EMERGENT CHURCH SPREADING SPIRITUAL CANCER
By Marsha West
April 18, 2008
the Sixties the counterculture rejected consumerism, individualism,
traditional values and ideas, and protested against their parent's middle
class values. Thus began an all out assault on what had made America
prosperous for two centuries.
Now a similar assault on historic orthodox Christianity is underway that's gaining momentum. Some Christians believe a paradigm shift is taking place in the Church and as a consequence "everything must change." This is anything but good news for Christendom, my friends. In a radio interview with Worldview Network's Brannon Howse, Professor Peter Jones of Westminster Seminary warned listeners that the Christian theistic West has been turning back to pagan, pantheistic monism. Many in contemporary western culture now hold to a pantheistic belief in the unity of nature and God, of body and spirit -- all is One.
Pantheism is a major tenet of the New Spirituality movement (NSM), once called the New Age movement. Other names used are Self-spirituality and Mind-body-spirit. The movement is largly eclectic with inspiration drawn from all the major world religions, which include Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Shamanism, Wicca, the metaphysical New Thought movement, and Neo-Paganism, to name a few. The goal of NSM is a shift in "planetary consciousness." Their focus is not only on the West but also on the entire planet!
NSM is producing a movie to promote the new paradigm. In an article on Christian Worldview Weekend , Brannon Howse gives details: "New Spirituality gurus like Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, alongside leftist environmentalists like Al Gore and religious figures such as Archbishop Desmond TuTu. Their message is the same, as though it was taken from the same script. 'A massive worldwide phenomenon is in progress, offering seeds of great hope for the future…We aare in the middle of the biggest social transformation in history, THE SHIFT.'"
In order to move the West away from theism, the shifters must first reinvent biblical Christianity. Enter Oprah Winfrey. It would seem Oprah has been planning The Shift for many years. In 1987 she read the late Eric Butterworth's book "Discover the Power Within You." His book changed how Oprah looked at life and religion. She was convinced that Jesus didn't come to teach us about His divinity, as the Bible teaches, but to teach us about our divinity! (Oprah's code word is "Christ consciousness.") She recommended Butterworth's book to her audience and sales soon skyrocketed.
Who was Eric Butterworth? A theologian, lecturer and author who delivered the message of the Unity School of Christianity (part of the heretical Metaphysical movement) that "looks within" to find Christ. "Try telling someone in the Metaphysical movement…about the wages of sin…andand they will look at you as though you are an anachronism — a thrrowback to a less-enlightened age. The ideas of an enslaving sinful nature, of being alienated from God, and of God's wrath are, to them, extremely offensive." He considered sin ''self-inflicted nonsense.''
In 1987 Forbes magazine summarized Eric Butterworth's message thus: ''We alone have the power within us to solve our problems, relieve our anxieties and pain, heal our illnesses, improve our golf game or get a promotion.''
But this article is not about Oprah's spiritual poison, it's about spiritual deception that's spreading like cancer in Christendom. (More on Oprah's latest attempt to indoctrinate the masses through the occult teaching "A Course in Miracles" in my next article.)
In John 8:31-32 Jesus said, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
There is a growing movement afoot in the postmodern Church that does not abide in God's Word; hence they do not know the truth. The movement calls itself "Emergent" or "Emerging Church" (ECM) and it's emerging away from orthodox Christianity, spreading its spiritual cancer throughout the globe. ECM change agents have made inroads into evangelicalism, big time. What they preach is a counterfeit social gospel. They say they bring a "message of peace." Their hope is to make Christianity more palatable to the world. Sounds altruistic, doesn't it? But don't believe it! In order to accomplish their lofty goal, the shifters must first repackage the Church.
So they're touring the country, promoting their social gospel and message of peace to the masses. Prominent ECM leader Brian McLaren is spearheading the "Everything Must Change" tour. According to McLaren's website the planet is in Deep Shift'
A time of transition
But really, it's all about re-shaping the true Gospel of Jesus Christ into a false gospel and re-imaging Jesus Christ into the New Age Cosmic Christ!
