Thursday, January 24, 2013

book review--freedom from the religious spirit

An NAR fair-tale bogeyman

As several of the contributing writers to the book note, there is nothing in the Bible about a "religious spirit" or "spirit of religion (six of one or half-dozen of the other); however, anyone having read this book could be forgiven for thinking that this "religious spirit" is the central character of the Bible, and that any (particularly bad) thing written in the Bible is written about it, no matter who or what the passage itself says it's about.

For example, one author tried to teach that Daniel 7:25 is about this "religious spirit", "It was in December 2003 that I first heard C. Peter Wagner offer Daniel 7:25 as a clear statement of the primary goals of the corporate spirit of religion." (p. 26). But a look at the context of that verse shows that it's a prophecy concerning a real person, a king who will do the things prophecied. It has nothing to do with a "religious spirit".

Another tries to see it in Malachi, "In Malachi’s day, for example, the people were proud of their religiosity. They assumed that their religious rituals were pleasing to God, but God indicated He was looking for something more: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands” (Mal. 1:10, NIV). " (p. 56-57). But a look at the context of the verse shows something rather different...

6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord's table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and  vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

Far from being "proud of their religiosity", the people were offering the lame and blind. They were profaning the Lord's table by offering inferious animals, and were complaining about it. There is no mention, not even a hint, of a "religious spirit".

Wrote one writer, "The spirit of religion manifested itself back in the Garden of Eden when Satan came to Adam and Eve to question them and put doubt in their minds regarding what God had really said about eating the fruit of the trees in the Garden (see Gen. 3:1-5)." (p. 91). Funny, but Genesis 3:1-5 makes no mention of "the spirit of religion" hanging about. This same writer added this a bit later, "The religious spirit was behind the devil when he appeared to Jesus in the desert and tried to get Jesus to worship him (see Luke 4:5-7)." (p. 93). Again, "the religious spirit" is notable by it's absense in Luke 4:5-7.

Wrote another writer, "I believe that Matthew 13:24-30 provides a key insight into the spirit of religion."(p. 53). Matthew 13:24-30 is a parable, the one of a field sowed with wheat that an enemy sowed weeds into. "But sown in the midst of the wheat we find zizania, identified as “the sons of the evil one” (v. 38). They are planted in the field to hinder the growth of the wheat. These sons of the evil one are not necessarily bad people. They may include genuine believers who have been seduced by the enemy to oppose God’s work." (p. 54).

But the problem for this author is, Jesus interpreted that parable, recorded in Matthew 13:36-43. Jesus says that at the end, the "tares" would be gathered out of His kingdom and thrown in the fiery furnace, basically Hell or the Lake of Fire. These "tares" are not "genuine believers".

Also, this parable is not about the church. Jesus explains the elements in the parable, and the field represents the world.

And another contributor wrote this, "The Bible says that we can recognize a tree by the fruit that it bears (see Matt. 12:33-37). So 2 Timothy 3:1-5 can help us understand how to recognize the religious spirit. This passage lists what I believe to be 19 manifestations of the religious spirit in the lives of people in the Church." (p. 105). Yet again, any mention of "the religious spirit" is simply not in the actual passage. It mentions what people will be like in the dangerous times of the last days, and doesn't specify that these people will be in the church.

So, with no mention of the "religious spirit" in the Bible, and the attempts to find it in some passages being at best rather problematic, what, then, is their "religious spirit"?

Consider the types of stories some parents tell small children to make them behave, such as saying that if the child doesn't go to sleep at the right time, the bogeyman is going to come and get them. I think that this "religious spirit" is the New Apostolic Reformation version of the bogeyman, and this book is basically these authors' attempts to scare people back into line, and to keep them from considering what critics of the NAR are saying.

You must understand, the NAR has been an abysmal failure. Not to say that there they don't have large church and lots of money; in fact, many large churches and wealthy religious leaders are a part of the NAR. The truth is, the NAR is filled with Word of Faith Prosperity Gospel charlatans, fake faith healers, false prophets, and cultic ministries. Their lunacy and heresy is open and apparent.

And there are those who are exposing this lunacy and heresy, and I've no doubt those exposes are effecting the NAR ministries, as in getting people to leave them (and take their money with them). Books like Counterfeit Revival have no about had their effects.

