Monday, May 24, 2010

Nazarene Professor Calls Creationists Cult Members

Posted by Christine Pack

It's not the mortar blasts from the world that surprise me.  They are to be expected.  It's the "friendly fire," as with this USA Today op-ed piece by Karl Giberson, a professing Christian and a professor at Eastern Nazarene College, who says:
"Ken Ham and his Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY are becoming less relevant, as they speak for - and to - an increasingly smaller band of hyper-conservative biblical literalists.  Ham's followers, ironically, are what (we've been warned about): a cult, with their own separate science."
The longstanding method of attacking creationists - a term used to describe Christians who believe the earth was created in 6 literal 24-hour days, as the Bible says in Genesis 1:1-31 - has been to paint them as, well, the village idiot.  But then Ken Ham and his brilliant ministry, Answers in Genesis, came along, and while a person could certainly say a lot of things about those guys over at AIG, you couldn't call them stupid.  Case in point, this list of scientists from the AIG website who have rejected the evolutionary worldview.  These scientists are doctors and professors, many of them with multiple degrees, and the majority of them distinguished in areas of study that are purely science related (biology, astronomy, palaeontology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, zoology, botany, etc.).  In other words, they're not literature professors with PhD's who have decided to weigh in on topics outside their area of expertise.  These are, by and large, men and women who have rigorously examined the scientific evidence in their fields of study and have become convinced that the scientific data speaks more to a young earth than a millions/billions timeframe.

So now that creationists can't be painted as idiots - not with any intellectual honesty, anyway - the next rule in the playbook is to present them as cult members.  So let's just examine that idea and see if it has any validity.

Cults are characterized by several distinctives, but the most outstanding characteristic is a refusal to hear dissenting views or to accept any incoming data that would challenge the prevailing belief or beliefs held by that cult. So let's say you were brainwashed into the cult of Stars Are Made From Sparks Coming From Elvis Presley's Motorcade in the Sky.  Any evidence in this cult about stars being formed any other way would be suppressed. Cult members would not be allowed to examine the scientific evidence for themselves to see how, in fact, stars are made.  They would just have to take the leader's word for how stars are formed.

See how silly it is to try to paint creationists with this brush?  There is no "main creation guy" trying to keep information out.  As far as I'm concerned, anyone can - and should - examine any and all data pertaining to this topic.  As a former agnostic evolutionist, I was challenged by a friend to examine the evidence side by side for both young earth creationism and old earth evolution, which I did.  I'm not saying everyone would reach the same conclusion I did, but what I found was that there was a tremendous amount of scientific evidence in support of a young earth.  Here's just one little tidbit from Dr. Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries: if the earth were millions of years old, we would not have any oceans, but instead, we would have vast saltbeds where there once were oceans.  Why? Because the amount of salt in the oceans increases incrementally each year.  Not a big deal at all in a young earth scenario, but a huge big deal when you're talking millions/billions, in which cases, the oceans would have turned to pure salt, thick enough to walk upon. Hmmm, bet you never learned about that in Freshman Biology.  I know I didn't.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I had a Biology professor who saw it as his personal mission to separate all the self-identified Christian students from their Christian beliefs.  My own college experience had a profound impact on my worldview....and not in a good way.  I came out of college absolutely convinced of evolution, and it was due mainly to the prevailing view in liberal academia that Christianity was just a set of silly superstitious beliefs, an opiate for the masses, something to keep people warm at night if they couldn't stomach the thought of a world without a God.  The only intellectually honest view was secular humanism.  This was never formally taught (at least it wasn't 20 years ago, but times may have changed), but this view was always implicit, no matter what the course was.

What is so interesting to me today is that the area of creation apologetics has just exploded in just the last decade alone, with more and more discoveries being made that support the young earth view. My challenge would be for anyone curious about this to go and research this for themselves.  Don't take my word for it.  There are a number of groups devoted to teaching the young earth view, and with compelling, scientific evidence.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)

 Additional Resources  

Answers in Genesis

Creation Museum

Creation Ministries International

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ayurveda "Old Fashioned" Therapy? Well, Sure, If You're A Hindu.

