Monday, May 15, 2017

Doing the Universalist Twist*

Truths We Believe about God, Part 2 

Wm. Paul Young's website [emphasis in original]

A Biblical & Theological Refutation of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation [“a matter of one’s own interpretation,” NASB]. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
—The Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 1:20-21
 


Introduction
William Paul Young’s method of argument in his book Lies we believe about God involves juxtaposing a proof text from the Bible where it says we are God’s children against the lie he claims to expose—i.e., not everyone is a child of God.

In short, and as we shall see, the author forces Scripture to testify against Scripture. Does the whole of the biblical testimony view all persons to be God’s “children” and therefore reconciled to Him? This is the question Young raises and attempts to prove by employing biblical quotations he distorts to say what he wants them to say. Instead of letting the Bible speak for itself, he picks and chooses verses he claims say what he wants them to say. This is called “proof-texting.” Near the end of the book he demonstrates this method in A Catena, “God’s Drama of Redemption,” where indiscriminately, he strings together thirty-four Bible passages. (LWBAG, 241-248)

The Book’s Audience 
Note the book’s title, Lies we believe about God. Though he may previously have believed “truths” he now calls “lies,” as the book’s contents indicate, Young no longer believes the lies he claims to expose. The use of the personal pronoun “we” in the title is therefore disingenuous, but designed to get readers to identify with his faith-struggle and reject what he believes are lies about God (Twenty-eight of them!). In other words, he might not be as “one” with all his readers as the use of “we” in the title implies, unless they too believe the lies.

The book’s title might have been like, “Lies you believe about God,” or “Lies I used to believe about God.” But that would have sounded too preachy and judgmental in an evangelical culture addicted to feeling good about everything and believing nothing. No author or publisher wants to alienate potential buyers and readers. Better that he, his editor and publisher adopt a strategy of first connecting with a reading audience, and then seducing them to reject truths the author calls lies, which the pronoun “we” attempts to do. Even though they might not understand the Christian faith as he does, with the title the author wants to lure readers into a “conversation” he hopes will change what they believe.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universalism

The Book’s Assertion 
Young’s Big Lie: Everyone’s a child of God.
By stating one lie that “not everyone is a child of God” (LWBAG, Chapter 24), the author thereby infers the opposite to be true—that because they’re inside with the Tri-Personal God, “everyone’s a child of God.” In a previous chapter (LWBAG, Chapter 13), the author confronts a corollary lie, “You need to get saved.” (He does not like the word saved.) Point blank Young states:

Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal reconciliation?
That is exactly what I am saying!
This is real good news!
(LWBAG, 118) 


Perverting the Gospel 
To him this gospel of universalism is “real good news”! (Contra 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.) Without exception, Young believes all people are children of God, even an atheist friend who he thinks is a child of God not because he believes in God, but because he’s a loyal family man and lives according to virtues like “Love... Life... Truth” (LWBAG, 204-205).

Oh, by the way, it’s okay to have atheist friends. Admittedly, atheists can live moral lives, and that’s good. But like many nominal Christians, not all do.

We can only wonder why Young employed a moral atheist as an example of universal reconciliation and not one of the grossly immoral atheists who deceived and murdered millions of people, villains who did not live according to “Love... Life... Truth.” Yet according to Young’s paradigm, these villains can be considered, even if they weren’t in this life, to have become or are becoming God’s friends (e.g., Marx, Stalin, Freud, Nietzsche, Shelley, etc.). But such negative examples would obviously insult the consciences of readers (they know these individuals were grossly wrong and beyond the pale of decency). A bad atheist illustration would contradict the point the author strives to make: that a good atheist is a child of God based upon the quality of life he/she lives despite not believing in God and Christ. What about atheists who in this life exhibited no standards of goodness, are they in heaven? If “everyone’s saved” as Young believes, then the answer must be, “Yes!” But such a scenario is biblically, morally and theologically repugnant, an affront to the righteousness in and by which God rules the universe. As the Psalmist declared, “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee” (Emphasis added, Psalm 5:4; see 34:16; Habakkuk 1:13, etc.).

Demons Believe in God 
True, believing in God does not make someone a “child” of God or a Christian. Even the demons believe in God and “tremble” (James 2:19). But Young thinks that for his consistent living according to high moral standards (admittedly standards Scripture endorses), the atheist is as much a child of God as any true Christian (Maybe he does exhibit behavior superior to that which some Christians manifest.) But Young advocates this in the face of what the Bible says about atheists: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1, 10:4; Compare Romans 1:18-23.). Further, Scripture teaches that per se, people’s lifestyles (i.e., “works”) do not save them and make them right with God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 2:16, etc.). All of us need grace. The flaw in Young’s convoluted theology of salvation is that he mixes hyper-grace (“everybody’s saved” no matter what) with Law-works (he’s a child of God because lives according to virtues). About such a mixture, the Apostle Paul stated, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20; See Galatians 2:16).

Wm. Paul Young's website [emphasis added]

The Book’s Argument—Against the lie,
“Not everyone is a child of God”: Chapter 24

But as we turn to evaluate this chapter in more detail, Young condescendingly anticipates moans and groans from some of us who dare to put God in a box that excludes a moral atheist from being God’s child via universal reconciliation. (I would respond in part by saying that while God does not reside in a box—He has and does work miracles—He has revealed who He is, how He works and what He asks in a Book, The Bible.) So the author anticipates the protest.

