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:
Twin City Fellowship
Stand Up For The Truth 
Biblical Christianity 
Christian Answers For The New Age (CANA) 
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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ken Silva On The Emerging Church Movement and Elephant Room 2

Posted by Christine Pack
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:15-18)
What's the deal with the Emerging Church? Who are the main players? Are they a problem or just a cultural way to reach people? Pastor Ken Silva, who runs the online discernment website, names names and connects dots in a recent interview at Rapture Ready Radio.  This is a fast-moving - and GREAT - interview, and every parent with high school or college age children needs to listen to this interview and be forewarned about this enormous movement that is targeting the youth of our churches. Please don't let your child become ensnared by this seductive movement.

In this interview Pastor Silva also discusses the recent Elephant Room 2, which - through its line-up of speakers - revealed a possible merging together of New Calvinism, the Seeker Sensitive Church, and the Word of Faith movement.

The entire interview can be listened to below.

Check Out Religion Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Rapture Ready Radio on BlogTalkRadio

 Additional Resources 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Commentary On Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts"

A Commentary on Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts 
by Christian researcher and apologist, Marcia Montenegro
Reprinted in full with permission, April 2012

“It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host.”  Isaiah 45:12 (All scripture quotations are from the New American Standard unless otherwise indicated)
[Notes: (1) This is not a book review. There are many reviews of One Thousand Gifts easily found on the Internet and another one is not needed. This is only a commentary on two issues of concern I have with the book. I am not saying that Voskamp deliberately holds the ideas I critique, but she presents them, inadvertently or not, and I am free to exercise my right to assess them as presented. Also, I would like to add that as someone who writes both poetry and prose, I happily grant Voskamp poetic license with her poetic language, so I only address that which she seems to present as literal truth. (2) For those who have challenged my critique of One Thousand Gifts by stating that the Bible also has its own form of "erotica" in the Song of Solomon, my response is this: I do not see the same eroticism in the Song of Solomon that I see in Voskamp's writing. For one thing, the Song presents two lovers, whereas Ann Voskamp is presenting herself as God's lover (or vice-versa). Also, I say this: Why is it I would not be embarrassed to read the Song aloud but I would be if I read those erotic passages in Voskamp's book aloud? And now on with my commentary.......]

Ann Voskamp,
author, One Thousand Gifts
There are many good things about One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The story of how she learned to be grateful to the Lord in all things (Phil. 4:6; Col. 3:17; 1 Thess. 5:18) and how this forged a closer walk with the Lord for her is inspirational, and she has a heartfelt way of expressing her experiences and insights. I am sure this message encouraged many readers to more earnestly seek how to cultivate daily gratitude to the Lord in their lives, which is a good practice.

Were it not for two problematic issues, there would be no need to write about this book. However, these two areas cause enough concern that I decided to address them.  I am not including any literary criticism or disagreements with more minor issues due to time limitations.


Biblical Theism understands God to be both transcendent – beyond the created world – and present in the world, or immanent. God is omnipresent (present everywhere) because He cannot be contained in any one locality: “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?” (Is. 66:1; see also 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron. 2:6; Ps. 139:7-10; Jer. 23: 23-24; Acts 17:24).

Those who reject this view in favor of pantheism (all is God) or panentheism (all is in God) misunderstand immanence to indicate God’s distinction from creation means he is not interactive with creation except in supernatural interventions, such as miracles. God is mistakenly viewed as mostly absent and remote. However, we know from God’s word that he is present; God cannot be restricted to a locality or impeded from anyplace (Prov. 15:3; Ps. 139:7-10; Is. 57:15; Jer. 23:24).


The meaning of the terms “immanence,” “pantheism,” and “panentheism” and their implications are not always agreed upon by theologians or scholars. One quickly finds that definitions and understanding of these terms vary. It is particularly difficult to find information on panentheism from a Christian point of view, except for the type found in Process Theology (a Neo-Orthodox view positing a God who is both beyond the universe and contained within and connected to it). A few sources are listed below the article.

Furthermore, there are those who adopt pantheist or panentheist ideas without realizing it, and those who may mix them together. They may express such views in contradiction to other beliefs they claim to hold. There is no “pantheist policeman” or “panentheist policeman” to correct people or dictate a distinction between these terms. Therefore, overlap and mixture are not uncommon.