Posted by Christine Pack

In a recent blog post, Tony Jones, one of the main leaders of the heretical emergent church movement and newly on staff at Fuller Seminary, discusses his struggles with depression and withdrawal from the anti-depressant Wellbutrin.  Jones talks about the various methods he is utilizing to ease his withdrawal symptoms, including using "new-fangled Western brain chemistry research and old-fashioned Ayurvedic typing."  To which I say, huh?  Since when was ayurvedic typing considered an "old-fashioned" kind of treatment?

So let's just look at what ayurveda is, and determine whether a professing Christian (and Fuller Seminary theology professor) ought to be messing around with it and recommending it to fellow Christians.

Hindu god of ayurveda
Ayurveda (आयुर्वेद) - which translated means "science of life, " is a Hindu medicine practice believed to have been handed down from Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, to an earthly man named Dhanvantari who was later deified as a god.  Ayurveda also has its roots in the Vedas, the ancient holy writings of the Hindu religion. Ayurveda is metaphysical at its core, and stresses maintaining a balance between three elemental "energies" (or doshas).  According to ayurveda, these three regulatory principles are important for health, because when they are in balanced state, the body is healthy, and when imbalanced, the body has diseases.  This is in direct contradiction to the biblical worldview which states that bodies have diseases as a direct result of the Fall of the Garden of Eden.  When sin entered the world through Adam's rebellion, our once perfect world became broken, and disease and death entered in.

So, when Tony Jones, Fuller Seminary theology professor, says he is getting relief for his depression through the "old fashioned" therapy of ayurveda, I have to ask what seems like a very obvious question: is he sound for his post as a theology professor?  After all, theology is the study of God.  And the question must then be asked: which "god" is Tony Jones studying?   The Hindu god Brahma? Or the Hindu god Dhanvantari?  Or the one true God of all the world, the God of the Bible?

While I do have compassion for Tony and his struggle with depression, it is my understanding that depression is often related to a sin issue.  With this is mind, perhaps there is a sin issue in Tony's life that has remained biblically unresolved?  If so, I would exhort him to deal with it biblically, rather than go drinking from the broken cisterns of the world that do not hold water.  There are no worldly remedies for our problems, only biblical ones.

photo credit: Hari Prasad Nadig via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

What Is Ayurvedic Medicine?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Archie Comics Introduces Gay Character "Kevin Keller"

Posted by Christine Pack

There's a new kid on the block in Riverdale, the fictitious home of the lovable characters of the Archie Comics.  His name is Kevin Keller and he's the comic strip series' first openly gay character.

From the official press release:
"Kevin will appear in September's VERONICA #202, in a story called "Isn't it Bromantic?" Kevin Keller is the new hunk in town and Veronica just has to have him. After Kevin defeats Jughead in a burger eating contest at Pop's Chocklit Shoppe, she desperately latches onto him. Mayhem and hilarity ensue as Kevin desperately attempts to let Veronica down easy and her flirtations only become increasingly persistent."
Jon Goldwater, co-CEO of Archie Comics, released the following statement about this new character:
"The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie's hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books."
I often hear people questioning if God will soon judge America.  Well, a plain reading of Romans 1 reveals that we are already under God's judgment and wrath.  In this chapter, there is first a suppression of truth, then a disdainful arrogance that neither acknowledges nor praises God, then comes worship of the creation rather than the Creator, and after that a sexual revolution, followed by a homosexual revolution. Have we not had God removed from classrooms, football fields, lunch meetings, courtrooms, etc.?  And how about Earth Day, with its strident pleadings to "go green" and "live sustainably?"  (Imagine if the reverse of this were true, and the Creator was worshiped instead of the creation, with the same level of media intensity given to pastors and Christian leaders pleading for God to be glorified and lifted up. Hard to imagine a reversal so profound, isn't it?) As for a sexual revolution, we've had that, beginning in the 1960s and followed by, yes, a homosexual revolution that continues today. So no, these aren't indicators that judgment is coming, as some people think; they are indicators that judgment is already here.

