September 1, 2012
Dan’s gospel “So the real gospel is the miracle power, the dutumas (Greek word), and the salvation, healing, deliverance, not just being good enough to go to heaven, but be empowered enough to bring heaven to earth.” (end of quote)” This is a false gospel according to what scripture teaches ( “Take Another Drink 1/9″ on the YouTube: ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVirTXTfAQA&feature=relmfu Minutes 0-2:30) http://youtu.be/NVirTXTfAQA
The real gospel message is that salvation is by grace through faith (Rom. 6:23), not faith and something you do like baptism or faith and speaking in tongues, or faith and going to a Oneness church, etc. True salvation is freedom from the requirement of keeping any part of the Law to get or maintain salvation. True salvation is receiving Christ (John 1:12), being in the body of Christ, and being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Now be for I start I want to say Dan Bohi is not the only one who is preaching this false gospel so you can take Dan’s name out and invert many others. My focus here is Dan but there are many others wrapped up in this grievous heresy.
Let me also say that many who follow Dan are perhaps good well meaning Christians who are wrapped up in the deception.Some are perhaps zealous for God and revival and have the very best of intentions.
Paul spoke about this in Romans 10:2 King James Version
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
One of the bigger problem with some of Dan’s followers is that charismatic teachers like Dan tend to draw a almost cult type following.
These kind of people are dangerous because it seems that they have laid the scriptures aside (not checking what Dan teaches compared to scripture). And will call down curses on any who oppose Dan.
This is what I call charismatic witchcraft. They will warn and accuse you to not touch God’s annointed one or threaten you with the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit(Matt 21:31-32) if you oppose Dan or any of the un-biblical manifestations going on in Dan’s meetings.
Dan also has claimed to raise the dead ” “I prayed for a man. My brother and I were in revival in Coffeeville, Kansas… and we prayed for a man who was dead… and he came back to life. I prayed for a man when I did a revival at the Roy Clark Theatre in Branson… and he came back to life. I prayed for a man in Olathe, Kansas at a Tuesday night revival service at 9:04 pm… and he came back to life. I haven’t raised 600, like Heidi and Roland.. but I’ve done three because I’m a Nazarene and we always have three points.” (laughter)”Source (2:40: Faith, Not Maybe: I Am, Part 2)So not only is Dan going for the laughs here and being immature and carnal but he also offers no proof.
So lets go to some history here on what Dan is teaching. Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement have only been around for the last hundred years or so.You wont find teaching like this unless you go to the Desert Fathers and Catholic mystics in history.
Latter Day Rain folk which was founded around 1948 (which Dan is part of willingly or not because of his teaching) or rooted in a attempt to point out some great endtime army who will do greater works than Jesus. Here is some history on them. The term Latter Rain stems from passages such as Jeremiah 3:3, 5:23–25, Joel 2:23, Hosea 6:3, Zechariah 10:1, and James 5:7. The idea of a latter rain was not new to Pentecostals. It was present from the earliest days of Pentecostalism, which believed that the reappearance of speaking in tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit marked the “latter rain of God’s Spirit.” It was believed that these were signs of the coming end of history. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost had been the “former rain” that established the Church, but the current “move” of the Spirit was the latter rain that would bring the Church’s work to completion and culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which was and is imminent.
Greater works you shall do is based on this army of supposed super Christians which Dan wants you to be part of. But what does scripture teach on the greater works Jesus spoke of?
John 14:12 “2 Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth in Me, the works that I do he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My Father.”
The works Jesus spoke of was the gospel because that does not just heal the body physically but also spiritually through eternal life through Jesus Christ.
It would be important to study William Branhams teaching in order to understand Dan Bohi’s roots and those like Dan. http://www.letusreason.org/DVDWMBranham.htm
One cannot understand the modern miracle revivals or healing crusades of Benny Hinn, Rodney Browne (laughter), Toronto, Brownsville, or Todd Bentley without referring to the healing revivals of the 40’s-50’s.that were steered and popularized by William Branham. Nearly all the practices of today’s apostles, Prophets, healers, faith ministries, are being copied. Visits by angels and the Lord Jesus, words of knowledge (telling people where people live and secrets of their lives), new revelations were all part of William Branham’s ministry operation. One can trace portions of the revivals in our modern era back to him. The Latter Rain teachings began by Branham and spread to so many.
Branham believed he was born with a personal angel that was a gift. But he did not think of it as such until he was converted and went to church. This gave him an answer to a disembodied voice (spirit) that accompanied him from birth and instructed him through life, telling him future events and diagnosing peoples diseases.
Funny how many can be against the Emergent Church movement but in fact they are just trading one experience based style of religion for another.
Many of the healings that Dan states happens in his meetings are based on emotional problems and other things that not be proven and will take a period of time to see if they were real. Let me show you an example.
From Dan’s FB page “In oakhurst this week 120 people confessed and were forgiven of all sin. Over 80 were sanctified and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Over 50 were healed physically and emotionally . Marriages were saved and alcohol and drug addicts were delivered. The power of Gods presence was truly beyond words. We are driving to Anaheim tomorrow and start at 1st church Sunday morning” (end quote)
Yes Dan is quite the numbers guy but the things quoted are things that will take time to show if they were true plus these kind of healing were never mentioned in the scripture’s unless you compare emotional problems with demonic possession. And I would not want to take that leap.
Here is a comment from a Concerned Christian
I think I’ve told you this already, but I’ve basically left the Nazarene church now, and Bohi was the straw that broke this camel’s back, for many of the same reasons you’ve already stated. I brought up the link concerning Bohi’s claim that people were literally raised from the dead to my former church who hosted Bohi (using the same link you have up) yet the head pastor did not seem to listen or even consider it.
BTW, I too also requested documentation from his ministry regarding Bohi’s “resurrections.” To this date, I have not received a response either.
As far as those defending Bohi because he uses Greek-So what? Word of Faith teachers use Greek too. There is all the difference in the world between using Greek and RIGHTLY using Greek. Bohi propagates the “logos/rhema” lie that was initially promoted by Word of Faith advocate Charles Farah ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Farah ). Farah used the Greek as well, but used it incorrectly.
It reminds me of the inside joke used by seminary students regarding those who take the first few weeks of Greek class and think they know it well: “They know just enough Greek to make them dangerous.”
Again, Bohi may be a nice, sincere man, but that does not mean he is preaching the truth. In fact, if what you have documented concerning his take on the gospel is true, then at the very least Bohi is coming dangerously close to confusing justification with sanctification, and that is perhaps the most fatal of his false teachings. That a great many Nazarenes are just nodding their heads to what he promotes tells me that the Nazarene church is doctrinally anemic and settles for entertainment-oriented “worship services,” emotional pumping up, and nice little sermons bordering on works-righteousness instead of meaty messages that proclaim sound doctrinal teaching, and especially the gospel.
My disdain for Bohi is not unfounded, but in one sense he’s the symptom of doctrinal illiteracy. Those who like him should consider switching denominations instead of filling the Nazarene denomination with the charismatic ideology. ” end quote
Did Jesus preach that signs and wonders were a part of the gospel ?
From my good friend and brother in the Lord Mike Oppenheimer
A question often posed is, ‘Can others do miracles like the apostles, since Mark 16:17-18 describes “and these signs will follow those who believe in my name they will cast out demons they will speak in other tongues and… will heal the sick.” ( Note: these particular verses are not found in the majority of the manuscripts. Lets grant that it probably is.) The answer is found in a careful examination of the text. Where we find in the Mark 16:14 narrative that Jesus is speaking to the 11 and commissions them to preach the Gospel first then baptizing the believers. So we find that the Lord is in fact speaking directly to the apostles just before he is taken up into Heaven (verse 19). Afterward, the apostles went out and preached, and the Lord was working with them confirming His Word through accompanying signs. The “them” is referring to the apostles, therefore, there is no evidence that all believers can do what the apostles did. What did occur is the word was first preached and the signs and wonders followed to validate the new leadership for the Church. In much the same way Jesus’ miracles were to validate his person and message. Signs and wonders were to follow those who believe, not the believer following after the signs. Acts14:3 shows their focus was to build people up in the objective word, not looking for the power to do miracles. Mark 16:20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Signs and wonders, miracles are not for the Christians who already believe, they accompanied the Gospel and were done in the presence of the unbelievers to have them believe in the message.
If you are strong in faith you don’t need signs and wonders to know that the Father cares for you. You don’t need to be further convinced of God by the exhibiting of power. We don’t need signs and wonders to prove that He exists or that He hears our prayers. Faith comes by hearing the word about Christ (Romans 10:17) we believe what we read. Without seeing any evidence of supernatural manifestations, we can believe because God has granted us grace to believe based upon the testimony of His Word. Faith is to work from his word. The Lord requires faith, however we are more blessed who believe without seeing (John 20:29). Faith is the foundation upon which rests every thing we receive in our spiritual life. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). But its not presumption nor is it imaginative.
If we look at the people who have had supernatural experiences, we’ll find that, in many cases, when the signs and wonders cease, their faith ceases. It was not true faith, but rather mere belief in what they could deny seeing. They believed because they saw, but they did not have true faith, it was temporary. The 3 cities Christ did miracles in the people hated him. So he pronounced a judgment on them.
Matt 11:21-24: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. “But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
Scripture and history prove that signs and wonders do not instill faith, just the opposite, lack of faith prompts ones desire to see signs and wonders. John 12:37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him. John 4:48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Jesus was disappointed that it took the miraculous for people to listen to his teachings or follow.
Jesus said in Jn.13:19 I have told you before that when it comes to past that you may believe that I Am.” This he was speaking of who would betray him. Jesus used his prophesying to prove his deity. He never pointed to the miracles to prove the end all to who he was. Prophecy proves the bible is true and who Christ is, it is always the word of truth that is pointed to for the test of authenticity.(end quote)
Keep in mind concerning faith this is what Dan Bohi teaches on U tube (you can search my other articles for the exact references) (Faith:Not Maybe, I Am, Part 1, at :50) Dan”I dont like the definition of faith in Heb 11 it does not make sense to me even though I know what it says then Dan goes on to define faith on his terms not what scripture teaches.
