I received a request from a reader to take a look at The Justice Conference 2012 being held in Portland, Oregon this weekend. The reader had some concerns regarding the conference and wanted me to give my opinion. Rather than offer just an opinion, as I am certainly no expert, and for that matter man’s opinions are of little real value, let’s instead view the facts with regard to the conference and a few of the numerous speakers. Then as the Bereans were commended by Paul, let’s compare the teaching of these speakers with the sure truth of the Holy Word of God. As one who continues to observe the various movements occurring in today’s visible church and “evangelical” world (and I definitely use that term loosely in this regard), it is inevitable that trends can be seen in gatherings of this magnitude. Boasting over 60 speakers comprising the pre-conference and conference panel, this is no small event.
Justice is a garment, a billion threads, interwoven, interlocked, knit together with strength and integrity. Pull one thread from the fabric and the garment begins to fray. Pull ten million threads and justice unravels into injustice. The work of justice is to mend the holes injustice inflicts upon the garment. It is a brave, challenging, courageous work and it does not begin with expertise or duty. It begins with love… and love is a thread. The Justice Conference 2012 is the second annual international gathering of advocates, activists, artists, professors, professionals, prophets, pastors, students and stay-at-home moms working to restore the fabric of justice. For some it means speaking. For others it means singing. For some it means going. For others it means giving. For all, it means living with mercy and love. You are invited to come weave your voice and gifts into the conversation. Join us, and discover that in the garment of justice, your love is an irreplaceable thread.
To be fair, nothing in that description boldly declares this is a gathering of “Christians” for the purpose of spreading the gospel so, perhaps, this is just a humanitarian gathering to help facilitate humanitarian efforts, but with the inclusion of the term “prophets and pastors” one does get the impression that there is an intention of representing Christianity in this gathering. Furthermore, when evaluating some of the speakers and their vocations and/or “ministries” clearly the participants see this event as one in which God is “speaking” into the issue of “social justice”.
In the following promotional video we are told,
“The vision is revealed by the light, there like a gift God speaks our calling to create. The same Voice that calls us to make calls us to come.” “We stand as one and give thanks because we believe THE SAME GOD that called us to create and come together is the ONE (emphasis mine) who raises justice from the ground”
So evidently there is at least some implied understanding that this conference is a call from “a Voice” or a “god” of some sort. Additionally, many of the speakers certainly claim to represent the God of the Bible. Such speakers include,
Certainly based upon those represented here, one can only assume the “voice” or “god” being represented is that of the Holy Bible. So having made this conclusion, let’s look further at the doctrinal fruit, if you will, of some of these speakers, authors, and pastors. We are certainly told in Scripture to test every spirit that claims to represent God and the gospel.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
Now let’s examine the fruit of some of these and a few of the other listed speakers.
“Walter Brueggemann is the world’s most important Old Testament scholar. In passionate prose best described as poetry, Brueggemann exegetes the Hebrew text and reveals God to be squarely on the side of the oppressed. Through countless articles, lectures and over 50 books, Brueggemann has inspired, enlightened and confounded. It takes courage to listen to Walter Brueggemann talk about the systemic injustice that threatens both the vulnerable poor and the shaky witness of the Church, and even more courage to invite this 21st century Jeremiah to speak at a conference titled Justice.”
So what does Mr. Brueggemann, the Old Testament scholar, think of the God of the Old Testament which, incidentally, IS THE SAME GOD of the New Testament? Walter Brueggemann, has stated that “God is a recovering practitioner of violence.” Wow, Mr. Brueggemann, so at what point did God recover from this “violence”? Was there a therapist to help Him work through that? Isn’t that akin to accusing God of having a flaw in His nature that required some form of improvement?
“Indeed, together with you we believe that we need to move beyond “a polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders” and work diligently together to reshape relations between our communities and our nations so that they genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another.”
“The Jews worship God without acknowledging God’s Trinitarian nature; Christians worship God while acknowledging God’s Trinitarian nature. Both cannot be right about God’s Trinitarian nature, but both can worship the same God. The same holds true of Muslims.”
