Posts Tagged ‘Mysticism’

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Icon of the Passion, detail showing (left) the Flagellation and (right) Ascent to Golgotha (fresco by Theophanes the Cretan, Stavronikita Monastery, Mount Athos).

“While the theology of the cross proclaims God’s descent to sinners in the flesh, by Grace alone in Christ alone, theologies of glory represent human attempts to ascend away from the flesh to union with God through mysticism, merit, and philosophical speculation.”

— Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, Loc 862, Kindle File.

Today we live in a world obsessed with everlasting progress, always minimizing pain, and expecting the good life. Christians absorb this philosophy and express it by acknowledging the Cross, but using it as a means to an end; where the end can mean anything from self-improvement, transforming society, or finding your “purpose” or “your best life now”. This would be the “theology of glory” mentioned by Martin Luther.

In contrast to this, Luther also spoke of the “theology of the cross”, which is God hidden in suffering. It means strength in weakness, accepting the difficult thing instead of denying it, and staring right into the face of suffering, calling “a thing what it is”, as Luther put it.

Today’s American Evangelicals are completely unprepared to face the type of suffering experienced elsewhere by contemporary Christians. We call suffering being the brunt of some mild name-calling or social shunning.

Our default setting is to crave optimistic encouragement, flattery, positive thinking, and self-esteem reinforcement. Grace becomes just another supplement in our “bettering myself” regimen. We’re looking for one more rickety rung on our broken ladder of “prosperity” that never seems to reach its goal.

God simply exists for our personal transformation.

For most of us, real growth comes through suffering. Ironically, our closest moments with Jesus usually occur through the thing we want most to avoid-pain.

We don’t have to look for suffering. The Lord usually arranges it so that it finds us. Finding Christ in it will get you through it. Be a theologian of the Cross, not a theologian of glory.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams

Please catch up with my posts in this series here.

When I was much younger, I made the following comment to my wife, in jest, of course, because young men are invincible, and think they’re immortal.

“If something happens to me, and I’m on a ventilator, don’t you give up on me…it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

It was a frivolous statement I should have never made. Recent events have made me realize how cruel a burden that statement was to place on a loved one. I am thankful my loved ones have not had to make that kind of decision. My hope is that as I work through this, I can come to a better plan than that.

What Is A Worldview?

We need to begin by backtracking a minute and make a clear definition of what exactly a worldview is.

“So what is a worldview? Essentially this: A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”1

A worldview is basically your philosophy of life or your conception of the world. It is the accumulation of your presuppositions and beliefs, and how you look at reality. 

“In the simplest terms, a worldview may be defined as how one sees life and the world at large. In this manner it can be compared to a pair of glasses. How a person makes sense of the world depends upon that person’s “vision,” so to speak. The interpretive “lens” helps people make sense of life and comprehend the world around them. Sometimes the lens brings clarity, and other times it can distort reality.”2

A friend of mine gave me some really good tickets to the Alabama/UTC football game last year. My son and I were excited to go to Tuscaloosa and see the Crimson Tide in person. When I was leaving, I picked up what I thought were my glasses from the bathroom. I noticed that all the way to Tuscaloosa from here in North Georgia, I was having trouble seeing, and then I got a headache. My son was wondering what was wrong with me, when I couldn’t make out the names on the jerseys. Finally, I took of my glasses and looked…I had my daughters glasses on. When you’re half-blind, one set of frames that are similar look the same, but mine had bling-haha.

My point is that the philosophical “lens” you look through is either one you have considered, pondered over, and chosen for yourself (as I did my spectacles at Lenscrafters), or you’re wearing someone else’s “lenses”, or worse yet, you’re wearing worldview “glasses” that are made up of a hodgepodge of different “isms” that mix about as well as oil and water.

Seven Worldview Questions

Maybe you picked up a little “Christianism” in Sunday School. Then you added some good ol’ Pragmatism from American culture. Throw in some Romanticism, and mysticism, and you’ve got yourself one messed up set of worldview glasses. It’s no wonder you can’t make heads-or-tails out of basic worldview questions. James Sire lists seven basic questions all worldviews must answer. They are:

1  What is the nature of Ultimate Reality?- Is there a god? Is He Personal? Can I know Him?

2.  What is the nature of material reality?“Does matter exist? Is what we see an illusion? 

  • Is it created or uncreated?
  • Is it orderly or chaotic?
  • Is it subjective or objective?
  • Is it personal or impersonal?
  • Is it eternal or temporal?”3

3.  What is the nature of humanity?Is he merely a machine? Does he have immaterial parts? Is he a god? Is he a created being? 

4. What happens when you die? “Here are some of the answers that various worldviews give concerning life after death.

  • People cease to exist.
  • Individuals are transformed to a higher state.
  • People reincarnate into another life on earth.
  • People depart to a shadowy existence on “the other side.”
  • Individuals enter into the spiritual realm (heaven, hell, or other place) based on how life was lived on earth.
  • People enter directly into heaven.”4

5.  How do we know anything, or can we know anything at all? “These are some of the ways that various worldviews deal with the issue of knowledge.

  • Consciousness and rationality developed through a long process of evolution.
  • There is no “reason” that human beings are able to have knowledge. That is just the nature of our existence.
  • Knowledge is an illusion.
  • Humans are made in the image of God who, himself, has knowledge.”5

6.  What about ethics? Can anyone one really know right from wrong? Here are some of the ways that various worldviews deal with this issue.