McLaren created Deep Shift to provide spiritual guidance for organizations who are open to this. On the DeepShift.org website he states that he will work with leaders, "inviting them to discover where the gifts of their people and God's purposes in the world meet. Deep Shift provides support as leaders make their own personal deep shift and guide their organizations through the transition and transformation necessary to ignite the loving energy of people to work for the good of the world. As guides, we provide coaching, consulting, and resources for people leading in deep shift — faith community and church leaders, nonprofit leaders, ethical business leaders and others."
Maharishi McLaren's re-imaging of the modern Church is on it's way -- whether evangelicals want re-imaging or not. The transformation, he boasts, "is for the good of the world."
You may not have heard about The Shift yet, but you will – soon! Shifters, like pod people, are in our midst. Some of your friends and acquaintances could be shifters, only you don't know it yet. Shifters have wormed their way into church leadership (pastors deacons, elders), worship services, Bible studies, Sunday school, seminaries, Christian schools, youth groups, camps. They lecture, write for Christian news sources and they're all over the Internet. Now they're touring the country. Many shifters are familiar faces on TV and have become media darlings. Browse through your local Christian bookstore and you'll find their names lined up on shelves. Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Marcus Borg, Dallas Willard, Leonard Sweet, Erwin McManus, Phyllis Tickle, Rob Bell, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Scot McKnight, Eddie Gibbs, Ryan Bolger, Jeff & Sherry Maddock, Peter Rollins, to name a few. Every one of them are theological liberals!
But shifters are offended when they're labeled liberal. And besides, liberal is so yesterday! And let's be honest here; liberal has a negative connotation, thanks largely to vociferous conservatives (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Joseph Farah, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Phyllis Schlafly, Brannon Howse, Don Wildmon, Matt Drudge, Melanie Morgan, Tony Perkins and Hugh Hewitt – whew!) who are on the front lines of the culture war exposing liberalism's globalist, big-government, radical feminist, rabid environmentalist, pro-abortion, anti-gun, peace at any cost, gay rights, anything goes, sick twisted agenda. Balking at being called liberal, they hide behind the trendy term, "progressive." Many "Progressive Christian" leaders are highly critical of the Christian Right and their role in politics. (See link 9 below)
In his article, "Understanding the Emergent Church" Walter Henenger says that while some of ECM's leaders came of age in the "new paradigm" churches of the Sixties and Seventies, "the real starting point was the mid-1980s, when Gen X ministries began catering to youth culture. Often organized as churches-within-a-church, they adopted cutting-edge ministry methods but generally retained the structural DNA of their parent megachurches." But in the late Nineties they came to realize that they had failed to connect with postmodern people. During a 1997 meeting of the Young Leaders Network, pastor Doug Pagitt turned the discussion to the subject of postmodernism. "Light bulbs appeared over heads around the room," continues Henenger, "and postmodernism has been the organization's focus ever since. The Young Leaders Network soon morphed into the Terra Nova Theological Project, which eventually became Emergent. Its leaders went from niche marketers of religious services to global heralds of a massive, irresistible paradigm shift. Heady stuff."
A brief explanation of modernism and postmodernism is in order. In his article "Preaching to the Post/Modern Choir" Shane Lems offers this pithy definition:
"Modernism embraces definite truth, absolutes, foundations, rationalistic thinking, and certainty, while postmodernism embraces emotions, authenticity, community, tolerance, and denies unquestionable foundations. Modern preaching highlights the propositional, didactic, and intellectual while postmodern preaching stresses the narratival, communal, sensual, and authentic."
What exactly is ECM?
Well for one thing Emergents believe that the monologue of the Christian Right is over and a new "conversation" (a term they prefer over movement) is "bringing together a wide range of committed Christians and those exploring the Christian faith in wonderful ways," boasts Brian McLaren, "and many of us sense that God is at work among us. As would be expected, there have also been criticisms." I must digress for a moment to pose a question to Pastor McLaren: If God is now at work in the postliberal ECM as its leaders contend, was God not at work in the movement to Reclaim America for Christ for several decades? Just thought I'd ask.
What is ECM's mission?
