Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Last Straw: Leaving One Church and Finding Another

One should read this update/caveat to these posts for the whole story.

 One night alone in prayer might make us new men, changed from poverty of soul to spiritual wealth, from trembling to triumphing ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

I asked a few learned people how I should approach this topic.  After reviewing their advice, I decided not to get too in-depth in the reasoning and people behind my leaving one church and joining another.  I must, however, share the final reason (the proverbial “nail in the coffin”) behind my leaving a wonderful church that I attended for nearly 12-years.  During this time of attending my previous church my wife and I were rejoined in our marriage after almost 3-years of separation -- a miracle that only the wonderful shepherding in the pulpit my pastor could achieve via the Holy Spirit.  Until very recently I would have wholeheartedly recommend this church, now I would counsel persons that the type of resources used are dangerous (as I will explain).  That being said, the last straw that caused me to find a new church home was a book being used with the college group gents by one of the pastors.  The book is Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne (there is a pretty in-depth review here of the book entitled, A Humbled Resistance: An Examination and Response to Shane Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution” and “Jesus for President”).

I will forgo in-depth examples here on my site of all the cumulative reasoning behind my decision, though, I will link some books I recommend my fellow Christians to become familiar with at the end of this post which will give some hints as to why I left in a broader sense or meaning.  Much like the author (p. 97), I too wore Rage Against the Machine shirts (I think my oldest son still wears some of my old shirts).  Needless to say, I wore Rage Against the Machine shirts with the thought-in-mind that I rejected the class warfare lyrics that this self-admitted Marxist band sung and I engaged with younger minds when they asked about the shirt  about why I rejected their lyrics and ideas behind the music.  Shane wore the shirts of this band with full knowledge of and support for this class warfare idea found only in Marx and Engels manifesto.  I say this only after reading Irresistible Revolution.

Of course Shane makes the argument that you have to be an atheist to be "officially" a "Marxist."  This is only a small value in Marxism, granted an important one,  however, Marxism is much more than merely a belief in the divine. In fact, the divine is merely transferred to this world in dialectical materialism, and a push for utopia creates the “divine” in man and his anthropogenic fundamentalism... as exemplified in Shane’s writings.  Take note as well that I argue that Mormonism is a form of Dialectical materialism and is closer to atheistic Marxist philosophy than to Christianity.  Last time I checked Mormonism is riddled with "Divine" as is atheistic Buddhism.  Not to mention that the Communists (atheists) used religion:

A poignant example of this comes from the Bolshevik Revolution.  While this was an atheistic movement with a view of religion as “the opiate of the masses” used by a few powerful people to control said “masses,” the Soviets themselves tried to use religion to “control the masses.”  One early attempt by the Bolshevik Revolution to take over the spiritual was through the Renovated Church (also known as the Living Church Movement) which was meant to reinterpret the teachings of Christ and the Apostles towards a Soviet end.  During one of the short-lived attempts here by the Soviets we find this official “statement of faith:”

  • The Soviet power does not appear as a persecutor of the Church.
  • The Constitution of the Soviet state provides full religious liberty.
  • Church people must not see in the Soviet state a power of the anti-Christ.
  • The Soviet power is the only one which tempts by state methods to realize the ideals of the Kingdom of God.
  • Capitalism is the “great lie” and a “mortal sin.”
The Soviet government is the world leader toward fraternity, equality, and international peace.
(Taken from the first chapter to my proposed book, Worldviews: A Click Away from Binary Collisions.  Here is a quote taken from this first chapter from Edgar C. Bundy's book, How the Communists Use Religion [Wheaton, IL: Church League of America, 1966], 12 -- I will put this caveat here; however, it applies to the whole: I will quote authors with whom I do not necessarily agree with.  I often quote authors that are: atheists, pagans, fellow Christians, politicos, homosexuals, evolutionists, and the like… merely because I quote an author, this quotation does not mean that I support their work as a whole.)

