Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thomas Brooks and False Teachers: part 2

I once had the joy of spending a Saturday listening to J.I. Packer teach on the book of Colossians. During a break someone asked him about reading Puritan authors. His reply was to the effect that one would do well if they spent their whole life in the reading and study of Puritan writers. So continuing on …

Thomas Brooks, one of the Puritan pastors of the seventeenth century, in his book, Precious remedies against Satan’s devices, lists seven characters of false teachers. I have listed and written about four of the traits in my last post. I will list the last three characters and examine them in this posting.

The fifth character: “False teachers cover and color their dangerous principles and soul-impostures with very fair speeches and plausible pretences, with high notions and golden expressions."

Brooks states that in his day many are “bewitched and deceived by the magnificent words, lofty strains, and stately terms of deceivers …” But all days, all years, are, seemingly like that. Brooks lists some of the stately terms used: “illumination, revelation, deification, and fiery triplicity.” And those words are not unfamiliar to the postmodern world particularly when a form of Gnosticism or New Age spirituality gets in the mix of some teachers and preachers in the Church.

Brooks refers to several verses, Gal 6:12, in which Paul points to the false teachers who wanted the believers to be circumcised, so that the teachers “will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 2 Cor. 11: 13-15, is another text where Paul explains that false teachers “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness,” since they are servants of Satan who disguises himself as “an angel of light.” Romans 16:17-18, refers to the “smooth and flattering speech” of false teachers. Another is Matt 7:15 which refers to those who come in sheep’s clothing but instead they are “ravenous wolves.”

The important point in all of this is that without the true goodness and purity of the gospel false teachers have to search for all kinds of ways and words to attract people to themselves. Jesus Christ lifted up draws the needy home. The gospel doesn’t need glitter but counterfeit teachers do.

Brooks’ reference to “fiery triplicity” is interesting although I admit I don’t know what he is speaking of with those words. He was in London during the “Great Fire of 1666,” and wrote a treatise titled “London’s Lamentations (based upon Isaiah 42. 24-5) …” it might be interesting to read the work and find out if there is a connection. (it is only 312 pages!)

The sixth character: “False teachers strive more to win over men to their opinions, than to better them in their conversations.”

Bettering others in their conversation has to do with “mending” and transforming their hearts. The good news that Jesus transforms the sinner is important here. To paraphrase Brooks, false teachers are simply interested in changing people's minds not their hearts. Only the Lord can change the whole person so the true teacher of the gospel points her hearers away from herself and to the cross and Christ’s transforming work. The false teacher points to herself and her own opinions.

The seventh character: “False teachers make merchandise of their followers.”

Brooks refers to 2 Peter 2:1-3 here.

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

Brooks also refers to Jer. 6:13.

That verse is, “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely.” Brooks does not list the following verse. But it is so full of the hurt people of God that I will end with it.

“They have healed the brokenness of my people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thomas Brooks and False Teachers: part 1

Thomas Brooks, in his book, Precious remedies against Satan’s devices, published in 1652, writes about false teachers. That chapter is “Seven Characters of False Teachers.” Brooks in the introduction to this chapter offers several Bible verses. Perhaps the best is “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray; when they have something to bite with their teeth they cry, ‘peace,’ but against him who puts nothing in their mouths they declare holy war.” (Micah 3:5)

Brooks lists seven character traits which I shall list and write about using his book.

The first one is, “False teachers are men pleasers” Brooks explains that in this case false teachers preach or teach in such a manner that those who listen will be pleased with their words. They are not interested in changing the heart of their hearers. He suggests that such teachers “handle holy things rather with wit and dalliance than with fear and reverence.”

In this day being men (people) pleasers would undoubtedly apply to those who agree with the culture of the day, preaching in place of the gospel a cheap grace that has no transforming power. They lift up the spirit who supposedly blesses all religions rather than the Holy Spirit who leads the sinner to Jesus Christ and his unique saving work.

The second character: “False teachers are notable in casting dirt, scorn, and reproach upon the persons, names, and credits of Christ’s most faithful ambassadors. Brooks points out several godly persons in the Bible who had false accusations thrown at them. In the Old Testament Moses and Micaiah are mentioned. The story of Micaiah is found in 1 Kings 22:5-26. In the story Ahab, the King of Israel expresses his hatred for Micaiah, saying of him, “I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”

Micaiah told King Ahab the truth, he would be defeated in battle and Israel would be scattered. Some of his words are pastorally prophetic, telling of the condition and need of God’s people.

“I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep which have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.’”

