Apprising Ministries has been warning you about the judgments coming upon the church visible now that mainstream evangelicalism has embraced the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church. I’ve also told you that EC progressive/liberal theologians such as Dr. Philip Clayton of the Transforming Theology network and Tony Jones, heretical “theologian in residence” at the church of his equally heretical quasi-universalist pastor Doug Pagitt, are busy “doing theology.” This is their term for bantering ideas back and forth—that may or may not have anything to do with the Bible—as they continue cobbling together their new postmodern version of Progressive Christian theology, which they often refer to as “big tent” Emergence Christianity.
In fact, the term big tent itself really concerns the universalism forming the rotten core of this pseudo-Christian neo-liberalism—a Liberalism 2.0—now being spread by an upgraded Emerging Church 2.0 throughout the very heart of apostitizing evangelicalism. At this point it’s important to remind you again that we are not just talking here about a universalism teaching men will be saved regardless of their religious convictions. Rather, what’s under discussion is a Christian Universalism (CU), which does generally see Jesus Christ as the only way that all men will eventually be saved. There are various views but this CU is based upon a universal atonement of Christ on the Cross—an at-one-ment—similar to that of the New Spirituality and Metaphysical Mind Science cults, which sounds a lot like the Love Wins mythology of Rob Bell, the Elvis-like rock star pastor of the EC rebellion against the authority of the Bible.
Last year in Brian McLaren And His New Emerging Progressive Theology I explained that this postmodern neo-liberalism aka Emergence Christianity is precisely what Living Spiritual Teacher and leading Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren began laying out for you in his book A New Kind of Christianity. As I pointed out in Brian McLaren Takes On Al Mohler Over Rob Bell men like McLaren and the Emerging Church icon Rob Bell are mystics—neo-Gnostics—who are deeply involved with the practice of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) and the crown jewel of this spurious CSM, which is a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer. As such, they are now just as off spiritually as the original Gnostics who were being roundly rebuked by the authors of the New Testament.
During what came to be known as the Downgrade Controversy Charles Spurgeon dealt with the evil forebears of these emerging postmodern neo-liberals and here’s what he said about such as these who make shipwreck of people’s faith:
Find if you can, beloved, one occasion in which Jesus inculcated doubt or bade men dwell in uncertainty. The apostles of unbelief are everywhere today, and they imagine that they are doing God service by spreading what they call “honest doubt.” This is death to all joy! Poison to all peace! The Savior did not so…
I have not much patience with a certain class of Christians nowadays who will hear anybody preach so long as they can say, “He is very clever, a fine preacher, a man of genius, a born orator.” Is cleverness to make false doctrine palatable? Why, sirs, to me the ability of a man who preaches error is my sorrow rather than my admiration.
I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words, by men who would fain make merchandise of souls; and I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers. (Online source)
Now you have the right backdrop from which to see The New Downgrade And Its Apostles Of Unbelief and the recent piece at ChristianWeek.org aptly entitled McLaren creates a safe place for doubt. Its author Josiah Neufeld tells us:
Brian McLaren believes the Church is transitioning from an era characterized by words about God to an era of encountering the Spirit. So too, McLaren is shifting his own focus from discussions of theology to the practice of cultivating a spiritual life. (Online source)
Let me translate McLaren’s mystic speak for you: Men like Brian McLaren are hijacking the visible church by taking it away from the proper Christian spirituality of sola Scriptura and into a highly subjective murky mysticism where one decides truth about God by what they “feel” He is saying. Well, guess what; this is already beginning to happen within broader evangelicalism as evidenced by The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond, the latest book by Church Growth Movement guru Bill Hybels, and Recognizing God’s Voice. The latter is the March 12-13 sermon below by Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren where—beginning at 5:57 in—he makes the outlandish claim to his congregation that by following the 7 tests he outlines in the sermon they all can be “absolutely certain” when God is speaking directly to them:
I recently told you in Spiritual Blindness And Famine In The Land that there appears to be very rough spiritual waters ahead as spiritual blindness and famine in the land for the Word of God are showing signs of rapid increase; and without the anchor of sola Scriptura, the church visible needs to prepare herself for “dueling revelations.” Unfortunately, what’s going to be happening in increasing numbers within largely pretending to be Protestant evangelicalism will be people running to and fro definitively declaring that “God told me personally” thus and so. If you think things are confusing right now in the church world, as the old saying goes, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It bears repeating that this kind of messed up mysticism festered within the antibiblical monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism and would eventually lead to the Reformation and Rome anathematizing the Gospel itself.