Of course Dan would not like the definition of faith in scripture because Dan’s own gospel includes signs and wonders as part of it. So scripture conflicts with what Dan is promoting.
I have to ask this question. Why would any bible believing Christian follow a person who preaches a false gospel (dependent on signs and wonders) and a person who has stated publically that he does not like the Heb 11 definition of faith?
Im going to do a part two because I want to address words of wisdom and knowledge and how they are preached today and how that conflicts with scripture and Dans glory barn practice. Is this biblical? We have also been accused of being cessantionists saying that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased. But what does scripture teach on this?
Stay tuned and for sure check the scriptures on everything we say. And if it conflicts with scripture reject it.
PS for all the Nazarenes reading this keep in mind your own denomination rejected what Dan is currently bringing in which was a part of what went on at Azuza street. The Nazarene denomination distanced itself from Azuza Street. Keep in mind Im not saying Dan Bohi is promoting speaking in tongues. I have not seen that yet.(UPDATE- a brother in the Lord corrected me on this here is his observations-Tim
Secondly, I would disagree with your statement “Keep in mind Im not saying Dan Bohi is promoting speaking in tongues. I have not seen that yet.” If you listen to his message about the nine bones in the wing of a dove referring to the gifts and that we shouldn’t cut off one of the wings (I have heard this message several times) you can conclude that he is encouraging speaking in tongues. The Church of the Nazarene has distanced itself from the Pentecostal practice of tongues as a prayer language but does acknowledge the gift of tongues as related to communication of the gospel. The board of General Superintendents in 1976 put it this way:
“The gift of tongues is related to the miraculous gift of many language barriers. The people present were astonished because each one heard the gospel being preached in his own native dialect (Acts 2:6, 8). This special miracle was an expression of God’s desire to reach every man everywhere through the spoken and written word. Language is the vehicle of God’s truth. We believe that the biblical material supports one authentic gift—a language given to communicate the gospel and not an unknown babble of sounds. It is our understanding that in 1 Corinthians 12; 13; 14, Paul was seeking to prevent the abuse of the authentic gift and condemning that which was spurious and of the flesh. We believe that the religious exercise called “tongues” which is not a means of communicating truth is a false gift and a dangerous substitute. We do not believe in a so-called prayer language. “
We can only conclude from Dan’s message that he is referring to the church not allowing tongues as a prayer language. He comes to it in a roundabout way but I believe his message is promoting the practice of tongues in the church.
Keep up the good work.) But there was much more to Azuza Street than just speaking in tongues. Google it for more history on what Azuza Street bought.
Here is what Phineas Bresee had to say source (http://www.azusastreet.org/AzusaStreetBresee.htm)
Some months ago, among some of the colored people in this city, reinforced after a little with some whites, there began something which was called the “gift of tongues.” The meetings were held in a large rented building on Azusa Street. The professed gift of tongues was not the only peculiarity of the meetings, but much physical exercise of various kinds, with laying on of hands. The meetings attracted some attention, especially among that class of people who are always seeking for some new thing. We made no mention of the matter in the Messenger, not deeming it of sufficient importance to demand attention from outsiders. We felt that all men must know that as far as it was necessarily the same as is being carried on with so much success in this city of getting believers sanctified and sinners converted, and so far as it partook of fanaticism and was fostered by heretical teaching, we did not care to give it the prominence of public discussion.
But some parties who had the confidence of editors in the East sufficiently to secure the publication of what they have written, have given such marvelous statements of things as occurring in connection with this thing, that for the sake of those at a distance, and the many who are writing us about it, we deem it wise to say a simple word.
Locally it is of small account, being insignificant both in numbers and influence. Instead of being the greatest movement of the times, as represented—in Los Angeles, at least—it is of small moment. It has had, and has now, upon the religious life of the city, about as much influence as a pebble thrown into the sea; but what little influence it has had seems to have been mostly harmful, instead of beneficent. It seems not only to have had at least some of the elements of fanaticism, but to be trying to inculcate such erroneous or heretical doctrines as mark it as not of the Spirit of Truth. The two principal things which are emphasized, and wherein they claim to differ from others, is, that Christians are sanctified before they receive the baptism with the Holy Ghost, this baptism being a gift of power upon the sanctified life, and that the essential and necessary evidence of the baptism is the gift of speaking with new tongues.
As far as has come under our own observation, or that we have seen experted by competent examination, the speaking with tongues has been a “no-thing,” a jargon, a senseless mumble, without meaning to those who do the mumbling, or to those who hear. Where in a few instances the speaker or some other one has attempted to interpret, it has usually been a poor mess.
It would be doing the few poor people who have been deluded by this thing no wrong to say that among clearheaded, faithful, reliable Christian people of this city the thing has no standing.
We are surprised at reputable papers giving credence to the almost unthinkably extravagant utterances in reference to such a matter before attempting to know whether there was anything to it or not.
Anything that is out of the good old way of entire sanctification, by the truth, through the blood, by the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire, which entirely separates and burns up the chaff of carnality, and then abides to teach, lead, and empower, may well be halted and carefully examined before being admitted to confidence, or given the semi-endorsement of publication.
These are more or less people whose experience is unsatisfactory, who have never been sanctified wholly, or have lost the precious work out of their hearts, who will run after the hope of exceptional or marvelous things, to their own further undoing. People who have the precious, satisfactory experience of Christ revealed in the heart by the Holy Spirit, do not hanker after strange fire, nor run after every suppositional gift, nor are they blown about by every wind of doctrine. There is rest only in the old paths where the Holy Spirit Himself imparts to the soul directly the witness of His cleansing and indwelling.
For more information on the Latter Day Rain Movement Dan Bohi is part of please check the following link
March 15, 2012
The term New Age was used as early as 1809 by William Blake
who described a coming era of spiritual and artistic advancement
in his preface to Milton a Poem by stating: “… when the New Age
is at leisure to pronounce, all will be set right …”
We also need to understand at the first that the main problem in the church is that many do not believe the entire Word of God to be true.
31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
This is a real stumbling block to some of my brothers and sisters in the Lord most of all in the Nazarene denomination even though many Nazarenes believe scripture to be true cover to cover.
The apostle John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit also wrote in 1 John Chapter 3 that the earth is divided into two sets of people children of God and children of the devil. Movements like the Emergent church and other followers of the coming new age would like to add a touch of gray to this black and white statement of scripture.
The true church of Jesus Christ is now under assault from all fronts not only from the Emergent church but the false signs and wonders movement as well. The Nazarenes are getting hit by this as well from speakers like Dan Bohi. I get many emails from Nazarene’s who have been to Dan’s meeting and have all kinds of scriptural red flags go off when this guy preaches.
What confuses people is that even apparent nice guys could and can be scripturally off base as well as just plain false teachers.
I document Dan and his signs and wonders preaching in my articles here.
Read the two articles and decide for yourselves.
Dan has not changed and there is very real concern about his teaching and preaching.
The second fold problem is weak leadership who are afraid to speak up on the problem. I recently pointed this out on the Concerned Nazarenes FB page and came under fire because the evangelist is well liked.
He promoted the Alpha course even though he listed that his church had changed it around.
I hear this a lot.
The problem is that at its origins the Alpha course attempts to unify Christians with the church of Rome.
Many Nazarenes have already bought into Roman practice. False leader Jon Middendorf church celebrated the Eucharist with a Catholic church that was near by.
Catholics see communion in a different way than Biblical Christians do.
I have also heard for the last year and a half or so that there has been all these secret prayer meetings among the evangelists and many tears were shed etc..
But to date there has been no action taken and they for sure support Dan Bohi as a group.
Prayer is always needed but that usually results in guidance from God and then action.
These weeping prayer meetings sound more like politics to me rather than godly gatherings.
The Holy Spirit always will turn people to Gods Word and evil will be exposed.
The Road to Rome which the Nazarenes and many others are on will always result in a Road to Babylon and the endtime one world religion.
Problem here if you read books from Nazarene leaders like Dan Boone in his apostate Chicken Little book he does not believe in the endtimes the way scripture teaches.
More to come in Part Two-The Road to Rome Meets the Road to Babylon
February 22, 2010
Good set of articles from my sister in the Lord Berit that you should take the time to read again check out both links.
Small groups and the dialetic process
February 22, 2010
Recently I watched a interesting DVD. A man stated a interesting analogy on the DVD.
He stated “Watch dogs and cats on how they react.
Toss a pebble at a cat and the cat goes after the pebble. Toss another pebble at a cat and it goes after that pebble etc..
Toss a pebble at a dog and he immediatly looks at the source of who threw the pebble.
As we post articles and sort through comments we need to remember to keep our focus on the one throwing the pebbles (satan throwing pebbles such as Emergent church, open thesism etc..)
Keep your focus on the source of the problem.
I stopped allowing comments on all my websites and blogs for this reason.
Look at the original post and then look down through the comments.
It never fails to branch off into many bunny trails which have nothing to do with the original article.
This happen almost 95% of the time and thats a conservative view.
This is our enemy satans ploy to get us to fight all these (time consuming side battles).
It takes time away from your family and could possibly but relationship’s with family stressed and possibly destroyed.
It also takes the focus off what the original article stated.
The enemy will try to do this 100% of the time.
satan wants to destroy your family as well as keep you off balance answering silly questions.
On Manny Silva’s website “Reformed Nazarene” notice my debate with a person who said his name was Andy about what the RomanCatholic/Catholic church teaches.
Nothing personaal but this gentleman did not even know what the Catholic church teaches and or taught.
Many of his comments would have been viewed in error even by fellow Roman Catholic’s/Catholic’s.
