Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reader Question About "The Shack"

Posted by Christine Pack

A reader wrote the following question regarding our recent post, The Shack Revisited:

Gone With The Wind
I tend to agree with the criticism of The Shack. In fact I have family members and acquaintances who were drawn in by the emotional hyperbole presented in the book. However, I do have a question regarding the criticism of depicting God as a Black woman. If we criticize Young for this do we then have to criticize other authors like CS Lewis for fictional depictions of the Godhead? - signed, "Pilgrim"

Dear Pilgrim - I will grant you that portraying God in any fashion is an exercise fraught with peril, but in an allegory (such as Narnia) when the "God figure" is so clearly drawn, and his attributes made so clear, I tend not to be so troubled by it.  C.S. Lewis, in his Narnia series and other writings, presents allegorical depictions of God that very clearly portray his divine attributes.  This is in distinct contrast to The Shack, in which "Papa/God" is presented with certain attributes which are in direct contradiction to his nature as revealed in Scripture.  More on that later.

Also in the Narnia series, the lines between good and evil are clearly drawn.  It is clear that you either stand with "Aslan/Jesus," or you stand against him.  Not so The Shack, which is a big muddle of Universalism stew.  According the "Papa/God," all people are forgiven by Jesus's death on the Cross, but not all choose to be in relationship with him.  This is a sly form of Universalism, one which I call "Christian Universalism" so as to distinguish it from the straight up Universalism that I encountered in New Age/Integral Spirituality.  This form of Universalism tries to say that yes, Jesus is the way to heaven, but everybody gets there in the end, whether they live a life in relationship with Jesus (preferable) or not (regrettable, but not a deal breaker as far as denying one entry into heaven).  As I said, a very, very sly heresy, and one which goes against the clear teaching of Jesus, when He said:
"I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
And now, Pilgrim, back to "Papa/God" of The Shack, who is presented with certain attributes which are in direct contradiction to his nature as revealed in Scripture.  Here's the one that really galls me:  "Papa/God" in The Shack "teaches" Mack that God's "love" is greater than his justice. Or as the Beatles put it, "All you need is love."  To which I would say, no, thankfully, the Bible presents a God who is both just AND loving.  Because if He were a Judge who did not fulfill the righteous demands of the Law, then He would be the worst kind of judge....wicked and corrupt....letting justice slide, as it were.

Prov 17:15 sets up this conundrum very nicely:
"He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD."
According to this Proverb, a judge who justifies (makes right) the wicked is himself an abomination.  But also, a judge who condemns the righteous would also be wicked.  Different sides of the same coin.  But what do we sing about in our hymns?  Wicked men (us) being made right. A righteous man (Jesus) standing condemned in our place.  How does God do these things without subverting Justice?  God does not - CANNOT - "set aside" justice in order to save wicked men; but what He did do was come up with a plan so amazing that it could only have come from God - its brilliance is supernatural: Someone would come to earth and fulfill all the righteous demands of the Law, and would then give His own life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28).

You might ask, what's the big deal about getting the doctrine of God's justice wrong?  What does it matter that the author (William P. Young) gets doctrine wrong?  What's the big deal?

The problem is that getting doctrine wrong is no small thing.  A "God" of justice who has not love is a hard and cruel taskmaster.  A "God" of love who has not justice is a soft, weak "God" who allows justice to be subverted.  God reveals himself in Scripture as possessing the perfect balance of both justice and love: revealed most magnificently in the Cross, the point at which God's justice and his love meet in perfect balance.  The Cross = God's justice satisfied and God's amazing love personified, simultaneously. 

It matters how we view these things, and how we teach others about God and his nature when we go forth into the world as we are commanded to seek and save that which is lost.  Case in point: I have a friend in missions who loves The Shack so much that she buys it in bulk to hand out.  She was very excited about it being translated into the language of the country in which she and her husband serve in missions.  When I brought up the bad theology in The Shack, she simply said to me, "But people like the "God" presented in The Shack and respond so positively to "Him/Her." "  My response to her was this:  as Christians we're not to use "what works" (pragmatism) in missions; we're to use God's Truth, as revealed in Scripture.  If someone loves the "God" of The Shack, they are responding to an idol of God, a false God, a "God" who is soft and weak," a "God"who subverts justice and saves everybody, a "God" without the force or will to dispense justice....and most sobering of all, a God without salvific power.  This is not the God of the Bible; this is the candy and lollipops "God" of New Age/Integral Spirituality.  But how in the world did this false "God" creep into our churches?  Well, thanks to Purpose Driven churches (who major on "deeds, not creeds") and Emergent churches (who reject the authority of Scripture and embrace another version of "deeds not creeds": social justice), our country is now largely biblically illiterate.  I believe that we are seeing Matthew 13:24-30 being played out in this generation:
Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
  "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'
 " 'An enemy did this,' he replied.  
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'  
" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' " 
But, if anyone has ears to hear this teaching, let him hear.