Anyone who seriously thinks God is pleased with this CSM becoming pandemic within the evangelical community, which supposedly derives from the Protestant Reformation, seriously needs to have their spiritual heads examined; and pronto! Returning now to the mythology of Brian McLaren, in his piece Neufeld informs us that the “newest book” by guru McLaren—and that’s exactly what he’s become—Naked Spirituality, is also “about encountering God” in a personal way outside of Scripture in similar fashion to Hbels and Warren. This shouldn’t surprise you when you consider that the Purpose Driven/Seeker Driven sector, and well as the Emerging Church movement, are simply two sides of the same Church Growth Movement coin. The EC had CSM at its rotten core with “key mentors” being Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster and his spiritual twin Dallas Willard; who at last check is with the Southern Baptist Convention.
McLaren, the keynote speaker at CMU’s biennial worship conference, drew more than 500 people to his opening lecture – almost tripling the attendance of previous years. In five lectures drawn from his new book, McLaren described four stages of spiritual development he labeled: “simplicity,” “complexity,” “perplexity” and “harmony.”
McLaren speaks with an open, hospitable voice, telling personal stories, gesturing with his hands, his microphone cradled in the crook of his elbow. His ideas have been causing ripples of controversy among evangelical Christians ever since he published A New Kind of Christian in 2004, but his ethos is generous, and his characterization of faith as a process open to growth and re-evaluation rather than a fixed edifice is certainly welcome news to many. (Online source)
If you didn’t know, CMU is Canadian Mennonite University, which guru McLaren infected February 3-5. Sadly, “almost tripling” attendance and his mystic mythology “certainly [being] welcome news to many” is a testimony to the truth of 2 Timothy 4:3-4, not something to be celebrated. And the reason why guru McLaren’s empty “ideas have been causing ripples of controversy among evangelical Christians” is because their leaders lack the spiritual guts to tell evangelicals that Brian McLaren is no more evangelical than the Dalai Lama; whose spirituality McLaren is much closer to than he is someone like Al Mohler. I’ll tell you what Brian McLaren is, he is a non-Christian cult leader; not an evangelical Christian. As I pointed out above, McLaren preaches the same poisonous mythology as the other two-thirds of the EC unholy trinity, Doug Pagitt and his friend Tony Jones.
The truth is, each of them are teaching that new postmodern version of Progressive Christian theology, which I mentioned earlier. Neufeld then tells us:
McLaren has some “very loyal critics” whom he expects to hear from as soon as his new book comes out on March 15. “There are a number of specific sticking points that really create problems with some people,” McLaren said. “The irony is, those sticking points that some people are eager to defend are keeping others away from the faith.” (Online source)
Well, as one who is a critic loyal to my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, here I’ll walk you through McLaren’s mystic-speak again. These so-called “specific sticking points” would be the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith; the ones actually creating “problems” are the neo-Gnostics like McLaren and his “Christian” brother Living Spiritual Teacher and Progessive Christian scholar Marcus Borg, who are denying them. As far as these cardinal doctrines pastor-teachers like me are commanded by God “to defend” supposedly “keeping others away from the faith,” the truth is it keeps unbelievers like Borg from passing themslves off as Christians within the Christian community. However, for dreamers like McLaren and Rob Bell, everyone’s in the big tent so we end up with the oxymoron of Marcus Borg And Christians Who Don’t Believe In Jesus. But such as these cannot do away with the historic orthodox Christian faith.
