Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Not Plato’s Forms but the Unchanging, Personal God

For a daily devotional I use The St. James Daily Devotional Guide. This morning I was pleased with some commentary about the difference between truth (the eternal forms) which are true by necessity and the truth which is Jesus Christ whose truth is displayed in freedom.

I believe it was in my junior year of college at the University of California, Sacramento, when I won the philosophy contest for that year. In my essay, “Plato’s Four Concepts of Soul in the Phaedo,” I attempted to prove “a great deal of the confusion of the concepts with one another is caused by Plato’s idea of personal souls and their likeness to impersonal forms.” I have thought about this often, we Christians cling to a personal God, unchanging yes, but that unchanging includes compassion, mercy and forgiveness. And in that unchanging merciful God is freedom.

The author of the commentary, Patrick Henry Reardon, is relating this to Mark 4:35-41, the story of Jesus calming the winds and the waves. Reardon writes:

…in today’s Gospel story, the truth he revealed to those disciples threatened by the storm on the lake—fearful for their lives—was utterly free, backed up by no explanatory or metaphysical necessity. He overwhelmed the apostles—along with the waves and the wind—by the redemptive assertion of his presence. Christ’s debarim—the things he did and said—formed an absolutely free gift, conveyed in the experience of grace and election.
…Always, the truth revealed in Christ is pure grace—truth freely and generously given, truth freely and humbly received.

Here I think it can be pointed out that not only was this grace and truth freely given it was so very personal. The Hebrew Bible clearly tells us that God controls the seas and storms, “He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed (Psalm 107: 29).” But in Jesus the disciples see the personal, the face of God as the storm is stilled. And there is more.

In Mark’s account of this story there are other boats. Mark writes, “Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as he was; and other boats were with him (4:36).” R. Alan Cole in the Tyndale Commentary suggests that this may be like the closing words of Jonah, “and also much cattle (Joh. 4:11), with its undertone of the infinite mercy of God.” This personal God, very God of very God, as the creed states, was not just training Apostles he was caring for the crowds of people as he did when feeding the five thousand and the four thousand.

Here we are living in the midst of a pandemic, living in the midst of unholy racism, living in the midst of unholy riots, perhaps fearful of what is coming in the future—and yet here stands our Redeemer who created the universe and controls the universe. This personal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, knows us personally and has us in his tight grip. Fear not.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

A Great divide Among the Orthodox

Years ago, working as a researcher for Apologetics Resource Center, I was examining the actions and theology of a group known as Aggressive Christianity, a group that was preying on the youth of evangelical churches. They were persuading them to enter their commune, leaving behind their church, families and friends. The leaders knew I was in the midst of my research and writing an article about them. One day we received their little newsletter. In its pages was a caricature of Walter Martin, evangelicals will know him as The Bible Answer Man, he was holding a dog by its leash. The dog had a name, Viola Larson, Heretic Hound.

All of us in the ARC laughed at this and even suggested we produce a button to wear with the name heretic hound.

 But the true gift of the insult was the letters we received from others who had also received the newsletter. Their big question, “Okay, tell us what this group is really into”?

This particular group was not Christian although they professed to be. Their beliefs and their actions had moved them far beyond the right to that holy title. They destroyed families and constantly insulted the Church, pastors and other Christians.

That was, as I stated, years ago, today, I am not laughing but grieving because of some who profess the name Christian and yet are willing, in the same manner, to insult other Christians, even lying about them. These are such troubling times and it seems to me that a great divide is happening among us. Not between the progressive and the orthodox but among the orthodox.

 I believe an idol is lifting itself up, attempting to pull the Church in pieces. Of course Satan is the one who wishes to destroy the Church and he does push idols in our path. But what that often means, in our own time, for the last several centuries,  is we turn our attention to human idols—we look for salvation in the human—those who magnify themselves as saviors—and we believe the lie, and so we lie. Examples are endless.

