Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Rising Apostasy

I would like to warn you of a coming apostasy, but I cannot. The apostasy about which I speak is here. We as believers must always attempt to show the widest parameters of grace and love, and the most earnest struggle to understand others without immediately reducing the view of others in the most unflattering light. We should avoid using hyperbolic language that inflames others and is melodramatic in nature. In essence, we should approach all who name the name of Christ with respect and patience, and concerning preachers we should be sure of any evidence we use when condemning their teachings. And most of all, the word “apostasy” must be reserved only for the most egregious and unambiguous examples of abandoning the Christian faith. Only then can the full weight of the word and its impact be understood.

Allow me to more fully unfold the meaning of the word “apostasy”. The Webster’s Dictionary defines it as an “abandonment of a previous loyalty” or a “renunciation of a religious faith”. And the Greek word “apostasia” actually means to stand against something for which you once stood. So the word apostasy, used twice in the New Testament (Acts 21:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3), is a description of a person, a church, or a teaching that once taught the true faith of Jesus Christ who now teaches something else. Apostasy is the most serious accusation and label that any person, church, or teaching can receive, and it must not be used lightly.

I have used the word apostasy in my title with careful thought and with personal trembling, since I will give an account for such a grave and solemn accusation, however there is no other word that can and must be used in this situation. I can say with the knowledge that the Lord knows my words and my heart that I have over the last three years endeavored to view others in the greatest amount of grace and respect, and I have even rebuked those who I believed used unnecessary invectives that were personal or unwarranted hyperbole. My conscience is clear on this matter and I publicly claim no personal insight from God other than that which is available by His grace to every believer.

During this time that I will now openly address I have fellowshipped with several believers who are considered part of, or sympathetic to, the emergent church movement. I have learned many beneficial things from having interacted with them, as well as learned things about which I was disturbed. And this may be the central tragedy of this present falling away, since it does not just affect those who teach such things, it also ensnares many others who have fallen prey to their words of men’s wisdom. And indeed, many pastors and church leaders are among those who ten years ago would have rejected such teachings, but who now use and teach their material.

The emergent movement began sometime in the 1990’s by a small group of people who were seeking a new and fresh way to experience Christianity, and a new way to understand the teachings of the Bible. This gathering was not meant as a small tack in the current sea of orthodox understanding, this was to be a major shift in the core understanding of Christianity, the gospel itself, and how we are to practice and reveal our faith. This movement would seek common ground with other faiths in an attempt to bring spiritual peace and justice to the entire community of faith, within and without the Christian faith itself.

This new, emergent way of defining Christianity would focus on social issues and would focus on feeding the poor, global warming, injustices, war, and a long list of other human interests, and most disturbing of all would be the noticeable absence of the redemptive gospel of Jesus Christ. In an overview, this new movement would be humanitarian in nature and would begin to eschew the kind gospel preaching and presentation that would normally be heard in an evangelical church. The movement would be defined by deeds rather than faith, and the New Testament conversion construct would be changed to resemble a doctrinally nondescript community who seeks to provide material aid to people rather than the message of the cross.

And what about the doctrinal teachings of this movement, were they completely discarded? No, but they suffered a violent change. The way truth was now going to be discussed was more of round table dialogue where all points of view were valid and much of the teachings were philosophy wrapped in a thin veneer of parsed Biblical language. Musings and fables and extra biblical parables were instruments of communicative truth, and their meanings were leveraged to illustrate whatever the teacher desired them to teach. This interview is an example of what is being heralded as the new Christianity.

Col.2:8 – Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

The foremost and most influential men of this emergent movement are Brian MacLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Rob Bell. But make no mistake, there are many others and their numbers are increasing. These men speak all over the country, and their teaching materials are voluminous. They are intelligent, sincere, and have a gift for communication that they use most effectively. These men have evangelical backgrounds and were educated in orthodox Bible colleges and seminaries. Brian MacLaren seems to be the pioneer in the emergent church movement, and he has spoken in both Bell’s and Pagitt’s churches. MacLaren is now welcomed in hundreds, if not thousands, of evangelical churches that were once considered mainstream.

I will be presenting a post later concerning Doug Pagitt and his upcoming conference called Christianity 21. I will listen to the messages after the conference, but I invite you to go to the link and notice that all the speakers are women and the read the topics of their messages. But for now I want to address the ministry of Rob Bell and with whom he aligns himself. Pastor Bell will be holding a conference called, “Poets, Prophets and Preachers: Recalling the Art of the Sermon”, and it will be held in July. The main speaker for this event will be philosopher Peter Rollins. And just recently Bell had Phyllis Tickle fill his pulpit.

Let us examine who this Phyllis Tickle is and what she believes. She sits on many boards and participates on many interfaith discussions, not in the interest of sharing Christ, but in an attempt to form an amalgam of all religions. One of the most prominent and revealing boards on which she sits is the Exploring Faith organization. This organization is compromised of people from several different faiths, and some are heretical professing Christians such as Marcus Borg. This man, Borg, denies the resurrection and in his book “Meeting Jesus for the First Time Again” he states,

“The gospel of John thus is true to the experience of the early Christians, while not being literally, historically true.”

Rob Bell has referenced Marcus Borg in the past, along with other unbelieving philosophers. There seems to be no respect and love for the cross and the exalted One who died there. Christianity has become a philosophy, a curiosity that every Sunday is discussed as to how it can fit logically in a world of such injustice and financial suffering. And the answer is that Christianity is a religion that is meant to help the world fulfill its destiny, and the followers of Christ are to spread humanitarian deeds at the expense of the gospel narrative.

Listen as Tickle and Rollins wax philosophically eloquent and appear quite taken with each other as they muse about everything but Christ and His gospel. They continue to search for truth while being blind to the fact that they have found dangerous error and called it truth. When Tickle says that the church has to go through these changes about every five hundred years, she is not challenged as to that unsupported statement. She is a reckless as the health and wealth preacher claiming God told him that if you give money God will save your children.

And these are people have been invited to Rob Bell’s church to spread their falsehoods. It is because Rob Bell is a false teacher himself and no less a heretic as are they. If you are reading this you may well hear the Spirit warning your heart about the rise in the current apostasy. I am not being theatrical and melodramatic, this current climate is taking great strides away from Christ and His gospel. There is much wrong with all American evangelical churches, and in fact, we all stand in need of a massive revival that awakens us to the glory of sacrificing our lives for Christ. It is this very condition that makes the church ripe for deception, and even those preachers and bloggers that decry the teachings of men like Bell and Rollins many times do not see their own need of personal revival.

I openly confess that in spite of the glorious salvation that I stand in today by grace, I am not what I should be or even what I could be.
I need a move of God’s Spirit in my own life.
I pray you recognize that as well.

1 comment:

Father James Downing said...

Rick, I have just discovered your writing today, and I am blown away. The truth that you present is such a breath of encouragement in these times of compromise and confusion. I thank you greatly for your boldness, and your submission to Christ.