photo credit: Sumi-l via photo pin cc

 Additional Resources 

The Shack, Revisited

William P. Young: "The God of Evangelical Christianity is A Monster"

Michael Youssef's Warning About The Shack

The Author of The Shack Is A Universalist

Friday, July 16, 2010

"God" As A Crazy Stalker Girlfriend?

by Cathy Mathews & Christine Pack

It's bad enough that this modern Christian era has brought us the girlified "beggar Jesus," standing at the door of our hearts, hat in hand, just tap-tap-tapping and hoping against hope that we'll let him in to be Lord of our lives.  Now we have Mark Galli, Senior Managing Editor at Christianity Today, presenting us with an even more slanderous, idolatrous view of God:  God as a Divine Drama Queen.  Writes Galli:
"I like a tranquil, even-keeled, self-controlled God. A God who doesn't fly off the handle at the least provocation.....When I read my Bible, though, I keep running into a different God, and I'm not pleased. This God says he "hates" sin. Well, he usually yells it. Read the prophets. It's just one harangue after another, all in loud decibels. And when the shouting is over, then comes the pouting.....This God is like the volatile Italian woman who, upon discovering her husband's unfaithfulness, yells and throws dishes, refuses to sleep in the same bed, and doesn't speak to him for 40 days and 40 nights."
What seems to help Mr. Galli find this "Divine Drama Queen" acceptable as "God," however, is the fact that this "God" only acts this way because he's just so crazy-in-love with this fickle, foolish, unfaithful man that he has created that He just can't help himself. His worshipful love of this man-creature, you see, makes him a little nutty.

No longer standing patiently at the door like the girlified beggar Jesus; according to Mr. Galli, God is now jumping up and down in front of your car like a crazy girlfriend you can't break up with. He/She just won't let go. Our supremely narcissistic, self-absorbed, navel-gazing postmodern era has produced a new version of God that perfectly reveals the nature of the culture from which it has sprung: Crazy Stalker Girlfriend God.

So no more polite God, standing outside of your door knocking.  But hey, at least that "God" didn't require a restraining order. Not so with Crazy Stalker Girlfriend God, who loves these man-creature beings He has made sooooo much that it apparently makes him, well, a little bit unhinged:
"(M)ost days, I secretly wish God were not like this. He's like the crazy uncle in the family. At some point, you have to let your friends know about him, but you'd just as soon avoid having to introduce him....The road to hell is paved with reasonable religion with a non-anxious god. Most days, I'm pretty happy driving down that road. But I keep running into this Crazy Fellow along the way. At every stop light, he jumps up and down to get my attention. He pounds on my window asking me where the heck I think I'm going. He stands on the front bumper, shouting at me to turn around. When all else fails, he throws himself in front of the car. He's such a drama queen."
I'm sorry, but it's hard to imagine a view of God more slanderous and man-centered than the one Mr. Galli has crafted for himself. And to make matters even worse, further in the article Mr. Galli also espouses the heretical view of Open Theism, which is a (wrong) view of God as sort of a clockmaker deity, who winds  everything up, sets it in motion, but doesn't really have any control over the outcome.  With this "God," it's all a big gamble, "God" feverishly throwing dice during a Vegas binge, just hoping it's all going to come out okay in the end:
"(H)e created beings with deep awareness of themselves and their Creator, who could envision the absolute heights they could scale and the perfect love they could enjoy, and who knew they could have all this forever and ever.  It was a gamble, though.....And yet God gambled. He has thrown everything into this grand enterprise. He made the creation of these beings not a matter of course or compromise, but a matter of life or death. Everything was on the line with this roll of the dice."
Presumably, "everything was on the line" means that once the Fall happened, God had to turn to Plan B, which involved turning into the Crazy Stalker Girlfriend who, having been rejected, just didn't take it well.  In a strange way, the heresy of Open Theism actually makes Mr. Galli's view of God make more sense: if, as in the Open Theism view, God had no control over the outcome, then of course he would turn into a Crazy Stalker Girlfriend.  After all, he's got a lot invested in this relationship...he can't just walk away!

