Tag Archives: Rob Bell

4-Point Spiritual Abuse

In the Church at Colossae, the young Christians were getting hammered spiritually by the abusive and intimidating tactics of the Gnostics.  As they begin to mix into the church, these heretics brought with them an assortment of doctrinal beliefs bent on confusing the Christians of Colossae, discouraging them, and most likely intending to either change their beliefs or force them to leave the church.  What’s fascinating is that the beliefs of the Gnostics almost 2000 years ago are nearly identical to the pervasive heretical belief systems that are being repackaged and reintroduced into today’s Church and the goal is the same, spiritually abuse the immature Christians and create division amongst believers.

In chapter 2 of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians we find him succinctly addressing each of these false doctrines.  Beginning in verse 8, Paul starts his discourse with a rebuttal of the human philosophies that were infiltrating the church.  Here we find the first wave of spiritual abuse, namely, philosophical Humanism“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8 ESV Within the context of this passage, Paul was speaking directly to the Gnostic beliefs which denied the deity of Christ Jesus.  The Gnostics had developed a humanistic philosophy that denied the incarnation of Jesus and subsequently his deity from His birth until His baptism by John the Baptist.  At this point they then claim that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended on Jesus and it was here He received His deification.  As I alluded to earlier, these historic false beliefs of the Gnostics in Paul’s day are the same in today’s church, simply repackaged and rebranded for a greater appeal.  Take for example the following quote from Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis:

What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologist find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? 

Questions. Big questions, right?

Was Jesus born of a virgin?

What if…?

 But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart? If the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it? What if… Mary wasn’t a virgin in the way we understand it? The way you handle this question determines how you read this book. 

Bell’s assertion here is that if our faith so weak as to be unable to withstand the possibility of Jesus not being born of a virgin (which denies 1. the miraculous birth and 2. the deity of Christ in His sinless nature) then we likely have no faith at all.  This is the same philosophical false beliefs that were so pervasive 2000 years ago and it should be noted that Bell’s argument is a straw man designed to undermine the deity of Christ.  If we follow his logic in assuming the virgin birth did not happen, clearly this destroys our faith and makes the Bible a book of lies and Christ a sinner like us instead of a perfect, magnificent, and holy King.  Our response should be that of Paul’s, “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”  Colossians 2:9-10 ESV Anything contrary to this Gospel truth is simply heretical and the teacher of opposing doctrine should be treated as a heretic.

The second wave of spiritual abuse that the Apostle Paul addresses is Legalism.  In our Church today there is a common misunderstanding of this word, which at this point we need to clear up.  One pastor makes the following observation on legalism: “it is subscribing spirituality to man-made rules, [while] subscribing to God’s rules is obedience.”  It seems like the opposite definition has become “true” these days, in that no one wants to be told what to do or to be held accountable to an absolute moral truth, namely God’s commands, i.e. the Law.  God’s rules are perfectly holy, perfectly righteous, and perfectly just in holding us accountable and they are meant to point us to Christ (Galatians 3:19-24 ESV).  Likewise in Christ, as Paul points out in Colossians 2:13-14, the legal demands of God’s holy law have been met through Christ’s death on the cross for all who believe in Him.  It’s the institution of man-made rules for the purpose of righteousness that defines legalism, not God’s rules.  Paul addresses this in the verses that follow, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17 ESV In the Old Testament, God instituted these rules to keep Israel a holy nation unto Himself, such that it would be impossible to intermix with other people, but as Paul reminds these observances were a foreshadow of Christ and upon the establishment of His Kingdom in the hearts of men, these rules and rituals were done away with.  The Gnostics however, were forcing these rules onto the Church at Colossae and in doing so proclaiming that Christ alone was not sufficient, but that the keeping of these additional rules was necessary.  In essence what they were teaching was “works-based righteousness”, a belief that prevails even to this day amongst the various world religions.  In fact as one pastor says, “Every false system of religion in the world says you get saved by works; Christianity is the only one that employs grace.  Satan counters grace with works.” 