I can hear someone at the back of the room say, “well, everyone is a child of God in the sense that everyone is created by God, but...”
...and now comes the rationalization and justification for creating another box, another way to divide people into categories of value.
(LWBAG, 205) 


Twisted Scriptures—Chapter 24’s Arguments 
To prove that all people are God’s children, whether they might be atheists, happy pagans, ordinary citizens, self-righteous church-goers, murderers, profligates or whomever, whatever or wherever, Young claims to biblically expose the lie commonly and traditionally believed by evangelicals, “Not Everyone is a child of God.” He attempts to prove his truth that “everyone is a child of God” by drawing upon two Scripture passages which he twists to fit his universalistic template of salvation that all humans, past, present and future, are saved by virtue of being God’s “offspring.” Both passages need to be investigated to see whether they teach what Young implies. We begin with the Scripture cited by Young taken from the Apostle Paul’s address to the Athenian intelligentsia on Mars Hill. (LWBAG, 206)

Twisted Text #1  
‘For we also are God’s children.’ Being then the children of God... —Acts 17:28-29, NASB (LWBAG, 206) 

The Scripture involves a quotation (“For we are indeed his offspring,” KJV; “children,” NASB) borrowed by Paul from a poet/philosopher named Aratus (315-240 BC). Despite the fact that Aratus was referring to the god Zeus and not the God of Scripture, the quote does contain a germ of truth; and that is, any conscious observer of the universe can deduce there is a God who originated the cosmos. After all, creation testifies to God’s existence. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1, 2-6).

Why personality? 
Briefly, the argument for God’s existence from creation might run like this: Something cannot come from nothing. Personality cannot derive from non-personality. Ontologically persons cannot originate from impersonal power(s) like gravity (That’s Stephen Hawking’s view.). As it takes one to know one, so it takes one to make one. So a personal God must have created all persons. Thus, because of the corporate origin of their personalities, human beings are derivatively God’s “offspring” (Greek, genos). By his use of Aratus’ quote this is the point Paul the Apostle made and how he sustained his argument with the Athenian philosophers; by using a source they respected and accepted. He was arguing on their “turf.”

Yet despite that argument, and like Young’s atheist acquaintance mentioned in the chapter, many of those philosophers could not believe in a God who would one day raise people from the dead and judge the world (Acts 17:30-32; Compare John 5:24-29; Jesus said His Father gave the power to raise and judge all the dead to Him.). In short, the philosophers, who were sooner or later headed for their “box” in the ground, did not like the Apostle’s message that one day the resurrection would open it! But for a number of reasons, Young’s implication from the biblical text—that all persons are God’s children—is deceptive. The universalistic inference (because all humans are God’s offspring-children we’re all saved) he draws from Acts 17:28, is not accurate.

Zeus and Elohim 
First as has already been noted, the god of the Apostle’s Aratus-quote was Zeus, not Elohim, the Creator-God of the Bible (Genesis 1:1). About the Apostle’s quote of Aratus, John Stott insightfully commented that “glimmerings of truth, insights from general revelation, may be found in non-Christian authors.” Yet Stott warns that “Zeus is emphatically not identical with the living and true God.”[17] (See Romans 1:18-23.) So without any clarification as to the god the quote refers to, Young makes it appear that by virtue of their descent from Zeus all humans are God’s “children.” Go figure.... In Paul Young’s scheme of redemption the god Zeus is evidently interchangeable with the biblical God Elohim who created human life (“Let Us make man in Our image,” Genesis 1:26, NASB).

All humans are all God’s children originally—the genos group 
Second, the Greek word (genos) for “children” means “race... [or] the aggregate of many individuals of the same nature, kind, sort.”[18] As to origin, genos views humanity corporately, not individually. That is why the majority of Bible versions translate genos as “offspring” (KJV, NKJV, NRSV, ASV, ESV, NLT, Young’s and Darby). Only two translate genos as “children” (NASB, NCV). The context indicates the Apostle is arguing with the philosophers about humanity’s corporate genos-origin (Acts 17:24-26), not their individual destinies. (This comes a bit later in the Apostle’s sermon, Acts 17:30-31.) Larkin comments that, “Being his offspring refers only to creation, not salvation, as the subsequent call to repentance clearly shows.”[19]

When Paul later called upon the philosophers to repent (Acts 17:30-31), many (but not all) mocked the invitation. Thus, by his use of the word genos the Apostle highlights humanity’s creation by God aggregately (which some of the hearers scoffed at), not human relationships with God individually. Both semantically and contextually, the preferred understanding of the word genos is “offspring” or “kindred,” not “children.” When Paul states to the Athenians that God “hath made of one blood [‘from one man,’ NASB] all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26), does not that in context confirm genos to mean “offspring-group”?

All humans are not all God’s children organically—the huoi and tekna group 
Third, in his letters the Apostle Paul uses either “children” (Greek, tekna) or “sons” (Greek, huiois) to describe individuals who by faith have a personal relationship with God (i.e., they stand reconciled to Him). “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). While all human beings are God’s “offspring” generally, only true believers are considered His “children” (tekna) and/or “sons” (huiois) personally.[20] This may be observed in Paul’s letter to the Romans where he stated,

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (huiois) of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children (tekna) of God.
—Romans 8:14-16 


In his Gospel John also differentiated two groups of people based upon whether they received or rejected Jesus Christ. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not [They shunned “relationship” with Jesus.] But as many as received him,” he wrote, “to them gave he power to become the sons (tekna) of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:11-12). According to the Apostle John, some persons received Jesus and were reconciled to Him while others rejected Jesus and were not. No matter how one might want to slant the meaning of this verse, two groups are portrayed, not one. If this is understood as John having created a box, then so be it. It is what it is.

While all humans are God’s children originally (They possess physical life by virtue of being originally created by God.), it does not follow, based upon the New Testament’s teaching, that all are His children organically (They possess spiritual life for reason of being new creations in Christ.). “Except a man be born again [anothen, “from above”], he cannot see the kingdom of God,” Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:3). We can deduce from Jesus’ words that there are those who by being born from above “see the kingdom of God” and those who are not born from above and therefore are blind to it. The Apostle Paul seconded Jesus’ statement when he wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (1 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV). The only conclusion that can be derived from these Bible passages and others is that, there are those who are organically God’s children and those who are not.
Read Warren B. Smith's insightful article HERE


The Devil’s in the Details 
So Paul Young assumes that because all humanity shares common origin from God, all are therefore God’s children. So let’s observe whether or not the following verses fit Young’s inclusive Father-family template for humanity, that everyone is a child of God.
  • “Ye [Jewish leaders] are of your father (pater) the devil” —John 8:44 
  • “The spirit that now worketh in the children (huiois) of disobedience” —Ephesians 2:2 
  •  “[We] were by nature the children (tekna) of wrath, even as others” —Emphasis added, Ephesians 2:3 
  • “The man of sin... the son (huios) of perdition” —2 Thessalonians 2:3 

These and many other Scriptures testify that while all people are God’s “offspring,” they are not all God’s “children” (See Romans 9:6.). The devil is the father of some (See Revelation 20:10-15.). Others (like us) were once children of wrath and disobedience. (Some people remain in such a state, “even as the rest,” Ephesians 2:3.) Further, the Scripture calls the coming end-time deceiver “the man of sin... [and] the son of perdition” who like Lucifer, attempts to mimic God and usurp His authority (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Compare Isaiah 14:12-14). Jesus also tragically called Judas “the son of perdition” (John 17:12). This evidence and more contradicts any assumption that every human being remains unconditionally and universally reconciled to God.