Several weeks ago I was troubled to find a friend had posted a video produced by Jon Harris who insists he is reformed and orthodox while at the same time appearing to be racist. In his video, “Why are all my friends Marxists, he places a quote by Abraham Lincoln. It is actually from a debate with Stephen Douglas during Lincoln’s campaign to become Senator. Lincoln states:

 I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about the social and political equality of the white and black races that I am not nor ever have been of making voters or jurors of Negroes nor qualifying them to hold office, or intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality … I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men.

Harris is attempting to prove that Lincoln did not fight the Civil War over slavery but for political power. Henry Louis Gates, the “Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University,” seeing the quote in a different context looks at the evolving views of Lincoln. He writes, “But the truth is that until very late in his presidency, Lincoln was deeply conflicted about whether to liberate the slaves, how to liberate the slaves and what to do with them once they had been liberated.” Gates concludes:

“Two things dramatically changed Lincoln’s attitudes toward black people. First, in the early years, the North was losing the Civil War, and Lincoln quickly realized that the margin of difference between a Southern victory and a Northern victory would be black men. So, despite severe reservations that he had expressed about the courage of black troops (“If we were to arm them, I fear that in a few weeks the arms would be in the hands of the rebels…”), Lincoln included in the Emancipation Proclamation a provision authorizing black men to fight for the Union.

Three days before he was shot, Lincoln stood on the second floor of the White House and made a speech to a crowd assembled outside celebrating the recent Union victory over the Confederacy. With his troops and Frederick Douglass very much in mind, Lincoln told the cheering crowd, which had demanded that he come to the window to address them, that he had decided to recommend that his 200,000 black troops and “the very intelligent Negroes” be given the right to vote.”[1]

It was evidently this last speech that was the cause of his death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth.

With another video Harris attempts to prove that Ahmaud Arbery’s death was not murder. Additionally Harris attempts to attach both a secular and a progressive viewpoint onto those Evangelicals who are concerned about racism. Because they use some terms which are academic and secular, such as critical race theory, as tools in their ministry to overcome racism within the church Harris calls them “woke” Christians.

Harris, in many videos has disparaging words to say about almost all well-known Evangelicals. This includes Russell Moore, The Gospel Coalition, Beth Moore, Mark Dever, Timothy Keller, even Rosaria Butterfield, the lady who was a lesbian professor who became a Christian and married a conservative Reformed pastor.

The awful put downs of those whom God is using during this troubling time cannot be the work of the Holy Spirit. The disquieting divisive comment made by another friend is simply a lie. Concerned because David French, Senior Editor of The Dispatch was encouraging Christians to not be afraid of their witness the person uttered what I consider one of the most contemptible lies about a fellow Christian. He wrote, “French and his wife now seem to agree with the policies of the Democrat party straight down the line, including infanticide and persecution of Christians who dissent from LGBT.”
But rather David French wrote, in his article, “How then Should Christians Vote:”

Assuming Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, I can’t vote for him. Even if I do like some of the things he’s done, he lacks the character to be president. But I cannot join some of my Never Trump friends in backing the Democratic nominee. Many of them may well pass the character test, but I cannot vote for a person who would put in place policies I believe are harmful and potentially destructive—especially to unborn life.

These words by French are part of his faith commitment. They are his commitment to Jesus Christ. How can any Christian in these times attempt to assassinate another’s character as Jon Harris and the Christians on my Facebook page are doing? Many are looking to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church as examples of how the Church must act today. They see the division between the German Christians and the Confessing Church as a reflection between the orthodox and the progressives of today—and some of that is so—but the story and the reflection is far more complex than many imagine.  Yes, the German Christians as a whole were liberal, even progressive, in their theology. But they were also nationalist. Their vision of the greatness of their nation and their desire to be power players in that nation put them at odds with the Confessing Church.

I return to the insults, the lies—the gift in this case is the privilege of standing on the side of Christ, the crucified Christ.

Perhaps we have forgotten our true calling.

[1] Henry Louis Gates Jr. “Was Lincoln a Racist?”