For this Micaiah received prison with only bread and water for nourishment.

Paul and Jesus are the New Testament persons Brooks points to. Of Paul he writes, “They rather contemn him than admire him; they look upon him as a dunce rather than a doctor.” Of Jesus he writes, “And the same hard measure had our Lord Jesus from the scribes and Pharisees, who labored as for life to build their own credit upon the ruins of his reputation.”

The third Character: “False teachers are venters of the devices and visions of their own heads and hearts.” Brooks gives several biblical texts including Jeremiah 23: 16.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Actually this whole chapter in Jeremiah is helpful in understanding God’s concern for the false teacher who is misleading the Lord’s people. And it begins with the promise of the one who would be and is a wise King and our righteousness. (23:5-6)

The fourth character: “False teachers easily pass over the great and weighty things both of law and gospel, and stand most upon those things that are of the least moment and concernment to the souls of men.

Brooks quotes 1 Tim. 6:3-5 here and I will use his translation. “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strife of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmising, perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

According to this scripture text it is the false teacher who causes strife and disputes. Rather than preaching and teaching the gospel, the good news, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father who took on flesh and died on the cross for our sins, she teaches about God's supposedly "unconditional love" or about "women's choice," etc. Rather than teaching about the righteousness that Christ imputes to us because of his death and resurrection, he teaches about "Christ consciousness" or "culture as God's revelation, etc.

The people of God, the Christian believers, are hungry to hear the word of God preached and taught in its fullness and purity. No more political speeches or hymns doctored up with political or cultural allusions but faithful worship of the Lord. Whether it is a praise song full of scripture, or a traditional hymn resounding with God’s redemption through Jesus Christ, or a class which is faithful to the biblical text and confessions of the Church, or best of all a sermon where the preacher is not afraid to speak of the blood Jesus shed for our sins, the people of God are longing and needing the truth that is God’s word. We too are scattered on the mountains and need to go home in peace.

I will write of the last three character traits of false teachers in my next posting.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A glorious proposition

In the book, Precious remedies against Satan’s devices, written by the Puritan, Thomas Brooks, he lists “six propositions concerning Satan and his devices.” The last proposition is glorious.

That God will shortly tread down Satan under the saints’ feet. Christ our champion, hath already won the field, and will shortly set our feet upon the necks of our spiritual enemies. Satan is a foiled adversary. Christ hath led him captive, and triumphed over him upon the cross. Christ hath already overcome him, and put weapons into your hands, that you may overcome him also, and set your feet upon his neck. Through Satan be a roaring lion, yet Christ, who is the lion of the tribe of Judah, will make Satan fly and fall before you. Let Satan do his worst, yet you shall have the honour and the happiness to triumph over him. Cheer up, you precious sons of Sion, for the certainty and sweetness of victory will abundantly recompense you for all the pains you have taken in making resistance against Satan’s temptations. The broken horns of Satan shall be trumpets of our triumph and the cornets of our joy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Trinity: A mystery known by the Christian

Someone writing comments on a blog has given me an opportunity to write about the Trinity and Jesus as the only Son of the Father.

Quite a while ago, almost a year, some one wrote this about the Trinity in the comment section of a blog:

"God is Father when we ask of God the things we ask of a Father. God is Spirit when we ask of God the things we as [sic] of God the Spirit. And God is the Son when we ask of God the things we ask of God the Son.

Ask and it shall be given unto you.

It is maddening to hold these three in our head at the same time. Which is He. Father? Son? Holy Spirit? the answer is "yes". Is he Wisdom? Again the answer is "yes". Can there be more persons to the Trinity? Sure, why not? It does not violate Scripture at all. The only thing that violates Scripture is to think of them as separate gods.

They are all one and the same. What we see depends on how we look. And if we look in a really weird way, we will see a really weird manifestation."

I felt this person must be thinking of the Trinity in modalistic terms. That is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are thought of as offices rather than eternal in their person. Like people who belong to the United Pentecostal Church or those who are called Jesus only Pentecostals they would in some way envision God as being sometimes father, sometimes son and sometimes spirit. Of course this would mean that when Jesus was praying to the Father he was really just praying to himself.

On the other hand, there are progressive Christians who have loosely formulated an old heresy that tends to divide the Trinity into different historical ages. This in its self is a kind of modalism. For instance according to this view there was the age of the Father (O.T.), then the time of the Son (The Gospels), and then the age of the Holy Spirit. They percieve that now in the age of the Spirit, the Spirit is doing a new thing or revealing more of God's revelation. In past ages the Ranters and Men of the Free Spirit held such a view. Some of todays' Pentecostal groups also fall into this aberrent teaching.