And Im not going to rehash those comments anywhere else.
The discusion almost always ends up going in circle which end up no where and will sometimes confuse those who are viewing this debate.
Now Im not saying to never answer a honest question from someone who is truely sitting on the fence.
This can also be done by private email.
Sometimes we feel the need to keep it public so that those watching (fence sitters) can benefit from the discussion.
We also need to balance this with the fence sitters being deceived by the discussion.
I’ve always thought (after many side battle through the years with folks like Saddlback/Rick Warren apologist Richard Abanes) that its a best practice to just get the information out and then let the Holy Spirit convict and bring people back toward God’s Word.
Thats the real fight here-Gods Word.
Keeping in mind there is time to defend the faith.
But we are defending the faith when we post articles.
Dialog and conversation often take away from defending the faith.
We can see through scripture that Paul debated on Mars Hill (Acts 17).
So Im sure there is a time for this even though it may bear lttle fruit.
Most of the folks who disagree with our stance will not be convinced no matter what scripture we quote because they do not believe that Gods Holy Word is without error.
This presents us with a dilemma on what foundation are we starting our debate on?
If its not on solid ground everything is relative and up for grabs.
Thats why I for the most part I don’t debate anymore.
If we can’t even agree on a solid foundation to start with whats the point?
It should never start from the point of what we think but what Gods Word states.
Now our opposition would state that we look at Gods Word differently than they do.
They may quote you look at things through a Calvinist lense versus a Wesleyian lense etc..
No- we look at scripture through the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth not through denominational tradition.
We follow Jesus Christ and His Word not John Wesley, Martin Luther or John Calvin.
I’m sure any of the above mentioned men would be embarrassed and would sharply rebuke those who put so much emphasize on following man and or tradition instead of God and His Word.
The biggest problem in this battle is its a battle against Gods Word.
Our opposition is trying to tear down and destroy Gods Holy Word.
They have bought into the lie that our enemy satan has used since the start of time.
Gen 3:1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The source of the evil thats going on will always be to put that seed of doubt in someone’s mind who is not rooted in Gods Holy Word in scripture.
No I dont worship my Bible.
But I do understand and agree that it speaks with authority and is without error as we are guided through it by the Holy Spirit.
So choose your battles wisely.
Keep in mind that this is not censorship blogs and websites are still free and available to the public.
People who disagree with us have the ability to speak out against us on their own websites and blogs.
No one stops them from doing this.
We still have free speech in our wonderful country and our opposition can exercise their rights to that.
I would encourage you to not let them distract from the truth on your own websites.
It is the enemies ploy to always distract and cause chaos.
Avoid playing into that at all cost.
Sincerely in Christ
January 27, 2010
The Emergent Church’s Retreat into Pre-Reformation Darkness
by Paul M. Elliott
In recent years, the Emergent Church movement has become a headline-grabbing favorite of the religious media establishment. Emergent leaders’ books and videos line the shelves of religious bookstores. Press coverage of their activities and pronouncements is overwhelmingly favorable. The movement has received national exposure in a two-hour PBS television special and on ABC’s Nightline. Emergents’ influence has spread like wildfire in colleges, seminaries, and churches – mainline liberal, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical alike.
Emergent Church1 leaders and their supporters promote the movement as “the way forward” for the church. It is, they claim, a “new Reformation” with its own “95 theses” and its own new Luther pointing the way. But the Emergents’ “way forward” is in fact a headlong, headstrong retreat into pre-Reformation spiritual and intellectual darkness.
“By Their Fruits You Will Know Them”
Most Bible-believing Christians know little about the Emergent Church movement, even as it devours once sound churches, Christian colleges, and seminaries. Many sincere Christians have been confused and even deceived. They are ready to give Emergents the benefit of the doubt because the movement’s place on the theological spectrum seems difficult to pin down. Are they liberals? Are they conservatives? Do they simply defy conventional labels?
Emergent’s own definition of their movement is unhelpful: “a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”2 Emergents make up their theology (if it can be dignified by that term) on the fly, and it changes with the winds.
Bible-believers need not be confused by the Emergent confusion. The Lord Jesus Christ himself gave us a straightforward procedure for evaluating all men and movements:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
We must evaluate Emergents’ fruits by the infallible standard of Scripture alone. The Bible employs none of the man-made, sliding-scale labels churches too often apply in such evaluations – liberal/conservative, classical/progressive, traditional/contemporary, old-school/new-school. Nor does the Bible speak in terms of following a “third way” of compromise. In His Word, the Holy Spirit uses only two categories: truth and error.
The dividing line between truth and error is fixed and well-delineated in God’s Word. It is the Christian soldier’s battle front. On one side is light, on the other side darkness. There is no demilitarized zone where the forces of truth and error may meet under a flag of truce and negotiate. Unless Christians view the fruits of the Emergent confusion in those terms, we view them un-Biblically.
Those fruits include deconstruction of the Bible, grace, faith, salvation, and the church. Emergents’ deconstruction of the person and work of Jesus Christ is openly blasphemous. Emergents arrogantly pro-claim that the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, is an insult to their intelligence. Man, not Christ or the Bible, is preeminent in Emergent thinking. The Emergent Church may be the most narcissistic movement in church history.
Emergents reject truth/error thinking. Their keynote is the deadly embrace of paradox. Emergent leaders have invented an Orwellian newspeak that employs terms such as “orthoparadoxy” (“correct paradox”), and “paradoxology” (the “glory of paradox”) to describe their approach to all things.
New Luther or Blind Leader?
In 2004, Emergent guru3 Brian McLaren published what was hailed as a landmark book called A Generous Orthodoxy.4 Phyllis Tickle, who according to her website is “a lay Eucharistic minister and lector in the Episcopal church,”5 wrote the foreword, in which she said:
Religion is like a spyglass through which we look to determine our course, our place in the order of things, and to sight that toward where we are going [sic]. On a clear day, no sailor needs such help, save for passing views of a far shore. But on a stormy sea, with all landmarks hidden in obscuring clouds, the spyglass becomes the instrument of hope, the one thing on board that, held to the eye long enough, will find the break in the clouds and discover once more the currents and shores of safe passage. Ours are stormy seas just now; and I believe as surely as Martin Luther held the spyglass for sixteenth-century Europe, so Brian McLaren holds it here for us in the twenty-first….
…The emerging church has the potential of being to North American Christianity what Reformation Protestantism was to European Christianity. And I am sure that the generous orthodoxy defined in the following pages is our 95 theses. Both are strong statements, strongly stated and, believe me, not lightly taken in so public a forum as this. All I can add to them in defense is the far simpler statement: Here I stand.
So, on that basis, the one thing that remains is to invite you to join thousands and thousands of others who have already read these words and subsequently assumed them as the theses of a new kind of Christianity and the foundational principles for a new Beloved Community.6
The “Beloved Community” of which Tickle speaks is a term coined by pseudo-Christian philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916). In his 1913 book, The Problem of Christianity, Royce said that the doctrine of the incarnation is not about the coming of God in the person of Jesus Christ, but the incarnation of God in the visible church. He added that “the visible church, rather than the person of the founder [Jesus Christ], ought to be viewed as the central idea of Christianity.” To Royce, the “problem of Christianity” was Jesus Christ.
Royce also said that the visible church forms a “Universal Community of Interpretation” that redefines “Christianity” to suit the conditions of the times. Royce is a favorite philosopher of the Emergents. Tellingly, his long-out-of-print book was recently republished by the Catholic University of America, an institution of the greatest chameleon church on Earth. 7
Confused and Proud of It
Brian McLaren is clearly comfortable in the intellectual and theological company of people like Tickle and Royce. The full title of McLaren’s “95 Theses of the Emergent Church” is quite a mouthful:
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional-Evangelical-Post-Protestant -Liberal/Conservative-Mystical/Poetic-Biblical-Charismatic/Contemplative-Fundamentalist/Calvinist-Anabaptist/ Anglican-Methodist-Catholic-Green-Incarnational-Depressed-Yet-Hopeful-Emergent-Unfinished Christian
Rather than being ashamed of his confused state of mind, McLaren wears this complex and contradictory title proudly. He uses each of the descriptions in the lengthy subtitle of his book as the title of a chapter within it. McLaren presents himself as the guru of a “new Reformation” built not on Biblical orthodoxy, but on a man-centered theology of paradox.
A follow-up book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (2007), authored by McLaren and twenty-six other Emergent thought leaders, is an equally confused and confusing theological Tower of Babel. Its architects and builders are bent on not simply tearing down the Reformation, but on taking the church back into pre Reformation darkness. In the process, McLaren and his fellow Emergents leave no doubt that they are not really Christians at all.
The Origin of the Term “Emergent”
The Emergent Church movement is unabashedly postmodernist. Emergents’ only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Feelings and experience preclude the acceptance of propositional truth. Emergent “truth” comes through dialogue and consensus, and therefore today’s “truth” is not necessarily tomorrow’s. Theology is “conversational.” Truth itself is “emergent.”
What is the definition of “emergent”? Brian McLaren offers this:
There are many kinds of thinking. Some thought is discursive, tracing the development of an idea in a linear way. Some is polemical, staging a winner-takes-all fight between ideas. Some is analytical, breaking down complex wholes into simple parts or tracing complex effects back to simpler causes. But some thought seeks to embrace what has come before – like a new ring on a tree – in something bigger. This is emergent (or integral, or integrative) thinking.8
This definition of “emergence” has its roots in the philosophy of a man named Ken Wilber, who mixes elements of Christianity, Buddhism, New Age, and Eastern philosophies into his so-called religious practice. Wilber is becoming popular as a thought leader among an ever-widening circle of Evangelical and Reformed churches and seminaries. McLaren says the definition of “emergence” is based on Wilbur’s evolutionary concept of the “Great Nest of Being” which consists of, as McLaren puts it, “these realities”
1. Space and Time: the primal creation in which everything emerges.
2. Inanimate Matter: the domain of physics and chemistry in space and time.
3. Microbiotic and Plant Life: the domain of microbiology and botany, which embraces domains 1 and 2 and adds life.
4. Animal Life: the domain of zoology, which comprises domains 1 through 3 and adds increasing levels of sentience and intelligence.
