|Picture by Melissa Tregilgas|
Part of the Emergent movement is developing a “new age” worldview through Doug Pagitt, founder of Solomon’s Porch, Riley O’Brien Powell, theologian-in-residence of Solomon’s Porch and Doug King president of Presence.tv. The troubling religious ideas intertwined with this movement include panentheism, a preterism that denies bodily resurrection and the second coming of Christ, and the idea that true spirituality is evolving beyond any form of any particular faith. I will look at each one of these ideas.
I connect Doug King to Pagitt and Powell because of their writing presence on King’s Presence site. Also their theological ideas feed into the ideology that King is presenting. The information I am providing comes from the Presence site, Powell’s blog, Living the Question, and Pagitt’s latest book, Flipped: The Provocative Truth that Changes Everything We Know About God.
Panentheism: Both in his book and in an article on Presence, Pagitt states that God is not a separate subject and that he is existence. In his web article, “Inside-Out God,” Pagitt writes:
“God is not a separate subject that we talk about or relate to through belief, behavior, faith, or practice. Much better than that, God is the very existence of all things. We are called to live congruently within the existence that holds all things together. This notion resonates with beauty, intrigue, majesty, and mystery.”
The quote is also in his book. Pagitt also refers to this same idea as everything being in God. Putting the two ideas together, being in God and God not being other but instead being existence is a description of panentheism. Unlike pantheism, panentheism does not hold that all of God is creation, but that a part of God is creation. God is to creation as the head is to the body. This idea too often leads to other unbiblical ideas about what Christian faith involves. This is so with Pagitt’s ideas. He rejects the idea of sacrifice in Christianity and teaches that all people since they are in God are already connected to God.
Pagitt rejects any kind of religion that requires what he calls an adapter, that is, something (such as an idol or good works) or somebody to connect another to God. Jesus rather than being the mediator between God and humanity becomes an example of humanity in God. While it is important to understand that there is no goodness of our own and certainly no idol that can connect us to God, we are all in need of an adapter, that is, Jesus Christ the redeemer.
Unable to see the symbol of redemption found in the story of Abraham taking his son to the mountain to sacrifice him to God, Pagitt believes that the first command came from the Canaanite gods whom he calls Elohim. Yahweh came to the rescue, calling off the sacrifice.
Panentheism also leads to pluralism, the idea that all faiths are valid. Pagitt writes:
“With the life of faith, one often feels that committing to one tradition requires closing our eyes to all the stories and ways of others.
That is another reason why the understanding of our Life in God is so powerful. We find crucial connections where nothing is left out and no one is left behind. It is a faith that beckons us to the big, open story of God.” (p146) (Pagitt always capitalizes “Life in God.”)
Full Preterism: Full preterism has never been endorsed by the Church, neither in its confessions or councils. It is not only the idea that Jesus came in judgement in 70AD, doing away with the Jewish Temple, but also that event includes the second coming of Christ and the resurrection. According to the teaching of full preterism there is no bodily resurrection.
Powell, both in articles on Presence, “The Coming of God- War and Peace,” and her own blog, “What is a “Coming of God?”, promotes full Preterism. Among those who she notes hold this view is R.C. Sproul, but Sproul does not hold to full preterism. He does not reject the bodily resurrection nor the coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. Powell’s idea of the Kingdom of God, does not fall far from the utopias envisioned by new age leaders—it is human centered. She writes:
“The empowerment in this message is that we can be a part of God’s story of renewal and rebirth in the world. God has chosen to work through us in the world, as co-creators of a Great Kingdom.”
“Jesus’ coming, therefore, is not something that is going to happen “to us” in the future. Rather, Jesus’ life, light, love and presence – revealing God as our All-in-all Source – is coming into the world – through us, in us, and as us.”
In our contemporary world, recently filled with so much tribulation, full preterism offers little hope.
Evolving spirituality: King steps beyond Powell and Pagitt suggesting that the world’s faiths are evolving beyond themselves. In his article, “The Spiral Axis of Interspirituality: Evolving Beyond Religion,” King writes, “Simply put, the evidence has become overwhelming: Religion is evolving, and is now poised for an evolutionary leap – transcending religion itself. Tracing what he believes is the evolution of religion in general and Christianity in particular King believes humanity will move into a formless spirituality. He asks a question:
“Presence supports both interfaith and interspiritual discussions and fellowships as a beautiful movement from the violence, prejudice and even hatred that is the shadow of our shared religious past. Even so, we ask: “What would identity look like in a truly Integral setting, where all humans are simply spiritual offspring of that which we understand as God?””
So called Christian organizations cannot move away from the central teachings of Christianity, the Scripture, the apostolic witness, the confessions of the church and continue on as Christian. None of this is new, it is as ancient as the serpent’s words to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Leaving behind the biblical understanding of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, the resurrection of the body and the second coming of Christ empties any institution of the life giving power of God’s work, promises and hope. We desperately need the righteousness of Christ, the redeeming and transforming power of the resurrection, the final and absolute revelation of God’s living Word and written word. May God preserve his people in the midst of such blatant heresy.