In addition to these works outside of Christianity, within the Church has crept a sect of people who are simply repackaging these old Gnostic ideas into a social gospel/justice agenda.  As Christians, we are instructed to feed and clothe the poor, and care for the homeless, but all in the name of Christ, with Him being both the motive and the goal, an outworking of our love for Him.  However, the social gospel pushes a new agenda sometimes even in the name of Christ, but with man-centered motives and goals.  The Social Gospel seeks to meet peoples felt needs, i.e., their physical needs, while ignoring their spiritual needs, with the goal of “action” speaking louder than words.  The problem with this application is that it tells nothing of the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross and while a person may have clean drinking water, food, clothing, or shelter, they are starving just as spiritually as they were before hearing this “gospel”.  The Bible is crystal clear, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 ESV Ministering physical needs with Christ-like love is Biblical, but leaving out the spiritual needs, i.e. the Gospel, reduces the act to merely “good deeds”.  “But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”” Matthew 4:4 ESV  In a similar fashion, Social Justice seeks equality and rights of those “disenfranchised” or “lesser” individuals with the goal of cultural or societal reform.  The real Gospel of Jesus Christ produces holiness, the social gospel of man produces artificial happiness.

                The third characteristic of spiritual abuse that Paul addresses to the church at Colossae is Mysticism.  We read of this in the following passage, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in details about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” Colossians 2:18-19 ESV The Gnostics that were infiltrating this early church were likely members of a religiously zealous sect of Jews known as the Essenes.  They believed in the worship of angels and were attempting to bring these beliefs into the church in order to promote a higher form of worship.  Like the previous two forms of abuse, this third form is also prevalent in today’s church and becoming more so on a seemingly daily basis.  Today, what we are beginning to see coming into the Church is the practice of contemplative spiritual meditation/prayer, which get’s its roots from eastern cultures and involves the chanting, mind clearing, breathing, and focusing techniques that fall far short of Biblical spirituality and instead create an altered state of consciousness conducive to satanic influences.  Make no mistake about it, it is prevalent, it is real, and it is very dangerous.

            As Paul alluded to in the earlier passage, the fourth wave of spiritual abuse is Asceticism“If  with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” Colossians 2:20-23 ESV Asceticism is the practice of self-denial and it takes the inverse approach to legalism.  While legalism says “do this”, asceticism says “don’t do this” and both are dangerous traps by which man attempts to improve his standing with God through differing forms of self-righteousness.  Getting rid of everything you own, for the sake of feeling more godly is not a Biblical principle, yet this idea continues to lurk in the shadows of churches still.  The monastic lifestyle of a monk does not in itself create any higher standing with God than a person who is a responsible steward of the possessions that God has allowed. 

            As we’ve seen, the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Church at Colossae in the face of these spiritual abuses can be directly applied to the false teachings infiltrating the Church today.  Be encouraged Christian.  Don’t be swept away by the various philosophies of man, by legalistic “do this” rules, mystic practices, or ascetic “don’t do this” mandates.  Instead focus on Christ and be complete in Him for “Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11 ESV

Apostasy: The Wolves are Emerging

For awhile I’ll admit I was confused about the Emerging/Emergent Churches and philosophies, actually I didn’t even know who/what it was.  Until I started this blog, I was basically oblivious to their movement.  For the sake of argument, I’m not going to address the differences between the two, in fact I don’t really care.  If the mere distinction between the two names is their last three letters, then apparently the founders of each movement weren’t particularly concerned with keeping each movement separate and distinguished.  Building on the apostate discussion that I alluded to yesterday, I chose to lead off with this movement because they are the “relative” new kid on the block if you will.  Based on what I’ve read and researched, they are the most dangerous because they attract the youth groups and young people, those who have yet to accept Christ as Savior and those immature in the Christian walk.  They prey on these “babes” in Christ who as the Apostle Paul says, “…lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  Hebrews 5:13-14  It is for each of these persons that I write this post, with Christ-like love to, as Jude said, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”  Jude 22-23 It is my prayer that every person that reads this has their eyes and ears open to spiritual discernment, that they might recognize the evil corruption spread by the “leaders” of the Emerging/Emergent movement.  This is Apostasy: The Wolves.