In all seriousness, let me ask the question: who needs to accept who in the relationship between man and God?  Do we need to create a version of God that we are comfortable with so that we will accept him?  ( i.e, the Purpose Driven "God," the Best Life Now "God," the Name It and Claim It "God," The Shack "God" who heals our emotional wounds, the Emergent "God" who serves as our role model for social justice, etc.)  Or do we come hat in hand, like the beggar that we really are, in need of God's mercy, in need of a Savior.

I would beg Mr. Galli to fall on his face and repent from this idolatrous, false, slanderous, man-worshiping portrayal of  God.  This Crazy Stalker Girlfriend God is horribly demeaning to the true nature of the God of the Bible, and worse, does not have the power to save.  Mr. Galli, allow me to introduce you to the one true God.....

....Who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10)

....Who, 4,000 years before Christ was born, revealed in the very first book of the Bible how it's all going to play out (Genesis 3:15)

....Who reproves man for presuming to bring Him down to man's level (Psalm 50:21)

....Who detests the sin of idolatry, the sin of crafting in one's own mind an idea of who God is (Exodus 20:4-5, Leviticus 19:4, 1 Corinthians10:14)

....Who is a holy God, and will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7)

...Who graciously reveals himself to us in Scripture so that we may know how to be made right with a high and holy God (Rom 3:21-26, John 5:39-47, 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Shack, Revisited

Posted by Christine Pack

A reader of our blog recently wrote to us and let us know of a conflict they were having with a fellow Christian over the issue of publicly naming William P. Young, author of The Shack, as a false teacher.  Because the issue of whether or not to "name names" has been a recurring theme in discernment, we requested permission to post the letter they received, and our reader granted it.  Identifying names and locations have been changed, but the following are excerpts from the letter with certain portions bolded.

Our reader was  rebuked for (1) allegedly slandering William Young and (2) publicly naming William Young as a false teacher, allegedly in violation of the principles in Matthew 7:1 and Matthew 18:15-17.

I would ask you, the reader of this blog, to bear three issues in mind as you read these excerpts:

(1) Are the principles of Matthew 7:1 and Matthew 18:15-17 in play in a situation involving public false teaching?

(2) Is it slanderous/unloving to correct a confessing Christian who is publicly teaching false doctrine?  Does anyone who confesses Christ have to be accepted as Christian under any and all circumstances?  If not, what is the standard by which their teaching may be judged?

(3) Does God use false teaching to save unbelievers?

The excerpted letter is as follows:
"Christianity has gotten some pretty black eyes in the past. Christian men and women who have bickered and fought publicly over theology, Christians being put into jail for preaching or writing down beliefs contrary to the popular beliefs of the day. And it seems that you have continued the tradition of Christians attacking Christians........ You have not only attacked a good friend of our family, Paul Young, but in the article you posted about (local college), you attacked and labeled a whole host of men and women......I can tell you that Paul Young is a soft-spoken, loving follower of Jesus Christ. He wrote a fictional book about the redemptive love of God to a hurting man. He had no intention or idea that the book would go beyond his own gift to his family. It was not written for public consumption, but rather to help his children understand something of the journey he had walked. Hundreds of thousands of people who had turned their back on “Christianity” have found their way back to God because they read his book, “The Shack.” It does have some very startling images and ideas, some which shook me and were not in keeping with my ideas of God. For example I had an especially hard time with God the Father being depicted as a black woman. However, in this fictional account, for the character of the book, who had been sexually abused by his earthly father, God the Father was depicted as a woman so that the character could accept the love God wanted him to accept. There are other depictions of the Godhead that are there for the fictional plot. To take the ideas out of context and to read the book as a theological treatise of God is completely wrong.

There is no indication that the authors of the articles you have posted went to Paul personally before publishing their slanderous accusations of his “deception.” In Matthew 18:15 Christ tells us that if a brother sins, we are to go directly to him and confront him. That is the crux of my message to you. You continue to perpetrate the slander of a fellow follower of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you continue to publicly gossip and spread lies about this man and others. I Cor. 6:9 & 10 puts slanderers in pretty bad company. I would think you would want to know for sure the truth about a person before you spread it to hundreds, even thousands of people on Facebook.

There is no indication that you personally have taken any steps to confront the men you accuse. I know that Paul Young, in particular, spends hours every day answering the questions sent to him. He is readily available on Facebook........I am sure he would answer your questions. But, you have taken the cowardly step of assuming lies about him and posting them without checking to see if they are true. The articles you choose to post have labeled him all kinds of things from Universalist, Pantheist to New Ager without any of them having personally questioned Paul about his ideas.....I noted that most of the articles that attacked Paul Young never used scripture to back up their arguments against his ideas. They have used labels conjured up by “Christian” men to attack theological ideals of other “Christian” men who they think they might be associated with. You don’t wonder yourself why the world has such a bad view of our “Christian” people and see our God as a monster? Why do you want to be a part of this war without first taking the time to first ask the man yourself if he deserves your attacks? Why do you want to shoot one of our own wounded?......If you have followed the steps Christ laid out for us in Matthew and still find Paul to be perpetrating fraudulent ideas about God, then you have more right to speak out against him and his book.