5. Human Life: the domain of anthropology and psychology and art and ethics, which comprises domains 1 through 4 and adds increasing levels of consciousness and culture.
6. Spiritual Life: the domain of awareness of God, accessed through theology and spirituality and mysticism, which encompasses domains 1 through 5, and adds the experience of the sacred and conscious relationship with God.9
This kind of thinking marries Eastern mysticism and New Age thought with classical Darwinism. Everything emerges from something else, says McLaren. He then gives his first example of how he says Christians need to practice “emergent” thinking: “In whatever ways Protestants feel they emerged from Catholicism…they can’t despise their roots or reject their past.”10 As we shall see, what McLaren has in mind is a redefinition of Protestantism as the prelude to an unconditional surrender to Roman Catholicism.
Say “So Long” to the Solas How does the Emergent Church’s “new Reformation” compare with the one that freed Biblical Christianity from the shroud of Romanism? What of the five solas, the rallying cries of that Reformation? What of sola Scriptura, the Reformers’ declaration that the Christian’s authority is Scripture alone? What of sola gratia, salvation by grace alone? What of solus Christus, the truth that salvation is through Christ alone? What of sola fide, justification by faith alone? And do Emergents believe in soli Deo gloria, that the glory belongs to God alone?
Emergents dismiss adherence to such fundamentals, says spokesman Barry Taylor, as “a constant reminder that religion can be a source of chaos and confusion.”11 But who is really living in the realm of chaos and confusion – those whom the Emergents deride as “fundamentalists,” or Emergents who have exalted themselves against the knowledge of God? How do the theological currents flowing through the Emergent Church compare with the Reformation’s great and fundamental statements of the Biblical faith “once for all delivered to the saints”? We shall allow Emergent Church spokesmen to answer for themselves, to their own condemnation.
Deconstructing the Word of God
We begin with sola Scriptura, the doctrine that the Christian’s sole authority is Scripture alone. Emergent Church leaders will tell you they are uncertain of most things. They wear ambiguity like a badge of honor. But they are certain of one thing: The Bible is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, uniquely authoritative Word of God.
What do Emergent Church leaders say is the nature of the Bible? Emergent guru McLaren says that the Bible is “an inspired gift from God – a unique collection of literary artifacts.”12 Emergent leader Doug Pagitt agrees with McLaren, hinting at what they mean by “inspired.” The “history of the Christian faith,” Pagitt says, is that “the Scriptures come from and inform the church.”13 In other words, they do not come from God in the sense of verbal, plenary, authoritative inspiration spoken of in passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21.
McLaren is even more explicit. He says that “the purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works.”14 McLaren and other Emergents repeat this statement frequently in their writings, almost as a mantra. But there is never a word about Scripture’s telling mankind how to become one of God’s people, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Throughout their writings, Emergents assume that everybody is already one of “God’s people.” You just have to get busy doing “good works,” as they define them.
But after stating that “the purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works,” McLaren follows immediately with this: “Shouldn’t a simple statement like this be far more important than statements with words foreign to the Bible’s vocabulary about itself (inerrant, authoritative, literal, revelatory, objective, absolute, propositional, etc.)?”15
Just how “foreign” does McLaren think these words are to Scripture? He does not hesitate to tell us, in a book with one of the most ironic titles ever: Adventures in Missing the Point, co-authored by McLaren and so-called “Evangelical left” spokesman Tony Campolo. McLaren’s and Campolo’s title reflects their fatuous belief that the Bible-believing Christian church has “missed the point” on just about everything. (Of course, Emergents have “gotten the point.”) “The Bible is an inspired gift from God – a unique collection of literary artifacts,” McLaren says. But it is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, propositional, revelatory, absolute, objective, Word of God. What’s more, McLaren asserts, “not even one hundredth of one percent of the Bible” presents “objective information about God.”16
Those are some pretty absolute statements from a man who claims that little, if anything, is certain. But McLaren is just getting warmed up. The Christian church, says McLaren, has misrepresented the Bible as something containing “universal laws.” “We claimed that the Bible was easy to understand,” he laments. “We presented the Bible as a repository of sacred propositions.” All of that was wrong, he says. And, echoing the true position of the Roman Catholic Church-State, McLaren laments that “we mass produced the Bible” and gave Christians the impression that they could interpret it for themselves.17
Orthoparadoxy and Paradoxology
How, according to Emergents, are we to approach this “inspired” but humanly-originated, non-inerrant, non-infallible, non-authoritative Bible? Emergent spokesman Dwight J. Friesen, a professor of practical theology at Mars Hill Graduate School (Seattle) and a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the ultra-liberal National Council of Churches, says that Christ was not interested inorthodoxy but in “a full and flourishing human life.”18 What must develop, says Friesen, is not orthodoxy – correct teaching – but a piece of Emergent doubletalk called orthoparadoxy or “correct paradox.” Friesen writes:
Orthoparaxody represents a conversational theological method that seeks to graciously embrace difference while bringing the fullness of a differentiated social-self to the other. Through the methodology of orthoparadoxy, competing ideas, practices, and hermeneutics are seen as an invitation to conversational engagement rather than as something to refute, reform, or revise.19
Current theological methods that often stress agreement/disagreement, win/loss, good/bad, orthodox/heresy, and the like set people up for constant battles to convince and convert the other to their way of believing….20
Orthoparadox theology is less concerned with creating “once for all” doctrinal statements or dogmatic claims and is more interested in holding competing truth claims in right tension…. Orthoparadox theology requires a dynamic understanding of the Holy Spirit.21
…see conversation starters where you once saw theological disagreement.22
Emergent Church spokeswoman Nanette Sawyer has added another term to the Emergent lexicon of confusion and doubt: paradoxology. Sawyer is an ordained Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) minister with degrees from both Harvard and McCormick divinity schools. Sawyer, like most of her fellow Emergents, takes refuge from the light of truth in the caverns of paradox. Those who believe the Bible’s categorical, propositional truth claims are arrogant and superficial, she says. They have not ascended to the lofty realms of higher knowledge that can only be attained by embracing paradox:
There is a beauty in paradox when it comes to talking about things of ultimate concern. Paradox works against our tendency to stay superficial in our faith, or to rest on easy answers or categorical thinking. It breaks apart our categories by showing the inadequacy of them and by pointing to a reality larger than us, the reality of gloria, of light, of beyond-the beyond. I like to call it paradoxology – the glory of paradox, paradox-doxology – which takes us somewhere we wouldn’t be capable of going if we thought we had everything all wrapped up, if we thought we had attained full comprehension. The commitment to embracing the paradox and resisting the impulse to categorize people (ourselves included) is one of the ways we follow Jesus into that larger mysterious reality of light and love.23
The Gnostics, who sought to destroy the Biblical faith of the early church by leading it to a “higher” mystical knowledge beyond Scripture, would be proud of Nanette Sawyer. So would the Church of Rome, whether 16th– or 21st–century. This is how we must approach the Bible, according to Brian McLaren:
Drop any affair you may have with Certainty, Proof, Argument…. The ultimate Bible study or sermon in recent decades yielded clarity. That clarity, unfortunately, was often boring – and probably not that accurate, either, since reality is seldom clear, but usually fuzzy and mysterious….24
Find things to do with the Bible other than read and study it [and McLaren then suggests several that are forms of medieval, mystical meditation commended by the Roman Catholic church].25
In the recent past we generally began our apologetic by arguing for the Bible’s authority, then used the Bible to prove our other points. In the future we’ll present the Bible less like evidence in a court case and more like works of art in an art gallery.26
In the recent past we talked a lot about absolute truth, attempting to prove abstract propositions about God (for instance, proving the sovereignty of God).27
That approach, McLaren asserts, is passé in the postmodern world. Protestants have gotten it all wrong about the Bible, by using concepts of truth and error to “lay low” their Catholic “brethren” –
Protestants have paid more attention to the Bible than any other group, but sadly, much of their Bible study has been undertaken to fuel their efforts to prove themselves right and others wrong (and therefore worthy of protest)…the Bible does not yield its best resources to people who approach it seeking ammunition with which to lay their [Catholic] brethren low…. How many Protestants can’t pick up their Bibles without hearing arguments play in their heads on every page, echoes of the polemical preachers they have heard since childhood? How much Bible study is, therefore, an adventure in missing the point?28
Stone Soup Theology
Emergent theology must embrace mystery and paradox, and discard propositional truth, because of.its rush to include all ideas and perspectives in the pursuit of “higher knowledge.” Emergents often refer to their approach as “conversational theology.” In the Emergent view, too many cooks don’t spoil the soup. They enrich it and spice it up.
But the dish simmering in the Emergent kitchen is actually stone soup. The recipe reads thus: Start not with God’s Word but with an empty pot. Fill it not with Living Water but with the dank and putrefying fluid of broken cisterns. Throw in any old stone just as long as it is not Christ the Rock of Offense. Then let everyone who comes along throw in any heresy he (or she) wishes, whether it’s fresh from the fertile fields of postmodernism, or stinking and moldy from the dark cells of the Middle Ages. Stir the soup constantly and mix thoroughly. You can serve this fetid dish at any stage in the cooking process. Serve hot, cold, or lukewarm. It doesn’t matter, because your fellow Emergents (and their camp followers in academia and the religious media) will say it’s delicious no matter what.
For Bible believers whose spiritual taste buds have not been seared with a hot iron, the true taste of this theological soup is bitter irony: While Emergent theology claims to be generously inclusive, it is fatally exclusive of anything that really matters. While it welcomes any and every idea the sinful mind of man can imagine, it rejects anything from the mind of God. Certain ideas are forbidden – or if they are introduced into the conversation, they will be ridiculed and quickly rejected. Those ideas are the Bible’s propositional truths.
