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A number of orthodox Christian blogs, including this one, have explored the postmodern Church.  We’ve mentioned names, techniques and genres of ‘doing church’ but few have explored what exactly is happening and how it happens.

In short, all these movements — e.g. church growth, emergent — have their roots in a combination of dialectic and praxis, which one Christian, Dean Gotcher, combined as ‘diaprax’.  Diaprax is common not only in the Church but in the world at large.  Its goal is to set all of us on the road to constant compromise and continuous change.  It is designed to promote unity from diversity and to get rid of tradition and ‘divisiveness’.

First, a review of dialectic in a Christian context.  Do keep in mind that every step along the way is designed to inch the believer further away from the inerrancy of the Bible and his confessions of faith.

How diaprax works

Dr Robert Klenck, an orthopaedic surgeon in Los Angeles, contributes to Mr Gotcher’s Institution for Authority Research and, like him, has studied diaprax closely in relation to the trends we see in our churches today.  In ‘The 21st Century Church: Part 3’, he explains (emphases mine throughout):

Briefly, the Hegelian dialectic process works like this:  a diverse group of people (in the CGM, this is a mixture of believers and unbelievers – thesis and antithesis), gather in a facilitated meeting (with a trained facilitator/”teacher”/group leader), using group dynamics (peer pressure), to discuss a social issue (or dialogue the Word of God), and reach a pre-determined outcome (consensus, or compromise).

When the Word of God is dialogued (as opposed to being taught didactically) between believers and unbelievers, and consensus is reached – agreement that all are comfortable with – then the message of the Word of God has been watered down, and the participants have been conditioned to accept (and even celebrate) their compromise.  This [new synthesis] becomes the starting point [thesis] for the next meeting.  The fear of alienation from the group is the pressure that prevents an individual from standing firm for the truth of the Word of God.  The fear of man then overrides the fear of God.

This process is similar to workshops you might have participated in at work.  The principles are identical.  A facilitator leads the group.  He has a set agenda, given to him by a manager (or a pastor, in the case of a church).  However, he asks people what they hope to ‘get’ out of the session, although his questions will help engineer the desired agenda outcome.  Then, as is true with workplace workshops, a number of discussions take place and, inevitably, conflict arises.

People stating their positions or beliefs on an issue is what is known as thesis.  Conflict, roughly speaking, is antithesis (against the thesis, or belief).  The facilitator brings about synthesis by getting everyone to arrive at a common position.  It might not be 100% to everyone’s liking, but it is one that people will largely agree upon. It will also be one that is man-centred, because, as we shall see tomorrow and have seen in my Gramsci posts, nothing is more threatening to the Marxist than faith in God, Christianity and the traditional family under the authority of God and His Son.  Gramsci believed that Christianity fostered the continuance of:

the Western values of individual liberty, private property, and the traditional family, and must be abolished in order for the new communist society to emerge.

Let us say (in an Anglican context) the issue debated is one of bringing a female curate (assistant priest) on board. The church wardens meet to discuss it. Among their number is a traditionalist. The vicar (pastor) introduces the topic then leaves it in the hands of the facilitator, perhaps an expert in conflict resolution paid for by the diocese. A day’s workshop can engineer consensus among the church wardens, as they move from the traditionalist’s thesis — especially that which is expressed in Jesus’s First Cause language, ‘It is written’ — through to conflict (antithesis) and concluding with a postmodern resolution (synthesis) on the part of the traditionalist.

Says the traditionalist at the end of the afternoon, ‘Gosh, I might have been a bit short-sighted on this issue.  I’m sorry.  Yes, if it’s the right woman, I’m sure I could be persuaded.’  Therefore, the door opens just that little bit.  Our traditionalist has started to ‘change with the times’ and puts Scripture slightly off to the side.  The group is happy.  Perhaps they have a glass of sherry afterward.  The traditionalist has gained acceptance — for now.  He is happy to have bonded with his fellow church wardens on this thorny issue.  In finding ‘common ground’, he has pleased man, but perhaps not God.

Yet, although the traditionalist doesn’t realise it, that is only the start.  Dialectic and praxis require continual change in order to meet the times, which are ever-evolving. A few years down the road, he may be further persuaded — again through diaprax — that a new Sunday evening service be started, replacing the traditional Evensong.  The new service would be of an emergent style, to draw in the younger members of the ‘community’, i.e. neighbourhood.  ‘Well, it’s not a big issue, is it?  I understand the youth ministry leader is a very dynamic individual.  We can increase the membership of our church and be seen as a vibrant congregation. It’s all to the good.’  And so, he takes another noticeable step away from orthodoxy and an initial giant step away from traditional liturgy.

Dr Klenck observes that the same method — diaprax — has been used with regard to abortion:

… first, the fact (“what is”) was questioned – what is life?, and does it really begin at conception?  It was decided that as long as the child was not aware of pain, that it was not viable, or really alive.  Now, through incremental change, our society has gotten to the point of tolerating “partial-birth” infanticide.  This would have been unconscionable in the days that Roe v. Wade was decided.

Church buildings and Emergents — for a New Age

And things are always changing.  Think of how church buildings are changing.  Some, like the Crystal Cathedral, are generally recognisable as churches.  Yet others look like big, prefab boxes.  They have no crosses, inside or out.  This is in order that the ‘seeker’ isn’t put off by what he sees.  Many newer churches don’t want people to start thinking about Jesus’ painful death, blood or similar things.  The seeker might then walk away, feeling unsettled.

Dr Gregory Jackson, author of Ichabod, posted on this topic recently.  In ‘Leading Lutheran Moms Astray at The CORE’, he reprinted dialogue among a few women on Facebook who discussed whether they should attend the CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. The CORE is an emergent church affiliated with WELS.  Here is a brief excerpt — certainly worth a read in full:

Imah: We missed our regular church service this morning … I decided we’d try the Core in Appleton.  It’s an outreach congregation and really cool.  The music is very contemporary– in fact, all songs were songs I hear on 91.9 or the Q, 90.1The boys age 9 and 5 were happy to eat popcorn and drink water while listening to the service.  The place was comfortably full and everyone was smiling!!  I highly recommend going to a service.  It was fun!!

Coley22: Personally, I prefer a traditional service and I’ve also heard that The Core isn’t really teaching God’s Word so much. I think it’s a step backwards for the WELS. If a church wants to do something more contemporary, that’s fine, but what good is it if you’re not even teaching God’s Word?

JulieMomof5: Coley22, I hope you actually visit the CORE instead of just listening to rumors…
Just because the CORE focuses on theme-based sermons instead of on the lectionary doesn’t mean it’s not true to Scripture …  The truths of God’s Word are emphasized, in terms that unchurched people can more easily understand (I like that Pastor Ski explains church terms when he uses them!).  The fill-in-the-blank folder makes it easier to remember what was said.  The visuals are used to reinforce the message.  Remember, the CORE’s focus is REACHING OUT to the unchurched.  Pastor Ski likes to remind us not to cause unnecessary offense to others before introducing them to Jesus!  Too often, our “traditional” services risk doing just that.

Popcorn, pop music and avoiding ‘unnecessary offence’ — oh, my.  It was a bit too much to take in.  I had to have a cup of tea and a sit-down after reading that.

Caution — discernment required!

Some of you have been spared attending one of these services.  Dr Klenck describes them:

The presentation is informal …  There are distractions, such as numerous video screens, and the pastor often paces back and forth across the stage, which makes the “real” message that is being taught difficult to discern

The message is ambiguous, sounding reasonable to people who think traditionally, are in transition, or have been trained to think transformationallyOften, half-truths are used (i.e. Christ’s preeminence as a religious leader, but omitting His deity), or “subliminal” messages utilized.  We heard a tape of one pastor who was teaching against Mormonism, and he was stating how they latch on to a verse in the KJV that is an unfortunate translation.  He then stated how “I can show you numerous errors in the King James.”  The message was against Mormonism, but the subliminal message that people took home with them was that the KJV Bible version is unreliable.  We have very little training in listening to what is not being said, and in the atmosphere of distraction described here, this type of discernment is very difficult, and must be pursued vigorously.  Peter Drucker, who plays a large role in this movement is aware of this fact:

The most important thing is communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  Peter Drucker

The pulpit is the ultimate tool for church growth.”  Rick Warren [7]

A tool is used to manipulate objects.  In the same article, Pastor Warren declares that he first considers the needs, hurts, and interests, and then he goes to the Bible to see what it says about their needs.  Once he examines what the Bible says about the subject, he asks himself:  “What is the most practical way to say this?  What is the most positive way to say this?  What is the most encouraging way to say this?  What is the simplest way to say this?  What is the most personal way to say this?  What is the most interesting way to say this?”  In other words, he puts his “spin” on the Blessed Word of God in order to tickle the itching ears of his audience.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Tim 4:3 (KJV)

If Rick Warren’s technique sounds familiar, it’s what his mentor Robert Schuller used over 40 years ago in California.

