By Marsha West
November 4, 2006
"Any of it [teaching] that is good is in the Word of God, and any that is not in the Word of God is not good. I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspread as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, I'd ask him for a reference. If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow him out and say, 'I'm awfully sorry, you don't bring any references with you'" -- A.W. Tozer
Many Christians are adopting the new "spirituality" and tossing out orthodoxy like an old ragged pair of jeans. Believers have settled into "progressive churches" and have lost touch with objective truth found in God's Word. Followers of Jesus Christ must submit to the absolute authority of the Bible. Jesus said, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4).
What Paul referred to as a "different gospel" has been introduced into churches through music, books, false teachers and unorthodox movements. The authority of the Bible is trumped by what is deemed politically correct, thus watering down the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Liberal or conservative," says Chuck Colson, "if you weaken the Bible as your authority, you give up more than just some ancient set of dogmas and rules. You give up joy, excitement, the very heart of the Christian faith. You lose what I call the thrill of orthodoxy - the exhilaration of experiencing and living out eternal truth that has been lived through the ages."
So, if the Bible isn't a Christian's authority, what is? Short answer: Anything he or she wants it to be. You sort of make up your religion as you go along. Does this strike a cord?
Christianity has become a blend of religious beliefs. Add a pinch of modern psychology, a dash of Buddhism, a teaspoonful of Catholic mysticism, a cup of New Age spirituality, mix well, and viola! You've cooked up a batch of New Age Christianity.
Where were the faithful when doctrines of demons sunk its teeth into Christendom? The followers of Jesus Christ are to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 1:3). This is every Christian's mission!
Let's face it. Most believers were too busy with everyday life to sweat the small stuff, like what was going on inside the hallowed sanctuaries of local churches. Christians who recognized all the aberrant teaching did little or nothing to challenge it. Instead they decided to let it slide. And slide it did. Right into the pit of moral relativism! What resulted is "Whatever" Christianity. Whatever makes you happy; whatever feels right; whatever it takes to draw the unsaved into churches; whatever works. Basically, whatever floats your boat. In a word, pragmatism. (Pragmatism is the idea that if something works it must be true. Put another way, the end justifies the means.)
Those who practice pragmatic Christianity believe that today's churches must be relevant. The Church has to adjust to our modern culture. In order to recruit the unsaved, Christianity must rid itself of its antiquated dogma and doctrines. The Church must become "inclusive," "non-judgmental," and "tolerant." To accomplish this, the atmosphere in churches should be warm and inviting and its members must be friendly.
As well, church sanctuaries must do away with anything that might offend seekers. Hence no cross, no choir, no organ, no stained glass, no pews, anything that smacks of tradition must be done away with. Pragmatists reason that churches in a plain brown wrapper are more palatable to the seeker-sensitive crowd. The unchurched prefer up beat contemporary music played loud. Hymns are for old fogies. Seekers love their mocas and lattés, don't ya know, so churches should have an espresso bar on the premises. It's a good idea to add a few parking spaces in front of the worship center (the use of "church" could be offensive) for first time visitors. Wow 'em!
The results of "Whatever" Christianity are in. The Church has lost its salt. The light of Christ has gone out. The Gospel is compromised. Christianity stands for, well, not much of anything anymore. Churches now boast of "gays" and lesbians in the pulpit. For the New Age population, churches offer worship services that blend Christianity with Eastern religious practices and neo-paganism, which includes goddess worship, earth spiritualism, Shamanism and Native American spirituality. Incorporated into services of mainline denominations you'll discover humanism, radical feminist theology, evolution and Jungian psychology.
And speaking of mainline denominations, the Episcopal Church has installed the first "gay" bishop, Gene Robinson, who flagrantly flaunts his homosexuality and is shacking up with his "partner." The Episcopal Church USA has its first female bishop, Katharine Jefferts-Schori, who believes that God makes some people "gay." Schori's outspoken in her support of same-sex "marriage." She also believes Christians shouldn't say that Jesus is the only way to God, even though He claimed to be the only way to God. His exact words were, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
Columnist David Aikman's words ring true. "For Americans variety of choice in any domain of life is seen as an inherent virtue, the greater it is, the greater the virtue. Americans like to experiment, to 'mix and match,' and in religion it's no different than in the department store. A friend who attended Yale divinity school a few years ago had a classmate who signed herself in as a 'Catholic Buddhist.'"