photo credit: Joelk75 via photo pin cc

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Legalism of the Emergent Church Movement

Posted by Christine Pack

Chris Rosebrough, talk show host of Fighting for the Faith (FFTF), was recently interviewed about his trip to Washington, DC for the TransFORM East Coast Gathering, an emergent church conference that was held April 30-May 2, 2010.

This is a brilliant interview, with Rosebrough explaining that the one thing that the emergents are missing is forgiveness. He explains that many emergent church adherents have had some kind of exposure to a legalistic kind of pietism, usually during their upbringing in a traditional church setting, from which they have turned away.  But what they don't understand is that, in embracing emergent, they have simply traded one system of legalistic pietism for another system of legalistic pietism.  The pietism is played out in different ways.....but it is still pietism.

Not drinking, not smoking, not going to movies, not dancing (or any combination of these rules) - these are some of the most common things people think of when it comes to legalism.  Today's emergents, however, while feeling freedom in these areas, are nonetheless burdened with a new, postmodern set of legalistic rules: advancing the cause of social justice, living sustainably, engaging in certain spiritual disciplines, etc.  While each system of legalism "looks" very different on the surface, both are identical at their core: they are both systems of bondage, nothing better than a set of hoops to jump through in the hope of gaining favor with the Lord.

We know from Christ's teaching that legalism not only brings a false understanding of God's character and nature, but also, legalism will always end in despair and hopelessness.  And more tragically than this, legalistic pietism does not have salvific power. Legalism is a broken cistern that will not hold water.  Broken cisterns are referenced in Scripture to illustrate a turning away from God - the fountain of living water - and turning toward worthless sources in seeking out life and sustenance.

Jesus spoke of himself as living water (John 4:10), He bade anyone who was spiritually thirsty to come to him (John 6:35), and He said that all who believed in him would never thirst (John 7:37-38).  Jesus, being God in flesh, knows of our feebleness, our humaness, our inability to know the difference between broken cisterns and fountains of living water.  That's why he tells us over and over to come to Him and drink.  He knows that in our human frailty and foolishness we are easily enchanted by the broken and empty cisterns of  the world, the systems of "works" designed to bring us righteousness, but which can never do anything but bring despair, and ultimately, death.  And so He bids us to come to him, the true - and only - source of life and living water:
"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come' And let the one who hears say, 'Come' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." (Rev 22:17)

 Additional Resources 

John MacArthur Says the Emergent Church Movement in "Disarray and Decline?" Not So Fast.....

Universalism: the "Gospel Message" of the Emergent Church Movement and New Age Spirituality

Emergent Church Pastor Rob Bell Praises New Age Author Huston Smith

The Legalism of The Emergent Church Movement....Yes, Really

Top 10 Signs your Church May Be About To Drink “Calf Juice”

"Moses took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it."

10. The children’s playground has been replaced with a prayer labyrinth.

9. “Be still and know that I am God,” seems to be the only Bible verse anyone has memorized.

8. When the pastor says, ”Let us pray,” everyone pulls out their meditation mats.

7. A large part of the church budget is used to purchase a laser light system, dry ice, and incense.

6. Nooma videos.

5. The Sunday School classes are empty, but the “Christian” yoga classes are booming.

4. Instead of sharing the gospel with people, you go on “prayer walks.”

3. A desire to know and study God’s Word is described as dead orthodoxy.

2. The term “creative worship” is viewed very positively.

1. The soloist called in sick because her fifth chakra was blocked, and everyone actually knew what that meant.

photo credit: jonhoward via photopin cc
photo credit: MontyPython via photo pin cc

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mysticism: Repent, Before You Have To Drink Ground Calf Juice