Tomorrow: Diaprax, small groups and more

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Earlier this week news broke that Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy.  (H/T to Ichabod, The Glory Has Departed and photo credit to the His Scrivener blog.)

Robert Schuller came a bit after my time.  I was finishing university when his television show, Hour of Power, became a Sunday morning fixture.  I only watched part of it a couple of times and never in full.

Having grown up on the Revd Rex Humbard in the 1960s, Schuller appeared slick.  I couldn’t relate.  Not that I could to Mr Humbard, either, but I was at least used to the plainness of his studio.  Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral was all a bit too much for me.  I also thought it was strange that he didn’t seem to cite the Bible, whereas Humbard was always quoting Scripture.  But, then, I was never a regular viewer of either, having last seen Humbard in 1979 and Schuller in the early 1980s.

All source documents for this post are listed at the end.

Calvinist beginnings

Born in Iowa, Robert Schuller, believe it or not, was raised in the Reformed Church of America; he grew up a Calvinist.  So did his mentor the Revd Norman Vincent Peale, author of the best-selling The Power of Positive Thinking.  Schuller earned his M.Div from the Western Theological Seminary of the Reformed Church of America.  The seminary is located in Holland, Michigan.

After beginning his ministry in the RCA in a church in Illinois, Schuller and his young family moved to Garden Grove, California.  He built his Garden Grove Community Church on the site of a disused drive-in cinema and established a chapel a few miles away.  He presided over services at each on Sundays.

Onward to the megachurch

By 1961 he had opened a new and expanded church — a walk-in, drive-in model — which served both congregations.  In 1968, he added a ‘Tower of Hope’, the tallest structure at that time in Orange County (‘OC’, to you younguns out there!).

The success of Schuller’s ministry prompted Billy Graham in 1969 to suggest that he begin broadcasting his services on television.  Meanwhile, Schuller purchased the walnut grove which bordered Garden Grove Community Church.  He later hired internationally-renowned architect Philip Johnson to design what would become the Crystal Cathedral.  The new church opened in 1980. And, thus, the megachurch was born.

His Hour of Power, filmed from the church (I refuse to call it a cathedral), became the most widely watched Christian worship service internationally.  The Crystal Cathedral had as many as 10,000 members at one time.

Rejecting Calvinism for error

Some smaller Christian cults and churches arose from breakaway Calvinists who didn’t like the doctrines of total depravity, eternal damnation and anything that seemed too difficult.  Charles Taze Russell, who founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 19th century, didn’t like the idea of Hell.  He was a Presbyterian minister, as was his father.  They both left the Reformed tradition to create their own ‘church’.

Norman Vincent Peale transformed his Reformed Church of America ministry at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City from one based on Christian teachings to one that revolved around positive thinking. Peale didn’t like the doctrine of justification by faith and didn’t believe in Christ’s physical Resurrection.  He wasn’t too keen on the notion of sin, either.

Peale was a 33-degree Mason and served as a Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge in New York.  He read the writings of Ernest Holmes, whose ideas were the foundation for today’s New Age occultism.  Peale also liked Charles Fillmore, who came up with the notion of the power of ‘positive thinking’, which Peale took into the mainstream.

If you’re under 50, you probably have little idea of how influential Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking was in America.  Millions bought the book and watched Peale on television.  It was normal for friends and neighbours to cite the book in conversation and for television stars to credit Peale’s teachings for their success.  But, that is for another post.

Schuller’s seeker-friendly church

Meanwhile, Robert Schuller picked up on Peale’s writings and his success.  His son says that Schuller considered Peale his ‘mentor’.  Schuller cried at the pulpit when Peale died.

Like Peale and the Russells, Schuller rejected his Reformed upbringing and seminary training for ‘possibility thinking’.   Where Peale left off, Schuller picked up, attracting a new generation for a New Age.  The 1980s were all about finding the inner self, investing supernatural properties in objects such as crystals, embracing Eastern religions in a reverential way and demoting our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to a teacher no different from Buddha.  We were all one and could come to a psychic, one-world thinking through New Age philosophy.

Schuller has boasted that imams and rabbis from around the world have watched his television show and embraced his teachings.

So, how did he do it?  Initially, back in the old days, he went from door to door in and around Garden Grove asking people what sort of church they would like to attend.  Broadly speaking, the answer was, ‘Nothing too demanding’.  So, Schuller started the ball rolling by preaching a man-centred, positive message.  He distorted the Gospel to make his congregation feel good about themselves and put them — not the Cross or the Resurrection or sin — at the core of his preaching.

He believed that by bringing people into his church and saying positive things which would affirm them — tickle the itching ears — he would bring them to Christ and a relationship with God.

It is worth mentioning again that Rick Warren was a student of Schuller’s.  Think of his man-centred, secular message with a veneer of Christianity as well as his Church Growth Movement (CGM).  It’s all about the numbers for these men.

Robert Schuller says

What follows are excerpts from Robert Schuller’s teachings, which you can find in Let Us Reason Ministries’ ‘The Gospel According to Schuller’.  I don’t think I need to mention that all of what you read below is unbiblical, yet many ‘Christians’ and seekers have been drawn in by these errors, if not heresies:

God’s purpose:God is trying … to build a society of human beings who live out the golden rule’ (Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, p. 135)

Christianity is flawed: ‘I believe is it the failure to proclaim the gospel in a way that can satisfy every person’s deepest need – one’s spiritual hunger for glory. Rather than glorify God’s highest creation – the human being – Christian liturgies, hymns, prayers, and scriptural interpretations have often insensitively and destructively offended the dignity of the person…’ (Self-Esteem: The New Reformation , p. 31)

Schuller’s corrective: His book, A Course in Miracles, ‘teaches that “forgiveness” is simply recognizing that sin does not exist and therefore there is nothing to forgive’.

On faith: Schuller had this to say to Larry King in 1994, ‘Positive thinking says, ‘Hey. I am somebody. I can do it.’ Possibility thinking picks up on it and says, “Okay, how is it possible and how can we make it possible,” and power thinking says, “Okay. I am. I can. It’s possible. Okay, let’s you and me do it. Let’s just make it happen.”… I sum up this in a sentence. Faith plus focus plus follow through equals achievement, and many people fail because they just don’t have the faith in themselves, and others have the faith in themselves, but they don’t focus.

Self-esteem in the New Testament: And I can feel the self-esteem rising all around me and within me, “Rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me” (John 7:38). I’ll really feel good about myself’ (Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, p. 80)

On Jesus Christ: ‘Christ is the Ideal One, for he was Self-Esteem Incarnate’ (p. 135, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation)

On sin and total depravity: ‘I contend that his unfulfilled need for self-esteem underlies every act …over and over again that the core of man’s sin is not his depravity but a “lack of self-dignity”, Self-esteem is … the single greatest need facing the human race today.’ (Self-Esteem: the New Reformation Word Books, 1982, p. 15)

Schuller refers to ‘divine self-esteem’ (p. 95). ‘If the gospel of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed as a theology of self-esteem, imagine the health this could generate in society!’ (Self-Esteem, the New Reformation Word Books, 1982 p. 47)

Dr Michael Horton interviews Schuller for the White Horse Inn

In 1992, Dr Michael Horton of the Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California, interviewed Schuller for White Horse Inn radio.  The White Horse Inn is a Calvinist site with regular broadcasts and is known by its slogan, ‘Know what you believe and why you believe it’.  What follows are excerpts from the transcript where Horton attempts to find out how much Schuller believes.  From what I can recall, Schuller had earlier claimed he was still preaching in the Reformed tradition, hence the interview.  Emphases mine below.

Michael Horton: Would you be willing to address your congregation as a group as sinners?
Robert Schuller: No I don’t think I need to do that. First of all, my congregation is a very mixed audience.

MH: But our Lord’s audiences were mixed with disciples and unbelievers both.
RS: Oh yes, but I’ll tell you, the audience is quite different that I talk to than what the Lord spoke to. I speak every week to millions, not a million but millions of people in Russia on channel one. And I speaking to a couple of million people every Sunday.

MH: Are you saying that it is the size of the audience that matters?
RS: No it’s not the size of the audience, it’s where are they at at this time. My only concern is: I don’t want to drive them farther away than they are! And I listen to so many preachers on religious radio stations…and by golly, if I wasn’t a Christian, they’d drive me farther away. I am so afraid that I am going to drive them farther; I want to attract them, and so I use the strategy that Jesus used…

———————————————————–

RS: If we want to win people to Jesus we have to understand where they are at.
MH: I agree absolutely. And they are in sin, that is where they are at.

