Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Interview With Sarah Flashing About Our Open Letter To Tim Challies

Posted by Christine Pack

Sarah Flashing,
Faith in Culture Radio
Thank you to Sarah Flashing of Faith in Culture Radio for having me on her show today. We discussed the recent controversy over Tim Challies' apology to Ann Voskamp (In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness...), after Mrs. Voskamp emailed him regarding his review of her book One Thousand Gifts (a book with a decidedly mystical and Panentheistic slant), and to invite him to lunch with her at her family farm.

After the second post - the apology letter - my sister, Cathy Mathews (who co-writes this blog with me), felt compelled to write an open letter to Mr. Challies, in which she attempted to explain to him that just as Ann Voskamp wants Tim Challies to see and understand that Mystic Christian Panentheists (like her) are real people, we ex-Mystic Christian Panentheists - who survived Mystic Panentheism - want Tim Challies to see that we are real people too, and not only that, but that Mystic Christian Panentheism is a real and present danger in the church today.

Sarah and I discussed all of these topics on her show today, including the problematic trend of Mystic Christian Panentheism in the church today. This show was fast paced, and we covered a lot of ground.

You can listen to the show in its entirety here. 


 Additional Resources 

An Open Letter To Tim Challies (by Sola Sisters)

Tim Challies Reviews One Thousand Gifts (by Tim Challies)

In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness... (by Tim Challies)

Ann Voskamp: Mystical Estrogen (Chris Rosebrough, Fighting For The Faith radio show)

Concerning One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (by Ken Silva)

A Commentary On Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" (by Marcia Montenegro)

Romantic Panentheism, a review of One Thousand Gifts (by Bob DeWaay)

Panentheism! What Is It? (Apprising)

Panentheism Is Not A Gift (Amy Spreeman)

Monday, May 28, 2012

An Open Letter To Tim Challies

Dear Mr. Challies,

As you may or may not know, we recently posted an article in which we commended your book review of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. And then today, a reader forwarded your most recent post, entitled In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness..., an article in which you wrote that after Ann Voskamp emailed you, inviting you to lunch, you felt a twinge of remorse over some of the wording of your original article, especially in light of the fact that you might soon find yourself face to face with her, sharing a meal.

In light of your recent post, then, please allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Cathy Mathews, and I'm one of the writers of the Sola Sisters blog. I live in Arkansas (not on a farm, however), and I was hoping that perhaps you might come to Arkansas and have dinner with me and my family? And hopefully, you would see that I am also just as real as Mrs. Voskamp. And just as real was the bondage that I was under after reading Christian Panentheist Mystics about 25 years ago. Why is this relevant? Because Ann Voskamp appears to have been profoundly influenced by Christian Panentheistic Mystics, if the recommended reading list from her blog is anything to go by, and is also herself introducing Christian women to this concept of Panentheism in her book One Thousand Gifts, albeit a highly poetic, eroticized, "Christianized" version of Panentheism:
The Christian’s Secret of A Happy Life (by Hannah Whitall Smith)
Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home and Celebration of Discipline (by mystic Richard J. Foster)
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime–A Manual for Prayer and The Divine Hours, Volume II: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (by emergent leader and mystic Phyllis Tickle)
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (by "female pastor" and mystic Adele Ahlberg Calhoun)
Ann Voskamp,
author One Thousand Gifts
For those who aren't familiar with what Panentheism is, Panentheism is a worldview that embraces the view that God is "in" everything: in humans, in whales, in giraffes, in sand, in the ocean, the wind, the mountains, the stars, and on and on. In this worldview, God is reduced to being an essence, an energy, a vibration, that permeates and gives life and energy to all things. Panentheism is part of the eastern worldview (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and is NOT part of the biblical worldview. The Christian worldview is that we are "dead in our trespasses" (Eph 2:5), while the eastern worldview is that we all have a "Divine inner spark," and at least some aspect of God/Divinity inside of us, regardless of our faith (Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.).

Of course, Mystical Christian Panentheism (of the variety found in One Thousand Gifts) is its own sort of subcategory under Panentheism in which Christian terminology is used, although - and here's the rub - the terms have been redefined, thus nullifying the doctrine that, in the orthodox tradition, weights each of those terms with meaning.

