Universalism: Gospel Message of Emergent & New Age Spirituality

by Sola Sisters

One of the greatest misconceptions today is that the New Age Movement of the 80’s and 90’s is (1) a thing of the past and (2) has nothing whatsoever in common with Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth on either count. Let me explain.

Most Americans today have sort of an eye-rolling, amused response to the phrase “New Age.” Perhaps their minds are conjuring up an image of Shirley MacLaine on the beach, talking to the sky, a spiritual eccentric who became the punch line of many jokes for her interest in reincarnation and channeling. Perhaps they think that, like Shirley MacLaine, the New Age has passed gently into history, much like the rubix cube and Duran Duran. Well, the truth is that the New Age is still very much with us today. It never really went away, it just went mainstream. New Age practices or beliefs that were once considered borderline occultic or kooky are now widely accepted and embraced, including yoga, mantra meditation, muscle testing, acupuncture, reiki, sustainable living and going green. Don’t believe it? Just pick up any newspaper or popular magazine today (Reader’s Digest, Ladies’ Home Journal, Parade) and you will most likely read at least one, usually multiple articles, on the benefits of these practices. Heck, even my husband’s Golf World had a lengthy article in the February 2010 issue on how golf courses around the country are trying to “go green.”

So just how did this New Age worldview get so powerful so fast? The short answer is that although it’s actually been around for a very long time, it got its greatest push into the mainstream through America’s most beloved talk show host, Oprah Winfrey. For some reason, people think that this New Age Spirituality direction that Oprah has taken is a new thing. It is not. I know this because I was on the same path that she was for a very long time, and at about the same time. Along with Oprah, I became completely immersed in New Age beliefs and practices, about 20 year ago, and yet at the same time used Christian terminology for all that I was doing. But the catch was this: all the Christian terminology I used had been redefined to fit the theology of my New Age belief system. And this is exactly how Oprah has made the New Age worldview palatable to the average Americans who were watching: she was using the same terminology that many Americans were. We were still, at least at that time, a “Christian” nation, and by that I mean, the majority of Americans made some kind of Christian profession and had at least some knowledge of the Christian faith. So although Oprah was going in a distinctly occultic, eastern direction spiritually, she was using words like “Holy Spirit,” “God,” “Jesus,” “atonement,” and “salvation.” And because Oprah was using terminology that everyone was familiar with, everybody’s guard went down….and that’s how the deception flooded in. Not to get too creepy about it, but this is exactly how many cults “reprogram” their new recruits. Same terminology, redefined terms.

One example of these redefined terms is a teaching from A Course In Miracles on the “atonement.” For those not familiar with A Course In Miracles (ACIM), it is a book that was originally published in 1976. The teachings of this book were channeled by a demonic entity to a woman named Helen Schucman who transcribed them. New Age author Marianne Williamson brought the teachings of ACIM into the mainstream after being enthusiastically endorsed on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the early 90s by writing her own book about ACIM and helping to explain its principles in laymans’ terms, sort of “A Course In Miracles for Dummies” (its real title: “A Return To Love”).

Click here to continue reading at Sola Sisters (courtesy of Lighthouse Trails Research )

Stay tuned on this issue, as an upcoming interfaith conference called Sacred Awakenings features Marianne Williamson (mentioned above as the New Ager who brought A Course In Miracles into the mainstream) and John Shelby Spong, both espousing more of the all-paths-lead-to-God view of Universalism. Since this also seems to be the view held by Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt and other emergent leaders, one has to wonder: how long before New Age Spirituality and Emergent officially merge together?

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Goodbye Emergent Church

Goodbye Emergent: Why I’m Taking The Theology of the Emerging Church To Task

writes Jeremy Bouma …

I’m not exactly sure when my saucy love affair with emergent and liberal Christianity ended. My “I don’t” isn’t as crystalized as my “I do.” Maybe it was when I read Pelagius‘ writings and realized much of Emergent theology really does mirror his 5th century theology.

Maybe it was after the former head of Emergent Village, Tony Jones, rejected original sin, a historic part of the Rule of Faith, claiming that it is “neither biblically, philosophically, nor scientifically tenable.

Maybe it was when I read Fredrick Schleiermacher and realized his and modern liberalism’s vapid, gospel-less faith are being repackaged and popularized to an unsuspecting, ignorant Christian community as a wholesome alternative to what has been.

