Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Author of The Shack: "The God of Evangelical Christianity is a Monster"

reprinted with permission from Lighthouse Trails Research

This past Friday night, author and researcher Ray Yungen attended a lecture at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon to hear The Shack author William Paul Young. The name of Young's talk was "Can God Really Be That Good?" During the talk, Young told the audience that "the God of evangelical Christianity is a monster." He was referring to the evangelical belief that God is a God of judgment and will judge the unbelieving. Young also rejects the biblical view of atonement (wherein Jesus died as a substitute for us to pay the price of our sins). This view by Young is evident in a radio interview he had one year ago where he rejected this view of the atonement. He echoes the sentiments of William Shannon and Brennan Manning, who both say that the God who punishes His own son to pay for the sins of others does not exist:
"He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger - a God who is still all too familiar to many Christians - is a caricature of the true God. This God does not exist." (Shannon, Silence on Fire, p. 110, also see Manning who stated the very same thing in Above All, pp. 58-59 )
Young told the audience that his book has now sold 14 million copies. He says that he believes his book has been a "god thing" to heal people's souls because so many people have been tainted by this evangelical God.  Young also said that his book is so effective because when you put something in a story form it gets past mental defenses.

Young's obvious disdain for Christianity (in a derogatory manner, he said there are "1.4 million" rules in the evangelical church) is shown in his book as well when The Shack's "Jesus" states:
"I have no desire to make them [people from all religious and political backgrounds] Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa" (p. 184).
During the lecture, Young posed a rhetorical question addressed to "evangelicals:" "Do you want to hold onto your darkness?" (meaning, the "narrowness" and "intolerance" associated with evangelicalism).  He then answered for them: "No, you want to get rid of it."

 Additional Resources 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crosstalk Interview: Evangelical Leaders Pushing Mysticism

Thank you to Ingrid Schlueter, host of Crosstalk America, for having me on her radio show today.

During the show, I briefly went over my own testimony of being mercifully saved out of the New Age (which is today called "New Spirituality" and "Integral Spirituality"), only to find that the same mysticism I had once practiced was now coming into the church.

Mysticism has gone mainstream, and many of today's pastors and authors are "speaking" the language of mysticism (Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Disciplines, Solitude and Silence, etc.), as well as selling books leading unwitting readers into occultic mystical practices- chiefly, mantra meditation.  The book Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster, first published in 1978 and taught today in most seminaries as a "classic of the faith," has probably been the one book that has been the most instrumental in bringing Roman Catholic/pagan mysticism into the church.  Some of the more surprising names moving in this mystical direction are well-respected leaders in evangelicalism today:
Dr. John Piper
Tim Keller
Matt Chandler
Mark Driscoll
Rick Warren
One thing I'm not sure I explained well in the interview that I wanted to go over here is that when people do contemplative prayer as taught by the mystics (with mantra meditation), they WILL have a spiritual experience. A lot of people tend to think the occult is all smoke and mirrors and diversionary tactics. That's not true. The occult is the area of the spiritual realm over which Satan has dominion. If it will take a person's focus off of God, he is more than happy to give an experience that will be profound, intense, positive, and yes, supernatural. At least, in the beginning, these meditative experiences will be positive and will "feel" good. At some point, though, Satan's mask will "slip," because as Ingrid pointed out, he is evil and it is his intention to steal, kill and destroy. He will not stay masked forever.

I have friends who do contemplative prayer, and I know this is kind of a ruthless prayer, but I pray that they will get a glimpse of Satan's true nature that will so terrify them that they will repent, and run back to the Savior and worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.....rather than approaching the Lord with worship that has been syncretized with pagan practices.

You can listen to the show in its entirety here.

 Additional Resources 

Rick Warren Promotes "Christianized" Mantra Meditation

Mark Driscoll: The Face of Contemplative Calvinism

Emergent Church: Religious Syncretism

Matt Chandler: A "Reformed" Charismatic?