Neufeld laments that, “Some people go so far as to question McLaren’s Christian faith.” Unfortuately, not enough “names” in position of leadership within larger evangelical community are doing so publicly, which is to their shame as McLaren continues slithering around in evangelical circles. Finally, beginning with a quote from McLaren, Neufeld finishes:
“To those people I say: How do you define Christian?” said McLaren. “If you can’t be a Christian unless you believe world is 6,000 years old and was created in seven literal days and anyone who hasn’t said a certain prayer will experience eternal conscious torment and literal flames of hell forever, well then by that definition they’re speaking the truth. By that definition I don’t fit.
“But if you define Christian as someone who is sincerely seeking to follow Christ and acknowledges there’s an awful lot of slip-ups and foul-ups and mistakes along the way, well I certainly fit.”
Because a spiritual life with God, McLaren says, isn’t just about what you believe.
McLaren is a master in framing his statements as straw men; while I personally hold to a young earth and creation in 6 literal 24 hour days, it simply isn’t a litmus test for the Christian. We’re not saying “a certain prayer” guarantees one “fire insurance” so you have no responsibilites in this life. What we are saying is wrapped up in guru McLaren et al’s definition of a Christian being “someone who is sincerely seeking to follow Christ.” My question is which one? As you’ll see in Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?, there are all kinds of Christs running around the religious landscape. In closing this, for now, the guru is said to have conjured up a final straw man when he is reputed to have mused that a spiritual life with God isn’t just about what you believe. Again, no one credible has ever been teaching that a spiritual life with the Lord is just about, as in only about, what a person believes.
Here’s what we’re saying: The Bible clearly shows us that prior to regeneration man is dead spiritually:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
In other words, those who are not in Christ, have no spiritual life with God (cf. Romans 8:5-11). So the question then becomes: How can one begin a spiritual life with the Creator? No less an authority than Jesus Himself tells us that we must be born again (cf. John 3:3-7); and this most certainly does involve what you believe, as Christ Jesus says — “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (cf. John 8:24). The fact is, what a person believes is critical — But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Simple logic will tell you that if you need the right to become something, then you were not that thing before; in this case a child of God.
Furthermore one must believe in the Jesus revealed in the Bible:
“let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
Do you see; we must believe in the name, i.e. power or authority, of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Finally, one must believe in the only Gospel there is: Repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name, for salvation is by God’s grace alone; through faith alone, in the finished work on the Cross of Christ alone. And this is why men like me reject Brian McLaren; he preaches a different gospel, which is no gospel at all:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
I’ll leave you with the following from Kevin DeYoung in his post Trampling Upon Human Hearts; because the time has arrived when calmly analyzing heretical doctrine within evangelicalism is very wrong:
Any Christian worth listening to loves the cross and is loath to see it robbed of its glory. To ridicule what the cross accomplished is to make war with the heart of the gospel and the comfort of God’s people.
J. Gresham Machen understood this well:
They [liberal preachers] speak with disgust of those who believe ‘that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner.’ Against the doctrine of the Cross they use every weapon of caricature and vilification. Thus they pour out their scorn upon a thing so holy and so precious that in the presence of it the Christian heart melts in gratitude too deep for words.
It never seems to occur to modern liberals that in deriding the Christian doctrine of the cross, they are trampling upon human hearts. (Christianity and Liberalism, 120 [pagination may differ])
No doubt, some Christians get worked up over the smallest controversies, making a forest fire out of a Yankee Candle. But there is an opposite danger–and that is to be so calm, so middle-of-the-road, so above-the-fray that you no longer feel the danger of false doctrine.
You always sound analytical, never alarmed. Always crying for much-neglected conversation, never crying over a much-maligned cross. There is something worse than hurting feelings, and that is trampling upon human hearts. (Online source)