Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Interrupted" Food for Thought

In continuing with my We're Under Attack series, I wanted to write a real quick blurb on something that my wife and I have been looking into. It is a book written by Jen Hatmaker called Interrupted.  Jen is a mother, Christian, blogger, and author. If you read her book Interrupted [which I am currently reading] she starts out the book with stating that this book is no manifesto, or something that can be interpreted as a devotional. Within the first few pages, her words tickle your ears and your emotions with very colorful language and descriptive terms -- something in which she is using to describe her “journey”. I will give her credit because she does state; “. . . it is not an experts opinion on church trends and postmodernist thought.” (Hatmaker, 2009) So she openly starts the book stating that she is a postmodernist [meaning we cannot know truth, we must question everything] and then Hatmaker stated that she does have some “churchy credentials”. Then, the very next page she again says: “. . . its better to wade through murky waters with a fellow explorer rather than an authority.”
            Within these first few excerpts from her book -- and let me say this was only in the introduction -- I have had nothing but red flags popping up all over. 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) says: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." What Paul wrote was telling Timothy, [and us] how we should be studying Scripture. We shouldn’t be wandering through a swamp of mud, or murky waters with someone else who is as equally lost as I am. Instead, we should follow the words written in Titus 1:9 (ESV) "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." What this means is simple: we need to be solid in our backbone when we search the Scriptures and when we minister and disciple others. So we need authority when it comes to our search for truth. 1 Peter 5:2 (ESV) says ". . .shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain but eagerly."  This was a charge to Church leaders that they need to shepherd the flock so we don’t have a bunch of mindless zombies wandering the world in hopes that they may catch a glimmer of truth. Who should they model their example off of? God!

           Later on in her book and in many interviews as well, she pays tribute to a man who help radically change her view on life, her relationship with Christ, and her view of what it really means to be a Christian. She read a book by Shane Claiborne entitled The Irresistible Revolution.  In Shane's book, he outlines a revolution that needs to take place within the Church. The book also talks about how the Church has it all-wrong and it needs to change. Let's look at what Claiborne believes; Claiborne is a leader of the New Monasticism movement within Protestant Christianity.  Johnathan Wilson coined this term in 1998. Monasticism essentially means to devote one's life to spiritual work [emphasis on works] and is derived from the Greek, monachos. Now there is nothing wrong with devoting your life to doing the Lord's work, and I do believe Jesus has called us to pursue him, similar to David in the Old Testament being a man after God's own heart. But while this is noble and true, people within this movement place too much emphasis on working with the poor and showing them love, they tend to leave of the good news of the Gospel! It's this attitude: "Well, if the opportunity presents itself, then sure, we will share how Jesus loves them." The Gospel to Hatmaker, Claiborne and any other Emergent is too harsh which is why they need too emphasize God's love. This way of thinking is extremely dangerous and misguiding. In Ray Comfort's Book, God Has A Wonderful Plan For Your Life, he talks about what we would call false conversion. "If non-Christians [the people receiving the work that Clairborne and Hatmaker are doing] respond to the Gospel message only to improve their lives they will be di-allusioned when persecution comes and they may fall away from the faith." (Ray Comfort) Excuse this rough analogy, but it's like traveling to a city to visit, only to get off the airplane and stay in the airport because that is what is comfortable to you. You may not want to go outside the airport because there is danger, and stuff that may confront you. By only giving people one-half of the Gospel message we are robbing them. God IS a loving God, but he is also a just God and the perfect judge. If you cannot come to grips with this fact than you could possibly be a false convert.

A reviewer of the book Irresistable Revolution couldn't have said it better:

The fallacy is this: One's economic situation is a NOT a direct correlation to their spiritual condition. If a person dressed in rags and in desperate need of a bath came to our fellowship, would it be wrong for us to assume that his spiritual condition was far worse than our own? Of course it would. The man might be a modern day John the Baptist. But is it not just as fallacious to assume that people with lots of money are less a priority than those who are poor?

