Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pastor Justin Peters Explains Why Stories of Trips To Heaven Do Not Line Up With the Bible

Posted by Christine Pack

In a recent interview, Pastor Justin Peters discussed why the many, and very popular, books that are flooding the Christian book market with accounts of visits to heaven are not biblical. From the interview:
Justin Peters: It's interesting that in the New Testament, there are only three men who are allowed a glimpse into heaven: Stephen, right as he was being stoned in Acts, Chapter 7, a very brief glimpse, but we have no detail of what he saw. He just saw Jesus at the right hand of the Father, and that's all he saw. Or that's all we know of what he saw.  John, who was writing Revelation, by far the most detailed account we have of heaven, by far. But he was writing authoritative scripture. And the only other one is Paul, who was not allowed to tell us. Now my question is, if the man who wrote roughly a third of the New Testament was now allowed to tell us what he saw and heard in heaven, how is it that all these other people are allowed to do so? And even with that, Paul with that level of humility, was still given a thorn in the flesh. Verse 7 (of 2 Corinthians 12), "For this reason there was given me a thorn in the flesh," to humble him even further. And he wasn't allowed to tell us. And yet everybody else that 'goes to heaven,' they write books, and they sell videos, and they go on speaking tours, careers are made..." 
Interviewer: And now they're making movies. 
Justin Peters: And now they're, yeah, there's even talk of making movies off of Don Piper (and his book 90 Minutes in Heaven) and Colton Burpo, Heaven Is For Real, so there's an overarching problem with anyone saying that they've been to heaven. If Paul wasn't allowed to tell us, I seriously doubt anyone else would be allowed to do so. Paul didn't even want to talk about it. He was defending his apostleship. He didn't want to talk about it at all. So there's a stark difference between what we see from the Apostle Paul and what we see today. All of these stories divorce people from their reliance upon the word of God.

 Additional Resources 

Heaven Is For Real - A Book Review (Pastor Gary Gilley)

The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine, by Grace To You

Your Best Afterlife Now - An Examination and Critique of Claimed Visits to Heaven and Hell, by Justin Peters

A Call for Discernment - A Biblical Critique of the Word of Faith Movement, by Pastor Justin Peters

Heaven Is For Real, a review by Tim Challies

90 Minutes In Heaven, a review by Tim Challies

Monday, February 27, 2012

Does Rick Warren Still Get Dr. John Piper's "Stamp of Approval?"

Posted by Christine Pack

Many of us know by now that, in 2010, Dr. John Piper (author of Desiring God and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church) gave his "stamp of approval" to Rick Warren by having Warren be a keynote speaker at Dr. Piper's annual Desiring God conference. This was an event that caught many in evangelicalism off guard and resulted in a flurry of articles and blog posts over a number of months. The problem with Dr. Piper welcoming Rick Warren into the fold is that Dr. Piper has long been known as a champion and protector of the purity of the gospel message. He has served as a trusted church leader to whom many turned in an effort to get sound, biblical teaching. This is no small thing in today's church community which is moving increasingly away from expositional teaching in favor of watered down, topical style preaching. So when Dr. Piper asked Rick Warren to be a keynote speaker at Desiring God's annual conference, it was perceived by many to be analogous to the shepherd throwing open the gate to the sheep-fold and welcoming in the wolf, rather than protecting his flock from the wolf.
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”Acts 20:28-31
But now there is a new issue. According to Erin Benziger's recent article "Historic Interfaith Document" was "One Year in the Making," Rick Warren's Saddleback Church has been working on co-authoring a Muslim-Christian interfaith document ("King's Way") with the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC). According to Benziger's article, this document has been "one year in the making," and openly states that "The first step in the plan identifies the belief in one God." So now I'm wondering what John Piper thinks about this Muslim-Christian interfaith document being drafted by his friend, Rick Warren?

For the record, Dr. Piper has historically been very clear about his stance on Islam. In fact, shortly after another recent interfaith document (A Common Word, 2008) was released, he gave a strong video statement (below) in response to it. (Please note that Rick Warren gave his approval to the Common Word document by signing the Christian Response to 'A Common Word' document.) It appears that at the time A Common Word came out (2008), John Piper was willing to give his friend Rick Warren the benefit of the doubt, in that two years later he invited Rick Warren (a supporter of the Common Word document) to be a keynote speaker for him at his 2010 Desiring God conference. But now in light of this new interfaith document aimed at uniting Christians and Muslims ("King's Way"), and being co-authored by Rick Warren's own church, the question must be asked: does Dr. Piper still give Rick Warren his "stamp of approval?"

photo credit: via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Rick Warren Acknowledges Christians and Muslims Worship Same God

A Common Word Between Us and You (Interfaith document created by the Muslim community, aimed at uniting Christians-Muslims)

A Christian Response to A Common Word Between Us and You (Interfaith document created by the Christian community, signed by Rick Warren)

Rick Warren Gets John Piper's Stamp of Approval?