The results are predictable. The Emergent “God” is not the God of the Bible, but whatever Emergents make him/her/it out to be – and you will find Emergents referring to “God” as any of the three.
The Bible is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, uniquely authoritative Word of God, but a collection of literary artifacts. Its value and usefulness are determined not by any objective standard, but by Emergents’ subjective agendas.
“Grace” is not the gift of God that brings about salvation from sin and Hell, but Emergents’ gift of inclusiveness to anyone of any religion, or no religion at all, as long as all can agree on a left-wing social economic-environmentalist agenda.
Jesus Christ may be many things, but He is not the God of the Bible. He may be a moral example, a social revolutionary, a religious iconoclast, or a radical environmentalist. As we shall see, in the Emergents’ twisted theology He may even be an insane sexual pervert. Emergents’ blasphemy of Christ knows no limits.
The Gospel: An Insult to Emergents’ Intelligence
The writings of Emergent Church spokesmen contain many recurring themes, but one is especially prominent: The Biblical Gospel of personal salvation from sin and wrath by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, is an insult to their intelligence. Nanette Sawyer, whose love of “paradoxology” we mentioned earlier, is among the insulted. Her story is typical:
My explicit rejection of Christianity happened when our family minister implicitly rejected me. When I was a preteen, he visited our house, spoke with my parents, then pulled me aside, the eldest, for a chat of our own. He asked me if I was a Christian. This is a very interesting question to ask a child who has been raised in a Christian household. Being asked such a question I was, in essence, being told that I might not be a Christian. I responded that I didn’t know. The conversation went downhill from there and ended with my saying that I guessed I wasn’t a Christian. He told me that I had to believe [on Jesus Christ as Savior] to be a Christian and I didn’t believe it.
After that, I spent a good fifteen years defining myself as not Christian. Some of the things that I had been taught in Christian contexts, both explicitly and implicitly, were unacceptable to me. I was taught, for example, that there are good people and bad people, Christian people and non-Christian people, saved people and damned people, and we know who they are.
…I was taught that I was inherently bad, and that I would be judged for that. I was told that the only way out of the judgment was to admit how bad I was….
Thinking back on that pivotal interaction with my childhood minister, I believe the whole conversation missed the mark in a big way. He was defining Christian identity as assent to a list of certain beliefs, and he was defining Christian community as those people who concur with those beliefs…. In asking me if I was a Christian, and accepting [my] answer, he essentially told me that I wasn’t part of the community. I wasn’t in; I was out.29
Affronted by this, Sawyer says that she later became a “Christian” through Hindu meditation and the medieval, mystical Roman Catholic practice of “centering prayer” – all while a student at Harvard, taking a master’s degree in comparative world religions. She then tells of her experience while attending the services of a liberal Presbyterian church in Boston:
The minister there invited me into the community by serving me communion without asking if I was a Christian…. He didn’t ask, “Are you one of us?” He didn’t say, “Do you believe?” He simply said, “Nanette, the Body of Christ, given for you.”30
On this basis, Sawyer says, she became a “Christian” and was subsequently ordained as a minister in the apostate PCUSA.
With all this background, you may understand the reason my statement of faith, my personal credo, written in seminary and required for ordination in the Presbyterian Church [USA], included the line: “I believe that all people are children of God, created and loved by God, and that God’s compassionate grace is available to us at all times.”
Imagine my surprise when a particular pastor challenged me on this point. He suggested that “children of God” is a biblical phrase, and that I was using it unbiblically. He believed that not all people are children of God, only Christians….31
Imagine a pastor having the nerve to say that to be a “child of God” is a doctrinal term with a specific Biblical meaning. How thoroughly un-postmodern can you get? Sawyer recounts her shocked reaction to this intellectual baboon: “I focused on not letting my jaw hit the floor.” She continues:
So what about the Bible on this question of the children of God? Is it unbiblical to call all people the children of God? It is true that there are many places in the New Testament that talk about the children of God as the followers of Jesus. But it is not true that this must lead us to the kind of arrogance that asserts that non-Christians are not children of God….
Even if we could answer the question of who is and isn’t a child of God, it wouldn’t help us be better followers of Jesus; it would only help divide people into more categories.32
Rather than submitting to the Gospel teaching that only those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior have the authority to be called the children of God (John 1:12), Sawyer goes on to misread three New Testament passages to support her contention that even the Bible itself is “undermining such an exclusionary claim.”33
Like Nanette Sawyer, Brian McLaren also takes umbrage at the Bible’s doctrine of salvation:
…I used to believe that Jesus’ primary focus was on saving me as an individual…. For that reason I often spoke of Jesus as my “personal Savior” and urged others to believe in Jesus in the same way….34
Through the years…I became less and less comfortable with being restricted to the “personal Savior” gospel.35
McLaren says that his rejection of the Biblical Gospel is rooted in his rejection of the Bible’s teaching of eternal punishment in Hell for those who do not receive Christ as Savior. He says that “radical rethinking” of the doctrine of Hell is needed.36 Since McLaren can’t stand Jesus’ own words on the subject (He spoke of Hell far more than of Heaven), he dares to put these words in Christ’s mouth:
“I am here to save you…not by telling you to…focus on salvation from Hell after this life (as some people are going to do in My name) – but by giving you permission to start your participation in God’s mission right now, right where you are, even as oppressed people. The opportunity to start living in this new and better way is available to you right now: The kingdom of God is at hand.”37
The audacity of Emergents in suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) seemingly knows no bounds.
Given these and other statements by Emergent Church leaders, it seems almost ludicrous to compare their mind-set with the salvation solas of the Reformation, but we shall do so, because it further reveals the depths of their darkness.
What of sola gratia, salvation by God’s grace alone? The term “grace” does not appear often in Emergent writings, and the reason is simple: Since everyone is a “child of God,” no one needs the kind of grace of which the Bible speaks. When Emergents do speak of “grace” at all, it is not as the basis of salvation from sin through Christ. In the Emergent lexicon, grace means inclusiveness. And that is the basis on which, they claim, God is saving society and the environment through the moral example of Christ.
Emergent spokesman Samir Selmanovic, who grew up as a Muslim, became a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, and now serves on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches, writes a chapter in The Emergent Manifesto of Hope called “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness.” His theme is that everyone, “Christian” and non-Christian, is going to be “saved” by the grace of inclusiveness:
For the last two thousand years, Christianity has granted itself a special status among religions. An emerging generation of Christians is simply saying, “No more special treatment. In the Scripture God has established a criteria [sic] of truth, and it has to do with the fruits of a gracious life” (see Matthew 7:15-23; John 15:5-8; 17:6-26). This is unnerving for many of us who have based our identity on a notion of possessing the truth in an abstract form. But God’s table is welcoming to all who seek, and if any religion is to win, may it be the one that produces people who are the most loving, the most humble, the most Christ-like. Whatever the meaning of “salvation” and “judgment,” we Christians are going to be saved by grace, like everyone else, and judged by our works, like everyone else.38
By using such twisted definitions of “grace” Brian McLaren is able to assert that:
The average Roman Catholic today (at least, among those I meet) is increasingly clear about God’s grace being a free gift, not something that can be earned or merited. It’s hard to keep protesting against [such] people….39
On the basis of such an inclusive “grace,” McLaren says that we need to redefine – actually deconstruct – what it means to be a Protestant, and come together in an all-embracing Christendom:
What if we were to redefine protest as “protestifying,” pro meaning “for” and testify meaning “telling our story”?…Both Catholics and Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox too, can come together as pro-testifiers or post-Protestants now, because together we are reaching a point where we acknowledge…we have a lot to learn from the very people we’ve been protesting…[and] can come together searching for what we are for….40
It is not only other nominal “Christians” with whom Emergents seek to come together. Their redefinition of grace as inclusiveness embraces “our Muslim sisters and brothers” as well. McLaren writes:
Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting for spiritual renewal and purification. It commemorates the month during which Muslims believe Mohammed received the Quran through divine revelation, and it calls Muslims to self control, sacrificial generosity and solidarity with the poor, diligent reading of the Quran, and intensified prayer.
This year , I, along with a few Christian friends (and perhaps others currently unknown to us will want to join in) will be joining Muslim friends in the fast which begins August 21. We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them. Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21ff, Mark 7:24ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.41
Thus McLaren embraced Islam and endorsed its celebration of the Quran, the corrupt book Muslims place in authority over the Bible, while twisting Scripture to accuse Jesus Christ of “religious prejudice.” Following this blasphemous outburst, “committed Christian” McLaren began his observance of Islam’s Ramadan with this published prayer:
God, Creator of all people, in this month when a billion people will observe Ramadan with fasting and prayer, with devotional reading and with kindness to the needy, may your Spirit be at work in the hearts of Muslims, Christians, and Jews (who together make up over half the world’s population) as well as people of other faiths and no stated faith.
May your gentle voice call us to move beyond our tribal visions of a deity who loves “us” but hates “them.” Help us to see you more truly as you are, a God who is pure light, rich in mercy, whose mercy triumphs over judgment, who knows us each by name, and who graciously considers us beloved, wherever we are from, whatever our background, whatever labels we apply to ourselves or others apply to us.
May your voice of truth call us to question the prejudices and misconceptions about you and about one another that we learned from well-meaning but misinformed authority figures, even when they thought they were speaking in your name.42
The number one “misinformed authority figure” McLaren rejects is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Christ-rejection is the true basis of Emergents’ inclusive “grace.”
Deconstructing Faith At this point it may seem even more absurd to ask about Emergents’ attitude toward sola fide, salvation by faith alone, apart from works. But we press on, if only to demonstrate that Emergents’ notions of “Biblical faith” are just as astonishingly un-Biblical as their notions of “grace” and their view of the Gospel as an insult.