But then the person I mentioned above suggested that there could be more than three persons in the Trinity. That is, of course, a heresy. A very blatant heresy!

In this manner, some aberrent Christian groups have seen the Church as the fourth person of the Trinity. They are usually, but not always, Pentecostal groups. But what is important to understand here is that when the emphasis is on the Holy Spirit rather than Jesus, or when Jesus Christ is not lifted up to his proper position as the eternal Son of the Father all kinds of strange teachings slip into both the Church and individual conceptions of the Christian faith.

We are aware of God as Trinity because of our knowledge through the Scriptures of Jesus as the eternal Son of the Father.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. ...And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-3, 14)

Recently in another comment section on a different blog, the person mentioned above, rejecting modalism, tried explaining what they wrote earlier:

"Just to set the record straight, I am not a modalist. Probably the biggest difference between what I said and what modalism says is that Modalism says God puts on different masks, and what I said is that >we<> put on different masks.

Beyond that, the Doctrine of the Trinity is a human invention that tries to explain how it is that we can be monotheists and worship God the Father, his Son, and the Holy Spirit. The fact that people still argue about it passionately today is evidence that a) it is an unsatisfactory explanation, and b) nobody has any idea what they are really talking about. God Is Who God Is. That is God's name. We will never fully understand it and that is what the Doctrine of the Trinity ultimately asserts: A Mystery."

This turns into the very post-modern and progressive idea that we are the one who defines God.

Now that can turn on two different wheels. One can believe that we really do define God since we somehow are a part of God and there is this give and take between divinity and our own selves. Or, and this is probably what this person is referring to, God is so mysterious that we can't really know anything about him so we attempt to use words to define what is undefinable.

But here again we should return to the person of Jesus Christ. Since he is God's revelation of who God is we must look to Jesus as he is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. To attempt to define God without Jesus Christ is to miss not only the Trinity but also the grace of God.

From the very beginning the promise of the Messiah defines God as the gracious and forgiving one who provides for His people. For instance connected to the sin of Adam and Eve is the promise of a Savior.

God in the midst of his rebuke to the snake, who is either an image of Satan or is used by Satan to lead Eve astray, (so in reality God is speaking to Satan) promises the coming One who will defeat Satan. He states "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15)

Derek Kidner in his wonderful little commentary on Genesis writes of this verse:

"There is good New Testament authority for seeing here the protevangelium, the first glimmer of the gospel. Remarkably, it makes its debut as a sentence passed on the enemy (cf. Col. 2:15), not a direct promise to man, for redemption is about God's rule as much as about man's need ... The prospect of struggle, suffering and human triumph is clear enough, but only the New Testament will unmask the figure of Satan behind the serpent (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:9; 20:2), and show how significant was the passing over of Adam for the woman and her seed (cf. Mt. 1:23; Gal. 4:4;? 1 Tim. 2:15)"

So back to the Trinity; we know from the biblical text that God is one, that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit is God so we know that God is one, known in three eternal persons who are co-equal, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is a mystery not because we don't have knowledge about God, God's word gives us that knowledge, but because we have not experienced a human who is both one and three.

The Trinity is also a mystery in the sense that God is truly wonderful, awesome, in His being and in His graciousness toward us. And added to that is the mystery of the incarnation. Paul speaks of the Christian's true knowledge which comes from a "full assurance of understanding." And that true knowledge is of "God's mystery, that is Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col 2:2b-3)

So we are not without knowledge or understanding of the being or graciousness of God. And all of this because of Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of the Father.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Hound of Heaven, the Word of God and conversion stories

Last week the temperature soared to 108 and smoke from fires in the hills and mountains hung in the trees of Sacramento. But the wind from the ocean and the coastal fog has sent the delta breezes our way. The last two mornings and nights the wonderful delta breezes have blown away the smoke and heat.

In the same way the testimonies of both Toby Brown and Bill Crawford have, at least for me, blown away the lingering effects of General Assembly. That is not to say that there are not great and troubling effects for the whole body of Christ when one part sinks into apostasy.

But the stories of how others were converted to Jesus are like great big gulps of water to thirsty people. While it is always the “Hound of Heaven” relentlessly pursuing us that is the actual cause of our conversion, the ways of coming to Him are like snow flakes, of a unique design. But one part of the story, always, is in one way or another, the word of God.

I thought of my own interaction with the Bible and my conversion as I read about Toby’s journey to an acknowledgement of the total truthfulness of God’s word.