Let me make myself clear. I am not saying that we should not care for the poor. I believe we in the modern Church have been horrible stewards of what God has given us. This is true. But I have discussed with many college students who have read Irresistible Revolution and think that they must go and live in the ghetto to properly serve God. This is not true. If you are a young Christian seeking guidance, use this book as a launch pad to consider God's call on your life. Read it, read other books. Talk to dozens of ministers and missionaries. But go where HE sends you, not where Shane does. I would never want to usurp a young person's call by making them feel as though there was only one way to truly minister in God's kingdom.

            In an interview with Hatmaker, she is speaking to the interviewer and is saying that the spirit revealed something to her after hearing a lecture from Claiborne. She was walking and “ . . .heard a mysterious holy spirit whisper.” I left Holy Spirit in lowercase, because frankly, I don’t know what spirit it could have been. Claiborne also has used this terminology saying an eerie presence of the spirit came upon him. That is not the same Holy Spirit the Bible refers to: Judges 3:10-14, Matthew 12:31-33,  Luke 24:45-49, Romans 8:2-6, and Micah 3:8-10 (ESV) "But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might. . .” We do not see the Spirit mysteriously whispering sweet nothing's into peoples ears or fill you with question. The Spirit is part of the Godhead, he is powerful and mighty, when he comes in, he kicks the door open and makes his presence known, as we saw at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-5. The spirit in Acts was described as coming in as a violent wind. With this you have to ask yourself, who are they referring to?
            I apologize, this blurb has gone on longer than I anticipated and I could easily continue to go on dissecting what they believe. This; however, is a perfect example on how if you do not actually take the time to research your author, and search the Scriptures to cross-examine what was written, you could fall into this trap! For those of you who may read my blog and are currently reading this book, look into these facts I have brought up. As you continue to read this book, highlight areas in which seem controversial or that made you stop and re-read the sentence. This book by Hatmaker was put on the same level with Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis. We all know about him and his role within the Emergent church. So stay watchful and one of my new favorite verses 1 Thessalonians 5:21 . . . but test everything, hold fast what is good.

I leave you with one last analogy. The Scritpure is like a laser pointer. If you are trying to hit a target on the wall with the laser, you have to be spot on. Just a few degrees of movement with the laser skews the entire distance from the point to the target. In the same way, we must be prayerful and knowledgeable about how we interpret Scritpure. If we are just a few degrees off, we could lead masses astray.

Hatmaker, J. (2009). Interrupted. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Were Under Attack Part 2!

    Hey everyone, sorry I have been absent from the blog, I have been extremely busy with work, school, and taking care of a crazy, two-year old son. I hope you all enjoyed last weeks blog interview with Apologist and former Navy SEAL, Chad Williams. This week I am going to continue the “We’re Under Attack” series. In my last post, I briefly went over the idea of the Emergent Church, and the views that are associated. It is incredibly easy for you to find yourself in one of these churches; in fact, you may be in one now! The reason I say this is because I found myself in one about 3 ½ years ago. I was one of the college leaders at this church, and started my own Bible study, which many college students attended. I was going through Grace Walk curriculum by Steve McVey. The group started off great; there was about ten of us and we met once a week. When we were about 3 weeks into the study, I was pulled aside by one of the elders of the church and was told I was too formal and structured in my way of leading this group. He continued to say it needed to be more “conversational”.  What did this change look like? It went from an interactive study of the Scripture and use of the Bible as means of explanation,  to what each person thought and felt. As this Bible study continued on, the rabbit hole got deeper, wider, and way off the topic at hand. We were looking at Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves it is a gift of God, not of works so no man may boast”. This is pretty cut and dry, wouldn’t you agree? What this says is we are not saved by our own actions or something we can do on our own. We cannot earn salvation and in Isaiah 64:6 this is made very clear. I was hearing stuff like, “Well, I think that if I do enough good works, and help people enough then God will be happy with what I am doing and then I can become a Christian,” or “Well, I don’t think what Paul wrote here applies to us today. It’s too outdated”. As I was hearing this, I wanted to pull my hair out! I finally stood up and said, “Guys, enough! What you are saying is in contradiction to what the Scriptures say.” It was too late, I had already lost the group. They then began to say, “Well Ethan, that’s what you think is true, and that is fine. What’s true for you may not be true for me and it’s left up to each person. It’s ‘relative.’” Does this sound familiar guys? Deconstructonism maybe?

