Wednesday, August 28, 2013

John MacArthur Affirming Dallas Willard & Spiritual Disciplines? All Right, Let's Just Take a Breath....

Article by Christine Pack

A recent article by Lighthouse Trails blog (John MacArthur Broadcast Favorably Quotes Dallas Willard – Why This is a Bad Move) noted that a sermon by John MacArthur of Grace To You had rather favorably quoted Dallas Willard. For those who don't know who that is, before his recent death Willard became one of the founders of the Spiritual Formation/Spiritual Disciplines/Contemplative Prayer movement which is widely taught today in churches and seminaries, but which includes teachings from Roman Catholic monastic mystics. As noted, this movement has profoundly influenced evangelicalism and is widely taught in seminaries, but it is not based on sound, biblical teaching but rather veers dangerously into outright mysticism. The Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Prayer movement has also paved the way for rampant ecumenicalism amongst our ranks, and even a growing push to accept Roman Catholics as Christian brothers and sisters, rather than lost souls to be evangelized. (Presumably this reasoning goes something like this: If all those Roman Catholic mystics cited and taught from in the Spiritual Formation movement are okay, then today's Catholics must be our brothers and sisters.)

So let's go over the facts, and see if we can make sense of Dr. MacArthur quoting from Dallas Willard. It is correct that in the sermon noted by Lighthouse Trails (The Christian's Duty in a Hostile World, Part 2 from the sermon series Faith Through The Fire), Dr. MacArthur does give a positive affirmation of Dallas Willard with the following quote:
Christians seem very very hard pressed to learn that you can't have a life out of control and then when the crisis moment comes grab control of it and instantaneously live and react like Christ would. You can't do it if in the rest of your life you're not living as Christ would want you to live. But it is just that kind of shallow Christianity that feeds the shallowness of our time. 
Dallas Willard writing in a book entitled The Spirit of the Disciplines says, and I quote, "The on‑the‑spot episodes are not the place where we can even by the grace of God redirect unchristlike but engrained tendencies of action toward sudden Christlikeness. Our efforts to take control at that moment will fail so uniformly and so ingloriously that the whole project of following Christ will appear ridiculous to the watching world," end quote. He further says, "Some decades ago there appeared a very successful Christian novel called In His Steps which we read recently. The plot tells of a chain of tragic events that bring the minister of a prosperous church to realize how unlike Christ's life his own life had become. The minister then leads his congregation in a vow not to do anything without first asking them the question `What would Jesus do in this case?' Now as the content of the book makes clear, the author took this vow to be the same thing as intending to follow Jesus, to walk precisely in His steps. It is, of course, a novel, but even in real life we would count on significant changes in the lives of earnest Christians who took such a vow just as it happens in that book." 
Then he writes this, "But there is a flaw in this thinking. Asking ourselves `What would Jesus do?' when suddenly in the face of an important situation simply is not an adequate discipline or preparation to enable one to live as Christ lived. It no doubt will do some good and is certainly better than nothing at all, but that act alone is not sufficient to see us boldly and confidently through a crisis and we could easily find ourselves driven to despair over the powerless tension it will put us through," end quote. 
The secret of being ready for the crisis, of having the yoke be easy and the burden be light is to learn how to live the Christian life all the time so that we have developed the habits, the resources, the responses, the timing, the strengths, the memory, the faith, the spiritual courage to handle it. That's the issue. To behave like Jesus Christ is our goal, but to be able to do that is not the result of wishing, it's the result of daily spiritual discipline. Jesus said in Luke 6:40, "Only after he is fully trained will a man be like his teacher."
All right, so this is the quote that has gotten social media all atwitter today, with the idea being bandied about that our beloved protector of truth (John MacArthur) who has been such a wonderful shepherd and guardian of his flock might suddenly go south on us. Could it be true? Well, what I would like to gently point out here is that this quote is from a sermon that is 24 years old, and that, for myself, my rule of thumb when I hear something that flags me as concerning is to take a pastor's teaching on the whole, and not isolate out certain bits and pieces. And here are some of the things I look for:
■ Is there a general move by the pastor in a more ecumenical direction? Or rather, does the pastor openly state the unbiblical nature of ecumenicalism? 
■ Are there repeated quotes from questionable sources? 