So as I was reading this book, Irresistible Revolution, I stopped at page 34 and went to the appendix after Shane wrote this:
Who knew you could make so much money writing a book? For the sake of transparency, I want you to know that all the money I get from the sales of this book, both the advance and the royalties, is being given away. This is not a noble act, of charity. It's the only thing that makes sense to me. Besides, this is not just my story, and I am not just exploiting the stories of others. This book has emerged from a movement of communities of faith and struggle, inspired by local revolutions and ordinary radicals, anchored in life among the poor and marginalized. So it is not only a responsibility but a joy and honor to share the profits with all of them.[footnote #3] May we continue to feed each other hope as we dance God's revolution together.
#3. In appendix 1 at the back of the book, you will find a list of ordinary radicals with whom I enthusiastically redistribute the money I receive from the publication of this book through the Simple Way's Jubilee Fund. (emphasis added to the Marxist/Leninist language)
I didn’t take much time in this appendix, but I did follow through with a few of the links Shane provided.  This is what I found -- keep in mind that: I underlined and emboldened the main site referenced in Shane’s appendix and then I follow that link with either a quote that represents some positional statement (italicized) of that site, or simply went to that sites "links" section and linked out to whom they recommend themselves.  Although I could have listed many links, I think the few I chose make my point.  I would say enjoy... but...
Alternative Seminary -- http://www.alternativeseminary.net/
  • Liberation theology
  • Feminist theology
  • The Catholic Worker movement
  • Theologies and biblical reflections emerging from the peace movement and faith-based resistance communities
  • Gay and lesbian theology
  • Jewish renewal
Links Out:
Jesus Radicals is a web-based community of Christians exploring Christian anarchism and a belief that the Gospel rejects militarism, capitalism and the state and promotes a message of justice and love.

Atonement Lutheran Church -- http://www.ourchurch.com/

I am Pastor Maggie Ainslie.  I've been pastor of Atonement Lutheran Church for 9 1/2 years now.  I live 4 blocks away from the church with my husband Matt....

Brandywine Peace Community -- http://www.brandywinepeace.com/
For our nation in which money is readily available for warfare and weapons builders, like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and while the very term security is used synonymously with weapons and military might: not with jobs, universal health care, healthy communities, education, a non-toxic environment, a future, All: We lift up the stones of our arrogance.
 (Their “cost of war” counter on this site is B.S. by the way)

Catholic Workers -- http://www.catholicworker.org/
Above all, we need to hear more and more about the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. "We are all members, one of another. Where the health of one member suffers, the health of the entire body is lowered." "An injury to one is an injury to all," the old I.W.W.'s (The Industrial Workers of the World) used to say.
In none of the letters sent to us in protest was there recognition of the fact that the writer, Gonzales, was as much opposed in his own way to the Marxist-Leninist position as we ourselves. His position is that of the anarchist, pleading for the principle of subsidiarity, calling for "secular monasticism," using that expression when speaking to the clergy in order to make them understand the idea of farming communes, or collectives, or cooperative farms.
Links Out:
  • Noam Chomsky Writings -- http://www.zmag.org/ (self admitted Marxist/atheist)
  • Labor Net -- http://www.labornet.org/ (one of the most extreme union/socialist orgs out there)
  • I.W.W. -- The Industrial Workers of the World - http://www.iww.org/ (a socialist/Marxist organization) 
Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) -- http://www.esa-online.org/Display.asp?Page=home
Economic justice: ESA, on the whole, promotes an economic theory that once would have been called socialism, but which now, on the basis of historical considerations and semantic charity, is usually referred to as “democratic capitalism.” ESA describes itself as “pro-poor,” which means, in practical terms, that government-directed flow of capital is a necessary condition of economic justice. “Economic justice” is itself considered to be more a matter of equal distribution than fair return. Some argue that, over the past few years, Sider has drifted more towards the right. He certainly speaks with approval of “market economies,” but remains, with ESA and its partners, wary of “free market economies.”
Environmental protection: ESA is the source and current partner of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), which has recently become famous for its “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign. Basically, ESA’s position on the environment is: (1) The earth’s resources are running out, which entails the need for major lifestyle changes for (primarily) Western nations and (primarily) middle and upper class individuals. (2) The profligacy and abuses of (the rich people in) the West have contributed mightily to the instability of the global environment (e.g., “global warming”); hence, major changes are in order. ....

Obviously one can see the extreme political nature of this book and how it rejects history for one superimposed by Chomsky and Zinn.  There seems to be a correlation as well to some who may be saved because of their works.  I do not know ultimately if Mother Teresa was truly saved or not... only God knows this... that being said, I can say that if Mother Theresa believed the following...

Among the all-too-accessible examples that could be cited, consider the following excerpts (chosen because they are representative of the genre, not because they are outstandingly bad) from Novena Prayers in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, a booklet published by the Sisters of St. Basil with official church approval (Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur):
Have pity, compassionate Mother, on us and our families; especially in this my necessity (here mention it). Help me, 0 my Mother, in my distress; deliver me from all my ills; or if it be the will of God that I should suffer still longer, grant that I may endure all with love and patience. This grace I expect of thee with confidence, because thou art our Perpetual Help (p. 5).
We have no greater help,
no greater hope than you,
0 Most Pure Virgin; help us, then,
for we hope in you, we glory in you,
we are your servants.
Do not disappoint us (p. 16).
Come to my aid, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation, and to thee I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou art more powerful than all hell together; not even from Jesus, my Judge, because by one prayer from thee, He will be appeased. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation, I may through negligence fail to have recourse to thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, therefore, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace to have recourse to thee, 0 Mother of Perpetual Help (p. 19).
Elliot Miller and Keneth R. Samples, The Cult of the Virgin: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Mary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books/Academic, 1992), 57.