First let’s establish the Truth.  We were given God’s Holy and inspired Word.  It was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Though there are now newer, more “relevant” translations that distort the original context, the Holy Bible in and of itself, inerrant (without error) and infallible (incapable of error).  In this regard, it is a guide for our lives and a lamp to our paths. Psalm 119:105 In fact in John 1:1-2 NKJV we learn that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.”  Later on in John we get the amazing Truth that, “…The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Through these Truth’s we can surmise that God’s Holy Word became flesh in the form of Jesus.  To deny the truths within the Bible is to deny Christ.  To say that we are incapable of wholly knowing the Truth of the Word is to say that we are incapable of knowing Jesus.  All those who have come to know Christ as personal Savior can claim the truth the Apostle Paul writes of in I Corinthians 2:16 NKJV, “For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”  We have the Word and that Word is the Truth, as Jesus stated, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 Yet these truths are contrary to the teachings of the Emerging/ent Church.  Their mission is to create confusion, doubt, and disbelief in God’s Holy Word and leave you to search for the truth internally.  What you “discover” as truth may not be relevant to the truth I find, but we can come together and each be right.  It’s the epitome of thinking outside the box.  A catchy slogan in our progressive, postmodern society, but when applied to God, it’s wholly inadequate and heretically incorrect.  Let me provide an example to explain what I mean.  These wolves teach that each of our lives are different, in that I might be a “circle”, you might be a “pyramid”, another person might be a “sphere”, and so on.  According to them, each of us can take the Bible and conform it to our individual life shape.  So for me as a circle, the Bible fits me one way, for you it fits another way and so on.  The Truth of the matter is the Bible is the box, though the living, breathing Word of God, it’s unchanging.  We can’t conform it to fit a certain ideal or belief or our lives.  Just the opposite!  It’s not the Bible that conforms to us, but our lives that conform to the Bible.  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 So these are the generic beliefs of the Emerging/ent Church.  To create complete ambiguity and confusion with the Bible; to state that each of us are incapable of knowing the Truth and those that do are arrogant.  I want to point out a few specific examples of their thinking from some of the key leaders wolves that will help better inform you as to what I mean.

Let’s start with one of the more doctrinally confused of the movement, Brian McLaren.  Mr. McLaren is pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland.  He’s so powerful within this movement, Time magazine listed him as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005.  I don’t know if that’s a condemnation of Time’s out-of-touch assessment or just how sad the Evangelical community has become.  Here’s a sample quote from his book A Generous Orthodoxy:

“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … rather than resolving the paradox via pronouncements on the eternal destiny of people more convinced by or loyal to other religions than ours, we simply move on … To help Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and everyone else experience life to the full in the way of Jesus (while learning it better myself), I would gladly become one of them (whoever they are), to whatever degree I can, to embrace them, to join them, to enter into their world without judgment but with saving love as mine has been entered by the Lord” (A Generous Orthodoxy, 260, 262, 264).

So let me get this straight, 1) Disciples do not have to adhere to Christianity 2) It’s ok for people to stick with their world religion and still follow Jesus 3) He would gladly join a world religion to help someone learn the way of Jesus, note he did not say to come to salvation in Christ.  In this brief quote we’ve learned some interesting facts about Mr. McLaren.  He’s denied that Jesus is the only way to salvation and has paved an ecumenical path to knowing God.  Do you see what the wolves try to do?  They use pieces of the Bible, words that are familiar to us to paint their picture of what they want us to believe.  In that sense, it becomes confusing to the reader because it sounds like Gospel, but it’s far from it.  Let’s learn a little bit more, how about some “social gospel” from his book Everything Must Change:

Via Christianity Today: “McLaren tells us that he could only see this kingdom vision of Jesus when he came to a “place of cynically doubting much of what I had been told about Jesus.” To use the words of fellow emergent thinker Peter Rollins, the Northern Irish philosopher at Ikon community, McLaren experienced the “fidelity of betrayal.” He had to betray the Jesus and the gospel and the church that nurtured him to become faithful to the Jesus of this kingdom vision.”

Framing stories are the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our world, and every theological system has a framing story.  “[The conventional framing story] has specialized in dealing with “spiritual needs” to the exclusion of physical and social needs. It has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant social injustices in this life. It has focused on “me” and “my soul” and “my spiritual life” and “my eternal destiny,” but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds.”

According to him, there’s no need to focus on knowing Christ as your Savior, instead you need to focus on ecological crises and societal injustices. 