According to Emergent leader, Tony Jones, "At a basic level, Emergent's mission is no different from any other group of Christ-followers: we want to follow Christ and we want to help others follow Christ. Of course, where it gets tricky is when we start talking about what it looks like to follow Christ. All along, Emergent has been about the melding of theory/theology and praxis, and we want to promote fresh, creative, and imaginative thinking about each. It seems that many organizations get to emphasize one side over the other in the theory-praxis equation, but we really are going to struggle to keep both of those in an equal, reflective symbiosis. What does it mean to be the church? What does it mean to follow Christ? We want to serve as a catalyst for conversations that attempt to answer those two questions, and to bring together the most creative people we can find for those conversations. But, conversation alone leads to paralysis by analysis, which is why we have always made sure that conversations are led primarily by practitioners rather than theoreticians and consultants." Huh?
ECM's missional concern
Emergents are concerned about being missional in a postmodern world. "The word missional emphasizes a return to the church's identity as existing for the world—tto be God's stewards over creation, to be a light to the nations, to be witnesses of the inaugurated kingdom of God on earth." In this regard Emergent leaders have been critical of evangelicalism. They believe evangelicals have not been effectively missional in a postmodern world. Naturally, many evangelicals find this view arrogant and self-righteous. Sadly, ECM's arrogance has caused division between them and evangelicals.
What is the ECM protesting?
"Whatever the Emerging Movement is," explains Scot McKnight, "it is clearly a protest movement. Sometimes it can appear to be cranky, but there is substance and there is focus in what the Emerging Movement is protesting. And, though sometimes the resolutions fall flat or fail to materialize or collapse into the unworkable, there are genuine resolutions being worked out. What is the Emerging Movement protesting? Let me count the ways," quips McKnight. "That's not an attempt to be funny," he assures us, "there is a list of at least ten items the Emerging Movement is protesting, and most would agree that it has its finger on some hot buttons. And let it be said that its primary focus in protestation is the evangelical movement and, sometimes but not always, the mega-churches that so clearly define and set the tone for the evangelical movement."
One hot button issue is abortion. Because they're mostly liberals, many Emergents are pro-aborts. It pains me to do so, but I'll let this go and move on.
Here's the rundown on some of what ECM believes, from an article by Joseph Farah posted on WorldNetDaily.com :
Capital punishment is wrong, despite the clear, unequivocal biblical commandments to take life for life.
Most Christians are too war-like and are guilty of "not loving our enemies."
Universal health care should be provided by government.
Poverty should be eliminated by the U.S. government, not just in the U.S., but throughout the world.
The minimum wage should be significantly increased.
The U.S. should sign the Kyoto Protocol as a step toward solving the phantom crisis of global warming.
The U.S. should pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan and address the real problem of terrorism by creating a Palestinian state and addressing the root cause – poverty.
We should make condoms available throughout the Third World to fight AIDS.
lists more of ECM's beliefs but I've got a lot of ground to cover, so
I'll move on. (In the article 
he exposes Red Letter
Christians, a movement headed by Tony Campolo and Jim Wright who are
trying to "seduce evangelical Christians into anti-biblical, socialist,
ECM is also about "rediscovering spirituality"
"Emerging church practitioners are happy to take elements of worship from a wide variety of historic traditions, including Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox church, and Celtic Christianity. From these and other religious traditions emerging church groups take, adapt and blend various historic church practices including liturgy, prayer beads, icons, spiritual direction, and lectio divina." In other words, whatever unbiblical practice floats your boat.
ECM's Quaker influence
"The Religious Society of Friends…although not bornn from a conflict with modernism, has nonetheless influenced the emerging church movement through mystics such as Richard Foster. This influence is often seen in the mystical tendencies of emergent worship and devotion. Some emerging churches mirror the Quaker rejection of church hierarchy while valuing the sacred as a personal, subjective experience, others utilize their particular denominational structures for church leadership."
Bringing God's kingdom to earth
"To Brian McLaren," says Pastor Gary Gilley, "the most prolific emergent writer, the ultimate goal of Jesus (and God) is the kingdom of God, brought to earth. Just how is the kingdom brought to earth? Through our good works. McLaren states, 'I hope that they [his neighbors] and I will become better people, transformed by God's Spirit, more pleasing to God, more of a blessing to the world so that God's kingdom (which I seek, but cannot manipulate) comes on earth as in heaven (emphasis mine).'"