RS: They are in the state of condition called sin which means they don’t trust. They are lacking faith.
MH: I guess the difference would be our definition of sin, because what I see in scripture is that we’re dead in sin and cannot respond to God even if we were trusting.

RS: We are not justified by faith.
MH: No, it is by grace through faith.

RS: By grace through faith, that’s right.
MH: But what I’m asking is this. Justified from what? The wrath of God?

RS: Oh! I’ll never use that language.
MH: But the Bible does.

RS: Yes, the Bible does, but the Bible is God’s book to believers primarily. Listen, and then call me a heretic if you want to, but I’m interested in attracting people, and not driving them farther away. There is language I can and will use and there are times, if we are wise, there is language we will not use…

—————————————————————

MH: Well, on what texts would you base your definition of sin as “any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem.”
RS: Try some other questions because I think your question isn’t uh, isn’t…I don’t understand it.

MH: Okay. If the definition of sin is “any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem,” then, first of all….
RS: Okay, okay, I can handle that. That’s a little piece. Any sinful act that arises out of the sinful condition, and I have to repeat, sin is a condition before it is an action.

MH: Absolutely. We would agree a hundred percent on that. But what is that condition?
RS: That condition is, you are separated from God, totally and completely. And therefore you don’t have the emotional and spiritual affirmation that only comes out of a relationship … And I’ll tell you what God thinks of you: if you were the only person that didn’t have this wonderful relationship with him, why he would take his son and crucify him as your saviour.

MH: But why would He have to do that Dr. Schuller if in fact the only problem that I have with God is that I am non trusting and lack self confidence?
RS: Wait, wait, wait, wait! The “only thing”! That’s everything! That’s Hell!…To be non-trusting is the ultimate sinful condition.

—————————————————————

RS: I do let people know how great their sins and miseries are. How do I do that? I don’t do that by standing in a pulpit and telling them they’re sinners. I don’t do it that way. The way I do it is ask questions. Are you happy? Do you have problems, what are they? So then I come across as somebody who cares about them because every single human problem, if you look at it deeply enough, is rooted in the sinful condition. We agree on that. So the way I preach sin is by calling to attention what it does to them here and now, and their need for divine grace!

MH: But what about what it does for them in eternity?
RS: Listen, I believe in heaven. I believe in hell. But I don’t know what happens there. I don’t take it literally that it’s a fire that never stops burning.

MH: As Jesus said it was?
RS: Jesus was not literal. See, now this is where you have differences of interpretation. I went to a different theological school than you did

————————————————————-

CALLER: Dr. Schuller, Paul called the gospel an offense. You seem to have a gospel that is a “kinder, gentler” kind of thing.
RS: Thank you. I try to make it that way.

CALLER: How do you reconcile that?
RS: Because I think it honors the name of Jesus.

CALLER: Dr. Schuller, what do we tell someone who says, “I’m already happy and fulfilled, so why do I need the gospel?”
RS: I don’t know…I can’t relate to that.

CALLER: Dr. Schuller, as a Calvinist with your belief in eternal election…how can anything we say drive a person away from being saved?
RS: That’s a good question. I don’t have the answer.

There is much more at the link. This is what happens when preachers forget their confessions of faith and distort Scripture to meet their own perspectives.

I have nothing more to say other than I hope that Schuller’s suppliers get paid and pray that he and his family come to a true understanding of the Bible.

For further reading:

‘Robert H. Schuller’Wikipedia

‘The Gospel According to Schuller’ Let Us Reason Ministries

‘Norman Vincent Peale’Let Us Reason Ministries

‘Michael Horton Interviews Robert Schuller’White Horse Inn

‘Crystal Cathedral megachurch files for bankruptcy’MSNBC

‘Cracked Crystal’Chicago Tribune

‘Crystal Cathedral files for bankruptcy amid mounting debts’LA Times Blogs

A new book in the UK, The Faith of Generation Y, reveals that many young people practice their Christianity ‘on a need to believe basis’.

The Daily Telegraph profiled the book, authors of which include the Anglican Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth (probably pronounced ‘Cosworth’).  Emphases in bold mine below:

Sylvia Collins-Mayo, principal lecturer in sociology at Kingston University [just outside of London], said most of the 300 young people questioned for the study were not looking for answers to “ultimate questions”.

“For the majority, religion and spirituality [were] irrelevant for day-to-day living,” she said. “On the rare occasions when a religious perspective was required, for example coping with family illnesses or bereavements, they often ‘made do’ with a very faded, inherited cultural memory of Christianity in the absence of anything else.”

The authors described this approach as “bedroom spirituality”.

This is the moralistic therapeutic deism — ‘comfy Christianity’ — that Newsweek and Christianity Today explored earlier in 2009 when the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers hit the bookstore shelves.  From my May 4, 2009 post:

The authors, sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton wrote:

‘God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process.’

Isn’t that the truth!  God and His son Jesus are happy, good-time guys — always there to help.

Not much different from: ‘Dad, can you give me some money?  I’m going out tonight’ or ‘Mom, can I have a sleepover next weekend?’

Granted, the Boomer and Joneser generation of parents are to blame for not bringing their children up in a church-oriented environment.  British parents rely largely on schools to catechise their children.  That would be a mistake, even with an established Church, mandated Religious Education (RE) classes and school assemblies with a hymn and a prayer.  I must say that I’ve never encountered a nation more ignorant of faith than this one.  Someone told me that where there is no RE examination requirement, students tend towards presenteeism and take nothing in.

Only 27% of 18 to 24 year olds identified themselves as being Christian.  However, they were not averse to Christianity, per se.  And this is where the emergent church and Evangelical church growth techniques can present an unbiblical representation of Christianity to young enquirers, especially those who have been educated to be part of a ‘community’.

In the ‘Ecumenical Church of Deceit (ECoD)’, Pastor Ken Silva wrote for Apprising Ministries, warning:

O, but how much easier it is instead to tell ourselves that “we must work for unity in the love of God” than to look a professing Christian in the eye and inform them the Lord has not sent these of the new postevangelicalism [types] like Rick Warren, Richard Foster, Brian McLaren and Joel Osteen into our midst to teach counterfeit versions of Christianity. There are many false prophets and teachers in this lying ecumenical purpose driven-emerging-word faith-church who are deceiving you

Unfortunately Christians unwilling to turn their backs on the comforts of this world have been sleeping while the enemy moved his forces deeper into pagan American culture. And before we knew it up rose a Purpose Driven Church with its pragmatic man-centered attempt to Christianize the “American Dream” as well as an Emerging Church complete with its own seducing spirits and doctrines of demons designed by Satan to attack the Word of God from within the evangelical community itself. What first alerted me that something was seriously amiss was when in dialogue with Emergents I found myself having to use the same arguments to establish the authority and infallibility of the Bible that I would use in talking with skeptics!

Silva also observes:

… underneath there are a couple of core views that clearly tie them together. Each of them are based on man-centered pragmatic philosophies of successful secular businesses consistent with their roots in the Church Growth Movement. Why in his book The Church On The Other Side Emergent spiritual director Brian McLaren himself even calls this CGM method the “successful model.”

And the other factor that melds The Ecumenical Church Of Deceit (ECoD) together is the mystic experience-oriented theology of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism, which has actually turned backward and inward the process of following Christ. Historic Christian doctrine has always held that we test all teaching, as well as spiritual experiences, by Holy Scripture and never the reverse as is done now.

Combine false teaching with biblical illiteracy, lack of catechesis, a postmodern perspective, communitarianism, emotional incontinence (as demonstrated by three commenters here in the past week) along with an absence of critical thinking and you have a powerhouse of heresy, sin and Lawlessness (in Luther’s sense of the word).

That’s a mighty dangerous potion to unleash on an unsuspecting world.  That can run wild anywhere — theologically, socially, politically.  Think of Dominion Theology.

Sound doctrine and biblical preaching are what’s needed to present the Gospel.  I read the other day where a pastor said, ‘You’ve got to preach the Gospel the way Jesus and St Paul preached it.’  Some of you are fortunate enough to have good men of God in the pulpit.  Many others do not.