The first area to address with the book is panentheism. Panentheism is not well understood nor easily recognized, since it less obvious than pantheism. Pantheism, which Voskamp disavows several times in the book, is the belief that all is God, and therefore, there is no distinction between God’s nature and creation. In pantheism, the rocks, rivers, trees, clouds, sun, moon, humanity, etc. are all part of God and imbued with the nature of God. This view is found in some areas of the New Age, modern Witchcraft (though God might be the goddess), some forms of Neopaganism, Christian Science, and in some aspects of certain world religions. The idea that the earth is sacred is usually tied to pantheism. Still, even with these distinctions, pantheism and panentheism can blur together, so it is not always easy to discern which one is present.

Panentheism is often defined as the belief that all is contained in God. There are many forms of panentheism but that is beyond the scope of this article. Theopedia defines it this way (“ontologically” refers to the nature or very being of God):
“Panentheism, literally ‘all-in-God-ism’, "affirms that although God and the world are ontologically distinct [i.e., not the same] and God transcends the world, the world is 'in' God ontologically." This is not to be confused with pantheism, which understands God to be the world. For most panentheists, God is intimately connected to the world and yet remains greater than the world. In this view, events and changes in the universe affect and change God, and he is therefore a temporal being. As the universe grows, God learns as he increases in knowledge and being. Panentheism has been associated with process theology and aspects of open theism, including theologians such as Paul Tillich, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jurgen Moltmann, Robert Jenson, and possibly Karl Rahner.” (Online source)
Wikipedia (I find Wiki to be good on this and other topics) states that in panentheism, “the divine interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it.” Also:
“God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe. Some versions suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifest part of God. In some forms of panentheism, the cosmos exists within God, who in turn ‘pervades’ or is ‘in’ the cosmos.”
In discussing panentheistic aspects of theologian Karl Rahner’s philosophy, authors Stanley Genz and Roger Olsen state that Rahner’s view implies that “the source of the difference between God and the world lies in God himself, and therefore the difference is not absolute” (20th Century Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 249). Any stance which renders God’s interaction with the world a part of his nature or an interaction of necessity falls into the panentheistic category.

In addition to what is listed above by Theopedia, panentheism is also found in the New Age, forms of Christian-New Age syncretism (such as the beliefs expressed by Episcopal priest Matthew Fox),forms of New Thought, mysticism, Theosophy, Neoplatonism, in William P. Young’s The Shack, and in the ideas of some of the Emergent Christian spokespersons (for example, Rob Bell’s Love Wins; it is not surprising that some Emergents would lean panentheistic since many of them have admitted an influence from and admiration for Matthew Fox and for New Ager-Buddhist Ken Wilber).

What of texts such as Colossians 1:17: “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (ESV)? Does this mean that the world is in or part of Christ? No, it means that Christ sustains the order of the universe. Gill comments on this passage regarding Christ:
“[H]e upholds all things by the word of his power; the heavens have their stability and continuance from him; the pillars of the earth are bore up by him, otherwise that and the inhabitants of it would be dissolved; the angels in heaven are confirmed in their estate by him, and have their standing and security in him; the elector God are in his hands, and are his peculiar care and charge, and therefore shall never perish; yea, all mankind live and move, and have their being in him; the whole frame of nature would burst asunder and break in pieces, was it not held together by him; every created being has its support from him, and its consistence in him; and all the affairs of Providence relating to all creatures are governed, directed, and managed by him, in conjunction with the Father and the blessed Spirit.”
Similarly, Ephesians 4:10 is often misused for panentheism: “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (ESV). In this case, “fill” also means “fulfill” and “to complete.” Gill comments:
“…that he might fill all things, or "fulfil all things"; that were types of him, or predicted concerning him; that as he had fulfilled many things already by his incarnation doctrine, miracles, obedience, sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead”
“that he might fill all persons, all his elect, both Jews and Gentiles . . . . particularly that he might fill each and everyone of his people with his grace and righteousness, with his Spirit, and the fruits of it, with spiritual knowledge and understanding. . .”
At its basic level, panentheism is expressed by seeing God in nature or aspects of creation. This differs from seeing nature as the work of a Creator God as Romans tells:  “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). 