But back to my own story and how, in my own life, I became ensnared in Mystical Christian Panentheism. Twenty-five years ago, I was not a believer. I had rejected Christianity after having grown up in a liberal mainline denomination. Ironically, I rejected what I thought was Christianity because it gave me no answers on how to deal with the horrific sin in my life. (As I'm sure you are aware, the mainline denominations gave up Sola Scriptura and preaching the real Gospel for man-centered pragmatism and a social gospel about a hundred years ago.) So I turned to New Age teachings in order to find an answer for my sins. The funny thing is, I would only read the books that talked about Jesus and God and the Bible. I didn't want to stray too far from my "Christian" roots, you see, I didn't want to completely reject God. And believe me, there was plenty of what I was looking for amongst New Age teaching. I was lured into a Panentheistic worldview through beautiful esoteric writing bathed in Christian terminology (what I have now termed Mystical Christian Panentheism). Is that Ann Voskamp's intention? I have no idea. All I know is that this particular type of teaching is dangerous.

After being ensnared for several years, and falling more and more deeply into despair, something miraculous happened: God reached down and mercifully saved me. But can you imagine my early years as a Christian in the current professing church? The emergent church was in full bloom, with its mystical panentheistic leanings, as was the "bridal paradigm" teaching, which basically teaches people to lust after Jesus in an emotional, sensual way. And to top it off, if you questioned any of this stuff, you were called uncharitable and Pharisaical. I won't go into my very real slide into despair over the fact that most of the professing Evangelical church today teaches against biblical discernment, either out of ignorance of Sola Scriptura or out of a lust for "unity" (though it is a false unity, and not a unity of the Ephesians 4 variety, which is soundly rooted in doctrine), but let's just say it's a big part of the reason why we started this blog. Can I sit by and say nothing while the same Mystical Christian Panentheism that once ensnared me now threatens to engulf the church (and many unsuspecting Christians)? No!

Oh, how I have compassion for all of the other real women out there who have not been shepherded well, and thus discern teachings and books based only on the emotional pull, poetic writing, and likability of the teacher. I also have compassion for women who think the greatest sin is to say that a teaching is wrong because it does not line up with Scripture, but who have no fear of the Lord, nor reverence for his Word, and honestly do not think that believing a falsehood about God is a sin. This is the very type of woman who will, in all likelihood, embrace Ann Voskamp's book. And I would say all of that to Ann Voskamp herself, given the opportunity, though certainly in a respectful and gentle way. I guess I'm asking you to be as mindful of the just as real, though nameless, women out there who are primed to accept this version of "Christianity" because of its sensual appeal. It is these same women who will read this and will label me a hater because they will see this article as some kind of personal attack against Mrs. Voskamp, when it is nothing of the sort, but only a warning borne out of my own personal experience with mysticism.

With kindest regards (and hoping to put out an extra place setting for you soon),

Cathy Mathews


 Additional Resources 

Tim Challies Reviews One Thousand Gifts (Tim Challies)

In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness... (Tim Challies)

Ann Voskamp: Mystical Estrogen
 (Chris Rosebrough, Fighting For The Faith radio show)

Concerning One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (by Ken Silva)

A Commentary On Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" (by Marcia Montenegro)

Romantic Panentheism, a review of One Thousand Gifts (by Bob DeWaay)

Panentheism! What Is It? (Apprising)

Panentheism Is Not A Gift (Amy Spreeman)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tim Challies Reviews One Thousand Gifts

Posted by Christine Pack

Christian apologist and ├╝ber blogger Tim Challies has written an excellent review of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. Ann Voskamp has become a darling in Reformed circles, perhaps partly due to her visually lovely website and perhaps partly because of her unique writing style. But her theology is troubling to say the least, with overtones of Panentheism and overt sexuality. An excerpt from Challies' review:
"(Ann Voskamp's) theology is an eclectic combination of Protestantism and Catholic or Catholic-influenced mysticism. She either quotes or is influenced by authors like Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Annie Dillard, and Dallas Willard. This brings to the book a deep-rooted mysticism that at times seems even to border on the view that the divine exists within and extends to all parts of nature (a teaching known as panentheism). At heart, mysticism promotes the view that God can be experienced, and perhaps even best experienced, outside of Scripture. This comes in direct contrast to what Scripture itself says, that Scripture is God’s final and sufficient revelation of himself."
In addition to addressing the troubling concept of Panentheism which is subtly taught in Voskamp's book, Challies' also addresses the issue of Voskamp's use of highly sexualized language in discussing her relationship to God.

