The Emerging Ecumenicism: “We’re Ready to Believe You!”
The injection of transcendental meditation, code-named “contemplative prayer,” into the church creates a dangerous precedent for the future of the body of Christ. This is a place along the path from which there is no jumping off point. Contemplative prayer is not a recipe which is encouraged to be joined into the monthly rotation of one’s Christian practice, but rather is to become the new staple for those who have embraced it’s folly. And, once one adopts an element of pagan practice, full-blown paganism will follow in time. Just as the characterization of “gateway drugs” is rightly understood to lead one down a slippery slope into a full-fledged drug involvement, so transcendental meditation- with all of its Christian-sounding names- is a pathway to demonism. If one gets on that path, one will indeed arrive at its final destination.
God’s Warning to Israel
Concerning Israel’s assumption of the promised land, God gives numerous warnings to them concerning these principles. Before they ever enter the promised land, for example, God warns,
Exodus 23:23-24 (NIV)
23 My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. 24 Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.
While it seems obvious that God would not want his people to bow down and worship false gods, he also stipulates stringently that his people are not to “follow their practices.” He further asserts that they are to “break their sacred stones to pieces,” thus eliminating even the tools of their pagan practices. They are not to be seen, pondered or considered for use in any manner. In Deuteronomy 18 the Lord tangibly defines the nature of such practices which he strictly forbids his people to participate.
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (NIV)
10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.
Among other, perhaps more obvious pagan practices, the Lord specifically notes that Israel is to have no one among them who is a “spiritist.” The Hebrew phrase behind that term is literally understood as “one who consults familiar spirits.” This practice involved a human host having encounters with spirits who would produce supernatural information through the human host. These inquiries involved the seeking of such information by mystical means, outside of God’s provision of his law and his prophets.
How serious was God about this command? Such practices carried the most harsh sentence possible.
Leviticus 20:27 (NIV)
27 “‘A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.'”
Practitioners with familiar spirits were literally to not be allowed to live among the Israelites; not in the sense that they were to be put out of fellowship, but in the sense that they were to be punished by the nation and executed as criminals against God’s law. God’s Word was Israel’s national law. What God spoke to them, they were to live out as Americans live out the standards of our constitution. It was literally a national capital offense to participate in spiritism or divination of any kind. Israel’s abhorrence toward the practices of pagan cultures was to be so complete that God called them to literally eradicate – by death- the people of these lands in which they were given. God had sentenced them to such judgment and had called his people Israel to carry it out, acquire their lands, and to leave no shred of their previous cultures remaining. Lest anyone be confused historically, it was the Lord God who first established the concept of a “holy war.” He judged these nations and charged Israel with their military destruction.
The key question one must ask when contemplating Israel’s history and God’s call to holy war against the pagan nations they would uproot is, “why must they be so severely dealt with?“ Why does God have them utterly exterminated? God himself answers the questions which may have been asked, though no explanation is needed; for he is, after all, God!
Deuteronomy 20:17-18 (NIV)
17 Completely destroy them–the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites–as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.
They are to be completely destroyed because, “otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods.” How interesting and exceptionally relevant to this study.
Understand, that it is God’s contention – not mine – that religious practices are infectious. They are diseases which spread, and are to be controlled rather than to be appreciated, studied and shared among God’s people.
Do not misunderstand the intention of this examination of the scriptures. We are not ancient Israel, and have not been called to a holy war against paganism, at least in a literal sense. This study does not have as its purpose the eradication of any people. Such judgments are God’s alone to make and no man is alone worthy to order such aggression upon anyone. However any believer in this God of Israel should find an iron clad testimony from him in such texts concerning the merging of these outside pagan practices into his own worship. God, himself, calls their practices “detestable,” and a “sin against the Lord.”