Those Who Possess the Spirit, and Those Who Don’t 
The line of demarcation as to whether or not a person is a son or child of God involves his/her relationship with the Holy Spirit, whether or not He lives in them, whether by Him they have been placed into union with Christ, and whether as Peter stated, they have been made “partakers of the divine nature” and thereby possess an organic relationship with God (2 Peter 1:4).[21] The apostle Paul qualified this point in Romans 8 when he stated, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9b). The text plainly separates persons who do not have the Spirit of Christ from those who do. Those without the Spirit belong neither to Christ nor to the Father (1 John 2:23-24). So based upon this statement, humanity is comprised of two groups—saints and another group that might be called “ain’ts,” those who organically partake of the divine nature and those who do not. The Apostle Paul’s call for the Athenian crowd to repent demonstrates this (Acts 17:30-31). Many (one group), but not all (another group), mocked Paul for trying to put them in a box! (See Acts 17:32-34.)

Without distinction, not without exception 
Scripture affirms that without distinction (the Christian faith is not racist) God invites every human being into a relationship Christ, into membership in the body of Christ “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Emphasis added, Colossians 3:11). Yes, Christ is in all believers regardless of their ethnic or racial identities. The verse states that. But Scripture does not teach that without exception the Spirit of Christ resides in all humans and they thereby possess a salvation-relationship with God, i.e., are His children (tekna), His sons and daughters (huiois). To repeat: the Apostle Paul stated, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9b). It should be noted that though he could have (He used the word in his Mars Hill Sermon.), the Apostle did not once in his epistles use the word genos (“offspring” or “kindred”) to refer to Christian believers who by faith were God’s children (tekna) or sons and daughters (huiois).[22] 

We turn now to the second text Paul Young pairs with Acts 17:28 and ask, does it support the idea that all people are children of God and therefore personally related to Him?

Twisted Text #2
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”  —Ephesians 4:5-6, NASB (LWBAG, 206)
[Emphasis the author’s]

Paul Young twists this verse to teach that because there’s one God and Father of all who is in all (as the chapter title demands), “all” refers to every human being without exception. By virtue of the statement that the one Father is in all, “all” are (they do not “become”) God’s children. His logic might go something like this:

There is one Tri-Personal God who in oneness of Love created “all” humanity. “All” people, along with everything else, dwell inside the Love of the Trinity. Therefore, for their being inside this Love, “all” humans are God’s children. 

For both contextual and grammatical reasons, Paul Young’s use of Ephesians 4:5-6 to support the idea that “all” people are the Father’s children is problematic.

First, in Ephesians 4, the Apostle was not affirming that for reason of His immanence the Father resides “in” all people, but stated truths regarding the Body of Christ, the universal church (Ephesians 4:1-16). Note the context: “one body,” v. 4, “the body of Christ,” v. 12 and “the whole body,” v. 16). About “the body of Christ” the Apostle taught that being a unity (vv. 1-6) consisting of diversity (vv. 7-13a), the church ought to grow together into maturity in Christ (vv. 13b-16). Being in the Father and Son, and united by the Spirit, the Body of Christ is permeated by the presence of God, by the “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6b, NKJV; Compare John 17:20-23.). In this majestic statement, Paul affirms both God’s providence over (“over all”) and presence in (“through all and in you all”) the body of Christ, the church. Though God is transcendently present in the farthest recesses of the universe (“omnipresence,” Psalm 139:7), Paul was not stating this in the context. He is teaching that the “one God and Father of all” is personally and immanently with and organically in regenerate believers who comprise the church, the body of Christ.

This biblical text which Paul Young employs to support his wishful thinking that without restriction every human being resides in God and vice versa does not support his claim. Rather God is “in all” who are members of the Body of Christ, no less and no more. One God and Father through the Son and the Spirit indwells members who compose the church universal. By His indwelling presence God should govern the church. But far too often humans usurp and corrupt God’s authority in the church by imposing their systems of ecclesiastical government. (On this point, Paul Young is right.) But legitimately interpreted, there can be no comforting application from this Scripture that all people are God’s children because universally He indwells every single living human being.

Second, the basis upon which Christians become conscious of God’s presence is not that of divine immanence, but divine indwelling. The Bible states that divine indwelling (contra New Age or eastern mystical religion) is not common to everyone everywhere since the world began. Jesus told his disciples that “the world cannot receive” the Holy Spirit “because it does not behold Him or know Him.” But then He issued this qualifier to the disciples, “but you know Him because He abides with you and shall be in you” (John 14:17, NASB). Later Jesus promised the disciples that for reason of the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit would reside in them (Acts 1:6, “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”; and 2:4, “they were all filled with the Spirit”; 1 Corinthians 12:13, “we were all [Jews or Greeks, slaves or free] baptized into one body”).

In the whole wide world there are two groups of people, saints, those whom the Holy Spirit has baptized into a relationship with Christ, and those whom have not been so baptized. Those in whom the Spirit of Christ resides are God’s children (tekna) and sons (huiois), “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Those He does not indwell are not. True. By virtue of our origin by our first parents having been created by God, we are God’s “offspring” or “kindred.” But that common origin does not inherently make us God’s “sons and daughters.” To quote Romans again, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9b).