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret - A Book Review

Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret

By Don & Joy Veinot and Marcia Montenegro

MCOI Publishing LLC

March 2020
By Viola Larson

In 2010 after listening to Suzanne Stabile, considered an expert on the Enneagram, place the enneagram above the authority of Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ I wrote about it on my blog, Naming His Grace. A friend, Marcia Montenegro, who I had met at an Evangelical Ministry to New Religions conference, let me know she was writing an article evaluating it from a biblical perspective. Recently, Montenegro together with Don & Joy Veinot have written an excellent book, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram, from both a biblical and historical perspective. Since Richard Rohr is the main promoter of the Enneagram within Christianity they examine his theology as it relates to the person of Jesus Christ.

Montenegro and the Veinots, evangelical Christians, are concerned because the use of the Enneagram has entered the evangelical church. Two evangelical publishers have published books which promote the use of the Enneagram as a means of Christian growth. Some Christian churches and organizations such as Intervarsity have used the Enneagram as a spirituality tool. Both Montenegro and the Veinots are uniquely qualified to analyze and write about the problems with Rohr’s theology and the history and biblical problems of the Enneagram.

Don Veinot is an ordained minister and the president of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions. He is the author of several books including Preserving Evangelical Unity: Welcoming Diversity in Non-Essentials. He has written for many Evangelical publications including Christian Research Journal, Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics and the Midwestern Journal of Theology. Montenegro, before becoming a Christian, was involved in the occult, Eastern spirituality and astrology. She was chairperson of the Astrology Board of Examiners and “President of the Astrological Society in Atlanta, GA.” Since becoming a Christian Montenegro has an M.A. in Religion from Southern, Evangelical Seminary and serves as a missionary with Fellowship International Mission. She has written Spellbound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids; her web site is Christian Answers for the New Age.[1]

Undoubtedly the most important feature of Richard Rohr and the Enneagram is that every subject covered is enveloped in Scripture. A non-Christian could not read this book without at least coming to an awareness of the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. A Christian who reads the book will find clarity that comes from Scripture concerning the various deviations taken by teachers of the Enneagram as well as the theology of Richard Rohr.

The basic description of the enneagram given by the authors is:

It is a geometric design consisting of a circle with equilateral triangle and an irregular hexagram inside which touches the circle at nine points. The current version has numbers added at the touch points around the circle …[2]

They go on to explain, “Each number within the Enneagram is ‘a path,’ and with the help of Enneagram coaches and authors, it is up to the individual to discover their personal path.”[3] The authors then explore what “personal path” means within the context of the Enneagram versus Scripture.

One of the very interesting subjects of the book is the true history of the Enneagram versus the false history. Most enneagram authors, teachers and coaches, even Christian ones, will insist that the enneagram is ancient. That is false but the true history begins with a 19th century esoteric teacher George I. Gurdieff. The authors write that “Gurdieff believed all the secret laws of the universe could be seen in his diagram, and he used it to play around with mathematical formulas—what he called the ‘Law of Seven and the ‘Law of Three.’[4] According to the author’s research Gurdieff never used the Enneagram for “character or personality assessment” as contemporary coaches and teachers do.

Montenegro and the Veinots follow the history to Richard Rohr a Catholic priest whose books are popular among mostly progressive Christians but also among some evangelicals. One of his most popular and latest book is The Universal Christ. Rohr, who is a panentheist,[5] divides the person of Jesus, separating His divinity from his humanity. The authors’ write, “Since Rohr teaches that the first Incarnation of Christ was Creation Christ is literally in Creation.” And then quote Rohr:

“God is not just saving people; God is saving all of creation. This is not pantheism (God is everything), but panentheism (God is in everything).
Christ is the eternal amalgam of matter and spirit as one. They hold and reveal one another. Wherever the material and human coincide, we have the Christ. That includes the material world, the natural world, the animal world (including humans), and moves all the way to the elemental world …)[6]

Montenegro and the Veinots also analyze Rohr’s understanding of the Bible. They write, “Rohr believes the Bible reveals men’s thoughts at different stages of consciousness. He refers to Ken Wilber’s (1949-) theory of “Spiritual Dynamics®” of colors to explain this.” [7] In the same why Rohr has an unorthodox view of sin, atonement, resurrection and salvation. Quoting Rohr the authors write:

Rohr argues that “salvation is not a question of if but when.” Rohr believes everything and everyone will be swept into the final point of perfection drawn to that end by Christ.
“All who look at the world with respect,” writes Rohr, “even if they are not formerly religious, are en Cristo, or in Christ.”[8]

The authors explain how this heretical view of Jesus, Bible and redemption feeds into Rohr’s use of the Enneagram and other contemporary teachers including evangelical writers and teachers. Much of the problems circle around the idea of having a supposedly core true self and a false self. The Enneagram is meant to uncover the true self. This raises several issues such as using a “tool,” the Enneagram, rather than Scripture for spiritual growth. And another, although made in the image of God, humanity is fallen, the image is broken, we do not have a true self. As Christians we have the undivided Lord Jesus Christ—that is our identity.

Montenegro and the Veinots in their book explore such teachers, coaches and writers as Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron who wrote, The Road Back to You, Chris Heuertz who wrote The Sacred Enneagram and has a new book published by Zondervan, The Enneagram of Belonging: A Compassionate Journey of Self-Acceptance.  Another Beth McCord is an Enneagram coach whose past teachers were mainly new agers.

Don and Joy Veinot and Marcia Montenegro have provided the Christian Church with a well-researched book about the Enneagram. It isn’t just about heresy but is filled with orthodox theology and an excellent exegete of Scripture as it pertains to the spiritual life of the Christian. They clear away all of the lies, seductive nonsense and misplaced applause to instead honor Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Rohr and the Enneagram, See “About the Authors,” 152-153.
[2] Enneagram, 21
[3] Ibid, 22.
[4] Ibid.,60
[5] A panentheist sees God as the head is to the body, in other words creation is a part of God but not all of God.
[6] Ibid., 72,73, found at Richard Rohr, “The Christification of the Universe” Center for Action and contemplation (CAC) website (Sun., Nov. 6, 2016) https://cac.orgthe-christification-of-the-universe-2016-11-06/. And Richard Rohr. “This is My Body” (Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) website (Mon., March 4, 2019); 
[7] Enneagram.74.
[8] Ibid.,74, quotes from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, 225, 120.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Quo Vadis: Whither Goest Thou?

The title is a reminder of a movie I loved when I was 10 years old. It is from a Catholic novel about the Christians during Nero’s rule. The words Quo Vadis are supposed to be Christ’s words to Peter as he leaves Rome. Jesus is calling him back to Rome to be with the Christians who will die in the arena. But I thought of those words as a question to those who in the midst of this pandemic are constantly turning to conspiracy theories to explain what is happening.

 Not everyone is into conspiracies, not everyone believes the Democrats started the virus, not everyone believes that Bill Gates is a monster leading to the anti-Christ, but I am seeing far too many, friends, Christians, stating such things as facts. And where this all leads is terrifying.

I saw on Twitter a lady harassing Jonah Goldberg of The Dispatch because of something he wrote. I wasn’t familiar with her until others put up information about her so readers could understand where her ideology is moored. Michelle Malkin, once an acceptable conservative speaker writes “I will not take the Gates Vaccine. I will not bow down to jack-booted globalists. I will question the corrupted public health industrial complex & its financial conflicts of interest. I will use my platforms to share silenced views of whistleblowers & dissidents.” That rant isn’t a lot different than some I have seen on Facebook.

But there is more. Malkin also claims to be the mother of the “groypers.” As columnist Mona Charen puts it in her article in The Bulwark, they are “a group … led by a 21-year-old YouTube host named Nick Fuentes. To get a sense of just how loathsome this figure is, have a look at this video in which he wonders, grinning, about whether 6 million “cookies” could really be baked in ovens and how the “math doesn’t add up.”

Charen goes on to note that Fuentes was one of the marchers in the “the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.” Malkin has linked herself with a group of anti-Semitic and racist fanatics. Using conspiracy theories as a filter to explain events is how many get pulled into places they never intended to go.