The entire foray into the world of contemplative prayer stems utterly from paganism. There is nothing in scripture which instructs one to find guidance from spiritual advisers (other than the Lord himself.) Nothing in scripture instructs one to induce himself into a hypnotic “alpha” state of consciousness in order to “hear” from God. Indeed, God has rather instructed his people to violently react against such practices from within his kingdom. He has instructed his people to literally destroy such works from among his people. He has no interest in how others are “doing it,” but desires his people to serve him on his own terms.
As the last section demonstrated, contemplative prayer is utterly a non-Christian tradition. Sure, there were supposed “Christians” from long ago who participated in these practices. But, these practices were ungodly at those times as well. The principles of contemplative prayer were adopted from paganism; pure and simple. They are the identical essence of spiritism, or the consulting with familiar spirits, from which God plainly finds “detestable.” I simply prefer to call it what it is: demonism. It exists in the church today simply because God’s people have not adhered to his Word concerning the incorporation of other religious practices into the worship of God. Indeed, they have taught us “to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods,” just as God had warned Israel.
The Melting Pot
But, as noted, we do not live in ancient Israel. God has not called us to a holy war against every unchristian individual we encounter. Indeed, we live in a new dispensation and are called to a ministry in the world to all nations, tribes and people groups. We are called to be a light in this dark world. And that dark world is around us at literally every turn we take.
The essential error in Emergent teaching is not their original intent. Indeed, it appears they began their journey with proper motives; to reach a post-modern world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their failure was in their approach. Having discredited scripture with their strictly narrative approach and their hefty disdain for propositional truth, they are literally up an interspiritual creek without a theological paddle. They do not know scripture as a literal work, but rather as a “story” by which systematic theology is not taught. They do not hear God’s warning – and mandate- against such practices as his unchanging ordinance to the purity of his people, but rather as some weird thing God was trying to teach that generation. For these reasons, Emergents will continue down the path to total interspiritual ecumenicism. They have embraced the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age mysticism and Islam into a giant religious soup from which one can simply pick out the carrots while consuming. All the while, the scripture they claim to follow has silently testified to their end as they are being systematically taught “to follow all the detestable things they [paganism] do in worshiping their gods.” And, sadly, they are leading a new generation to “sin against the Lord” their God.
Once one begins to incorporate the teachings of other groups into one’s own teaching, he necessarily begins a journey toward the incorporation of the other group. Indeed, these pseudo-Christians are now embracing and proclaiming with anticipation that great change which is coming. Today, the “melting pot” of religious ecumenicism is a desirable trait and a necessary path for the church, according to Emergent leaders. Brian McLaren writes,
…I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherence to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many(not all!)circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it’s not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many “Christian” religious context, either.”
Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), 2004, page 260.
I’m not sure what a “Christian context” is to McLaren. It seems that he easily divorces the Christian doctrines from the Christian God, the Christian Bible and the Christian community which has failed him. A “Christian context,” to the authentic church, is one and the same as life itself. All we do is the “context” of Christianity. Yet by his divorcing of practice from doctrine, as Emergents tend to do, he clearly sees no problem with one’s continued devotion to pagan religions as long as they somehow (are noted to be able to) become “followers of Jesus” – without repentance from their false gods. Interestingly, Jesus defined a “follower of Jesus” in this way:
John 14:6 (NIV)
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
And Paul contended further,
Galatians 1:8 (NIV)
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
Furthermore, being “followers of Jesus” excludes being followers of Buddha or Muhammad. Paul unapologetically notes,
1 Corinthians 10:20-21 (NIV)
20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
Clearly equating idolatrous practices to those of demon worship, Paul demonstrates the utter foolishness of the ideas of integrating the demonic meditational techniques of the world’s pagan religions to Christianity. Yet, in a world without doctrine, Emergents are readily willing to do exactly that.
Alan Jones is an emergent mystic author of whom Brian McLaren notes,
“It used to be that Christian institutions and systems of dogma sustained the spiritual life of Christians. Increasingly, spirituality itself is what sustains everything else. Alan Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply.”