As much as I have enjoyed reconnecting with (you), it is sad to me to see my fellow sisters viciously and publicly spread lies about a friend of our family who is contending for the Faith. If you think his theology is wrong, the biblical response is to confront him, not spread gossip and slander.

With hopes of love and reconciliation...."
Our responses to the highlighted portions: 

 "God the Father was depicted as a woman so that the character could accept the love God wanted him to accept." 

The problem with this is that we don't get to choose how we may depict God simply because we don't like the way He has presented himself to us. Believers in the God of the Bible are nowhere told in Scripture that they are free to construct for themselves a "god" of their own choosing. Actually, quite the opposite. There are many recorded instances of the Israelites' attempting to blend their worship of God with the unbiblical worship practices of the pagan cultures that surrounded and influenced them. Never once did God say, Oh hey, that's okay, whatever you need to do to "get" me, just go right ahead and do it.  On the contrary: God was and is a very harsh Judge of the sin of idolatry, the sin of "crafting" an image of "God" that is to our liking.  This is a sin that is so great, in fact, that it ranks #2 on God's Top Ten Greatest Sins of All Time (aka The Ten Commandments): "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them." (Exodus 20:4-5a)  The following are just are few instances of idolatrous worship condemned by God:

The Golden Calf Idolatry of the Israelites, which can be read about in Exodus 32 (Exodus 32)

The Idolatry of Jereboam, which can be read about in I Kings (1 Kings 12:25-14:16)

 "The articles you choose to post have labeled (William Young) all kinds of things from Universalist, Pantheist to New Ager without any of them having personally questioned (Young) about his ideas." 

Frankly, this one is tiny bit insulting to me, though I know that it is not meant that way.  But this is why it insults me: it presumes that we HAVE to accept at face value what people tell us no matter what our common sense and critical thinking faculties tell us. (Reminds me of the old Groucho Marx adage, "Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes?") For example: while I know that Paul Young has stated for the record several times that he is not a Universalist, I would submit that Paul Young is clearly a Universalist, based on this exchange in "The Shack" between Mack and "Jesus," beginning on page 182:

"Jesus" says to Mack:
“Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”
Based on this exchange between Mack and "Jesus," my question is this: Will Jesus travel down the Buddhist road to save a Buddhist through Buddhism? Will He travel down the Islam road to save a Muslim through Islam? Well, as God, Jesus CAN do anything He likes, but what we KNOW from Scripture is that narrow is the way, few are those who find it, and people are only saved through faith in Christ.

What William Young is teaching is Universalism, straight up. So with all due respect, Mr. Young, please don't insult my intelligence by insisting that a plain reading of this passage "means" something other than it plainly says. I'm believing my "lyin' eyes" on this one.

 "Why do you want to be a part of this war without first taking the time to first ask the man yourself if he deserves your attacks? If you have followed the steps Christ laid out for us in Matthew and still find Paul to be perpetrating fraudulent ideas about God, then you have more right to speak out against him and his book." 

Between the two of us who write Sola Sisters, we have a private joke that this is what we call "being written a Matthew 7:1 citation." As in, "You are in violation of Matthew 7:1! You are judging! I'm writing you up!"

But this is a faulty understanding of Matthew 7:1, where Jesus talks about not judging. In context, this exhortation against wrong judgment means for us not to judge with a critical spirit on matters in which we ourselves are caught in sin. In many other places in the New Testament, and also further in Matthew 7 (verses 15-29) believers are exhorted to judge with right judgment; meaning, holding all teaching up against the truth of Scripture.

The writer also references Matthew 18:15, but this Scripture is also taken out of context.  Today's (incorrect) interpretation of this Scripture basically says that if we are in disagreement with a fellow Christian, we must first seek "permission" from the person before we go public with our concerns.  But this is not at all what this verse means. This verse teaches us the principle of going privately to a brother or sister concerning a sin matter, not how to handle the issue of public teaching of false doctrine.  So if Matthew 18:15 doesn't address this, where can we find the model for how to handle public false teaching?  Answer: Paul lays this out for us in 1 Timothy 1:18-20, where Paul publicly names Hymenaeus and Alexander by name and rebukes their false teaching.