Dr. John Piper: Unanswered Questions

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saddleback Promotes "Christianized" Mantra Meditation

Posted by Christine Pack

Rick Warren, "America's Pastor," author of Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church, literally changed how we do church today in America. With the blockbuster success of the Purpose Driven Life "franchise," out went the crosses and hymnals, communities were polled to see what their "felt needs" were - which the Purpose Driven model church of that community would then seek to meet, pastors began dressing in business casual, and sermons morphed from expository passage-by-passage preaching into topical, life enhancement coaching sessions. But beyond  the surface changes, something sinister was being introduced in this best-selling, Christian book:  breath prayers and Roman Catholic mysticism.

In Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren describes the practice of "breath prayers" and positively endorses Roman Catholic mystics Brother Lawrence and Madame Guyon. Those references have most likely gone over the heads of most readers, but as a former mystic myself, I can tell you that "breath prayers" is code for mantra meditation, which both Brother Lawrence and Madame Guyon practiced.

Saddleback's website also features two books by Quaker and mystic Richard Foster, today's leading proponent of something known as "Spiritual Disciplines" or "Spiritual Formation."  Also promoted are several other books focusing on the Spiritual Disciplines, which teach a practice that is nothing more than a "Christianized" version of mantra meditation, a pagan practice borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism.  In this pagan practice, a person will "empty" the mind employing some kind of device: rhythmic music, repeating a word or phrase, focusing on breathing, etc., in an attempt to connect to God.

But in today's undiscerning church - and with a little help from Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven empire, this pagan practice has been flowing into churches because its proponents insist that this is a Christian practice and has been practiced by Christians for centuries. After all, what could be wrong with something called "Spiritual Formation," right? It sounds kind of Christian and churchy, doesn't it? And we know there's something about Christ being formed in us (Gal 4:19), so that has to be what this is talking about, right? Wrong.  Spiritual Formation is a series of disciplines which supposedly aid in "spiritual development," and which are generally thought to be Christian because these disciplines were formed centuries ago by monks in Roman Catholic monasteries. There's just one problem here, but it's a biggie: these Roman Catholic monks, who were known as the Desert Fathers, cloistered themselves in the Middle East and Egypt; and, because of their close proximity to eastern cultures, ended up being heavily influenced by paganism to the point of grafting pagan practices into their prayers, chiefly, mantra meditation.  So in essence, these "spiritual disciplines" that are part of today's "Spiritual Formation" programs are classic, eastern occultic practices that have simply been "Christianized" with a sprinkling of the magic pixie dust of Christian terminology.  But make no mistake, these practices are occultic.

Jesus himself seems to be addressing this very topic when He says:
"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." (Matthew 6:7, my emphasis)
I have often heard this scripture taught by pastors as an admonition not to engage in "mindless" prayer: that is, praying by rote, without thoughtfulness or care.  While it is true that we ought to be mindful that we are entering into the presence of God every time we pray, with the understanding that this is an astounding privilege in and of itself - and we therefore ought not to take this privilege for granted and speak thoughtlessly or carelessly -  that is not what this verse is talking about. This verse is admonishing Christians not to pray in the same manner as pagans.  And how do pagans pray?  Well, outside of Christianity, mysticism has always been the natural default of the human heart.  All world religions that I know of have some kind of mystical tradition through which they attempt to approach God:
"Other methods of meditation involve drumming, dancing, and chanting. This percussion-sound meditation is perhaps the most common form for producing trance states in the African, North/South American Indian, and Brazilian spiritist traditions. In the Islamic world, the Sufi Mystic Brotherhoods have gained a reputation for chanting and ritual dancing. These are known as the Whirling Dervishes. Indian Guru, Rajneesh, developed a form of active meditation called dynamic meditation which combines the percussion sound, jumping, and rhythmic breathing." (Ray Yungen, For Many Shall Come In My Name)
These mystical practices, rather than bringing us into the presence of God, however, work to put the brain into a trance-like state, lowering one's God-given boundaries, and opening its practitioners up to the demonic realm.  This is what Jesus is cautioning against in this passage.