■ Is there an ongoing pattern by the pastor of attending big mega-conferences with false teachers?
So, going forward from 1989 to 2013, could John MacArthur be considered to be less solid or rather more solid? For myself and with this checklist in mind, looking at John MacArthur's body of teaching, and his openness to plainly name names when need be, I have to say that this one quote of Willard does not concern me. In fact, if you fast forward to September 2011 to see what John MacArthur's thoughts are on the Spiritual Formation/Spiritual Disciplines/Contemplative Prayer movement as a whole, and on Dallas Willard in particular, you can find answers to such questions in this interview he did with Phil Johnson, entitled Practical Concerns in the Local Church: An Interview with John MacArthur (Sept 4, 2011). From the interview:
PHIL: What are your thoughts about contemplative prayer and the whole spiritual development movement, you know the Dallas…? 
JOHN: That’s just a lot of bunk. 
PHIL: All right, so... 
JOHN: You know, it is. It’s just…look, it’s sort of a contemplating your navel, intuitive spirituality, digging deep into find your spiritual core and your spiritual center which is nonsense, but they throw Bible words at it, words like Jesus, God, Holy Spirit. 
PHIL: There’s also even a dangerous aspect of mysticism there… 
JOHN: Oh it is mysticism. The assumption is that spiritual truth is somewhere inside of you and that is not true. Spiritual truth is outside of you, it is external to you. It is in a book, outside of you. It is not in you. You can contemplate yourself all you want, you can go sit on a rock in the middle of nowhere and think and you will find in you no source of divine revelation whatsoever because divine revelation is external to you, it’s external to every human being, it’s in a book that God wrote. And when you put the book down and start looking into your own brain, all you’re going to do is be led down a black hole. 
So…but everybody’s into spiritual formation. I was looking at a church website the other day and it proclaims itself to be an evangelistic church and an orthodox church, happened to be a Presbyterian church. And the whole website was about spiritual formation. And one of the things that they were offering was dance class in order that you can learn to get in the rhythm of the Holy Spirit. I mean, that’s just…that’s what J.I. Packer called zany. I mean, that’s just crazy stuff. But that’s what happens when you start trying to poke around inside of yourself for spiritual truth when it’s all contained in one book and that book is external to you, and the spiritual truth resides in that book, if you never lived, or if you never had a thought…it’s the external truth that we must understand because there’s nothing inside until that truth gets in our minds. And then you can go into your mind and draw out biblical truth. But if you’re trying to look deeper than what’s in your brain, which is what this is about. I don’t get it, you know me, I’m about as mystical as a rock. But I don’t even know what they’re doing and I don’t know what they come up with but all of that mystic stuff, Dallas Willard and others like him, confuse people because they use the name of Jesus and they talk about God and they use Bible verses. 
PHIL: With that as a background, let me read you this question, it comes from someone signed, “Worried Mother.” “My 13-year-old son is at a Christian school which will be implementing the disciplines based on Richard Foster and Dallas Willard’s teaching. Is it dangerous for my son to be exposed to teaching, even if we deconstruct these lessons at home?” 
JOHN: Well I think if you’re good enough at deconstructing him at home, it can be a teaching opportunity for you. I don’t know what your other options are. I understand the value of Christian education. I also understand the confusion among Christian leaders who pick up this kind of stuff and just pass it on as if it were valid. But, you know, the responsibility to raise your child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord belongs to you, right? It’s yours. You can send them to public school, but there you’re probably going to have to deconstruct a whole lot of other stuff if you send them to the public school. So you’ve got to decide what you want to deconstruct. 
This is a grief to me because it’s just embedded itself in Christian colleges and in churches and all kinds of Christian organizations, Christian schools. I see it popping up, and the best way to understand it is kind of what we said earlier, it assumes that somehow spiritual truth can be found within you intuitively. Whatever form it takes, that’s what it is. 
(Practical Concerns In The Local Church: An Interview with John MacArthur - 9/4/11)
Just as none of us have always had perfect theology (nor will we until we are in heaven), even the esteemed John MacArthur has grown in his own Christian walk with the Lord, and perhaps some things he once held to be true he has since questioned and revised in light of the clear teaching of God's word. (I'm raising my hand here because 24 years ago my theology was that I was the god of my life, that homosexuality should be affirmed and accepted by the culture, and that evolution was a fact.)