Teachings such as William Young's that are published far and wide do not require the Matthew 18 model to be implemented: everyone can plainly see what is being taught for themselves. Using the measure of Scripture, these teachings must be judged to be biblical or unbiblical.  The issue of false teaching is one that should be boldly and publicly addressed, as in another New Testament incident, in which Paul publicly corrects the Apostle Peter over a doctrinal issue:
"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?" " (Gal 2:11-14, my emphasis)
If, however, the false teachers continue to bring false teaching and disregard the faith once for all delivered to the saints, they should be marked out at false teachers (Rom 16:17), and the flock must be guarded from them. This is how serious Paul considered false teaching to be.

However, the more troubling problem we're up against today is our watered-down churches, which tend to be focused on meeting "felt needs" and giving practical, topical self-help sermonettes, rather than teaching the doctrines of the faith.  Consequently, very few people actually know what the doctrines of the Christian faith are: how then would they know when a false teacher deviates from them?  Christians today seem to have kind of picked up popular - but wrong - cultural thinking with respect to right (biblical) judging versus wrong (sinful) judging.  Besides this article, which we hope brings some clarity, Pastor Bob DeWaay has written a very good, scholarly article on the topic of judging with right, biblical judgment; it can be read here.  DeWaay has also done 2 radio programs on this topic:  "The Believer's Call To Judge, part 1" and "The Believer's Call To Judge, part 2."

photo credit: las - initially via photo pin cc

 Additional Resources 

William P. Young: "The God of Evangelical Christianity is A Monster"

Michael Youssef's Warning About The Shack

The Author of The Shack Is A Universalist

Judgment Is Not Coming...Judgment Is Already Here

Posted by Christine Pack

Sexual immorality? Radical feminism? Homosexual revolution? Spiraling depravity?  America should view these signs not as indictors that we will some day come under God's judgment, but rather, signs that we are already under God's judgment.  Listen as John MacArthur talks about the wrath of abandonment, beginning with a sobering story about Samson, the strongest man who ever lived:
"When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, "Come back once more; he has told me everything." So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. Then she called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!"  He awoke from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him.  Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison." (Judges 16:18-21, my emphasis)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Purpose Driven, circa 1837?

reprinted from Herescope, July 7, 2010

This year, 1837, J. T. Mitchell was appointed to the Jacksonville station, and we had a blessed revival of religion in the station, and a number were added to the Church. At one of our quarterly meetings there was a minister who was what was called a New-School minister, and he was willing to work any where. When the mourners presented themselves at the altar of prayer, he would talk to them, and exhort them to “change their purpose,” and assured them that all who changed their purpose were undoubted Christians. I plainly saw he was doing mischief, and I went immediately after him [Cartwright counseled the mourners after him], and told them [the mourners] not to depend on a change of purpose in order to become a Christian, but to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with a heart unto righteousness, and they should be saved. Thus I had to counteract the false sentiments inculcated by this New-School minister. It is very strange to me to think these educated and home-manufactured preachers do not understand the plain, Bible doctrine of the new birth better. They say man is a free agent in so far as to change his purpose, and in changing his purpose he is constituted a new creature. Thus he makes himself a Christian by his own act without the Spirit of God.”

Excerpted from Peter Cartwright, Autobiography of Peter Cartwright: The Backwoods Preacher, W.P. Strickland, Editor (Cincinnati, OH: Cranston and Curts, or New York, NY: Hunt and Eaton, 1856) 369, emphasis added.

 Additional Resources 

Pastor Bob DeWaay Visits Rick Warren, Asks Him To Preach Christ

Redefining Christianity: Understanding The Purpose Driven Movement

Redefining Christianity - 15-part Radio Program

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rick Warren, Driven By Destiny?