I cannot remember a time, after I learned to read, when I did not read God’s word. But I didn’t understand it; I just thought it must be important. When I was thirteen my Sunday School teacher, who had also been my fifth grade teacher, my sixth grade gym teacher and the wife of the postmaster in our small town, asked us all if we were Christians. I said I was trying to be!

I was baptized in the Methodist Church that year, because I was trying to be a Christian and because everyone else my age was also getting baptized. Later in Stockton, California I started searching for God. The Hound of Heaven was pursuing. I tried different Churches, read books by Christian Scientists and kept reading the Bible. I knew it pretty well I just didn’t understand it.

Finally I asked God to help me understand what the Bible was saying.

A school friend took me and my sister to her father’s church for what she called a revival. We went all week to a little store-front Southern Baptist Church. On the last evening I was convinced, by some dear church ladies who thought I was already a Christian, that I should be baptized by immersion. (God has a sense of humor after all.) So down to the front I went.

When the pastor asked me, “Do you believe the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from all sin?” yes, it really was like a light bulb going off in my head. No one in that church ever knew but my yes was my yes to Jesus Christ.

I was sixteen and finally the Bible opened up with God’s wondrous story of redemption. I couldn’t get enough. The first book I devoured was Romans.

My college experiences were different than either Toby’s or Bill’s. Well to start with, I had six children first! But I went to two secular colleges, a city college, and then the University in Sacramento. And I went as a Christian who believed God’s word was true. I had some wonderful yet hard experiences, because when God sends you somewhere you go in the strength of God’s care but he doesn't always send you to easy places.

Some examples of studying philosophy, religions and finally history in a secular college arena: at City College where I majored in philosophy I came across my first progressive Presbyterian. He taught many of my philosophy classes. Dr. Merritt did not believe in the deity of Christ and hated Augustine as we all found out in the History of Modern Philosophy. World Religions was taught by a Wicca member. And the class I took on the new search for the historical Jesus was, of course, taught by a fellow of the Jesus Seminar. I could go on.

But the important point here is that God’s word was always sufficient in those classes. At one point Dr. Merritt asked if someone had a Bible so they could read Isaiah 53. He wanted to show how the writer was speaking of Israel as God’s son. How easy it was to read and then slip in the words, “You know, some people believe these words were written about Jesus Christ.”

His words and His presence are always sufficient.
"But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." (Romans 5:8-10)

Monday, July 14, 2008

A book review of William Hague's "William Wilberforce" by Exiled Preacher

As if listening to the comments that ended my last posting, Guy Davies, Exiled Preacher , has posted a great review of a new book on William Wilberforce, the Evangelical Christian who spent his political life ridding Great Britain of the slave trade.

William Wilberforce by William Hague is written, according to Davies, by a non-Evangelical who is nonetheless sympathetic to his subject. The review begins,

“Last year marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. Slavery itself was abolished in the British Empire in 1833. Many men and women campaigned against the slave trade, but the acknowledged leader of the anti-slavery movement was William Wilberforce. William Hague has put us in his debt with this well written and compelling biography. He evidently does not share the reformer's evangelical convictions, but he evidences a sympathetic understanding of his subject. The author's political background (he was a Conservative Cabinet Minister, then Leader of the Opposition and is currently Shadow Foreign Secretary) give him a valuable insight into the political aspects of Wilberforce's life.”

Another section: “But Wilberforce was involved in much more than the abolition of slavery. He was a best selling author. His A Practical View of Christianity exposed the nominal religion of the upper classes and set forth the evangelical faith in a provocative and winsome manner. He was an active philanthropist, involved in many good causes including the improvement of working conditions in the factories, the RSPCA. He advocated the work of overseas mission. In a three hour speech to Parliament, he successfully argued against the East India Company’s ban on evangelistic work in India.”

To read all of the review go here. William Wilberforce by William Hague .

Friday, July 11, 2008

Three theological And historical misunderstandings

Three points I wish to make about what I see as three theological and historical misunderstandings. The first has to do with false doctrine and individuals within the Church. The second has to do with false theological groups within the Church. The third has to do with renewal and revival movements within the Church.
Drawing by Melissa McHenry Tregilgas

(1)Individuals and groups who call themselves Christian but teach false doctrine are just that, individuals and groups who call themselves Christians and teach false doctrine. They are just like the rest of us: sinners. A few of them great sinners, some of them seemingly of very good character and most of them very enjoyable people to know.