And third, admittedly this is a minor concern on my part, in the Greek manuscript behind the translation Young quotes (NASB) there is no pronoun humin, translated “you” or “us,” prefacing “all” (pas). By way of contrast, the pronoun “you” or “us” (humin) does reside in the manuscripts from which the King James Version is translated; “and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6; KJV, NKJV; “in us all,” Darby). Paul Young avoids using these pronouns because they suggest a grouping of people (“you” or “us”) separate from the rest of humanity, and this does not fit his universalistic template.

We will now turn to show how Scripture contradicts assertions Paul Young makes in the chapters of his book, Lies We Believe About God.

To be continued . . .

Endnotes 
[17] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990): 286. 
[18] Strong, James: Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996, S. G1085. 
[19] William J. Larkin, Jr., Acts: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995): 258. 
[20] Teknon gives attention to the prominence of one’s birth (“If ye were Abraham’s children [tekna], ye would do the works of Abraham,” John 8:39) while huios designates the dignity and character of the relationship (“For ye are all the children [huiois] of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” Galatians 3:26). See Vine’s discussion, W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr., An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984): 1060-1063. Obviously the general designation “offspring” (genos) describes neither one of these aspects of personal relationship. 
[21] Larry DeBruyn, “On Theosis, or Divinization: What does it mean to be ‘partakers of the divine nature’?” January 11, 2012, Guarding His Flock Ministries (http://guardinghisflock.com/2012/01/11/on-theosis-or-divination/) or on Herescope: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2011/02/on-theosis-or-divinization.html
[22] In addition to his use of “offspring” (two times) in his sermon, Paul uses the word genos six times in his letters. Not once does the word refer to someone in personal relationship with God. His preferred designations for persons who are in relationship in/with/by the Spirit to God are the words tekna and huiois.

Wikipedia public domain images of Stalin, Karl Marx, Hitler and Nietzsche illustrate the points made in this post.  

*The title given to Part 2 as it is republished on the Herescope blog, is inspired by a prior post series that is not unrelated: Doing the Templeton Twist.

Reprinted with author's permission, with a paragraph adaptation and minor modifications to the textual layout.  For the original article see http://guardinghisflock.com/2017/05/09/truths-we-believe-about-god-2-2/  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Truths We Believe About God

Part 1
The movie was released in the same time as Young's latest book

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

A Biblical & Theological Refutation of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
—The Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 2:1, KJV 

Introduction
As promoted by the best-selling religious allegory The Shack, a non-Christian worldview is playing around with the mind and soul of evangelicalism even to questioning of salvation’s meaning. With the release of the movie by the same name, The Shack’s verbal images are now being visualized. Contemporaneously, and capitalizing upon the publicity generated by the movie, yet another book by Wm. Paul Young has hit the market, Lies We Believe About God.[1] 
Note the Yin/Yang, light/dark symbolism

What Young covertly taught by allegory and metaphor in The Shack he now overtly teaches in Lies—teachings among others, regarding God, humanity, love, and salvation. Reportedly, Young admitted that, “The Shack is theology.” And then added, “But it is a theology wrapped in a story.”[2]

Now in Lies We Believe About God, the shrouded “story” plays a more minor role as Wm. Paul Young openly states his theology. Young continues to exert a compelling presence among mainstream evangelicals through his interviews, books and release of the movie, The Shack. Leaders Pat Robertson and James Robison have praised the movie.[3] Featuring the book’s author, the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) has recently aired a weekly program Restoring The Shack.[4]

Why Be a Christian? 
But despite their popularity, Young’s teachings contradict what Scripture teaches about God, humanity, love and salvation (his contention being that all people are reconciled to God, are friends with God; i.e., universalism), and this conflict needs to be addressed. His revisionist thinking about “Christian beliefs” does not derive from seeing the faith through the lens of Holy Scripture, though he might pretend it to be otherwise, but rather through a prism of his life experiences and emotions. His devastating life experiences while growing up in New Guinea as an MK (Missionary Kid) may explain his journey as to why he has come to believe what he believes. But while the negative emotions aroused by his experiences, and similarly those of others, may explain why Young feels the way he does about some of the evangelical culture’s expressions of belief, they do not excuse his departure from biblical Christianity; that is, if biblical Christianity is to remain the true way of understanding and approaching God.

The purpose of this writing is not to deal with all the issues Young raises in Lies We Believe About God. While he raises a few legitimate concerns which I might share, most of them are illegitimate. What I find irreconcilable with the authority of Scripture is the template he forces on the Christian faith and how wedded to his life experiences, he tries to fit the Bible and its teachings into the psychological and philosophical way he views the world.


For example, if, as he states, all people are universally reconciled to God (Young: Are you suggesting that everyone is saved?... That is exactly what I am saying! LWBAG, 118), then why believe Christianity? (John 14:6) Isn’t that Young’s point by using an atheist as an example of being a child of God to disprove the lie, “Not Everyone is a child of God.”? (LWBAG, Chapter 24, 203-208)[5] If early Christians had not believed in the exclusivity of the Gospel, the Christian church’s genius would have been lost and Christianity would have reduced itself to the status of a sect in the first century. If I thought universalism to be true, I would possess no compulsion to believe Christianity or encourage others to place their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. If in the Trinity I along with every other soul on this planet already have an eternal and loving relationship with God, then no matter what I believe or how I behave I am going to be God’s friend and go to heaven anyway, right? It may take time to work out the friendship between God and me, but we’ll get there.

“Unshackled: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality”[6]
Previously to this writing and eight years ago, I expressed my concerns regarding the theology of Paul Young as expressed via story, allegory and metaphor in The Shack. My reservations were written in my book, Unshackled: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality (2009). Interested readers can also consult my article about the “god” of The Shack posted years ago on the website Herescope titled, Elousia and the Black Madonna: Imagination, Images and Impurity in “The Shack.”[7] The purpose of this writing is not to replay previous writings contained in Unshackled, but rather to biblically and theologically interact with and refute Paul Young’s teachings in his book, Lies We Believe About God; namely, that by virtue of descent from the Trinity via creation, every human being is through Jesus connected to God in a personal, organic, dynamic and eternal relationship (Genesis 1:26-30; 2:7).[8]

Thus we turn to look at the view of salvation Young promotes in his book (really, all his books) Lies We Believe About God. To begin with, I would like to share the paradigm Paul Young employs to measure Christianity, how he determines what are the truths and what are the lies regarding the faith. Understanding this template will help readers to see, I hope, why Young embraces some beliefs and why he discards others. And I might add, around this worldview much of the popular pan-evangelical movement appears to be coalescing.