  • Right and wrong are strictly products of human choice.
  • Right and wrong are determined by what feels good.
  • A sense of right and wrong was an evolutionary development as a survival mechanism for the species.
  • Right and wrong are learned by experience as we learn what pleases the gods.
  • We are made in the image of God whose character is good and who has revealed what is right.”6

7.  What is the meaning of human life and history?Some of the various worldviews deal with this by asserting:

  • There is no innate meaning to human history. Meaning is what humans make it to be.
  • Time is an illusion.
  • Meaning involves realizing the purpose of the gods.
  • Meaning results from discovering and fulfilling the purpose of God.”7

8. James Sire lists one more question that makes the point about a worldview being a matter of the heart, and not just an abstract exercise: “What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?”8

It’s very important that you understand your own worldview, and the worldviews of those around you, especially those who can affect your life significantly, such as your physicians, politicians, educators, etc.

As Christian we are told:

1 Peter 3:15

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

You can’t make a defense to questions you haven’t worked through yourself. If you’ve ever tried to have a serious conversation with someone, and discovered you have no common point of reference, you have crashed into the worldview wall. Some of the most frustrating people I have ever tried to dialogue with are militant atheistic naturalists, and postmodern Christian Emergents. This is a clash of worldviews. If you don’t think that it’s important to understand different worldviews, consider this:

1611194_10202046474975690_69437121_oIn the past few weeks, my family has had to deal with the life and death situation of a loved one. In dealing with one particular doctor at a step-down facility that was supposed to wean my loved off of a ventilator, it became abundantly clear that there was a clash of worldviews. Our philosophy was that she should be cared for, medicated, and sustained with a ventilator, and heroic measures of resuscitation would not be employed. The doctor at the facility did not think it necessary to continue treating our family member as a human being needing compassion, but treated her like an animal needing to be put-down.

WORLDVIEWS MATTER!

Seven Worldviews That Developed After The Disintegration Of Christian Theism As the Dominant Worldview

James Sire, in his book The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, lists the following worldviews that have developed as the Christian Theistic worldview has disintegrated in the last 3 centuries:

  1. Deism Advocating either an impersonal force or deity, or a personal god that created the cosmos, but who doesn’t interfere with the laws of nature. The miraculous is denied. Reason is basically deified.
  2. Naturalism- Anti-supernatural; all phenomena can be explained by natural  or scientific causes.
  3. Nihilism Traditional values are useless; existence is meaningless; no objective truth or morality. Proponents: Max Stirner, Friedrich Nietzsche, 
  4. Existentialism- focuses on the existence of the individual, and the responsibility of humans with freewill and self-determination. Proponents: Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre
  5. Eastern Mysticism
  6. New Age
  7. Islam

When dealing with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Objective Moral Truth, and the Sanctity of Life, especially when dealing with medical issues related to end-of-life care, understanding which worldview you are coming into conflict with as a Christian becomes something more than just an academic endeavor. Your loved one’s life may depend on your recognition of worldviews, and the questions you should be asking. As an exercise, just watch the news. Notice presuppositions, and how they relate to the seven worldview questions. It won’t take you terribly long to learn how to discern someone’s worldview. Asking the right questions, and listening to the answers could keep you from misinterpreting a medical professional. Trust me, it’s important.

“Despite the persistent boast that America is the most religious country in the Western world, the Christian worldview and Christian ethics are under attack by the dominant secular culture. The tactics employed by secularists vary from belittling religious belief in general to ridiculing Christian believers themselves.”10

1. Sire, James. “What Is a Worldview?” Christianity.com. Salem Web Network, 05 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.christianity.com/blogs/russell-moore/what-is-a-worldview-11627153.html&gt;.

2. Samples, Kenneth R. “Reasons To Believe : What in the World Is a Worldview?” Reasons To Believe : What in the World Is a Worldview? Reasons To Believe, 01 Jan. 2007. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.reasons.org/articles/what-in-the-world-is-a-worldview&gt;.

3. Sire, James W. The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1997. Print. Kindle edition.

4. Sire, ibid.

5. Sire, ibid.

6. Sire, ibid.

7. Sire, ibid.

8. Sire, ibid. Loc. 178

9. Sire, ibid.

10. Slick, Matt. “What Is a Christian World View and Why Do Christians Need One?” CARM. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://carm.org/what-christian-world-view-and-why-do-christians-need-one&gt;.

Note: Much help in my journey through the murky waters has been given by:

Blocher, Mark B. “Christian Worldview and Medical Ethics, Part 2.” Lifemattersww.org/. Center for Biblical Bioethics, 2004. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

My next post in this series will continue my family’s personal struggle with  bioethics in my critically ill loved one’s continuing saga.

simul justus et peccator,

Eric Adams

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Please catch up on this series, if this is new to you. It might take a while. Hopefully, you will find it helpful. Here are the links:

Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt 5, Pt. 6

When we left off last time, we were discussing the influences on Watchman Nee. I am lingering on Rev. Nee because of his influence on my own theology, in my earlier Christian walk. Some of it has been beneficial, some of it has not been helpful at all.

I discussed the influence of The missionary Miss Barber and Roman Catholic mysticism on Rev. Nee.

Now we will turn to other influences.

I failed to mention in my critique of the mysticism connections to include a couple of 19th and 20th century writers that affected Rev. Nee.

Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis

Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis (1861-1927) was one such influence.