I noticed this misunderstanding about false Christians as I worked in ministries to new religions. As the Director of Apologetics Resource Center I was usually the person who wrote about off-beat Christian groups. Most people reading this will have not heard of any of them. For instance, have you ever heard of the “Manifest Sons of God” movement? Or what about Free Love Ministries or Aggressive Christianity? (Same group!)

My point is most of the people in those groups were not monsters like Jim Jones or L. Ron Hubbard, instead they were people who didn’t understand the very basic foundation of Christianity. They needed biblical Pastors, teachers and friends.

The problem with false doctrine is not that the perpetrators are horrid people but that they have made Christianity a religion of works. When they sin there is no hope. Instead of the death of Jesus Christ providing the sinner with the righteousness that belongs only to Jesus Christ the believer has to “know” or “realize” who they are. Or the sinner has to somehow fulfill the very same work as Christ, for example empty themselves in order to be transformed.

Instead of the Father reaching down and placing them in safety because of the Son, they are left climbing ladders to God. That is why I write about false teachers, because both they and their followers are left without the righteousness that belongs to Jesus Christ.

(2.)Historically strange and false movements have grown in the Church, but the Church has outlasted them. The gates of Hell shall not prevail! In American Church history various movements have formed and grown in the Church but they have eventually moved out of the Church. For instance, the Unitarian church grew out of the early Congregationalists as a debate about the Trinity seemed to almost overcome the Church of early America.

The interesting part of this is that eventually the Unitarian Church had its own battle against those who no longer wanted to celebrate the communion service in any way. This was the battle the Unitarian Church had with the Transcendentalists. Later as false religion grew the Pagan and Wicca groups became a part of what is now the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Another movement that festered within the nineteenth century American Church was the Metaphysical Movement which was later to form into such groups as Christian Science, Unity School of Christianity and Science of Mind. Not many people know that early on this movement sought a home in the Christian Church. (And sadly it has influenced some of the Pentecostal churches and the Mainline Churches even now.) But the point is that God always has His Church somewhere and “having done all” she can still stand in His truth and grace. Error does not last.

(3.)A lot of writing has gone on recently about renewal groups having a slogan of “stay, fight win” in the mainline churches. I don’t think this is really the slogan of anyone but I want to address what it means to be renewal people in the Church. It means to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to be where He has called. And historically it can mean many things.

It can be a dying church that leaves a witness. Sometimes Christianity starts in the world as in seventeenth century Japan where most Christians died until Christianity was only a shell. It can be a renewing Church that waits a long time for renewal. Sometimes Christianity is renewed in the Church as it was in the Catholic Church of John Hus only to face death and a wait of a hundred years for the rise of a new reformation.

It can be renewal that lasts for years and changes history. Christians, in what would become modern Germany, were in prayer for church renewal when Martin Luther began his biblical preaching in what would become the Reformation.

We do not know where God is leading or what will happen in the mainline churches in the future. We cannot insist others follow Christ in the same way He calls us to follow Him. There is an old hymn that goes “Some through the water, some through the flood, some through the fire but all through the blood.”

But we can trust that His call is real and has value in His Kingdom. And we can keep loving those teaching false doctrine in the Church as we speak truth to them. We can also keep loving, caring for, and having fellowship with those God calls out of the mainline Churches. Perhaps in God’s plan they will bring blessings back to us.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The "New" New Age Presbyterian Mysticism and a question

In my last posting, “Something mystical this way comes: A new syncretism in the Presbyterian Church USA” I referred to Reverend Jud Hendrix’s use of the New Age Guru Ken Wilber. And I pointed out that Wilber’s “Integral Mini Model” is the first guiding text listed by Hendrix in his pamphlet the “The Mystical Church Network: A Contemplative Community of Support, Creative & Accountability.”

Drawing by Melissa McHenry Tregilgas

Also, on his blog, Out Beyond Ideas …, Hendrix has posted what he calls a Shema Circle.1. As I stated in the last posting he writes that it is “structured around Perenniel philosophy (Mind, Body, Soul, Spirit) and the Integral theory of Ken Wilber.” 2.

Having stated, after reading the material, and listening to some sermons that the new mystical movement is panentheistic and somewhat based on Ken Wilber’s new age material I looked around on Ken Wilber’s vast web site,
KenWilber.Com. I found there in their on line magazine Holons a very recent summary of an interview with Brother David Steindl-Rast entitled “Brother David Steindl-Rast - Integral Christianity: Theory and Practice.” Steindl-Rast in an interview with Ken Wilber explains how panentheism is the more acceptable religious viewpoint than either pantheism or theistic Christianity.