A new path
Many shifters, like Campolo and Wright, are hard-core leftists who are doing everything in their power to lead the Church down a new path, away from Sola Scriptura, into what Pastor Ken Silva calls the "emerging cult of the new liberal theology" and a "spiritual cancer." Without Scripture, how is it possible to establish what is true about God? Oh, I know! To find answers you must get in touch with your "inner self" through meditation! To that end ECM leaders urge believers to embrace unbiblical contemplative prayer and other occult practices. (I addressed this topic in Christians are mixed-up…in mysticcism! If the link doesn't work, scroll down to Recommended Reading.)
On the DeepShift.org website, Pastor McLaren points visitors to the new path:
"We hope this is a beginning for you to be on this new path, believing in Jesus in a new way, ready to act for change in your own life, in your community, the public and the world. We hope this is a beginning for you to connect with new people who are on this same path and journey for encouragement, support, relationship and depth."
The part that bothers me the most is "believing in Jesus in a new way." What does he mean? Could he be referring to the "Cosmic Christ?"
McLaren makes clear his intentions for 2008 on McLaren.com when he says, "Rather than accepting invitations in 2008, I'll join a creative team of friends to develop and present about ten regional gatherings, half in the winter/spring and half in the fall. These gatherings will be called 'Deep Shift 2008."
McLaren's mission? (My comments in brackets)
"DeepShift will call people to a deep shift in their thinking about [Jesus Christ], faith, church life, mission, ministry, art, justice, leadership, community, and worship. It will emphasize deep personal inner transformation [through contemplative prayer] integrated with deep organizational transition as well, in the context of the 'Generous Orthodoxy' I write and speak about."
McLaren on hell and the cross
In a 2006 interview McLaren calls the doctrine of hell "false advertising for God." "[T]his is one of the huge problems with the traditional understanding of hell, because if the Cross is in line with Jesus' teaching, then I won't say the only and I certainly won't say ... or even the primary or a primary meaning of the Cross ... is that the Kingdom of God doesn't come like the kingdoms of this world by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes thru suffering and willing voluntary sacrifice right? But in an ironic way the doctrine of hell basically says no, that's not really true. At the end God get's his way thru coercion and violence and intimidation and uh domination just like every other kingdom does. The Cross isn't the center then, the Cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God."
In my research I ran across a panel discussion on You Tube, "Let's Talk Post-Modernism and the Emergent Church." Here highly regarded orthodox theologians R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler and Ravi Zacharias had a "conversation" about postmodernism, modernism, liberalism, and ECM.
The main thrust of ECM, the scholars say, is its rejection of modernism and its embrace of postmodernism. Why reject orthodoxy? Because the orthodoxy are absolutists. Absolutists want to reinsert categories of right and wrong, whereas postmodernists balk at doctrinal assertions. They gave as an example Brian McLaren's position on homosexuality in a Time Magazine interview. Following is the excerpt from Time: "Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say 'it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.' That alienates us from both the liberals and conservatives who seem to know exactly what we should think." So McLaren suggested a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. And what will we do in the meantime? He went on to say, "[W]e'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they'll be admittedly provisional. We'll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we'll speak; if not, we'll set another five years for ongoing reflection."
Um…the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, Brian. (Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13, Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 6:9-10,)
McLaren's wishy-washy comment on homosexuality obviously did not go over well with the panel. Near the end of the discussion Albert Mohler commented that his response to the homosexual question is the very essence of postmodernism. He then cautioned, "It is the abdication of Christian responsibility. It is the abdication of Christian conviction and it is a cave in of Christian courage. We do have an answer! And it's not like we don't know what it is!"
As R.C. Sproul said so well, ECM appeals to Christians "who don't want to have to deal with theological conflict." These same folks relativize doctrine, and that makes Sproul angry. He then points out that disagreeing doctrinally is a "bad thing." Looking rather grim-faced he said, "We can't be satisfied with it. Because truth is too important to kill it in the streets for the sake of peace! You can't do it!" Bravo!
Ravi Zaccaris puzzled, "These men and women who were the progenitors of this [movement]…what brought this about? Are they bored with God?!" The problem, he explained, is "Non critical people listening to this stuff absorb it." After reading McLaren's books, Zaccaris wonders what he believes at present. "Maybe something on Monday, something else on Tuesday?" he said grimly. "He's an anti-doctrinal individual. It's pitiful to see something like this actually gain currency."