“Born on February 28th, in South Wales, Jessie was brought up in the lap of the religious surroundings of Calvinistic Methodism. Her grandfather was a preacher well known for emphasizing the building up of the believer in spiritual walk and life. It was also said, he was “the most metaphysical preacher of his day.”2

“Admittedly she owed a great deal to the books of Madame Guyon, “as having showed her the path to life ‘in God.'” Indeed! Her first response after receiving and understanding the vision and way of the Cross, and dying to self, was not an uncommon one: “No I will not go that path.” But after a brief struggle, she realized, it was the only way into the deeper spiritual life and unbroken communion with the Lord.

In her day, the “message of the Cross” was rarely preached; except in its first application to the forgiveness of sins through the Blood of the Lamb. The half-forgotten truth God ordained her to proclaim was “the Cross that breaks the power of cancelled sin.” This only occurs as the believer learns to identify with Christ, in His death to sin and the world. In learning to be “crucified with Christ,” the believer is led into a fellowship with Christ that alone enables to obey the Lord’s injunction, “take up the cross and follow Me.” It is a conformity in likeness to the Lamb.”3Madam Guyon

Notice the reference to Madame Guyon. Pay careful attention to the reference regarding a deeper spiritual life. That will become important when we discuss the Keswick movement. The main thing I want to demonstrate is the link to Roman Catholic mysticism.

Although the “Cross” is emphasized with the Higher Life advocates, the Sanctifying effects of union with Christ is stressed almost to the exclusion of the Justifying effects and the forgiveness of sins. I have a real problem with that. It is also common among Classic Wesleyans and Pentecostals to over-emphasize the more subjective aspects of Sanctification than the objective work of Christ in Justification.

Jessie Penn-Lewis had a very complex view of the Christian life. I am including a lengthy quote of Mrs. Penn-Lewis. This quote comes in an article written by Rev. Nee titled How To walk In The Spirit.

The aggressive warfare against the powers of darkness is essentially a spirit conflict, and the “natural man” knows nothing about it. It is to be understood only by spiritual men and women, hence the importance of knowing what is the meaning of the term “spiritual,” and how to walk in the spirit. We have put a capital S on the word spirit in the New Testament, where often it reads with a small s, or we have done that in the mind, by reading in the large S—referring to the Holy Spirit—in places where there should be a small s. The large S so read in by the majority of us, has hidden the fact that we have a human spirit, which is the organ for the Holy Spirit, and the place where the Holy Spirit dwells. (See “The Place of the Indwelling Spirit,” in May Overcomer.) In the shrine of that spirit comes all His divine light, and leading. Not having understood clearly about the human spirit, we have not known how to co-operate with the Holy Spirit, and when He has come into our spirits, we have thought everything He had to say to us, must be given to the mind, with the result that we have mainly walked “after the soul,” and not “after the spirit.”1

Trichotomy

bodysoulspiritOne of the problems with Rev. Nee, and many of his influences and contemporaries, including Rev. Finis Dake (mentioned in an earlier post), is the issue of Trichotomy. This would be the belief that man is tripartite, consisting of a distinct spirit, soul, and body, via 1TH 5:23, and He 4:12. I don’t have the time to go into the long history of the argument between a dichotomous view of man, against a trichotomous anthropology. What I will emphasize is Rev. Nee’s insistence that a trichotomous view is necessarily salvific.

It is an issue of supreme importance for it affects tremendously the spiritual life of a believer.”4 “To fail to distinguish between spirit and soul is fatal to spiritual maturity.”5

This is a departure from most orthodox Christian writers. Admittedly, many writers (from the AnteNicene Fathers to Calvinists) have taken a trichotomous view of man, but none have claimed it to have been necessary for salvation. This should raise a few eyebrows.

This trichotomous view occupies the very first chapter in his book The Spiritual Man.

Rev. Nee’s exposition of the Trichotomy of man is very systematic and detailed. He goes to great lengths in order to prove that man’s three parts include:

1. The spirit, which includes conscience, intuition, and fellowship (communion with the Holy Spirit).

2. The soul, which includes the mind, will, and emotions.

3. The body, which is self-explanatory.

He uses a lot of Scripture, and is very convincing. He may be correct. However, it’s his emphasis on the intuition that becomes troubling.

The spirit lies beyond man’s self-consciousness and above his sensibility. Here man communicates with God.”6 “The revelations of God and all the movements of the Holy Spirit are known to the believer through his intuition.”7 “God is not apprehended by our thoughts, feelings or intentions, for He can only be known directly in our spirits.”8

Extra-Biblical Revelation 

You can begin to understand my concern about mysticism. Here we have a systematic theology endorsing extra-Biblical Revelation. To Rev. Nee, (and subsequently and concurrently, Pentecostals and Charismatics), the boring doctrinal stuff- you know, the ordinary means of receiving Biblical illumination (hearing the Word preached, personal Bible study, reading solid Christian writers, catechism, etc.), are supplanted by personal communication in the intuition.

“If the revelations of God and the work of the Holy Spirit can only be known through his intuition, one’s personal insight is exalted above the statements of Scripture. (Dictionary definition of intuition: “knowledge or conviction gained by intuition. The power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.”) Such a conclusion is both unbiblical and dangerous.”9

Gnosticism

One of the early threats to Christianity was Gnosticism. At one time it was thought to have predated Christianity, but recent scholarship indicates it arose out of Jewish mysticism, as a perversion of Christianity. The basic beliefs of Gnostics were:

1. Salvation came to those “in the know”, those with the secret gnosis (Gk. word for knowledge). It was accessed through intuition by the mystery religions through divine revelation.

2. Dualism- spirit is good, flesh or matter is bad. Spirit cannot come into contact with flesh. It needs an intermediary.