by Christine Pack and Cathy Mathews

In a move that should raise further questions about Rick Warren's doctrinal soundness, "America's Pastor" has written the foreword to a new book loaded with theological error and which promises to be heavy on pragmatic, self-focused, Word of Faith narcissism (as if American Christians needed any more encouragement for that).  The book, authored by female pastor Dr. LaVerne Adams, is titled "Driven By Destiny" and is slated for release October 2010. One promotional blurb about the book promises:
"Readers of “Driven by Destiny” are sure to see immediate results of transformation seeing the possibilities to awaken their potential."
Dr. Adams, who is described as a "Life Coach," wants you to examine yourself, "define your destiny, maximize your potential and live the life of your dreams." Okay, but from a Christian perspective, who is the One - and the only One at that - who has the right (and ability) to transform our lives?  To direct our lives?  The premise of Dr. Adams' book is completely at odds with the biblical teaching on what "rights" we, as Christians, have to our lives:
"With her new book “Driven by Destiny”, Dr. LaVerne Adams reveals 12 secret keys that inspire readers to overcome feelings of confusion and frustration while navigating their own unique destiny roadmap. Each power packed chapter helps to answer the questions of why life may not be working with solutions to ensure success while traveling life’s journey......Dr. Adams is passionate about motivating people live the life of their dreams."
Sounds terrific....except for that little problem of Christians having no "rights." You see, we are slaves, slaves to Christ, and slaves do not have rights.  Our lives are not our own, we have been bought for a price, and only God can know and direct our destiny.  If I plan out my life and God has a destiny in store for me other than the one I have mapped out, I must bend the knee in humble submission before God's greater plan for my life.  Just ask Stephen, who was stoned to death after  rebuking the Sanhedrin for their sinful rejection of the prophets and Messiah himself.  About Stephen, I wonder: did the "life of (his) dreams" include death by stoning? Probably not, because in our flesh, we are all small, narcissistic, self-protective and vain to the extreme. But when submitted to the Lord, as Stephen was, and as we all must strive to be by God's grace, our lives have deeper meaning and serve eternal purposes that our finite minds cannot grasp.  But not according to Dr. Adams, whose assessment of Stephen would be that he was not successfully navigating his "unique destiny roadmap."  Poor Stephen, not to have the "12 Secret Keys" to unlocking his future.....he had only the Lord to entrust his destiny to.

In addition to being unbiblical, this kind of positive self-talk in Dr. Adams' book also comes very close to being New Age/Integral Spirituality thought, which is not Christian at all.  When I was in the New Age back in the 90s, this thinking was dubbed "New Thought."  Its theology?  What mind can conceive, man can achieve.  This thoroughly New Age thinking really went mainstream and took off in 2007 with the book "The Secret," which "explained" that the secret of success in anyone's life was based on something called the "law of attraction."  This "law of attraction" puts forth the concept that thoughts have energy and power, and when you clear yourself of negative blocks, get focused and think your thoughts purposefully, your thoughts will create what you desire by "attraction."  The problem?  This is not Christian teaching....which teaches a crucified self, a life yielded to its Maker.  Nevertheless, this teaching has taken on Christian terminology and flooded into today's churches.

Because of this, when my children were very young, I would have them do a simple exercise to demonstrate to them that only God has the power to "speak" things into existence. I did this because I knew that when they were older, they would hear and see teaching around them that claimed otherwise, teaching that they themselves were "little gods," with the power and ability to speak things into being.  I wanted them to have a deep understanding of the unbiblical nature of this, and so I would have them hold out their empty hands, palms up, and would tell them to "speak" something that they wanted: cheeseburger! ice cream cone! battery powered Thomas the Train! Then I would tell them to look at their hands and see if the thing they were "speaking" was there yet.  Of course, it wouldn't be. I would tell them, okay, really concentrate, try harder, get focused! They would end up in a fit of giggles, rolling their eyes at me and my silliness.  The point is that even a child can grasp the arrogance and futility in us daring to act as God.

And may I also point out that this exercise served to highlight for both me and my children that the flesh is always self-centered and self-serving. Whether we're a 4-year-old wanting an ice cream cone or a 40-year-old wanting to have a successful business, our uncrucified flesh will always rear up demanding to have its desires and wants satisfied, catered to, celebrated, glorified.  And yet, we now have "America's Pastor" endorsing a book that in essence teaches us to celebrate and glorify our flesh by catering to its demands.  Shouldn't we be teaching our children - and exhorting our fellow Christians - that the way we come to the Lord is with our hands open, humbly submitting our dreams, plans, wants, desires to His perfect will? (Mat 6:10) Crucifying our flesh? (Rom 6:6)

In reading Dr. Adams' blog, however, I'm not quite getting a sense of crucified flesh.  More like, flesh that is thrilled with the idea that it is in the power seat commanding God to jump through the hoops of its own choosing.

And let's just be honest here: this kind of man-centered thinking has always been popular in America.  Over the years, it has morphed and molded itself to the culture and taken shape in many different forms.  It has also, as I noted, taken on Christian terminology so as to become more palatable to confessing Christians who want a way to be "Christian" and still have control over their own lives and destinies (thinking completely at odds with the crucified, yielded life that is described of New Testament believers).