And one final point, from the website of McLaren himself, a denial the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ:

Q: You know, justification by grace through faith in the finished atoning work of Christ on the cross.
McLaren: Are you sure that’s the gospel?
Q: Of course. Aren’t you?
McLaren: I’m sure that’s a facet of the gospel, and it’s the facet that modern evangelical protestants have assumed is the whole gospel, the heart of the gospel. But what’s the point of that gospel?
Q: What do you mean? I guess it’s so that people can spend eternity with God in heaven in an intimate personal relationship as opposed to … the alternative. You don’t seem to agree.
McLaren: Well, for Jesus, the gospel seemed to have something to do with the kingdom of God.
Q: Which is the kingdom of heaven, which is going to heaven after you die.
McLaren: Are you sure about that?
Q: Aren’t you?
McLaren: This is exactly the point I was trying to make in the article. Many of us are sure we’re “postmodern” now with our candles and hipness and so on, but we haven’t asked some important and hard questions – not about postmodernity, but about modernity and the degree to which our theology and understanding of the gospel have been distorted or narrowed or made “gospel lite” by modernity.
Q: If you were intending to make me feel better, you’re not succeeding.
McLaren: Well, I hope you’ll at least think about this. And search the Scriptures, you know, to see if there’s any validity to the question I’m raising.

 

“The church has been preoccupied with the question, “What happens to your soul after you die?” As if the reason for Jesus coming can be summed up in, “Jesus is trying to help get more souls into heaven, as opposed to hell, after they die.” I just think a fair reading of the Gospels blows that out of the water. I don’t think that the entire message and life of Jesus can be boiled down to that bottom line.” -Brian McLaren, from the PBS special on the Emerging Church

Seriously, Brian McLaren provides so many opposing Biblical talking points, I could post them all day long.  By now you should get the point.  This guy is a dangerous wolf.  If you see his doctrine, turn away, if you’re reading his books, put them down now and pick up the Word of God.

Next up, the increasingly popular Rob Bell.  This may come as a surprise to some of you because I realize that his books and teaching come across as “cool” and hip and appeal to the younger generations, but he too is involved in the Emerging/ent Church Movement.  Let’s review some of his more infamous quotes.

From Velvet Elvis:

“Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker.”

“When people use the word hell, what do they mean?  They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be.  Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter-they are all hell on earth.  Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.  What’s disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about Hell here and now.  As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth.” Pg 148

“Heaven is full of forgiven people.  Hell is full of forgiven people.  Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.  Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.  The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust.  Ours or God’s” p. 146

“For Jesus, the question wasn’t how do I get into heaven? But how do I bring heaven to earth?  The question wasn’t, how do I get in there?  But how do I get there, here?” p. 147

Just like McLaren, with Bell his anti-Biblical quotes can go all day.  The themes here are the same, man made solutions to the problems on earth so that they can create a heaven on earth.  They are presenting the same message, both are false gospels.  Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  Jesus will return to set up His Kingdom here during His millennial reign.  How can sinful man create heaven on earth in a fallen world?  It certainly sounds like Mr. Bell also refuses to believe in Hell as an actual place.  Those who refuse to accept Christ as their Savior are going to hell.  Your sins are only forgiven if you make the decision to receive Jesus as Savior.

 A few more as I’m sure by now you realize the apostate that is Rob Bell:

 Via Christianity Today: [The Bible is a] “human product…rather than the product of divine fiat” – Rob Bell

 II Timothy 3:16 would disagree with you Mr. Bell.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”

Again From Velvet Elvis: “What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?  But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word ‘virgin’ in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word ‘virgin’ could mean several things.  And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?” p. 26

 In this mini-diatribe of Bell’s he is creating doubt that Jesus was actually born of a virgin.  He is attempting to disassemble the entire supernatural birth of our Lord and Savior.  Think about this, if he disproves the true and holy miraculous birth, then he has disproved the entire foundation of Christianity.  This is a heretical statement!

As we conclude this expose, I want to bring one final point to light.  Both of these men and numerous others within the movement openly support homosexual marriages.  Likewise, you’ve seen how they are creating an ecumenical view of religions and attempt to throw Christianity in the mix too.  Here is their (the devil’s) plan.  They will continue in their mass deception until homosexuality becomes rampant throughout the church.  You will see them begin to promote homosexual pastors at an even greater level than what we’ve seen already.  As they begin their methodical approach to dissecting the Truths of the Bible you will then see them open the broad gate door to other religions on the platform of social issues stating that we only need to know God’s kingdom and even though Jesus showed us how to live, we don’t really need Him to save us from anything, instead all religions need to come together in one accord. 

It might seem like a personal vendetta against these men and their movement, but truthfully it’s not.  When the apostasy’s took place during the time of Paul, he felt compelled through the love of Christ to warn people of the dangers.  As Christians it is our duty  to point out false doctrines so that the Truth of Christ might be known to all.

II Corinthians 11:3-6 3But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 5But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” 6I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.”