Although you are certainly encouraged to get a second opinion, from my point of view the prognosis is not very good at all. When even the evangelical community begins to allow for differing approaches to the truly indescribable and greatest sacrifice ever made upon this cursed planet, the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement on the Cross of the forever blessed Jesus Christ of Nazareth, you can mark this: It’s not likely the Christian Church in America will avoid coming under judgment much longer. We’d best prepare for the stench of sulfur in the air because God is not just going to wink while we debate about what He Himself did on the Cross.

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? (Psalm 4:2, ESV)

God Is Our Only Savior

O you see this is what is missed in our discussion in the flesh. We are not talking about someone else chosen by the LORD God Almighty to pay this horrific penalty for mankind’s blatant rebellion against our loving Creator. Let me suggest that we get back to actually reading the Bible instead of listening to speculations by so-called “scholars” about Holy Scripture. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, but the Bible also teaches that He is the eternal God come in human flesh. In all the self-congratulations of the latest “scholarly” treatises on what someone suggests might have possibly happened at the Cross, Holy Scripture tells us that the Messiah–the Savior–would be God Himself.

Or have you not read – “For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior(Isaiah 43:3) and – “I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from Me there is no Savior” (43:11). Therefore it is our Creator God Who actually sacrificed Himself for wicked rebellious creatures like us who thought He was our enemy. That we cannot fully comprehend logically how this was so, is one of things the Apostle Paul was trying to explain to us when under the direct inspiration of God the Holy Spirit he wrote – And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (1 Timothy 3:16, KJV). I suggest you meditate on this Truth the next time you’re tempted to listen to those in the Contemplative Spirituality movement with their man-centered lies about their own inflated self-worth.

The more I study this mixed-up mystic movement the more I become convinced that it is the rotten root of Contemplative/Centering Prayer (i.e. transcendental meditation for the Christian) which is laying a firm foundation for the One World Religion that will, not might, that will continue to emerge. The “enlightenment” or spiritual transformation that eventually happens to everyone foolish enough to persist in this type of meditation will inevitably lead one to a backward (flesh-oriented) view of “love.” From the Bible I show quite plainly in Take Off The Gloves that contemplative spirituality arrives at the exact opposite of what Christ Jesus tells us is the proper understanding of just Who it is we are to love above all else. The leaders of the new evangelical Ecumenical Church of Deceit (ECoD) would have us believe that the most important thing we can do for God is to love each other.

As I have pointed out elsewhere even this warped and toxic idea of mankind worshipping himself was foretold by God the Holy Spirit long ago within the pages of the Bible He wrote:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.(Romans 1:21-25, ESV)

We Must Understand True Love

However, the main goal of the true child of God is to love Him Who first loved us and gave Himself for us (see–Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2,25). Let’s think for a minute, don’t you remember our Lord Christ Jesus said – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). It is only after reminding us of this kind of pure love that the Master then tells us – “Love each other as I have loved you” (v.12), a verse that virtually every Emergent Church follower has memorized. By the way no one is arguing against this at all. No, what I am laboring to bring back into the Light is what the inspired Apostle John–the same human vessel who is our eyewitness above–would then reaffirm concerning the teaching of Jesus here when he writes – We love because He [the LORD God] first loved us (1 John 4:19).

I am not saying that loving our fellow man is wrong or unimportant; I am saying that if you follow this reemerging Gnosticism in contemplative spirituality currently crippling Christ’s Church you are going to end up with a completely opposite view of love than that which the Bible actually teaches. There is no “Inner Light” within all men; there is no “spark of the divine” within humankind compelling us to accept man as worthy of our love above God. That’s because prior to regeneration through personal faith in the atoning work on the Cross by Jesus Christ of Nazareth there is only a corrupt, degenerate and sinful nature within every human being. Not to try and be cute, but if you have been deceived otherwise by these seducing spirits with their things taught by demons then you personally need to read this and weep:

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8).

Frankly it doesn’t matter who you are, and more importantly surely God Himself is not impressed by who you think you are, because this is the absolute Truth from the text of Holy Scripture–the very Word of God itself. Romans 8:8 – Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (ESV). It is impossible to please God, meaning to live without sin, prior to being born again no matter how sincerely you practice your own “faith tradition.” This is why the true Christian longs for the day when we are completely released from this body of death (Romans 7:24). And it is also why we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength:

while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you (Titus 2:13-15).

