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Calvary vs. the Emergents – #2

As a young Christian, The Seduction of Christianity rocked my world. Written in 1985, thief1.jpgauthor Dave Hunt warned about a vast spiritual deception that had infiltrated the Church and undermined the Gospel. He took no prisoners, calling out prominent leaders like James Dobson and John Wimber, indicting certain forms of prayer, healing and worship.

According to Wikipedia,

Hunt believes occult or pagan influences are pervasive in modern culture – this includes evolution, as well as all forms of psychology, some forms of entertainment, all forms of science-fiction or fantasy – especially Harry Potter – yoga, some forms of medicine; like the use of supplements as Caruso’s Saw Palmetto, enviromental concern or conservation and much of public education.

Shortly after The Seduction of Christianity was released, the Calvary Chapel I attended responded by removing Dr. James Dobson’s materials from the bookstore. They believed, as did Hunt, that Dobson embraced secular psychology and, as such, was unwittingly migrating to the dark side.

antichrist.gifDave Hunt is not a stranger to controversy. In his book, A Woman Rides the Beast, he asserts that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon and, in another book, that Calvinism is a false gospel. Interestingly enough, he is a regular in the Calvary circuit and apparently has their ear.

I bring up Hunt for this reason: Calvary’s response to Rick Warren reminds me of their initial response to Dobson. And both of these reponses follow, what I believe is, Hunt’s conspiratorial mindset, sweeping generalizations, and over-reaction to the reality of deception in the last days.

Hey, churches are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their people. It’s a weight you and I don’t have. Perhaps there is wisdom in yanking certain books off the shelf. Heck, most of the stuff out there probably should be yanked. Yet while the Scriptures challenge us to be discerning, it also cautions us about becoming arrogant, unkind and judgmental.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galations 6:1 NIV)

It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes. (Ecclesiastes 7:18 NIV)

In discerning and addressing spiritual deception, there is a danger of imbalance — of becoming harsh, unloving, judgmental, legalistic and inflammatory. Not only must we “restore” erring saints “gently,” we must avoid over-reacting to perceived errors on their parts. 

So please understand: I am not downplaying the need for discernment, as much as I’m concerned about its implementation.

Several things trouble me about Calvary’s decision regarding Warren. Roger Oakland, in a piece widely circulated among Calvary pastors, outlined four differences between Warren and Calvary Chapel:

  • Differences in Eschatology
  • Differences with regard to the Emerging Church
  • Differences with regard to contemplative prayer and mysticism
  • Differences with regard to church growth principles and beliefs

That churches have differences is not a revelation. But when they start labeling those differences as “heresy,” we should take note. According to Calvary Chapel’s official position paper regarding the Emergent Church movement, they perceive the Emergent movement as “aberrant doctrine.” In their denunciation, Calvary goes so far as to quote Damned1.jpgthese verses:

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” (II Peter 2:1) 

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4)

I’m not a big fan of Rick Warren. Nor am I a participant or propigant of the Emergent movement. But when Calvary ties Warren to the Emergents — ties that are indeed loose — and then frames the movement in terms of “damnable heresies” and “ungodly men” who are “ordained to. . . condemnation,” well, I’m all ears.

more. . .

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Jules Quincy Stephens October 18, 2006, 2:00 PM

    Mike:

    I can only comment generally. Many in the church are concerned about people mixing Christianity with other religions and still calling it Christianity. When Christians medidate, are we told to clear our minds and say a mantra. How very Eastern Mystical of us! No, we’re to medidate on God’s word.

    And when Jesus taught us how to pray, he didn’t chant, “God is good, Om, God is good, Om, God is good, Om.” We praise God, we thank God, we seek God’s forgiveness, we petition God, we submit to God.

    I really don’t think a lot of today’s Christians like discernment. It takes too much work and pits us against the world too much. And more and more, it’s pitting the Church against itself. And then we get into the labels of bigoted, intolerant, hateful, etc.

  • Linda Gilmore October 18, 2006, 2:52 PM

    This is an interesting set of posts, Mike. I don’t have a big beef against Rick Warren — I think my response to him was similar to yours, that his book was somewhat shallow, though sound doctrinally. We did the 40 Days of Purpose a few years ago and have used some of Saddleback’s materials. They’re ok, but don’t have a lot of depth.