The Author’s Spiritual Template
As I have reflected upon two of his books, The Shack and Lies We Believe About God, a spiritual template emerges—call it a paradigm, straight jacket or grid—by which Young measures his spiritual truth derived from the aggregate of his life experiences—as well as those of others (good and bad)—his psychological preferences, his philosophical perspectives, his twisting of Bible passages, his theological musings and his beliefs about God. In order to be included as part of the “relationship” between God and man as his template fashions it, his religious experiences and beliefs must fit in accord with his misgivings about the Christianity he experienced while being part of the North American fundamentalist-evangelical subculture (being an MK, Bible college student, etc.).


The Themes of His Template 
The core of his template is this: Young believes that universally all humans have a relationship with God and are redeemed and reconciled to Him. Everything in life—all cultural experiences, Scripture and theology—must, conditioned by his and other’s experiences and accompanied by his explanations, be molded to fit his belief system. If life events, evangelical expressions of faith or Scriptural teachings don’t fit his system of “truth,” they are considered “lies” (few, a very few, deservedly so). Thus the question arises, because he writes from a claimed Christian perspective, what are the psychological, philosophical, biblical and theological underpinnings which form the universalistic template by which he determines his truth that everybody’s saved because they’re in a relationship, either enjoying or not enjoying it, with God? To explain why he believes what he believes, we will try to unpack these assumptions.

(Movie endorsements for The Shack. Source)

Three Themes 
Indicating where he’s coming from, there appears to be three general themes which form his paradigm: first, by virtue of creation, the universe and the Tri-Personal God (Father, Son and Spirit.) co-exist in oneness; second, in this oneness the Trinity infuses the universe with the Love (spelled with an uppercase “L”) they interpersonally experienced before the foundation of the world (John 17:23, 24, 28); and third, every human by virtue of having been created by and being immanently inside the Trinity has, does and will participate in this divine “Love” Young calls “Relationship.”

First Theme: The Universe and Universalism 
To Young God is the Tri-Personal being who infuses and permeates the whole of creation which he spells a couple of times with an upper case “C” (Creation) in Lies We Believe About God and approximately twenty times (Creation) in The Shack. In doing so, he suggests nature is possessed of divineness. Presumably, the universe exists because in a symphony of unity the Trinity created it (Father, Son and Spirit, Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1-4). But this created universe, and here’s the catch, exists “inside” the Trinity.

In the Foreword to Young’s book Lies We Believe About God, C. Baxter Kruger, a Trinitarian theologian, explains the relationship of the Three-Person Oneness of God to creation like this: “Inside of this moving divine dance of relationship, everything was created: every human being, every plant, every subatomic particle, everything.” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 127-128). So in this view creation is not separate from, but is contained in the Tri-Personal God. The universe is inside, not outside the Trinity. The Trinity is the container, the universe becomes the contents, and God infuses Love into the contents so that no separation exists between container and contents.

Remember: Both Young and Kruger tell readers there’s no separation between the Trinity and humanity, no us and them. (LWBAG, 232, 11) Question: How do compatriots Kruger and Young know everything’s inside the Trinity? Do they arrive at this conclusion through philosophical speculation, their Sophia? Is that the basis? (In The Shack wisdom or Sophia is not Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30), but “a personification of Papa’s wisdom,” 171).


Note: Kruger, as presumably Young, views the whole creation as dwelling within the Trinity (i.e., as Young would say, “No separation!”). By implication, it can be postulated that the converse of this creation-relation-equation can also be believed; that the Trinity indwells a dancing creation the Tri-Personal God shares with “every human being, every plant, every subatomic particle, everything.” If it is assumed that creation is symbiotically inside the Trinity and the Trinity inside the creation, then as represented by Jesus the prototypical human—“every single human being is in Christ... and Christ is in them.” (LWBAG, 119)

This quantum-like physics worldview (where like gravity the Trinity’s energy or Force of Love infuses and permeates the entire cosmos) is monism or oneness, i.e., all is one and one is all. This eastern-like mystical and New Age worldview implies that the universe and the Triune God exist together in a harmonious and rhapsodic movement (No separation!) of dance, in a sort of hypostatic union comparable to the way in which the divine and human fused and danced together in the Word incarnate, Jesus Christ. In such a symbiotic relationship (Creator and Creation “need” each other.) the creation feeds from the Trinity and the Trinity feeds from the creation (Yin/Yang or As Above, So Below).

So Paul Young chooses to name God “Papa” and Elousia (i.e., a combination of the Genesis and Hebrew name for God the Creator, “El,” Elohim, and the Greek verb “ousia” meaning “being” which he borrows from the Greek philosopher Plato). Elousia in The Shack describes herself as “the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being.” (The Shack, 111) The source of the phrase “ground of all being” derives from the radical theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965).[9] One theologian evaluates that,

God as the Ground of Being is thus the God in whom Tillich would have us place our trust. But this God belongs to the circle [“We are a circle of relationship,” Papa tells Mack about the Trinity in The Shack, 122] of pantheistic theory. Ultimately, Tillich’s God absorbs everything into Himself [ed., like Young and Kruger’s model of the universe—everything is “inside” the Trinity].[10]

Tillich’s dialectical theology “has been variously designated as a system of Gnosticism, naturalism, pantheism, and atheism; and all these designations are, more or less, accurate.”[11]


In addition to Tillich, Young and Kruger borrow from and are popularizing the theology of Jürgen Moltmann (1926- ), in many ways the “father” of the emerging church, who used “the classical term perichoresis to speak of the mutual relations among the divine persons in God.”[12] This perichoresis relationship (Greek peri = “around” combined with choresis = “choreographed”), also called “social” Trinitarianism, co-inherence, “the dance,” Moltmann extends “to all relations, including mutual interpenetration among beings in the world and their mutual interpenetration with God.”[13]


In cosmic co-inherence, not unlike quantum theory, the Tri-Personal God and all that comprises the universe symbiotically dance together, mutually moving with, among, between and in each other in an ethereally loving and dancing relationship. As the title of Cooper’s book indicates, Young and his friend Kruger are peddling and popularizing panentheism within the greater evangelical, charismatic and emergent church communities—that God is in everything (contrast pantheism, everything is God).