I firmly suggest that new evangelical leaders like Richard Foster and Rick Warren and Brian McLaren note carefully above that God has just told them – These, then are the things you should teach. And if Guru McLaren truly is a minister sent by Christ he particularly might wish to pay close attention to this instruction from the Lord before he spreads anymore confusion in God’s precious Church. But the issue in this contemplative spirituality boils down to this: A man like Richard Foster places a high value upon prayer, and rightly so. However, so do I. We both claim to pray to and have experience with the same Lord, but never shall our theology meet as long as he attempts to be so man-pleasing in his teaching at the expense of what God has already said in Holy Scripture.

Reject Subjective Experience

Let me further use Eugene Peterson to illustrate what I’m talking about. In The Sacred Way by Tony Jones, while recommending Peterson’s book The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, Jones tells us that Peterson is one “of the premier pastors of our time and the translator of the Message” (216). Peterson then weighs in with some lofty praise of his own for the Guru of Contemplative Spirituality’s book Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home when he writes that Richard Foster is a “master teaching on the master subject.” So now we can see that with Eugene Peterson, “translator” and pastor, we are dealing with someone who is obviously very well acquainted with the Contemplative/Centering Prayer of so-called “Christian” meditation.

However, this great “reverence” for God and the practicing His presence while seeking “Inner Light” deep within the silence doesn’t seem to prevent one “of the premier pastors of our time” from taking great liberties with the Word of God in his “translation” known as The Message (TM). A very telling example is Peterson apparently feeling the freedom of emerging with an extra sentence in Ephesians 4:6 which actually teaches panentheism at the very least. In the Greek text this verse reads – one God and Father of all, the [One] over all and through all and in all. Yet in TM the Emergent “contemplative pastor” Peterson “translates” this verse – one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness (emphasis mine).

So since Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster and myself all claim to be expressing the will of God, it becomes apparent that we are going to have to move past this realm of subjective experience to sort it all out. That’s why the pastor-teacher who is truly sent by Christ will always point people to the Bible and insist–not suggest–but insist that what we teach be tested by Holy Scripture. And I’m fine with that, because as Luther before me I admit that my mind is held captive by the Scriptures. For this I make no apology, but rather I praise my Lord for His incredible gift. As I have often said, when we preach the Bible we know we will always be on solid ground if we do what the Rock–our God–has actually said. And as we go on in the Romans passage quoted above it becomes clear that there is no “spark of the divine” in every man as in ancient Gnosticism or the taqwa (God consciousness) as in Islam, or the alleged “Inner Light” of George Fox and the Quakers, because Holy Scripture clearly says:

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you (Romans 8:9-11).

Virtually anyone with basic reasoning skills is going to recognize that because of the word “if” we do have a condition here. The very fact that we read if the Spirit of God lives in you makes it obvious that contrary to the misguided mysticism of contemplative spirituality–albeit so-called “Christian” or New Age–the LORD God Almighty, the completely sovereign Creator of the universe stands right in the way of this man-worshipping idea of some alleged “Inner Light” within the heart of all mankind. Now we will be able to go on to address the cover story of the May 2006 issue of Christianity Today regarding the apparent misunderstanding of “the meaning of Christ’s atonement.” And I felt led to use the above Biblical discussion as our backdrop because of the pernicious attack on the Holy Scriptures from leaders within the quickly apostate and rapidly growing cult of the Emergent Church.

For if we are going to accept that these men truly are our brothers in Christ, then we will be forced to consider as legitimate a quite self-contradictory term: Christian agnosticism. You may recall that the Church was forced to deal with the mutually exclusive designation Christian Atheism when the “death of God” theologies were vomited into the American Christian Church in the 60’s. Tragically now there has been a reimagining of sorts through the relativistic skepticism of postmodern theologians and leaders within the Emergent Church that can be likened to the “death of absolutes about God.” I have personally read, and even engaged in dialogue with, more than enough of them to tell you that I was quite startled at first to realize that in sharing the Truth about the Divine inspiration, and thereby inerrancy, of the Bible I often had to resort to using argumentation I would normally employ while trying to reach agnostics.