In the summary Cory W. deVos writes from the interview:

“Panentheism also frees us from the typically mythological conceptions of God that are found in traditional forms of theism, in which one particular group of people claim an exclusive knowledge of God's nature—usually a single, monolithic, omniscient God who reveals himself only through faith and revelation, which more often than not resembles the "great superego in the sky." (Emphasis author’s)

Via deVos, Steindl-Rast, who is a Benedictine monk, adds to this a strange view of the Trinity. After explaining that “when viewed through the lens of Integral panentheism, the Trinity truly comes alive in our minds as three very different ways of experiencing God:

- The God that is the great, unknowable, Absolute Mystery, from which we come and to which we shall return—God transcendent, or God the Father.

- The God that we recognize in everything that we see, everything that we touch, everything that is—the entire universe as the Body of Christ; God immanent; or God the Son.

- The God that exists through doing, creating, knowing, understanding—the dynamic aspects of God; God as verb; or God as Holy Spirit.”

If this is the basis of the new denominational mysticism many questions could be asked but one might be: “When, for instance, at the “
Church Unbound Conference,” Jud Hendrix and Liz Kaznak, co-Pastors of Covenant Community Church, a part of the new mysticism, minister as liturgists with Paul Detterman of Presbyterians for Renewal are the three people all lifting up the same Jesus?”

I don’t in anyway mean this as a put down, but it seems to me that these three people are embracing two different truths that cannot be reconciled.
2. See also, Integral Christianity Experience by Hendrix

Monday, July 7, 2008

Something mystical this way comes: A new syncretism in the Presbyterian Church USA

Well over a year ago I noticed an invitation to those interested in developing a mystical community. Such a community would supposedly transform the Church. The invitation stated that “the Mystical Church Network will engage clergy and religious professionals from a variety of denominations and religious traditions. The Network is one aspect of a larger multifaceted and organic movement called the Mystical Church Project which is being developed to support leaders, provide resources and create more integral communities of faith. The project and network will support and supplement the work of denominations as together we work for the transformation of the Church.”1

Additionally this pamphlet states among other things that the “Network will host a variety of national gatherings and will encourage local and regional gatherings as the network grows and develops. One gathering will correspond with the Annual 7% Event for Presbyterian USA clergy.”(Emphasis the authors)

It is important to note that although I found this on the blog site of Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, he was simply advertising it for Reverend Jud Hendrix, who alongside Reverend Liz Kaznak, is Pastor of Covenant Community Church. The Mystical Church project has taken form in the
Integral Church Leadership Movement.

Mysticism in the Church is not necessarily a bad thing, but its validity does depend on what forms it takes. St Teresa of Avila is well known as a mystic within the Catholic tradition as is St. John of the Cross. But many mystics have edged their way out of the Church either by carelessly equating themselves with Christ or by becoming too syncretistic in their religious views.

Hendrix, who seems to be a fairly strong catalyst and leader within this movement, (he undoubtedly wrote the Network pamphlet) not only equates others and himself with Christ2, he also brings together many differing religious viewpoints placing himself well within what has been called the “New Age Movement”. And in fact one author that he often uses is New Age guru Ken Wilber. Wilber’s “Integral Mini Model” is the first guiding text listed by Hendrix in his pamphlet.

And on the Integral web site is a “Shema Circle,” (
Download shema_circle_ext_des.doc ) “structured around Perenniel philosophy (Mind, Body, Soul, Spirit) and the Integral theory of Ken Wilber.”

Some of the explanation for this circle is based on Scripture, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut 6:5) But the more basic foundation is Eastern and new age philosophy as can be seen from this statement: “However, the practices of the Shema circle also seek to develop an awareness of “self” that transcends the individual and merges with the cosmic Self or Christ Consciousness.”

The best way to understand how this kind of mysticism is not Christianity is to look at some written texts and sermons, comparing them with Biblical Faith.

Perhaps the most basic place to begin would be with Hendrix’s views of Jesus Christ. In his sermon on “Resurrection and Evolution” while looking at Advent, Hendrix states “God comes to God’s self.” This means that Hendrix is following a panentheistic view of God that sees creation as the body of God. Next he looks at the person Jesus as he lives his life, referring to a great event when “something about Jesus wakes and he becomes the Christ. The metaphor of becoming enlightened or becoming into his own and at this point he somehow realizes who he is, the beloved, and he is united with God, all of creation and all of men.”