3. Jesus either only appeared to have a body, or was simply a man.

4. There is a lower class of “gods”, called demiurge a by Gnostics.

We will look more closely at the WOF similarities to Gnosticism later. Right now I want to focus on point no. 1.

“Nee’s form of Gnosticism comes through the development of a rather complicated system, with its own specific terminology,

English: A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic...

English: A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic gem in Bernard de Montfaucon’s L’antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

which means that the uninitiated cannot really grasp the “deep teachings” of God. The focus on the intuition as the real means of grasping truth, rather than through the specifics (including the wording) of Scripture is a definite type of Gnosticism, complete with its arrogance and exclusivity (regardless of intentions to the contrary). His claims that the conscience is based on one’s intuition opens wide the door for being directed by a supposed inner voice from God rather than taking God’s written Word as the true basis of conscience training. The conscience is only as accurate as the training upon which it is based. development of a rather complicated system, with its own specific terminology, which means that the uninitiated cannot really grasp the “deep teachings” of God. The focus on the intuition as the real means of grasping truth, rather than through the specifics (including the wording) of Scripture is a definite type of Gnosticism, complete with its arrogance and exclusivity (regardless of intentions to the contrary). His claims that the conscience is based on one’s intuition opens wide the door for being directed by a supposed inner voice from God rather than taking God’s written Word as the true basis of conscience training. The conscience is only as accurate as the training upon which it is based.”10

It’s this inner voice that runs counter to the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura. It is a very dangerous to believe we can access a mystical source of information independent of the ordinary means.

1. Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 01: The Christian Life and Warfare, Chapter 15, Section 1
2. http://www.lighthouselibrary.com/read.php?sel=3134&searchfor=%7C%7C&type=&what=
3. Ibid
4. Nee, Watchman. The Spiritual Man in Three Volumes. New York: Christian Fellowship Ed., 1977. Print, pg. 22.
5. Ibid, pg. 22.
6. Ibid, pg. 29.
7. Ibid, pg. 32.
8. Ibid, pg. 32.
9. Gordon Ferguson, “Watchman Nee On Soul And Spirit ,” douglasjacoby.com, Douglas Jacoby, http://www.douglasjacoby.com/watchman-nee-on-soul-spirit-by-gordon-ferguson/ (accessed 11/12/2013).
10. Ibid

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Read my previous posts in this series to catch up. See Pt.1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5.

During the summer of 1982, I had the strange occurrence of finding 2 different books by a single author, in the attics of 2 different houses. My family was a family of carpenters. My Grandad Jenkins was a carpenter (my dad’s father-in-law), my dad was a carpenter, and my brother was a carpenter.

It never fails, if you do remodeling or homebuilding, that adding insulation falls in the dog days of summer. That means 130+ deg. Temps here in the south. While cleaning out 2 different attics, I found Against the Tide by Angus I. Kinnear, and Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Née.

Watchman Nee

If you are not familiar with Watchman Née, I will give a brief bio. :

“Watchman Nee became a Christian in mainland China in 1920 at the age of seventeen and began writing in the same year. Throughout the nearly thirty years of his ministry, Watchman Nee was clearly manifested as a unique gift from the Lord to His Body for His move in this age. In 1952 he was imprisoned for his faith; he remained in prison until his death in 1972. His words remain an abundant source of spiritual revelation and supply to Christians throughout the world. For more details concerning Watchman Nee, please see http://www.watchmannee.org.&#8221; 1

“Watchman Nee was born in 1903 in Swatow, China as an answer to his mother’s prayer. Having already borne two daughters, she prayed that if God should give her a son, she would give him back to God. As the boy grew up, he showed every sign of promise except he had no interest in things spiritual. It was not till he was seventeen years of age that he was met by the Lord. He knew at that time that he must accept Christ Jesus as his Savior, yet he struggled over the necessity of surrendering his life to the Lord. The love of Christ finally overwhelmed him and he capitulated to Christ. This was on April 29, 1920. He had such a love for the Word of God that he studied it almost incessantly, so within a very short period he had read the whole Bible several times. He began to witness for Christ to his school mates and soon earned the nickname of “the preacher”. In searching the Scripture, he (with a few other believers) discovered ‘the simplicity and purity that is towards Christ.’ He determined to follow the Word of God explicitly and nothing but the Word.

In 1927 he began his life work in Shanghai, where he was able to practice the vision which the Lord had shown him in the Word. He understood that the eternal purpose of God is Christ and His Church. Through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit and the faithful ministry of this servant of God, this testimony spread over the vast land of China.

In 1949 the Communists took over China. Knowing what would be waiting for him back home, he nonetheless felt strongly his responsibility toward God and His Church. So he returned to China from Hong Kong in 1950. In April of 1952 he was seized and put in prison. He was later falsely accused as a master spy and was sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. In prison he was not allowed to do anything but what was assigned him by prison authority. At the expiration of his sentence term, he was not released, and the news arrived quickly that he died faithful to the Lord.” 2

Painful

My references above are from sympathetic sources. This particular part of the series will probably be the hardest for me. Separating the wheat of a Watchman Née from his chaff has been painful. I truly love this man, and to write anything negative about his doctrine is not an easy task for me.

I learned early in my Christian walk to be a reader. Early on, I read everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately for me, my interests gravitated towards those who supported my Faith teaching worldview. Watchman Née became an obsession for me. I eventually bought every book I could find.

The Three Ladders

ladder3

It has been in my exposure to the Reformers that I learned the broken ladders that the little theologians of glory in us love to use to get to God.