I don’t have an antidote for moral therapeutic deism, other than to second Pastor Silva’s exhortation to be Berean-like (Acts 17:11) in our continuous testing:

Clearly the inerrancy and the final authority of Holy Scripture i.e. sola Scriptura is being taught right here in Acts 17:11–and this is long before Luther and the Reformers ever came on the scene. You see what happens when one properly meditates; he finds the Truth, which is also found in the Example of Jesus in Matthew 4:4. First we are told–in the text of the Bible itself–that the Bereans were noble because they examined the Scriptures to discern whether what Paul was teaching them was true. From this fact we can understand that their efforts obviously pleased God, and further, we come to know that He is also encouraging us to examine the Scriptures today as well. Now by definition Scripture is to be considered as that which God Himself has spoken. Then Christ Jesus Himself also taught us by Example that God’s Word – Holy Scripture – is Truth (see–John 17:17). Therefore we can now see sola Scriptura i.e. the doctrine of the final authority of Holy Scripture as being true.

Secondly we also see from Acts 17:11 that the Bereans examined the Scriptures in an effort to test Christ’s Own Apostle and to make certain that what Paul said was true. From this we now ascertain the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible

Without biblical literacy and doctrinal knowledge, our children will lack discernment.  Everything looks ‘true’.  ‘Oh, that makes sense, doesn’t it?’  Most of us have been guilty of that — I know I have.  That is why knowing errors and heresies are so important in our armoury of Truth.   As they say at the White Horse Inn:

Know what you believe and why you believe it.

I pray that we do not become too beset by these developments, particularly if newly-converted ‘Christians’ are going to become haughty and hostile in their error.

It was never my intention to write so extensively about a man whom I generally ignore, but one thing none of us can ignore is the church growth movement.  And there is no one who personifies this better than Rick Warren.

If you doubt his global scope or think he is just a ‘man of the cloth’, then read on.  He has many connections — secular and religious — around the world, categorised below along with reference links.  Most of these are taken from In Plain Site‘s ‘Rick Warren’s Strange Bedfellows’. Others are indicated with additional links below. The people I have not mentioned can be found in posts here.  It’s a long post — apologies, but it is necessary.  (Emphases are mine, unless otherwise indicated.)

If nothing else, please go to page two to the ‘Council on Foreign Relations’ section to see what is planned for church donations.  Think ‘welfare’.

New Agers

Ken Blanchard teamed up with Rick Warren and Willow Creek’s Bill Hybels.  Who is Ken Blanchard? He is an ageing New Ager who helped train Christians in ‘leadership’:

On November 2nd 2003, Rick Warren gave a sermon at a Saddleback Church service … in which he announced the relationship between his P.E.A.C.E. Plan and Ken Blanchard and his Lead Like Jesus Movement …

A page on the Willow Creek Association web site (dated October 29, 2004) says that Rick Warren, John Maxwell and Ken Blanchard are among the speakers for The 2005 Leadership Summit …

As of July 2010, The Leadership Summit on CD featuring, among others, Ken Blanchard and Chuck Colson was available in the Willow Creek online store…

Blanchard is known as a management expert. His book The One Minute Manager (co-authored with Spencer Johnson) has sold over 13 million copies and has been translated into 37 languages …

Blanchard endorses a book Mind Like Water by Jim Ballard who says in the acknowledgment section that he wishes to acknowledge the great line of masters for their guidance and inspiration. And who count among Ballard’s “line of masters”? … “Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswas and Paramahansa Yogananda.”

Does Mind Like Water ring any bells?  The WELS Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary features a course by the same name.  Could the book be on the reading list?

Bernie Siegel is a New Ager with whom Warren has traded book blurbs (endorsements on the cover or inside sleeves). Emphasis in the original below:

In chapter three of The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren suddenly makes reference to someone called Bernie Siegel …

“Hope is as essential to your life as air and water. You need hope to cope. Dr. Bernie Siegel found he could predict which of his cancer patients would go into remission by asking, “Do you want to live to be one hundred?” Those with a deep sense of life purpose answered yes and were the ones most likely to survive. Hope comes from having a purpose.” [Page 31] …

Incidentally, Rick Warren’s reference to Bernie Siegel immediately followed him talking about Isaiah and Job as two men who exemplified life “without purpose” and life “without God.”

    “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope. In the Bible, many different people expressed this hopelessness. Isaiah complained, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.” Job said, ‘My life drags by—day after hopeless day” and “I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense.’ The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose. [Zondervan; 1st edition (October 1, 2002) Page 30]

It is a little hard to believe that a Christian pastor can mention men without purpose, and Isaiah and Job all in the same paragraph …  A closer look at Isaiah’s words show that he was, in fact, lamenting that his ministry was having little success. However he consoles himself with the reflection that his cause was with God, and that his labors would not go unrewarded. Job’s words in Job 7:6 had to do with the fact that everything had been taken from him, including his children and health. He had no hope that his miseries were going to be, in any way, alleviated. Neither quote had anything to do with “a life without purpose” or being “without God.”

Emergents

Dan Kimball  and Brian McLaren: Although Saddleback is not a direct participant in the movement, Warren obviously approves of the Emerging Church movement. Rick Warren was a contributing writer to Dan Kimball’s book The Emerging Church and his web site also features the Innovative Church Conference …

Spencer Burke and The Ooze: At one time Rick Warren had stated that he thought The Ooze website is, “one of the best online communities related to post-modern ministry”, which means that pastors around the world will likely recognize the Ooze as a trusted source for spirituality.

Leonard Sweet: In 1994 Rick Warren and Leonard Sweet teamed up to produce the Tides of Change audio set published by Zondervan

The October 2007 Catalyst Conference featured Rick Warren and … Leonard Sweet along with Erwin McManus …

Rick Warren invited Sweet to speak at the 2008 Saddleback Small Groups Conference called Wired …

Rick Warren wrote this glowing endorsement for the front cover of Leonard Sweet’s book Soul Tsunami

Soul Tsunami shows us why these are the greatest days for evangelism since the first century!”

In the book … Sweet … says that times are changing and you’d better “Reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die.”

… Leonard Sweet’s online book, Quantum Spirituality, sheds some revealing light on the envisioned global “church” for the 21st century. In his view, the offense of the cross has been replaced with a passion for interfaith peace and possibility thinking. To illustrate this point, Dr. Sweet quotes Thomas Merton, the popular Catholic author who popularized mysticism and died in Asia searching the depths of Tibetan Buddhism.

Charismatics and Evangelicals

John Wimber, Charismatic — The Vineyard Community Church

C Peter Wagner, Fuller Church Growth Institute

The Vineyard Community Church has a page on the web site devoted to “A collection of thoughts and RW-John-Wimbermemories of the late John Wimber” [pictured at right, emphases mine below] among which is one by Rick Warren who says:

“I will remember John Wimber as a man who truly loved Jesus more than anything else. I always enjoyed our conversations because that love for Christ produced an uncommon passion in his life that was contagious. I will miss that. A hundred years from today, people will still be singing “Spirit Song” because it verbalizes that deep love for Jesus”.

In the mid 70’s, John Wimber left the Quaker church he pastored to become a lecturer for the Fuller Church Growth Institute he came into contact with C. Peter Wagner, a fellow professor at Fuller, who he was greatly influenced by and vice versa. Through his contact with Wagner, who for years had been a missionary in Bolivia, Wimber was exposed to the stories of supernatural confrontations, miracles, healings, demonic oppressions, and deliverances etc, and “became convinced that the demonstration of the power of the Gospel through miracles always served to validate the preaching of the Word” .

In 1977, Wimber left Fuller to start a local church, which eventually grew to approximately 600 Vineyard Churches worldwide. On Mother’s Day of 1981 Wimber invited Lonnie Frisbee (a former drug taking hippie who had been attending his church) to preach, and the rest is history. The day erupted into a Toronto Blessing-like circus, and after a mystical ‘confirmation’ that this was ‘of God’, Wimber was hooked. (It is alleged that because Lonnie Frisbee practiced homosexuality and died of AIDS, his part in the formation and growth of Calvary Chapels and Vineyards has been all but written out of history books.)

And this gave us a connection between Vineyard and London’s Holy Trinity Brompton.  The Revd Nicky Gumbel, an ex-solicitor who became an Anglican priest, solidified a burgeoning Alpha programme and, erm, the rest is history. Would that it were past history — its errors are more popular than ever.  The Kansas City Prophets would become a renewed Latter Rain, a movement originally founded in Canada and thrown out by the Assembly of God for heresy.

Toward the mid to late 1980’s, Wimber became enamored by the “The Kansas City Prophets”, or now known as the Kansas City Fellowship, founded by pastor Mike Bickle after he heard an audible voice in Cairo, Egypt described by Bickle as “the internal audible voice”. Mike Bickle mentions that he “introduced Paul Cain, Bob Jones and the other ‘prophetic ministers to the Vineyard’” and was in turn introduced to Richard Foster by John Wimber.