In a different sermon, “The Baptism of Jesus,”3 Hendrix refers to Jesus’ baptism as the time when he realizes he is God. Hendrix states, “A person wakes up, Jesus a human person … wakes up to the reality that all is sacred, that he is God … He some how becomes the channel for truth and grace… somehow with this new moment there is a new potential for the human experience.” This leads to the view that “There is new opportunity for all of history for us to wake up and realize who we are … we are god present in time and space.”

Hendrix turns Jesus into a kind of Buddha who reaches enlightenment and carries all of creation with Him. He is certainly using process theology and equates the life and work of Jesus Christ with evolution. He, not unlike Teilhard de Chardin, sees Jesus as the catalyst of a new consciousness for humanity, the bringer of new potential.

In fact he sees Jesus’ self surrendering and "emptying of himself" in death as the cause which opens all of creation to the possibility of having the same opportunity to become the Christ. Speaking of Jesus emptying his life Hendrix states, “So that the cycle can start again and we see that is not only the cycle of Christ but this is the cycles of evolution …the cycle of our own becoming…an on going process of dying and becoming.”4

Turning Jesus Christ into an enlightened person who realizes he is God leads to a misunderstanding about the Christian community, about redemption and about the need for others to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For instance, writing on his blog, “Out Beyond Ideas …” about the second coming of Christ
Maybe the Next Messiah Will Be a Collective, Hendrix writes of his longing:

The other day I found myself wishing for Jesus to come back. Not something that crosses my mind much, but I caught myself thinking it. If not Jesus, I thought, then maybe a new anointed one (Messiah) to emerge on the world scene to make things right. Why not! I wondered. Isn’t it time for a little Fleshy Divinity again. Why can’t it be like the good ol days… when God would respond to the cries and chaos of the world with an embodied Messiah. Maybe, a women this time… to settle the argument once and for all about the gender of God. I Also briefly wondered if it was Barak Obama!??! – but that is yet to be seen?”

After speculating on what is needed in the world today, Hendrix goes beyond the individual messiah or avatar, as he puts it, and writes about the Christian Community as a collective Christ. He writes:

This space of community is the playground of the Spirit. Christ says, “Where two or more are gathered I am there.” Access to Christ consciousness is not an individual experience but a communal one. A particular church or spiritual community is locally grounded and non-locally connected making it potentially a fuller reflection and agent of God’s Shalom than any individual Messiah could be. A community is the channel to the universal not the individual.”

The Jesus of this new mystical movement is not biblical. Jesus is the unique and only Christ.

"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:15)

Jesus did not realize Christ consciousness or awaken to some new sense of oneness with God, humanity and creation. Instead the Father put his seal of approval on Jesus at his baptism. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And Jesus was quite aware of himself before his baptism. He in fact said to John the Baptist, who was protesting against baptizing him, "Permit it at this time: for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matt. 3:15)

Jesus came to redeem a people for his Father. The simple Bible verse that even children know states it so completely. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) (emphasis mine)

With this new syncretism the individual Christian is left in a lonely place without a personal Savior and with only technological spirituality such as yoga and Tantra as a means of achieving wholeness. At the same time the Christian Community is turned into a place where Christ consciousness is exhibited instead of a community experiencing unity because each individual person is united to the risen Lord Jesus.

"What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." (1 John 1:3-4)

2 See “Resurrection and Evolution” sermon by Jud Hendrix at &
3 See The Baptism of Jesus” by Jud Hendrix at &
4 “Resurrection & Evolution.”

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The General Assembly from a Piano Tuner and Bible teacher's perspective

My husband Brad Larson attended the 218th General Assembly with me. It was nice having his companionship as well as his wisdom. He wrote a letter about his perceptions of GA. After reading it I felt he was saying some important things and asked if I could edit out the personal parts and post it. He was happy to allow me to do that. I think hearing from someone who does not often get into the process of Presbyterian politics but loves teaching the Bible is extremely helpful.

Having been a piano tuner for more than forty years I am used to being the first and last person in the process of decision making and implementing. Occasionally when I need help I can interact with the Steinway Company from whom most of my work is drawn, directly and indirectly. The process of working out everything in committees can be constructive as well as destructive. I spend a lot of time thinking my way through issues before I make decisions that will affect my reputation and ethics because I want to be kept in the highest esteem by all I work for and represent. I feel that committees I have been a part of have often been very shallow when it comes to dealing with important issues.

So it is also with Scripture. Studying through the books of Jonah, the rebellious prophet, to John who shared the Revelation and Gospel with us at a very late time in his own life, along with many other contributors to our Holy Scriptures, I have come to see most clearly that Jesus demands that we give our complete allegiance to Him and Him alone!