So, instead of addressing the critics and their claims, this book is essentially Peter Wagner and company telling the people in their NAR ministries that if there are people opposing the NAR and those in it, then those people are under the control of "the religious spirit", and so they should not be listened to, and certainly not taken seriously. "The religious spirit" is the big bad bogeyman, and if you're not careful, if you dare question the apostles and prophets, if you dare doubt that what's going on the NAR is a real move of the Holy Spirit, if you aren't on board with everything the NAR leaders want you to do, well, you've been caught by the big bad "religious spirit" bogeyman.

For my part, when people like the contributors to this book want you to just kowtow to them and not seriously question them, then that's a sure sign that it's time to start asking very serious questions of them, early and often, and even firmly and loudly. When they try to scare you with a made-up thing like a "religious spirit", then it's time to ask what they are trying to scare you away from.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

there's sick and wrong, then there's this...

I've Seen the Future of Men's Fashion and I'm Afraid

Words almost fail...

What kind of philosophical or psychological babble could be used to describe or justify this rot?

None. The word "rot" is quite enough.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

does "lack of credibility" mean nothing?

So, there's this organization out there called Love146. Their main concern is child sex trafficing, trying to stop it and help the victims. Since that is an issue that needs dealt with, all well and good.

Now, apparently, this organization has recent had it's 10th anniversary, and celebrated it with an event of some kind. At this event, they had a guest speaker.

That guest speaker was former US president Bill Clinton.

Yes, the same Bill Clinton whose presidency was marred by his sexual shenanigans with a White House intern, and whose lies about that resulted in his impeachment. The same Bill Clinton whose political career was marked by accusations of sexual misconduct.

Maybe this organization, Love146, is doing lots of good work. But if they are so all-fired-up about sexual exploitation, why did they have a known sexual exploiter speak at their event? Did they try to get one of the women whom this former president exploited? Would't that have been much more in keeping with their goals and aims?

Does Clintons lack of credibility on this issue mean nothing?

I would like to think that this organization is a good one, well worth supporting, that maybe this was simply a slip in judgment. But it still leaves me wondering.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

good article about giglio controversy

Louie Giglio and the New State Church

And a brief excerpt, to whet your appetite to check out all of it.

We don’t have a natural right to pray at anyone’s inauguration. But when one is pressured out from a previous invitation because he is too “toxic” for simply mentioning once something universal in the Christian faith, we ought to see what we’re looking at: a state church.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

book review--New Monasticism:what it has to say to today's church

We are the New Borg

First, I'd like to propose an idea. I think that the church needs to ban itself from using the word "radical", except in it's most formal senses, such as the mathematical. For the church, it has become at best an empty cliche, and in less good circumstances it is used in self-praising, self-congratulatory ways.

When the author of this book says "And almost everywhere I go these days, people agree that something is wrong in American Christianity." (Kindle Location 19), I may well have some agreement with him. What I disagree with is that what he calls "New Monasticism" is any kind of a solution; if anything, it is at best simply a symptom and a further continuing of the problem.

In the 11 May 2012 episode of his "Fighting For the Faith" program, Chris Rosebrough gives the recording of a lecture he had given, called "Resistance is Futile: You Will Be Assimilated Into The Community". Although he focuses most on things in the seeker mega-churches, it strikes me that what he talks about seems more than a little similar to what this author says about The New Monasticism.

Rosebrough refers to Peter Drucker's project of creating a non-economic society, and gives some ways in which Drucker's ideas have influence some church leaders. He gives two ways in which this is showing up in churches, and I contend that much the same things show up in this book.

1. A Society That DOES NOT recognize the inherent rights of the Individual. Individuals do not exist in time only the Community exists - a global community at that.

Essentially, the individual is swallowed up into the community. The community becomes the main focus, the good of the community becomes the main thing. The community is the thing most valued. The community becomes god.