There are conspiracies in the Bible. Jezebel conspires with the elders and nobles in Naboth’s city. They accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king. Naboth is put to death so that King Ahab might possess his vineyard (1 Kings 21).

Judas conspires with the Chief Priests and officers to betray Jesus to death.

But these conspirators are named and their exact sin pointed out. There is greed, egotism, envy, malice, pride and deception. Not an elusive attempt to take over the world. There is the possibility of repentance, forgiveness and redemption because the people are known and confronted personally. There is also God’s judgment on those who do not repent. Redemptive history is very personal; there is no place for conspiracy theories.

Dabbling in such slanderous understandings of other’s intents is sinful and leads to further sin. And this is the path that Malkin and others like her have taken. They have compromised their ability to speak truth to power and to offer good news to broken people.  They can only bless in a manner that pulls the needy into a deeper darkness. 

Quo Vadis

Don’t go there.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Pandemic, anti-Christ and Conspiracies

Revival and tragedy, within the Christian faith, have something in common. They both tend to produce heretical movements and bizarre ways of embracing reality and the future. I am troubled by what I see rising out of this pandemic not only on the edges but even in the midst of the church.

I still remember, almost forty years ago, standing in line for the Saturday night concerts at Warehouse Ministries in Sacramento. It was during the Jesus Movement, a time of revival. Hippies, drug dealers, sophisticated cynics and others were coming to Christ. And yet some used the concerts to persuade others to come with them and find truth elsewhere. In some cases the Children of God sect or Free Love Ministries, a cultic group which later renamed themselves Aggressive Christianity. The Children of God practiced something called flirty fishing gaining converts using sex. Aggressive Christianity majored in demon possession enticing the youth of other churches to move into their commune and denounce friends and family. Both groups were spin offs from the Jesus movement.

In an earlier time, the New York area, referred to by religious historians as the burned over area, because so many Christian awakenings occurred there, was also a place where many unorthodox movements began. Some were radical and extreme in nature some simply unorthodox.

In this century when tragedy occurred in the same area, 9/11, a few (a very few) progressive Christians, believing that the United States government conspired to destroy the World Trade Center, added to a growing conspiratorial movement which on its very fringes embraced anti-Semitism. And conspiracies are part of the falseness coming out of this pandemic.

Recently a woman who is a member of a respected renewal group, on Facebook, put out a bizarre call to prayer against a streaming program titled “One World: Together at Home.” It was a six hour streaming of music, spoken word and requests for money and signatures. Supposedly the group was laying the foundation for the coming of the anti-Christ. The lady wrote, “The spiritual battle in the heavenlies has landed mightily with an event set to play over the globe in the next few hours.” Then she included a “key” article written by another person.

The article stated, “… The front runner organizations that were assigned by satan to lay the groundwork for the global single ruler order (which will be government of the anti-Christ very soon) are the WHO (World Health Organization, and UN, Major businesses that have been empowered by the dark side to facilitate the agenda are such as Bill and Melinda Gates Institutes, Facebook, Amazon, Disney, CNN, Google, etc.”
The author of this article goes on attempting to prove her point by pointing out all of the 6s involved in “this pandemic.” For instance, “Keep ‘6 feet’ away social distancing.” And, “CDC unveils ‘6-phase’ pandemic response blueprint.” Also, “The word Corona has ‘6 letter’, simple gematria = 66.”

While many, including myself, would not agree with many of these celebrities or organizations’ religious and philosophical views this kind of call to prayer is senseless. It is belittling people who are attempting to help in the middle of a pandemic. And it is asking Christians to use their precious God given time to pray against nonsense when God has called us to compassionate care, prayer for those affected by the pandemic, prayer for the Church and prayer for those who disagree with our faith. It is giving the Church a strange view of God’s providential care and promises in the midst of evil.

Another Christian pointed her readers to a video which is filled with half-truths, lies and manipulative garbage. Rev. Danny Jones of Northlake Baptist Church covers every pandemic event with the shadow of the coming anti-Christ and his promoters. He sees the Corona virus 19 as a planned event and begins his speech describing the pandemic as “a drill. It’s a drill it’s a simulation it’s a dress rehearsal if you will to work out the bugs and get all the nations prepared for this world government.” He believes in a global plot to bring the world into a one world government. In his story Rockefeller was a leader but died, Soros is too old, and Henry Kissinger is also too old. Bill Gates is of course the chosen one.