At home in our own church we work within our congregation and Presbytery to accomplish what we feel is God’s direction and purpose for us. Sometimes the process works well and other times not so well. The 218th GA, however, is another story. I have never seen worse interpretations of Scripture and order of process in dealing with issues of life and death in the Church.

The oft quoted phrase “Love one another as I have loved you,” along with the passage from Micah felt too much like a hammer coming down upon me or a mantra that had some sort of influence just for the repeating of it. If the first phrase had been presented with both parts understood it would be a completely different picture. It is all good and fine that we should love one another (and I can sometimes be faulted here and need to repent), but it should have been also a part of the GA to finish the phrase by presenting just how it is that Jesus loves “us.”

Jesus encourages us with His love. Jesus warns us against sin with His love. Jesus confronts us with His love. Jesus says to us “Follow Me” because of His love for us. We have a Theologian, from our history, in B. B. Warfield who isn’t mentioned too much these days. One of my favorite things from him is his concept of Scripture called Avalanche Theology. Looking at Scripture is like standing at the bottom of a precipice and watching an avalanche coming down upon us. It might seem theoretically possible to pick our way through the falling rocks and debris and escape the force bearing down upon us but we know better.

We must see the Scripture as a whole and not try to pick our way through it selectively. It all has meaning in matters of life and death and relationship with the God we profess to love and worship.

We should rather be on our knees in prayer asking Jesus for wisdom, burying ourselves in Scripture so we might understand and discern God’s place in all our struggles of worship and belief.

The flagrant abuse of Scripture offends me deeply. Jesus left no one outside the boundaries of His love but He is very plain about what it means to follow Him. We as His children are all welcome at the Table receiving the gifts of his death, crucifixion and resurrection, but when we partake with malice, hatred, or unbelief in Jesus words to us, we do, as Paul said, drink to our own death. Simply translated this leaves us no room for personal desire or ambition; the things we strive for outside of Jesus Christ are exactly things that will draw us away from Christ.

If God is truly our highest worship then He has a right to call “sin” whatever he chooses and we will be sooner or later surprised at how right He has been all along. Many behaviors that God has called “Sexual Immorality” are plaguing the Church today. It is really astonishing that in spite of the fact that division in the church is the consequence of these behaviors no one seems to notice and the fight goes on with some imagining that sooner or later the Church will come together around these issues. It will never happen. The avalanche is upon us.

Only Jesus Christ can steer us through it. And He has promised us that He will if we will but just trust him. The rewards at the end of it all are full of joy and beyond comprehension in their magnificence. Jesus so loved the entire Cosmos (John 3:16) that He instigated redemption from the fallen world so that we might know eternal life in its fullness. We will all be just exactly who He created us to be in His image!!

May our Lord bless His Church and draw her closer to Himself as she struggles with faith and obedience.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Yes, I can change my mind!

I have had a change of mind, in part, about the posting I made titled Evelyn Waugh and the 218 General Assembly . After discussing my concerns with a friend who was in a much closer range than I of the podium, I believe the Moderator simply made several bad judgment calls and corrected one privately, never committing the others again.

However, I stand by my concerns that two Muslims helped to guide the commissioners in both the committee meeting and the business meeting in what should have been the commissioners' very Christian statement of faith. And I still insist that the question should be asked, "How do you witness to those who need Jesus Christ when what should be pastoral leadership stands between you and the lost?

For a complete report on the General Assembly with thoughtfulness, especially about the votes on human sexuality, I would hardily recommend Pastor Bob Davis' recent posting July 5, 2008: A Wrap-Up, of sorts. Please read to the end of his report.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Brittany Dowdy and Jots and Tittles

I'm featuring the blog of Brittany Dowdy the college intern of Voices of Orthodox Women. Brittany has written several excellent articles for VOW. Her blog is Jots and Tittles. Brittany who will be entering Fuller Theological Seminary at Seattle this fall sat at the airport writing out her confession of faith in light of the utter nonsense going on at the Presbyterian General Assembly. She begins:


In light of the actions taken by the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I felt it right and necessary to lay forth now my personal confession of faith. It is my hope that this confession will serve two purposes: first and most importantly, to glorify and honor God; second, to provide encouragement for my brothers and sisters who fight alongside me in order to restore our church to God. I write in the confessional tradition of the church, recognizing and honoring the confessions which came before mine and affirming that I, too, write in response to a threat to the true faith.

I confess that there is one God, who reveals Himself to us in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I confess that this God is holy, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, just, merciful and good. I confess that the Father, out of His great love for us, sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to offer Himself up in atonement for our sins. (More)