Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Not Everyone is Emerging.

It is refreshing when I find pastors that exercise good discernment, especially with the postmodern emerging phenomenon. Dr. James MacDonald has a good article posted on his radio ministry's web site in response to the Emergent church. Of course, some of his statements are a little more gracious than I am toward some of the leadership of emergent, such as Brian McLaren. But nonetheless, his assessment is right on and I am glad that he is speaking out.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Growing Interest in Medieval Mysticism

There seems to be a rapidly growing interest in the writings of medieval mystics within the church today. This is especially true in the emerging church movement, but is becoming prevalent throughout evangelicalism. Basically, mysticism is an attempt to attain direct knowledge of God apart from objective truth and instead relying on subjective experience to acquire spiritual truth. Scripture speaks out against such speculative and subjective experiences as a basis for acquiring truth. (Colossians 2:18-19) Sometime in the future, I intend on posting more on the subject of mysticism and its infiltration into the church.

But this is going to become an issue of increasing concern as time goes by, as the church continues to move further away from Scriptural truth. I have noticed more and more that some are turning to the mystics of the medieval church for spiritual guidance. Some time ago, in a sermon my pastor was preaching, he gave reference to a book written by Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Roman Catholic Monk entitled, “Practicing the Presence of God”. In the sermon, our pastor did not disclose the fact that Brother Lawrence was a Catholic monk. I remembered something about this book from a few years ago, but I had to research the information again. I then emailed my pastor warning him about the questionable teaching of the book (which is really based on medieval mysticism) and the doubts concerning Brother Lawrence’s conversion. Here is the content of the letter:

"I just wanted to comment on last Sunday’s sermon (Oct. 17). The content was good and the video presentation supported the message well.

However, I was troubled by your mention of Brother Lawrence’s writing, “The Practice of the Presence of God”. You mentioned Bro Lawrence’s writing TWICE as if to emphasize it in such a way as if you were trying to encourage people to read this book. What you failed to mention was that Brother Lawrence was a Roman Catholic Monk! I realize that salvation is not reliant upon what church one may attend, but it does depend on what one believes about Biblical saving faith.
I certainly appreciate Bro Lawrence’s attitude in his desire to commune with God, and his apparent departure from some of the more ritualistic aspects of the monastic lifestyle in the Roman Catholic Church. His desire to prayerfully commune with God continually is certainly commendable. However, his writings seem to lack sufficient Scriptural substance especially where Biblical salvation is concerned. I looked up some information on Brother Lawrence and found “The Practice of the Presence of God” online. There is nothing mentioned in the writing about Bro Lawrence coming to the realization that he was a sinner and needed to trust in the finished work of Christ for salvation. In fact, the following quote indicates more of a salvation by works philosophy.

“and that as he was conscious of his readiness to lay down
his life for the love of GOD, he had no apprehension of danger.
perfect resignation to GOD was a sure way to heaven
, a way in which
we had always sufficient light for our conduct.” (Emphasis Added)

“The Practice of the Presence of God”
Brother Lawrence

Contrary to what seems to be implied here, Jesus is the only sure way to heaven. I investigated a little further into information concerning his conversion. Here is what I found:

“In the winter seeing a tree stripped of its leaves and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he had received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul. This view had perfectly set him loose from the world and kindled in him such a love for God that he could not tell whether it had increased in the more than forty years that he had lived since.”

As related by M. Beaufort

Even in this account of Brother Lawrence’s “conversion”, there is no mention of him coming to saving faith. There is no mention about him trusting in the finished work of Christ.

Unfortunately, it seems that Bro Lawrence embraced a mysticism that set aside the truths of Scripture. This is on par with other medieval “mystics” who did much of the same thing. It seems that these people, in the absence of Biblical truth and faced with the dead, dry Roman Catholic dogmas, were left to try to cling to anything that would fill the empty void that only God can fill. What is tragic is that there really is a mystical dimension to our relationship with Jesus Christ. There is a legitimate experience of being in the presence of God, but it is ALWAYS within the framework of Biblical truth. What is most disheartening is that the false experience can in many ways mimic the real thing, robbing the unwary seeker of that wonderful legitimate experience of God. What is really tragic is that at the end of life, the only thing that awaits those who do not experience genuine saving faith is a bleak eternity separated from God. I also have doubts about the late Mother Theresa’s so-called experiences as well. It seems that she too, embraced a false spirituality. Despite all her talk about prayer and compassion for people, judging by her writings, she still embraced the false teachings of Roman Catholicism. She was certainly a wonderful, compassionate person, whose life can teach us much about self-sacrifice and love for others. However, these qualities in and of them self, do not save anybody. I would also not recommend her writings to be read by evangelical Christians as sources of Scriptural truth.
I realize that we cannot judge what is actually in the heart of a person. I cannot look into the heart of anybody and determine if they are really saved or not. But we can and should, scrutinize their doctrine in light of Scripture.

Brother Lawrence’s writing has become another tool the Catholic Church uses to lure undiscerning people back into the Roman Catholic faith. Since his writing says nothing that would counter Roman Catholic doctrine, the Catholic Church can capitalize on the lure of the mystical attraction of publications such as “The Practice of the Presence of God”.
Observe the following website inviting the visitor back into the arms of the “Mother Church”!
(If you scroll or search to the bottom of the page under “Spirituality”, there is a section “Some excellent Catholic devotional works include”. There you will find “The Practice of the Presence of God” listed.)

These types of “mystical” writings have become a favorite of the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church. They serve their purpose well to present a type of spirituality that seems to mimic a genuine experience of Christianity and adds a little “spark” to the cold dead unbiblical doctrines of Catholicism.