So in reality Moltmann’s panentheistic theology, and by implication Young and Kruger’s, reduces the faith to pagan nature worship, and millions of Christian readers are ignorantly genuflecting before The Shack, both the book and the movie. By use of his template, Young transports readers to worship in his temple.

 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
—Romans 1:21-23 

Kruger’s quotation of Moltmann indicates his connection to the German theologian. To introduce chapter 9—“The Oneness of the Spirit, Son, and Father”—of his book The Shack Revisited, he quotes:
By virtue of their eternal love they live in one another to such an extent, and dwell in one another to such an extent, that they are one.
—Jürgen Moltmann
[14] 
Thus, any understanding that God is Holy (“holy” means to separate, to be set apart, and to be sanctified) becomes quite naturalized.[15] And by the way, if the Lord God is not Holy (Revelation 4:8) then neither is He Worthy (Revelation 4:9-11).

But in a worldview like Young and Baxter’s there is no separation between Creator, creation and creature. As Cooper points out, this worldview is panentheistic (God dwells in all, and all dwells in God), though both Young and Kruger probably would not outright state this to be the case. But it might also be classified, at least according to the stated characteristics of their paradigm, to be pantheism. In stating something that sounds eerily familiar to what Young and Kruger write, Andrews defines monism-pantheism:

The essential element of Pantheism... ‘is the unity of God and nature, of the Infinite and the finite, in one single substance.’ The Infinite is not swallowed up in the finite, nor the finite in the Infinite, but both co-exist; and this co-existence is necessary and eternal [ed., by Young and Kruger’s reckoning, everything eternally exists inside the Trinity]. Thus we have the One and the many, the Absolute, the All. It will have no dualism, it will unify nature, man, and God.[16] 

This then is their sense of their universalism, the Trinity circularly moving, “dancing” and changing together in the oneness of Love, and in the process (enter process theology) why not let the whole creation, “every human being, every plant, every subatomic particle, everything” join the great quantum-cosmic dance? Then indeed, there will be “no separation” between God and humans as biblical words sin, wrath, condemnation and judgment imply, only Love manifested in “dancing,” “sharing” and “relationship”—the next word we move on to consider.
(Perichoresis illustration - Source)

Second Theme: The Universe and Relationship 
God is Love, and because the whole creation exists inside the Trinity, there is as has been stated, no separation between God and humans. The Tri-Personal Deity infinitely and eternally loves; each member equally loving the other two without personal diminishment, jealousy or competition between and among them (To state again, this is called perichoresis, co-inherence, social Trinitarianism or “the dance”). Their “dancing” relationship the Tri-Personal God desires to see reproduced between them and all humanity, and this the sovereign Tri-Personal deity has done, is doing and will continue to do ad infinitum. Because all creation exists “inside” the Trinity, creation becomes infused, like gravity, with the Love they share. “Relationship” therefore becomes actualized between God and every human being who ever lived.


Extending out of the Trinity’s union with creation, God is understood by Young to love humans unconditionally, and humans, though they might not realize it just yet, to similarly love God. (After all, they’re inside the Trinity!) Though some humans do not find themselves necessarily “fond” of God, God always remains fond of them (“Fond” is Young’s synonym for love, “We are especially fond of you,” Papa says to Mack in The Shack, 234). It may take time for some humans to become “fond” of God (i.e., develop a relationship), but sooner or later when they wake up to Love, whether in this life’s dimension or the next, they will (Talk about determinism...!).

Of course, such a scenario flies in the face of the Apostle Paul’s statement that there are those who are “haters of God” (Romans 1:30). Yes, some people can’t have a relationship with God because they hate Him!

Having looked at the aspect of relationship in Young’s worldview, we turn now to the subject of redemption and reconciliation.

(Source)

Third Theme: The Universe and Redemption-Reconciliation 
Because God has lovingly wedded all humans into oneness—they are inside the Trinity—within him, her or them (Young’s hermaphroditic [androgynous, ed.*] goddess “Papa” in The Shack) they experience union with God, an eastern-mystical-like union which transcends time, matter and space. Young states that, “every single human being is in Christ (John 1:3), and Christ is in them, and Christ is in the Father (John 14:20). When Christ—the Creator in whom [Note: not “by” whom.] the cosmos was created—died, we all died. When Christ rose, we rose (2 Corinthians 5).” (LWBAG, 119) Young then adds that “prior to the foundation of the world, we were all included;... saved in eternity... all included in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19).” (LWBAG, 119)

From birth, if not before, Young teaches that the whole of humanity, being inside the Trinity, was somehow metaphysically “present” with Jesus in the great redemptive event of history, his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven. All humans therefore have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience reconciliation and relationship with the Tri-Personal God because “all” were eternally in Christ when He redeemed-reconciled them to him/her/them “selves.” Baxter Kruger writes that to speak the name “Jesus” is to speak in “oneness,” the name of the Trinity. He explains,

Therefore, to speak the name of Jesus is to say that the Triune God, the human race, and all creation are not separated, but together in relationship. Jesus is Himself the relationship; He is [ed., by virtue of His incarnation] the union in between the Triune God and the human race. (LWBAG, 11) 

Kruger then explains that this is “why Paul and I regard the widespread notion that human beings are separated from God as a fundamental lie, one that denies Jesus’s very identity”—and presumably, denies our identity also, an identity of being from time immemorial metaphysically and transcendently one in Jesus, which oneness has now totally become immanent. (LWBAG, 11)

Note: I do not deny the truth that in positional union in/with Christ all believers have together been made alive, raised up and seated in heaven with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-7). What I do deny are the universal implications which Young prejudicially extracts from the great truth of believers-only union with/in Christ to extend it to every single human being who ever lived.
Read more concerns HERE