We shall cite just one example. Emergent leader Randy Woodley, one of the contributors to An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, is a Cherokee Indian who works for an organization called First Nations Ministries. As a discerning Christian reads Woodley’s chapter titled “Restoring Honor in the Land” it becomes obvious that his theology is rooted in the animism of the American Indian.
Woodley says “the American church” has “a stolen continent as its foundation.”43 He quotes liberal theologian Walter Brueggemann as saying that “land is central, if not the central theme of Biblical faith”. The Scripture-driven Christian may ask, “Really? And how is such a ‘Biblical faith’ to be worked out?” Woodley tells us: Through the “salvation” of Indian lands “stolen” by white Europeans – that is, the return of the entire North American continent to its “rightful owners” –
As a Native American, I view the land given to my people through covenant with the Creator as sacred. We have developed ceremonies, stories, and traditions [all steeped in pagan animism, we must note] that aid us in living a sacred life on the land. Living this life is one that is reminiscent of the original covenant with human beings in the garden. It can be characterized as a “shalom sense of place.” Because our land was stolen, the non indigene must find it difficult to feel the same congruity with the land. Yet the apparent sense of loss and incongruity felt by non indigenes cannot be avoided until the issue of stolen land and missing relationship with America’s host people is worked through.
The solutions will not come easily. There will be more pain and loss to be sure, and it will likely span several generations. Yet God’s shalom kingdom demands that the issue of land be addressed. The issue must be addressed if Native Americans are ever to come back from marginality and into wholeness. It must be addressed if non indigenous peoples ever hope to recover the missing sense of place that God has always intended for all human beings to experience to gain integrity, congruence, and wholeness in their lives. Seeking out and establishing relationships between the emerging church and indigenous people is paramount to finding shalom and providing a secure future for the next seven generations.44
So much for sola fide, Biblical faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ to save individuals from sin and eternal condemnation, apart from works. Authentic Christian faith focuses not on fixing up this dying world, but looks forward to “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). Authentic Christians seek to win souls for that kingdom, not to rearrange the kingdoms of man on Earth.
What of solus Christus, salvation through Jesus Christ alone? In their published statements about Jesus Christ, Emergent spokesmen seem to be engaged in a competition to see who can be the most blasphemous.
Brian McLaren devotes several chapters in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy, to the subject of Jesus Christ. They are in a section deceptively titled “Why I am a Christian” in which McLaren brazenly demonstrates that he is no Christian at all.
Chapter one is titled “Seven Jesuses I Have Known”45 and chapter two is titled “Jesus and God.”46 You may have already guessed from the title of the second chapter that McLaren teaches a distinction between Jesus and God. The undiscerning reader might miss this, at least in the beginning. McLaren uses a lot of Bible words and even Bible quotations to describe Christ. Jesus is the “Son of God” – “the image of God” – “the radiance of God’s glory” – “the image of the invisible God.” But McLaren’s definitions of these terms are not the Bible’s.
McLaren refuses ever to say that Jesus is God. He spends several pages explaining why he stops short of this: “God is not a male” (italics his).47 He goes on to say:
The masculine biblical imagery of “Father” and “Son” also contributes to the patriarchialism or chauvinism that has too often characterized Christianity….
There is so much more that could be said, but for now, let’s conclude: “Son of God” is not intended to reduce or masculinize God….48
When McLaren comes to his fourth chapter, “Jesus: Savior of What?”, he says that Christians have “demoted” Jesus by claiming that He died on the cross to save individuals’ souls from eternal damnation:
I believe we’ve also misconstrued, reduced, twisted, and torqued the whole meaning of what words like savior, save, and salvation are supposed to mean for generously orthodox Christians.49
…it’s best to suspend what, if anything, you “know” about what it means to call Jesus “Savior” and to give the matter of salvation some fresh attention.
Let’s start simply. In the Bible, save means “rescue” or “heal.” It emphatically does not automatically mean “save from hell” or “give eternal life after death” as many preachers seem to imply in sermon after sermon.50
Elsewhere in the same chapter, McLaren denies the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary atonement for sinners, and places Jesus in the category of a moral example pointing the way in man’s quest to improve society and the environment.
To say that Jesus is Savior is to say that in Jesus, God is intervening as Savior in all of these ways, judging (naming as evil), forgiving (breaking the vicious cycle of cause and effect, making reconciliation possible), and teaching (showing how to set chain reactions of good in motion).
Jesus comes then not to condemn (to bring the consequences we deserve) but to save by shining the light on our evil, by naming our evil as evil so we can repent and escape the chain of bad actions and bad consequences through forgiveness, and so we can learn from Jesus the master-teacher to live more wisely in the future….51
“This,” McLaren concludes, “is a window into the meaning of the cross.”
Elsewhere in A Generous Orthodoxy McLaren makes it clear that when he uses Biblical terms such as “reconciliation” – “evil” – “repent” – and “forgiveness” he has nothing like the Bible’s definitions in mind.
By “reconciliation” he means the reconciliation of oppressed social classes and their oppressors, and the reconciliation of those who differ theologically under the umbrella of inclusivism – not the reconciliation of sinful men to the holy God through the Blood of Christ.
“Our evil” is “the oppression of the poor and disadvantaged” – not the sin nature and the eternal death sentence passed on to the entire race through the Fall of Adam.
The “consequences we deserve” are societal and environmental consequences here on Earth – not eternity in Hell.
“Repent” means making society and the physical world a better place – not turning from sin to faith in Christ, or ongoing repentance through the operation of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“Forgiveness” means forgiving each other of our injustices – not being forgiven by God, the One offended in all offenses, based on propitiation of His wrath by the Blood of Christ.
These things, not what the Bible actually teaches, are what McLaren and his fellow Emergents claim the Bible means by “words like savior, save, and salvation.”
So much for solus Christus, salvation from eternal damnation through God the Son alone. In the Emergent mind, Jesus Christ is emphatically not the only Savior from sin and Hell.
But that is only the beginning. “Jesus” may be other, darker things. Emergent spokeswoman Heather Kirk-Davidoff writes a chapter in The Emergent Manifesto of Hope called “Meeting Jesus at the Bar: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Evangelism.” She begins thus:
I first began to understand “relational evangelism” the night that a woman in a bar told me that she had seen Jesus dressed as a homeless cross-dressing man in an elf costume.
I had gone to the bar after attending a workshop on GenX ministry.
Striking up a conversation with a fellow bar patron over their drinks, Kirk-Davidoff then engaged in an Emergent version of telling someone about “Jesus” –
We talked about her work, her boyfriend, the music we liked, and eventually about the musical Rent, which she loved. We talked about her favorite character, Angel, a drum-playing homeless gay man who spends most of the show dressed as a drag queen Santa Claus. Partway through the show Angel dies from AIDS, surrounded by an eclectic group of friends. “What’s amazing to me,” the woman said, “is how much power Angel’s love has in the lives of the other characters in the play. And his love doesn’t stop affecting them even after he dies. It’s like…it’s like it’s made more perfect in his death.
To which Kirk-Davidoff says she responded: “You know, some people say Angel is a Christ figure…What do you think?”52
The Emergent “Jesus” can be just about anything, even an insane sexual pervert, so long as he is not God – the Christ of the Bible who is seated at the right hand of the Father in power and glory, and is coming again to judge the world.
The Audacity of Heresy: What Attracts Evangelicals?
The Emergent Church movement’s “new Reformation” embodies an incredible array of past heresies, while adding new ones of its own. Emergents begin with the denial of the inspiration, infallibility, and sole authority of the Scriptures. From there it is a short journey to the embrace of mystery – not in the Biblical sense of truth once hidden and subsequently revealed, but of inscrutable ambiguities open only to higher intellects; and the embrace of paradox – the god of “yes-and-no” instead of the God of “Yes, and Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20).
From there it is but a small step to deny the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. And from there the headlong plunge into the abyss accelerates with the teaching of the false doctrine of a moral-example “atonement” by Christ on the cross, the social gospel of the mainline liberals, salvation (whatever that may mean) by moral effort, ecumenical inclusivism and syncretism, the lie of universalism, and even pagan animism and sexual perversion.
How is it, then, that so many in Evangelical and reputedly conservative Reformed churches are embracing the Emergent Church movement, or expressing their appreciation for its “positives” while perhaps (but not always) also weakly expressing their “concerns”? There are no positives about a movement that stands against everything the Bible stands for. And “concern” is a woefully insufficient response from people who are supposed to be engaged in spiritual warfare against the forces of darkness that are behind evils like the Emergent Church movement (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Students of church history will recognize much of Emergent Church thinking on the Bible as the warmed-over 20th-century Neo-orthodoxy that destroyed most mainline Protestant churches as well as many conservative ones. Emergents are following in the insolent footsteps of Karl Barth, Rudolph Bultmann, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich and others. These in turn were influenced by early 19th-century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, whose great gift to theology was to assert that there is no such thing as objective truth.
The main reasons the Emergent Church movement is finding such acceptance is that few among Evangelicals and the Reformed today are thoughtful students of church history, nor are they truly students of systematic theology. Those who assiduously study the genuine article immediately recognize the lessons of history and the system of doctrine contained in Scripture, and reject the worthless as counterfeit. The undiscerning, on the other hand, are condemned to repeat the deadly mistakes of the past by embracing a theology of nonsense that leads souls to Hell.
The Emergent Church movement is spreading a new wave of spiritual poison through religious academia. The fact that Emergents are welcomed on the faculties and in the classrooms of openly liberal seminaries is no surprise. But today Emergents also find a friendly response in the majority of reputedly more conservative Bible colleges and seminaries. It ranges from favorable classroom exposure to outright advocacy by professors and administrators. Reputedly conservative schools that have fallen into the Emergent web include Biblical Theological Seminary, Biola University, Covenant Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, Erskine College and Seminary, Houghton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, Taylor Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and most Southern Baptist schools.