The created universe points to a Maker who brought it into existence, a Maker more immeasurable than the vastness of space and more formidable than anything we see in nature. Man can come to the knowledge that there is a Creator through the evidence of the creation. God the Creator interacts with his creation as a distinct Being but exists apart from his creation and existed prior to it. God does not interact with creation out of necessity; and no part of God’s nature interpenetrates, mixes with, manifests as, or pervades the creation.


Although creation points to a Creator, it is not a container for the Creator nor do we literally see God in creation. Voskamp writes about seeing God in space and time as she is doing dishes. She talks about light in the soap bubbles and then says, “This is where God is” (69). She describes a bubble trembling, then states the space is holy, “The God in it” (ibid). God is “framed in the moment,” and “time is the essence of God, I AM” (70).

She continues in this vein about the present and how God enters time “hallowing it.” One can certainly sense God’s presence anywhere, and it is a special moment, but God is not in time nor is he a part of time, and time is not part of God – these views are classic panentheism.

In a long passage (beginning on p.104), Voskamp writes about going outside one night to see the harvest moon, which becomes a transformative experience for her. The entire vista impacts her to say, “Sky, land and sea, heavy and saturated with God” (106), and God’s glory “punctures earth’s lid and heaven falls through the hole” (107). I realize this could be mere poetry, but further statements indicate she takes it in a more literal fashion.

She talks about yearning “to see God” (108, though she does not define this) and that she’s been “hungry for Beauty” (109). She seems to equate the beauty of nature with God’s nature or with God himself (109 ff.). She states, “True Beauty worship, worship of Creator Beauty Himself,” and explains that this is not pantheism. However, this statement by itself is consistent with panentheism (it could also be pantheism though it is clear Voskamp is not a pantheist).

She explains, “Pantheism, seeing the natural world as divine, is a very different thing than seeing divine God present in all things” (110). The problem is that the latter is panentheism. She then asks rhetorically if theology is the study of books about God, then is not the study of nature also “the deep study of the Spirit of God?” (110). Well, no, it isn’t. It is the contemplation of the handiwork of God. In Roman 11, we read, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”  (vv 33-34)

Voskamp has apparently concluded that because she does not view nature as God, it is okay to see God literally in creation. This is very different from seeing that nature points to God, or allowing the beauty of nature to initiate thoughts of God, or understanding that beauty on earth reflects the majesty of God. I never gaze at a beautiful sunset, or a scattering of stars, or a tranquil lake and think, “I am looking at God.” That would never enter my head because I know I am not looking at God or seeing God when I look at these things. Frankly, it would seem idolatrous for me to say or even think this. It is alien to me as a Christian. God the Father is invisible, for one thing (John 4:24; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27); his glory is too much for us to bear (Ex. 33:20); and Jesus stated that seeing him was seeing God the Father (John 14:9; also, John 12:45; Col 1:15).

Voskamp also sees God in “all faces.” She asks, “Isn’t He the face of all faces?” (111) and continues on that the “face” of the moon, the does, even “the derelict” are “His countenance that seeps up through the world” (111-112). She questions, “Do I have eyes to see His face in all things?” (112). Here again, this is equating nature and the faces of people with the face of God. Faith, she asserts, is “a seeking for God in everything” (114).

God’s word, however, tells us that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 1:1, emphasis added; see also 2 Cor. 4:18, 5:7). Yet Voskamp writes that Jesus said people “need to see and then believe – that looking and believing are the same thing” (114). She gives no scriptural reference for this, but I wonder if she is referring to Jesus demonstrating his fulfillment of Messianic prophecies through miracles of healing, casting out demons, and power over nature. In that case, when Jesus was on earth, those who witnessed these miracles and denied Jesus as Messiah were reprimanded or condemned. At that time, they were to look and believe. This is the not the case today because Jesus in not presently on earth as he was then. We cannot look at Jesus.

Voskamp tries to connect this idea of viewing and belief with seeing God in nature and somehow eliciting faith. Going back to Romans 1, it is true that nature provides evidence for a Creator God, so man is without excuse if he denies God, but that is not the point Voskamp seems to be making. Salvific faith comes only by special revelation through the Holy Spirit and God’s word, not through general revelation (the creation).