            You are probably wondering why I told you this story; well I want you to see how easy it is to find yourself in a situation in where the “Emergent” way of thinking can trump the believers mind and interpretation of the Scripture. Well, to make a long story short, that was the beginning of my experience within the church. I wont go into more detail about how the pastor would play Semisonic- “Closing Time” before church, or how he referenced certain movies as sermon illustrations, or how I never needed to bring my Bible cause he never used it -- but my eyes were opened. I was in this church for almost four years before I realized what had happened. I then noticed they were endorsing authors and pastors such as Brian Mclaren, Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren. The church was more concerned with questioning everything; they did not have time for Scripture. Let’s look at Brian Mclaren: he is a Christian pastor within the Emergent movement. He is a post-modernist (truth cannot be known), and endorses progressive Christianity. He was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in 2005! He sounds like a guy who is doing great things in the name of the Lord, right? Mclaren wrote a book called “A New Kind of Christianity.” In this book, he pokes fun at evangelicals and calls to question EVERYTHING they believe. An excerpt from his book says this about what he thinks of the Bible: ”The Bible is a portable library of poems, prophecies, histories, fables, parables, letters, sagely sayings, quarrels, and so on.” 

So if the Bible is a library of poems, prophecies, and fables, what does he base his life off of? What is his source of truth? Romans 14:22-23 sums it up “…whatever is not of faith is sin.” Where is his faith? Think about this statement and what it means. If he does not believe the Bible is from God, written by man through being filled by the Holy Spirit, then you must question your very existence! What then do you have to base your knowledge of right and wrong? What is your source of truth? It cannot be us, we are born into sin (Eph 2:1-3, Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:10-12, Romans 5:19, Romans 3:10-12.) I could share reference after reference where he Bible states we are born into sin, and unless we have a Savior there is no redemption. If you doubt the Bible, then by default you doubt the very basis and core of your belief. And if you don’t believe the Bible is perfect, then you must also doubt the very existence of God! This is a very dangerous path, and where it leads is to destruction. Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

            Here’s some advice I would like to give you. This is a test for you to ask yourself the next time you are at church. (However, I’m sure many of you may go to a great Bible-believing/preaching church and you may not need to ask these questions but it’s always good to re-evaluate from time to time.)

1. Do I use my Bible? Is the message based upon Scripture or is the message based upon a story or experience. Are there multiple supporting verses from Scripture or is there only a single verse used with lots of quotes and stories supporting it? Do you spend a majority of your time in the Bible during your church service or do you spend the majority of your church service listening to stories?
2. Am I hearing a lot of words like: conversation, post-modern, mystery, truth is relative? Is the pastor’s message leading you back to the cross or is his message leaving you further questioning the Bible in the name of “awe” and “wonder”?
3. What authors, or other pastors does my church endorse or support? Do the author’s agree with the church’s doctrinal statement? Do these supported authors or preachers support Biblical truth?

            I know this post was on the long side; however, there are so many people being pulled into the experiential based faith. It is also tough for me to try and sum up the Emergent church in a small blog post. It has been said, trying to describe the Emergent church is like nailing jello to wall. I will be posting more about the Emergent movement, and things to look out for, but hopefully this gets your gears spinning about what to look for. I leave you with a verse from 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Resources and further reading:
Further reading on Brian Mclaren, and a review of the book by Scot Mcknight from Christianity Today.' A New Kind of Christianity' review <---Click Link

This is a great message from Bobby Conway on the Emergent Church, Brian Mclaren,Rob Bell, and many other Emergent leaders.