At an August 1989 conference in Denver, Colorado, Wimber called on Vineyard pastors to receive the KCP, thus very effectively putting a band aid over the whole affair brought up by pastor Ermine Gruen, who had published a report exposing some of the teachings and practices at Mike Bickle’s church… The Latter Rain had found not only a very comfortable home in the Vineyard church, but a huge and influential platform from which to spread their canker.

Please beware of The Latter Rain. That’s for another post, but feel free to do a search on them in the meantime.

Catalyst

Both Rick Warren and Erwin McManus are scheduled speakers at the Oct 2007 Catalyst Conference. See Article on McManus and Mosaic] Interestingly Warren has been billed as a “Global Humanitarian and Influencer” on the Catalyst web site. which says…[All Emphasis Added].

    They add:

    The Catalyst brand was initiated for the 20 something and 30 something audience. Over time, it has always allowed for others with a similar mindset to participate. This will continue, however, the core target audience for all new products developed and environments created must stay true to this target audience. The mediums for learning and content distribution will be defined by the relevance to this group.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Yesterday we examined John Piper’s thoughts on inviting Rick Warren to speak at his Desiring God 2010 National Conference, which was held on October 1-3, 2010 at the ministries’ hometown of Minneapolis.

    Warren was unable to appear in person because of health issues in his family.  A video was broadcast instead.

    Warren’s topic was ‘The Battle for Your Mind’, an interesting title, considering that his church growth movement is certainly out for minds, millions of them around the world.

    Desiring God helpfully provided notes along with the video.  As one would expect, Warren cites Scripture to support his points.  We’ll read more on that later.  For now, here are a few excerpts (emphases mine), but do take a few minutes to read all the notes, which shouldn’t take too long.

    We all have a mental illness. It’s called sin. This means we can’t trust what we ourselves even think.

    The upcoming generation places great value on authenticity. But it’s important to see that you’re not authentic until you can publicly admit how inauthentic you are most of the time.

    A few days ago, we examined at the postmodern notion of authenticity which today can be had only in a communitarian sense as Gene Edward Veith explained in his book Modern Fascism, which Pastor Bob DeWaay revisited:

    Heidegger opposed absolute truths and traditional Western culture (you can read more about him at the link).  Here’s an example:

    … Heidegger spoke of “willing the essence” (Veith: 90). But he was speaking of a collective will. The “essence” is not some pre-existing transcendent truth revealed by God but something people will into existence themselves. Once it is willed, it becomes the guidance of “authentic” life. In other words, when a collection of people commonly wills something, and if they then live in conformity with that common will, they are living valid, authentic lives.

    … In his book, Veith explains how the notion of the God-created individual died and how the German penchant for volkisch culture brought most of a nation together as a collective:

    A person’s identity was found in a communal experience and communal consciousness. As Veith explains: “The individual human being is ‘nothing more than the vehicle of forces generated by the community’” (Veith: 36, 37 citing Zeev Sternhell). This is a precursor to what is now called “socially constructed reality” as used by postmodern theologians

    So, we’re mentally ill until we arrive at and agree with a collective interpretation of thought and behaviour.  I’m not being glib here — this really is the goal, as I explained in ‘UN plan for global mental health: change or be changed’.

    Back to Warren.  He tells the audience to pray for everything but to also pray using ‘concentrated focusing’ — possibly a reference to unbiblical mystical prayer techniques he likes to promote.  Many churches around the world are now are scheduling ‘contemplative prayer’ or ‘silent prayer’ sessions which employ techniques such as lectio divina.  Leave it to the monks.  You would be much better off spending that hour studying Scripture and your confession of faith.

    Then Warren says, ‘Growing churches require growing pastors.‘  Church growth alert.

    He advises us to read a variety of Christian literature, 25% of which should be from recent years.  If that isn’t a sure way to flirt with error, I don’t know what is.

    He tells people to read the Bible on their own and explains it in a rather peculiar way:

    Interpretation without application is abortion. We have huge heads but little hands and hearts and feet.

    Yes, I’m sure John Piper has it right when he says, ‘I think we probably need to work harder at getting him right.’ Not.

    Finally, Warren asks us to ‘dream’ in accordance with the Scriptures:

    What is your dream for your next ten years? For your church? Your family?

    Innovators see what everyone else sees but they ask questions that no one else asks.

    Why do we do this? For the glory of God.

    He concludes with ‘THINK’:

    Test every thought.
    Helmet your head.
    Imagine great things.
    Nourish a godly mind.
    Keep on learning.

    Dire.

    Afterwards, a Desiring God panel had this to say about Warren’s video:

    1. Can you give us your initial reflections on the message we just heard from Rick Warren?

    Burk Parsons: I saw a man with character and with simple, childlike dependence on Christ.

    John Piper: An unbelievable communicator with incredible application. Be encouraged and relax with who you are, and give it all to Jesus while learning all you can from Rick.

    Daniel Neades of Better Than Sacrifice (Isle of Man, UK) tells us what the Bible verses which Warren uses to support his points really mean.  Excerpts follow.

    First on dreams:

    Proverbs 29:18 does not teach that ‘what we need today are great dreamers’.

    Here’s a more accurate translation, with the second half of the verse included:

    Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
    But happy is he who keeps the law.’ (Proverbs 29:18, NKJV)

    That’s better. It is now plain that this verse talks neither about our dreams and hopes for the future, nor of some leader’s ‘vision’ for a better tomorrow.

    No. Rather, it refers to prophetic revelation from God.

    And specifically, as is made clear by the second half of the verse, it is referring to the revelation of God’s Law (torah), which of course we have in the Scriptures by the prophets.

    Another Bible verse Warren cited with regard to dreams was Acts 2:17:

    In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17, NIV)

    Neades counters this by explaining:

    … what it does teach is that in the last days, God will pour out His Holy Spirit on ‘all people’ with the effect that sons and daughters will prophesy, young men will ‘see visions’, and old men will ‘dream dreams’.

    The talk of visions and dreams is really an elaboration and repetition of the prior reference to prophecy, as is clear when we remember God’s rebuke of Aaron and Miriam for their criticism of Moses …

    Thus, the prophecy, visions and dreams of Acts 2:17 are all referring to, as Luther puts it, ‘the knowledge of God through Christ, which the Holy Spirit kindles and makes to burn through the Word of the gospel’. Yet this verse is cited in support of a very different kind of vision and dream, namely our hopes and plans for the future. Were those hopes and dreams tied specifically to the outworking of the Word of the Gospel, we might yet have accepted this as a valid interpretation. But no, the application is universal: ‘Nothing happens till somebody starts dreaming’.

    Can you see what a terrible and Satanic twisting of Scripture has occurred in the way that both Proverbs 29:18 and Acts 2:17 have been abused?

    Neades warns us that Warren’s talk of dreaming is man-centred in that God cannot act until Man dreams:

    … the assertion that ‘Nothing happens till somebody starts dreaming’ leaves the initiative entirely in human hands. We are further instructed that ‘What we need today are great dreamers.’ The direct implication is that unless we busy ourselves with conjuring up some grand dreams, God is unable to act. Thus a Sovereign God is made subject to the actions of mortal man. ‘Nothing happens till somebody starts dreaming’ is therefore merely the expression of an aggrandizing self-idolatry – an idolatry made more egregious by its attempted justification from Scripture.

    Neades has done an outstanding job of giving us reliable biblical commentary (he cites several theologians) and clearly showing us Warren’s errors in his talk, which, he says, is nothing more than legalism:

    Going back now and reading more carefully the The Battle for Your Mind notes, it is striking how every single point involves something we must or must not do. There is nothing about what Christ has done for us. It is pure law. There is no Gospel here at all. No Christ crucified for our sins. No Christ raised for our justification. Just things we must do. How incredibly depressing.

    What more can one say except to advise our friends and family yet again to avoid the ideology and erroneous theology behind the Purpose-Driven Church and the Purpose-Driven Life.  By putting his and Desiring God’s stamp on Warren’s talk, John Piper has done Christianity the world over a great injustice.

    Monday: Rick Warren’s global connections

    What is it about some older preachers who are flattered by the likes of the church growth and emergent movements?

    The esteemed R C Sproul and (ahem) Mark Driscoll did an interview together. (This is why I, in good conscience, cannot list Ligonier Ministries in my Resources).  Then, earlier this year, John Piper, respected by many in the US and around the world, invited Rick Warren to speak at his Desiring God 2010 Conference.  This is why you won’t find Desiring God ministries among my Resources, either, although I do quote from them now and then.