(online book review) http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471457078.html
Doctrine, which McLaren calls “systems of dogma,” are displaced in this new movement by “spirituality itself” as that which “sustains everything else” in the spiritual life of Christians in this new world view. After reading Jones’ book, one would understand why biblical doctrine must be left at the door. His book is the picturesque redefinition of Christianity; a Christianity in which every false god imaginable is invited to participate with equal interest, footing and influence. He writes, for example, of a moving “worship experience” within the context this “new” Christian tradition.
“John Shepherd, the dean of St. George’s Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia, invited the abbot of the Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery to preach at the service, which was a Eucharist — the central Christian sacrament. The abbot accepted in full knowledge of this. Aboriginal dancers led the procession into the cathedral and later led the offertory procession to the altar. During communion, representatives of the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and Baha’i faiths read passages from their sacred writings, and after communion an aboriginal leader offered a dream-time reflection. Was this Christian? The answer, as far as I’m concerned, is ‘Of course.'”
Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity, (Jew Jersey: John Wiley & Sons), Page 88.
Let the melting begin.
There is so much wrong with this that I do not know where to begin. A Buddhist preaching a supposedly Christian service, doing COMMUNION while Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Baha’is read alternatively from their own “sacred writings.” How proud Shirley McClain must be. How Satan himself must smile. His kingdom, after all, is coming along nicely in such “worship” experiences.
And what, pray tell was Jones’ response to it all? “What this Christian? The answer, as far as I’m concerning, is ‘Of course.'”
One cannot be surprised, as Jones noted very early in this book his true ambition.
“Our first task in reimagining religion, then, is to move from the narrowly tribal, where our story is the only story, to a wider definition of “tribe” that can embrace stories other than our own, told by people who are different from us.” Page 16
Jones captures the essence of the interspiritual movement which is gaining popularity through Emergent teaching. That move is the eradication of a uniquely “Christian” set of doctrines by the intermarriage of them with those of other religions. In short, it is the full-frontal assault against salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. In this new religion, Jesus is not the only savior and his story is not the only valid story. Instead, each is a mere reflection of the other; and all are telling the same story while using different names. None are understood to be mutually exclusive. He notes,
“Stories about a Muslim or Christian heaven are great works of imagination but are diminished when taken to exclude others as literally true. They banish other equally valid fantasies about a realm that can never be described.” Pages 163-164.
Thus, the Bible is not God’s unique Word to mankind. Rather, it’s just one of many “equally valid fantasies.” It is not literally true, but is one of many “great works of imagination but are diminished when taken to exclude others as literally true.” At least he rightly acknowledges that his belief system is rooted in fantasy. Sadly, he equates that fantasy with God’s Word and the equally relevant religious books of Islam, Hinduism and Baha’i. Perhaps he should go ahead and throw in Aleister Crowley’s, “The Book of the Law.” Crowley seems to be on board with the new dogma, as he notes,
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Of course, “do what though wilt” may be a bit too propositional of a statement for this emerging group.
In the end, as McLaren so aptly put it, “spirituality itself” is the defining characteristic of this movement. Once one has no immovable source of doctrine, he is subject to any teachings which float by in the breeze of public sentiment. It seems this is the ultimate goal of the Emergent conversation: to reach postmodernism by becoming postmodern, relativistic, extreme ecumenicists, and ensuring that anyone’s tradition is an equally valid source of truth. Exclude none… and ultimately, lose them all.
Emergents are the new Ghostbusters. In the 1984 movie, the Ghostbusters crew filmed a commercial for their services which ended with the phrase, “we’re ready to believe you!” Perhaps this is good t-shirt material for emergent-types who attempt to “reach” their culture by adopting their pagan teachings and incorporating them into the bigger, friendlier doctrinal framework.
The next obvious question is, “where does this all go from here?” Exactly how apostate can one become? Now that the Bible is discredited as a literal work, now that relativism has swayed many in the church toward adopting pagan practices into worship, now that some are hearing the voices of demonic “spirit guides” in their prayers and the gospel is not just about Jesus… Now what???
That will be the subject of next week’s investigation.