Cliff Notes from the Xchange

Recently I spent a few days in Escondido, California, basking in the mid-teen temperatures (sorry, folks, I still think Celsius when it comes to temperatures), enjoying the sunshine… and taking part in the TruthXchange 2011 Think Tank. The theme of the conference was One-ism: A Poison Pill for the Church?

Building on the messages from The Exchange Conference in 2010, the Think Tank addressed issues of the gospel, social justice, environmentalism, spirituality, missiology, gender, worship, education, eschatology, literature and epistemology (that is, thinking). While my full notes would be too intense (I’ve got something like 12,000 words worth), I wanted to share some highlights from the sessions I most appreciated.

The One-ist Gospel

Brian Mattson spoke on the One-ist gospel by examining Brian McLaren’s most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, asking two key questions:

Is McLaren’s Christianity new—and is it really Christian at all?

The answer to both of these questions, says Mattson is no. McLaren’s new kind of Christianity is nothing more than classical Enlightenment liberalism. Mattson’s analysis suggests that the gospel put forth in this book (and by many like-minded thinkers within the Emergent stream of evangelicalism), is actually Universalism, which is necessarily Gnostic, not Christian.

In the Gnostic gospels, you’d run across a motif that runs through all of them; it’s not enough for the Gnostics to claim that the “violent, tribal deity” is a lesser God—they call Yahweh, the God of the Bible an ignorant God; “the bastard child deity of a screw-up.”

The explanation is elegant and simple. The God revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures claims to be the only God. He actually says “I am the only God and there is no other.” His ignorance is manifest in his claim of exclusivity.

On the one hand there’s a God who claims to be the only God, to whom all allegiance is owed. On the other, there’s a group of people saying, “no, this cannot be true because divine love is universal.”

The question is, how do they know?

They know because they are “Gnostic.” He can claim that he is the only God to whom all allegiance is owed, but they know better.

All claims to Universalism are claims to have access to spiritual knowledge beyond bounds of God’s revelation. It goes all the way back to the first temptation in the garden; his “new kind of Christianity” is actually the oldest kind of heresy. [Read more...]

Book Review: One or Two by Peter Jones

When it comes to worldviews, belief systems and religious practice, we live in an age of seemingly unparalleled and unlimited options. North Americans today enjoy meditation, practice yoga, and dabble in a variety of different religious practices as they seek to find something that brings meaning, purpose and fulfillment to their lives.

But according to Peter Jones, the choice is really much more simple: There’s the Truth and the Lie. And in One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference, Jones explains how our worldview affects our understanding of God, what we worship and our sexuality.

One or Two is an incredibly challenging read, especially in an age when it’s controversial to be anything but affirming of all beliefs and religions. Tolerance is seen as the highest of values in culture, and increasingly in the Church as well. So doctrinal distinction is downplayed; gender distinction is eliminated; social causes become the new mission of the Church… and eventually Christianity looks no different than anyone or anything else.

But according to Jones, this should not be. He writes, “Western culture . . . is being hijacked by a spiritual ideology that I call Neopaganism.” (p. 11) Neopaganism is at the heart of radical environmentalism, the more extreme elements of the social justice movement, and theological liberalism.

However, Jones writes, “If there is any hope for us in the twenty-first century, gorged as we are on materialism, One-ist pagan spiritualities, endless sensual fantasies and cock-eyed global utopian illusions, the old rabbi [the Apostle Paul] must speak to us again.” (pp. 13-14)

Jones builds his argument by carefully examining culture through the lens of Paul’s writing in Romans 1:24-25:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

What we learn is that these words have, perhaps, rarely been more relevant than today. [Read more...]

Meet the Evangelical Pagan

At the Exchange Conference, Mark Driscoll spoke on Oneism vs. Twoism; how we by nature are idolators because we worship and serve created things rather than our Creator (you can read my notes from the sessions here). In this excerpt from his first lecture, Driscoll describes the Evangelical pagan.

Truth and Lies: Mark Driscoll – Pastoral Care and One-ism

Mark Driscoll’s final session focused on how One-ism and idolatry’s effect on pastoral care. In this session, Driscoll offered five steps to pastoral care.

1. Uncover the Enslaving Idol

“Traditional counseling starts and stops at the level of behavior. [It’s] behavior modification instead of transformation,” says Driscoll.

Under all sin is idolatry, according to 2 Pet. 2:19. There is no freedom in sin. “Sin is simply choosing you master, but it’s not freedom.”

Addiction is the secular language for the biblical language of slavery. Those who commit adultery worship and are slaves to sex. Sluggards worship and are enslaved to comfort. Those who are proud worship and are enslaved to themselves. Gamblers worship and are enslaved to luck, which is the name of an ancient Greek god…

“We worship our way into idolatry and must worship our way out,” says Driscoll. “Martin Luther said, ‘If your heart cleaves to anything else… you have another God.’ You can have ‘a state of God’ rather than a real God. And when you face adversity, it’s where you go.”

2. Find the Demonic Lie

Jesus says that Satan is a liar and he is the father of lies. “Idols promise good, but they deceive,” says Driscoll.

[Your job says] ‘If you worship me, I’ll make you successful.’ So you worship your job. [Your hobbies and shopping say] ‘If you worship me I’ll make you happy.’ So you pour yourself into the recreational activity, buy the shoes, buy the car.

The lie says it will bring you closer to God. “If you sing these songs; go to this school; go to this church; read these books…  All these can become false saviors.”

Another is, “You need to be true to yourself.”  Driscoll comments, “While we should be authentic, sometimes we need to repent of being true to ourselves and be true to Jesus.”

You need to love yourself is another lie. But this, says Driscoll, is simply the cult of self-esteem. [Read more...]

Truth and Lies: Dr. Peter Jones – Speaking the Gospel in a One-ist World

Dr. Peter Jones is one of the world’s foremost experts on paganism and founder of Truth Xchange. Interestingly enough, Jones also grew up with John Lennon.

When Jones came to America in 1964, he was shocked—he’d never seen a culture so impregnated with the Christian faith.

Jones believes that the real American Revolution happened not in 1776, but in 1966—because there you see a massive change about how people think deeply about everything.

He says that while the rising generation of Christians is optimistic, and there is a genuine revival of solid Christian faith, we continue to be unaware of the spiritual revolution. Too much optimism can blind us to the opposition, and we can sometimes be seduced by the “progress” proposed by today’s version of “the Lie.”

That brings us to the real issue:

Are we regressive or progressive in our beliefs?

Christians today are called “regressive” because of so-called old fashioned values; the modern spin seeks to intimidate people to keep them from speaking the old story of Christian faith.

The problem according to Jones is not one of outmoded values, but that we are in the context of two worldviews in profound conflict with the other. And neither can be called progressive.

There is nothing new: These worldviews are as old as the hills.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. (Eccl. 1:9-10)

“Everyone goes backwards—even the people doing yoga are going backwards to the Buddhist practices from the 6th Century B.C.,” he said. [Read more...]