    It’s as if, in some Machiavellian way, a young prince flatters an older ruler and the latter is taken in by it all.  What is going on in the young prince’s mind?  An opportunity to influence — seduce — the minds of the older ruler’s followers?  Could be.  What goes on in the elder’s mind?

    The furore following Piper’s invitation was such that he took an eight-month sabbatical.  I’m not suggesting that the criticism was the only reason, but his departure followed soon afterward.

    The Desiring God 2010 Conference took place on October 1-3, 2010 in Minneapolis, where Piper’s ministry is based.  You can see the list of the other speakers at the link.

    Christianity Today (another publication I don’t link to often — the New York Times of Evangelicalism) interviewed Piper on October 4, 2010.  Below are excerpts of Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s interview (emphases in bold mine below):

    You invited Rick Warren; would you say he exemplifies “thinking”?

    No, I don’t think he exactly exemplifies what I’m after. But he is biblical. He quoted 50 Scriptures from memory. Unbelievable, his mind is Vesuvius. So I asked him what impact reading Jonathan Edwards had on him. What these authors like Karl Barth and Edwards do for him is give him a surge of theological energy that then comes through his wiring. What I wanted to do with Rick is force him to talk about thinking so pragmatists out there can say, “A lot of thinking goes into what he does.”

    You received some negative feedback for inviting him.

    It was real risky. I don’t even know if I did the right thing. If somebody said, “Are you sure you should have invited him?” “No.” I think the first thing I’d say—maybe the only thing—is I think he’s been slandered. I think we probably need to work harder at getting him right.

    Well, we could spend the next few hours analysing those sentences.

    I won’t have been the first to note that a flag should have gone up in reading the ‘he is biblical.  He quoted 50 Scriptures’ sentences.  Whoa! No one knows the Scriptures better than those who try to twist and turn them to their advantage.  That should alert us to the potential for theological error.

    It’s interesting that Piper still isn’t sure whether he should have invited Warren.  Hmm.  As others have noted, that really may have been Piper’s ‘jump the shark‘ moment.  What is done cannot be undone.

    But, then, Piper says he thinks Warren ‘has been slandered’.  What does that mean?  What about ‘work harder at getting him right’ (an odd phraseology)?  Pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries discussed this with Daniel Neades of Better than Sacrifice, based on the Isle of Man in the UK.  Silva gives us their analysis in ‘John Piper on Rick Warren’:

    Like I shared with Neades, I think that when Dr. Piper said, “we probably need to work harder at getting him right,” most likely he means: Work harder to get people to understand Warren correctly like Dr. Piper apparently feels he does. And as far as the broad-brush charge of some slander by unnamed sources goes, the following cogent response from Daniel Neades is dead-on-target:

    The major problem here is that Rick Warren refuses to engage his critics or defend his ideas. Unless he is willing to argue for, say, his handling of Scripture, there can be no development of the critics’ understanding of his position.

    This is not the fault of the critics, who have shown themselves to be very willing to engage; but rather of Warren, who refuses to enter into the conversation.

    Thus, the plea to ‘work harder at getting him right’ is misdirected if it is aimed at Warren’s critics. Rather, it must be aimed at Rick Warren himself. If he is misunderstood, let him answer his critics and show that he is actually exegeting Scripture in a faithful way consistent with the historic orthodox Christian faith.

    Silva concludes:

    The above reads to me as if Dr. Piper is actually coming to the defense of Rick Warren as opposed to whoever these pragmatists supposedly are. That’s why I believe these comments following from Daniel Neades are also helpful here as well … “And thus Dr. John Piper seems to be taking upon himself responsibility for Warren’s errors. That’s not a position I’d want to assume.”

    Nor would I.

    Tomorrow: Notes from Rick Warren’s Desiring God 2010 talk

    In response to yesterday’s post, ‘Seminary curriculum: Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WELS)’, Randall Schultz wrote in with his observations and experience of how church growth plays out in reality:

    From my minimal reading of church history (as a WELS layman), it appears that denominations fall apart first in the seminaries.

    Spot on (as we say here in Blighty).  And that is part of the reason for these posts. I’ll write more about this after I survey a few more seminaries.  I suspect that each denomination is embracing different false teachings.  Certainly, the Episcopalians look towards lifestyle diversity and, it seems, Lutherans are embracing church growth.  More on that later.

    In the meantime, let’s hear more from Mr Schultz (emphases mine):

    My own experiences and observations are that it is very easy to burn out lay members with leadership, done in the name of getting members involved. I have seen how the lay leaders are constantly being told about the joys of doing “the Lord’s Work”. Meanwhile, they are neglecting their families and down time by constantly attending board and committee meetings. Remember, that many of these men work full time in the secular world.

    Also, there is what is known as opportunity cost. What could they be doing with their time if they were not so occupied with hand-wringing while looking at statistical giving data at Stewardship Committee meetings, for example? Family time was already mentioned. How about serious doctrinal study? There is much available, even in the English language. Yes, the “business of the church” is important. There are books to be balanced, property to be maintained, and the many serious membership problems which often arise at Elders’ meetings.

    Pardon my rambling, but it is easy to see why so many frivolous activities occur in congregations when pastors are trained in methods and motivation at the seminary. What ever happened to changed hearts as the Holy Spirit works through the Means of Grace?

    I would like to share a theory with you as to why all this is happening.  I’m not the first person to say that it seems that today we work longer and harder than ever.  We are doing so because we need to, in order to support ourselves, our families and an ever-growing state.  Then, we are expected to do the same in ‘service’ to the Church.  Consequently, we do not have time with our spouses and families — or, indeed, ourselves.  We spend most of our day following the commands and achieving the targets of others, whether employers or pastors.

    The results are threefold: we are too tired to do anything but follow someone else’s orders; our familial relationships suffer; and we stop losing the ability to think critically.  We become part of larger ‘communities’ — our workplace and our church.   Both of these communities tell us that if we do not obey them that we are working against them.  We have individually-set targets by the management — either a boss or a pastor — to achieve on their behalf.  We plight our troth not so much to our spouses as to our communities of work and church.  If we do not, there is the threat of  ‘or else’ — we may lose our jobs or church membership.

    This is part of the communitarian model, which the world is rapidly embracing.  Tony Blair promoted it in the Fabian Society’s notion, ‘the third way’.  David Cameron, a Conservative, is promoting it in his ‘Big Society’.   State schools in the US are promoting mandated public service but labelling it ‘voluntary’.

    And Rick Warren — the head of the Church Growth Movement — wrote in The Purpose-Driven Church:

    I want to stress the importance of continually emphasizing the corporate nature of the Christian life to your members. Preach it, teach it, and talk about it with individuals. We belong together. We need each together. We are connected, joined together as parts of one body. We are family!

    Some of you may have read Gene Edward Veith’s Modern Fascism which was published in 1993.  In it he examines how the communitarian model played out in the last century.  The Revd Bob DeWaay revisited the book for Critical Issues Commentary earlier this year.  He warns us that ‘ideas have consequences’.  Let’s take a look:

    The key issue is the rejection of a transcendent God who has revealed moral law. The result of such a rejection will most certainly be some form of lawlessness. Recently, radio host and friend Chris Rosebrough called me and insisted that I read Modern Fascism by Gene Veith. Chris suggested the book because it draws a parallel between the ideas popular in Germany between World Wars I and II and the ideas popular in America today. These ideas now are called “postmodern,” [and were promoted] by Martin Heidegger, a popular German philosopher who became a committed fascist …

    I do not claim that those who promote postmodern theology are guilty of promoting fascism, but I do claim that ideas have consequences. As we examine the ideas that led to fascism, we shall see why those ideas led to horrific consequences. Once we see the parallels between those times and today we can hope that today’s ideas will not lead to such consequences. But we have no guarantees that they won’t.

    As students of history know, between the Great War and the Second World War, Germans became fascinated with their origins as a volk, or a people.  This included a renewed national — communal, even — interest in nature, primitivism and ancestry.   DeWaay cites Veith:

    Nature and the community assume the mystical role they held in ancient mythological religions. Religious zeal is displaced from the transcendent onto the immanent: the land, the people, the blood, the will” (Veith: 17). The idea that nature was like a goddess who would care for humans replaced the idea that nature was fallen and that humans needed to use the sweat of their brow to overcome the natural tendency for thorns to choke out the garden (Genesis 3:17). Again Veith explains: “Fascists seek an organic, neomythological unity of nature, the community, and the self. The concepts of a God who is above nature and a moral law that is above society are rejected” (Veith: 17).