Let me point out that this principle of reforming one's thoughts more and more throughout one's Christian walk is widely accepted as a guiding truth throughout orthodox Christianity, and was also one of the driving principles of the Reformation: Semper Reformanda. Let us then thank the Lord who bought us for a price, and continually sanctifies us and conforms us more and more into the image of Christ, and enables us to grow more and more in knowledge of the truth as we study his word.

In closing, please understand that my intention in writing this article was not to suggest that Lighthouse Trails was saying that John MacArthur had turned contemplative, or anything even remotely similar. This article was simply written in response to the hue and cry that resulted from LHT's article, and in the interest of helping readers think through what discernment actually is. Is it spotlighting one single quote from a person's entire body of work? Rather than focusing on an entire life's work? Or is it, as I noted, in isolating one concerning quote, and making that known?

For myself, I can say that as God has grown me in discernment over the years (and that is all of Him and none of me), I've developed a rule of thumb for discernment, which is this: I take the quote/conference/shared platform/etc. in question and put it on a shelf, and see if, down the road, there are other concerning quotes/conferences/shared platforms/etc. that come up with respect to the teacher in question. For myself, a certain threshold of concern must first be attained before I would publicly put a spotlight on any concerning quote or conference or shared platform. Thus, with this being the case, I would not have written an article, as LHT did, on one isolated quote that John MacArthur gave 24 years ago, especially in light of his teaching and body of work since that time. I'm not saying it was sinful or wrong or anything like that for LHT to write the article, I'm simply saying I wouldn't have chosen to write it (for the reasons stated). And the fact of the matter is that that article did upset some Christians, because they perceived, rightly or wrongly, that the article was implying that John MacArthur might be sliding. Please understand I'm not saying that's what the LHT article said, just that some perceived it that way.

All right.....we will now resume our regularly scheduled programming.


 Additional Resources 

Grace To You

John MacArthur on Spiritual Formation and Biblical Sanctification

What Is Mysticism?


Mysticism: Who Needs Crack?

The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

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

Mystical Youth Ministry


Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence

Friday, August 23, 2013

Setting The Record Straight: What Susan Heck Actually Said (Compared To What Brannon Howse Says That She Said)

Posted by Christine Pack

"The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him." (Proverbs 18:17)

In the midst of an ongoing public dispute with Brannon Howse (host of Worldview Weekend Radio), I have really struggled with whether or not to say anything public past the one post I initially wrote (An Open Letter To Brannon Howse). I wrote that post in order to address our conflict and to correct some misstatements and mischaracterizations that Brannon has made about me personally. However, in the face of the relentless Facebook postings, comments, articles and radio shows by both Brannon Howse and Chris Pinto, I feel I must once again speak up. I know that God is my Judge and my Vindicator, and beyond that, what can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6) And that God also says, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," (Romans 12:19) but this is not about vengeance, and I do think biblically it's acceptable, and even good, to speak up when false witness has been borne against you by a brother or sister in Christ. So that is what I'm doing.

So. In the middle of this dispute, it was brought to my attention that Brannon had mischaracterized statements made in an interview by respected author and Bible teacher Susan Heck, who is a wonderful Bible teacher and whom I know slightly from women's conferences at my church where she has taught. In the interest of keeping this as simplified as possible, I am creating a brief timeline that documents this mischaracterization of Mrs. Heck's comments by Brannon Howse.