This kind of de-valuing of the individual, with the power of providing and even decision-making being given to the community, is openly proclaimed and even celebrated in this book. "Some communities practice what's called a strict common purse. They read Acts where it says, "No one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common" (4:32), and they decided to put all their money into one bank account (like couples do when they get married). Out of that account, most common purse communities pay for everyone's living expenses and then use the rest to bless others or support the work of God's people." (Kindle Locations 984-987). Never minding that the Bible does not command such a thing, or even that the church mentioned in Acts 4 did not command it, these communities impose it on their people. The author refers to another community giving their people a "raise", "A couple of years ago, they decided to increase each person's living allowance from ten to fifteen dollars a week." (Kindle Locations 994-995).

He writes this in regards to another such community, "In San Francisco (which is a pretty expensive city), they agreed to each live on $275 of discretionary money per month. Of course you don't have to spend that much. But the community has agreed that no one will spend more than that. Whatever money people make above their living expenses and discretionary allotment they put in an account to give away." (Kindle Locations 1001-1003).

Notice how much power these communities exercise over their people. The community decides what each person can spend. The community decides to give the people a basically meaningless raise in living allowance. The community provides the individuals with all they need, or at least all that they think they need. The community decides how much money each individual person can spend in a month. Ed Young Jr. wanted the people in his church to give his church their bank account and routing numbers, but even he wasn't this ambitious.

But this economic power is not the only power this author wants communities or churches to have over the person. "Churches will also have to call people into higher-commitment membership. We have to find ways to get people to stick around. Maybe the only way to do that is to ask people to pledge their allegiance to the church...But if pledging our allegiance is a way of saying who we are and where we're going, then Christians have to pledge ourselves to the people of God. If our home is in God's kingdom, we cannot pledge our ultimate allegiance to America. If God is our Father, the nuclear family cannot be our god. Instead, we've got to say that our primary commitment is to the church. But for those words to have any real meaning, churches will have to get serious about membership. We need to name our commitments to each other and develop a process to determine whether God is calling an individual to leave our community or whether the forces of the economy are simply tearing us apart." (Kindle Locations 745-752). Look at this language, "...we've got to say that our primary commitment is to the church". Country and even family are given at best secondary place. If "the nuclear family cannot be our god", then in saying "...our primary commitment is to the church", does not the church then become our god, or at least our primary mediator between God and the powerless individual?

And don't think that is an idle or rhetorical question. Early in the book, the author speaks favorably of a group that calls itself the Bruderhof. Perhaps they started out fine, more or less, but as time has gone by, they have become something else entirely. Look up the Keep In Touch (KIT) Newsletters, which provide many examples of the Bruderhof breaking up families and throwing people out of their community. There are news articles about the Bruderhof moving children out of the country to keep the courts from having their fathers, former Brudehof members exiled from the community, have any contact with the children.
Perhaps the author would not condone such actions by the Bruderhof, I'd give him that. But given how much power he wants the church or community to have over the person, then what keeps any other church or community from going so far, over even further?

2. Anti-rational (anti-doctrinal “pastoral” churches). Immanent not transcendent.

"Unity across dividing lines was what distinguished the early church-so much so that they required a new name. Christianity was a new identity, neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free (Gal. 3:28). That's pretty incredible to think about, especially in a church fractured by schisms and creeds, denominational divides and ethnic identities." (Kindle Locations 34-36). Yet in speaking about this unity, he fails to note that the early church was also setting itself apart. One need only read Paul's epistles to see that he was not a big-tent type of person. This author refers to the epistle to the Galatians, but if one reads it, one can see that Paul is very firmly against people who were trying to make the Galatian believers return to trying to earn salvation and righteousness by keeping the Law, particularly in regards to circumcision.

So, look at some of those things that he contends are fracturing the church--schisms, creeds, denominations. Basically, things like beliefs and doctrines. And he throws in "ethnic identities", as if adhering to a creed is no better than being a racist.

"Often we can't even agree that we're all Christian." (Kindle Location 25). That's true, because if the name "Christian" has any particular meaning, then it may well be possible that some who call themselves Christian may not be. Even in the New Testament, we have examples of people who claimed to be in the Church, but whose beliefs and teachings were contrary to the Apostle's teachings. And in this day, when a John Shelby Spong can basically deny everything taught in the Bible and call himself a Christian, it is as important to be discerning.