It only takes a few years of exposure to false teaching for young minds to become the generation that will carry the poison out of the seminaries and colleges, into the pulpits, and into the pews.
There is another reason why so many in the Evangelical and Reformed camps are accommodating and even embracing the Emergent Church movement. That reason is intellectual pride. The Emergent Church movement is all about the pride and glory of man, not the glory of God.
We have seen this pride and glorification of man in place of God in the Emergents’ essential approach to what they falsely call “Christianity.” The central focus of the Emergent religion is not the Christ of the Bible, but an all-inclusive assembly of people from all sorts of “faith traditions.” We have also seen the same pride in the reaction of Emergents who are insulted by the doctrine of salvation from sin and Hell by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. They reject such a doctrine because it means that true Christianity is an exclusive rather than an inclusive faith.
We have also seen that the Emergent Church movement is all about prideful man’s embrace of mystery and paradox as the keys to “higher knowledge.” The Emergent focus is not on Biblical orthodoxy, but on “a generous orthodoxy” – “orthoparadoxy.” Emergent leader Rob Bell boasts, “This is not just the same old message with new methods. We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion….”53
Too Busy Having Conversations to Listen to God
At this point it may seem absurd to round out this discussion by asking a final question about Emergent views of the solas, but we shall press on: What is the Emergent view of soli Deo gloria, the doctrine that the glory for man’s salvation – indeed for all things – belongs to God alone? The answer is that Emergents are all about “conversation.” Emergent cohorts (discussion groups) meet regularly around the country to have, as their website emergentvillage.org puts it, conversations about what they think is important. There is no touch-stone, no authoritative body of propositional truth. Truth is what they make it, and they make it up as they go.
Emergents are far too pridefully busy talking endlessly about being “generative” and “missional” (their two favorite words) to simply shut up, sit down at Jesus’ feet, and listen submissively to the One who made all things, sustains all things, will judge all things, and will make all things new by His glorious power.
Emergents reject the Bible as the only authoritative, propositional truth because it reins in their prideful ambitions. The Emergent Church movement is, in their own phrases, all about “our community” – “building our tradition” – “telling our story.” Emergents see themselves as carrying out “God’s agenda to remake and restore all of creation.” And that, they say, is the “good news.”
Emergent spokesman Mark Scandrette is a self-styled “spiritual teacher” and executive director of ReIMAGINE, an organization in San Francisco that among other things sponsors a program called “The Jesus Dojo.” Dojo is a Japanese term meaning “place of the way” and embodies meditational concepts found in Shintoism and Zen Buddhism. In a chapter called “Growing Pains: The Messy and Fertile Process of Becoming” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Scandrette summarizes the Emergent agenda:
* significant interest in “community,” communal living, and renewed monastic practices
* an open-source [inclusive] approach to community, theology, and leadership that encourages flatter structures, networks, and more personal and collective participation
* revitalized interest in the social dimensions of the gospel of Jesus, including community development, earth-keeping, global justice, and advocacy – with a particular emphasis on a relationally engaged approach to these issues
* renewed interest in contemplative and bodily spiritual formation disciplines that have, historically, been important Christian practices [e.g., Medieval Catholic meditative practices such as “centering prayer”]
* a renewed emphasis on creation theology that celebrates earth, humanity, cultures, and the sensuous and esthetic as good gifts of the Creator to be enjoyed in their proper contexts
* cultivation and appreciation of the arts, creativity, artful living, and provocative storytelling
* re-examination of vocation, livelihood, and sustainable economics.54 That, not salvation from Hell, is the “good news” according to Scandrette and his cohorts.
The Biblical Response
Above all, Scripture-driven Christians must recognize the true nature of the Emergent Church and its leaders, in contrast to the true nature of the believer. The ultimate test is the attitude of each toward Jesus Christ, who said that He himself is the truth:
Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”
They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:6-10).
In the early 1960s, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of the few in Britain who spoke out against Evangelicals’ embrace of the Ecumenical Movement. His words also serve as a Biblical warning to Christians who claim to be true to God’s Word but are merely “concerned” about the Emergent movement, or think it may have “positives” to contribute:
To regard a church, or a council of churches, as a forum in which fundamental matters can be debated and discussed, or as an opportunity for witness-bearing, is sheer confusion and muddled thinking. There is to be no discussion about “the foundation,” as we have seen. If men do not accept that, they are not brethren and we can have no dialogue with them. We are to preach to such and to evangelize them. Discussion takes place only among brethren who share the same life and subscribe to the same essential truth. It is right and good that brethren should discuss together matters which are not essential to salvation and about which there is, and always has been, and probably always will be, legitimate difference of opinion….
Before there can be any real discussion and dialogue and exchange there must be agreement concerning primary and fundamental matters. Without the acceptance of certain axioms and propositions in geometry, for example, it is idle to attempt to solve any problem. If certain people refuse to accept the axioms, and are constantly querying and disputing them, clearly there is no point of contact between them and those who do accept them. It is precisely the same in the realm of the church. Those who question and query, let alone deny, the great cardinal truths that have been accepted through-out the centuries do not belong to the church, and to regard them as brethren is to betray the truth. As we have already reminded ourselves, the apostle Paul tells us clearly what our attitude to them should be: “A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3:10). They are to be regarded as unbelievers who need to be called to repentance and acceptance of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. To give the impression that they are Christians with whom other Christians disagree about certain matters is to confuse the genuine seeker and enquirer who is outside [and also, we would add, to confuse those within the church]. But such is the position prevailing today. It is based upon a failure to understand the nature of the New Testament church which is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). In the same way it is a sheer waste of time to discuss or debate the implications of Christianity with people who are not agreed as to what Christianity is. Failure to realize this constitutes the very essence of the modern confusion.55
Christian, do not be confused or deceived. Christ’s true Church has no place for the Emergent Church’s “generous orthodoxy.”
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace”‘; and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’… I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.” (Jeremiah 23:16- 17, 21-22)
—-Paul M. Elliott, Ph.D., is President of Teaching The Word Ministries and principal speaker on The Scripture-Driven Church radio broadcast. An ordained minister with a doctorate in Biblical exegesis, he is the author of four books, including Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spiritual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Beyond (Trinity Foundation, 2004). The Trinity Forum’s Email is: email@example.com Website: http://www.trinityfoundation.org Telephone: 423.743.0199 Fax: 423.743.2005
1 Some in the movement once used the name “Emerging Church,” but more recently its leaders, and the quasi-official website emergentvillage.org, have standardized on the term “Emergent.”
2 From the banner of the movement’s flagship website, http://www.em ergentvillage.com.
3 We use the term “guru” advisedly; McLaren and other Emergent Church leaders position themselves as spiritual advisers imparting transcendental, higher knowledge – higher than the Word of God.
4 Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional- Evangelical- Post- Protestant- Liberal/ Conservative- Mystical/Poetic-Biblical-Charismatic /Contemplative-Fundamentalist/Calvinist-Anabaptist/ Anglican-Methodist-Catholic-Green-Incarnational-Depressed-Yet-Hopeful-Emergent-Unfinished Christian (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004).
5 Her website, phyllistickle.org, describes her extensive liberal media connections. She was the “founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly, the international journal of the book industry, is frequently quoted in print sources like USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times as well as in electronic media like PBS, NPR, The Hallmark Channel, and innumerable blogs and web sites. Tickle is an authority on religion in America and a much sought after lecturer on the subject….Tickle is a founding member of The Canterbury Roundtable, and serves now, as she has in the past, on a number of advisory and corporate boards.”
6 A Generous Orthodoxy, 11-12.
7 Josiah Royce, The Problem of Christianity, 1913, republished in 2001 by Catholic University of America Press, 43 and 340.
8. A Generous Orthodoxy, 316.
9 A Generous Orthodoxy, 317-318.
10 A Generous Orthodoxy, 317.
11 Barry Taylor, “Converting Christianity” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope: Key Leaders Offer an Inside Look, Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, editors (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 165.
12 Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 75.
13 An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 171.
14 A Generous Orthodoxy, 183
15 A Generous Orthodoxy, 183.
16 Adventures in Missing the Point, 262.
17 Adventures in Missing the Point, 76-77.
18 Dwight J. Friesen, “Orthoparadoxy: Emerging Hope for Embracing Difference” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 204.
19 Friesen, 207.
20 Friesen, 208.
21 Friesen, 209.
22 Friesen, 212.
23 Nanette Sawyer, “What Would Huckleberry Do? A Relational Ethic as the Jesus Way,” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 48.
24 Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 84.
25 Adventures in Missing the Point, 85.
26 Adventures in Missing the Point, 101.
27 Adventures in Missing the Point, 102.
28 A Generous Orthodoxy, 138.
29 Nanette Sawyer, “What Would Huckleberry Do?”, 43-44. Italics are in the original.
30 Sawyer, 44.
31 Sawyer, 45.
32 Sawyer, 46-47. Italics are in the original.
33 Sawyer, 47.
34 A Generous Orthodoxy, 107. Italics are in the original.
35 A Generous Orthodoxy, 108-109.
36 A Generous Orthodoxy, 109.
37 Adventures in Missing the Point, 25.
38 Samir Selmanivoc, “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 195.
39 A Generous Orthodoxy, 139.
40 A Generous Orthodoxy, 140.
41 Brian McLaren, “Ramadan 2009: Part 1- What’s Going On?” posted on August 13, 2009 at his website, http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/ ramadan-2009-part-1- whats-going.html.
42 Brian McLaren, “Ramadan 2009: Day 1” posted on A u g u s t 2 1 , 2 0 0 9 at t h i s w e b s i t e , http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/b log/ramadan-2009-day- 1.html.
43 Randy Woodley, “Restoring Honor in the Land: Why the Emerging Church Can’t Dodge the Issue” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 299.