...No matter what her good works are or would be, this dedication to other than Christ clearly -- according to Scripture -- negates the adherent from salvation.  There is good evidence that this Marion worship was employed in Mother Teresa's faith.  Shane also talks of and quotes Gandhi approvingly, which seems odd.  Odd because Gandhi was a racist and ordered, in racially tainted radio broadcasts, his followers to kill Zulu's (blacks).  Gandhi only used "peaceful" protests with the British because militarily India could not cope with the British and Gandhi was a good politician first and knew where to draw his lines and which strings to pull.

I wish I could say differently, but the book is just bad from beginning to end and is not a proper resource for a church to use, at least a church that claims conservative Evangelical mores.  Obviously no book is COMPLETELY bad, and there are noble points in it... I mean who wouldn't want to  stamp out poverty worldwide and stop all wars?  How has this worked in real life is what I want to know, and are all the claims Shane makes about war and poverty in the real world accurate and not some make believe candy-land Utopian dream:


Again, there are noble ideas in the book, they just may not be very realistic, that's all.  On pages  123-124 you find a portion of what Shane's "ministry" does on "an average day":

"We are about ending poverty, not simply managing it. We give people fish. We teach them to fish. We tear down the walls that have been built up around the fish pond. And we figure out who polluted it. We fight terrorism -- the terrorism within each of us, the terrorism of corporate greed, of American consumerism, of war.... We spend our lives actively resisting everything that destroys life, whether that be terrorism or the war on terrorism. We try to make the world safe, knowing that the world will never be safe as long as millions live in poverty so the few can live as they wish. We believe in another way of life -- the kingdom of God -- which stands in opposition to the principalities, powers, and rulers of this dark world."

Unfortunately, this "kingdom now theology" that so infects the Word-Faith Movement and the name it and claim it gospel, also infects the eschatology of the extreme theological Left.  Both theologies have the view that Shane enumerates when he encourages us to "take courage, as you will then have more grace as you liberate others" (p. 32).  I am sorry, no person can liberate me, they and I are fallen and cannot liberate even ourselves. A great example of this egalitarianism:

“When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, Loneliness, despair, death, slaughter — they are all hell on earth. Jesus' desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.”
(Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005], 148.)

Obviously the political and theological tome of this book is very charged, to say the least.  (If you need to understand more of my reasoning, or have questions about this post I will be more than happy to talk to you -- my email is at the top of this site.) Through this process of seeing a great church compromise on its Reformation roots, I have talked to many pastors and visited quite a few churches.  I finally found a new home and a pastor that takes its Reformation history seriously and realizes the divide between Protestantism and other movements.  I know at this new home that future staff members will be vetted a bit more in regards to the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints.  Here ends my short reason why I have left my home of almost 12-years.

I wish to share a bit more personally here, so forgive my continuing this subject, but it is an important one.  One thing that pained me deeply was the approval of particular authors either through word-of-mouth or pastoral desks adorned with these writers.  Here is one excerpt from one of these authors that gives me pause about the rest of their writings:

When the boundaries between God-ordained practices and pagan practices are erased, as is the case in the Emergent Church, then it makes sense to find practices that are attractive to people in the surrounding culture. One such practice is Yoga. Although Yoga is a Hindu practice and intimately related to various Hindu deities, some Christians have begun to bring this pagan practice into the Church. Some claim that they have removed any religious content and are merely using Yoga positions for exercise. But this is wrong and dangerous. In the case of Pagitt's church, Solomon's Porch, Yoga clearly is not merely "exercise."
Pagitt's book, Church Re-imagined, contains a description of the church's weekly yoga class written by the woman who leads it. She states, "We aren't here for a hardcore physical workout as much as the chance to be together, to breathe, to relax, and to bring ourselves to a place of peace and gratitude." The process includes having the students regulate their breathing. They also use different poses each week: "These vary from week to week, but Downward Facing Dog is a must."  The poses and breathing are designed to do something to their inner state: "This [that the chit-chat has stopped] tells me that tension has been released from the muscles, inner chatter has moved out of the brain, and self-awareness and peacefulness have settled in."