Misunderstanding Christ’s Atonement

if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12, ESV)

As we move more specifically into the subject of the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ on the Cross itself, I share the following quote from Rick Phillips on VCY America’s Crosstalk pogram with Ingrid Schlueter. Pastor Phillips “is the Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church in Coral Springs Margate, Florida” and he is absolutely right when he says of the atonement:

when you deny that Jesus died on the Cross to make atonement for us for the wrath of God, that He died to pay the penalty of our sins you have ceased to be Christian… That is the “Rubicon,” you cross that and you are a heretic.

Ah, finally we hear from someone with the spiritual intestinal fortitude to call a heretic, a heretic. How low the standard of discernment has fallen in the Christian community, and unfortunately with this fall the corresponding level of sappy sentimentality has been steadily on the rise. O, and speaking of heretics, the Body of Christ just finished up enduring the “family reunion” at the Azusa Street Centennial, which featured a veritable who’s who of heretical teachers such as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland. And there was Oneness Pentecostal T.D. Jakes, right along with the UPCI, the largest body of “Jesus Only” heretics who literally deny the very nature of God Himself and who have been lovingly welcomed back into the Church by the AOG.

Just how advanced is the spiritual sickness in The New Downgrade No-Controversy? The back cover of the aforementioned issue of CT has an ad for The Leadership Summit sponsored by Bill Hybel’s Willow Creek church August 10-12, 2006. As to be expected, among those “featured” will be CGM Guru Bill Hybels himself, but we also find such impressive luminaries as Andy Stanley of the Emergent Church and even Bono of the First Church of Rock and Roll. Bono!? I offer that before someone like Bono is to be considered a “leader” within the Church of our Lord, the least we should expect is for him to first become a Christian. You know as foolish as it may appear, it begins to look as if the LDS Church just might make it into the evangelical church after all. So like I said, the prognosis for the American Christian Church is looking worse and worse each day.

So we come to “No Substitute For The Substitute,” the May 2006 cover story of Christianity Today, which itself is emerging even more liberal with each passing issue. On the cover we are told that some “evangelicals argue that for centuries we’ve misunderstood the meaning of Christ’s atonement.” I echo the question that follows: “Really?” Before I even opened it up I said to the Lord I’m pretty sure I’m going to recognize most of the names that will come emerging in the article “Nothing But the Blood.” I was right save for Emergent Guru Brian McLaren as Mark Dever, “senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., and executive director of 9 Marks,” who wrote this piece chose not to include him. However Steve Chalke, one of McLaren’s brothers in denial does show up.

Most of you who follow this work here at AM know that we tend to go in directions out of the ordinary when compared to more traditional apologetic works. No matter, I suppose the Lord can use us all. My focus here isn’t so much to review the CT article but instead to more fully draw your attention to the topic of this piece, which Dever refers to as “God’s work on the cross.” He is quite correct when he says that few “other doctrines go to the heart of the Christian faith like the Atonement.” Then Dever uncovers the reason why the atonement of Christ on the Cross is now under increasing attack as he says at “stake is nothing less than the essence of Christianity” (29). Little wonder why Satan is out to erase our Lord’s sacrifice for our sins on the Cross because the Bible informs the true Christian:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:13-15).

And then in 1 John we also come to know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:5-8). Once the Christian truly realizes this Truth, and begins to appropriate it through faith, then Satan is effectively rendered powerless in the life of the child of God. So we can see why the Devil’s minions would be working overtime to destroy belief in the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Christ Jesus of Nazareth–God the Son–upon the Cross.

The Atonement Under Siege

But the most ferocious attack on our Lord’s incredible sacrifice has now come emerging from men who would also lay claim to being “followers of Jesus.” Brazen men like Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Steve Chalke who would feel they are doing God a service by causing people to question His Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. Why it is these men would want to cripple other people’s faith in Christ truly escapes me. Yet this is precisely what these “evangelicals” are involved with, in this case the denial of “the evangel,” and they are doing so as pastor-teachers within the Christian church. In this CT article “Nothing But the Blood” Mark Dever does a good job of laying out the three major sets of theories concerning penal substitution. At this point I’m concerned with the third group of theories which he says “assumes that our main problem is God’s righteous wrath against us for our own sinfulness, which puts us in danger of eternal punishment.”