The Template’s Summary 
This is the spiritual template of Wm. Paul Young and C. Baxter Kruger, a grid through which Scripture must pass and then be molded to fit into their paradigm of universalism. This is the foundation upon which they base their beliefs. (Bible verses had better fit, or else!). In the last part of the book and in an attempt to prove his fantastic scheme of universal relationship-redemption-reconciliation, Young weaves together a series of Scripture passages, something he calls A Catena. He extracts and intertwines thirty-four Scripture passages in his catena, many extracted from the Apostle Paul’s letters. In this weaving-deceiving he attempts to make biblically believable the conversation he’s having with naïve readers. His catena only includes passages containing the words “all,” “every,” “world,” “cosmos,” “everything” or “everyone,” passages he personally selects to fit his template and provide cover for his aberrant theology. About this method of using the Bible we ought to recall words of the Apostle Peter. Young’s approach to Bible quotation or allusion resembles that of “untaught and unstable” teachers who distort the meaning of Scripture to their own and others’ destruction if they swallow “hook, line and sinker” what is being cast to them (2 Peter 3:16).


Young presumes that because all creation is “inside” the Trinity, because the Love of the Trinity resides in union with all creation, and because all humanity before time participated in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, all are, have been or will be redeemed-reconciled with God. For readers who might have read or be reading The Shack or Lies We Believe About God, I ask that you consider my assessment of Paul’s paradigm to see whether or not his arguments can best be understood against this backdrop. Universal Love as expressed in universal relationship-redemption-reconciliation is the template Young tries to fit God and humanity into, and no matter what, they are going to fit!

This is the New Age-New Worldview-New Spirituality destination the evangelical movement appears to be traveling towards. Though the movement’s trains, whether the New Apostolic Reformation, the Emerging Church, Neo-Calvinism, the Charismatic Movement (add Liberal Denominations, Catholicism and Primitivism into the mix) etc., seem to be traveling on different tracks, they will arrive at the same hub: pantheistic nature worship. If not Christ, religious persons will devoutly deify and worship the cosmos, and then themselves. “I was an atheist” the T-shirt saying goes, “until I found out I am God.”

About the captivating religious box Young and Kruger have constructed for people to put their trust in, no matter how earthly-wise the packaging of it, the Apostle Paul gave this warning to believers: The box is empty!

Beware lest any man spoil [captivate] you
through philosophy
[love of sophistry]
and vain deceit
[empty deceptions],
after the tradition of men
[human wisdom not God’s],
after the rudiments of the world

[the constituent particles and powers of the universe],
and not after Christ. For in Him
[Not us!]
dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

—Emphasis and bracketed comments added, Colossians 2:8-9 

We turn now to the book, its title and contents.  

To be continued . . . 

Endnotes 
[1] Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2017). Besides this book and The Shack, Young also wrote Crossroads and Eve
[2] Charity Gibson, “‘The Shack’ Cover Artist Renounces Book for Leading People Astray: ‘I Have Deep Regrets’,” The Christian Post, April 19, 2017 (http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-shack-cover-artist-praised-renouncing-book-i-have-deep-regrets-180895/). Gibson quotes Dave Aldrich who designed the cover for The Shack who quotes Young. 
[3] Al Dager, Media Spotlight (Sequim, WA; Omega Ministries Spring 2017): 27. 
[4] Trinity Broadcasting Network, March (https://www.tbn.org/programs/restoring-shack). 
[5] I will employ the acronym LWBAG (Lies We Believe About God) and page numbers when quoting the book. 
[6] Pastor Larry DeBruyn, Unshackled: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality (Indianapolis, IN: Moeller Printing Company, 2009). Book available for free PDF download at Discernment Ministries website, http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Unshackled%20by%20L.%20DeBruyn.pdf ; hard copies available from Discernment Ministries, P.O. Box 520, Canton, Texas, 75103; Phone: 903-567-6423. 
[7] Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “The Shack, ‘Elousia,’ & the Black Madonna: Imagination, Image, and Idolatry,” Herescope, July 2, 2008 (http://herescope.blogspot.com/search?q=Black+Madonna ). 
[8] Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “The Shack and Universal Reconciliation,” Herescope, October 24, 2008 (http://herescope.blogspot.com/search?q=reconciliation ). 
[9] Young adapts the phrase “ground of all being” from the term used by Paul Tillich (1886-1965) “to indicate God as the source of all reality or being.” Donald K. McKim, “Ground of Being,” Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press, 1996): 122. 
[10] Kenneth Hamilton, “Paul Tillich,” Creative Minds in Christian Theology, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969): 470. 
[11] Vernon C. Grounds, “Pacesetters for the Radical Theologians of the Sixties and Seventies,” Tensions in Contemporary Theology, Stanley N. Gundry and Alan F. Johnson, Editors (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1976): 95. 
[12] See John W. Cooper, Panentheism The Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006): 251. For further study, Kruger recommends the writings of Jürgen Moltmann. See C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited (New York, NY: FaithWorks, 2012): 267. 
[13] Cooper, Panentheism: 252. 
[14] Kruger, Shack Revisited, 106. In his chapter’s title note how Kruger subtly employs one definite article “the” to preface Spirit, Son, and Father, contrary to Jesus’ command to make disciples by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The quote subtracts from “the” Trinity in favor of “oneness.” 
[15] See Larry DeBruyn, “The Holy God,” Unshackled: 17-22. 
[16] Samuel J. Andrews, Christianity and Anti-Christianity in Their Final Conflict, Second Revised Edition (New York, NY: G.P. Putna’s Sons, 1899): 126-127.

