Saturday, April 25, 2009

Attractive Words of Deception
Enticing Words of Men's Wisdom

I have just watched this interview of a man named Peter Rollins who comes from Ireland and is associated with the emerging movement on some level. It would be necessary and important for you to watch this interview since it will give you context concerning what I will share in this post.

Peter Rollin’s view of Christianity showcases a growing turning point in Scriptural Christianity, and with subtlety and deft of language he and others are steering people into a place of spiritual nebulousness. And in fact, as evidenced by Rollin’s words themselves, he and others would embrace that description of their movement. They seek to dismantle truth, claiming that if it is truth it will be reconstructed, but all the while they treat truth as a vacillating pursuit that cannot be fully understood, much less captured. His and other’s views of spiritual truth are an intangible paradigm that defies paper and pen and only serves as a philosophy in theory which is believed by behavior rather than believed and then revealed by behavior.

If you read or listen to other interviews or writings of his you will find he relies on clever stories or modern day parables that accurately identify some obvious fallacies and inconsistencies in all of us, but give no answers. Many of his stories are designed to undermine the concept of certainty and even the concept of seeking certainty itself. In Rollins’ world of spirituality he offers a reverse metamorphosis of regeneration. He suggests doing humanitarian works first, and as you do them they will change you and ultimately lead to belief, which he never identifies.

Rollins believes that the event of the resurrection is not as important as human beings reflecting the resurrection, which again means acts of humanitarianism. He both subliminally as well as overtly, suggests that people who do not necessarily believe in the event of the resurrection, but are deeply committed to caring for others, are in fact part of the expression of the original resurrection based solely on their care for others. And when politely asked what would he tell someone who asked him who is God, he politely replied that he never wanted to give that answer but he just tells people to go care for the needs of others and that is where you will find God.

Peter Rollins is an engaging and intelligent man. His theology is a disarming philosophy that magnifies the shortcomings of the church and uses that mechanism to leverage the church away from the central truths that are foundational to Christianity itself. In short, his engaging treatment of the careless behavior of the church juxtaposed upon the physical needs of the world is a clandestine technique which is employed to ultimately suggest that doctrine is a barrier to an authentic expression of Christ upon the earth. And combined with the guilt and compassion we should feel for needy people and the often excessive squabbles over fringe issues within the church, his new way seems like a breath of fresh air and a way to ease our conscience. But in the end, the redemption Rollins projects is found in human works and not in Christ’s cross.

I would suggest that the most brilliant strategy for deception can be found in using something that is good, unarguably good, and use that as a means to divert attention from redemptive truth. Delilah used marital intimacy to deceive her husband. The beautiful singing of the sirens deceived the sailors. The logic of Satan deceived Eve. It is not the overtly wicked that usually deceives; deception is most effective when it comes wrapped in goodness, logic, and peace. Peter Rollins is just one of many people who have become unwilling pawns in a spiritual transition within the visible church. His winsome way, his Irish brogue, and his informal appearance add to his attractive spiritual ambiance.

The essence of this new emerging movement is change, and by using the obvious shortcomings of the mainstream evangelical church this movement has been able to capitalize on many people’s discontent with traditional expressions of the church. And empowered by this discontent, this movement has begun to challenge not just church gathering constructs, but the mainstream truths that have been at the center of Christianity for many centuries. The teachings are in question form, and although they avoid these exact words, this movement suggests that the church has always had it wrong. Of course their verbiage would be more in line with saying Christian truth and expression is malleable with each generation, and with that they avoid saying anyone is wrong.

There are three distinct deceptions for us who would never entertain the direction of the emergent movement. The first is that we are blind to the shortcomings and sins that are indeed prevalent in our own church and lives. Some of the things that people like Rollins points out concerning mainstream evangelicalism, especially in the West, are true. We need to allow God to deal with them regardless of who brings them to light. The second deception would be to get so embroiled with watching and examining the emergent church and their teachings that we lose sight of our true calling, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should take heed on both these issues.

