For the last six months, I’ve been voraciously reading about the new “trends” in the post-modern “church.” What I’ve read has been, both, fascinating and frightening. There appears to be a huge push toward personal “experience” and mystical practices, all in the name of “Christianity.” This is not something brand new. This has been going on for centuries. However, what used to be labeled as heresy has now become, not only accepted as truth, but also embraced by mainstream denominations, seminaries and Bible colleges. As a result, countless people (church attendees, seminary and college students) are following these false teachers believing that what they are doing is endorsed and approved by the God of the Bible.
It is not my intent to give an exhaustive explanation of what’s happening today in almost every denomination. There is a huge library of information out there regarding these new practices. Therefore, I will only briefly describe some of the most popular practices and ask some serious questions.
“Contemplative Prayer” is the term currently used to describe what is nothing more than the repetition of a phrase or word, over and over again, with the promise of “growing closer to God.” This is otherwise known as the repeating of a “mantra.” This type of recitation has been practiced for centuries, in the same manner by those who follow eastern religions such as: Buddhism, Hinduism, Transcendental Meditation, etc. What’s really going on is an attempt at integrating Biblical Christianity with other pagan religions, something that would never have been tolerated, let alone embraced, by the true Church of Jesus Christ.
The current day practice of contemplative prayer in the postmodern church can be traced back to ancient mystics. Here are but a few by name: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) to St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) to Madam Guyon (1647-1717) to Thomas Merton (1915-1968).
To be sure, true believers are instructed to “meditate” upon God’s Word. In Psalm 119, the word “meditate” is used ten times but always referring to God’s precepts, statues, and Law. The references to meditating upon God’s truths are many. A quick look at a concordance will provide plenty of places to look.
This Biblical meditation, however, is not simply the mindless repetition of a word or phrase. It is, rather, the quiet contemplation of spiritual truths found in God’s Word. It is a thoughtfulness, a deliberate and purposeful attempt to think through and understand what the Scriptures are saying, what they mean by what they say and how they apply (or do not apply) to true believers as individuals.
This is not the chanting of a mantra that supposedly brings one closer to God via mindless repetition. There is nothing “new” here. It’s simply paganism being revisited and embraced by those who profess to be Christians.
In Matthew 6:7, Jesus instructs his disciple how to pray and then gives a caution, “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” Food for thought.
Paul‘s words to the church at Galatia are very apropos here, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-8).
The Emerging Church
As so much has been written regarding the doctrines and practices of the “Emerging Church,” I won’t spend a lot of time explaining the details. Articles can be found on the Internet from John MacArthur, Norm Geisler, Michael Patton and many others, who clearly layout the doctrines and practices of those involved in the Emerging Church movement.
In the interest of brevity, here is the basic premise of those who lead or espouse the Emergent Church’s beliefs: that we cannot know absolute truth, even if we read the Scriptures. The postmodern idea of relativity has taken deep roots even in the church. Yet, as Dr. Geisler points out, their premise is “a self-defeating one.” To make the statement that “there is no way to know absolute truth” is to make an absolute statement about absolute truth. They are apparently absolutely certain that human beings cannot know absolute truth. If we cannot know absolute truth, how is it that they are absolutely certain about that alleged truth?
A reminder from the apostle Peter would be helpful for those attempting to weigh this belief:
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit somehow conveyed His Truth through the writers of the Bible in such a way that we cannot know whether it is true or not?
What about the words of Jesus, “Sanctify them in truth; Thy word is truth,” (John 17:17). Are we to believe that Jesus’ high priestly prayer to the Father on behalf of His disciples was pointless?
Even in the Old Testament, the author of Psalm 119 was telling his readers (contemporaries and future) that God’s Word is truth, “The sum of Thy Word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting,” (Psalm 119:160).
If we’re to believe the leaders of the Emerging Church, then we are left with no other option but to doubt the integrity of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, all of the New Testament writers and the writer of Psalm 119, and that is a very dangerous path to travel. Who would be so foolish as to dare to impugn the integrity of a psalmist let alone the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus Himself?