This teaching has appeared under a number of different names, hawked by different teachers and pastors, but always with the same man-centered, unbiblical beliefs at its core:  Law of Attraction......Power of Positive Thinking.......Word Faith.....Possibility Thinking.......even Witchcraft.  But no matter what the name, these beliefs always have at their center the heretical view of people as very, very big and God as very, very small. God as our "go juice," and the "power in our engines."  God as the dog that jumps through the hoops of our choosing.

And now with Rick Warren slated to be the keynote speaker at Dr. John Piper's Desiring God 2010, there will be a whole new audience that can be exposed to Dr. LaVerne Adams' particular brand of crazy. And so I'll ask a question I've asked before: how far from orthodoxy does Rick Warren have to fall, and how many questionable alliances does he have to make, before Christian leaders will begin to "mark him out" and separate from him (Romans 16:17) - rather than continuing to give him a platform for teaching and preaching?

photo credit: bek30 via photo pin cc
photo credit: dirkjanranzijn via photo pin cc
photo credit: bobosh_t via photo pin cc

 Additional Resources 

More Problems With Saddleback

An Open Letter To John Piper 

Dr. Piper and Unanswered Questions

Pastor Bob DeWaay Visits Rick Warren, Asks Him To Preach Christ

Redefining Christianity: Understanding The Purpose Driven Movement

Redefining Christianity - 15-part Radio Program

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rob Bell & Shane Hipps: Blood on Their Hands

by Christine Pack and Cathy Mathews

In a recent show, Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For the Faith deconstructed a sermon by well-known author and mega pastor Rob Bell that he delivered along with his co-pastor, Shane Hipps.  Besides the silliness of a sermon being delivered by what sounded like a comedy duo at times, there was a more serious problem with the sermon itself: panentheistic Universalism.  The sermon, based on Ephesians 1:15-23, entitled "Uncaging the Lion," took a decidedly panentheistic turn when Rob Bell, using the Scripture as a proof text, began to discuss how Jesus is so omnipresent that He "fills" all the world, including cultures that evangelicals traditionally recognize as pagan, lost, and in need of the gospel and the message of salvation.  This thought, that God "fills" all the world and is "in" all things is not Christian, but is in fact an eastern view: "God" as an essence, an energy, a force, that fills all things and is "in" all things.  This view - panentheism - typically leads to a view of universalism: that since God is already "in" things, then all things will be reconciled back to Him at some point:
"(W)hat you will sometimes hear in religious circles is that we're supposed to take Jesus to a land or a people that don't have him, and then like, sort of deliver him.  Like, here, where do you want me to put Him?  Is witnessing or sharing your faith, is it transporting Jesus to some place: here is our Jesus! Or, is He already in some profound way already present in that place with that person, giving life? Is He not holding things together already, and your job is simply to name that which is already real, true and present?......Is it, Jesus over here, and then all the people who need him over here, or is He in some way already present and your job is naming the reality that they are already in, they just haven't recognized it yet?......How many of you.......coupled with your first encounter with Jesus was this realization that He had, in some way, been with you the whole time?" 
This panentheistic Universalist teaching is identical to the teaching of New Age/Integral Spirituality thought.  New Age/Integral Spirituality teachers like Deepak Chopra, Ken Wilber, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, Oprah Winfrey, etc. teach that ALL is God.  The idea that "all is God" and God is "in" all things is panentheism, and is the core of eastern religious thought, which is what undergirds New Age/Integral Spirituality teaching.  This is not Christian thought.

New Age/Integral Spirituality teaches that since all is God, we simply have to "awaken" to the presence of God already in and around us.  We've got to find the little "God spark" inside of us, and fan the flame, get better and better, and one day reach enlightenment.  This is utter heresy and is in direct contradiction to what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in Chapter 2.  (And incidentally, as Chris Rosebrough pointed out in his sermon review, this is where Rob Bell stopped his sermon text because going forward in Ephesians would have made a mockery of the panentheistic Universalism that he was going after with his proof-texts from Ephesians, Chapter 1):
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (Eph 2:1-3)
So, rather than having this little God spark inside of us that we just have to awaken to, the Biblical position is that until we repent and place our faith in the atoning work done on our behalf by Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and under the wrath of God.  God's wrath is a holy, burning anger that righteously condemns everyone who will not bend the knee and bring their thoughts and beliefs in alignment with God's truth as presented in the Bible.