Here are some of the half-truths and lies:

“On Jan 24 the Unites States House of Representatives drafting a corona stimulus bill called the Cares act.” The implication is that some insiders knew about the devastation of the economy before the American people did. But it wasn’t a corona stimulus bill at first, it was what is called a shell bill meant to be filled out later. In Jan. it was called the (Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019.) In March it was passed as the Cares Act.

“So March 14th AP announced that the volunteers of Seattle were given the covid vaccine. Wait a minute it was made by Moderna … and it was approved by Dr. Facui’s National Institutes of Health.” Jones goes on to insinuate that since Dr. Facui had stated that it would take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine and this was only at the beginning of the pandemic something was shady. But a vaccine experiment begins, as in Seattle, and then continues on for many months. This early event has not contradicted Dr. Facui’s words.

Another: “Chinese leaders are saying that American military that attended the world games in Wuhan released it as a bioweapon against China. American leaders are calling it the Wuhan virus and saying that the Chinese released it out of their virology lab in Wuhan in order to affect the world. The truth is probably up in there somewhere.” 
The problem here is first the idea that Americans might have been involved in creating the virus. Jones' words should trouble a lot of patriotic Americans listening to him. And on the other hand even if American leaders believe that the virus came from a lab in Wuhan they believe it was an accident not a bioweapon. Jones is unable to let go of the idea that the virus was meant to be a drill or dress rehearsal for a one world government and anti-Christ..

There is more in the video that is untruthful but the bigger problem is Jones’ attempt to take the biblical idea of anti-Christ and place that scenario over this medical crisis.   

There are too many Christians eagerly pushing conspiracy theories in the midst of this pandemic. Facebook and Twitter are full of them. This isn’t about whether one needs to stay sheltered or quarantined; it is about the sin of telling stories that have nothing to do with biblical precepts. Too often the stories are woven together with warnings about the anti-Christ and a one world government. They are stories told by those who admonish us to not fear death or sickness while at the same time telling us to fear being entrapped by the anti-Christ and his lackeys. This is not the biblical viewpoint.

Jesus told us to fear someone, God in reverence. “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” There are two important areas to remember when thinking of our Christian walk and our understanding of the last defeated and perhaps most powerful anti-Christ. The first is our position in the Lord and His life in us, the second is the true evil of the anti-Christ. These are both very simple and have nothing to do with conspiracies.

There are many adjectives: “shrewd as serpents,” “innocent as doves.” “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21: 34) Be alert, praying … As I read on in the scriptures I could fill in this description with page after page. The point is the Christian’s life in Christ is a holy calling of walking in love and righteousness not always looking into secret treacheries, trying to decide what system, or person is the final evil.

And the anti-Christ, the Scriptures are far more concerned with his evil, his opposition to Jesus Christ rather than his system or secret meanderings. Probably the greatest evil of all anti-Christs, as 1 John puts it, is denying that Jesus is the Christ. That includes those who see Christ as separate from Jesus. In other words according to anti-Christ Jesus is simply a human who has the Christ spirit. See 1 John 2:22-23.

Paul in 2Thessalonians speaks of anti-Christ as the man of lawlessness. He is the one “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” Paul says his coming will be with “the activity of Satan with all power and signs and false wonders.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9) Even Revelation, describing the anti-Christ as beast, dwells on his evil in denying God, His kingdom and His people:

“And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle that is those who dwell in heaven. It was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” (Rev. 13: 6-7)

As for the saints Revelation says “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (14: 12)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Telling the Truth: The John Birch Society, fellow Christians and discernment

In 1992, after an article I wrote, about a very far right, anti-Semitic and racist movement, was published in the Christian Research Journal, I found I had angered a member of the John Birch Society. Part of the article was concerned with conspiracy theories and although I did not call the society racist I did use them as an example writing “And while the John Birch Society changed most of the leading players in their conspiracy theory to what they call the “insiders” rather than Jews, many others still see the Jew as the monster controlling world events.” I was obliged to write a letter explaining my reasoning.