What we’re seeing is not THE Gospel according to Jesus, the apostles or the writers of the New Testament. We’re seeing yet another “gospel,” one this is according to men. This gospel is not new; this gospel is not salvific; this gospel does not address the condition of man, that is, that he/she is permeated with a sin nature that he/she, on his/her own, cannot recover from nor fight against.
This is a non-Christocentric gospel, one where “experiences” and “feelings” are the driving factor – not the absolute truth that “there is none righteous, no not one . . .” (Romans 3:10-12). These false teachers have created another gospel, one that has nothing to do with Jesus or the reason why He had to come, had to die, had to resurrect and has to, on a daily basis, intercede on behalf of all true believers.
This non-Christocentric gospel is all about the individual feeling good about himself/herself. Here’s some important information: it’s not about you! The absolute truth is, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).
The apostle Paul felt so strongly about the truth of the Gospel that when he wrote his letter to the church at Galatia, he had to firmly rebuke them, “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatian 1:8).
We would do well to listen to Paul’s exhortation, as there really is nothing new in the “Emerging Church” doctrine or philosophy. It may be spiced up, it may be more emotional in its presentation, it may even be portrayed as “new revelation from God.” But the real truth is, there is nothing new here. It’s just being repackaged and sold as something that no one has ever known before.
The Church Hijacked
During the formative years of the Church, Paul, Peter, and Jude were all writing with regard to the false teachers of their day that were trying to hijack the Church from its Christ-oriented foundation. Peter gives this warning, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves,” (2 Peter 2:1). Both the proponents and the followers of these “new” methods would do well to consider what the Holy Spirit, through the apostle Peter, has recorded in the Bible.
One obvious question we must ask is: Were all of the Reformers Wrong? Are we to believe that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and so many other brilliant, Bible-believing, God-fearing scholars were complete idiots in their struggle to bring the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the average person? Are we to believe that these great men of the Christian faith somehow got it all wrong? Are we to believe that only these post-modern “teachers” know something that all the rest missed? Really?
Ecumenism Isn’t In the Bible
One common thread that can be found today is a striving for “unity” amongst all denominations. Biblical doctrine is cast aside in favor of “just loving one another.” Here’s the problem with that: You won’t find Jesus, Paul, Peter or any of the other writers of Scriptures advocating for a compromise of God’s Word or God’s message.
The absolute truth can be found in God’s Word and here’s what He has to say:
“There is none righteous, not even one; 11 there is none who understands,
there is none who seeks for God; 12 all have turned aside, together they have become useless;
there is none who does good, there is not even one.” 13 Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; 14 whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; 15 their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 and the path of peace have they not known. 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18).
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).
“For the wages of sin is death;” (Romans 6:23a).
“For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9).
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus. 3:5-8).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son what whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
Let’s reiterate that last one: There is salvation in NO ONE ELSE! There is no other name . . . . . no other name. One more time: “NO OTHER NAME” by which we must be saved.
Is Anyone Listening?
It’s astonishing that so many people are chasing after “another gospel” when the true Gospel is right there in their hands (assuming they are reading their Bibles and not just carrying them). And if people are reading their Bibles, then the true Gospel should become quite apparent and the false gospels easily recognizable.
Paul’s admonition to the church at Ephesus was as follows: “. . . we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” (Ephesians 3:14).
That same admonition holds true today. Everything that we read and everything that we hear should be run through the filter of God’s Word. If it is in agreement, wonderful; if not, then it should be rejected. We are to mature in our walk with the Lord – not remain spiritual infants.
Peter assures his readers (and us) that God hasn’t withheld anything from us. He has revealed all that is necessary for salvation and for godly living, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:2-3).
How does one get to know, and know more about, Jesus? There’s only one way – read and study His Word, the Bible. How does one get to know about the true Gospel message? Read and study God’s Word. Listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying with humility. Read and study with the intent of growing in the knowledge of who God really is and with the intent of obeying His commands.
The Missing Link
These other “gospels” all have one thing in common: a missing link, if you will. These other “gospels” are all gospels that are excluding Jesus. That’s what all of these other “practices” have in common. They are man-centered or self-centered rather than Christ-centered.