We need to be cautious and exercise discernment. We need to be like the first century Bereans in Acts 17:11. We also need to keep in check our disenchantment with legalistic churches of the past. We must not allow our frustration with the legalism that unfortunately pervaded many of the fundamentalist churches to cause us to throw out the truth in exchange for something that seems like a refreshing change. Let’s not throw out the proverbial “baby with the bath water”. There are plenty of writings by solid Bible believing writers over the past 400+ years that provide excellent examples of abiding in Christ, yet are grounded in Scriptural truth. I am alarmed that we are beginning to ignore the solid history of evangelical Christianity in exchange for false medieval mysticism.

It seems that there is serious question as to whether or not Brother Lawrence embraced Biblical saving faith. I believe it is extremely dangerous to view any of his work as Scriptural authority and to recommend it others, regardless of how “spiritual” it may sound on the surface. "

This is not a time for Christians to just absorb whatever they are taught – as never should be the case – but this is a time where we, more than ever, need to be discerning and search the Scriptures diligently.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Rick Warren’s Erroneous Views

“16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err, And those who are led by them are destroyed.”
(Isaiah 9:16,

Nearly everyone is familiar with Rick Warren’s popular book, “The Purpose Driven Life” that seems to be all the rage today. While there are certainly some good things in the book, it has glaring weaknesses. Overall, the book just seems to exude with a man-centered theology. Warren’s use – or should I say misuse – of Scripture is prevalent throughout the book. It is not that there are not some very good points made in the book, but it lacks in substance. Unfortunately, many of the good points tend to overshadow many of the errors. A great deal of discernment is necessary when reading through the material. The closer that error comes to the truth, the more dangerous it becomes. But I am seeing very little benefit from the material due to the inherent shallowness and subtle error. Tim Challies has an excellent review of the book posted on his website. Phillip Johnson also has offered his opinion of the book as well on his blog.

But beyond the book, there are many things that disturb me concerning some of his comments and philosophy. In fact, many things are downright heretical. Just the other day, I came across a post on Slice of Laodicea (see "Rick Warren Speaks on Peter Drucker, Catholicism and the Fundamentals of the Faith") that exposed some of Rick Warren’s views. As I clicked on the links, I certainly became acquainted with his skewed doctrinal and theological views. His view of the fundamentals of the faith is appalling. He was featured at a conference at the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle conference on religion, politics and public life. According to Warren, the Fundamentals of the Faith “is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity”. What Rick Warren is calling “legalistic” and “narrow”, is the document drawn up back in the 1920s to define the fundamental doctrines of biblical Christianity in response to the onslaught of liberalism. Here are the five fundamentals:

1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Virgin Birth.
3. The Blood Atonement.
4. The Bodily Resurrection.
5. The inerrancy of the scriptures.

These doctrines cannot be compromised in any way without denying biblical faith.

Many people are unaware of the extent of Warren’s errors. I have heard people mention that they may not agree with everything he says, but that he was basically on track with the fundamentals of the faith and basic theology. In fact, this was my former view as well. But things that I have read prove otherwise.

What is really revealing is the section on his website for Holy Family Parish that is featured on his site that sponsored two Purpose Driven events this last week. If you go out to their website, you will find a description of who they are.

“Welcome to Holy Family's presence online. We're a Catholic parish community striving to continue the work of Jesus Christ in the world. Rooted in Catholic tradition, we celebrate liturgy by sharing the Word and Eucharist in a dynamic, creative and contemporary way.”

Apparently, you can embrace heresy and yet actively participate in promoting and giving advice on how to be a Purpose Driven Church.

To illustrate how evangelicals are being duped into believing Catholicism is just another evangelical church, just look at the slogan displayed on Holy Family’s web page. It reads, “An Evangelical Church in the Catholic Tradition.” In other words, they are trying to say, “Hey, we are one of you, we just embrace a little different expression of the same thing.” Couple this with an endorsement by a well known evangelical leader such as Rick Warren, and the deception is even greater!

Here is a quote from Warren in the interview:

“I think, though, it's what Augustine said: "In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity." And I think that's how evangelicals and Catholics can get together.”

Wrong! Catholics are very wrong on certain essentials such as sola fide and sola scriptura. Evangelicals have no business getting together with Catholics, particularly with initiatives that deal with spiritual matters. I agree with declaring liberty with non-essentials, however, the differences with Catholicism do not deal with non-essentials as Warren implies, but rather they are essentials. Here is another statement made by him concerning Catholicism.

"And, you know, growing up as a Protestant boy, I knew nothing about Catholics, but I started watching ETWN, the Catholic channel, and I said, "Well, I'm not as far apart from these guys as I thought I was, you know?” "

Also, in the same interview, Rick Warren discusses the issue of breaking down barriers between different groups. He promotes an attitude that it really does not matter what you believe. He quotes a statement made by T. D. Jakes who holds a modalistic view of the trinity as well as affirming much of the Word of Faith teaching.

"And we were talking about this barrier breaking down between black, white, Pentecostal, different groups, and T.D. Jakes – you know who he is – and T.D. Jakes said, "One of the things television did is it allowed people to watch each other's services from a distance and go, 'That's okay.' "

For a good article on the concerns about T. D. Jakes, I would recommend reading the Christian Research Journal article, “The Man, His Ministry, And His Movement: Concerns About The Teachings Of T. D. Jakes”

Rick Warren is wrong on so many points, but he wears a “mask” of basically conservative evangelicalism. There are many things that are objectionable that were discussed in the Pew Forum interview. I would encourage you to read the transcript carefully. The church needs more than ever to exercise discernment and carefully examine what some Christian leaders are teaching today.