At the end of chapter 2, he gives what these New Monastics have called "12 Marks of a New Monasticism" (Kindle Location 369). All of these 12 marks are immanent and about practice, none are doctrinal. Only one has any kind of scriptural reference, the 7th. None are about the proclaiming of the Gospel, none are about people needing to repent of sins and believe in Christ.

"Sometimes when I talk with evangelical friends about the grassroots ecumenism of new monastic communities, they tell me I'm not taking doctrine seriously enough. I worry about this myself (especially when I think someone I'm living with is wrong). I worry not so much because I want to be right; I worry because I don't want to see people I love destroyed by lies. (I'm a writer and a preacher-a wielder of words, you might say-because I'm convinced that what we think and believe is a life-and-death issue.)" (Kindle Locations 1397-1400). If that is so, then may we have an actual doctrinal statement for these New Monastics? May we know what it is that all of you actually believe? If you can formulate 12 Marks, then why not an actual statement of what you mean when you call yourselves Christians?

So, I'm less than impressed with these New Monastics, and would not recommend that anyone tie themselves to them. When doctrinal issues are downplayed, and one is basically told to give control of one's life to the community, well, my reply is, "No, thanks, I want none of it".

Friday, January 4, 2013

red letter nuts 2

I think I've mention Frank Schaeffer a few times before. Sadly, he's one of those types who keeps proving that he can go lower and more unbalanced, again and again.

Republicans “Own” Every Child Killed by a Gun and their Weeping Parents

And therein lies the desolation of the Republican Party’s future: They are going to lose many more of their very own through their combination with obstinate extremism and plain stupidity. I mean who wants to defend shooting toddlers as a constitutional right?

Who wants to “own” the pictures of weeping mothers?
The Republican Party does. As if killing themselves with anti-gay marriage homophobia, hatred of Hispanics (masquerading as anti-“illegal” immigrant initiatives) anti-women misogyny (flying under the banner of preventing women from getting contraceptives) and anti-science fundamentalist religion forced into schools wasn’t enough…
This is the new Republican Party “winning” platform? Good luck with that!
So, if you try to defend a Constitutional right, then, of course, you are responsible for every abuse of that right.

I suppose Frank Schaeffer, who obviously loves his right to free speech, is going to "own" every time someone abuses that right? Or those who believer in freedom of religion (again, like Schaeffer), he's going to own it when some cult is formed, then they kill themselves when the next comet appears in the sky?

Or...wait for it...maybe Schaeffer, being obvious on the left in regards to politics, will "own" the millions who have been killed in abortion?

Nah. That would require him to be an adult and show responsibility. He'd rather get on blogs like the linked to above, rant like a hormone-imbalanced teenager, and make irresponsible accusations without any foundation in reality.

Fat chance. The Republicans seem incapable of keeping up with the times. They just passed up a hell-sent chance to moderate their opinions. They passed it up, just as Romney passed up his chance to win women back by not publicly blasting Rush Limbaugh when he called a young woman a “whore” for standing up for her reproductive rights re contraception.
Ah, yes, the whole Sandra Fluke thing. Now, how was she in any way denied the right to get contraception? She wasn't. She simply whined that no one else would pay for it for her.

The Republicans have aligned themselves with billionaires against the rest of us. Now they are about to embrace the defending the murder of children and trivializing it with talk of “cap pistols.” That’s the moral equivalant of the talk about rape that derailed the fools running in the last election cycle.
Oh, please. We all know that people like you, Mr. Schaeffer, were the ones who intentionally took their words out-of-context, just like you have in this article of yours, to play politics with them.

Republicans will have to get even more used to losing. And those losses will no doubt give some aging white males even more paranoid fact-free “reasons” to cling to their guns and thereby to facilitate the killers of children. This is the price of right wing delusional freedom. It is a kind of “freedom” that looks more like madness with every child being buried this week.
The only madness is in your inane ranting, Mr. Schaeffer. There have been similar tragedies stopped because there were armed people around who were able to use their weapons to stop the criminals trying to harm others.

We do not surrender our rights simply because there are those who abuse them. We do not surrender our freedom of speech, simply because there are people like Schaeffer who abuse it with screeds like this. The cure is not less freedom, but more.