Lord willing I will have the time to expand on this another time, but for our purposes here I point out that Dever goes on to say these theories “such as the satisfaction theory and the penal-substitution theory, emphasize how Christ represents us.” Then Dever makes a critical point that is so often lost in all of this inane discussion concerning something so plainly revealed in Holy Scripture as our Lord’s substitutionary atonement:

The new wave of criticism has targeted this last set of theories, especially the view of Christ as a penal substitute–a theory long central for most Protestant groups, especially evangelicals. The criticism follows a path laid by others throughout history, from Abelard to Socinus to Schleiermacher to C.H. Dodd (ibid., 30, emphasis mine).

O what a sorry bunch of scholars to be found among; chances are that if you were able to talk with these gentlemen today, you would find they would regretfully wish they had come to a different conclusion while they still had the chance. As he further discusses the critics of penal substitution Dever says that perhaps “the most powerful criticism of penal substitution has come from a swelling chorus of scholars who decry its violence.” One of the names he brings up, “French scholar Rene Girard,” will sound familiar to those of you who have read the extremely Christ-denying Reimaging Christianity by the “living spiritual teacher” Alan Jones. Jones by the way refers to our Lord’s penal substitutionary atonement as “this vile doctrine” (168). Another familiar name also emerges as Dever tells us how some “evangelicals have taken to the work of Anthony Bartlett, J. Denny Weaver, Steve Chalke, and Alan Mann, who decry the language of violence in substitutionary Atonement.”

Speaking of Steve Chalke, perhaps we might file this under “Your Parents Must Be Very Proud,” he recently said of Christ: “a dying Saviour is no Saviour.” Dever also informs us in CT that:

Two years after publishing his controversial book The Lost Message of Jesus (Zondervan, 2004), Chalke wrote, “The church’s inability to shake off the great distortion of God contained in the theory of penal substitution, with its inbuilt belief in retribution and the redemptive power of violence, has cost us dearly” (30,31, emphasis mine).

It truly does amaze me just how spiritually obtuse one can actually be and still be allowed to pastor a Christian church today. Let’s look again; Chalke says above that the Church couldn’t “shake off” what he sees as “the great distortion” in the Biblical doctrine of God’s Gospel plan of the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross which he says “has cost us dearly.” O whatever was the LORD God Almighty, the Self-existent Creator of all life, thinking? If only He’d had the foresight to consult Mr. Chalke concerning His merciful idea to save creatures like us that hated Him due to our own sinfulness. Dr. John MacArthur addresses this mistaken and man-centered idea by Chalke very nicely in his book Hard To Believe when he reminds us that:

1 Corinthians 1:21 says, “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” It is this scandalous, offensive, foolish, ridiculous, bizarre, absurd message of the cross that God used to save those who would believe. Roman authorities executed His Son, the Lord of the world, by a method they reserved only for the dregs of society; His followers had to be faithful enough to risk meeting the same shameful end.

MacArthur is telling a timid American Christian Church bent on pleasing the surrounding culture the absolute Truth when he brings out that the true Body of Christ actually has a:

shameful message than we preach of Jesus on the cross. Being crucified was a degrading insult, and the idea of worshipping someone who had been crucified was unimaginable. Of course, we don’t see people being crucified now as Paul’s listeners did in the first century, so the impact is somewhat lost on us. But Paul knew what he was up against: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18); “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (vv. 22-23). The message of the cross is foolishness, moria in Greek, from which we get the word “moron” (25).

A Willful Ignorance

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… They exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:22,25).

All of this becomes quite obvious as Dever discusses Emergent theologian Scot McKnight’s presupposed warped view of the atonement and the way he twists the Scriptures in his attempt to then force it into the Biblical text. McKnight would do well to remember God the Holy Spirit’s warning through His chosen vessel Peter who wrote – Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16). In a moment you will see a clear example in the scholarship of Scot McKnight of the malignant spiritual disease that the evangelical community in the Body of Christ has contracted, and it is a terminal one unless it is removed immediately.

