Please read Idolatry: Can the blind lead the blind Part 1
In part 1 of this short series on idolatry and the vice grip it has on the Mosaïek Church in Fairland, Johannesburg, I ventured to parallelize their view of the dangers inherent in an over indulgence in materialism, consumerism and pleasure with the Buddhist view of overcoming these temptations through asceticism, meditation practices and the mortification of the so-called false self. All these spiritual aspects are inherent in contemplative spirituality and are practiced by its followers, i.e. meditation, silence, solitude, asceticism (in the form of retreats), labyrinths, chanting (droning).
As you may recall, my entire dissertation is an evaluation of Trevor Hudson’s sermon “Letting God be God” which he delivered on March 13 at the Mosaïek Church. The most alarming thing about his sermon is that he boldly refers to the resurrection of Jesus Christ but very subtly redefines the word “repent” which is an indispensible requirement for the quickening (resurrection) of the sinner who is dead in sins and trespasses. Here, once again is how Trevor Hudson redefined repentance.
Repentance is not merely an authorization or stamp of approval for God to be God in your life again and for Him to take center stage in your life. True repentance involves a deep faith-bound acknowledgment that God’s doctrines with regard to sin, mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, sanctification, holiness, judgment, eternal bliss in heaven and eternal punishment in hell are all god-breathed doctrines which you cannot, may not and dare not discard. Bishop Lesslie Newbigin (8 December 1909 – 30 January 1998) heralded the same principle of God needing to be the center of your life regardless of your dogmatic propensities. In an interview Andrew Walker had with him in 1988 he said the following.
WALKER: . . . if somebody was to come here, put you into a corner and say, ‘Now look here Bishop, what have you got to believe to be a believing Christian?’, what would you say were the basics?
NEWBIGIN: I would simply say, ‘Jesus Christ, the final and determinative centre around which everything else is understood.’ If that is there, I am not enthusiastic about drawing exact boundaries. I think you can define an entity by its boundaries or by its centre. I think that Christianity is an entity defined by its centre. So provided a person is, as it were, ‘looking to Jesus’, and seeing him as the central, decisive, determinative reality in relation to which all else is to be understood, then even if his ideas are weird or off-beat, I would regard him as a brother in Christ. (Emphasis added)
There’s no need to believe in God’s doctrines such as repentance in the biblical sense of the word. Even those whose ideas are weird and off-beat (not in harmony with God’s biblical doctrines) may be regarded as your brothers and sisters as long as they make God the center of their lives. To make Jesus Christ the epicenter of your entire existence is a very noble and honorable thing to do, but what significance does it have when it is stripped of exact boundaries? (i.e. exact doctrines such as “I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.”) Surely, the entrenchment of Jesus Christ as the epicenter of your life involves obedient submission to His doctrines and His calling to herald the unadulterated doctrines of His grace (2 John verse 9). Before I continue, it is of the utmost importance to articulate very carefully what is meant by the drawing or setting up of doctrinal boundaries. First of all, it does not entail a separation or exclusion of people from the mercies of God (Titus 2:11). God extends His grace to all people, no matter what their present position with regard to their creed, race, and ethnicity may be. Consequently, these exact doctrinal boundaries are not drawn to exclude people who are presently confined within the boundaries of other faiths but to break through those boundaries, and to translate the confined within those boundaries out of their present position in the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13). The translation from darkness to light is thus a transference from without the confines of one set of kingdom boundaries into the confines of another set of Kingdom boundaries where bound sinners are set free in Jesus Christ. In essence it is an individualistic salvivic experience through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the demands of His Gospel, by which each and every individual repentant sinner is placed on the Rock within the boundaries of the Kingdom of God, the boundaries being the sovereign will of God as expressed in His eternal doctrines. The post modern missionary model has shifted from an individualistic salvivic experience to a communal, transformational and reconciliatory missional paradigm which finds its niche in the emergent church’s view of the Kingdom of God — an all inclusive universalistic Kingdom which is perhaps defined best by Rob Bell’s statement
The emergent fraternity have very little respect for God’s set boundaries as expressed in his eternal doctrines. Stephan Joubert, for instance, says:
[The] “standing up for the truth” efforts of religious people have no real healing effect on society. It only serves to highlight the boundaries between “us” and “them.” It makes religious folks come across more judgmental than ever. But it does not embody Jesus’ words that we need to let our light shine before people in order for them to see our GOOD WORKS and glorify our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16).