But the third deception is if we ignore the growing apostasy that looms large on the horizon. By any standards, the Scriptures clearly indicate a coming period of turning away from the faith and the rejection of truth. Although there have been significant periods that may well have fit that description, they, by the passing of time, have proven not to be the last days. Perhaps those last days are here, and perhaps the deception has increased in volume, nuance, and growth. The Scriptures are not Christ, however without the truth they convey we cannot know Christ, and in fact God has suggested a power He has incorporated into the preaching of those words, or at least those truths, that may be used of the Spirit to change sinful humans.

What then happens if we change those truths? Where will we be led if we are following words that do not reflect the words and truths that are revealed in the written Scriptures? And if we cannot discern at least the core redemptive truths from Scripture then how will spiritual thought and ideas be tested? Who can we assume is the author of such theological confusion? The church must be humble and loving, gracious and merciful, and we must open our hearts to divine correction as it concerns our pitiful humanitarian outreach, but we must not ever be moved from the core of our faith. Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and resurrected bodily from the dead, and through that gospel alone can sinners find eternal life. Salvation can only come from faith in Christ, who must be preached to the ends of the earth until He comes again. That is and always has been our faith and our mission.

As you watched that video, if you did not feel an unease and even a concern for what Peter Rollins was saying, you may have already been affected by the spirit of the age in which we live. I feel no animosity for Peter Rollins and in fact he seems a brilliant and charming person who may be very sincere in his thoughts. But thoughts cannot be the final arbiter of truth, God’s Word has been and must always be the absolute reference source of truth. And although we may disagree with some points of interpretation, we must all agree on the core revelation of the gospel of redemption, simple and profound.

Stay humbly vigilant. Here is conference , sponsored by Rob Bell at Mars Hill Church in Michigan, in which Peter Rollins will be speaking several times. This is another example of how the different networks of associations can reveal things about men’s beliefs that would not ordinarily come out. It is indeed on some level guilt by association, as well as guilt by agreement. And make no mistake, Peter Rollins is just 36 years old; there will be those who come after him and those like him who have never been tethered to or maybe never even been exposed to mainstream evangelical theology. Like everything else, this emergent movement is not stagnant, it continues to progress into new frontiers of doctrinal thought and redemptive perspective. The gospel will continue to be unrecognizable amidst the musings of men like Peter Rollins and his supporters.

The emergent leaders no longer feel the necessity to include the gospel narrative within their brand of intellectual humanitarianism, and they have reconstructed another gospel which ministers to the earthly plight of mankind and ignores the eternal implications of John 3:16. It embraces God’s love for the world but ignores and in many cases rejects the “shall not perish” portion of Christ’s great proclamation. And by wrapping their theology exclusively with God’s love, they have effectively insulated themselves from criticism since they suggest, via a strawman, that any criticism of their gospel presentation is a criticism of God’s love and uncovers an ambivalence concerning the sufferings of people.

To the charge of us being less than we should be we plead guilty. To the charge of us not reaching people’s needs as we should we plead guilty. To the charge of us being too intransigent in some of our ways we plead guilty. But we can never, ever change the gospel of Jesus Christ into the works of men. The works of believers are the expressions of Christ within our lives, but those expressions are not the way to salvation. The only way to eternal life is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Humanitarian works are either manifested expressions of God’s love that enhance the preaching of the gospel, or if they stand apart from the gospel they are deceptions.
An atheist provides food for the hungry.

A Christian provides food for the hungry.

There is no difference unless one is provided in Jesus’ name.


Pastorboy said...

Brilliant. Simply Brilliant.

I wish I could link to it from my site. You have done a great work here in providing a deep explanation of the implications of this post-modern mumbo jumbo that is being taught by the emergent church philosophers and those who support them.

Spot on, Rick.

Rick Frueh said...

Thank you, John. You may link to this site without permission.