Men like McKnight who deny the verbal plenary (full) inspiration of Holy Scripture have now come emerging into our Lord’s Church through the cult of the Emergent Church. That McKnight denies the proper doctrine of Biblical inspiration emerges with crystalline clarity as Dever lays out McKnight’s denial of the vicarious (Christ did something) penal (Christ was punished) substitutionary (Christ substituted) atonement (Christ satisfied God the Father’s judgment). Dever first covers a range of Scriptures dealing with substitution and sacrifice that should present a “problem” for “critics of substitution.” He then points out that these critics are getting around this type of problem the only way any cult-like group can “by downplaying its importance or reinterpreting it.” And Dever is correct when he says that this ends up in his view doing “violence to the plain meaning of the text.” Those of us who have studied the methodology of cults recognize the dangers of followers being “indoctrinated” by mangled views of the Bible from “scholars” within a given organization.

Make what you will of this important information in the case of the Emergent Church, but I am already on record that if Dr. Walter Martin were alive today he would be warning people about this schismatic and destructive group now that it has become obvious they will not adhere to the authority of the Word of God. In illustrating how critics of the substitutionary atonement twist their way around the Biblical text Dever will use the work of “Scot McKnight, for example, in his recent Jesus and His Death (Baylor, 2005).” He points out that McKnight “does lots of careful work with the Gospel text.” Even so, says Dever, McKnight:

assumes that the last phrase in Mark 10:45– “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” –reports not Jesus’ original words but Mark’s theologizing. And while admitting that the idea of substitution is strongly suggested here, he finally rejects it” (32).

Teachers Twisting Scripture To Tickle Fickle Ears

We stop right here. This was not the subject of Dever’s article so it isn’t covered there so I highlight McKnight’s idea that to give His life as a ransom for many was Mark’s adding a theological view to his Gospel. RED WARNING FLAG: What you have just read is a denial of the Biblical doctrine of the verbal plenary inspiration of Holy Scripture! Once we open this door to injecting our own opinions–regardless of how “scholarly” they may be–into the text of the Bible we are doomed to a mystical merry-go-round of subjective opinion. This is the grave danger with the inherent Gnosticism of the Contemplative Spirituality movement central to the warped theology of the Emergent Church. In perfect circular reasoning McKnight denies the substitutionary atonement of Christ and when faced with a verse of Scripture which pointedly teaches it McKnight simply dismisses the text with his superior gnosis that it was Mark who was “reading in” (eisegesis) a theological view with this text.

Rather the truth is that it is the blind fool McKnight who is reading his own theological position into the Biblical narrative and then this “evangelical” scholar must go on to deny the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible to do so. Men and women, McKnight denies both the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross and now he is denying the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture. For the sake of our Lord’s suffering, how many things believed by evangelicals does someone have to deny before he is no longer considered evangelical? McKnight brings out the idea that Jesus didn’t actually say those words, but rather in his scholarly opinion this is Mark implanting a theological view into the text of Holy Scripture. How does McKnight know this? He doesn’t. Can McKnight produce a single scrap of credible evidence to support his theory? He can’t. And yet through this kind of Emergent scholarship we witness yet another passage of the Bible being fulfilled:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4, ESV).

Again, time permitting I will include further discussion concerning defending the Bible from this kind of attack which has now been launched from inside the evangelical community itself through the Emergent Church and scholars like Scot McKnight at a latter time. So for now I just want to close here by showing you that as these Christ-denying vipers who are attacking the atonement from inside the Christian Church are doing so through their denial of the historic orthodox Christian doctrine concerning the proper view of the inspiration of the Bible. And the cult of the Emergent Church is one of the clearest examples of a group of people gathering around themselves a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. As Dr. Martin once pointed out itching ears is an expression that means to tell someone exactly what they had already wanted to hear beforehand. The example from Scot McKnight brought to our attention by Mark Dever serves as a shining example of someone who is actually following the questioning methodology of the Devil himself – “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1)

Sadly, in the above example of Scot McKnight, as well in the work of Steve Chalke, Brian McLaren and Richard Foster of the Emergent Church, we can also see more Truth come emerging from God’s Word:

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done (Romans 1:28).

And men like these are also:

always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).