Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taylor Seminary promotes contemplative spirituality

An example of the continuing Romeward drift of evangelicalism is the increasing popularity of "contemplative" prayer or spirituality, which involves mysticism and practices traditionally associated with Roman Catholicism. Lighthouse Trails Research Project is an excellent site dealing with this area.
Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta is affiliated with North American Baptist churches. This is from their Spring Session 2009 calendar:

PT 647 Wilderness Spirituality
This course is designed to provide an opportunity for the participants to enter into a historical element of the living Christian tradition, through a week-long retreat. Focusing on the wisdom of the fourth century Desert Fathers, this retreat will provide an opportunity to experience the monastic practices of silence, solitude, prayer and reflective reading. Opportunities to meet with a spiritual director will also be provided.

As T.A. McMahon of The Berean Call likes to say, the problem with the contemplatives is that they don't go back far enough. Why not go back to the First Century and follow the practices of the Apostles instead of the Fourth Century Desert Fathers?

And this is from page 41 of their 2008-2009 calendar:

PT 540 Spiritual Formation
An exploration of five classical streams of spirituality from a biblical and historical perspective, with emphasis on practical application. Includes a spiritual retreat.

Vance Havner put it succinctly:

Some of the old mystics were really mistakes. They tried to be more saintly by hiding in caves. Living in a hole never made anybody holier.
(Pepper 'n' Salt), p.54, 1966.

Baptists, Anglicans and Pentecostals team up to host Emergent speaker and writer Peter Rollins

From the Edmonton Journal:

A trio of unlikely Christian partners are hosting radical author Peter Rollins, well-known proponent of the Emergent Church, in Edmonton Feb. 5-8.

Crossing denominational barriers, Baptists (Taylor University College and Seminary), Anglicans (Diocese of Edmonton) and Pentecostals (Urban Bridge Church) have joined forces to host Rollins--whose most recent book title is The Orthodox Heretic. Previous titles include How (Not) to Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief.

Taylor University College and Seminary is affiliated with the North American Baptist denomination. Urban Bridge Church is now affiliated with Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. When that church started a few years ago as a plant of City Centre Church, they didn't seem to be affiliated with any denomination. A recent glance at their web site indicates that they accept the PAOC statement of faith. Either UBC has become more Biblical in its beliefs lately (which would be a good thing), or the heresy has gone underground. Darrell Muth's original blog posts were quite heretical, and those posts have all been deleted. The original "Statement of Beliefs" was the wimpiest such statement I've ever seen. I'm still suspicious of any church that publicly boasts about its allegedly good works (see posts below).

For an example of Mr. Rollins' theology, here's an excerpt from his blog post titled The Rapture:

...God slowly turned to face the world and called forth to the church with a booming voice,

"Rise up and ascend to heaven all of you who have who have sought to escape the horrors of this world by sheltering beneath my wing. Come to me all who have turned from this suffering world by calling out ‘Lord, Lord’".

In an instant millions where caught up in the clouds and ascended into the heavenly realm. Leaving the suffering world behind them.

Once this great rapture had taken place God paused for a moment and then addressed the angels, saying,

"It is done, I have separated the people born of my spirit from those who have turned from me. It is time now for us leave this place and take up residence in the Earth, for it is there that we shall find our people. The ones who would forsake heaven in order to embrace the earth. The few who would turn away from eternity itself to serve at the feet of a fragile, broken life that passes from existence in but an instant".

And so it was that God and the heavenly host left that place to dwell among those who had rooted themselves upon the earth. Quietly supporting the ones who had forsaken God for the world and thus who bore the mark God. The few who had discovered heaven in the very act of forsaking it.

Discerning readers will note that Mr. Rollins' view of the Rapture is basically that of New Agers: the good guys remain on the earth, while the bad guys are removed. This is the opposite of what the Bible teaches:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
I Thessalonians 4:16-17

For Mr. Rollins' itinerary in Edmonton, go here. In addition to Taylor UC and Seminary and Urban Bridge Church, Mr. Rollins spoke at St. Paul's Anglican Church (which once had a solid evangelical reputation but now seems headed in a more liberal direction) and St. George's Anglican Church.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Urban Bridge Church brings heaven to earth?

Thus saith Urban Bridge Church:

We believe that it is our responsibility and privilege to bring heaven to earth.

A dissenting view from Malcolm Muggeridge:

To proclaim a kingdom of heaven on earth, on the other hand, is both deceptive and intrinsically absurd. The maintenance of such a notion requires mental gymnastics so extreme and so strenuous that they usually produce dementia.

from Backward, Christian soldiers!, an essay from Mr. Muggeridge's book Tread Softly, for You Tread on My Jokes, 1966

The words of Urban Bridge Church vs. the words of the Lord Jesus Christ

The words of Urban Bridge Church:

As a community of mercy, we endeavour to enable people to overcome challenges by actively participating in their lives. This requires that we be known in the community in which we exist. Our actions will be intentional and reflected in the allocation of our time and not less than 20% of our resources.

The words of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward.
But when thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Matthew 6:1-4

Just what do you mean "professional masturbation counselor"?

Those who haven’t yet read Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, published in 2008, may want to download parts of the book as they originally appeared, as articles in Rolling Stone and Harper’s Magazine from 2003 to 2006:

Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America's secret theocrats

God's Senator: Who would Jesus vote for? Meet Sam Brownback

Soldiers of Christ: Insider America's Most Powerful Megachurch

Through a glass, darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history

Mr. Sharlet’s book is a fascinating read, but the parts that made me laugh out loud were originally published in Rolling Stone in 2005.

An example of real life imitating an episode of Seinfeld:

Power holds up his right hand. Wrapped around his wrist, in a figure eight, is a black plastic bracelet. "This," he says, "is a 'masturband.' " One of their friends at college -- Pepperdine University -- came up with the idea. As long as you stay pure -- resist jerking off -- you can wear your masturband. Give in, and off it goes, a scarlet letter in reverse. No masturband? No one wants to shake your hand. "It started with just four of us," says Dunbar. "Then there were, like, twenty guys wearing them. And girls too. The more people that wore them, the more people knew, the more reason you had to refrain." Dunbar even told his mother. He lasted the longest. "Eight and a half months," he says. I notice he's not wearing one now. He's not embarrassed. Sexuality, he believes, is not a private matter.

Then there’s this passage:

Every Man operates a hot line, 800-NEW-LIFE, for men who've "threatened" their relationships through their use of pornography. When I called to confess that reading about tight nylon shorts in Every Young Man's Battle had aroused me, a professional masturbation counselor named Jason told me that pornography is "probably the number-one cause of divorce." Then he suggested I sign up for a five-day, $1,800 Every Man's Battle workshop (held monthly in hotels around the country) in which I would take classes on shame, "false intimacy" and "temptation cycles" and work with other men in small groups toward "recovery."
I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination what the requirements must be in order to become a "professional masturbation counselor." The interview for this job must be a doozy.

Mr. Sharlet has done a number of broadcast interviews about The Family, and the reader can search for them himself. A recent online interview can be found here.