Variety is the spice of life, as they say. This even applies to a person's sacred beliefs! No wonder Christianity isn't taken seriously anymore. Who can define it? Ingrid Schlueter warns, "Defining our terms is becoming more and more important in this hour. The words may be the same, but the meanings can be very, very different." Indeed.
Christians must become skilled at recognizing heresy and false teaching within the Church. Paul warns believers to make sure that "no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ" (Col. 2:8). Paul is addressing human philosophy and experiences. Believers are to be alert to any philosophy or teaching that gives humanity credit for being the answer to all life's problems.
PSYCHOLOGY & CHRISTIANITY
Many Christians feel that the church has abandoned them, so they turn to psychology and psychotherapy for help. "The term psychotherapy-informally known as 'the talking cure-e -- encompasses a variety of approaches to helping people identify, understand, and cope with the dynamics of their mental and emotional states, individually and in social interaction."
Pastors are preaching sermons using psychology to illustrate biblical principles. Psychologists are getting rich off Christians who purchase their books. Twelve-step programs are now offered in churches. Christians are given the Meyers-Briggs personality quiz to identify their spiritual gifts. They are seeking help from biblical counselors, Christian psychologists and secular psychotherapists. Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil are household names. Jungian psychotherapy is taught in Christian seminaries.
Matzat puts forth the threat that modern psychology poses to the Gospel
of Jesus Christ and offers this advice to churches:
"I suggest that Christian denominations who are concerned by the intrusion of modern psychology into their ranks should appoint a standing-committee made up of apologetic researchers, experts in the occult, and orthodox pastors and lay-people who are academically trained in psychology. It would be the task of this committee to do the research that most busy pastors are unable to do and to offer to the church their conclusions and opinions concerning some of the deceptive offerings of modern psychology."
"Standing before a crowd of devout Muslims with the Grand Mufti, I know that we're all doing God's work together. Standing on the edge of a new millennium, we're laboring hand in hand to repair the breach."
"I believe in positive thinking. It is almost as important as the resurrection of Jesus Christ" - Robert Schuler
Robert Schuller, the host of the "Hour of Power" weekly television show, is known for possibility thinking. "For Schuller -- faith' is a power of the mind and 'God' is merely a placebo that helps one 'believe' and thereby activate mind power. For example, on an Amway tape, Schuller exults, 'You don't know the power you have within you! ... You make the world into anything you choose.' It is Babel again, only in a more sophisticated form. The power of thinking becomes the magic stairway that leads to the paradise where all one's wishes can be fulfilled -- nothing but an 'evangelical' form of Christian Science or Science of Mind! (6/93, The Berean Call)."
In the early days of his ministry Dr. Schuller used mass communication such as radio, television, and creative marketing techniques to find out what people wanted in a church. What he discovered was that nonbelievers did not want to hear about sin and salvation; they wanted their emotional needs met. This was right up Schuller's alley, as he believes sin is a lack of self-esteem. To accommodate the emotionally needy crowd he reinterprets God's Word to conform to his self-esteem philosophy.
Schuller's marketing methods laid the foundation for the Church Growth movement. He claims to have launched the megachurch movement through his Institute for Successful Church Leading. "Here ministers are inspired to believe in their dreams," says Schuller, "and to present the good news of the gospel in positive terms. And some of those students are well-known. Bill Hybels now pastors the largest church, I think, in the United States, the Willow Creek Community Church. Bill has often said that there probably would not be a Willow Creek Church if he hadn't been able to come to our pastor's institute here. I'm so proud of him." Rick Warren was also a frequent visitor of the Institute. "And there's Rick Warren, a pastor who today is phenomenal. He came to our institute time after time."
Schuller is a popular preacher and influences many people. Nevertheless,
he's a wolf in sheep's clothing. Why? Because he bases his theology on
what people want to hear rather than on God's Word.
"Schuller's false teaching is an extremely serious matter in light of his wide influence. His was the most popular religion television broadcast in America for many years. His books sell by the millions. He appears with presidents. His self-esteem Christianity has been adopted by multitudes. These believe they are Christians; they attend churches; but in reality they worship a false christ and follow a false gospel. Robert Schuller and his mentor, the late Norman Vincent Peale, are two of the key culprits in promoting this error." - David Cloud
CHURCH GROWTH MOVEMENT
Rick Warren, "America's Pastor" and author of the best selling books, The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, was inspired by Robert Schuller's success. Which led him to the founder of modern management, the late Peter Drucker. Warren went to him for advice. "Under Drucker's tutelage, Warren's own success as a spiritual entrepreneur has been considerable. Saddleback has grown to 15,000 members and has helped start another 60 churches throughout the world. Warren's 2001 book, The Purpose-Driven Life, is this decade's best seller with 19.5 million copies sold so far and compiling at the rate of 500,000 per month."