Maybe it was after I read Karl Barth and realized the natural theology pushed by popular emergent theologians is not revitalizing Christian faith, but killing it; it is the same kind of faith Barth so vociferously fought against in order to preserve the historic Rule of Faith.

Maybe it was after reading a leading emerging church voice suggest that God and grace and the Kingdom of God are not tied directly and exclusively to Jesus Christ; ultimately its not really about Jesus, but about a vanilla, generalized World-Spirit god (lower-case “g”)

Source

on Monday, February 8, 2010

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Contextual Theology – Falling from Truth through Emerging Church

By Roger Oakland

In order for the emerging church to succeed, the Bible has to be looked at through entirely different glasses, and Christianity needs to be open to a new type of faith. Brian McLaren calls this new faith a “generous orthodoxy.”1 While such an orthodoxy allows a smorgasbord of ideas to be proclaimed in the name of Christ, many of these ideas are actually forbidden and rejected by Scripture.

Doug Pagitt believes that he is part of a cutting-edge response to the new postmodern world. It’s a response he and others see as completely unique, never having been tried before in the history of man. Pagitt states:

It seems to me that our post-industrial times require us to ask new questions-questions that people 100 years ago would have never thought of asking. Could it be that our answers will move us to re-imagine the way of Christianity in our world? Perhaps we as Christians today are not only to consider what it means to be a 21st century church, but also and perhaps more importantly-what it means to have a 21st century faith.2

Many people I meet at conferences who come from a wide variety of church backgrounds tell me the church they have been attending for years has radically changed. Their pastor no longer teaches the Bible. Instead, the Sunday morning service is a skit or a series of stories. The Bible seems to have become the forbidden book. While there are pastors who do still teach the Bible, they are becoming the exception rather than the rule.

Emergent leaders often say the message remains the same, but our methods must change if we are going to be relevant to our generation. The measure of success for many pastors today is how many are coming, rather than how many are listening and obeying what God has said in His Word. Let’s consider how Doug Pagitt uses the Bible in his own church. He states:

At Solomon’s Porch, sermons are not primarily about my extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives. In many ways the sermon is less a lecture or motivational speech than it is an act of poetry-of putting words around people’s experiences to allow them to find deeper connection in their lives… So our sermons are not lessons that precisely define belief so much as they are stories that welcome our hopes and ideas and participation.3

What Pagitt is describing is a contextual theology; that is, don’t use the Bible as a means of theology or measuring rod of truth and standards by which to live; and rather than have the Bible mold the Christian’s life, let the Christian’s life mold the Bible. That’s what Pagitt calls “putting words around people’s experiences.” As this idea is developed, emerging proponents have to move away from Bible teachings and draw into a dialectic approach. That way, instead of just one person preaching truth or teaching biblical doctrine, everyone can have a say and thus come to a consensus of what the Bible might be saying. Pagitt explains:

To move beyond this passive approach to faith, we’ve tried to create a community that’s more like a potluck: people eat and they also bring something for others. Our belief is built when all of us engage our hopes, dreams, ideas and understandings with the story of God as it unfolds through history and through us.4

You may not have heard the term before, but contextual theology is a prominent message from the emerging church. In his book, Models of Contextual Theology (1992), Stephen B. Bevans defines contextual theology as:

… a way of doing theology in which one takes into account: the spirit and message of the gospel; the tradition of the Christian people; the culture in which one is theologizing; and social change in that culture, whether brought about by western technological process or the grass-roots struggle for equality, justice and liberation.5

In other words, the Bible in, and of itself, is not free-standing-other factors (culture, ethnicity, history) must be taken into consideration, and with those factors, the message of the Bible must be adjusted to fit. As one writer puts it, “Contextual theology aims at the humanization of theology.”6 But two questions need to be asked. First, will the contextualizing of Scripture cause such a twisting of its truth that it no longer is the Word of God, and secondly, is Scripture ineffective without this contextualization? To the first, I give a resounding yes! And to the second, an absolute no. The Word of God, which is an inspired work of the living Creator, is far more than any human-inspired book and has been written in such a way that every human being, rich or poor, man or woman, intelligent or challenged will understand the meaning of the Gospel message if it is presented in their native language; and thanks to the tireless work of missionaries for centuries, the Gospel in native languages is becoming a reality in most cultures today.