The Truth embodied in Jesus Christ is supposed to “highlight the boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them.’” If Stephan Joubert follows Jesus Christ so very closely that even the dust off his feet falls on him, as he claims so robustly, then he ought to have heard him saying:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword! For I came to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A person’s enemies will be members of his own family.’ (Matthew 10:34-36)
Or perhaps he follows him so very closely that his metanoiac (big or bigger) mind is firmly set on the dust rather than on His words. The irony in his statement above is that darkness which is but the absence of light owes its very existence to a boundary demarcated separation from the light. It is the boundary between light and darkness that makes darkness to be darkness. Those who refuse to come to the light to have their sins reproved (John 3:20, 21) cannot possibly be counted amongst the “us” who are in Jesus Christ and his light, simply because they (“the “them”) are not in the Light (Jesus) but in darkness. There can be no fellowship between light and darkness unless those who are in darkness are willingly translated into the Light through faith and repentance towards Christ and his Gospel (doctrines) (2 Corinthians 6:14). Of course it doesn’t mean that I cannot have a cup of coffee at Mugg and Bean or socialize with unbelievers. It simply means that the believers cannot and may not compromise their faith in Jesus and his doctrines for the sake of engaging the unbelievers in an intimate relationship, especially in a spiritual relationship. The Author of this separation between “”us” and “them” is none other that Christ Jesus who is the Light and in whom there is no darkness (1 John 1:5). Stephen Joubert says that the religious people who “stand up for the Truth” have no real and lasting effect on society whilst God says that those who do the Truth (not good works) and come to the light to have their sins reproved when necessary are his true light bearers and NOT those who do not stand up for the Truth.
The emergent fraternity, in the face of overwhelming evidence in Scripture that the set boundaries for your belief (doctrines) must be obeyed, have no qualms to disregard biblical doctrine. I remember when I attended a conference in the Pierre van Ryneveld DRC on the 28th August 2009 where Ron Martoia and Nelus Niemandt were the key speakers I asked Ron Martoia the following question. My question was aimed at his statement that the church should be in the business of making better humans and not necessarily in the business of leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
The bottom line is that we should make better humans? Am I correct in saying that?
[He shook his head in the affirmative]
I put it to you that Jesus did not come to the earth to improve humanity but to seek and to save the lost. The word “better” implies that the thing or person to be improved is already good. All religions take credit for making good people a lot better but there is only One who is able to save the lost. In 2 John 9 we are warned that biblical doctrine is extremely important and anyone who dares to run ahead of God (is not satisfied with what Jesus taught) does not have God or his only begotten Son. [A pregnant silence follows while Stephan, Ron en Nelus look at one another, possibly to demonstrate by example that silence is the first language of God. The audience begins to laugh.]
Stephan Joubert’s response was shocking, to say the least. He immediately took upon himself the role of mother hen whose duty it is to shield her chickens from harm and disallowed any further discussion when Ron Martoia failed to answer my question. He also made a comment on twitter which proves that he disqualifies 2 John 9 as a barometer for true salvation.
Weird to see how some show up at conferences only to find reasons to disagree with the speakers and nail them on websites. Why? (Emphasis added)
If they experience questions relating to biblical doctrine as being nailed to crosses then something is drastically wrong. If they truly love and follow Jesus Christ they should not feel threatened when asked simple questions on biblical doctrine. Nonetheless, in the past and even to this day they have proved to be in firm solidarity with Brian McLaren who disparagingly refers to the biblical doctrine of salvation and even dares to change the meaning thereof. Stephan Joubert who quotes him in his prizewinning book Jesus a Radical Leap and his echurch website frequently advertises his material. This is what Brian McLaren has to say about repentance and salvation.