The Emergent movement is most definitely gaining currency, especially with young people and those who are dissatisfied with mainline evangelicalism. Which is the reason it's imperative that committed Christians take a deeper look into the "conversation." Listen carefully to the language to see whether or not what a person purports is within the pale of orthodoxy. In other words, check to see if it's biblical. Because if the "conversation" doesn't line up with Scripture, it's not from God. And if it's not from God…it's ffrom the pit of hell.
In another You Tube video I came across, Todd Wilken, host of Issues Etc., was interviewing Pastor and author John MacArthur on his response to ECM. MacArthur believes the problem is that Emergent leaders have a non-Christian attitude. Moreover, they have a "very worldly, carnal, unsanctified approach to the Bible." With regard to truth, he made this comment: "Truth is everything, and the truth is contained in the Bible." He also mentioned that progressives "do not accept the authority, inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. They do not accept that everything in the Bible is absolutely true and that it is clear that it can be and must be understood and applied." And the reason they reject it? According to MacArthur, "They don't like a lot of the things it says."
Scott Diekmann, a Christian apologist who believes "segments of the 'Evangelical' Church are in danger of compromising the Gospel at crucial points" wrote an 8-part article on ECM. In part 8 he states that part of the problem with Emergents is that "some have substituted the doctrines derived from the inerrant and inspired Word of God with a doctrine based on an uninspired melding of Scripture, experience, mysticism, and imagination. That lack of Scriptural fidelity has at times led to a redefined Gospel, a message that is predominantly Law rather than Gospel, and pastors who have failed to present the whole counsel of God."
What this is really all about is truth. False teachers stare at Truth but fail to recognize the identity of truth. Jesus himself said, "I am truth." Thus we know that Truth is an aspect of God Himself. Christianity is the only truth because it is anchored in the Person of Jesus Christ. Moreover, truth is crucial to a realistic worldview. Which is why committed Christians mustn't buy into the lie that truth is a matter of preference or opinion. In case you haven't notices, in our postmodern culture we are experiencing the death of truth – and the death of truth could mean the death of civilizzation! I wrote this down, but I don't remember who said it. "Truth is true if no one believes it. A lie is a lie if everyone believes it." And that's the truth!
I wind this up, I want to stress that celebrities like Oprah Winfrey
and "Progressive Christian" leaders are pressing a large number
of believers into apostasy, even into rank heresy. This is a serious
threat to the Church! The threat shouldn't be taken lightly nor tolerated.
So ECM and "New Spirituality" must be thoroughly
understood and debunked. What's more, committed Christians must expose
shifters for what they are -- occultists!
THE SHIFT movie trailer—Youtube.com
2, Addressing the "Positive Gospel" of the Metaphysical Movement by Dean C. Halverson
3, Rev. Eric Butterworth, 86; Preached Positive Attitude By Douglas Martin
4, Understanding the Emergent Church—Nicene Council website
5, Preaching to the Post/Modern Choir By Shane Lems, Modern Reformation Magazine; Volume 17; Number 2; March/April 2008; page 14.
6, A Response to Recent Criticism By Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Andrew Jones, Chris Seay
7, Understanding the Emergent Church—Nicene Council website
8, What is the Emerging Church? Protest—jesuscreed.org, posted by Scot McKnight
9, What are Red Letter Christians? By Joseph Farah
12, The Kingdom of Emergent Theology - Part 1(September 2007 - Volume 13, Issue 9) By Gary E. Gilley
14, Everything Must Change: Why Come--video on Youtube.com—Brian McLaren
15, Brian McLaren Calls Hell and the Cross "False Advertising for God"—Lighthouse Trails website
16, Let's Talk Post-Modernism and the "Emergent Church" Youtube.com panel--R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler and Ravi Zacharias discuss ECM
17, Brian McLaren on the Homosexual Question: Finding a "Pastoral Response" Out of Ur website
18, John MacArthur on the Emergent Church Part 1—Youtube.com—Host, Todd Wilkins, inverviews JohnMcArthur
19, The Emerging Church, Part 1: An Overview By Scott Diekmann
© 2008 Marsha West - All Rights Reserved