 Tuesday, August 13 

Susan Heck was interviewed by Pastor Justin Peters on Tuesday, August 13. This exchange occurred in the interview:
Justin Peters: Well, Susan I want to just follow up a little bit on something in the last program, which is, kind of in broad terms, what the Bible has to say about the role of women. And we discussed our men and women are of equal value before God, no argument there, we are of equal value, and in Christ there's neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, we are all of equal value. But we do have different roles. And following up with our discussion about the role of women, both in the church but specifically what about the public forum? What does the Bible have to say about women who confront teachers, even if they're criticism is valid? Is that the role of a woman to confront in a public forum of a teacher, a male teacher, who also has a public ministry, and who they feel, rightly or wrongly, is teaching some errant doctrine? And we're not talking about Benny Hinn or people who are way, way out there, but people we would consider to be in the fold, if you will. 
Susan Heck: Well, the last time you asked me the question, I think I told you then I am not a blogger, I don't even have a Facebook account, I know I'm kind of archaic, back in the Little House on the Prairie days. But you kind of piqued my interest so actually I went home and began to look at some of those blogs, and kind of read what was going on. And I would say the thing that concerned me, and I've also asked my husband what he thought, since you asked me that question the last time I was interviewed, but the thing that concerned me when I read some of these things was that even to the testimony of some people, they were saying they were sacrificing what they should be doing domestically i.e., whether it's clean the house or cook meals or whatever, for the sake of the blog. And I would say that that is a concern to me, because the Bible is very clear, even Paul writes to Timothy when talking about young women that are widows, they're to bear children, rule the house and give no occasion for the Adversary to speak reproachfully. And so my question would be: are the women doing what they're supposed to be doing? Which is to bear children, rule the house, and keep their domestic duties. Look at Proverbs 31, and that one woman, she was busy! She was up late at night, up early in the morning, and she was busy. And her husband was known in the gates, and she feared the Lord, and she knew what her role was. And so I would say that was one of the things that pricked my conscience the last time I was here, and I thought well, I really ought to be educated about blogs and so I read some. And then I also actually asked my husband because I respect my husband greatly. He is a master of the Scriptures, and so I just asked him, I said, what do you think about that question that Justin asked me? And he said, I personally would have issue with that, because that is a public forum, and a woman therefore puts herself in authority over a man by doing that. And so that gave me pause to think through that too. And so like I said, last time I really hadn't had time to really think through that issue. I never had been asked that question. I did give the example last time of Priscilla and Aquila, but as I've rethought that even, they took him aside privately and explained to him the way of God more excellently, the Scriptures say. So I personally would have an issue with that. Women need to remember their role as women, I think we would do good to limit our teaching and authority to women and to children. And I think we need to be careful about that. It doesn't mean we shouldn't be educated,we should be educated, and we should know who the false teachers are. I personally, I thought about your question last time, and I thought, if I was going to find out who the false teachers are today, and what they are teaching, I personally, and I'm a woman, but I personally would not go to woman's blog to find out. Before Phil Johnson had to go off his, I'd look at his. Or yours. You know, somebody who I believe is a male  and who is educating themselves and is very aware of false teachers. So even myself as a woman, I wouldn't turn to a woman's blog to try to find out who the false teachers are for the day. So, I don't know if that answers your question, if you want to follow up with more, you certainly are free to do that, so....” [See note below]
Justin Peters: I think there's a danger, whether it's a blog or whether it's Facebook or these social media outlets, that that can become enormously time consuming, whether you're male or female. And we've talked to people, and know of people, who spend hours every day getting into arguments on Facebook, and all this kind of stuff. And again, I don't know a lot about that from first hand experience, but I think that could be one of the trappings of the “Information Age,” if you will. And there's so many things that distract us away from the time that we need to spend with our families and in the Word of God.  
Susan Heck: My  concern, Justin, is that I know women personally who can sometimes spend two to four hours a day, and yet when I see their homes, they're not clean, their children are not being taken care of. I've been in restaurants where women have actually physically pushed away a child, and said, don't bother me, I'm trying to-- , you know, they're looking on their Facebook or whatever on the phone, and that is very distressing to me. That is very distressing to me. Especially as Christian women, we have a high calling before God to rear our children to the glory of God, and to parent our children. And so, I personally am puzzled why women today are even having children, if they're not gong to care for them and parent them. And you know, they put them in a daycare or they push them aside while they're doing their internet surfing, and my question would be, to some of these women, are they spending as much time in God's Word as they are searching for these type of things on the internet and studying these? You know, they tell us the way we can identify a false dollar bill is not to study the false dollar bill but to study the genuine. And so my question is, how much time are they spending studying God's Word, which is true and sufficient and is going to give us everything we need? And so I think some of these things can be trappings of the Evil One to get us sidetracked from sitting at the feet of Christ, and learning from Him and his Word. That's my two cents, I'll get in trouble. 
 Friday, August 16 