“Perhaps our ‘inward-turned, individual-salvation-oriented, un-adapted Christianity’ is a colossal and tragic misunderstanding, and perhaps we need to listen again for the true song of salvation, which is ‘good news to all creation.’ So perhaps it’s best to suspend what, if anything, you ‘know’ about what it means to call Jesus ‘Savior’ and to give the matter of salvation some fresh attention. Let’s start simply. In the Bible, save means ‘rescue’ or ‘heal’. It emphatically does not mean ‘save from hell’ or ‘give eternal life after death,’ as many preachers seem to imply in sermon after sermon. [Tom Lessing: Do you hear echoes of Trevor Hudson's sermon "Letting God be God again?"] Rather its meaning varies from passage to passage, but in general, in any context, save means ‘get out of trouble.’ The trouble could be sickness, war, political intrigue, oppression, poverty, imprisonment, or any kind of danger or evil.” (A Generous Orthodoxy, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004, p. 93).
Well, I feel like a fundamentalist who is losing his grip—whose fundamentals are cracking and fraying and falling apart and slipping through my fingers. It’s like I thought I was building my house on rock, but it turned out to be ice, and now global warming has hit, and everything is crumbling. That’s scary you know? I went ro seminary right out of college, and it was great, and 1 thought I was getting the truth, you know, the whole truth and nothing bur the truth. Now I’ve been a pastor for fourteen years, and for this last year or so I feel like I’m running out of gas. It’s not just burnout.. It’s more like I’m losing my faith—well, not exactly that, but I feel that I’m losing the whole framework for my faith. You know, l keep pushing everything into these little cubbyholes, these little boxes, the little systems got in seminary and even before that—in Sunday school and summer camp and from my parents. But life is too messy to fit. And I’m supposed to be preaching the truth, but I’m not even sure what the truth is anymore, and—that’s it, really, I just feel dishonest whenever I try to preach. (A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey, p. 12) (Emp[hasis added).
They are quick to silence someone who points them to the Truth (in 2 John 9) but have no misgivings about being in cahoots with a guru who admits that he’s not so sure what the truth is anymore and who feels that he's lost the whole framework of his faith. Have they gone crazy?
True repentance embraces the entire Gospel and counsel of God and encourages the repentant to respond to it in faith. And yet the emergent fraternity are constantly redefining and changing the core biblical doctrines that relate to repentance and salvation. Rob Bell says:
“And then there is exclusivity the other side of inclusivity. This kind insists that Jesus is the way, but holds tightly to the assumption that the all-embracing,
saving love of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum.
As soon as the door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth.
Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterable not true.’
Regrettably, this is one of the paradoxes that is forced upon the church today — Yes! Jesus is the way (please note: he does not say the “only Way”) which represents the exclusionary side of the coin but his all-embracing, saving love “includes all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum” which represents the inclusionary side of the coin. It is a dualistic Gospel in which a biblical repentance “has become such bad news” that it needs to be stripped of its bad association with fire and brimstone preachers in long overcoats who warn people to “turn or burn.” The dangerous dualism in their contemplative spiritualty is summed up perfetly by Stephan Joubert who said:
He (Rob Bell) says you must engage the culture. I must listen to the Buddhists. You must hear what those guys have to say. Then Christians get a big fright because they do not hear clearly what Rob Bell says. He does not say, become like them; he says, read their stuff, find out why they are so important. They too might have truth. Truth is not only in Christianity. Truth can be found in Judaism. You can find truth in atheism. You can find truth in whosoever. God’s general revelation is a little wider, but you say Jesus is Lord. [Tom Lessing: Do you hear echoes of Trevor Hudson's sermon "Letting God be God again?"]
We must find new ways. We must give form to new ways. We must find new partners. We must listen when the biggest growing spirituality in the world is presently not Christianity. And then we musk ask, why not? Why does Buddhism grow the fastest? Why do they have what we don’t have? Why does the American Neurological Society, when 40 000 of the world’s neurologists come together, invite the Dalai Lama to address them? Why do they get the Dalai Lama, the head of the Buddhists? – Stephan Joubert in a sermon he gave at the Kemptonkruin DRC on 1st March 2009.
In part 3 we will be looking at the Emergent Church’s perception of the Kingdom of God and how it resembles the Buddhist view of the cessation of suffering.