In a recent post about Monvee, we talked about Roman Catholic mystic Thomas Merton who once compared mystical meditation to the same powerful experience generated by mind-altering drugs.  And as we noted, the problem with mystical meditation is that it is far more dangerous than drugs.  Monvee, the new product put out by Leadership Network, markets itself as a way for Christians to draw closer to God through something called "Spiritual Formation."  But, the Spiritual Formation techniques taught by Monvee, which are the same thing as the "mystical meditation" referenced by Thomas Merton, are identical to classic occultic meditation practices taught in Hinduism, Buddhism, wicca, paganism,etc.

God, however, is very specific about how we are to "draw closer" to Him, and that is only through the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10).  And yet most religions outside of Christianity have some version of mysticism that they practice for the specific purpose of drawing close to God.  So the question must be asked: if these faith traditions are outside of Christ, are they getting to God?  We know the answer to that, and it is obviously, no, they aren't getting to God.  We may not be getting much in the way of deep doctrinal teaching in our churches today, but we at least know that much, right?  We know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no-one comes to the Father but by him.  However, we also know from the testimonies of mystics that they are experiencing something, so what is it?  It is a "counterfeit Holy Spirit experience" which "feels" very real and very spiritual.  What they're experiencing is spiritual...only it is not from God.

As a former mystic, the biggest blind spot I see in today's Christian culture is almost an innocence about spiritual deception, a thinking that as Christians we can't be deceived. A belief that if, spiritually speaking, something were "off" about a teaching or practice, somehow we would just "know" it because it would "feel wrong." But even more than that, there also seems to be this idea that only we, as Christians, have true spiritual experiences, that somehow these mystics must not be having "real" experiences, that it's all smoke and mirrors.  This is absolutely not true.  What these mystics are experiencing is real, and it is spiritual, and mystics wouldn't have been doing these things for centuries if they weren't connecting to.....something.  God graciously and mercifully has given us many warnings so that we would know how to defend ourselves against spiritual deception.  We are warned that Satan himself can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).  We are told that we must test all things (1 John 4:1), because none of us are beyond being deceived.

So how do we "test all things?"  What is our measure for testing?  Is it our own hearts, our own emotions?  In today's culture, we have a tendency to "test" things through our thoughts and feelings ("I didn't have a peace about it"). No, we must not do that, for we know that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked above all things (Jer 17:9). Scripture is our standard for testing all things, Scripture is what we must use in determining whether or not something is acceptable to God.

Monvee, which is a blending of Christian terminology and occultic mysticism, is very similar to what the Israelites did in Exodus 32 in the story of the golden calf.   This story is one of the most powerful biblical warnings there is against incorporating pagan practices into our worship of God.   What most people don't realize is that this well-known incident wasn't about straight up paganism.  No, this story records how God's chosen people blended together (1) what they had been taught to do by God with (2) pagan practices that were familiar to them from their years of captivity in Egypt.  They knew about altars and making offerings to God.  And they knew about pagan animal worship from their exposure to Egyptian culture. When Moses delayed returning to the people from atop the mountain where he was speaking with God, the people  decided to create their own tangible way of worshiping God.  So they set up an altar, added a little Egyptian flavor in the form of cow worship, and called it a festival for the Lord.  And God saw this, and was very pleased?  Not exactly.  This is what the Bible records:
"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'  "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation." "  (Exodus 32:7-10, my emphasis)
God was not pleased - and only Moses' intercession on their behalf saved them from being completely destroyed by God. As if that weren't a clear enough warning against mixing pagan worship practices with worship of God, we are also warned in Deuteronomy against spiritual syncretism:
"The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, "How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same." You must not worship the LORD your God in their way..." (Deut, 12:29-31a, my emphasis)
God is quite clear on how we are to worship and approach him - and it is not through blending our worship of him with pagan practices. But this is exactly what Monvee is doing with its "personalized spiritual formation" programs: they are taking Christian terminology and mixing in occultic mysticism, and calling it Christian.  I recognize that it is very popular in today's global, syncretized culture to meld different things together. We are most certainly an experience-driven culture, always seeking the fresh, exciting, "new" thing.  And we also like our smorgasbord religions, with a little of this, a little of that.  But we have clear mandates from Scripture about how we are to worship and approach God.  We are to be set apart from the world - not syncretized with it - so that's God's truth will shine like a beacon in the darkness.

