The Lord be praised that He has seen fit to open the door for Apprising Ministries to have become one of the leading voices against the postliberal cult of the Emergent Church. Because of the issue with Richard Abanes, which blew up the original AM website, as God allows time I plan to fix the resulting myriad broken links and to update my articles as quickly as I can in an effort to make information as accessible as possible to as many possible.

More often the idea will be to present various apologetics against this Emerging Church rebellion against sola Scriptura. And even back in 1987 Dr. Walter Martin made the bold and accurate declaration that:

Anyone who does not know that the Church world-wide is in an accelerating apostasy does not know; I repeat, does not know what is going on.

And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:12-14)

The Apostasy Still Spreads Rapidly

Anyone today who believes what passes for the Church in America is better now than it was twenty years ago is a foolish dreamer who needs to have their spiritual heads examined. This Emergent menace to the Church has the very real potential of bringing irreparable harm to the Body of Christ if some influential evangelical leaders do not stop their hiding and arise to condemn this Emergent movement, which is simply not a move of God the Holy Spirit.

Sadly I have felt it necessary to refer to this whole situation as The New Downgrade No-Controversy, and symptomatic of this is the widespread acceptance of the Emergent Church within the Southern Baptist Convention. Once operating on the fringes of the Church it has now received virtual mainstream acceptance within numbers-mad evangelicalism. For example we have Tony Jones, National Coordinator of Emergent Village.

Since Tony wrote about it on his blog I will also inform those who may not know that a while back he gave me a call and we talked for about thirty minutes. He said we, “agreed to hang on to each other’s phone numbers.” And that I “seemed like a good guy.” I’ll also say that Tony seemed like a good guy to me also, but then this isn’t the issue. I would think that the Gnostics of the first century seemed like nice guys as well. However, doesn’t it make sense based on the opening text above that if the Devil was going to counterfeit Christianity the closer he could make it seem like the original the better?

Spreading Practices Of Gnostic Mysticism

The fact is that Tony Jones openly advocates the so-called “spiritual disciplines” aka Spiritual Formation, which is the corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism consistent with The Cult of Guru Richard Foster. Some of these originated with apostate eastern “Desert Fathers and Mothers” such as Contemplative/Centering Prayer—so-called “Christian” meditation—Lectio Divina, praying to Icons and the Labyrinth, most of which would germinate within the anti-biblical monastic system of the apostate Roman Catholicism. Jones is not alone in advocating this type of spirituality because these types of mystical practices and others form a core doctrine found in most Emergent Churches.

As such he is in fact one of many spreading New Age type teachings of spirituality which are somewhat comparable to the Gnosticism that spread through much of the early Christian church in the first several centuries. And the seeking of mystical gnosis is a basic staple of the Emergent Church movement as was reported on the PBS Special in July of 2005: “Individual emerging churches may look different, but they share many characteristics; most are casual with a big emphasis on the experiential.”

As an example of the kind of flawed philosophy of spirituality taught by Tony Jones here is what he says in his book The Sacred Way from the chapter “The Quest For God”:

I voraciously read authors and books they didn’t assign in seminary: St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, and The Pilgrim’s Way… For years I’d been told that to be a Christian meant I had to do three things: (1) read the Bible, (2) pray, and (3) go to church. But I had come to the realization that there must be something more. And indeed there is.

There is a long tradition of searching among the followers of Jesus––it’s quest, really, for ways to connect with God––and it has been undertaken by some of the most intelligent and deeply spiritual persons ever to walk this planet. The quest is to know Jesus better, to follow him more closely, to become––in some mysterious way––wrapped into his presence (16,17).

Subjective Spiritual Experience In The Labyrinth

And then Jones makes an interesting statement: “the point of these practices is to draw me into a deeper relationship with the Christian God” (17). Among the practices that will draw people “into a deeper relationship with the Christian God” Jones will be teaching the Labyrinth. In The Sacred Way he describes one of his experiences this way:

Pausing at the threshold of the labyrinth, I prayed, ‘Your will be done.’ I entered expectantly and began walking on the path at a relatively slow pace, savoring the opportunity for my body to connect with God while moving. At about the third turn, I noticed I’d slowed almost to a stop…I have learned that it is always worthwhile to pay attention to what I am noticing as I use a labyrinth (128).

As Jones then describes some of his observations he says:

Since I usually move around turns at the same pace I use on the rest of the path, my sudden desire to stop surprised me. I asked myself and God, What’s going on? I knew the answer would come in the walking, so I moved on. I could feel and hear someone coming up behind me on the path… [I] waited on the far side for him to make the turn and walk on… I moved back on to the half moon shaped slab of stone and stood there I the unexpected awareness, Here I am again. Stopped at a turn.

“Oh!” I laughed out loud as the realization hit me. “I’m in a time of transition in my life. Many changes (turns) are ahead,… No wonder God is using the turns in this labyrinth to offer me the opportunity to gain needed wisdom about moving through transitions” (ibid)

With all due respect to Tony Jones here, what we have just seen couldn’t be a clearer example of the inherent danger in this type of subjective experience. This would have as much to do with being a mystical experience with God as spilling the milk when you go to put it on your cornflakes in the morning would be a spiritual exercise with Jesus telling you, “this is to teach you patience My son as you slowly clean up the mess.” And yet this is precisely the type of subjective reasoning we will get from Jones as he tells us:

After that I made at least a brief stop at each of the 28 turns that lead to the center. As I did so, a fuller understanding came… I usually speed up and take care of everything I can in order to make the difficult situation “better”… Standing on that turn without moving, I realized I was practicing a skill I would need to use often in the coming months. Through this amazing labyrinth pattern that my body was praying, God was communicating this message: “As you enter transitions, you will find it helpful to slow down, perhaps even stop, before entering the experience of change that lies before you.”

My labyrinth prayer had once again opened me to the possibility of walking with God, others, and myself in new ways. I had come to the labyrinth with an open mind and heart. God had met me with a gift I had not realized I needed. I moved on, filled with gratitude (128,129).

The Presence Of God In The Icons

As a final example, in chapter 9 Jones teaches us about the “true” use of icons. He quotes his friend panentheist Frederica Mathewes-Green who says that the “sober presence of the Lord in an icon makes us uncomfortable because we realize how far short we fall from the ineffable beauty and power of God” (98). Then Jones tells us about the way icons are also like the Bible in that they “draw us to” God. He explains the way Catholics pray through saints, “especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, and their prayers will be delivered to the throne of God.”

Jones may try and deny that he is implying his own belief in such a thing, but the following shows this does appear to be exactly what he is saying:

I’ll admit that, to a Protestant like me, the difference between praying through an icon or a saint is a nuance I have a hard time grasping. However, I can understand the theological difference, and I respect the traditions under which they developed. The bottom line is that we use icons to pray, but we pray through them, not to them. In this case, the preposition makes all the difference.

Father Nicholas Speier of Goleta, California, explained it to me like this: I ask friends to pray for me;… Since we believe that those who died I faith are currently living in eternity with God praying through an icon of a saint is simply asking one of those friends to pray for me (102).

Jones then informs the reader how to go about securing an icon just the way he has taught many youth ministers in his speaking engagements at Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Conventions and possibly your pastor at last Year’s Zondervan National Pastor’s Conference. Jones tells us that:

Human models are never used to paint icons; only other icons are acceptable as models… The icon itself is a source of light: “The saintliness or the holiness of the person shines out from the entire body. The light of God saturates all things, therefore, the images on icons do not cast shadows.” The parts of the anatomy associated with the five senses are exaggerated in size, since they are the windows of the souls, and the person in the icon looks straight at the pray-er…and icon is not meant to be a depiction of a normal human being but of Jesus or Mary or a saint in their resurrected state…” (103)

And then Jones quotes Roman Catholic Priest and contemplative Henry Nouwen (1932-1996) who says:

Icons are not easy to “see.” They do not immediately speak to our senses… They do not reveal themselves to us at first sight. It is only gradually, after patient, prayerful presence that they start speaking to us. And as they speak, they speak more to our inner than to our outer senses. They speak to the heart that searches for God (ibid.)

The Emergent Spiritual Blender

What we need to see here is that this kind of cut and paste spirtuality is a very dangerous combination and in his previous book Soul Shaper Jones began defining his postmodern approach to youth ministry by bringing together aspects of what he sees as common spirituality in Evangelicalism, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions along with eastern religious practices gleaned from Buddhism and Hinduism. This type of approach by Jones and the Emergent Church is worthy of special concern because of their careless use of very questionable practices that will be passed off to the unsuspecting as if this is actually a rediscovered and long hidden orthodoxy for a postmodern Christianity that makes the “past come alive in the present.” (Soul Shaper, back cover).

Of special concern, which will be covered as the Lord provides the time, is Tony Jones’ recommendation of Meister Eckhardt’s Collected Works. Jones tells us that they are, “a mystical treatise on the intersection between Greek philosophy and Christian theology with an emphasis on God’s indwelling of humanity” (ibid.,252). But what we need to see here about this Emergent Church movement is that at it’s core theology is the seed of a growing deception that within all the religions of the world to varying degrees there is a universal work of a God Who indwells creation. This spirit of panentheistic inclusivism is behind the theology of some of their other Emerging Church leaders e.g. Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt and his friend Rob Bell who are already leaning toward the possibility that there is a divine spark within all religions which can ultimately unite all of mankind itself because God already lives within all men.

I refute that idea Biblically in Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind and the very grave spiritual danger here is that all who follow this emerging “generous orthodoxy” are in danger of being taken in by this mistaken idea of a warped ideal of some alleged Global Family of God.

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