And yet, this pagan practice is exactly what Rick Warren, America's Pastor, first introduced to us in his book Purpose Driven Life, and is now promoting on his Saddleback website.  And so it has to be asked: How much further away from orthodoxy does Rick Warren have to fall before Christians and 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: mckaysavage via photo pin cc

 Additional Resources 

An Open Letter To John Piper

Mysticism: A Counterfeit Holy Spirit

Roman Catholic Monastic Mysticism at Saddleback

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nazarene Professor Calls Creationists Cult Members

Posted by Christine Pack

It's not the mortar blasts from the world that surprise me.  They are to be expected.  It's the "friendly fire," as with this USA Today op-ed piece by Karl Giberson, a professing Christian and a professor at Eastern Nazarene College, who says:
"Ken Ham and his Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY are becoming less relevant, as they speak for - and to - an increasingly smaller band of hyper-conservative biblical literalists.  Ham's followers, ironically, are what (we've been warned about): a cult, with their own separate science."
The longstanding method of attacking creationists - a term used to describe Christians who believe the earth was created in 6 literal 24-hour days, as the Bible says in Genesis 1:1-31 - has been to paint them as, well, the village idiot.  But then Ken Ham and his brilliant ministry, Answers in Genesis, came along, and while a person could certainly say a lot of things about those guys over at AIG, you couldn't call them stupid.  Case in point, this list of scientists from the AIG website who have rejected the evolutionary worldview.  These scientists are doctors and professors, many of them with multiple degrees, and the majority of them distinguished in areas of study that are purely science related (biology, astronomy, palaeontology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, zoology, botany, etc.).  In other words, they're not literature professors with PhD's who have decided to weigh in on topics outside their area of expertise.  These are, by and large, men and women who have rigorously examined the scientific evidence in their fields of study and have become convinced that the scientific data speaks more to a young earth than a millions/billions timeframe.

So now that creationists can't be painted as idiots - not with any intellectual honesty, anyway - the next rule in the playbook is to present them as cult members.  So let's just examine that idea and see if it has any validity.

Cults are characterized by several distinctives, but the most outstanding characteristic is a refusal to hear dissenting views or to accept any incoming data that would challenge the prevailing belief or beliefs held by that cult. So let's say you were brainwashed into the cult of Stars Are Made From Sparks Coming From Elvis Presley's Motorcade in the Sky.  Any evidence in this cult about stars being formed any other way would be suppressed. Cult members would not be allowed to examine the scientific evidence for themselves to see how, in fact, stars are made.  They would just have to take the leader's word for how stars are formed.

See how silly it is to try to paint creationists with this brush?  There is no "main creation guy" trying to keep information out.  As far as I'm concerned, anyone can - and should - examine any and all data pertaining to this topic.  As a former agnostic evolutionist, I was challenged by a friend to examine the evidence side by side for both young earth creationism and old earth evolution, which I did.  I'm not saying everyone would reach the same conclusion I did, but what I found was that there was a tremendous amount of scientific evidence in support of a young earth.  Here's just one little tidbit from Dr. Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries: if the earth were millions of years old, we would not have any oceans, but instead, we would have vast saltbeds where there once were oceans.  Why? Because the amount of salt in the oceans increases incrementally each year.  Not a big deal at all in a young earth scenario, but a huge big deal when you're talking millions/billions, in which cases, the oceans would have turned to pure salt, thick enough to walk upon. Hmmm, bet you never learned about that in Freshman Biology.  I know I didn't.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I had a Biology professor who saw it as his personal mission to separate all the self-identified Christian students from their Christian beliefs.  My own college experience had a profound impact on my worldview....and not in a good way.  I came out of college absolutely convinced of evolution, and it was due mainly to the prevailing view in liberal academia that Christianity was just a set of silly superstitious beliefs, an opiate for the masses, something to keep people warm at night if they couldn't stomach the thought of a world without a God.  The only intellectually honest view was secular humanism.  This was never formally taught (at least it wasn't 20 years ago, but times may have changed), but this view was always implicit, no matter what the course was.

What is so interesting to me today is that the area of creation apologetics has just exploded in just the last decade alone, with more and more discoveries being made that support the young earth view. My challenge would be for anyone curious about this to go and research this for themselves.  Don't take my word for it.  There are a number of groups devoted to teaching the young earth view, and with compelling, scientific evidence.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)

 Additional Resources  

Answers in Genesis

Creation Museum

Creation Ministries International

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ayurveda "Old Fashioned" Therapy? Well, Sure, If You're A Hindu.