44 Woodley, 301.
45 A Generous Orthodoxy, 49-76.
46 A Generous Orthodoxy, 77-86
47 A Generous Orthodoxy, 82. salvation.”
48 A Generous Orthodoxy, 83-84. 49 A Generous Orthodoxy, 99. Italics are in the original.
50 A Generous Orthodoxy, 101. Italics are in the original.
51 A Generous Orthodoxy, 104-105. Parentheses are in the original.
52 Heather Kirk-Davidoff, “Meeting Jesus at the Bar: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Evangelism” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 34-35.
53 Rob Bell, as quoted in “The Emergent Mystique” by Andy Crouch, Christianity Today, November 1, 2004, as viewed at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/November/12. 36.html in April 2009.
54 Mark Scandrette, “Growing Pains: The Messy and Fertile Process of Becoming” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 34. The “messy and fertile” reference comes from Scandrette ‘s comment elsewhere in the book (22): “The emerging church is like junior high students and sex – a lot of people are talking about it, but not a lot of people are actually doing it – and those that are doing it are messy – and fertile as hell.”
55 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Basis of Christian Unity,” in Knowing the Times: Addresses Delivered on Various Occasions 1942-1977 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 162-163.
December 21, 2009
Marked for life: discernment ministry in light of Ezekiel 9:1-11
By Pastor Larry DeBruyn
Someone once said that sin is as much a breaking of God’s heart as it is the breaking of His Law. When God looked down on the perversity of the people on earth before the Deluge, it was recorded that He“was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6b). When confronted by resident wickedness both without and within the professing church, Christians can manifest one of three reactions: approval (1 Corinthians 5:2), indifference (Zephaniah 1:12), or disapproval as indicated by the presence of either anger (Psalm 119:53) or grief (Psalm 119:136). So the question becomes, as we see the worldliness-wickedness invading the church, how do we feel about it? Are agitated by, indifferent to, or accommodating of it?
Not unlike the society and church of our times, during Ezekiel’s ministry Judah found herself in a moral and spiritual “melt down.” Fraud, violence, adultery, and idolatry were running rampant amongst God’s chosen people. Idols had been set up in the Temple (Ezekiel 8:17; 9:9). From his location in Babylon, the Lord took Ezekiel on a virtual reality tour of the Temple, the place where on the Mercy Seat beneath the Cherubim, God’s Shekinah glory was to have been seated (Ezekiel 8:4). What he saw in that place of worship stunned the prophet. On his guided tour of the inner court, the Lord showed the prophet where first the people had substituted an idol image for Yahweh; where second, the elders worshiped animals; where third, the women sobbed over the death of Tammuz, a mythological fertility god who had married the Egyptian goddess Ishtar; and where fourth, the priests worshiped the sun (Ezekiel 8:5-18). Up-close and personal, the prophet saw how the nation had abominated into apostasy, how Israel had turned from worshiping the Creator to idolizing the creation and its creatures (See Romans 1:21-23.).
Yet in the midst of all those “alternative spiritualities,” and like the remnant of Elijah’s day who refused to bow their knee to Baal and kiss the idol god (1 Kings 19:18), some believers preserved themselves to be holy unto the Lord. So the Lord instructed the angel dressed in white to mark an “X” on the foreheads of the faithful, a mark that would spare them from the coming divine judgment (circa 600 BC).Most have heard about “the mark of the beast”, the mark the deceived will receive at the end of the age, an identity without which they will neither be able to buy or sell (Revelation 14:9-12). The prophet Ezekiel wrote about a different mark, an “X” that was to be written on the foreheads of those in Judah who had refused to go along with the popular spiritual trends of that day. The “X” would spare them from the coming divine wrath. So the Lord instructed the angel: “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst” (Ezekiel 9:4).
Pause with me . . . for a moment let’s project back to that era and ask ourselves the following question: If we had been alive in Ezekiel’s day, would the angel have marked us to be spared from divine judgment?
It was a remnant who strongly disapproved of the apostasy of the majority. In the words of the Lord, they groaned and sighed over the“abominations” (Ezekiel 8:6, 9, 13, 15, 17; 9:4) they saw being committed in the name of religion in their midst. What they saw sickened them to the core of their spiritual and emotional being. Would the angel have marked us if we had lived in that day? We should check out our feelings. Charles Feinberg observed: “Grief is always the portion of those who know the Lord in an evil day. The marked ones were penitent and faithful at a time of widespread departure from the will of the Lord.” Another commentator adds that the criterion for receiving the mark was “an affair of the heart–a passionate concern for God and His people. Failing that, there was no mark . . .”
Some in the mainstream Christian media have called those involved in discernment ministry “Christian attack dogs.” Maybe a better metaphor-label would be “Christian guard dogs”! Discerners so love their Master (i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ) and His Bride (i.e., the church) that they agonize to protect His truth and her purity.
Allow me to propose a litmus test as to whether or not we might have been marked in Ezekiel’s day.But before asking some questions, we should note the Apostle Peter’s warning: ”But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you”(2 Peter 2:1; Compare Matthew 7:13-15; Jude 17-19.).
Based upon Peter’s prediction, does the worldliness that is invading the church bother us? (James 4:4)
Does it concern us when we see churches being manipulated by the mechanics of church growth, when the end of growth justifies any means to achieve it? (2 Corinthians 2:17)
Does it bother our souls to see the goal of growth eclipsing Gospel, to see methods employed usurping the Message preached? (Romans 1:16)
Does it grieve us to observe the church believing God’s truth less while enjoying “worship celebrations” more? (Matthew 15:8-9)
Does the rampant immorality amongst professing evangelicals cause us to sigh? (1 Corinthians 5:2)
Were you bothered a few years ago when one evangelical leader, who led a movement in his state to preserve the institution of traditional marriage, was cornered into admitting that he solicited sex from a male prostitute? (Jeremiah 23:14)
Do false teachers with their strange and unbiblical teachings annoy you? (Revelation 2:2)
Given our media age, does the development of the personality cults around evangelical leaders and speakers, where appearance and a schmoozing style trump substance, concern us? (1 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Peter 2:3; Jude 16)
Are some of us even unaware that there are such critters as false teachers who stupefy their followers with their heretical teachings? (Romans 16:17)
Does it upset us to see the Christian faith being publicly maligned for reason of the immoral behavior and unbiblical teachings prevalent amongst professing evangelicals? (2 Peter 2:2)
In short, are we discerners? (Hebrews 5:14)
If we are not, then we should not expect to be marked.
Well, you might be asking, how can we know whether or not a person is a false teacher? Through Jeremiah the Lord provided this description of false prophets: “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds” (Jeremiah 14:14). Of such prophets Jeremiah said that, “They speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:16b).
Again, I ask you, do you know of any false prophets today? You may protest the question saying, “Well, I know men who speak for God who are true.” But that’s not the question. Do you know any false teachers? I know this is a discomforting question–but do you? If you don’t, I would say that you have a very grave problem . . . a very grave problem indeed. And it is this: You may not value God’s truth enough to know what it is and thereby be incapable of discerning “the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:4-6).
From his study of human history, a famous historian once remarked how he observed that the majority was seldom right. Jesus agreed. He said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.”He continued to say, “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” Then the Lord concluded:“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:13-15).
Interesting, isn’t it . . . that the Lord warned the multitudes to watch out for false prophets in the very context in which He differentiated the way of the majority from the Way of the minority. Jesus knew that to their own destruction the majority will follow the way of the false prophets and teachers. They will not be marked out for salvation. They will not be “X-Men”. Like the compromisers of Ezekiel’s day, they went along to get along.
So allow me to ask you again: Dear Reader, do you know of any false prophets around today, or are you living in denial, in “a spiritual never-never land”? Will you choose to remain unwarned by the very warning that Jesus and the rest of the prophets and apostles warned you about; mainly, that false prophets and teachers will arise who will lead multitudes to walk the broad way leading to destruction? Remember: Seldom is the majority right.
For any Christians concerned to discern, they may be comforted to know they’re taking the narrow Way. A spirit of discernment is symptomatic of true faith. The Lord’s sheep care, yes, even “sigh and groan” when they see fellow evangelicals lapsing into worldliness and ungodliness. Goats however, are unmoved (Matthew 25:31-46). Yet the caring can be comforted to know that their discernment evidences their solidarity with the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Being concerned to discern marks them out– “X” — as true believers (See 1 John 2:18-24.). Yet the overriding emotion of discernment ought to be that of grief. Yes, there may be a time for anger. God gets angry. He was with Ezekiel’s generation, so much so that after He had told the angel in white to mark the believing remnant, the Lord instructed the other six angels, “Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.”(Ezekiel 9:5b-6). Yet we must remember that, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
So it’s truly a sad day when we see those professing to know God believing and behaving as if they do not. So it’s significant to note that the divine judgment was to begin in the sanctuary and then work its way out through Jerusalem and the rest of the entire nation (Compare 1 Peter 4:17.). This order of judgment compelled Paul to command the congregation at Rome: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18, KJV). But if we are to engage in such marking, we ought to be reminded that the accompanying emotion ought to be one of grief. Yet we ought also to be reminded that in the end those who refuse to mark false teachers may not be marked by the Lord to be spared divine judgment.
Used with permission. Reformatted slightly for blog posting.
 Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969) 55.
 The mark was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a taw (i.e., the Hebrew “T”). Early Christian commentators noted that often the last letter was written as an “X” that could substitute for a person’s signature. See John B. Taylor, Ezekiel (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1969)103.The marking of the faithful finds precedent at the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt when at the first Passover the Lord instructed the Israelites to ”take some of the blood and put it on the two door posts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it,” after which He explained: ”And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:7, 13).
 Ibid. 102.
 David Aikman, “Attack Dogs of Christendom,” Christianity Today, August, 2007, 52. Aikman writes: “By all means criticize fellow Christians if necessary, but do so with grace.” Real discerners do it with a sigh and a groan.
October 21, 2009
Great article by Gary Gilley in defense of Discernment ministries