Controversy Over An Article About Rick Warren's Efforts to Bring Muslims, Christians Together

Islamic Center of Southern California Co-authors Historic Interfaith Document ("King's Way")

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Controversy Over An Article About Rick Warren's Efforts to Bring Muslims, Christians Together

Posted by Christine Pack

According to our article posted just a few hours ago, Rick Warren, megachurch pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, is currently working to build a "bridge" (through a document called "King's Way") between Christians and Muslims by claiming that the two faiths worship the same God. The "King's Way" document, which is the foundation for these bridge building efforts, is not yet publicly available, but a December 2011 meeting at Saddleback Church has been documented here. From the article by Jim Hinch of the Orange County Register:
"The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America's most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God." (online source)
After this article appeared, Pastor Warren commented on the article in the comments section, claiming that there were errors in the Orange County article:

After Warren's comment, we amended our article to add the following:
NOTE: Pastor Rick Warren recently stated in the comments section of the above article that the article contained many inaccuracies, but did not elaborate further. I will be happy to publish any statements from Rick Warren/Saddleback detailing the "multiple errors - factually and theologically" that are contained in the sourced article. 
But then a few hours later, the writer of the article (Jim Hinch), also commented on the article:

(Thank you to a Facebook friend for pointing me to Jim Hinch's response to Rick Warren's comment.)

 Additional Resources 

Why is Rick Warren Quoting Universalist Henri Nouwen?

Rick Warren: Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Posted by Christine Pack

Rick Warren, megachurch pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, is currently working to build a "bridge" (through a document called "King's Way") between Christians and Muslims by claiming that the two faiths worship the same God. The "King's Way" document, which is the foundation for these bridge building efforts, is not yet publicly available, but a December 2011 meeting at Saddleback Church has been documented here. According to an article by Jim Hinch of the Orange County Register:
"The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America's most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God." (online source)

Must I point out the obvious here by stating that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God?  

Sadly, many in today's church will follow the increasingly ecumenical Rick Warren as he goes deeper and deeper into apostasy. This is how this plays out: Right after respected pastor and author John Piper gave Rick Warren his own stamp of approval in 2010 by having Warren be a keynote speaker at Piper's yearly Desiring God conference, I went onto John Piper's Facebook wall to see how people were responding to this unexpected alliance. A few people were concerned, but a great many more were saying something along the lines of, Hey, I always thought there was something a little "off" about Rick Warren, but now that I see John Piper approves of him, I guess he must be okay.

The biblical model, however, is that we are to follow God, and not a man, and we are not to give our allegiance to a teacher just because someone we like and respect has done so. 
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (my emphasis)
From the John MacArthur study notes:
1 Corinthians 1:13, Is Christ divided? No human leader, not even an apostle, should be given the loyalty that belongs only to the Lord. Such elevation of leaders leads only to contention, disputes, and a divided church. Christ is not divided and neither is His body, the church. Paul depreciates his worth in comparison to the Lord Jesus.
Christians must not give blind allegiance to their leaders. Indeed, we are all exhorted to examine what is being taught in the name of the God with the actual Word of God:
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
I've asked this question before, and will now ask it again: how far from orthodoxy does Rick Warren have to fall before Christian leaders will begin to "mark him out" and separate from him (Romans 16:17), rather than continuing to align with him, sell his books, and point their flocks toward him?

NOTE (February 2012): Pastor Rick Warren recently stated in the comments section of the above article that the article contained many inaccuracies, but did not elaborate further. I will be happy to publish any statements from Rick Warren/Saddleback detailing the "multiple errors - factually and theologically" that are contained in the sourced article. 

NOTE (March 2012): Thus far, Rick Warren has addressed this controversy.... (with Lifeway's Ed Stetzer) and (with the aid of Larry Ross, a hired PR media rep).

 Additional Resources 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Justice Conference: Another Ecumenical Emergent Event?

Article by Amanda Bowers (Hears His Voice blog)

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.
The theme of the conference: Justice: Love is a Thread states,
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,
Francis Chan, author of books, Crazy Love and Forgotten God, and founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, and is the founder of Eternity Bible College.
Walter Brueggemann Old Testament scholar, author, and featured speaker at a 2004 Emerging Theological Conversation at All Souls PCA Church in Decatur
Shane Claiborne, described on his website as: Bestselling Author, Prominent Christian Activist, Sought-after Speaker and Recovering Sinner
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.
Of Walter Brueggemann we are told,
“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?
Miroslov Volf – is one of the key architects of the “Loving God And Neighbor Together: A Christian Response To A Common Word Between Us And You”document (an ecumenical document that claims that Muslims and Christians have the same God) – from “A Common Word”
“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.”
So, is there now a “common love” for the God of the Bible and the god of Muslims or other religions? Do we all serve the same God? According to Mr. Volf Muslims and Christians do serve a “Common God”
“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
Dr. Christina Cummings – former abortion doctor and director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pasadena, CA who now speaks about healthy eating and holistic medicine.  Sola Sisters author, Christine Pack, has contacted her to inquire as to whether she has had a conversion to Christianity and repented of her former life as an abortion doctor and director of Planned Parenthood clinic, or if she views abortion and Christianity as somehow compatible. We are still awaiting a response.
Rev. Dr. Randy S. Woodley is Distinguished Associate Professor of Faith and Culture and Director of Intercultural and Indigenous Studies at George Fox Seminary in Portland. He is an author, teacher, poet, activist, former pastor and missionary, missiologist and historian. Dr. Woodley is a Keetoowah Cherokee Indian, leading a local indigenous gathering at his home in Newberg, OR. Mr. Woodley speaks on his blog about his working relationship with Mr. Brian McLaren, Emergent Church Leader, and denier of the atonement of Jesus Christ and writes articles for the Emergent Church blog, The Emergent Voice.
Lynne Hybels, wife of Bill Hybels pastor of Willowcreek Church, a leading seeker sensitive church that has quickly gone the way of New Age Mysticism and heavily promotes and teaches Spiritual Formation, writes on her blog about prayer,
“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. And there 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)
In closing, what is my opinion of The Justice Conference?
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.
Social Gospel part 1 
Social Gospel part 2