A few days later, on Brannon Howse's Friday, August 16 Worldview Weekend radio show, Brannon played the above exchange in a clip from Susan Heck's interview with Justin Peters, and then, immediately following Susan Heck's comments, said the following:
Brannon Howse (commenting on the audio clip): I wanted to play that, I think it's very important. I appreciate what (Susan Heck) said about the fact that she was looking at one of these discernment ministry websites, and there was a notice about, something about making a donation to buy food at a fast-food restaurant because the blog keeps them so busy, and so they need to buy fast food for the kids from time to time. And I'm thinking, really? That's the level of discernment we're talking about here? And yet some of these people want to be calling out Godly men and their ministries on sidebar issues, but they don't have enough discernment to realize that hey, your first responsibility is caring for your family, not wagging your finger in the face of some Godly man who just happens to be covering a topic you find objectionable or troublesome. That's really not your place. (WVW Show, Friday Aug 16)
Also from Brannon's show notes for that day, in case anyone missed what he was trying to say, Brannon again reiterated this statement on his website (Worldview Weekend)....


....and again on his Facebook wall:


But my friends, if you go back and very carefully listen to (or read) what Mrs. Heck actually said in her interview with Justin Peters, she did NOT say that she was shocked to see a blog with a donate button asking for people to "help purchase fast-food for the kids because the blogger was so busy at times blogging that the blogger could not make meals for the family." She did not say it, folks.

And yet Brannon insists that she did.

Now let's go and look at a button on the Sola Sisters website that Brannon might have had in mind when he tried to make it appear that Mrs. Heck said she was so shocked over a donate button asking for fast-food money (which again, friends, she never said). Now, I'm not saying Brannon was trying to connect these two things, but let's just look at evidence and see where it leads.
This is a button that appears on the sidebar of the Sola Sisters website. Let me just explain that when my husband and I put up the Sola Sisters website, he said to me, you know, addressing false teaching is really sober and serious stuff, and I'm going to be silly with that donate button for the sake of interjecting a note of lightness. After all, people should know you're not a one-note person. So there the button stands. Yes, perhaps in hindsight, it wasn't the wisest thing to put up there, but you know, we're not perfect. And are we right now rethinking the wisdom of this button? Umm, yes!

(A small side-note about the button: this button brings in a small amount of money, for which I am grateful, and which I mostly use to buy burnable CDs, which I make CD labels for and then hand out. I have regularly used CDs in my Christian walk, both in witnessing encounters and also as a way to give valuable teaching information to the women I teach.)

My husband, in defense of this now infamous button, made this statement on Brannon Howse's wall:


Unfortunately, my husband's comment, in which he came to my defense, explained that the button was a silly joke, meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and that I really am a Godly wife and mother, along with his public plea to Brannon to talk this out privately with me, was deleted. He was then blocked from making further comments. (But thank you anyway to my Sweetie for making that public statement in defense of me )

But back to Brannon Howse mischaracterizing what Susan Heck said. In my opinion, because of how Brannon framed his remarks, and reiterated them several times in several places, many people assumed that Susan Heck had in fact made this statement that she never, in fact, made.

And thus, an even greater controversy was borne, because now there were folks, who, having heard Brannon say what he did, were convinced that Susan Heck was publicly naming my ministry as being problematic (including my own mother, who, not having any background information on this, called me from her car saying, I just listened to Brannon's show today, and I think he just said that Susan Heck is concerned about the Sola Sisters ministry!)

In closing, let me state that I recognize that there are a lot of moving parts to this drama, and I'm sorry for the complexity of it, but I think for those willing to take a breath, and stop and ponder, and then take the time to examine the evidence, they will see that I am not a gossiper or slanderer or tale-bearer or murmurer or tattler or an embarrassment to the Lord (all charges which have been made by Brannon over the course of the last week, though I may have missed a few). If anything, I am being gossiped against, slandered and have had false witness borne against me. And I do have a biblical right to correct misstatements and mischaracterizations being made about me. In the end, this is not about Team Brannon or Team Sola Sisters......it is about truth, and don't we think that truth matters to God?