Posted by Christine Pack

In a recent blog post, Tony Jones, one of the main leaders of the heretical emergent church movement and newly on staff at Fuller Seminary, discusses his struggles with depression and withdrawal from the anti-depressant Wellbutrin.  Jones talks about the various methods he is utilizing to ease his withdrawal symptoms, including using "new-fangled Western brain chemistry research and old-fashioned Ayurvedic typing."  To which I say, huh?  Since when was ayurvedic typing considered an "old-fashioned" kind of treatment?

So let's just look at what ayurveda is, and determine whether a professing Christian (and Fuller Seminary theology professor) ought to be messing around with it and recommending it to fellow Christians.

Hindu god of ayurveda
Ayurveda (आयुर्वेद) - which translated means "science of life, " is a Hindu medicine practice believed to have been handed down from Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, to an earthly man named Dhanvantari who was later deified as a god.  Ayurveda also has its roots in the Vedas, the ancient holy writings of the Hindu religion. Ayurveda is metaphysical at its core, and stresses maintaining a balance between three elemental "energies" (or doshas).  According to ayurveda, these three regulatory principles are important for health, because when they are in balanced state, the body is healthy, and when imbalanced, the body has diseases.  This is in direct contradiction to the biblical worldview which states that bodies have diseases as a direct result of the Fall of the Garden of Eden.  When sin entered the world through Adam's rebellion, our once perfect world became broken, and disease and death entered in.

So, when Tony Jones, Fuller Seminary theology professor, says he is getting relief for his depression through the "old fashioned" therapy of ayurveda, I have to ask what seems like a very obvious question: is he sound for his post as a theology professor?  After all, theology is the study of God.  And the question must then be asked: which "god" is Tony Jones studying?   The Hindu god Brahma? Or the Hindu god Dhanvantari?  Or the one true God of all the world, the God of the Bible?

While I do have compassion for Tony and his struggle with depression, it is my understanding that depression is often related to a sin issue.  With this is mind, perhaps there is a sin issue in Tony's life that has remained biblically unresolved?  If so, I would exhort him to deal with it biblically, rather than go drinking from the broken cisterns of the world that do not hold water.  There are no worldly remedies for our problems, only biblical ones.

photo credit: Hari Prasad Nadig via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

What Is Ayurvedic Medicine?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Archie Comics Introduces Gay Character "Kevin Keller"

Posted by Christine Pack

There's a new kid on the block in Riverdale, the fictitious home of the lovable characters of the Archie Comics.  His name is Kevin Keller and he's the comic strip series' first openly gay character.

From the official press release:
"Kevin will appear in September's VERONICA #202, in a story called "Isn't it Bromantic?" Kevin Keller is the new hunk in town and Veronica just has to have him. After Kevin defeats Jughead in a burger eating contest at Pop's Chocklit Shoppe, she desperately latches onto him. Mayhem and hilarity ensue as Kevin desperately attempts to let Veronica down easy and her flirtations only become increasingly persistent."
Jon Goldwater, co-CEO of Archie Comics, released the following statement about this new character:
"The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie's hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books."
I often hear people questioning if God will soon judge America.  Well, a plain reading of Romans 1 reveals that we are already under God's judgment and wrath.  In this chapter, there is first a suppression of truth, then a disdainful arrogance that neither acknowledges nor praises God, then comes worship of the creation rather than the Creator, and after that a sexual revolution, followed by a homosexual revolution. Have we not had God removed from classrooms, football fields, lunch meetings, courtrooms, etc.?  And how about Earth Day, with its strident pleadings to "go green" and "live sustainably?"  (Imagine if the reverse of this were true, and the Creator was worshiped instead of the creation, with the same level of media intensity given to pastors and Christian leaders pleading for God to be glorified and lifted up. Hard to imagine a reversal so profound, isn't it?) As for a sexual revolution, we've had that, beginning in the 1960s and followed by, yes, a homosexual revolution that continues today. So no, these aren't indicators that judgment is coming, as some people think; they are indicators that judgment is already here.

photo credit: Joelk75 via photo pin cc