I absolutely do not recommend for any Christian woman who is desiring to grow in discernment to read this book. As noted above, One Thousand Gifts introduces Christian women to the concept of Panentheism, albeit a highly poetic, eroticized, "Christianized" version of Panentheism. But Panentheism is part of the eastern worldview (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and is NOT part of the biblical worldview. The Christian worldview is that we are "dead in our trespasses," (Eph 2:5) while the eastern worldview is that we all have a "Divine inner spark," and at least some aspect of God/Divinity inside of us, regardless of our faith (Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.). This concept is subtly taught in Voskamp's book, and Christian women therefore should not read this book.

Tim Challies review can be read in its entirety here.


 Additional Resources 

An Open Letter To Tim Challies About Ann Voskamp (by Sola Sisters)

Romantic Panentheism, a Review of One Thousand Gifts (by Bob DeWaay)

A Commentary On Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts (by Marcia Montenegro)

Ann Voskamp: Mystical Estrogen
 (Fighting For The Faith radio show)

Rick Warren's "Daniel Plan" Doctor (Dr. Oz) Hosts Necromancer

Posted by Christine Pack

Theresa Caputo
Stand Up For The Truth's Amy Spreeman has written an excellent article exposing Rick Warren's favorite diet/health/nutrition guy, Dr. Mehmet Oz, as the all-out New Ager that he truly is. Dr. Oz recently had self-professed medium/necromancer Theresa Caputo (TLC's Long Island Medium) on his own show. As Amy Spreeman pointed out, as Christians we are not to judge lost people for doing what comes naturally to lost people (and which often involves occultic attempts to connect to God). But what about Christians, like Pastor Rick Warren, who are held, according to God's word, to a higher standard of accountability? Should Christian leaders knowingly expose their congregations to outright New Agers such as Dr. Oz, who can and will introduce unbiblical, even occultic, concepts and ideas to them?

Amy Spreeman's excellent article can be read in its entirety here.


 Additional Resources 

Rick Warren and His Daniel Plan

Rick Warren, the Daniel Plan and Dominionism

Rick Warren Introduces "The Devil Plan"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How To Hear God's Voice

Posted by Christine Pack

Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For the Faith, Letter of Marque and Museum of Idolatry has written a great article (How To Hear God's Voice 100% Of The Time) about how it is that we "hear" from God. So the obvious question must be asked: How do Christians hear from God? Is it through random-Bible-verse-reading? (what I call the Ouija board approach) Is it from seeing signs in nature? (I have a complex problem, and suddenly I see geese flying in a V formation....that must mean I will have Victory over my problem!) No, this is not how we hear from God. Until recently, the traditional orthodox view for Protestant Christians on how it is that we hear from God is through the study of his Word. It's not complicated, really it's not. But in our postmodern, fast food, experience-driven culture, this is not "enough." Mysticism is in, Systematic Theology is most definitely out. We want An Experience that we can point to, something Tangible.

 From the article:
Are you struggling to figure out if those whispers that your pastor has told you to listen for are really God's voice or a case of gastrointestinal hallucinations caused by a bad batch of pepperoni pizza? 
Are you tired of going through the whole rigamarole of filtering those voices in your head through a six point 'discernment grid' to try to ascertain if that's the Holy Spirit speaking to you or proof that you need to make an appointment with a shrink? 
Have you read and reread (Henry) Blackaby and still haven't got the foggiest notion as to how to tell where God is working in the world so that you can join Him? 
If you've answered yes to one or all of these questions then I've got great news for you! I have discovered a simple and sure fire way for you to hear God's voice. The best part is that its 100% guaranteed and totally Biblical. 
Here it is. 
1. Acquire a Bible. 
If you do not have a Bible then you can read it for free on the internet at Bible Gateway. I recommend the English Standard Version for both readability and translational accuracy. 
2. Open the Bible. 
3. Begin reading it. 
Read it with your mind engaged. Pay close attention to grammar and context. Take notes. Set a goal to read 3 to 10 chapters per day. 
That's it. 
If you do those three things then you will be hearing God's voice every single time that you open the Bible. No guess work, no need for six point 'discernment filters' and no nagging uncertainty about whether your hearing God's voice or something else. 
How can I be so sure and certain that this works.....?
Continue reading Chris Rosebrough's excellent article here.