Here is how most religions work: Heaven and God are far away, so we must find ways to ascend to heaven. Like the old African American spiritual says:

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
Soldiers of the cross.

Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Soldiers of the cross.

That all sounds great if you’re the typical American. We love our independence and pragmatism, don’t we?

It was the Lutheran theologian Adolph Koberle who distilled man’s attempts to ascend to God .3 He identified these three ladders as:

A. Moralism- The ladder of the will. We grab ourselves by the bootstraps, and try to work our way into God’s good graces. If you’ve ever asked or have been asked the Evangelism Explosion question “why would God allow you into heaven?”, then you have faced the question of moralism. Usually the response is “well, I’ve been a good person. I have done ________ “(you fill in the blank). How this works itself out in the Faith movement is trying to earn God’s Favor by positive confession and believing before seeing (specifically in healing or financial blessing). I’ll cover this more thoroughly in another post.

B. Mysticism- This is the ladder of the emotions. We seek for God internally through emotional or mystical experiences. We become preoccupied with our own spirituality. This is where Watchman Née comes in.

C. Speculation (Rationalism)- This is the ladder of the mind. If we can just get the perfect knowledge, that missing piece of information, then we can please God, and climb up that broken ladder. This Gnostic, and noxious idea fits in perfectly with the Word of Faith “Revelation Knowledge” teaching promoted by men like Kenneth Copeland. We will deal with this ladder later in the series.

Getting back to Rev. Née, I believe he got the Gospel right. He had a basic theology of Salvation by Grace through Faith. In The Normal Christian Life, (probably one of his more popular titles), Nee writes: “Righteousness, the forgiveness of our sins, and peace with God are all ours by faith, and without faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ none can possess them.” His whole exposition on the Blood of Christ in this book is very orthodox, and insightful. As far as it goes, it’s theologically sound.

Mysticism

There are several streams of influences present in Rev. Nee’s theology when it comes to sanctification. One major stream is mysticism. This can be seen in his Preface to The Spiritual Man, Vol. 1:

“This book puts particular emphasis on spiritual reality. Hence, what is covered in each volume can all be attested in experience; nothing is there as an empty word.” 4

“The whole book covers a wide scope; every question concerning the spiritual life that the believers want to know but cannot answer is explained here. For example, difficult matters such as hearing God’s voice and understanding God’s will are all clearly explained. After reading this book, all major spiritual problems will be fully resolved.”5

Notice the emphasis on experience, hearing God’s voice, and understanding God’s will. All of this is standard fare for the dedicated theologian of glory. It’s an obsession with one’s spiritual life. Yet, later in the same Preface, Rev. Nee writes:

“Among the spiritually seeking believers there is always the danger of excessive subjectivity concerning one’s own spiritual experience. This is not healthy, for self-examination, the analyzing of oneself, is a means of cultivating the self-life and fills a person’s mind with vain thoughts.”6

The problem is that most of Née’s writings in The Spiritual Man, by their nature, encourage this kind of self-introspection. That is the nature of mysticism and spiritual perfectionism.

Some of the mystical influences on Rev. Nee can be deduced by references he makes.

Margaret E. Barber

One of the primary influences was a lady named Margaret E. Barber. Here is a bio. Of Miss Barber. I include an extended quote showing her influence:

“Once I invited a doctor of theology to Miss Barber’s meeting and asked that he be given the opportunity to speak, and I translated for him. After the message I asked Miss Barber, “How was it?” She said, “It was sad!” I asked her why, and she pointed to a door that was chained shut and said, “Something good, but not moving.” I was again upset by her remark. I told another brother, “This man has spoken only once. Can she possibly know all about him?” But today I know what she was talking about. Everything depends on life. If there is no life, all we have is death.

The church does not need good doctrines, good theology, or wonderful expositions. The church needs life, the resurrection life of Christ. No doctrine, idea, theology, or exposition can replace the life of Christ. Only the life of Christ and that which issues from it will prevail against the gates of Hades. Everything else is just disguised forms of death and cannot withstand the attacks of Satan. May the Lord be merciful to us, and may He keep us from touching death or bringing death into the church. May God fill the church with life, and may Satan find no opening to attack the church.”7

You can see Miss Barber’s influence by judging preaching by some sort of internalized “inner light”. There is a definite anti-intellectual slant that very much anticipates Postmodernism, and Emergent Christianity of our own day. You can see the appeal to WOF’ers; Direct Divine revelation; Very mystical.

 Roman Catholic Mystics

This Miss Barber introduced Rev. Nee to the Keswick Movement, Jessie Penn-Lewis, and the Roman Catholic mystics Madame Guyon and Fenelon. First, let’s talk about the Roman Catholic mystics.

“At the same time there was a new discovery within the Catholic Church. A group of spiritual people were raised up by the Lord. TheMadam Guyon most spiritual one among them was Miguel de Molinos, who was born in 1640 and died in 1697. He wrote a book called Spiritual Guide which taught men the way to deny themselves and die with the Lord. This book affected many people at that time. One of his contemporaries was Madame Guyon. She was born in 1648 and died in 1717. She was even more knowledgeable in the matters of the union with God’s will and the denial of the self. Her autobiography is a very good spiritual book.