    Calvary’s objection to spiritual formation is what disturbs me most. Because one of the problems I see in the American church is a lack of spiritual formation — that is, an absence of desire for the real meat of the word, a lack of spiritual depth. We’ve substituted Christian self-help books (how’s that for an oxymoron, for a people who are supposed to understand we can’t do it on our own!) for digging into God’s Word.

    As I understand spiritual formation, it’s a return to the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, fasting, and a life of service. How much more doctrinally sound can you get? I realize that some people look at the terminology differently, but that’s how I understand it.

    I’m afraid evangelical churches are still clinging to the idea that the Bible can be read the same way we read modern nonfiction — that we’ll find helpful bullet points and lists to tell us what to do in every situation. I’m beginning to think that’s not the best way. (I’ve been reading, off and on, a book by Eugene Peterson called Eat This Book and he makes some very good points.)

    As with all movements within Christianity, the emerging church needs to be coompared to the truth in Scripture. Some of the leaders are apparently pretty far out there, but many are teaching sound doctrine and really trying to be the church in their communities.

    In Acts, when Priscilla and Aquilla heard Appollos preaching an incomplete gospel they didn’t denounce him and tell everyone to stay away from him. They took him aside and taught him the truth more accurately, so he could preach the full gospel, too. Wow, Christian love and encouragement. What a radical concept! (ok, I’m being sarcastic, sorry, but Christians attacking each other really bugs me)

    Sorry this is long — I’ll get off my soapbox and go back to work now. 🙂

  • Kelly Klepfer October 19, 2006, 3:23 PM

    I’ve seen this issue from both sides. I’ve been called intolerant, and I’ve hyperventilated over those who denounce the teachings of proclaimed brothers/sisters.

    Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives we will flop into one camp or the other (cheap grace or fruit inspection with a magnifying glass).

    I don’t know how to fix this problem. But I do know that if we don’t KNOW God’s Word, we will be misled.

    His Word clearly teaches that truth needs to be spoken in love and He defines love for us.

    This may be an oversimplification, but it’s a great foundation for confrontation and disagreement.

  • Ame October 20, 2006, 4:41 AM

    discernment … discretion … wisdom … ahhhhh, yes. so void in so many.

    i fear what i would look like under so strong a microscope. i am sure that i could be dissected and arranged in such a way to “support” all kinds of weird stuff to satisfy someones palate – whether it be good or bad.

    may i be found more on my knees begging God for wisdom than critisizing another for lack thereof.

    just this week jehovah’s witnesses left this brochure on my door: “A Worldwide Message; The End of False Religion Is Near; What is false religion? How will it end? How will you be affected?”

    VERY SCARY

  • Ame October 20, 2006, 4:42 AM

    discernment … discretion … wisdom … ahhhhh, yes. so void in so many.

    i fear what i would look like under so strong a microscope. i am sure that i could be dissected and arranged in such a way to “support” all kinds of weird stuff to satisfy someones palate – whether it be good or bad.

    may i be found more on my knees begging God for wisdom than critisizing another for lack thereof.

    just this week jehovah’s witnesses left this brochure on my door: “A Worldwide Message; The End of False Religion Is Near; What is false religion? How will it end? How will you be affected?”

    VERY SCARY on SO many levels.

    great job addressing this, mike

  • Jacob October 20, 2006, 3:26 PM

    Mike,

    I really appreciate your work on this topic. I think it is fair and valuable. I think many people would benefit from reading these articles.

    Jacob

  • Ame October 20, 2006, 6:43 PM

    “critisizing another for lack thereof”

    ummmm … not at all referring to you , mike. referring to those you have written about and others like them. just read this again … don’t know why it posted twice … hope it makes sense

  • Evaine May 21, 2008, 3:41 PM

    Good post. You make some great points that most people do not fully understand.

    “Hey, churches are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their people. It’s a weight you and I don’t have. Perhaps there is wisdom in yanking certain books off the shelf. Heck, most of the stuff out there probably should be yanked. Yet while the Scriptures challenge us to be discerning, it also cautions us about becoming arrogant, unkind and judgmental.”

    I like how you explained that. Very helpful. Thanks.

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