But Rob Bell's teaching, sadly, as heretical as it is, does not set off alarm bells because a version of this teaching has already been prevalent for almost 40 years, in, of all places, the mission field. In the first Lausanne Congress in 1974, Ralph Winter, who was a huge, well-respected figure in the missions movement, first introduced the idea of allowing people groups to maintain their cultural identity, even to the point of keeping their pagan worship practices. Over the years, Winter worked hard at "re-educating" American Christians involved in missions into thinking that the gospel must be contextualized and that lost people groups could follow God in their own way. Ralph Winter believed and taught that lost people groups could blend their pagan ideas and beliefs about "God" and "theology" with Christian views and could come up with their own culturally unique ways of "following God."  As in, a Buddhist following God in the way of Buddha, a Muslem following God in the way of Allah, a Christian following God in the way of Jesus, etc.
"In Afghanistan it may be common to demand that a spiritually seeking person distinctly recognize the divinity of Christ, thinking that that is the key point. Curiously, the millions of Ismaili Muslims (many in Afghanistan) already believe Jesus was the Son of God. But, since they still call themselves Muslims, we may demand that they learn and acknowledge still more of our “Christian” doctrinal tradition—and begin to call themselves Christian? Do we preach Christ or Christianity? If the latter, it may be the greatest mistake in missions today."
The problem is that, contrary to what Ralph Winter taught, recognizing and understanding the divinity of Christ is a very key point, without which no-one can be saved.  It is also somewhat disingenuous to say that Muslims believe that Jesus was the Son of God in the same way that orthodox Christians understand this.  This is not true.  Muslims believe Jesus was the "son of God" only in the same way that they believe that all who follow God are sons and daughters of God.  So, an Ismaili Muslim simply cannot "follow God in the way of Allah" because what Islam teaches is wrong.  Besides wrong doctrine on Jesus, Islam is also a works-based religion that teaches that with enough elbow grease and determination, a person can get to God (Allah). Same goes for Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, etc.  All of these are religions that offer a false sense of "righteousness" based on one's own efforts (works), and therefore reject the truth revealed in Scripture that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  There is nothing we can do, and God set it up this way to keep us from becoming self righteous and proud.  Good thing too, as that is our natural bent.

Please also bear in mind that "doctrine" is not a word that belongs only to Christians.  "Doctrine" simply means a set of beliefs, and obviously, when speaking of Christian doctrine, this would mean Christian beliefs or teachings pertaining to the true character and nature of God, and the way of salvation.  Bearing this in mind, please also understand that ALL lost and pagan cultures have beliefs about the character and nature of God, and what the way of salvation is....but they are wrong beliefs.  Damning beliefs.  Not according to Ralph Winter, who taught that lost people groups could maintain their (false) doctrines. This teaching has profoundly impacted not only the missions culture, but also trickled down eventually into the church in America and became widely accepted and taught in such movements as the Emergent Church and the Purpose Driven Church.

Ralph Winter and the Lausanne Movement were also responsible for the view in missions that "clues" about God and Jesus are "embedded" inside each lost culture....and the thinking goes that missions teams simply have to "unearth" these buried clues in the cultures they are evangelizing, and use these markers to point the lost people to Christ.  This view literally exploded into the mission field through a book published in 1984 and entitled Eternity in Their Hearts.

The Christian view, on the other hand, is rather simple: we believe that all we need to understand about a culture is that it is filled with men and women who are dead in their trespasses, alienated from a holy God, and that these people need the life-giving truth of the gospel message.

But with the "embedded clues" view in mind (which is nowhere taught in Scripture), what Ralph Winter, the Lausanne Movement, and now Rob Bell today are doing is attempting to take what is known as "General Revelation" and imbue it with enough salvific power to be "Special Revelation."  This is the opposite of what the Bible teaches.  Scripture plainly teaches that yes, while God does give enough of a revelation of himself in nature for man to plainly know that there is a God to whom he is beholden, this is NOT enough revelation for man to be saved.

This is why Christians since apostolic times have taken seriously their commission to "go into all the world, and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation," so that "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."  The gospel is a specific message, comprised of words, which must be spoken.

To be in a position of leadership and give any other message than Jesus Christ and him crucified is to teach "another Jesus" and to damn those seeking answers.  Rob Bell and Shane Hipps, with their cutesy little routine in the pulpit, are serving up another Jesus, a Jesus who supposedly masquerades in all cultures in embedded cultural markers that simply have to be uncovered and interpreted to the people in that culture. What utter heresy.  Rob Bell and Shane Hipps are damning the people in their care with their false gospel.  They have blood on their hands, and for their own sake, they should repent and believe on Jesus, the one true Jesus, who said "Narrow is the way and few be those who find it."  He can and will forgive even them.

Chris Rosebrough's show deconstructing "Uncaging the Lion" can be listened to in its entirety here.

photo credit: Christian Selvaratnam via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Rob Bell and Shane Hipps Teaching Mysticism

Shane Hipps: All Religions Valid