 Additional Resources 

When God Talks Back: Elevating Experience Over Scripture

Why Bible Studies Don’t Transform Us

An Open Letter of Repentance To All Whom I Have Taught or Endorsed The Teachings of Henry Blackaby or Beth Moore

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.

How Do We Discern God's Will For Our Lives?

Is That You Lord?: Hearing the Voice of the Lord, a Biblical Perspective

God's Will and Christian Liberty - Part 1

God's Will and Christian Liberty - Part 2

Christian Dream Interpretation?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why Bible Studies Don't Transform Us

Posted by Christine Pack

In the very excellent article, Why Bible Studies Don't Transform Us, Jen Wilkin of The Gospel Coalition gives several reasons to explain how people can go wrong in their Bible studies. Among the reasons given:
Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean;
And so betwixt them both, they licked the platter clean.
Taking the Xanax approach to Bible study (treating the Bible as if its sole purpose is to make us feel better through the application of verses); 
Treating the Bible like a Magic 8 Ball (thinking of a question or problem, then opening the Bible to a random verse to see how it applies to your situation); 
The Jack Sprat approach to Bible study (taking a "picky" approach to what we will - or won't - study).
This article makes a compelling case for something many churches today are neglecting to do, and that is teach their members how to study the Bible line by line, verse by verse. As Paul's second letter to Timothy states: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) It is, after all, through studying God's word in whole, and in context, and not skipping the hard parts or the complex parts, that, over time, we are able correctly "handle the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15) and are not "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14) that blows through the church. In case you weren't already a firm believer in expository teaching and preaching, this article might make you a believer.

The entire article can be read here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is This Andy Stanley's Gay Affirming Shot Across the Bow?

Posted by Christine Pack

Andy Stanley explaining (with graphics prepared ahead of time) why one of the men in an unrepentant homosexual relationship needs to finalize his divorce before he can serve at Northpoint. The blue figures represent the homosexual couple, the red figure represents the abandoned wife.

In the 18th century, a seafaring military action known as a "shot across the bow" began to come into common usage. This was a term used to describe a shot fired by one ship across the bow of an opposing ship to signal future confrontations.  The shot was not meant to actually make contact, it was merely a warning signal that there were future confrontations to come from the firing ship.

It appears that North Point megachurch pastor Andy Stanley has recently fired his own "shot across the bow" of Evangelicalism on the issue of homosexuality with his sermon series Christian. In part 5 of this series, Stanley gave a message ("When Gracie Met Truthie") in which he described a situation at his church 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)
The obvious questions have to be asked: Is it even possible to frame up the scenario presented by Stanley (in which 2 - count them, 2 - marriages were blown sky high) in a way that makes sense unless a clear call for repentance is given? And yet, according to the Christian Post's article on the final sermon of this series, Stanley completely sidestepped the issue of homosexuality in this series.

Incidentally, this account of the wife, the ex-husband, the ex-husband's male lover, etc., etc. was presented very winsomely by Andy Stanley with accompanying graphics. This was no off-the-cuff account that just spontaneously occurred to Andy Stanley in the middle of a sermon. The above graphic was obviously prepared well in advance of this sermon. Does anyone else smell an agenda? Is open homosexuality going to be the Next Big Thing in Evangelicalism? And is this Andy Stanley's shot across the bow to signal that he is moving in the direction of openly accepting unrepentant homosexual relationships? We'll all have to stay tuned to find out.......



 Additional Resources 

Andy Stanley Removes Shame From Homosexual Sin (Entreating Favor)

Problems at Andy Stanley's North Point Church? (Sola Sisters)

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)

The Matthew Vines Video - And A Response (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)