In addition there was Father Fenelon who was a bishop at that time. He was very willing to suffer for the Lord, and he worked together with Madame Guyon. Through these men and women, God released many spiritual messages. At that time men and women with the deepest experience of spiritual life were found in the Catholic Church. Protestantism was only paying attention to the doctrine of justification by faith.”8

Here is a quote from Madame Guyon:

“All that is of your doing, all that comes from your life-even your most exalted prayer-must first be destroyed before union can come about. All the prayers that proceed from your mind are merely preparations for bringing you to a passive state; any and all active contemplation on your part is also just preparation for bringing you to a passive state. They are preparations. They are not the end. They are a way to the end. The end is union with God!”9

Please convince me this is not dangerously close to the eastern practice of altered-state consciousness meditation; I dare ye…

For a good overview of Madame Guyon, go here.

This post is getting long, so I will continue later.

1. http://www.amazon.com/Watchman-Nee/e/B00COAA964
2. http://www.c-f-p.com/category_s/1825.htm
3. For a good exposition of Koberle’s three ladders, see Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller’s sermon at http://www.hope-aurora.org/pages/Pent192005.html&friendly=1
4. http://www.ministrybooks.org/index.cfm
5. Ibid.
6. http://www.ministrybooks.org/books.cfm?n
7. Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 44: Conferences, Messages, and Fellowship (4), Chapter 30, Section 1
8. Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 11: The Present Testimony (4), Chapter 15, Section 2
9. Madame Guyon, Experiencing Union with God Through Inner Prayers

simul iustus et peccator,

Sir Eric of Confusedland

Rave WorshipIdeas have consequences, especially in the way we worship. There is always a danger of two extremes:

  1. Dead orthodoxy that offers no emotion at all in our services.
  2. Hyper-emotionalism, where experience of an imminent God devolves into the idolatry and debauchery of a “golden calf”.

The following is an example of the latter. Having come from the Charismatic/Pentecostal side of the aisle, I have the experience, and right to call my like-minded brethren to use some discernment and self-control. On the other hand, having sat in some really life-less churches, I say to my brethren on the other side of the aisle to not let extremes dictate a pendulum response.

We are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”- Matthew 22:37

Extremists on either side need to balance the “all your soul”, with the “all your mind”.

Never-the-less, it has been my experience that the greatest danger to expressive worshippers is not stoicism, but ecstatic loss of control. Heed this article by Larry DeBruyn.

Written by Larry DeBruyn

Thursday, 29 November 2012 05:18

Opiates and the “Experience” of Rave Worship

Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God – Ephesians 5:18-21.

Introduction

Scores of architecturally significant churches dot the landscape of the Australian city of Adelaide, structures that were built to last and perhaps bear testimony to a Christian influence in that part of the world. Upon visiting that city last year (September 24-25, 2011), my initial impression was perhaps like that of the Apostle Paul when he was in Athens and said, Men of Athens [of Adelaide], I observe that you are very religious in all respects – Acts 17:22.

Under the auspices of Christian Witness Ministries (CWM) and with Philip Powell the director of CWM, the Lord gave me the opportunity of ministry with The Street Church, a small Bible fellowship of committed Christians in Adelaide. The church is led by the Corneloup brothers, Sam and Caleb, the former who came to the Lord out of a life of crime. In many ways the fellowship encouraged my spirit with the presence of many young people. For the seminars, the church rented The German Club in the downtown area in that city.

With some of the members of The Street Church, I had my first opportunity at “street preaching” at Rundle Mall, an open air shopping area in the heart of Adelaide.[1] As an American with a distinct “Michigander” accent, people passed by, briefly stopped to listen, and then went their way. Because The Street Church regularly engaged in the activity, secular authorities tried to muzzle the preachers by passing laws against them; but in the name of “free speech,” and because of the legal knowledge of Caleb Corneloup, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the street preachers. After all, if other secular groups espousing radical ideologies were allotted the legal right of public assembly to express their views, why not The Street Church?[2]

The whirlwind weekend of ministry passed by quickly, and before I knew it, the time arrived for me to get to the airport on Saturday evening in order to catch a flight to Melbourne so that I could connect to another flight to Wellington, New Zealand, the next morning. (For a week, I was scheduled to preach in various locations throughout the North Island.)

Heaven!

My driver, a young man from The Street Church, drove me to the Adelaide airport. During that ride and upon leaving the city proper, we drove by one of the beautiful church structures in that city. From the outside, the church appeared no different from the other church buildings with the exception of a large banner that brazenly hung across the steeple and over the entrance of the historic building. On that banner was painted one word: HEAVEN. I turned to my driver and asked him, “Is the name of that church HEAVEN? He answered, “Yes!” and then proceeded to inform me that the church was the one he used to attend before he became a believer in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I asked him what kind of church it was. He informed me it was a “rave” church. Well, not knowing what a rave church was for, not ever having heard of one before, I questioned him further about what kind of church it was. He told me that in their gatherings the worshippers played loud and raucous music, danced, did drugs and partied (and who knows what else?).

Craving for Rave

After his description of “rave” worship, I thought to myself—is this where adapting worship in order to give seeker audiences thrills and chills, where constantly tweaking the worship style to fit the mood of the culture and the insatiable cravings of congregants will lead? Worship that resembles the atmosphere of Israel’s partying before the “Golden Bull” when, “the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play”, clamorous worship that to Joshua sounded like war was going on in the camp – Exodus 32:6, 17. Is this what results when so-called worship becomes sourced in “the wants” of peoples’ bodies and brains, in what the Bible calls “lusts of the flesh”, (Greek, epithumias sarkos) – 2 Peter 2:18?