    DeWaay sees a parallel not only with secular Western — particularly American — society but in our view of Christianity as well:

    The postmodern ideals prevalent in America today are identical. The primary idol in our society is nature, and many people harbor the romantic view that nature is a “mother” who will nurture us. These postmoderns consider humans with technology to be the enemies who are a threat to the nature goddess. These inclinations drive the postmodern/emergent understanding of theology.

    They reject the transcendence of God, who has spoken and given moral law and will in the end be the judge of all. In His place they posit community and a return to nature. Whether these advocates know that they are teaching ideas that at one time led to fascism is uncertain. But they did …

    The deep ecology movement sees traditional Christianity’s understanding of man’s uniqueness (as created in God’s image and given authority over the earth) as a terrible cause of the earth’s problems. Instead it derives its thinking from pagan sources and a decidedly pagan worldview that values the “interconnectedness of all things.”

    Heidegger opposed absolute truths and traditional Western culture (you can read more about him at the link).  Here’s an example:

    Heidegger’s idea of giving oneself the law meant that morals derive from the human will. Veith explains the implication: “The concept that there are no absolute truths means that human beings can impose their truth upon an essentially meaningless world” (Veith: 86). But that would apparently mean chaos with no guidance for deciding things collectively as in society. The answer to that problem is “the will to power” as understood by Nietzsche. The will to power can and does become a collective will. Heidegger spoke of “willing the essence” (Veith: 90). But he was speaking of a collective will. The “essence” is not some pre-existing transcendent truth revealed by God but something people will into existence themselves. Once it is willed, it becomes the guidance of “authentic” life. In other words, when a collection of people commonly wills something, and if they then live in conformity with that common will, they are living valid, authentic lives. Whatever is thus willed cannot be judged to be good or bad by any transcendent moral law revealed by God.

    In other words, that outlook spurred the German people onto lawlessness, just as Martin Luther warned centuries before:

    If the human will is unleashed, with no external or internal restraints, Luther would expect not authenticity, not self-actualization or humanistic fulfillment, but an evil approaching the demonic. In this respect, at least, those who celebrated triumph of the will proved him right. (Veith: 93)

    The Epitome of the Formula of Concord, Article VI states:

    the Law was given to men for three reasons:

    • first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars];
    • secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins;
    • thirdly, that after they are regenerate and [much of] the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life

    In his book, Veith explains how the notion of the God-created individual died and how the German penchant for volkisch culture brought most of a nation together as a collective:

    A person’s identity was found in a communal experience and communal consciousness. As Veith explains: “The individual human being is ‘nothing more than the vehicle of forces generated by the community’” (Veith: 36, 37 citing Zeev Sternhell). This is a precursor to what is now called “socially constructed reality” as used by postmodern theologians

    The emergent church plays heavily on this: ‘Which interpretation of the Bible and Christianity is correct?  What makes yours better than mine?’

    And Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Church is full of communitarian references, such as:

    1. Continually emphasize the importance of fellowship and unity, commitment (including signed contracts) and community participation. Stress oneness—the “corporate nature” of churches. This is the heart of “systems thinking,” whether in secular business or church: everything is interconnected; all is one. Nothing has meaning unless it fits into the “Greater Whole.”

    2. Create organizational structures for bringing visitors and new members quickly into small groups where trained “change leaders” can facilitate the dialogue, encourage bonding and monitor the collective training.

    Back now to Mr Schultz’s comment at the top of this post.  He is correct in saying that our priorities should be in-depth study of Scripture and doctrine, to our spouses and families as well as downtime for our own well-being.

    He is not alone in his thinking. In the Calvinist churches, a debate has been going on over the past few years as to how best to serve the Lord.  Dr Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California has written and spoken about the ‘two-kingdom’ tradition, supported by both Martin Luther and John Calvin.  Contrary to what theologians (such as some at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and at Fuller Theological Seminary) believe, Horton writes:

    Clearly, Luther drew the lines between the two kingdoms in clear, bold colors, but so did Calvin—and both did so especially over against the radical Anabaptists who were trying to take over cities in the name of Christ’s millennial kingdom! … Neither Lutherans nor Calvinists have been consistent in working out their theory, but the two-kingdoms doctrine has a substantial body of reflection throughout the whole history of the church.

    For us as believers and church members, Horton says that we don’t have to be world-beaters or even acknowledged leaders:

    Surely, if ever in this present age, we were to expect a total transformation of the kingdoms of this age into the kingdom of Christ, it would have been in Christ’s earthly ministry. Yet he just preaches the gospel, forgives sins, heals the sick, and marches toward the cross.

    Nor do we find a blueprint in the New Testament Epistles for a Christian economic or political system, a Christian theory of art or science, or a plan for universal hygiene. The commands are simply to live godly lives in the present, as parents, children, spouses, employers, and employees, caring for the needs of the saints, participating regularly in the public assembly of Christ’s body, and to pray for our rulers.

    … even a non-Christian economist or hospice worker who cares about people will be more of a genuine neighbor to a sufferer than a lot of busy Christians with big plans that are impractical or uninformed.

    Martin Luther wrote that we give glory to God through obedience to Him in our everyday lives:

    What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in Heaven for our Lord God.  We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.

    So much for church growth and communitarianism then.  Instead, as Mr Schultz recommends, spend time with your family, learn more about the Bible and Christian doctrine, worship the Lord, serve your employer faithfully — and leave the rest to God.

    Hat-tip to Gairney Bridge for this article from the United Methodist Church (UMC) on vitality, growth, worship and church programmes.  Oh, dear.  Gairney Bridge is right — ‘Worship is NOT like going to the mall!’

    This kind of thing really frightens me — as much as when Catholics rail against sola Scriptura.

    In July 2009, I reported on a UMC survey which found that its members were dying faster than the American population as a whole.  I realise that, as with the Anglican Communion, there is a good and faithful remnant, but they too must shudder when they read about the promotion of church growth, vitality drivers and so forth.

    In the UMC’s ‘Keys to building vital congregations’, they champion the following concepts (okay, I’m just using the corporate-speak that they have used):

    – a pastor is effective by the third year, by which time he should be contributing to ‘congregational vitality’

    – ‘effective pastors are those that develop, coach and mentor laity in leadership roles’

    – ‘contemporary services work best when the music echoes what people hear on pop radio’

    – ’25 percent to 50 percent of attendees in leadership during the last five years’

    Another thing that scares me about this is that the UMC hired a consulting firm, Towers Watson, to conduct this survey.  But, even scarier, a Methodist, Fred Miller, president of The Chatham Group — another consulting firm — is the lead consultant on this vitality project. He had this to say:

    The primary responsibility of everybody in all parts of our system — clergy, laity, general agencies, conferences — is to order our ministry around the drivers of vitality … Because if we are a more vital church, we will make more disciples of Jesus Christ.

    Well, I worked for a worldwide top-10 consulting firm for 11 years and, until I started immersing myself in Scripture and orthodox Christianity a year and a half ago, I would have said, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’   Now, I’m no expert in either Scripture or theology, but even at my neophyte stages, I can point out that something is very wrong with this picture.  And, it’s all been said before — ‘Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Church and management theory’ — what an eye-opener!

    Read again what Mr Miller says (emphases mine):

    The primary responsibility … in all parts of our system … is to order our ministry around the drivers of vitality

    Hmm. ‘Primary responsibility’ — shouldn’t that be ‘Jesus commanded us’?  ‘System’ — shouldn’t that be ‘church’?  ‘Drivers of vitality’ — shouldn’t that be ‘Gospel message’? What New Testament verse did that come from?

    What did Jesus actually say?  He gave His disciples — and us — the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20), specifically:

    All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

    I lament the absence of anything Christ-oriented or biblical — including a New Testament passage — in that article.  I also abhor the Peter Drucker-Rick Warren orientation of their programme. (The link has a series of my posts exposing the errors in it.)  As Voddie Baucham preached yesterday — our Christian walk is about God’s sovereignty and Christ as the propitiation for our sins. It’s not about us!

    The worst sentences in that article — for me — were the following:

    ‘The research also showed pastoral tenure contributes to congregational vitality. Whether a pastor is effective is usually apparent by the third year. If a pastor is effective by then, this success is likely to grow over time with the highest level at 10 or more years.’ So, if your church doesn’t grow by then in terms of numbers, you’re a failure?  Think of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3.  Some of them, like the persecuted church in Smyrna, no doubt lost members and remained purer as a result.

    – ‘[Contemporary] services can use traditional hymns, but they had better have a backbeat.’