_____________________________________________________________________
 NOTE: We may agree or disagree with Mrs. Heck on whether or not women may publicly contend on spiritual matters, but that is something of a separate issue. And please understand by my saying this that in no way do I consider differing views on this to be an issue of separation or breaking fellowship. I'm simply saying that brothers and sisters in Christ can land on different sides of this issue and not be in sin. This is an issue that Godly and very solidly biblical men and women have just come down on differently over the centuries. It is true from Scripture that women are not to exegete (teach) Scripture to men. However, I (and many others) think that the idea that women cannot speak publicly at all, in any way, about spiritual matters is an idea that is not clearly taught in Scripture, and is more of cultural construct that has taken hold in the church than actual biblical truth (particularly in the Southern Baptist realm). Jude 1:3 says "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people." So I (and many others) understand the Jude passage to mean that all Christians can, and should, contend on spiritual matters. Now, are there other constraints that we must follow in this endeavor? Yes: a woman must not teach a man (exegete Scripture to him), we must be kind, gracious, above reproach, gentle, loving, etc.........but contend we must. And so there are disagreements over this. But again, that's a separate issue from the fact that Mrs. Heck's statements were mischaracterized by Brannon in his Friday, August 16 radio show.


 ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 

 Miscellaneous   
An Open Letter To Brannon Howse (Sola Sisters)
Talebearing "from house to Howse" - A 'Perfect Storm' of Accusation (Susan Stilley)
Dr. James White (AOMin), Fred Butler (GTY) Weigh In On The Problem With Chris Pinto's Conspiracy Videos (Sola Sisters)
David Rockefeller, the New World Order, and the Necessity of Verifying Internet Quotes
The Christian and Conspiracy Theories (Ken Samples, Issues Etc.)
Clearing Up The "Discernment Diva" Thing (Phil Johnson)
Brannon's treatment of me "shameful" (Phil Johnson)

 Dr. James White (Alpha and Omega Ministries)  
"Ex Vampire" William Schnoebelen in Chris Pinto's Film (8-20-13)
Chris Pinto's Conspiracy Theories (8-29-13)
A Discussion of Chris Pinto's "Tares Among The Wheat" (10-22-13)
Chris Pinto's Conspiratorial Worldview (12-3-13)
DEBATE: Is Codex Sinaiticus a Jesuit Forgery? (Dr. James White and Chris Pinto, 12-11-13)

 Fred Butler (Grace To You, Hip and Thigh blog)  
Why The White/Pinto Debate Matters (12-16-13)
Mystic Helena Blavatsky Bolsters Chris Pinto's Case? (12-29-13)
Fred Butler: An Interview on King James Onlyism
 (12-6-13)
Tares Among The Wheat - A Review (11-26-13)
George E. Merrill on the Simonides Affair (9-28-13)
Slandering Tischendorf  (9-27-13)
Determining the Antiquity of Ancient Manuscripts (9-25-13)
Chris Pinto’s Disingenuous Response to His Critics (9-20-13)
Answering the Claims of KJV-Onlyism (6-1-10)

 Christian Research Network  
The Slips and Follies of the Pintonian Inquistion - Part 1 (C. Michael Majewski, CRN)
The Slips and Follies of the Pintonian Inquistion - Part 2 (C. Michael Majewski, CRN)
The Pintonian Inquistion: Scholarship or McCarthyism? - Part 3 (C. Michael Majewski, CRN)

 The Salt Lake City Messenger (Gerald and Sandra Tanner)  
Magic in Mormonism: From Denials It Was Practiced to Exaggerations (Issue #65)
Covering Up Syn: Ex-Satanist Brings Confusion to Mormons and Their Critics (Issue #67)

 Pastor Bob DeWaay - Critical Issues Commentaries      
King James Only? Refuting the False Conspiracy Theories of King James Only Teachers
How the KJV Only Doctrine Obscures the Truth, Part 1
How the KJV Only Doctrine Obscures the Truth, Part 2