Dean Flemming is a New Testament teacher at European Nazarene College in Germany and the author of Contextualization in the New Testament. In his book, he defends contextual theology:

Every church in every particular place and time must learn to do theology in a way that makes sense to its audience while challenging it at the deepest level. In fact, some of the most promising conversations about contextualization today (whether they are recognized as such or not) are coming from churches in the West that are discovering new ways of embodying the gospel for an emerging postmodern culture.7

These “churches in the West” Flemming considers “most promising” are the emerging churches. He would agree with Bevans’ model of theology, but he has an answer to the emerging church’s dilemma. He states:

Many sincere Christians are still suspicious that attempts to contextualize theology and Christian behavior will lead to the compromising of biblical truth … we must look to the New Testament for mentoring in the task of doing theology in our various settings.8

There’s good reason some Christians are suspicious. But it can seem harmless at first because Flemming suggests the answer is in the New Testament, which he believes should be used as a prototype or pattern rather than something for doctrine or theology. New Testament theology is always open for change, he says, but we can learn how to develop this change by studying New Testament stories and characters. The premise Flemming presents of contextualizing Scripture is that since cultures and societies are always changing, the Word must change with it and be conformed to these changes. But I would challenge this. The Bible says the Word is living, active, and powerful:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

And if the Word is this powerful, then it is stable and eternal as well. God, in His magnificence, is the Author of Scripture, and He surpasses time, culture, and societies. Contextualizing says people and cultures change, and therefore God’s Word must change. But, on the contrary, it’s people who need to change to conform to Scripture. If we really believe that the Bible is God’s Word, this would be clear to see; but if we think to ourselves that the Word is not infallible, not inspired, then contextualization would be the obvious expectation.

While certain parts of the Bible may be read as poetry (as Pagitt suggests), for indeed the Bible is a beautifully written masterpiece, it is also a living mechanism that is not to be altered-rather it alters the reader’s heart and life. It is much more than putting words around people’s experiences as emergents suggest.

The Bible tells us God is always right; it is man who is so often wrong. When we rely upon human consensus, we will end up with man’s perspective and not God’s revelation. This is a dangerous way to develop one’s spiritual life-the results can lead to terrible deception.

Brian McLaren put it well when he admitted it isn’t just the way the message is presented that emerging church proponents want to change … it’s the message itself they are changing:

It has been fashionable among the innovative [emerging] pastors I know to say, “We’re not changing the message; we’re only changing the medium.” This claim is probably less than honest … in the new church we must realize how medium and message are intertwined. When we change the medium, the message that’s received is changed, however subtly, as well. We might as well get beyond our naivete or denial about this….9

While reaching today’s generation for the cause of Christ is something we as Christians should all desire, we must remember Jesus Christ challenged us to follow Him and be obedient to His Word. Scripture commands us to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). But the emergents are leading followers in the opposite direction, teaching that the Word of God needs to be conformed to people and cultures instead of allowing it to conform lives through Jesus Christ…. reimagining Christianity allows a dangerous kind of freedom; like cutting the suspension ropes on a hot air balloon, the free fall may be exhilarating but the results catastrophic.  (from Faith Undone, pp. 42-45).

Notes

1. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,

2004).

2. Pagitt, Church Re-Imagined, op. cit., pp. 17, 19.

3. Ibid., p. 166.

4. Doug Pagitt, Church Re-Imagined, op. cit., p. 167.

5. Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis

Books, Seventh Printing, November 2000, http://www.cca.org.hk/resources/

ctc/ctc94-02/1.Yuzon.html), p. 1.

6. Paul L. Lehmann, “Contextual Theology” (Theology Today, Princeton

Theological Seminary, 1972, http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/apr1972/v29-1-

editorial2.htm).

7. Dean Flemming, Contextualization in the New Testament (Downers

Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), p. 14.

8. Ibid, pp. 14-15.

9. Brian McLaren, Church on the Other Side, op. cit., p. 68.

Article by Roger Oakland (Understand the Times)

Received from Lighthouse Trails Research

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Emergent Pattern – Understand The Times – Roger Oakland

Roger Oakland’s ministry “Understand The Times” has been such a blessing in my walk with the Lord.  Here he explains the Emergent Pattern of The Emergent Church, a seeker friendly Christian movement touted to be the “New” Christianity for the Post-Modern World. But is the Emergent Church really a fresh approach to teaching sound doctrine, or is it part of the great end times apostasy predicted in the Bible?

In this video commentary, Roger Oakland explores the apostate pattern emerging from the Emergent Church.

“Understand The Times” ministry is featured on my Links page, highly recommend the videos and the book “Faith Undone” (see Reading Room).

Understand The Times

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