    ‘Churches also have rotating lay leadership with people sharing their gifts in a variety of ways over time. People do not serve year after year in the same position.’ That is very consulting-oriented, and that’s one of the things I enjoyed about working in that industry.  But management consulting has nothing to do with God, Christ and church. So — what will happen?  Something like this: ‘I’m sorry, Mrs Jones, we’ve found you are a great success as head Sunday school teacher.  But, as successful as you are, we’re going to move you off now onto something else.  Mrs Smith will take over starting in September.  In the meantime, you can work out the transition with her.’  Whaaaat??

    What the UMC needs are sermons that drive home the importance of detaching ourselves from the world and secular pursuits, including vitality drivers.  The UMC would fill its pews quicker than lightning if only they had preachers like Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham.

    Here, he preaches on our man-centred approach to the terrible things which happen in our world and tells us to judge ourselves before we start judging God (hint: if you do the first, you’ll never be tempted to do the second!):

    In this next one, he tells us to put our social and racial divisions aside — God’s grace still works through us (abolition of slavery) and reminds us that He created all of us in His image — ‘something secular humanists will never understand’:

    I pray along with many traditionally-oriented Methodists that this church growth thing does not go too far.

    For anyone who still thinks this is a good thing, please read the experiences of the Lutherans on Dr Gregory Jackson’s Ichabod, the Glory Has Departed.

    I hadn’t really thought about this, but Stewart Cowan of Realstreet, a UK blog, has been exploring ‘pride’ movements of various ‘communities’. 

    Yes, we are all aware of these pride movements, but it seems that practically every social, racial or religious minority has one these days. Mr Cowan has examined them in ‘PRIDE Part I: Sing if you’re glad to be gay.  And black’ and ‘PRIDE Part II: “Proud to be a British Muslim”‘.   

    I normally don’t deal in either of these topics, but what he said is worth noting.  In the LGBT post, he writes:

    These days, non-white (my emphasis, above) includes Hispanic folk. Funny that, because when I was young, they were white. I guess they serve a better purpose to certain people when they are reclassified as ‘black’ even though they are nothing of the sort …

    The government would be thrilled if we could all be reduced into even smaller ‘communities’, ideally consisting of one person, so that we would never be tempted to exchange opinions or concerns with anyone outside our own tiny peculiar clan.

    People must stop falling for all this divisive nonsense being carried out in the name of equality, diversity and ‘community cohesion’.

    Amen! As to the first point, are the Iberian countries going to oppose the rest of Europe now on racial grounds?  I doubt it, but who knows how this could play out in 15 or 20 years’ time?  I already have a few ideas as to how this could be effectively ‘marketed’.

    For those who find this far-fetched, have you ever heard of the ancient tactic of ‘divide and conquer’?  Get everyone at each other’s throats to dilute tribal or national strength for a united, strong enemy to take over?  This is what has been happening over the past 40 years:  black pride, gay pride, girl power, pink power, grey power and so on.  Not to mention the nationality aspect of hyphenations or adjectives, but we’ll get to that in a second. 

    Don’t be fooled. ‘Equality’ and ‘diversity’ are words which sweeten a bitter pill.  In some respects, life was better when people practised a modicum of discretion.  There seemed to be a better social code of behaviour.  I don’t want to know about people’s sexual preferences or that they consider their group above everyone else’s for whatever reason, like gender or faith.  We now have laws in the West which legalise equal pay, equal opportunity, non-traditional marriage and so forth.  And now this has steamrolled into an industry of agitating activists who aren’t going to give up their jobs now that their work is done and look for something else.  Oh, no.

    Then we have the publicity campaign for British Muslims, which Mr Cowan neatly examined:

    The first thing I noticed on the advert was the cute child …

    Then I wondered about this thing about being proud. Isn’t pride a great sin in Islam?…

    Then I thought, well wait a tick. Are they ‘proud’ to be British or just proud to be British Muslims? … Being British and being a Muslim are totally separate, let’s call them, conditions. I am British – and Scottish, and a Christian. I have never described myself as a British Christian. Why should I? I am these two things, plus many more (cue hilarious suggestions in the comments section).

    Am I proud to be British? I try not to be proud of anything …

    What saith Scripture on pride, one of the Seven Deadly Sins?  As Mr Cowan and many of the rest of us know:

    Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  (Prov. 16:18)

    And this teaching was not restricted to the Judaeo-Christian sphere, either.  The Grace Cathedral (Episcopal) website has a series on well-known Bible verses.  In ‘Pride Goes before a Fall’, Michael Macrone explains:

    We tend to think pride is dangerous because it plays with the mind, leading us to overreach ourselves or to offend the wrong people. But the author of Proverbs is less interested in psychology or ethics than in power, namely God’s. Our comparative insignificance is something we forget at our peril, because “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (verse 5), who tends to the jealous side.

    Such notions were also shared by the Greeks, whose goddess Nemesis took care of mortals who thought themselves too godlike. But the Greek notion of cosmic balance was alien to Hebrew thought, just as Hebrew ideas of religious duty and sin were alien to the Greeks.

    A perfect story from the ancient world which illustrates this concept is the myth of master craftsman Daedalus and his young son Icarus which started in the Greek islands and spread to ancient Rome.  Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun with the waxed wings his father made for him.  Icarus ignored his father’s wise advice.

    But it’s just as bad nowadays.  Read what error-ridden American pastor Rick Warren says:

    I challenge any church in America to match the spiritual maturity, godliness and commitment of any 500 members of Saddleback.

    Whoa!  If you’re not familiar with the man, check out my Rick Warren archive

    The bottom line is that pride has long been considered a sin in many faiths and societies, even amongst ancient pagans.  It gives us an overly-exalted view of our (sinful, faulty) selves and capabilities.  Thanks to therapeutically-oriented education, child-rearing and media, words such as ‘proud’, ‘pride’ and others are bandied about to the extent that we’re considered abnormal — probably mentally ill — if we don’t feel that way about ourselves or our families and achievements.  Think of what we say on a daily basis, without even thinking about it:

    ‘You must be so proud of [insert family member’s name here].’

    ‘Take pride in what you do.’

    ‘You can be proud of that fine piece of work.’

    So, what should we say instead? ‘Pleased’ would be a start

    And so it goes.  Now might be time to rein in our appetite for pride.  As Mr Cowan says:

    It seems that pride, for those who want it, is only for the select few … 

    Personally, I can live without pride. I have seen how it afflicts others.

    Agreed.

    A superb post appeared back in February 2010.  I became aware of it only because the blogger happened to arrive on my blog by chance.  Serendipity is a wonderful thing, especially when it occurs half a world away.

    Pastor Ying, of an evangelical Chinese church in Australia, echoes my sentiment on an earlier post, ‘The dangers of dramatic conversion stories‘.  In a comment about the Anglican Communion, I said:

    Re Anglicanism, it was a mistake for our clergy to assign the 39 Articles to the ‘historical’ dustbin along with (in many cases) the 1662 BCP. I would like to hear my vicar say, ‘Today, I will begin preaching on the importance of the Articles of Religion, taking each one individually for the next 39 Sundays.’ It won’t happen, but I can hope.

    And in his post, Pastor Ying (who, at one point, wished to become an Anglican but opted instead for conservative Evangelicalism) says unequivocally (emphases mine):

    Just recently I was talking to an Anglican minister friend of mine. He was telling me how he was going to take his church through the 40 Days of Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren of Saddleback Orange County USA. In response I suggested that he should take his church through the 39 Articles (ie the 39 Articles of faith of the Anglican Church). Besides the fact that it’s shorter (only 39 days compared to 40), he is an Anglican and it’s good for the church to know what they believe and why. Having said this I asked him if his church members knew the “39 Articles” to which he said no! I was somewhat shocked to say the least …

    This is not helped when most of our members including its leadership are ignorant of the church’s AoF and its implications for church matters. If the members and many of its key leaders are like this is it any wonder that many churches are going off the rails. This is not to deny the importance of  preaching. However the responsibility to guard the gospel and to shape the church is not helped if the rest of the church is ignorant.

    Here is a scary test. This coming Sunday, quietly and gently ask the members of your church if they have ever read the AoF of their church. I’m guessing that most of us would be quite horrified to discover just how little our members know what the church believes and why.

    Well, sadly, most Anglican priests have consigned our cherished 39 Articles of Religion to the dustbin, whilst others would like to remake them either into a postmodern set of beliefs or into a more Calvinist code.  And this is what happens once we no longer adhere to a set of confessions of the faith. 

    Thank you, Pastor Ying, for your insight and eloquent post.  Would that more Anglican priests took notice — including the evangelicals amongst us. 

    To my fellow Anglicans, if the choice were between the carefully written 39 Articles or the erroneous Rick Warren, which would you choose?  (Am I ready for the answer to this one?  I’m not quite sure.)

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