There are too many passages suggesting or expressing panentheism to mention, but some of them are equating the moon with God’s eye (“All Eye,” 115), and the moon with God’s face (132); God manifesting in the world (116); equating God with us (“God stretching us open to receive more of Himself,” 117); the activities of nature being God’s “experience” (ibid); touching God through nature (118); “God seeping up through all things” (ibid); longing to “pound on the chest of God” (119); wanting to “Enter into God” (ibid, italics in original); and God in all faces (134, 137, and “all faces become the face of God” on 138).


The second troubling area is an eroticization of God’s love for us and our love for God. This seems to be, in fact, an extension or result of panentheism. If God is present in creation itself, if we can see or feel God in nature, he is reduced, philosophically speaking (not that God can be actually reduced), to the vulnerability of material and/or carnal concepts and interpretations. The last chapter in the book displays this in blatant erotic language (with some foreshadowing earlier, such as on 119).

The final chapter opens with the statement, “I fly to Paris and discover how to make love to God” (201). Even if we know Voskamp does not mean this literally, the term “make love” has almost exclusively a sexual implication throughout our culture. If this were the only lapse, one could perhaps forgive Voskamp for her attempt to express her love for God in a new way. However, this is just the beginning of a full immersion into theological erotica (if I may coin a phrase).

She ties this love to being God’s bride and God as Lover (119, 146, 204, 213, 218). But individually, we are not brides of God or Christ. The church is the bride of Christ and “bride” is spoken of in the singular, not the plural (Rev. 19:7, 21:9, 22:17; see also Eph. 5:23).

She pursues this topic by talking about union, but mostly using carnal, erotic language (she equates communion with consummation and union). She refers to the scriptural symbol of the union of man and wife as Christ and the church becoming one but then takes it into romantic and carnal territory.

She writes that Christ and the church will become “one flesh – the mystery of that romance” (213), but this idea is not in scripture. “One flesh” is used for the union of husband and wife (Matt. 19:5, 6; Eph. 5:31). We see from 1 Cor. 6:16, in reference to a man joining with a prostitute, that it has definite sexual meaning. While “one flesh” in marriage may imply more than a physical union, it certainly includes a physical, sexual union. Also, the way “romance” is being used denotes a sexual element. Not all love is romance and I certainly do not want to think of God in those terms.

She continues with phrases like “the long embrace,” “the entering in,” “God as Husband in sacred wedlock, bound together, body and soul, fed by His body,” and “mystical love union” (213).  I do not want these images in my head. This is not how scripture leads me to think of the Lord or of what it means to be “one in Christ,” which biblically is without carnal or erotic implications.

The reader may hope for a respite from this imagery, but none is given. In fact, it is only building up. A few pages later, describing her experience seeing the painting “Pentecost” by Jean Restout, she is moved to write, in reference to herself and God, “It’s our making love” (216). “God makes love with grace upon grace” (ibid) and she asks, “couldn’t I make love to God . . . to know Him the way Adam knew Eve” (217). At this point, I was ready to scream a mighty “No!” and hurl the book across the room. The way Adam knew Eve was sexually, and that is what is meant by the word for “knew” in that passage. One cannot simply equate the spiritual oneness and connection with God through Christ with a sexual union. They are not the same.

Yet, the erotic language continues to flow, even after that-- what I consider to be a blasphemous statement. She states that Jesus is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (217), using language from Genesis 2:23 where Adam describes his partner, Eve. “I want to be in God and God to be in me, to exchange love and blessings and caresses” (217), she writes, moving on to words like “interchange,” “intercourse (twice),” “disrobed,” and declaring how this intercourse is “the climax of joy” (217-218). Voskamp longs to “burn,” “flush of embarrassment up the face” and tells the reader that we are to “cohabit” with God (218).

Even after the above, further terms with lovemaking overtones follow, “love-drunk,” many “union” words,” “ardent,” and “one holy kiss” (220, 221). However purely Voskamp experienced, thought, or intended these experiences and expressions is irrelevant when such overt sexual language and imagery is used, especially in connection with God and Jesus Christ. Though Christians are to know God’s love and love God, it is not romantic or erotic love.