 A bit earlier after having read a book by a supposed Christian apologist I was alarmed by his slander of the Jewish people and his use of conspiracies in an attempt to disparage them.

I had ordered the book at his recommendation. (We both worked in ministry with those involved in new religions and religious movements.) Because of my order the lady who managed our bookstore, at Warehouse Ministries[1], ordered ten more for the store. After I read the book I realized that the books needed to be returned to the publisher. I sent them back with a letter explaining why I was returning them. I did not receive a letter back from the publisher but one from the John Birch Society.  I had supposedly insulted Robert Welch the founder of the Society by writing that he was a Unitarian. That was my mistake I had quoted from a book written by two university professors who stated that he was Unitarian. So much for not using a primary source. But I was to find in reading Welch’s Blue Book that he might as well have called himself a Unitarian/Universalist.

Welch thought of God in terms of an evolutionary force such as the Transcendentalist held. He believed that the poets revealed for twentieth century humanity what the writers of the Bible wrote for earlier humanity. On page 116 of Blue Book of the John Birch Society, He wrote that the poet equates God with nature, emotion and evolution. An upward reach in humanity was, for Welch, the basis for morality.

Once again I notice how damaging conspiracy theories can be and this in the context of writing about some very devout Christians. An article in The New American about the Southern Baptist denomination and the possibility of progressives taking over its churches is slanderous to say the least. The article, Liberals May Win Control of Largest U.S. Protestant Denomination, was published in 2018, but posted on Facebook in 2020. The New American is an affiliate of the John Birch Society. The main person and groups slandered are Dr Russell Moore, The Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and The Gospel Coalition. Moore is accused of, among other things, promoting “social justice within the SBC,” and being anti-Trump.

There is also a Christian organization, Revoice conference, mentioned. Revoice Conference is a ministry to LGBT Christians. The ministry calls them to live celibate although they do not necessarily insist they can change their sexual orientation. They do believe homosexuality was caused by the fall writing, “…we believe that same-sex sexual desire experienced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other same-sex-attracted people is a product of the Fall; that same-sex sexual desire was not a pre-Fall reality; and that same-sex sexual desire will not exist in the new creation, after the return of Christ.” Here is their statement of faith on sexuality. Statement on Sexual Ethics and Christian Obedience. The New American article makes a point of linking Revoice to the Gospel Coalition.

Using Reverend Thomas Littleton and his quote they suggest that these evangelical groups which they call “Evangelical deep state” are “working at queering the Christian faith,” which is a lie.

We, as Christians, are living in a time when it is easy to align ourselves with organizations, movements or charismatic persons who do not truthfully promote the Christian faith. And that non-promotion can simply be that a group or person uses conspiracy, slander and innuendo as a means of turning readers against brothers and sisters in Christ. And they do this simply because they disagree with a person’s political or cultural views. Rather than saying I disagree with the view, and this is why, they attempt to make the person who holds the view seem evil. And worse, far worse, they tell lies about the actions and intentions of the individuals.  

The ease of our alliances happens because we do care about morality and about faithfulness to Christ. But part of the answer is not to agree with every article or idea that any particular organization or person promotes. We are called to discernment even when reading those whose faith seems outstanding. Of all the people and organizations mentioned in the New American article you will not find any who states that same sex marriage or abortion is biblical. You will not find heretical ideas such as Jesus not being God or the Scripture not being inspired. But you will find a love for all ethnic groups and a desire for them to know Jesus. You will find a love for the LGBT community and a desire that they know the love of Jesus.

And it is Jesus, our Lord, who sets the standard of our commitments to others. It is faithfulness to Him that points us toward faithfulness to truth since he is Truth.
I found this video after writing this. It fits:

[1] Warehouse Ministries is a church in Sacramento California that my family attended for 15 years. I have now attended Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento for almost 30 years. Both great Churches.