If you know anyone who is being drawn into the deceptive practices of Monvee, Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Prayer, please warn them.  These things look spiritual and sound spiritual, but they are occultic and will lead into a dangerous spiritual realm.  We must be diligent to guard our hearts and minds: after all, it is the Lord's honor and glory which are at stake.  When we become just as pagan as the world, how is God revealed, exalted and glorified?  And not only must He be rightly exalted, but it is mockery to blend worldly pagan practices into our worship of Him. The Lord will not be mocked, and He will discipline those He loves: 
"When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it." (Exodus 32:19-20)
If you yourself have done these things at the leading of your pastor or church group, I urge you to repent so that you do not find yourself drinking "calf juice." Innocence concerning the "pagan-ness" of a practice will not protect a believer, especially when it comes to the area of the occult.  This is Satan's domain, and we must flee from it.  My heart is broken for those who have been led into these unbiblical practices through church leadership, but it is never too late to fall at the foot of the Cross.  Humble yourself before the Lord, for He is mighty to forgive and restore.

photo credit: jp512 via photo pin cc

 Additional Resources 

Monvee: Mysticism For The Masses

Mysticism: A Counterfeit Holy Spirit

Mysticism: Spiritual Crack

Monvee: Elevating Experience Over Scripture

Testimony of a Former Mystic

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Think The Emergent Church Is Just Another Denomination? Think Again.

Posted by Christine Pack

This year's emergent church conference (called TransFORM, and being held this weekend in Washington, DC) opens each day with a Zen Buddhist meditation led by a "Christian" pastor.  Yes, you read that right. This should be absolutely appalling to any Christian with even a modicum of discernment.  We are Christians, and we worship the one true God.  All paths do not lead to God.  Only one path leads to God - and it is through Christ.

"Borrowing" from false religions may make us more liked in the eyes of the world, but it is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.  Over and over and over in the Old Testament, God's people are cautioned against chasing after the false gods of the pagan cultures around them.  As a matter of fact, God disciplined his people so many times over this issue that it's almost as if He actually meant to be taken seriously on this:
"The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, "How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same." You must not worship the LORD your God in their way...." (Deuteronomy 12:29-31)
Before I was saved (but attending church, taking notes, asking questions, etc.) I was so steeped in eastern thought that while I was being drawn to Christianity, I privately thought of myself as a "Buddhist Christian" for a long time.  Finally, God opened my eyes to see that it wasn't a both/and proposition, it was an either/or deal.  Both Buddhism and Christianity couldn't simultaneously be true.  Orthodox Christianity left no wiggle room for me: either I could craft an image of God in my own mind with which I could be comfortable (another form of idolatry), or I could bend the knee in humble submission to the one true God.

This is perhaps why I feel so strongly about the Emergent church movement.  I'm thinking of people with my kind of background, those who have been raised in an era of postmodern thought and religious syncretism, and who are ripe for this deception.  Today's churchgoer could attend one of these churches and live out the rest of their lives with this easygoing, syncretized view of God, never be presented with the truth, and yet think all along that they are Christians headed to heaven.  This would be the greatest tragedy, to be among those who, upon their death, come before the Lord and cry out "Lord, Lord!" only to hear the chilling words: "Depart from me, I never knew you."  I simply cannot think of a more heartbreaking deception.

photo credit: lululemon athletica via photo pin cc

 Additional Resources 

The Emerging Church TransFORMing Christianity

TransFORM: East Coast Gathering