Moreover, eroticizing God’s love belittles it. God’s love in sending his son to atone for sins (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6, 8), and Jesus’ willingness to lay down his life and take the penalty for sins (John 10:17; Gal. 2:20) is almost too incomprehensible a love for us to grasp. First Corinthians chapter 13, verses four to seven, describe the kind of love that is from God and that we can know through Christ, and it is not as Voskamp expresses it.


If panentheism were not making a re-invigorated entrance into the culture and church, an analysis of this book might not be necessary. However, the panentheism in the book, which probably was not discerned by Voskamp, offers an opportunity to make Christians aware of what panentheism is and that it is active and alive.

One may argue that Voskamp is using metaphor. Although metaphor has its place, when it conveys a wrong view of God and nature, it should be avoided. A Christian should be careful with language about God, especially if it is being published. The sheer repetition of panentheistic imagery in this book is too much to ignore.

Panentheism actually undermines God’s glory and majesty because it depicts creation as an extension or necessary corollary of God, or imbues creation with some of God’s attributes. Whenever panentheism appears in a popular work, deliberately or not, especially one written by a Christian, it becomes necessary to respond. It can only be beneficial for Christians to be able to recognize it and to respond biblically.

Many have defended Voskamp's erotic language about God by pointing to the Song of Solomon. However, there are three important differences. First, the Song of Solomon, as is true for all Scripture, was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the Song depicts two human lovers, whereas Ann Voskamp places herself as a lover with God (or vice-versa). And thirdly, I would not be embarrassed to read any passage in the Song aloud to others, but I cannot say the same for Voskamp's book. This final reason is the acid test.

No matter what some men may have written (Voskamp has offered this to support her sexual language), evaluation of any book about God should be consistent with biblical principles, not based on man's standards, which are ever changing -- no matter who those men may be.


     On God’s Immanence

     On Pantheism

     On Panentheism

     On Panentheism (more comprehensive than Theopedia)

     On Neoplatonism

Marcia Montenegro’s articles that address (in part) panentheism

Marcia Montenegro’s critique of Rob Bell’s Love Wins (see section on Panentheism)

Marcia Montenegro’s article on New Age worldviews, “God in the Mirror: Evil, Sin, and Salvation”

On Seeing God
     “The Invisibility of God,” by Bob Deffinbaugh

     “Has Anyone Seen God?”

Recommended Reference Book for the serious student:
Stanley J. Grenz & Roger E. Olsen, 20th Century Theology 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Indoctrination......It's Not Just For Communists. Emergents Like It, Too, for Their "New Kind of Christianity."

Posted by Christine Pack
"Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." -Vladimir Lenin
Children, Youth and a New Kind of Christianity, an upcoming conference to be held May 7-12, 2012 in Washington, DC, will feature prominent leaders of the Emergent Church Movement, including Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, Samir Selmanovic, Ivy Beckwith, and others.This is a conference that Christian parents need to be aware of as it features leaders who have been identified as being part of Evangelical Christianity, but in fact, they are far, far from orthodoxy. Some of their beliefs, in their own words:

 Brian McLaren: 
"At the end God get's his way through coercion and violence and intimidation and, uh, domination just like every other kingdom does. The Cross isn't the center then, the Cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God." 
"God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else." (with Leif Hansen, Bleeding Purple interview)
 Shane Claiborne: 
Shane 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? 
Tony Campolo: 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. 
Shane 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. 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?  
(On Evangelicals and Interfaith Cooperation, Q&A between Shane Claiborne and his mentor, Tony Campolo)
 Tony Campolo: 
"Beyond these models of reconciliation, a theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam. Both religions have within their histories examples of Ecstatic Union With God ... I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have come to be known as the Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism?" (Speaking My Mind, pp 149-150)
 Samir Selmanovic: 
"Can it be that the teachings of the gospel are embedded and can be found in reality itself rather than being exclusively isolated in sacred texts and our interpretations of those texts? If the answer is yes, can it be that they are embedded in other stories, other peoples’ histories, and even other religions?…God’s table is welcoming all who seek, and if any religion is to win, may it be the one that produces people who are the most loving, the most humble, the most Christlike. Whatever the meaning of “salvation” and “judgement,” we Christians are going to be saved by grace, like everyone else, and judged by our works, like everyone else…For most critics of such open Christianity, the problem with inclusiveness is that it allows for truth to be found in other religions. To emerging Christians, that problem is sweet… Moreover, if non-Christians can know our God, then we want to benefit from their contribution to our faith." (An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, pp 195-196)
Emergent Church Leader Brian McLaren, in the video below, discusses his desire to begin crafting curriculum aimed at Christian youth in order to teach them emergent beliefs. McLaren's no dummy. As a Progressive Christian, Brian McLaren must certainly adhere to the tenets espoused by Progressive heroes that if you can capture a nation's children, you've captured a generation.
"Hi, I'm Brian McLaren, and I want to invite you to be part of a conference that's going to take place in May 2012. The conference is called Children, Youth and A New Kind of Christianity......In my travels over the last several years, I've had so many people come up to me and say, 'Brian, you and other people are writing a lot about the emerging church, about the emerging conversation, uh, we're exploring new approaches to worship, art, liturgy, preaching, we're grappling with issues of theology and we're having intelligent and needed dialogue and discussion, but - I've heard this again and again, all over the world, people - but, it's not yet being translated very effectively into curricula for children and youth. On other words, we're going through a revolution in the way we do church, and in the way we understand and practice Christian faith, a revolution that's changing the lives of so many adults, and especially young adults, but then we go down and we're still using old, off-the-shelf curricula for children, and we're creating problems for youth and young adults. They're going to keep replicating some of the struggles of the last couple of generations. So, I was so thrilled when Dave Csinos approached me and a number of other people and said, 'Let's get people together for several days of intense, thoughtful dialogue.' We're going to have some wonderful participants in this conference. We're going to have people like Tony Campolo, Jim and Joy Wallis, Shane Caliborne, a whole lot of other people whose names you'll recognize, people like Ivy Beckwith who're well known and respected in the area of children and youth ministry. We're going to have such an amazing group of people together, but we need you there, too, because this dialogue has to take root across denominations, in hundreds and thousands of local churches." (my emphasis)

This is especially sobering to me having just finished a study on the book of Jonah. What a complex hero  of the faith Jonah was! God told him to go to Nineveh, and he turned tail and ran in the opposite direction. But can those of us who belong to God ever truly run away from Him? Don't our hearts always eventually turn back to our Lord and Master? Such was the case with Jonah. When God brought him under severe discipline for his disobedience, Jonah turned back to the Lord, praying one of the most heartfelt prayers recorded in the Bible (Jonah 2). And then Jonah does go and preach to Nineveh, and one of the most profound conversion stories of all times occurs: the entire city believes and is converted. Hallelujah! God is merciful! But there is a sobering part to this historical account too: the 3rd chapter of the book of Nahum records that just 100 years after this miraculous conversion, God destroyed Nineveh because they had returned to their former idolatrous and wicked ways. That doesn't mean those conversions in Nineveh weren't real - they were. But it does mean that the people forgot to do one very important thing: leave a spiritual inheritance for their children that would stay with them for generations to come. We must be exhorted and encouraged by this story to pray for, teach and protect our children from errant teaching (such as what is taught by leaders of the emergent church movement).

Parents, given what we know - from their own words - about the leaders of the Emergent Church Movement, do any of us who hold to orthodoxy think it would be wise to send our children to the event  Children, Youth and a New Kind of Christianity to receive spiritual instruction? Or should we instead take seriously our charge as their spiritual authorities to disciple them ourselves in truth, not abdicating our God-given responsibilities and handing them over to other spiritual leaders for their spiritual training (other spiritual leaders, incidentally, who might have very different views of God, man, sin, and how it is that sinful man is reconciled to a high and holy God)?
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)

 Additional Resources 

Emergent Church Leader Samir Selmanovic Worships with Witches

Not Conservative, Not Liberal: Progressive

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Emergent Church Leader Samir Selmanovic Worships with Witches

Posted by Christine Pack

For those who think the Emergent Church Movement is just another flavor of Christianity, Exhibit A for your consideration:

Samir Selmanovic, a rising star in the Emergent Church Movement, thinks it is just fine for someone who is a professing Christian to attend a worship service "with a wonderful Wiccan community."  In An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, some of Selmanovic's writings gave us a hint of his beliefs:
Can it be that the teachings of the gospel are embedded and can be found in reality itself rather than being exclusively isolated in sacred texts and our interpretations of those texts? If the answer is yes, can it be that they are embedded in other stories, other peoples’ histories, and even other religions?…
God’s table is welcoming all who seek, and if any religion is to win, may it be the one that produces people who are the most loving, the most humble, the most Christlike. Whatever the meaning of “salvation” and “judgement,” we Christians are going to be saved by grace, like everyone else, and judged by our works, like everyone else…
For most critics of such open Christianity, the problem with inclusiveness is that it allows for truth to be found in other religions. To emerging Christians, that problem is sweet… Moreover, if non-Christians can know our God, then we want to benefit from their contribution to our faith.
This kind of teaching has become increasingly more mainstreamed and accepted - through a false - but very popular - teaching called "The Wider Mercy Doctrine," a form of Universalism that has - amazingly - somehow taken root in some of today's churches.

 The Wider Mercy Doctrine 

The "Wider Mercy Doctrine" is a belief that salvation can be obtained even when a person has not heard the gospel and does not know Jesus Christ. It is a belief that, somehow, God grants salvific status to persons who are sincere in their religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are false. Therefore, according to this false teaching, a sincere Buddhist or Shintoist or Toaist or any other religious adherent can obtain salvation, simply because they are sincere in their belief and desire to approach God.

Billy Graham espoused it in years past, and Rob Bell, William P. Young, and Leonard Sweet (among others) espouse it today. Now, most professing Christians who hold to the Wider Mercy Doctrine have made at least some effort to have Jesus figure somewhere in their redemption story through a heresy which originated in the 3rd century A.D. with a false teacher named Origen. This teaching is known today by various names, including Christian Universalism and Universal Reconciliation.  But Samir Selmanovic is showing that for some, this is no longer necessary.  If you think about it, it makes sense. Where Samir Selmanovic has ended up is the natural "end" of this Wider Mercy doctrine.....which states, "Hey, who are we to "put God in a box," and say that He can't save people in any way He wants to?"

The Wider Mercy heresy sounds so good and loving and tolerant, but think of it like a bullseye with concentric circles: Jesus and the narrow way in the center, then Catholicism in the next ring, then next would be the Christian cults (Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, etc.), then next would be Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, paganism, and continuing outward, with the very outermost ring being straight up Satan worship. (Obviously, the false religions in the closer in circles would more closely mimic Christianity, in that they would possess similar terminology, have similar worship practices, they might even sing hymns and quote Scripture.  But as you move outward, more and more of that would drop away.)

Samir Selmanovic has just followed this heresy to its natural conclusion...he may be a few rings short of straight up Satanism....but he's not that far off. Wicca is very dark.

I have been watching in amazed astonishment for several years as the Emergent Church Movement has grown increasingly more apostate and brazen in its heresies.  The developments have been fast-moving and continually surprising.  But I have to say, this one surprised even me.  Worshiping with witches? I believe that we may have just witnessed the the merging of the Emergent Church with New Age Spirituality.  Can our Lord's return be far off?

 Additional Resources 

Billy Graham: "There's so much that we have in common (with the Roman Catholic church)"

John MacArthur Discussing Billy Graham's "Wider Mercy" View

Doctrinal Errors With the "Wider Mercy" Doctrine

What Is A "Christian Universalist?"

Monday, April 9, 2012

God Hears Our Cries

Posted by Christine Pack

Charles Spurgeon
"The God of most men — the God of the unregenerate — is an inanimate God, or, if alive and able to see, he is an unfeeling God, careless about them and their personal interests. 'Oh, it is preposterous,' say they, 'to think that he takes notice of our sorrows and troubles — and still more absurd to suppose that he hears prayer, or that he ever interferes in answer to the voice of supplication, to grant a poor man his requests. It cannot be.' That is their God, you see. That is the God of the heathen — a dead, blind, dumb God. I do not wonder that they do not pray to him. They could not expect an answer.

But the God of grace is one who has opened a communication between heaven and earth, who notices the cries of his children, puts their tears into his bottle, sympathises with their sorrows, looks down on them with an eye of pity and a father’s love, has communion with them, and permits them to have communion with him, and all that through the blessed person of the Lord Jesus Christ."

- Excerpted from a sermon, Charles Haddon Spurgeon ("The God Of Bethel")