective CSM is truly hostile to the proper Christian spirituality of Sola Scriptura. Here’s a couple of examples from Foster. The first is from a 2005 piece in Quaker Life called The With God Life: An Interview with Richard Foster.  While hawking The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, which had just come out, the Quaker mystic tells us how the experience-oriented Quakers subjectively approach God “in the gathered silence.”

And while explaining this to us Foster also reveals that he personally does not hold to the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture:

“The Immanuel Principle is ultimately cosmic,” according to Foster. “We are to reign with God and be with God forever and forever. In the past God worked first directly, then indirectly with his people. Since Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, God works both directly and indirectly. Quakers in the gathered silence experience God both directly and indirectly.”

I noticed that the focus on the with-God life circumnavigates inconsistencies found in Scripture and differing opinions about theology. By looking at how God revealed himself to people throughout Biblical history negates all those arguments. “You bypass it all,” stated Foster. “You put your focus on how God has been with a person and what does that say to me, now? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how does that apply to me? It’s all about developing charact — character that goes on into the future where we will reign with God and be with God eternally. (Online source, emphasis mine)

According to Richard Foster the infallible and inerrant Bible has “inconsistencies” that, as one of the new Gnostics, his “with-God life” helps him ”circumnavigate.” Foster’s practice of CSM supposedly allows him to negate and then ”bypass” all the “differing opinions about theology” because, well obviously, he and his fellow neo-Gnostics like Willard have gleaned superior direct gnosis (means knowledge) from God through their CSM:

Dallas Willard understands Quaker thinking about as well as anybody,” Foster acknowledged. “I had him do a study once on George Fox and his insights just blew me away.” (Online source)

If you didn’t know, George Fox is the heretical mystic who founded the original Quaker sect and, right in lock-step with classic mysticism which believes God indwells all of mankind, taught of “the Inner Light.” Now we can consider Foster’s teaching in the video below, which is a segment from GET A LIFE!: The With-God Life. In this clip Foster is talking about the “zoe-life [aka with-God life] that we receive from God” which “will accomplish its work; sustaining us, and moving us inevitably forward into Christlikeness.”

However, the “we” Foster is talking about here is not restricted to Christians; as a practicing Quaker, Foster is speaking of “the Inner Light”—which they teach is Christ—within all of mankind as he says:

This is a life! Powerful; irrepressible, self-sustaining, life—a with-God life. You see, this zoe is built into the very DNA of who we are as beings created as the image of God. (:41-1:00)

What you’ll hear Foster teaching is classic Quaker doctrine, which is itself, right in line with classic Gnostic mysticism with its fantasy of “the divine spark” of God within all of mankind. [1] Since this isn’t the subject of this piece I’ll simply tell you that in John 14:6 Jesus tells us that He is zoe and the Bible teaches one receives the gift of zoe [aka eternal life] is given only by God’s grace alone; through faith alone, in the finished work on the Cross of Christ Jesus alone. In other words, by believing the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name.

Concerning our topic of Foster’s low view of Scripture, after talking about how supposedly this with-God life “flows from God through scripture and into the thirsty wasteland of the human soul,” at 7:09 into the video the Quaker mystic talks “very specifically about the role of the Bible in all of this.” First he sets up, and then knocks down, a couple of straw men, i.e. things those of us who adhere to Sola Scriptura are not actually teaching. Afterward Foster says:

Let me share with you what the Bible is. The Bible is a most reliable guide into this zoe life. You see, the Bible is God’s book; no one owns it, but God. And God has so superintended the writing of Scripture that it serves as a most reliable guide for our own spiritual formation. So you see, the purpose of the Bible is, a most reliable guide into the zoe life that God intends for you and for me. (8:20-9:10)

Right in line with classic Quakerism, and what he said above in the aforementioned interview, Quaker mystic Richard Foster has just told us that his experience in CSM will trump what Scripture says because it’s merely ”a most reliable guide”; but for these neo-Gnostics, the Bible simply is not the most reliable guide as in the proper Christian spirituality of Sola Scriptura. Those following people like Richard Foster had better wake up soon…

________________________________________________________________________________
Endnotes:

1. I refute this idea biblically in Understanding The New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.

See also:

CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY OF RICHARD FOSTER ROOTED IN THE EASTERN DESERT AND THOMAS MERTON

“CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE” BY RICHARD FOSTER AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THEOLOGICAL ERROR

“INWARD JOURNEY” ESPOUSED BY RICHARD FOSTER IS A FORM OF DIVINATION

IS DALLAS WILLARD A CHRISTIAN?

CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY/MYSTICISM (CSM) OF SPIRITUAL FORMATION IS RECKLESS FAITH

THE TERMINOLOGY TRAP OF “SPIRITUAL FORMATION”

9 MARKS: INTERVARSITY PRESS SEEMS ADRIFT

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: