Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Interview With Sarah Flashing About Our Open Letter To Tim Challies

Posted by Christine Pack

Sarah Flashing,
Faith in Culture Radio
Thank you to Sarah Flashing of Faith in Culture Radio for having me on her show today. We discussed the recent controversy over Tim Challies' apology to Ann Voskamp (In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness...), after Mrs. Voskamp emailed him regarding his review of her book One Thousand Gifts (a book with a decidedly mystical and Panentheistic slant), and to invite him to lunch with her at her family farm.

After the second post - the apology letter - my sister, Cathy Mathews (who co-writes this blog with me), felt compelled to write an open letter to Mr. Challies, in which she attempted to explain to him that just as Ann Voskamp wants Tim Challies to see and understand that Mystic Christian Panentheists (like her) are real people, we ex-Mystic Christian Panentheists - who survived Mystic Panentheism - want Tim Challies to see that we are real people too, and not only that, but that Mystic Christian Panentheism is a real and present danger in the church today.

Sarah and I discussed all of these topics on her show today, including the problematic trend of Mystic Christian Panentheism in the church today. This show was fast paced, and we covered a lot of ground.

You can listen to the show in its entirety here. 


 Additional Resources 

An Open Letter To Tim Challies (by Sola Sisters)

Tim Challies Reviews One Thousand Gifts (by Tim Challies)

In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness... (by Tim Challies)

Ann Voskamp: Mystical Estrogen (Chris Rosebrough, Fighting For The Faith radio show)

Concerning One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (by Ken Silva)

A Commentary On Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" (by Marcia Montenegro)

Romantic Panentheism, a review of One Thousand Gifts (by Bob DeWaay)

Panentheism! What Is It? (Apprising)

Panentheism Is Not A Gift (Amy Spreeman)

Monday, May 28, 2012

An Open Letter To Tim Challies

Dear Mr. Challies,

As you may or may not know, we recently posted an article in which we commended your book review of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. And then today, a reader forwarded your most recent post, entitled In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness..., an article in which you wrote that after Ann Voskamp emailed you, inviting you to lunch, you felt a twinge of remorse over some of the wording of your original article, especially in light of the fact that you might soon find yourself face to face with her, sharing a meal.

In light of your recent post, then, please allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Cathy Mathews, and I'm one of the writers of the Sola Sisters blog. I live in Arkansas (not on a farm, however), and I was hoping that perhaps you might come to Arkansas and have dinner with me and my family? And hopefully, you would see that I am also just as real as Mrs. Voskamp. And just as real was the bondage that I was under after reading Christian Panentheist Mystics about 25 years ago. Why is this relevant? Because Ann Voskamp appears to have been profoundly influenced by Christian Panentheistic Mystics, if the recommended reading list from her blog is anything to go by, and is also herself introducing Christian women to this concept of Panentheism in her book One Thousand Gifts, albeit a highly poetic, eroticized, "Christianized" version of Panentheism:
The Christian’s Secret of A Happy Life (by Hannah Whitall Smith)
Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home and Celebration of Discipline (by mystic Richard J. Foster)
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime–A Manual for Prayer and The Divine Hours, Volume II: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (by emergent leader and mystic Phyllis Tickle)
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (by "female pastor" and mystic Adele Ahlberg Calhoun)
Ann Voskamp,
author One Thousand Gifts
For those who aren't familiar with what Panentheism is, Panentheism is a worldview that embraces the view that God is "in" everything: in humans, in whales, in giraffes, in sand, in the ocean, the wind, the mountains, the stars, and on and on. In this worldview, God is reduced to being an essence, an energy, a vibration, that permeates and gives life and energy to all things. Panentheism is part of the eastern worldview (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and is NOT part of the biblical worldview. The Christian worldview is that we are "dead in our trespasses" (Eph 2:5), while the eastern worldview is that we all have a "Divine inner spark," and at least some aspect of God/Divinity inside of us, regardless of our faith (Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.).

Of course, Mystical Christian Panentheism (of the variety found in One Thousand Gifts) is its own sort of subcategory under Panentheism in which Christian terminology is used, although - and here's the rub - the terms have been redefined, thus nullifying the doctrine that, in the orthodox tradition, weights each of those terms with meaning.

But back to my own story and how, in my own life, I became ensnared in Mystical Christian Panentheism. Twenty-five years ago, I was not a believer. I had rejected Christianity after having grown up in a liberal mainline denomination. Ironically, I rejected what I thought was Christianity because it gave me no answers on how to deal with the horrific sin in my life. (As I'm sure you are aware, the mainline denominations gave up Sola Scriptura and preaching the real Gospel for man-centered pragmatism and a social gospel about a hundred years ago.) So I turned to New Age teachings in order to find an answer for my sins. The funny thing is, I would only read the books that talked about Jesus and God and the Bible. I didn't want to stray too far from my "Christian" roots, you see, I didn't want to completely reject God. And believe me, there was plenty of what I was looking for amongst New Age teaching. I was lured into a Panentheistic worldview through beautiful esoteric writing bathed in Christian terminology (what I have now termed Mystical Christian Panentheism). Is that Ann Voskamp's intention? I have no idea. All I know is that this particular type of teaching is dangerous.

After being ensnared for several years, and falling more and more deeply into despair, something miraculous happened: God reached down and mercifully saved me. But can you imagine my early years as a Christian in the current professing church? The emergent church was in full bloom, with its mystical panentheistic leanings, as was the "bridal paradigm" teaching, which basically teaches people to lust after Jesus in an emotional, sensual way. And to top it off, if you questioned any of this stuff, you were called uncharitable and Pharisaical. I won't go into my very real slide into despair over the fact that most of the professing Evangelical church today teaches against biblical discernment, either out of ignorance of Sola Scriptura or out of a lust for "unity" (though it is a false unity, and not a unity of the Ephesians 4 variety, which is soundly rooted in doctrine), but let's just say it's a big part of the reason why we started this blog. Can I sit by and say nothing while the same Mystical Christian Panentheism that once ensnared me now threatens to engulf the church (and many unsuspecting Christians)? No!

Oh, how I have compassion for all of the other real women out there who have not been shepherded well, and thus discern teachings and books based only on the emotional pull, poetic writing, and likability of the teacher. I also have compassion for women who think the greatest sin is to say that a teaching is wrong because it does not line up with Scripture, but who have no fear of the Lord, nor reverence for his Word, and honestly do not think that believing a falsehood about God is a sin. This is the very type of woman who will, in all likelihood, embrace Ann Voskamp's book. And I would say all of that to Ann Voskamp herself, given the opportunity, though certainly in a respectful and gentle way. I guess I'm asking you to be as mindful of the just as real, though nameless, women out there who are primed to accept this version of "Christianity" because of its sensual appeal. It is these same women who will read this and will label me a hater because they will see this article as some kind of personal attack against Mrs. Voskamp, when it is nothing of the sort, but only a warning borne out of my own personal experience with mysticism.

With kindest regards (and hoping to put out an extra place setting for you soon),

Cathy Mathews


 Additional Resources 

Tim Challies Reviews One Thousand Gifts (Tim Challies)

In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness... (Tim Challies)

Ann Voskamp: Mystical Estrogen
 (Chris Rosebrough, Fighting For The Faith radio show)

Concerning One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (by Ken Silva)

A Commentary On Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" (by Marcia Montenegro)

Romantic Panentheism, a review of One Thousand Gifts (by Bob DeWaay)

Panentheism! What Is It? (Apprising)

Panentheism Is Not A Gift (Amy Spreeman)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

John MacArthur on Spiritual Formation, the Holy Spirit, Rock Star Pastors and Christian Discernment Ministries

Posted by Christine Pack

Dr. John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church, president of The Masters College, and author of numerous theological books (including The Gospel According to JesusThe Truth War, and Slave), recently did an interview with Erin Benziger of Christian Research Network. In just a short ten minutes, Benziger and MacArthur covered a lot of ground. Here are a few snippets of Dr. MacArthur's thoughts on various topics:
Dr. John MacArthur,
Grace Community Church
 Spiritual Formation:  "It’s very dangerous, the spiritual formation. It’s a pagan approach. It’s more like Hinduism than Christianity." 
 The Holy Spirit:  "(W)hen God the Father’s honor is under attack, everybody rises to defend Him........ When Christ is attacked as to His deity or as to the nature of the cross, we get a movement like Confessing Evangelicals, we get documents responding to ECT [Evangelicals and Catholics Together] on the Gospel. We get T4G, The Gospel Coalition. We get everybody mounting a massive effort to protect the integtrity of the Gospel, Christ, the cross and His vicarious substitutionary atonement. But the Holy Spirit is just being slaughtered everywhere and where is the outrage?" 
 Rock Star Pastors:  "(Rock Star pastors) don’t want to ask anything of anybody. Just superficial, name Jesus and rock and roll with us and you’re going to Heaven." 
 Christian Discernment Ministries:  "The Apostle Paul named names all through the New Testament: good, bad and indifferent. There are times when the Church has to be warned when something is dangerous, that’s part of spiritual responsibility...... I think there are times to name names. I have a rule about that and that is, I will respond to anyone who has published something, but nothing that is private. And that’s fair."
Erin Benziger's interview with Dr. MacArthur can be read in its entirety here.


 Additional Resources 

John MacArthur: "Who would have thought that John Piper would have Rick Warren at a Desiring God conference?"

John MacArthur: "Don't Go To A 'Flat Screen Church'."

Charismatic Chaos (by John MacArthur)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tim Challies Reviews One Thousand Gifts

Posted by Christine Pack

Christian apologist and ├╝ber blogger Tim Challies has written an excellent review of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. Ann Voskamp has become a darling in Reformed circles, perhaps partly due to her visually lovely website and perhaps partly because of her unique writing style. But her theology is troubling to say the least, with overtones of Panentheism and overt sexuality. An excerpt from Challies' review:
"(Ann Voskamp's) theology is an eclectic combination of Protestantism and Catholic or Catholic-influenced mysticism. She either quotes or is influenced by authors like Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Annie Dillard, and Dallas Willard. This brings to the book a deep-rooted mysticism that at times seems even to border on the view that the divine exists within and extends to all parts of nature (a teaching known as panentheism). At heart, mysticism promotes the view that God can be experienced, and perhaps even best experienced, outside of Scripture. This comes in direct contrast to what Scripture itself says, that Scripture is God’s final and sufficient revelation of himself."
In addition to addressing the troubling concept of Panentheism which is subtly taught in Voskamp's book, Challies' also addresses the issue of Voskamp's use of highly sexualized language in discussing her relationship to God.

I absolutely do not recommend for any Christian woman who is desiring to grow in discernment to read this book. As noted above, One Thousand Gifts introduces Christian women to the concept of Panentheism, albeit a highly poetic, eroticized, "Christianized" version of Panentheism. But Panentheism is part of the eastern worldview (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and is NOT part of the biblical worldview. The Christian worldview is that we are "dead in our trespasses," (Eph 2:5) while the eastern worldview is that we all have a "Divine inner spark," and at least some aspect of God/Divinity inside of us, regardless of our faith (Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.). This concept is subtly taught in Voskamp's book, and Christian women therefore should not read this book.

Tim Challies review can be read in its entirety here.


 Additional Resources 

An Open Letter To Tim Challies About Ann Voskamp (by Sola Sisters)

Romantic Panentheism, a Review of One Thousand Gifts (by Bob DeWaay)

A Commentary On Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts (by Marcia Montenegro)

Ann Voskamp: Mystical Estrogen
 (Fighting For The Faith radio show)

Rick Warren's "Daniel Plan" Doctor (Dr. Oz) Hosts Necromancer

Posted by Christine Pack

Theresa Caputo
Stand Up For The Truth's Amy Spreeman has written an excellent article exposing Rick Warren's favorite diet/health/nutrition guy, Dr. Mehmet Oz, as the all-out New Ager that he truly is. Dr. Oz recently had self-professed medium/necromancer Theresa Caputo (TLC's Long Island Medium) on his own show. As Amy Spreeman pointed out, as Christians we are not to judge lost people for doing what comes naturally to lost people (and which often involves occultic attempts to connect to God). But what about Christians, like Pastor Rick Warren, who are held, according to God's word, to a higher standard of accountability? Should Christian leaders knowingly expose their congregations to outright New Agers such as Dr. Oz, who can and will introduce unbiblical, even occultic, concepts and ideas to them?

Amy Spreeman's excellent article can be read in its entirety here.


 Additional Resources 

Rick Warren and His Daniel Plan

Rick Warren, the Daniel Plan and Dominionism

Rick Warren Introduces "The Devil Plan"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How To Hear God's Voice

Posted by Christine Pack

Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For the Faith, Letter of Marque and Museum of Idolatry has written a great article (How To Hear God's Voice 100% Of The Time) about how it is that we "hear" from God. So the obvious question must be asked: How do Christians hear from God? Is it through random-Bible-verse-reading? (what I call the Ouija board approach) Is it from seeing signs in nature? (I have a complex problem, and suddenly I see geese flying in a V formation....that must mean I will have Victory over my problem!) No, this is not how we hear from God. Until recently, the traditional orthodox view for Protestant Christians on how it is that we hear from God is through the study of his Word. It's not complicated, really it's not. But in our postmodern, fast food, experience-driven culture, this is not "enough." Mysticism is in, Systematic Theology is most definitely out. We want An Experience that we can point to, something Tangible.

 From the article:
Are you struggling to figure out if those whispers that your pastor has told you to listen for are really God's voice or a case of gastrointestinal hallucinations caused by a bad batch of pepperoni pizza? 
Are you tired of going through the whole rigamarole of filtering those voices in your head through a six point 'discernment grid' to try to ascertain if that's the Holy Spirit speaking to you or proof that you need to make an appointment with a shrink? 
Have you read and reread (Henry) Blackaby and still haven't got the foggiest notion as to how to tell where God is working in the world so that you can join Him? 
If you've answered yes to one or all of these questions then I've got great news for you! I have discovered a simple and sure fire way for you to hear God's voice. The best part is that its 100% guaranteed and totally Biblical. 
Here it is. 
1. Acquire a Bible. 
If you do not have a Bible then you can read it for free on the internet at Bible Gateway. I recommend the English Standard Version for both readability and translational accuracy. 
2. Open the Bible. 
3. Begin reading it. 
Read it with your mind engaged. Pay close attention to grammar and context. Take notes. Set a goal to read 3 to 10 chapters per day. 
That's it. 
If you do those three things then you will be hearing God's voice every single time that you open the Bible. No guess work, no need for six point 'discernment filters' and no nagging uncertainty about whether your hearing God's voice or something else. 
How can I be so sure and certain that this works.....?
Continue reading Chris Rosebrough's excellent article here.


 Additional Resources 

When God Talks Back: Elevating Experience Over Scripture

Why Bible Studies Don’t Transform Us

An Open Letter of Repentance To All Whom I Have Taught or Endorsed The Teachings of Henry Blackaby or Beth Moore

Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.

How Do We Discern God's Will For Our Lives?

Is That You Lord?: Hearing the Voice of the Lord, a Biblical Perspective

God's Will and Christian Liberty - Part 1

God's Will and Christian Liberty - Part 2

Christian Dream Interpretation?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why Bible Studies Don't Transform Us

Posted by Christine Pack

In the very excellent article, Why Bible Studies Don't Transform Us, Jen Wilkin of The Gospel Coalition gives several reasons to explain how people can go wrong in their Bible studies. Among the reasons given:
Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean;
And so betwixt them both, they licked the platter clean.
Taking the Xanax approach to Bible study (treating the Bible as if its sole purpose is to make us feel better through the application of verses); 
Treating the Bible like a Magic 8 Ball (thinking of a question or problem, then opening the Bible to a random verse to see how it applies to your situation); 
The Jack Sprat approach to Bible study (taking a "picky" approach to what we will - or won't - study).
This article makes a compelling case for something many churches today are neglecting to do, and that is teach their members how to study the Bible line by line, verse by verse. As Paul's second letter to Timothy states: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) It is, after all, through studying God's word in whole, and in context, and not skipping the hard parts or the complex parts, that, over time, we are able correctly "handle the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15) and are not "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14) that blows through the church. In case you weren't already a firm believer in expository teaching and preaching, this article might make you a believer.

The entire article can be read here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is This Andy Stanley's Gay Affirming Shot Across the Bow?

Posted by Christine Pack

Andy Stanley explaining (with graphics prepared ahead of time) why one of the men in an unrepentant homosexual relationship needs to finalize his divorce before he can serve at Northpoint. The blue figures represent the homosexual couple, the red figure represents the abandoned wife.

In the 18th century, a seafaring military action known as a "shot across the bow" began to come into common usage. This was a term used to describe a shot fired by one ship across the bow of an opposing ship to signal future confrontations.  The shot was not meant to actually make contact, it was merely a warning signal that there were future confrontations to come from the firing ship.

It appears that North Point megachurch pastor Andy Stanley has recently fired his own "shot across the bow" of Evangelicalism on the issue of homosexuality with his sermon series Christian. In part 5 of this series, Stanley gave a message ("When Gracie Met Truthie") in which he described a situation at his church where a woman, her ex-husband and her ex-husband's male lover were in a conflict. The strangest part of this story is that the issue with which Stanley took exception was the fact that the ex-husband's male lover was not yet divorced from HIS wife, and yet was serving in leadership at North Point. Presumably, the man's adultery was the issue, but not, apparently, his unrepentantly homosexual lifestyle. From the article:
"(Andy) Stanley told the two men that they could not serve on the host team so long as the one man was still married. He later told of the former wife’s decision not to live in bitterness, and of her initiative to bring the whole new family structure to a Christmas service. This included the woman, her daughter, her former husband, his gay partner, and his daughter. Stanley celebrated this new 'modern family' as an expression of forgiveness." (online source)
The obvious questions have to be asked: Is it even possible to frame up the scenario presented by Stanley (in which 2 - count them, 2 - marriages were blown sky high) in a way that makes sense unless a clear call for repentance is given? And yet, according to the Christian Post's article on the final sermon of this series, Stanley completely sidestepped the issue of homosexuality in this series.

Incidentally, this account of the wife, the ex-husband, the ex-husband's male lover, etc., etc. was presented very winsomely by Andy Stanley with accompanying graphics. This was no off-the-cuff account that just spontaneously occurred to Andy Stanley in the middle of a sermon. The above graphic was obviously prepared well in advance of this sermon. Does anyone else smell an agenda? Is open homosexuality going to be the Next Big Thing in Evangelicalism? And is this Andy Stanley's shot across the bow to signal that he is moving in the direction of openly accepting unrepentant homosexual relationships? We'll all have to stay tuned to find out.......



 Additional Resources 

Andy Stanley Removes Shame From Homosexual Sin (Entreating Favor)

Problems at Andy Stanley's North Point Church? (Sola Sisters)

North Point Student Ministry Volunteer Application (North Point online source)

 Is The Megachurch The New Liberalism? (Dr. Al Mohler)

Andy Stanley Confounds The Church About Homosexuality (Stand Up For The Truth)

The Matthew Vines Video - And A Response (Stand Up For The Truth)

Is The Megachurch the New Liberalism? (Chris Rosebrough's Fighting For the Faith radio show)

Homosexuality, Megachurches and Andy Stanley (Apprising)

Pastor Andy Stanley Responds to Questions Over Homosexuality Stance (Christian Post)

Andy Stanley Avoids Gay Issue in Last Sermon of Controversial 8-Part Series (Christian Post)

The Need for Elders Who Guard Their Flocks (Criticial Issues Commentary, Bob DeWaay)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Problems At Andy Stanley's North Point Church?


Posted by Christine Pack

Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently wrote an article concerning the problematic trend of "megachurches" in evangelical Christianity, in which pastors attempt to oversee enormous churches with multiple sites, and members in the thousands, through the savvy use of technology and multi-media. In his article entitled Is The Megachurch The New Liberalism?, Dr. Mohler specifically mentioned megachurch pastor Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA and creator of the Catalyst conferences. Andy Stanley, according to Dr. Mohler's article, recently gave a message in which he described a situation at North Point where a woman, her ex-husband and her ex-husband's male lover were in a conflict. The strangest part of this story is that the issue with which Stanley took exception was the fact that the ex-husband's male lover was not yet divorced from his wife, and yet was serving in leadership at North Point. Presumably, the man's adultery was the issue, but not, apparently, his unrepentantly homosexual lifestyle. From the article:
"(Andy) Stanley told the two men that they could not serve on the host team so long as the one man was still married. He later told of the former wife’s decision not to live in bitterness, and of her initiative to bring the whole new family structure to a Christmas service. This included the woman, her daughter, her former husband, his gay partner, and his daughter. Stanley celebrated this new 'modern family' as an expression of forgiveness." (online source)
(Incidentally, this story of the wife, the ex-husband, the ex-husband's male lover, etc., etc. was presented by Andy Stanley with graphics. This was no off-the-cuff account that just spontaneously occurred to Andy Stanley. The graphic below was obviously prepared well in advance of this sermon. I smell an agenda. Is open homosexuality going to be the Next Big Thing in Evangelicalism?)

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church - Atlanta, GA
(To view this graphic, go to the Christian sermon series, Part 5, 24 minute mark)

For myself, I was thoroughly shocked and appalled when I read about this recent message by Andy Stanley. I know a number of people, solid Christians, who attend North Point, and speak highly of the teaching there. Andy Stanley is generally well-regarded here in Atlanta where he grew up and where his father (Charles Stanley) has also been a pastor for a number of years. So I would say that I am somewhat predisposed to be favorably inclined toward Stanley. And yet, by his teaching, it seems he is drifting down the path of ear-tickling liberalism that so many before him have done.

Not convinced? Then I offer Exhibit B for your consideration:

Andy Stanley's North Point has a document that must be filled out and signed by adult volunteers seeking to minister to students if they wish to be considered for ministry. There is, however, some very curious language in this "covenant" document. The following is taken directly from the covenant:
Regarding Sexual Behavior 
We teach that sex was created by God as an expression of intimacy between a man and woman within the context of marriage. Volunteers who embrace lifestyles or behaviors that conflict with this teaching will eventually find themselves having to pretend to be something they are not or believe something they don't. In an effort to protect you from a potentially awkward situation, we ask the following: 
  •  If you are involved in a sexual relationship and are not married, we ask that you not volunteer in family ministry at this time. 
  • If you are pursuing a same sex relationship, we ask that you not volunteer in family ministry at this time.   
  • In the spirit of being a good role model, if you are single and living with a member of the opposite sex, we ask that you not volunteer at this time. We do not want to put you in the awkward position of having to explain your arrangement if members of your group visit your home.  
  • If you are married and are currently involved in a sexual relationship outside of your marriage, we ask that you not volunteer at this time. (online source)
Our commentary: In the section of this covenant regarding sexual behavior, there is no call for repentance for those in willfully sinful sexual situations, no mention of church discipline, just a caution for those in sexual sin not to volunteer for ministry because of the "potentially awkward situation" it might create. But what about protecting those same people from the potentially fiery situation they might face, if they don't repent before a high and holy God? Is this what pastors are called to do......protect people from potentially awkward situations?
"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)
Taking into account the troubling message recounted by Dr. Al Mohler in the first part of this article, as well as this North Point covenant statement for volunteers to sign, my question is this: has Andy Stanley abdicated his right to serve as an church leader?
"An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." (Titus 1:6-9, my emphasis) 
"Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:1-4)
Our elders are called to guard and teach the flocks entrusted to them, and also to lead them by example. What we need today are sober-minded, Godly men who take seriously their charge before God to not only guard and teach their flocks, but to also exhort them to righteous living before a high and holy God to whom they will one day give an account. We need leaders who, if need be, will discipline their members engaging in unrepentant sexual sin, not coddle them in their sinful passions and tickle their ears with man-centered language aimed at quelling the conscience. Where are such men? And more to the point of this article, does Andy Stanley still qualify for the role of elder/overseer?

Update: Andy Stanley recently released a response to Dr. Al Mohler's article:
"We are requesting that everyone watch the entire series: Christian.* It concludes this Sunday. It’s 8 parts. That’s a lot of content to wade through. But I figure that’s better than a sound bite or an interview." (online source)
My concern: how do you frame up that scenario with the woman, her ex-husband, the male lover (who is still married to HIS wife), etc., in a way that makes sense unless a clear call for repentance is given? It certainly wasn't in the sermon that Dr. Mohler accounted. And if it was given, but in a later message, why wouldn't you give the call for repentance in the same sermon where the scenario was presented?


*This entire 8-part series by Andy Stanley can be listened to in its entirety here.


 Additional Resources 

North Point Student Ministry Volunteer Application (North Point online source)

 Is The Megachurch The New Liberalism? (Dr. Al Mohler)

Andy Stanley Confounds The Church About Homosexuality (Stand Up For The Truth)

Is The Megachurch the New Liberalism? (Chris Rosebrough's Fighting For the Faith radio show)

Homosexuality, Megachurches and Andy Stanley (Apprising)

Pastor Andy Stanley Responds to Questions Over Homosexuality Stance (Christian Post)

Andy Stanley Avoids Gay Issue in Last Sermon of Controversial 8-Part Series (Christian Post)

The Need for Elders Who Guard Their Flocks (Criticial Issues Commentary, Bob DeWaay)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

Posted by Christine Pack

An excellent article by Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel explains why Contemplative Prayer practices (which are now in every Christian denomination that I know of) are unbiblical. Contemplative Prayer often enters into churches under the following guises:
- Spiritual Formation
- Spiritual Disciplines
- Ancient Future
- Contemplative Spirituality
- Taize
- Centering Prayer
- Lectio Divina
- Jesus Prayer
- Labyrinth
- Walk To Emmaus 
Writes Gilley:
"Spiritual formation seeks to lure evangelicals into ancient Catholic and Orthodox contemplative practices in order to draw closer to God, experience His presence, and hear His voice apart from Scripture. In order to embrace this mystical form of spirituality, contemplatives are willing to compromise at virtually every turn. Central doctrines such as sola fide and sola Scriptura are shrugged off as secondary. Methods never found in the Bible as the true means of spiritual growth and of knowing God, are emphasized. And complete heretics such as Thomas Merton are seen as reliable spiritual guides to spirituality. The contemplatives have sold out to Catholic mysticism and abandoned the clear teaching of Scripture. Sadly, in the process many undiscerning evangelicals will follow suit."
I grew up in a very liberal church (i.e., a church devoid of the true gospel), in which Contemplative Prayer practices were recommended routinely for those who came seeking help with "a stale prayer life." After I left the church as a young woman and went into the New Age, these mystical practices were also an enormous part of my newfound spirituality. When God saved me at 35, I repented of these practices and recognized them for what they were: a Satanic counterfeit designed to tricks non-believers through whipped up mystical experiences into thinking they were experiencing God. But sadly, it wasn't long before these practices began flowing into what had once been solid, evangelical churches (including my own precious church, where I was saved). So in a way, I feel I have been surrounded by these wicked mystical practices all of my life. I know them from the inside out, and I know how deceptive they are. They can deceive unregenerated people into thinking for years - in many cases, a lifetime - that they have a real, active, ongoing relationship with the God of the universe, when in reality, they do not, and are on their way to hell.


Many of these people will think they are Christian when in fact they are not. They will have aligned themselves with other professing Christians, they will attend weekly services in a church, they will be doing all of the things that they think they are supposed to be doing in order to be reconciled to God (tithing, attending church, serving the community, sending teams to foreign countries to dig wells, build infrastructure, etc.), and a great many of them will be lost, lost, lost. These are the people God is talking about in Matthew 7:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
Do you understand what I'm saying here? These are not self-professed atheists or Hindus or Muslims or witches. They aren't down at the local mosque or temple or witch's coven.....they are in churches. These are people who are deceived. Perhaps they are people you know and are close to: spouses, children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, parents, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. If you know anyone who has become ensnared in the deceptive mystical practices of Contemplative Prayer, please share Pastor Gilley's article with them, or any of the other many, many articles/programs about Contemplative Prayer that can be found on this site, as well as a number of other excellent sites, including:
Pyromaniacs 
Twin City Fellowship
Stand Up For The Truth 
Biblical Christianity 
Christian Answers For The New Age (CANA) 
Apprising
Worldview Weekend 
Fighting For The Faith

 Additional Resources 

Testimony of a Former Mystic

A Time of Departing(an excellent primer on how mysticism is entering today's churches)

Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer?

The Origin of Contemplative Prayer (Apprising)



Lectio Divina and "Hearing God's Voice"

John Piper Encouraging Lectio Divina?

John Piper's Bethlehem Baptist Church Endorsing Books by Contemplative Spirituality Mystics Dallas Willard and Richard Foster

Beth Moore and John Piper Lead "Lectio Divina Lite" Prayer at Passion 2012 Conference

Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.  - by Kevin DeYoung

Just Do Something - by Kevin DeYoung (audio)

On John Piper and Lectio Divina

Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence

What Is Mysticism?

What Is Mysticism? (5-Part Series by Dr. Gary Gilley) - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5

Mystical Youth Ministry