Ravings in the Nave

Apparently, rave worship originated amongst young Anglicans in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom, where Matthew Fox, the defrocked Roman Catholic priest who later became an Episcopalian, picked it up, brought it back to San Francisco, and adapted it to suit his New Age “eco-mysticism.”[3]

In 1994, about a year after leaving the Roman Catholic Church, the LA Times confirmed that Fox got the idea for “the head-banger liturgy [the rave mass] after visiting a band of unorthodox young Anglicans in England—where the ‘Rave in the Nave’ features loud music, women dancing in bikinis and video monitors flashing messages such as ‘Eat God’ [evidently referring to their belief in the Eucharist’s transubstantiated elements].”[4]

On this point, it can be noted that as early as 1991, evangelical leader Leonard Sweet sourced his “creation spirituality” in Fox’s “eco-mysticism” when he wrote that, “Creation spirituality is of tremendous help here in weaning us from this homocentric warp [that is, any understanding that makes humanity the centrepiece of God’s creation and entrusts the stewardship “over” nature to them].”[5] Rave worship, sourced in the eco-mysticism of a pantheistic or panentheistic worldview, has as its mantra, “If it feels good, do it!” So do it they do.

U2-Charists

Perhaps spinning-off the idea of Rave Masses, some Anglican-Episcopal churches now blasphemously call their Holy Communion service a “U2-Charist” in which hymns are replaced by the Irish rock-group’s best-selling songs.[6] The communion service is described:

In what is more rock concert than Book of Common Prayer, a live band will belt out U2 classics such as Mysterious Ways and Beautiful Day as worshippers sing along with the lyrics, which will appear on screens. The [nightclub] atmosphere will be further enhanced by a sophisticated lighting system that will pulse with the beat . . . .[7]

A few years ago, USA Today reported that “U2-charists” have also come to Episcopal congregations in the United States, and perhaps will find their way into other denominations and congregations as well.[8] One young worshipper, a Roman Catholic who attended a “U2-charist” at a nearby Episcopal church, reported of her experience: “It makes you, like, warm inside. Usually at church you love Jesus and everything. But this way you can express how you feel.”[9]

Descriptions of Rave

Rave is thought to be a rising supernatural movement in the UK consisting of a wide spectrum of Christians who, disaffected by and having dropped out of organized religion, “are burning for Jesus.”[10] A 4th annual “Sloshfest” held in 2010 in South Wales, attended by a crowd of about 600 from “alternative churches” all over the UK, was described as involving “wild-eyed and out of control” participants—“sweaty clothes clinging to their backs”—flailing “wildly to a booming beat.” During what appeared to resemble more a primitive and tribal religious celebration like those which have occurred in many cultures from time immemorial, some “ravers” even passed out amidst their whirling and dancing. The party, so it is claimed, consisted of “revellers” unaffected by either booze and/or drugs, but rather by the power of God, an ecstasy of worship that participants ascribed to “‘God-ka’ and the ‘yum rum of Heaven’.” One 38-yearold participant made no apology for the participants acting out of themselves because in his opinion, God is “a party animal who wants to win over youngsters with supernatural highs.”

Another raver states:

Heaven is going to be wild. God will show up and be the life of the party. We want to see fun coming back into the Church.

Testimonials of Ravers

Matthew Fox first became acquainted with “rave masses” in England. In one instance, the Mass was “held in the basement of a sports complex and included 42 television sets flashing images of galaxies, dancing atoms, DNA, lunar eclipses and male-female archetypes.”[11] He offered his impressions of the masses he attended:

My first experience of the Mass was that this is a very friendly experience for a generation raised on television. My second experience was that these people are taking television away from the broadcasters and doing it live in the heart of the community, which is worship.[12]

Now the following testimonials of participants in the rave worship which occurred at Sloshfest are offered:[13]

  • People are looking for something relevant to them. If you like to party, drink and take drugs, our advice is, ‘Don’t drink Vodka, drink God-ka’.
  • There is no greater high than the Most High. When you come into God’s presence there is an intoxication that is overwhelming.
  • God wants us to enjoy his wine and embrace the spiritual realm.
  • Of course we all like to drink the yum rum of heaven, too.
  • When I’m worshipping I know I look absolutely insane, but that’s how I’m affected by my heavenly daddy.
  • It is such a wild fire. It is a fierce wild fire. It is untameable and undomesticated. (These words were spoken by a middle-aged woman dressed as Pinky Pirate who shaking uncontrollably grabbed a microphone and bellowed them out to the raucous crowd.)
  • I’m Mrs. Jesus. I love my husband. (A woman dressed as a pirate queen uttered these words while crawling on the floor, looking spaced out, and manifesting red, puffy eyes and a vacant stare despite no sign of alcohol or drugs consumption.)

Revellers, or Revilers?

Because Sloshfest is a Christmas party, revellers dress up like a monk, priest, nun, dancing pirate, Abraham Lincoln, unicorn, winged fairy, court jester draped with Christmas lights, etc. Amidst all the costuming, “in the main room the party is pumping, with dry ice, air horns and dazzling disco lights adding to the debauched atmosphere.”

So is Sloshfesting, revelling in God, or reviling Him? To answer the question, only the Word of God can be our guide and judge. On this point, what was the Lord’s take on one of the original Sloshfests (I say “one of the original” because amongst primitive peoples they had been going on long before the incident of Israel’s worshipping of the “Golden Bull” – Exodus 32:1-35?

Assurance for me regarding this issue, notwithstanding all the participants’ testimonials, can only be moderated by the Word of God – 2 Timothy 3:16-17. To this point, Archibald Alexander wrote:

There is nothing more necessary than to distinguish between true and false experiences in religion . . . . And in making this discrimination, there is no other test but the infallible Word of God; let every thought, motive, impulse, and emotion be brought to this touchstone.[14]

To this pastor it stands axiomatic and logically consistent that the spiritual work of God will in nowise contradict the Scriptures which the Holy Spirit inspired to be written –cf. 2 Peter 1:21.