The yoga instructor gives a more detailed description of the last pose:

Our last pose of the evening is called "savasana"... or corpse pose. The student lies on her back letting the legs fall open as they will, the arms hang limp like empty coat sleeves. The face, the forehead, the space between the eyebrows all relax, and the person melts heavily into the floor. Eyes are closed, breathing is rhythmic. I turn the lights off, and only the glow of candles and sometimes fireplace illuminates the room. This state of being is holy. It is at this time that we become closer to God, aware of our bodies, of the divine.
Clearly, her claim is that yoga is a means to become holy and draw near to God. A corollary to this claim is that humans have a right to determine their own path to God. The Bible makes it clear that we must come to God on His terms only, not ours! It is one thing to claim the right to use practices of other religions in a non-religious way (which I believe has no place in the church), but it is egregious to claim that practices from pagan religions can make us holy and closer to God.
Bob Dewaay, The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity (2009), 128-130 (quote within the quote taken from Pagitt's book Church Re-Imaged).

You see, when you forgo the plum-line of Scripture and include practice as your truth... problems tend to follow.  

Here is a slight update, it comes from a friendly exchange between I and one who supports my move, here is my response (I will update conversation here as it appears on my FaceBook):

ME: Thanks you two. Michele, yes, I know you do... thank you. It wasn't the "big building," it was the book that speaks out against churches like NP:
  1. If we have parishioners who follow the advice in the writings of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, and the like (passed on by our pastors in some way), they will leave our church due to its "suburban" nature. (pp. 62, 84, 163 of Shane's book [as examples])
  2. If our parishioners reject the emerging ethos as aberrant, then as they discuss the matter with some of our pastors, they will possibly find a church that takes a firmer stance on this up-and-coming issue within the historic faith.
Shane is also very antithetical to police (p. 122), anti-military (pp. 95-96, 122-123), and teaches a "kingdom now theology" (pp. 62, 87), calls for overthrowing a particular social order using Marxist/Leninist speak (p. 129), and the like. Pretty wild stuff even beyond the Richard Foster discussion we had.
TRAV:Thomas Watson said it better than I ever could, he said,"Toleration is the grave of reformation. By toleration we adopt other men's sins, and make them our own"...

ME:Can I tell you that that quote hit the spot, let me explain why. On page 152 of Shane's book we read this: "People are poor not just because of their sins, they are poor because of our sins..." Again, some of what Shane writes is "true." Throughout his book he shifts blame off of the person and their position with their savior and puts the blame on corporations, the rich, the privileged white-person, the police, etc. The class warfare language is immense in this political tome [see video below]. On page 124 he equates poverty with violence ("...knowing the world will never be safe as long as millions live in poverty..."). Newsflash, many of the persons committing the most heinous crimes today (Islamo-Fascists) are rich and have had privileged education. He doesn't make sense.

Poverty exists mainly because of corrupt governments (mainly revolutionary governments) and often times because of pacifists standing in the way of liberating millions of people by force do they remain in abject poverty (like the UN). So Shane's "sin of pacifism" inflicts more poverty and death on cultures than do the liberating forces that try to let people govern themselves (like in Iraq and Afghanistan).

After a friend mentioned that this should be handled in a more private manner I mentioned in parts the following:
ME: Kev, you said, "I think you also know the leadership of NP would NEVER consciously 'promote' this nonsense." I am sorry to inform you to the contrary. Ping-pong and softball at the men's retreat and talking about which NFL team is up that week and giving the shoulder-to-shoulder "dude hugs" may not bring out these topics, but I tend to. Where is the sound exegetic doctrine? This isn't about "giving your testimony" versus "an apologetic," or "pre" and "post" tribulation positions. This is about many in leadership implicitly supporting heretical views and a couple explicitly teaching it. Being "young in their theology" (as told to me during a convo with _________[ info for not here]) means they shouldn't be in the positions they are.


This just isn't a disagreement between brothers, it is many positions in a fine church being filled with people who teach or do not understand what heresy is. The pulpit (the main one, the college groups, or [any other position in any church]) are not places for experimental theology and aberrant Christian beliefs and practices... Rob Bell teaches a different Christ, Richard Foster teaches paganism/occultism, Shane Claiborne teaches Marxist/Leninist ideals and "Revolutionary Christ" (see above), Doug Pagitt teaches post-modern relativistic Gospel, Brian McLaren and psychologist David G. Benner do not think we have gotten the Gospel right yet, Thomas Merton was a Buddhist, Henry Nouwen was a homosexual Catholic /Buddhist mystic. For leaders not to know the dangers of recommending, teaching from, or following such "theology" is not something that needs to be brought before two or three brothers. These are "other than Gospel/Christian" theologies that are being injected into a once fine church by a non-existent vetting process (too much grace, no truth). Its like Obama's Cabinet and tax issues! So my warning may throw some, but as they travel with this church... keywords like Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Richard Foster, Shane Claiborne will hopefully be etched in their minds.
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