Is Jesus a deity in the Muslim faith or just a good teacher? Are there multiple paths to the same god? Do other religions view Jesus as John describes Him?
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
“What I received as an answer to my prayer about prayer was a visual image of the spiritual realm. In this picture, there were thin wire tubes, not unlike electrical conduits, twisting and turning throughout the spiritual realm, connecting God with people and people with God and people with people (sometimes I see freeways and clover leafs). The loving, healing, transforming, embracing, challenging, pure power of God is flowing out from God all the time along these spiritual conduits (because it is, in fact, God’s nature to be always giving out what is good). But here’s the catch: the conduits along which God’s power flows are made of our prayers. Each prayer we pray creates another conduit along which the power of God can flow into the world that so desperately needs it. I don’t know why our prayers create the conduits. That God would choose to shrink his divine energy into bits of power tiny enough to fit the frail, twisted conduits of prayer we offer seems ludicrous. Perhaps God values teamwork and community far more than we realize. At any rate, according to the picture in my head, that’s just the way things work in the spiritual realm. -Lynne Hybels
A quick scan of Ms. Hybels’ blog includes the following book titles that she is reading:
Centering Prayer in Daily Life and Ministry, Edited by Gustave Reininger
A Christianity Worth Believing, Doug Pagitt
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
And lastly, but certainly not least or exhaustive with regard to the over 60 speakers of this “Justice” conference, is a speaker of great interest and concern with regard to the true gospel of Christ, Shane Claiborne. In a conversation with emergent leader Tony Compolo, we see just exactly what Mr. Claiborne believes about the gospel of Jesus Christ and Muslims.
Claiborne: Both Muslims and Christians are very evangelical in the sense of desiring others to come to faith in their God. When we talk about inter-religious cooperation, does that mean that we need to stop trying to convert each other?
Compolo: We don’t have to give up trying to convert each other. What we have to do is show respect to one another. And to speak to each other with a sense that even if people don’t convert, they are God’s people, God loves them, and we do not make the judgment of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. I think that what we all have to do is leave judgment up to God. The Muslim community is very evangelistic, however what Muslims will not do is condemn Jews and Christians to Hell if in fact they do not accept Islam. (emphasis mine)
Claiborne: That seems like a healthy distinction—between converting and condemning. One of the barriers seems to be the assumption that we have the truth and folks who experience things differently will all go to Hell. (emphasis mine) How do we unashamedly maintain a healthy desire for others to experience the love of God as we have experienced it without condemning others who experience God differently…
What do the Scriptures say about salvation?
(L)et it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone. Andthere is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12 (NASB, my emphasis)
In this issue of Esquire Magazine, Mr. Claiborne, apologized to unbelievers for the way in which believers in the past have misrepresented Jesus and Christianity:
“I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians”
“I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, “I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you.” If those of us who believe in God do not believe God’s grace is big enough to save the whole world… well, we should at least pray that it is.”
Mr. Claiborne, this could have been a good time to share the gospel, but since it is clear you feel that it’s not for us to judge or pronounce judgments on anyone or to obey the clear mandate of the great commission, for the sake of your friend, “I hope” he looked elsewhere for his answers.
Let me remind my readers what Scriptures say about ALL MEN. It is not that we are pronouncing any judgments upon anyone, but rather clearly heralding the Word of God which states that NO MAN is good and that all are under condemnation apart from Christ. This is not the judgment of man; this IS the judgment of God.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."(John 3:16-18, my emphasis)
Whatever the stated purpose of the conference is, the obvious implication remains that the ecumenical nature of this gathering is to, yet again, further blur the lines between true theological conviction based upon a solid Biblical understanding of the objective truth of the Holy Bible and the true gospel of Jesus Christ with the softer, mystical, subjective, and tolerant “new kind of Christianity” of the Emergent Church.
I leave you with this charge from the apostles Paul and John:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed... Galatians 1:8
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully... 2 Corinthians 11:2-4
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 2 John 1:9-11
Gary Gilley has recently written some articles dealing with the Social gospel movement that might also be of interest to you.