Unlike the crowd at the first Pentecost, whom sceptical onlookers accused as being drunk with “new wine,” but who in fact were not – Acts 2:13 – the claim of ravers that their euphoria has nothing to do with taking drugs or drinking alcohol may ring a bit hollow. As one worshipper exclaimed, God “makes me so happy. I love him but I’m a bit drunk.” One well-known speaker at Sloshfest, who claims to have met Jesus on an acid trip, is described as slurring through his sermons and talking “about ‘smoking the Baby Jesus,’ being ‘whacked out’ and ‘tokin’ [urban slang for smoking pot] on the Holy Ghost’.”[15] He calls these expressions “metaphors” of the Christian life! In 2005, that speaker, John Crowder, wrote a book The New Mystics in which he promoted “Sloshfest-style ecstatic worship and mystical Christianity.” Then in 2009, he wrote a sequel, The Ecstasy of Loving God: Trances, Raptures, and the Supernatural Pleasures of Jesus Christ.

Further insight into the question lies in John Crowder’s testimony, one in which he claims to have met Jesus while on an acid trip, and his message when he talks about “smoking the Baby Jesus” and “tokin’ on the Holy Ghost.” How can such activities, so diametrically opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit, things categorized by the Apostle Paul as “lusts of the flesh”, lusts that includesorcery (Greek, pharmakeia or drugs), “drunkenness, carousing and things like these” – be instrumental in saving a person’s soul – Galatians 5:20-21, NASB? Such cravings lay in stark contrast to “the fruit of the Spirit”, one of which is “self-control” – Galatians 5:23, NASB. Persons may be saved from such activities, but they are not saved by such activities -1 Corinthians 6:9-11. In all fairness, one Sloshfester does testify to his having been saved from drugs and alcohol.[16]

But this man’s soul was not converted because of the influence of drugs and alcohol, but in spite of it.

Are These People Mad?

Sloshfesting impresses me not as being church, but as carousing. Rave worship (as in “stark raving mad”) impresses me as being opposite from one fruit of the Spirit, “self-control” -Galatians 5:23. In rave worship, people are “out of control.” The inbred and eccentric phenomena of rave, observed first hand by passers-bye or inquirers who watch it on You Tube, will not only give unbelievers a wrong impression about the meaning of The Gospel, but also fail to impress many observant believers. As the Apostle Paul questioned, “If . . . ungifted men or unbelievers enter [or go online?], will they not say that you are mad?” – 1 Corinthians 14:23. Illustrating the apostle’s point, one curious passer-by is reported to have shook his head and laughingly commented after having through a steamed-up window observed the rage of rave: “Looks like one hell of a party.” To me, the phenomena of rave church as manifested at Sloshfest 2010, may be compared to The Toronto Blessing of the 1990s, only on steroids.[17] As rave and Sloshfesting, dancing the “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey” belongs to the same perversion of so-called “worship.”[18]

Conclusion

My first article, Getting High on God, was meant to draw attention to a study coming out of the University of Washington which suggests that “attending a Protestant mega church actually does produce a high much like being on drugs.”[19]

Drugs: An Implicit Connection

From the UW study, it has been noted that mega churches are “powerful purveyors of emotional religious experience” as they blend together popular music, state-of-the-art technology and positive and nonthreatening messages, all of which and more, contribute to make up an “Oxytocin cocktail” that affects a “sense of recognition, trust, and a reduction of stress” in the brains of congregants.[20] The UW study makes implicit the connection between the mega church and the inner opiates that, when stimulated by the right mechanisms, provide spiritual euphoria for, among and between congregants.

Drugs: An Explicit Connection

This article, Getting ‘Higher’ on God, has sought to draw attention to the new wave of worship that many are seeking to catch a ride on, worship that unabashedly makes explicit the connection between drugs (whether induced from within or ingested from without, who knows?) and the attainment of spiritual ecstasy. The point being, that such spiritual experiences, whether emotionally euphoric or mystically ecstatic are not the result of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the life of a believer, but rather the result of the hyped-up machinations, manipulations and managements of church leaders.

The difference between the euphoria engendered by the mega church and the ecstasy by the rave church may well be only one of degree, not kind. A comparison might be made between smoking pot (“the euphoria lite” engendered by the mega church) and shooting heroin (“the ecstasy heavy” incited by the rave church). Mega churches have mastered a strategy of how to offer their congregants “lite” doses of experience (euphoria). The rave church has upped the ante by offering its participants “heavy” doses of experience (ecstasy). Neither movement evidencessober-mindedness, that spiritual attribute the New Testament enjoins believers to cultivate -Titus 2:2, 4, 6; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8.

In fact, if the euphoria or ecstasy of so-called worship is induced by means other than by the Holy Spirit, then it violates Paul’s injunction to “be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit”, the manifestations of which — “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God”, bear no resemblance to those exhibited in “Sloshfesting” – Ephesians 5:18-21. Worship that masquerades as drunkenness in the Holy Ghost resembles more the wine bibbing of a bacchanal celebration than worship of the Holy God.[21]

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunk in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation – 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8.

via Getting “Higher” on God.

May the blessings of a New Year find its’ way to your door.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams
Rossville, GA
godsguy12@comcast.net
jadams012@gmail.com
christianreasons@gmail.com
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