Category Archives: Culture

The BBC reports on the New Apostolic Reformation

BBC podcastLaura Hubber,  a BBC reporter, recently investigated the New Apostolic Reformation(NAR) movement and particularly how this movement has attracted millennials. Listen to her report, “Bringing Heaven to Earth,” here. Notice that Hubber does not use the term “New Apostolic Reformation” in her report, but this clearly is the movement she describes.

NAR leaders she addresses include Bill Johnson (Bethel Church in Redding, California), Che Ahn (Harvest International Ministry), and Lou Engle (The Call).

One thing from Hubber’s report that struck me is the reasons the young people she interviewed said they were drawn to NAR. Multiple individuals said they had a hunger to experience “more” than they were experiencing in mainstream churches–including a hunger to see the occurrence of miracles and supernatural phenomena. In my own research of NAR, I’ve found this desire to experience “more”–and specifically the miraculous–to be a major attraction to NAR.

If you’ve ever been a part of NAR, what attracted you?

————

Holly Pivec is the co-author of New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

Source: The BBC reports on the New Apostolic Reformation

Trump Taps New Communications Director Who Advocated for ‘Gay Rights Movement,’ ‘Pro-Choice’ Cause

Christian News reports:

President Donald Trump has appointed Anthony Scaramucci to be the new White House Communications Director—a man who has publicly stated his support for same-sex “marriage” and abortion rights.

“Republicans should support gay marriage,” he tweeted in 2012, again writing later that year in response to a follower, “I am not a partisan. For gay marriage, against the death penalty, and pro-choice. I am for social inclusion, fiscal responsibility.”

Just in November, Scaramucci wrote, “I support the gay rights movement and I am an active proponent of equality.”

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Source: Trump Taps New Communications Director Who Advocated for ‘Gay Rights Movement,’ ‘Pro-Choice’ Cause

Civilized life is coming a part at the seams

There is no question that society is smack dab in the middle of a tug of war between conservatives and liberals — the sacred vs. the secular. In this provocative piece over at truthXchange titled “Sacred Canopy” Peter Jones makes the case that sexual freedom is utterly destroying human freedom, and it all started back in the sixties with the sexual revolution…that ultimately led to the disintegration of biblical morality. Dr. Jones writes:

The ripping away of the “sacred canopy” is what has happened to Western culture during my lifetime. “Canopy” is an image used by the sociologist Peter Berger to describe a culture’s “state of predictable order,” an order assumed by all, that makes human culture work. Thus we all get along. [Berger, Peter L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Garden City: Doubleday, 1967]. This “ordered structure” is what we have called for a long time Western Civilization or Christendom. Today civilized life is coming apart at the seams.

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The Federalist: Christianity Doesn’t Endorse Homosexuality, No Matter What Eugene Peterson And Jim Gaffigan Imply

Eugene Peterson, translator of the very popular bible adaption The Message and a favorite writer in evangelical circles, shocked many this week, stating that he’s perfectly comfortable performing a same-sex wedding. He explained, “I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. …I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. …[I]t’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.” Update: the next day his literary agent released a statement saying Peterson did not imply this and holds to a biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one women. I take him at his word. This article has been slightly changed to reflect this new information.

Noted Catholics, comedian Jim Gaffigan and his wife Jeannie (whom Jim humorously describes as a “Shiite Catholic”) proudly took their five young kids to New York City’s recent Gay Pride parade, joyfully waving their rainbow flags. There have been a disturbing number of people who claim the name of Christ who would like us to believe that God and the Bible are totally cool with homosexuality. They are not. These folks are sowing a great deal of confusion among Christians today, which is troubling and must be set straight in clear terms.

Squaring homosexual sexual relations with the Jewish and Christian scriptures requires that one either ignore its clear and historic teaching or perform a clever textual sleight of hand. It’s the only two ways one can arrive there. Here are ten foundational truths that must inform the person who seeks to be true to faithfully orthodox Christian belief. The first sets the stage for the whole discussion.

1. All Humans Are Simultaneously Sinful and Loved

All people, regardless of their story, are deeply and unconditionally loved by God, each created with profound dignity and worth, not one more than another. This is more than mere religious happy talk, it’s the truth, whether one is gay, straight, or otherwise.

But all people are also stricken with a terminal illness: sin. Everyone. No exceptions. And all to the same degree. Our sin demands our repentance and needs forgiveness, and God’s love and grace are where we find both. All of us are dirty and all of us can be made clean. This is basic Christianity and the great equalizer of all people.

2. Jesus Wasn’t Silent on Homosexuality

Some claim Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and therefore is neutral on the topic. First, this demonstrates embarrassingly bad logic. Argument from silence. Second, it’s not true.

The question is not whether Jesus ever said anything about homosexuality. The overarching question is “What was the sexual ethic that Jesus taught?” Ask any of these innovators. For all their effort, they have remarkably never considered this question and thus, don’t have a clear answer.

Jesus was unequivocal in saying that to understand marriage and the sexual union, we must go back to the beginning of Genesis and see how God created humanity and to what end. (See Matthew 19 and Mark 10.) No way to spin that. Jesus holds up the creation story, not as a quaint Sunday school lesson, but as solidly authoritative, reminding us that God created each of us male or female, each for the other. And the sexual union that God created and ordains is for husband and wife to come together in an exclusive physical union, one flesh.

These theological revisionists don’t even really concern themselves with the early Genesis texts.

3. There Is Only One Option

Both Jesus and all of Scripture approve of no other sexual union than that between a husband and wife. This is the uncontested historical teaching of Judaism and Christianity, and it is not something we are free to adjust with the times.

In fact, when Jesus spoke of sexual ethics, he doubled down on tightening the restrictions: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He’s the opposite of elastic on sexuality.

4. Male and Female Are God’s Image on Earth

This point is the real guts of the matter.

The first chapter of Scripture tells us that humanity is uniquely created male and female to show forth the image of God in the world—to make visible the divine invisible. God does this not just in some generic, androgynous humanity, but through two very similar but distinct types of humans: male and female. They are divine and human universals, not cultural constructs.

When husband and wife—as sex-distinct beings—come together, they become something much larger and mysterious. It’s clearly stated in the Bible here. No other human relationship does this, as loving and sincere as they might be.

5. Sex Is Indeed about Babies

The belief that human sexuality is all about intimacy and pleasure but not necessarily babies is terribly novel and culturally peculiar. Babies and reproduction matter. And sure, while not every male-female sexual union is toward the end of procreation, it has been the overwhelming norm and desire in nearly all marital relationships throughout time.

That some couples are infertile either by age or incapability does not diminish or challenge this reality. Infertility is the vast exception for male-female couples and is deeply mourned by them for a reason. By contrast, all same-sex unions are a human cul-de-sac. This is true from both a Christian and evolutionary worldview. Only the heterosexual union can reach into the future and create the next generation.

6. Children Have a Right to a Mother and Father

Every person ever born can track his origin and most intimate make-up to a particular mother and father. There are no exceptions. This was the first command God gave to the first two humans: to come together and bring forth the coming generations of new divine image-bearers.

Nearly all cultures in all places in the world at all historical times hold as fundamental that every child should, as much as possible, be loved and raised by the mother and father whose DNA they share. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes a mother and father as a basic right of every child.

7. Same-Sex Attraction Is Not a Sin

To be human is to have a disordered sexuality. You do. I do. Everyone does. We all have some manner of sexual drive that compels us to disobey God’s design for sexuality. But while temptation is universal, it’s different from sin. Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). Sexual sin is giving in to the desires contrary to God’s design in either mind or body. Faithful Christian discipleship cannot avoid temptation. But it must avoid acting on that temptation.

Many people are indeed same-sex attracted, but live obediently within a Christian sexual ethic. It can be difficult, as it is for heterosexuals who are required to live in celibacy. Christianity requires that we each subjugate our sexual (and many other) desires to our faith commitment, and countless same-sex attracted believers do so willingly and joyfully. They should be held up as faithful examples and hopeful encouragers to all who experience same-sex attraction.

8. Sexual Intimacy Is Not a Right

Every Christian has limitations placed on his sexuality. For married Christians, it is exclusive to one’s spouse. For single, engaged, and divorced Christians, it is abstinence, no exceptions. Is it unfair for so many to be forced into a life that cannot know the wonder and beauty of physical intimacy just because marriage is not an option for them? Is it fair for a Christian to be stuck in a loveless marriage? Christians have long understood that our sense of fairness is not really the question. Sex is not a right, but a gift—and the giver knows what is best for us.

9. Rewriting God’s Rules Is Never an Option

One of the marks of a Christian is his or her desire to be obedient to Christ’s teaching. Certainly most of us might wish to rewrite the Scriptures in a few places to make life easier. Christianity is indeed a demanding call. But the Scriptures define and change us, not the other way around.

10. People Are More than Their Sexuality

To identify people principally by their sexuality is to reduce people to their sexuality. We should all reject this with great force. A person’s inherent and undeniable value is rooted in his membership in humanity, not his particularity, sexual or otherwise. Full stop.

To advocate for extending rights to someone based on particular and sometimes mutable desires, relationships and behaviors—as important as they might be to the individual—is actually a violation of the principle of universal human rights. It judges them differently because they are different, not because of their common humanity.

Anyone who works so hard to bend and dismiss the clear teaching of Scripture to fit his or her own interests and prejudices is disrespecting God and placing themselves on his throne. This goes for everyone who does such things. It must be called out for what it is with great intensity and clarity, for many critical things are at stake: The integrity of God’s word. The truths Jesus taught us. The well-being and eternal destiny of those doing the twisting. And the evil deception of those being led astray.

This is very serious business and cannot be treated lightly.

Source: Visit Website

Civil Religion–The Chief Rival of Biblical Christianity in America?

Does confusing Christ’s kingdom with civil religion open the door to exchange the truth of Christianity for what amounts to a false religion, “one in which faith in the national interest eclipses the primary allegiance a Christian owes to Jesus Christ and his word.” According to Pastor Kim Riddlebarger, who is co-host of the White Horse Inn:

One of the most subtle and dangerous temptations Christians face during their pilgrim journey is the allure of civil religion.  James Davison Hunter defines civil religion as a “diffuse amalgamation of religious values that is synthesized with the civic creeds of the nation; in which the life and mission of the church is conflated with the life and mission of the country.  American values are in substance, biblical, prophetic values; American identity is, thus, a vaguely Christian identity.” (1)  Civil religion often functions as an alternative public religious framework for many professing Christians, especially those who accept the “Christian America” myth, or who find exclusive Christian truth claims too controversial to play any significant role in the public square.

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Source: Civil Religion–The Chief Rival of Biblical Christianity in America?

CultureWatch: Theological Liberalism and “Progressive Christianity”

At the turn of last century battles raged between theological conservatives and theological liberals, especially in Britain and America. The historical background to all this goes back another century to Europe – more on that in a moment. The issues however are still very much relevant to battles over the faith in the contemporary western world.

Today Christians who have a low view of Scripture and who reject many of the crucial doctrines of biblical Christianity like to refer to themselves as “progressives”. They somehow think they are making an improvement on things by rejecting much of the central content of New Testament Christianity.

Of course they are in fact regressive, and are engaged in some of the very things that Jesus and the disciples warned against. But I have written about this more recent form of theological liberalism elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/23/progressive-christianity/

liberalismHere I just want to repeat some of the vital warnings that Christian champions of the past had made concerning the inroads of theological liberalism into the churches and seminaries of that time. Whenever apostasy and heresy breaks out, God raises up his soldiers to defend the faith and challenge the harmful revisionists.

So if we want to combat the more recent attacks on the faith by progressive Christianity, simply reading about what the defenders of biblical orthodoxy said about their theological predecessors is of use here. But first let me offer a brief explanation of what I mean by theological liberalism.

Springing from movements such as the German Enlightenment, human reason became the source of all truth as opposed to biblical revelation. Mankind, aided and abetted by science and rationality, became the final authority of all things – not Scripture. Enlightenment naturalism replaced biblical supernaturalism.

Thus the Bible was criticised as being outdated and errant, and core doctrinal truths were downplayed or denied. And the miraculous – including the resurrection of Jesus – was strongly attacked. In his important 1958 volume, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, J. I. Packer lists five “characteristic tenets of liberal faith in America.” Here is a slightly abridged version of his five traits:

1. God’s character is one of pure benevolence, that is, without standards. All men are His children, and sin separates no one from His love. The Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man are alike universal.
2. There is a divine spark in every man. All men, therefore, are good at heart, and need nothing more than encouragement to allow their natural goodness to express itself.
3. Jesus Christ is man’s Saviour only in the sense that He is man’s perfect Teacher and Example. We should regard Him simply as the first Christian, our elder brother in the worldwide family of God. He was not divine in any unique sense.
4. Just as Christ differs from other men only comparatively, not absolutely, so Christianity differs from other religions not generically, but merely as the best and highest type of religion that has yet appeared. All religions are forms of the same religion, just as all men are members of the same divine family.
5. The Bible is not a divine record of revelation, but a human testament of religion; and Christian doctrine is not the God-given word which must create and control Christian experience.

Today’s progressive Christianity basically runs with the same destructive, watered-down agenda. Packer goes on to say this about it all:

Liberalism was an attempt to square Christianity with these anti-supernatural axioms. The result was tersely summed up by Machen: “The liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is, in essentials, only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came on the scene. . . the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend.” Liberalism swept away entirely the gospel of the supernatural redemption of sinners by God’s sovereign grace. It reduced grace to nature, divine revelation to human reflection, faith in Christ to following His example, and receiving new life to turning over a new leaf; it turned supernatural Christianity into one more form of natural religion, a thin mixture of morals and mysticism. As Hebert rightly says: ‘Religion was being substituted for God.’ It was in protest against this radical refashioning of the historic faith that ‘Fundamentalism’ arose.

Appealing to Machen was very helpful indeed. He was one of the main defenders of biblical Christianity at the time, and his writings still repay careful reading today. His classic work on this – the one Packer just quoted from – is of course his brilliant 1923 volume, Christianity and Liberalism.

Let me offer a few more select quotes from it, also just from his introductory chapter:

“In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called ‘modernism’ or ‘liberalism’.”

“But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears, the root of the movement is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism, that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God.”

“[W]hat the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion which is so entirely different from Christianity as to be long in a distinct category.”

“[D]espite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism is not only a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions.”

“[L]iberalism in the modern Church represents a return to an un-Christian and sub-Christian form of the religious life.”

Machen was not alone here. Many others were challenging the destructive theological trends of the day. For example, in the 1930s H. Richard Niebuhr was lamenting the emptiness of liberal Protestant theology. He nicely summed it up as something in which “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Yep, that about captures its essence. Another champion of Christian doctrine was the fiction writer and English layperson, Dorothy Sayers. She delivered a short address in 1940 called “Creed or Chaos” which has since been printed in various forms.

A few quotes from this piece are well worth offering here:

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine – dull dogma as people call it. The fact is quite the opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man – and the dogma is the drama. Christ, in His divine innocence, said to the Woman of Samaria, ‘Ye worship ye know not what’ – being apparently under the impression that it might be desirable, on the whole, to know what one was worshiping. He thus showed Himself sadly out of touch with the twentieth-century mind, for the cry today is: ‘Away with the tedious complexities of dogma – let us have the simple spirit of worship; just worship, no matter of what!’ The only drawback to this demand for a generalized and undirected worship is the practical difficulty of arousing any sort of enthusiasm for the worship of nothing in particular.

 

The thing I am here to say to you is this: that it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.

Many other defenders of the faith during this period could be cited here. But let me conclude with a humorous take on all this. It may have come from a television comedy, but what it says hits very close to the sad reality. I refer to a 1986 episode of Yes Prime Minister entitled “The Bishops Gambit” which dealt with the state of play of much of the Church of England at the time:

James Hacker: Humphrey, what’s a Modernist in the Church of England?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Ah, well, the word “Modernist” is code for non-believer.
James Hacker: You mean an atheist?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No, Prime Minister. An atheist clergyman couldn’t continue to draw his stipend. So, when they stop believing in God, they call themselves “Modernists”.
James Hacker: How could the Church of England suggest an atheist as Bishop of Bury St Edmunds?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, very easily. The Church of England is primarily a social organization, not a religious one.
James Hacker: Is it?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh yes. It’s part of the rich social fabric of this country. So bishops need to be the sorts of chaps who speak properly and know which knife and fork to use. The sort of people one can look up to.

You can see it here starting at the 9-minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3NGFFDQq0U
See also the 6-7 minute mark for more on theological liberalism as presented by Yes Prime Minister.

[1690 words]

The post Theological Liberalism and “Progressive Christianity” appeared first on CultureWatch.

Group of Religious Leaders, False Teachers Surround and Lay Hands on President Trump

According to Christian News:

Rodney Howard-Browne Facebook photo

A group of religious leaders, including several known for their false teachings, appeared in the oval office on Monday, where they surrounded President Trump and laid hands on him.

Rodney Howard-Browne, known for the “Holy Laughter Movement” and his claim of being a “Holy Ghost bartender,” said that he had been asked by prosperity preacher Paula White, who reportedly serves as a spiritual advisor to the president, to pray over Trump.

“Yesterday I was asked by Pastor Paula White-Cain to pray over our 45th president,” he wrote on Tuesday in sharing several photos of the occasion to Instagram. “[W]hat a humbling moment standing in the Oval Office, laying hands and praying for our president—supernatural wisdom, guidance and protection. Who could ever even imagine. Wow. We are going to see another great spiritual awakening.”

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Source: Group of Religious Leaders, False Teachers Surround and Lay Hands on President Trump

Sacred Canopy

The ripping away of the “sacred canopy” is what has happened to Western culture during my lifetime. “Canopy” is an image used by the sociologist Peter Berger to describe a culture’s “state of predictable order,” an order assumed by all, that makes human culture work. Thus we all get along. [Berger, Peter L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Garden City: Doubleday, 1967]. This “ordered structure” is what we have called for a long time Western Civilization or Christendom. Today civilized life is coming apart at the seams.

Some weeks ago I was in South Korea lecturing alongside a very impressive German sociologist, Gabriele Kuby. Mrs. Kuby was a radical Sixties feminist who miraculously converted to Christianity and began to analyze the true nature of the decaying culture her former radicalism had helped create. She has written an important book, The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom (Life Site, 2015). Her thesis is that the recent search for sexual freedom is destroying human freedom. It started with student rebellions in the Sixties and has become the revolutionary cultural agenda of the world’s power elites, like the UN, the European Union and the progressive nations of the West. This attempt to create a new human being through sexual liberation demands a dissolution of any system of norms or morals that opposes it. In so doing, it destroys the very conditions that brought forth European high culture [p.8]. The enemy is no longer class warfare or unjust social structures but the outmoded moral assumptions that impede individual choice [p.9]. Says self-described lesbian feminist Camille Paglia: “What you’re seeing is how, by the elimination of sexual distinctions, a civilization, commits suicide.”[1]

We are seeing sexual freedom run amok, and this has become the new pagan Oneist canopy that eliminates God and moral standards. It will certainly not be the Christian canopy if Bernie Sanders, a recent and serious presidential candidate, whose wife is being investigated for fraud by the FBI [!], has anything to do with it. Dismissing evangelical Christian Russell Vought’s faith as unacceptable for a nominee for a White House post, Sanders stated: “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.” His vote implicitly eliminated millions of Bible-believing Christians from public office.

A pseudo-morality based on total sexual freedom animates contemporary culture, as can be seen in the following:

  • Gay pride parades, now common throughout the West, that include naked men engaged in public sex;
  • LogoTV, a “queer” television network that offers morning to night coverage of homosexual sex, drag queen extravaganzas and the promotion of exotic transgenderism.
  • Very modern parents who deliberately expose their children to all sexual expressions. At age 8, Audrey Cisneros was taken by her parents to her first drag show. At 9, she now considers herself an expert and believes: “A drag show is a very, very fun and special event where people can express themselves for who they really are.” [Fresno Bee, June 24, 2017]. This child epitomizes what the rising generation is now being brainwashed to believe.

Pagan sex is facilitated by pagan spirituality. Yoga, which is ultimately the worship of the god within, is taking over the world as a hundred countries recently celebrated yoga day. More obviously pagan, witchcraft is growing in popularity, holding its paganiconconference in the Midwest and claiming that area as “paganistan.” The classy women’s magazine, Vogue, encourages women frustrated by today’s political climate to “awaken your inner witch” by reciting incantations to “call back” their feminist power.

The erection of this new Oneist canopy is facilitated by global technology. The smiling face of CEO Mark Zuckerberg reassures us that Facebook’s algorithm for its 2 billion users can offer a “sense of purpose” and “community” in the face of “declining membership in churches and other groups.” He chillingly adds that this will “strengthen our overall social fabric and bring the world closer together.” Oh for a closer walk with Zuckerberg!

The sacred canopy used to be Twoism, under which the Gospel was freely preached all over the globe. Today Christians in the West must renew their intention to preach Gospel truth fearlessly under the dulling canopy of Oneism, with no help and indeed with much hindrance from the culture, but doing so with the confidence of Paul who, going to Oneist Rome, said: I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation [Romans 1:16] And we all know what happened to Rome!

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[1] Bari Weiss, “Camille Paglia: A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues,” The New York Times (Dec. 28, 2013). “The military is out of fashion, Americans undervalue manual labor, schools neuter male students, [and] opinion makers deny the biological differences between men and women.”

The post Sacred Canopy appeared first on TruthXchange.

Barna Update | The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2017

It may come as no surprise that the influence of Christianity in the United States is waning. To measure the changing religious landscape of America, Barna has developed a “post-Christian” metric which gives an accurate picture of belief and unbelief in our cities. Where does yours rank?

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8 Action Points When Facing Terminal Illness

Our life in this fallen world will be filled with many expected and unexpected forms of suffering. The curse in the Garden announced this, Jesus confirmed it in His teaching, and the experience of the New Testament church testifies of it. Therefore, as long as we live–awaiting the glorious return of the Savior, there will be need for biblically wise and compassionate counsel.

HELP! I’m Living with Terminal Illness is a resource from the pastoral heart of Reggie Weems. For those suffering with a terminal diagnosis and for their family and friends, this mini-book conveys practical advice, spiritual consolation, and, most importantly, an eternal hope which the dying process cannot diminish and death cannot extinguish.

In the first chapter, Weems provides several lists of action points. The following 8 action points fall under the heading “Planning Care,” and were derived from conversations with health-care and mental-health professionals as well as friends enduring the dying process.

  1. Death is an extremely emotive issue. The people around you may not know how to begin talking with you about it. Take the initiative to openly and candidly speak about end-of life concerns. It is also important to gain your family’s agreement on essential issues. Conduct private conversations if disagreement exists. You will not want to spend this important time in estrangement from those closest to you. Take the necessary time to encourage everyone to respect your decisions.
  2. Do your best to be open and clear about your wishes regarding medical care, financial concerns, your will, your funeral, and life after your death. Explain what caused you to make certain decisions. How do your decisions give meaning to your life and death?
  3. Share your end-of-life concerns. Do you desire independence? What will happen if or when you cannot remain independent? If this happens, with whom or how will you live? Would you prefer to die at home?
  4. Is there a hospice care facility in your vicinity? [For a very helpful discussion of the benefits of hospice, see Deborah Howard, Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer.] If so, I would encourage you to use their services. As a former board member of a local hospice and the husband of a former hospice nurse I know that hospice personnel combine professionalism and compassion in a unique way as they care for patients and families.
  5. If you currently have no ongoing Christian influence in your life, I recommend that you contact an evangelical minister of the gospel. He will certainly be willing to visit with you and your family to offer biblical counsel. Ask someone you love to call a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church in your area to inquire for a pastoral visit.
  6. Do you have a living will or advanced directives that detail your medical preferences? Both will speak to the specifics of your medical care if you are unable to speak for yourself.
  7. Consider creating a durable power of attorney. It allows someone else to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so. A durable power of attorney can go into effect as soon as you sign it, when you deem it appropriate, or when a doctor confirms you are incapacitated. As long as you are mentally competent, you can revoke a durable power of attorney anytime you wish.
  8. Of course, every decision is subject to change. Maintain open lines of communication and keep the conversation going with your family and other significant people in your life. Your openness and frankness will encourage the same from others. Many important and meaningful discussions can be held during this time. You and everyone around you will benefit from the transparency you exhibit.

Other action point lists include “Funeral and Business Arrangements” and “Emotional and Relational Needs.” Get either or both of these mini-books from Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service.

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Source: 8 Action Points When Facing Terminal Illness

I’m a Pediatrician. How Transgender Ideology Has Infiltrated My Field and Produced Large-Scale Child Abuse

Michelle Cretella is the pediatrician.  In a piece over at The Daily Signal, Dr. Cretella, who is a board member and researcher for the American College of Pediatricians, reveals what pediatricians who don’t go with the flow are up against. For one thing, “The transgender movement has gained legs in the medical community and in our culture by offering a deeply flawed narrative. The scientific research and facts tell a different story.”

Read it and weep.

Transgender politics have taken Americans by surprise, and caught some lawmakers off guard.

Just a few short years ago, not many could have imagined a high-profile showdown over transgender men and women’s access to single-sex bathrooms in North Carolina.

But transgender ideology is not just infecting our laws. It is intruding into the lives of the most innocent among us—children—and with the apparent growing support of the professional medical community.

As explained in my 2016 peer reviewed article, “Gender Dysphoria in Children and Suppression of Debate,” professionals who dare to question the unscientific party line of supporting gender transition therapy will find themselves maligned and out of a job.

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America’s Rejection of Almighty God and Our Founding Fathers

If this 4th of July George WashingtonJohn Adams and Benjamin Rush and the rest of our Founding Fathers were to come back from the grave and testified against Americafor her national departure from our founding, the majority of American’s would NOT hear them and would fully reject them. I truly believe Americans would be fully enraged  by their words of condemnation and rebuke and seek to destroy and slander them 24/7 on all the media news outlets and then have them stoned. We as a nation are too far gone morally to restore this nation and the majority of Americans do not have an ear to hear the moral and social conservatism which our founders stood for and believed. This is the sobering reality of our hour and one must ask himself, “Am I strong enough to look into the eyes of this horrific beast of reality and by faith put ALL my trust in Almighty God and in His Word, promises and ETERNAL saving solution (Mark 11:22, Heb. 11:6).”

We as a nation are too far gone morally to restore this nation and the majority of Americans do not have an ear to hear the moral and social conservatism which our founders stood for and believed.
Many TRUE conservatives are scared and truly frightened to death about what lies ahead for our once great nation. They are trapped in a subjective world view without any ETERNAL or Heavenly objective perspective, which is based on Almighty God and His infallible Word. My dear friend, fear not about what is at hand for our doomed nation and the current over whelming crises of this temporal fallen world, for all these things MUST come to pass as the Lord Jesus said (Matt. 24).
Put NOT your trust in any man or woman in these final hours.
Put NOT your trust in any man or woman in these days, even in the conservative talk radio voices of the right for they are oblivious to the ETERNAL realities and only present a subjective world view for their listeners (Psalm 118:8, 146:3-5, Jer. 17:5, 1 John 2:17). May we always be doing our part for our nation, but never trusting in it in such days. May our focus and strength come ONLY from Almighty God and from His precious promises which are for us in His Holy Word (Rom. 8:28-39, 2 Cor. 1:20). From Heaven’s ETERNAL perspective the future is always bright.
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand my beloved! May your trust be in the Lord of hostsand this reality be seen ever clearer as we head forth to that very hour?

CultureWatch: Recommended Reading on the New Age Movement

Let me begin with a confession: I was involved in the New Age Movement (NAM) back in my wild youth. And that was before it was even referred to as the NAM. My involvement was in the late 60s, early 70s, while the term itself came around a decade or more later. You can read about my involvement here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/06/27/coming-home-my-testimony-part-1/

My conversion in 1971 put an end to my infatuation with NAM beliefs and practices. But sadly the movement really started to take off then in the West, and it continues unabated today. Given the many very real dangers associated with the NAM (not least of which its heavy roots in Eastern religions and the occult), Christians need to be very wary indeed.

Biblical discernment is required, even with some aspects which may be more or less spiritually neutral in themselves (various physical therapies and breathing exercises, etc). Indeed, we need to be wise and well-informed about the various recovery techniques, or psycho-technologies.

new age 2For example, how should Christians think about such things as creative visualization, tarot cards, alternative medicines, yoga, numerology, colour therapy, reflexology, astrology, the martial arts, Reiki, macrobiotics, the use of crystals, acupuncture, pyramids and aroma therapies, and so on?

As mentioned, some of these therapies can have some scientific validity, and some of these things in themselves can be used in a neutral fashion with no spiritual overtones. But far too often they are accompanied by spiritual and occultic baggage. Thus great care and discernment is needed here. These are matters we dare not take lightly or cavalierly.

I will need to pen more articles on the NAM to look more closely at the Eastern and occult influences, practices and beliefs. Suffice it to say that the Bible offers us plenty of warnings about the occult, sorcery, spiritism, magic, divination and so on.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12 would be just one of the many passages that need to be considered. And the point to remember here is that the Bible does not ban such things because they do not work. It bans them because they do work – satanic counterfeits abound, and we dare not allow demonic influences into our lives, or the lives of our churches.

It will be noted that most of the books offered here were penned in the 80s and 90s. The NAM was certainly big back then, but it still is today. Perhaps part of the reason why Christians are not writing about it as much today is because it has become so mainstream. It is everywhere part of Western culture, and even worse, it has infiltrated our churches in many areas as well.

And sadly far too many people claiming to be Christians are up to their ears in various NAM practices, if not beliefs. They will actually become quite hostile if you try to point out to them some of the many spiritual dangers involved with these things.

Indeed, just yesterday I wrote a piece on Christians and yoga. Already plenty of battles have broken out, with some believers actually quite offended that I even dared to write about this. They are happy to defend things like yoga to the hilt, and they seem oblivious to any actual dangers involved.

And don’t get me started on how many so-called believers have gotten sucked into the poisonous worldview of folks like Oprah Winfrey. As I have often said before about her, she is one of the biggest promoters of New Age spirituality on the planet, and has deceived millions. Yet plenty of Christians just love her!

As to the books below, they are all almost of equal value. They have different emphases of course, and some cover different aspects of the NAM. Some are a bit more academic in nature while others are pitched at a more popular level.

Some involve personal testimonies of those who were once steeped in the NAM. Some do a great job of integrating all the biblical data on this. I have subsections featured below the main list for more specific areas of study. And if you were to ask me to highlight a few especially helpful authors, I could do that as well.

In the US Douglas Groothuis has penned at least four very useful books on the NAM. In Australia Clifford and Johnson have written a number of good volumes. And on the NAM influence in, if not takeover of, the churches, see especially the many valuable works by Peter Jones, some of which I mention below.

Here then is my list:

General Works
Amano, J. Yutake and Norman Geisler, The Infiltration of the New Age Movement. Tyndale House, 1989.
Ankerberg, John and Craig Branch, Thieves of Innocence. Harvest House, 1993.
Ankerberg, John and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs. Harvest House, 1996.
Ankerberg, John and John Weldon, The Facts on the New Age Movement. Harvest House, 1988.
Chandler, Russell, Understanding the New Age. Word, 1988.
Clark, David and Norman Geisler, Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism. Baker, 1990.
Clifford, Ross and Philip Johnson, Jesus and the Gods of the New Age. Lion Publishing, 2001.
Clifford, Ross and Philip Johnson, Sacred Quest. Albatross Books, 1993.
Clifford, Ross and Philip Johnson, Taboo or to Do? Darton, Longman and Todd, 2016.
Drane, John, What is the New Age Saying to the Church? Marshall Pickering, 1999.
Groothuis, Douglas, Confronting the New Age. IVP, 1988.
Groothuis, Douglas, Deceived by the Light. Harvest House, 1995.
Groothuis, Douglas, Unmasking the New Age. IVP, 1986.
Herrick, James, The Making of the New Spirituality. IVP, 2003.
Hoyt, Karen, et. Al., The New Age Rage. Revell, 1987.
Jones, Peter, Capturing the Pagan Mind. B&H Publishing, 2003.
Jones, Peter, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1992.
Jones, Peter, The Other Worldview. Kirkdale Press, 2015.
Jones, Peter, Pagans in the Pews. Regal Books, 2001.
Jones, Peter, Spirit Wars. WinePress Publishing, 1997.
Lucas, Ernest, Science and the New Age Challenge. IVP, 1996.
McRoberts, Kerry, New Age or Old Lie? Hendrickson Pub., 1989.
Martin, Walter, The New Age Cult. Bethany House, 1989.
Michaelsen, Johanna, The Beautiful Side of Evil. Paperback. Harvest House, 1982.
Miller, Elliot, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement. Baker, 1989.
Newport, John, The New Age Movement and the Biblical Worldview. Eerdmans, 1998.
Rhodes, Ron, New Age Movement. Zondervan, 1995.
Scott, Brad, Embraced by the Darkness. Crossway, 1996.
Smith, F. LaGard, What You Need to Know About the New Age Movement. Harvest House, 1993.
Strohmer, Charles, The Gospel and the New Spirituality. Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Strohmer, Charles, Wise as a Serpent, Harmless as a Dove. Word, 1994.

The New Age Jesus
Groothuis, Douglas, Jesus in an Age of Controversy. Harvest House, 1996.
Groothuis, Douglas, Revealing the New Age Jesus. IVP, 1990.
Rhodes, Ron, The Counterfeit Christ of the New Age Movement. Baker, 1990.
Zacharias, Ravi, Why Jesus? FaithWorks, 2012.

Reincarnation
Albrecht, Mark, Reincarnation: A Christian Appraisal. IVP, 1982.
Geisler, Norman and J. Yutaka Amano, The Reincarnation Sensation. Tyndale, 1986.
Morey, Robert, Reincarnation and Christianity. Bethany House, 1980.
Snyder, John, Reincarnation vs. Resurrection. Moody Press, 1984.

Near Death Experiences
Abanes, Richard, Journey into the Light. Baker, 1996.
Alnor, William, Heaven Can’t Wait. Baker, 1996.
Ankerberg, John and John Weldon, The Facts on Life after Death. Harvest House, 1992.
Green, H. Leon, If I Should Wake Before I Die. Crossway, 1997.
Habermas, Gary and J.P. Moreland, Immortality: The Other Side of Death. Thomas Neslon, 1992.

Alternative Medicine
Mathuna, Donal and Walt Larimore, Alternative Medicine. Zondervan, 2001.
Reisser, Paul, Dale Mabe and Robert Velarde, Examining Alternative Medicine. IVP, 2001.
Reisser, Paul, Teri Reisser and John Weldon, The Holistic Healers. IVP, 1983.

Oprah Winfrey and the NAM
Bruner, Kurt, Oprah’s Jesus. Destiny Image, 2010.
Lutzer, Erwin, Oprah, Miracles, and the New Earth: A Critique. Moody, 2008.
McDowell, Josh and Dave Sterrett, “O” God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality. WND Books, 2009.

Happy reading, and stay safe.

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CultureWatch: Christians and Yoga

A really lousy piece that appeared in today’s Herald Sun entitled “Yoga classes banned for ridiculous reason” deserves some attention. The reporter must have had too much spare time on his hands, and the subeditor too much empty space to fill in his paper. It begins this way:

Yoga classes are being banned in some Sydney church halls because the exercise practice may lead Christians to “worshipping false gods”. Erskineville’s Anglican Church, in Sydney’s inner west, is not allowing yoga classes in its hall after June 30 to stop “spiritual confusion”.
And other churches across the region have been told by the Anglican church’s Sydney Diocese to “review” yoga classes being conducted on any church premises. This review comes after the diocese received a report — Yoga and other such activities — from its Social Issues Committee, at its 2015 Synod, the annual policy meeting of clergy and lay people.
In the report, the committee urged that yoga be kicked out of church and school halls because it “emerges from an Eastern religious background”. The Synod, in accepting the report, noted that the First Commandment points out that “as Christ’s disciples” they must “avoid participating in the worship of false gods”.
The committee advised churches not to rent out their premises to yoga classes “on account of the spiritual confusion this may cause”. It also suggested that other activities such as tai chi, some martial arts and dragon boating should be examined because they are contrary to the gospel.
A diocese spokesman said the church was reviewing classes being conducted on church premises where there was a spiritual teaching associated with the practice, “as opposed to yoga positions done merely for the sake of exercise”.
“The review is ongoing in a number of churches. In the case of Erskineville, conversations have been entered into with class providers but no final decision has yet been taken,” the spokesman said. But two yoga teachers said they have been told by church officials that their rental agreements with an inner west church would not be renewed after July 1 if they continue yoga classes.

yoga 1This is a silly and rather nasty piece for several reasons. First of all, why should what churches allow or prohibit on their own premises be a worry to any smart alec secular newspaper reporter? So what if a church does or does not hold bingo nights? So what if a church does or does not allow square dances?

What a church decides its building can be used for should not concern in the least a secular newspaper – unless it is fomenting terrorism, urging the overthrow of the government, etc. And that is just what many Islamic mosques are allowing. Maybe these cadet reporters should go to a mosque if they are looking for a serious story.

But another problem with this piece is that there are indeed very good reasons why Christian churches should look more closely at allowing these practices in their buildings. While yoga may be seen just as a harmless form of exercise, meditation or relaxation for some, there is absolutely no question that there ARE spiritual overtones to this which all believers need to be aware of.

The discipline of yoga (from a Sanskrit word meaning yoking, joining, union) is especially found in Hinduism but also in other Eastern religions. The goal is to silence and empty the mind, to enable you to unite with the divine within. The control of one’s consciousness is to achieve moksha or liberation. Bhakti yoga (transcendental meditation) and hatha yoga (mainly physical exercises) are especially popular in the West.

But the idea that a Christian can just be involved in some spiritually neutral physical exercises while avoiding any contact with the broader spiritual and occultic realities is to skate on thin ice. As Ankerberg and Branch warn:

It is difficult, if not impossible, to separate yoga theory (Eastern metaphysics) and practice (postures, breath control, etc.) . . . The very physical postures and breathing exercises adopted in yoga are intended to metaphysically influence both mind and spirit. . . . Virtually all the authoritative texts reveal that yoga is an occult practice. Yoga is designed to awaken occult energies in the body, to lead to an occult transformation, and to secure specific occult goals. . . . Yoga involves far more than mere physical exercise; at its core it is an occult practice having occult goals.

Christians of all people need to be aware of what is really happening with yoga. As McDowell and Stewart say about TM: “Although some degree of success in relaxation can be achieved by practicing TM, the dangers far outweigh the benefits. There is a Christian alternative to TM and that consists of meditation on God’s Word, the only source of real peace.”

I can quote many other experts here, but let me finish with just two more. In the 80s and 90s Christian apologist and New Age authority Douglas Groothuis penned four very helpful volumes on the New Age Movement:
Unmasking the New Age (IVP, 1986)
Confronting the New Age (IVP, 1988)
Revealing the New Age Jesus (IVP, 1990)
Deceived by the Light (Harvest House, 1995)

These are all very informative volumes which believers should be aware of. But instead of quoting from these books, let me refer you to an interview Al Mohler conducted with Groothuis seven years ago. It is worth reading (or listening to), in its entirety, but here are some extracts from it:

Groothuis: Well a lot of Christians really want to know whether the practice of yoga can be incorporated into a faithful, biblical way of life and sadly, many Christians are answering yes to that. We have some emerging church leaders such as Doug Padgett and others saying that it is simply a physical discipline, you don’t have to incorporate the element of Hinduism and in fact it can actually bring you closer to God, the God of the Bible, the God of the universe, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and I do not believe that is the case for many reasons but the word yoga itself means to be yoked or to be in union and it comes out of this ancient non-Christian religion called Hinduism and it’s one of the essential planks of Hinduism. Hinduism is a very big tent but all forms of Hinduism advocate as a necessary spiritual discipline some type of yoga and yoga involves physical practices such as postures and breathing and chanting but the essential point, the goal of yoga is not the purification of the body or the beautification of the physique, the point of yoga is a change in consciousness, a transformation of the consciousness wherein one finds oneself at one with the ultimate reality which in Hinduism is Brahman so when people brought Hinduism to the West as is detailed in this book by Stefanie Syman, The Subtle Body and other books, they didn’t always emphasize the overtly religious aspects. In some cases they did, in some cases they did not, in fact in the case of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who brought transcendental meditation to the West, Maharishi sold this form of yoga when he was a guru as simply a way to be more peaceful, to become more intelligent and so on. But he was basing his teachings on the ancient Hindu doctrines of the Vedas the primary scriptures of Hinduism.

He explains how this is a counterfeit spirituality:

Groothuis: Yoga tells you to go within to find the absolutes. Now Scripture teaches us that we are made in the image and likeness of God however we are fallen and Jesus said that out of the heart comes all these various evils so we cannot find our true self and find salvation by looking within. Our true self is damaged through sin and the only cure, or the only rescue comes from outside of the self and I love the way Frances Schaeffer use to put it – he said we lift up the empty hand of faith so we lift them up, up unto the Lord and they’re empty. Or as J.I. Packer put it, the only thing we contribute to our salvation is our need for salvation. Now yoga says that through these postures, through the breathing, through the chanting, you can discern and unlock the universal, impersonal power which is ultimately known in Hinduism as Brahman that is the telos that is the essential purpose of yoga and Americans want better bodies and they want to feel peaceful and that’s why they’re initially interested in yoga but that is certainly not the purpose of it….
Yoga aims at the elimination of the body, it is a depersonalizing, deindividualizing, dehumanizing practice because the ultimate reality in Hinduism is not a personal moral creator but Brahman an unknowable something that you dissolve into.

Can there be some physical benefits to yoga? Yes but…

Groothuis: Well if something is truly yoga it has that spiritual basis and that spiritual direction and that spiritual essence. Now are there bodily postures that are similar or maybe even identical to some yoga postures that have some health benefits? Yes, but I always tell people when they ask me this question, any health benefit you could derive from yoga you can get from outside of yoga such as through Pilates or physical therapy or something like that. Yoga means being yoked with Brahman essentially and you don’t want to submit yourself to that alien spiritual practice so if there are limited physical benefits they can be obtained outside of the practice of yoga itself.
Mohler: I think that’s very well stated and I think the other side to that is that if you have to get into some kind of meditative state in order to assume some kind of posture you are defining as exercise you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s mere exercise.
Groothuis: Exactly and that is the point of yoga. It is the transformation of consciousness from the finite to the infinite and only God is the infinite personal creator. We are the finite personal creatures and yoga wants to blend those two into this one faceless non-personal thing and yoga is the means to achieve that.

Finally, a brief quote from one Hindu, Rajiv Malhotra, who understands the very real incompatibility of yoga and biblical Christianity:

While yoga is not a “religion” in the sense that the Abrahamic religions are, it is a well-established spiritual path. Its physical postures are only the tip of an iceberg, beneath which is a distinct metaphysics with profound depth and breadth. Its spiritual benefits are undoubtedly available to anyone regardless of religion. However, the assumptions and consequences of yoga do run counter to much of Christianity as understood today. This is why, as a Hindu yoga practitioner and scholar, I agree with the Southern Baptist Seminary President, Albert Mohler, when he speaks of the incompatibility between Christianity and yoga, arguing that “the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine” is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching. This incompatibility runs much deeper.
Yoga’s metaphysics center around the quest to attain liberation from one’s conditioning caused by past karma. Karma includes the baggage from prior lives, underscoring the importance of reincarnation. While it is fashionable for many Westerners to say they believe in karma and reincarnation, they have seldom worked out the contradictions with core Biblical doctrines….

He concludes:

Most of the 20 million American yoga practitioners encounter these issues and find them troubling. Some have responded by distorting yogic principles in order to domesticate it into a Christian framework, i.e. the oxymoron, ‘Christian Yoga.’ Others simply avoid the issues or deny the differences. Likewise, many Hindu gurus obscure differences, characterizing Jesus as a great yogi and/or as one of several incarnations of God. These views belie the principles stated in the Nicene Creed, to which members of mainstream Christian denominations must adhere. They don’t address the above underlying contradictions that might undermine their popularity with Judeo-Christian Americans. This is reductionist and unhelpful both to yoga and Christianity.

While much more can be said on this topic, I do encourage all Christians who are engaging in yoga to consider what they are doing, and if they may not be involving themselves in something they really should not be. And I for one am thankful that this Sydney church DID take a careful look at the issue, and did decide to let those who want to teach yoga do it elsewhere.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/lifestyle/health/sydney-church-bans-yoga-classes-because-of-spiritual-confusion/news-story/1f7485c47314e44af4822e6638c12aa3
http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/09/20/the-meaning-of-yoga-a-conversation-with-stephanie-syman-and-doug-groothius/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajiv-malhotra/hindu-view-of-christian-yoga_b_778501.html

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