These “teachers” have conveniently left out THE most important fact that every human being needs to know in order to be forgiven of their sin and freely be given eternal life:
Jesus is the Lamb of God, sacrificed once for all:
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” (John 1:29b).
“For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all,” (Romans 6:10).
Jesus is our High Priest:
“For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself,” (Hebrews 7:26-27).
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption,” (Hebrews 9:11-12).
“After saying above,’ Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast not desired, nor hast Thou taken pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Thy will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,” (Hebrews 10:8-14).
Jesus is the Savior of the World:
“The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18).
Jesus is the Kinsman Redeemer:
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and Man:
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5-6)
The one sacrifice of Christ is Sufficient:
“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING THOU HAST NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY THOU HAST PREPARED FOR ME; 6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES FOR SIN THOU HAST TAKEN NO PLEASURE. 7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE ROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME ) TO DO THY WILL, O GOD.’” 8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN THOU HAST NOT DESIRED, NOR HAST THOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO THY WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10: 1-15).
Paul tells Timothy what the goal of his instruction was really all about and he warns Timothy about “fruitless discussions, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” 1 Tim. 1:5-7,
The fact is that there is “nothing new under the sun.” The purveyors of Contemplative Prayer, Emerging Church doctrine, mystical eastern practices and integrated “Christian yoga” are offering nothing new. It’s been around for centuries. The difference in our post-modern day is that human beings, with their fallen natures, are so self-centered and narcissistic that these pagan practices are openly accepted because they give the illusion that somehow “I am closer to God” or “I just feel like God is speaking to me.”
Many years ago I was involved in the Awana Clubs Program. In the “Sparks” Club (k-2ndgraders) they were taught this acrostic:
S is for sin: Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
P is for power, God’s power: Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of salvation to all who believer.”
A is for according to: 1 Cor. 15:3, “that Christ died according to the Scriptures.”
R is for rose again: 1 Cor. 15:4, “and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
K is for keep: James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
S is for Savior: 1 John 4:14, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”
The true Gospel, the one that exalts Jesus as the Savior of all who will believe and receive Him as their personal Savior; it’s the one that Paul gave his entire life for; it’s the true Gospel that changed, forever, the twelve apostles. That’s the Gospel that this world needs to hear, believe and receive.
It’s simple enough for children to understand and believe; it’s a stumbling block for the proud and self-righteous; it’s “too easy” for those who want to take credit for their own “goodness”; and it’s a life raft for the truly humble who find themselves drowning in a sea of empty promises and false teachers.
Jesus said, “I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18b). Jesus is building His Church on His truths, which are found nowhere else other than in His Word, the Bible.
If absolute truth is unknowable, then how could Jesus build His church on the shifting sands of uncertainty and doubt? How could we trust that what He says is true? How can we maintain a hope in a Savior whose doctrines are in a constant state of flux?
Do the modern-day proponents of “unknowable-ness” really believe that Jesus is making it all up; that He was lying?
Do the modern-day proponents of integrating eastern mysticism with Biblical truth really believe that the words of Jesus, Paul, Peter and the other men who wrote under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit didn’t tell the whole truth? That the authors of God’s inscripturated Word withheld something from the early Church that has only become available in the last 10-20 years?
If that is true it reflects a very low view of the Scriptures, which I suspect is at the root of all of these false teachings and self-centered practices.
It’s a very slippery slope to be on when one no longer sees the Bible as absolute truth. It opens a very wide door that leads to all sorts of man-made heretical teachings because the authority of Scripture has been denied.
To those who hold God’s Word in high esteem: Continue to trust in His Word, His truth and His Son. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will not pass away,” (Matthew 5:18; 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).
To those who question the validity of God’s Word, ask yourself this question: Why would God, (who did not spare His only begotten Son), withhold from us anything that would lead to a better understanding of Who He is and what He has accomplished on our behalf through Jesus?
I will close with the Holy Spirit’s explanation of salvation as imparted to the apostle Paul,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that, not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
May the Lord bless you as you continue to study His Word and seek to serve our Savior, Jesus, the Christ.