Drucker believed that business and nonprofit partnerships cannot work "unless they are seen as investments focusing on results - primarily social rather than financial results - achieving clear, and preferably measurable results."
Rick Warren said of Peter Drucker: "[H]e's my mentor. I've spent 20 years under his tutelage learning about leadership from him." He also learned how to go about building a megachurch from Drucker. Was that really necessary, though? The greatest carpenter of all time, Jesus Christ, said, "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18).
Largely due to the popularity of Rick Warren's purpose-driven books, the Church Growth movement has swept through Christendom like a tornado, ushering in a 'new paradigm' of transformational leadership to meet the challenge of the new Century. Not everyone is onboard. Conservative Christians caution that, "Purpose-driven is a 'one size fits all' plan and program. It is the ultimate ecumenical tool." (Excerpt is from Herescope blog on August 9, 2006)
Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today informs us that, "Warren is part of the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention, and all his senior staff sign on to the SBC's doctrines, such as the literal and infallible Bible and exclusion of women as senior pastors."
Rick Warren an ultra-conservative? Not so fast. Rick Warren made the following statement regarding Christian fundamentalism: "Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity, and when I say there are very few fundamentalists, I mean in the sense that they are all actually called fundamentalist churches, and those would be quite small. There are no large ones?I am an evangelical. I'm not a member of the [ultra-conservatiive] religious right and I'm not a fundamentalist ...Today there really aren't that many Fundamentalists left; I don't know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren't that many Fundamentalists left in America." (Rick Warren, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, May 23, 2005)
Are the "five fundamentals" really a legalistic, narrow view of Christianity? First of all, there is no document called the "Five Fundamentals of the Faith." The name "fundamentalist" came from a series of books called "The Fundamentals" which was published from 1910-1915. The series did not promote "five fundamentals" but rather dozens of fundamentals. The original formulation of American fundamentalist beliefs are 1) the inerrancy of the Bible, 2) the virgin birth of Christ, 3) the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, 4) the bodily resurrection of Jesus, 5) the imminent return of Jesus Christ. To say any less is heresy.
If someone is indeed a Christian, he or she cannot deny the core essentials of Christianity as this is what separates it from other religions.
Cathy Lynn Grossman goes on to say that Warren's pastor-training programs "welcome Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, Jews and ordained women. 'I'm not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials [trivials]. I won't try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?' he asks, citing as his model Billy Graham, 'a statesman for Christ ministering across barriers.'"
Would Rick Warren get into a debate over the essentials of Christianity? Or would that be too divisive?
Rebecca Merrill Groothuis asks this challenging question, "What would happen if churches began focusing on ministry to God in worship before concentrating on ministries geared toward meeting people's many needs? What if 'upreach' preceded outreach? If church growth were understood in terms of the spiritual growth of its members?"
Part 2 will deal with the Pentecostal movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, Emergent Church, Contemplative Prayer, Feminizing the church, and Male Nuns. For part two click below.
Click here for part -----> 2,
Psychology and the Church (Part One): Laying
a Foundation for Discernment By Bob and Gretchen Passantino
© 2006 Marsha West - All Rights Reserved
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Marsha West is the Founder and Editor of the E-Mail Brigade News Report, an online news report for conservative people of faith. Marsha is a freelance writer specializing in Christian worldview. She is a regular contributor to NewsWithViews.com, Alainsnewsletter.com, CapitolHillCoffeeHouse.com, plus her commentaries appear in MichNews.com and bibleteacher.org.
is also designer and webmaster of a Christian apologetics website, On
Solid Rock Resources. She is currently writing a series of children's
books for homeschoolers. Marsha and her husband reside in historic Jacksonville
What Paul referred to as a "different gospel" has been introduced into churches through music, books, false teachers and unorthodox movements. The authority of the Bible is trumped by what is deemed politically correct, thus watering down the Gospel of Jesus Christ.