*Herescope's editor added this word. Read Warren B. Smith's excellent article "The Shack’s Universal Papa," in which he descibes Papa as not unlike a pagan trickster god. "But in regards to Papa, it states that “in his shapeshifter form he tends to change genders and forms to delight himself."  Our friend Warren B. Smith is writing many articles posted at Lighthouse Trails, some which are referenced or linked to in this article, including his most recent: “Shack” Theology: Where Is the Devil?
TBN Pulls Plug on “Shack” Author’s New Book—Sort of . . .
“The Shack,” TBN, and the New Age

To read more discernment material about William Paul Young, and his two controversial books THE SHACK and LIES WE BELIEVE ABOUT GOD, including the recent Hollywood movie based on The Shack, see the articles referenced in Pastor Larry’s footnotes above. Also see the many articles posted on the Herescope blog over the years, such as: 
THE SHACK & Its New Age Leaven
THE SHACK, "Elousia," & the Black Madonna
THE SHACK and Universal Reconciliation
"UNSHACKLED"
Quantum Physics and the New Spirituality

Herescope and the Discernment Research Group have been on a badly needed sabbatical since December 2016. This post begins a multi-part series which will be published on Guarding His Flock Ministries website and also Herescope. 

Reprinted with author's permission with minor modifications to the textual layout for blog posting. The glossary of definitions throughout this post were added by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for the Herescope version of his article. For the original article see: http://guardinghisflock.com/2017/05/01/truths-we-believe-about-god/#more-3090

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rogue One

FECKLESS FALSE SAVIORS
OF THE STAR WARS DYSTOPIA 


A Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  

by Gaylene Goodroad

Exhibit: Rogue One official poster[1]

ANOTHER STAR WARS CHRISTMAS
Like its mega-blockbuster distant sequel, The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, was strategically released to capitalize on the Christmas box office market this year. The movie debuted globally at $270 million over the weekend, nudging Disney Studios over the $7 billion record,[2] which indicates that folks are eagerly buying this particular entertainment product. But, Rogue One, a standalone Star Wars film, tells a dark and foreboding tale of pagan salvation that is diametrically opposed to the Scriptures, as well as the hope of the Christmas narrative given to us in the Gospels.

In this Star Wars tale, the future of the galaxy lies, not in a Savior sent from the one true God, but in the hands of a renegade band of cosmic commandos who commission themselves to steal the design plans of the Imperial Death Star—plans which betray a critical vulnerability detailing how to annihilate the planet-sized battle station from within. These feckless saviors utilize every weapon in their arsenal, including murder and mayhem, in order to fulfill this herculean mission to ultimately deliver the galaxy from the malicious oppression of the Evil Empire once and for all.

This standalone installment fills in various storyline gaps and sets up the first segment of the original Star Wars Trilogy, A New Hope. Hope is a definite casualty following the massive carnage depicted in this motion picture. The fully operational Death Star—manned by ruthless Imperial dictators Grand Moff Tarkin and the notorious rogue Jedi Knight Darth Vader—nearly vaporizes at least two planets, along with their multitudes of inhabitants. A horribly magnificent surgical obliteration shown in its full cinematic and apocalyptic glory.

While the Rogue One team succeeds in stealing these critical plans and smuggling them to Princess Leia, the entire Rebel Alliance cast is tragically martyred for their valiant efforts, including the newest heroine to the cast Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), daughter to the reluctant scientist commissioned to create the Death Star from the beginning. Even the likeable, smart-tongued, re-programmed Imperial droid of Rebel officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), K-2SO, is blasted to smithereens in the last part of the film, to the sad gasps of the viewing audience. The body counts mount in this violent prequel/sequel.

Exhibit: Force-filled blind Warrior-monk Chirrut Imwe[3]
 
ENTER: EASTERN MYSTICISM VIA A GALACTIC SAMURAI-MONK
The mystical underpinnings of the Star Wars universe, the ubiquitous Force, is embodied is the blind warrior-monk, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), who at first glance appears to be instead from the cast of The Last Samurai or the 1970s television series Kung Fu (a blind Master Po). Producers of the film made no attempt to hide his Eastern roots. Lacking a faithful Force-filled Jedi in the story, Chirrut’s character serves as the essential glue that fastens Rogue One to the rest of the Star Wars franchise.

Much of the on-screen devastation takes place the Jedha moon, home to Chirrut’s religious temple. The Rogue One director explains the “force-sacred world” of Jedha:

Director Gareth Edwards revealed some intriguing new details Lucasfilm’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In particular, he talked about the planet Jedha in the story and how it is a force-sacred world. The director explained that Jedha becomes a combat zone in the story because it is a holy land that is inhabited by people who follow the force. Edwards told EW: 

The Force is basically in Star Wars like a religion, and they’re losing their faith in the period that we start the movie. We were trying to find a physical location we could go to that would speak to the themes of losing your faith and the choice between letting the Empire win, or evil win, and good prevailing. It got embodied in this place we called Jedha. It’s a place where people who believe in the Force would go on a pilgrimage. It was essentially taken over by the Empire. It’s an occupied territory… for reasons we probably can’t reveal. There’s something very important in Jedha that serves both the Jedi and the Empire. It felt very much like something we could relate to in the real world…” 

“Within Jedha, even though there’s the oppressive foot of the Empire hanging over them, there’s a resistance that won’t give up and our characters have to go and meet people there to try and secure a person from this group. In a wider level, there must be loads of people who just believe in the Jedi and believe in the Force and have been affected by it. If it’s a really ancient religion, as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, it’s got to exist in thousands or millions of people in the galaxy.”[4][bold added]

CHANNELING THE FORCE
The Force of Star Wars once again plays a prominent role in Rogue One. We have warned about the esoteric religious roots of The Force previously. The Force, and its integral connection to the martial arts and Eastern mysticism, was examined in great detail in my article series-turned-e-book, Mainstreaming the Mystic Force, which can be viewed HERE.
Download this free e-book Mainstreaming the Mystic Force HERE.


One movie reviewer expands on the warrior-monk character, Chirrut Imwe, and his intimate relationship with the Force:

There's no chance of mistaking that the Force is present in Rogue One…. A little weaker and found in fewer instances than in previous installments, the Force can luckily still be wielded by a few characters, including Chirrut Imwe. But the real question remains: Just how Force-sensitive is Chirrut in Rogue One? Next to Darth Vader, Chirrut is probably the most Force-sensitive character in Rogue One. While he is not a Jedi (the implication being the Force would be stronger within him if so), Chirrut is able to channel the Force to act as his literal compass in the world.[5][bold added, link removed]

That Chirrut is “able to channel the Force to act as his literal compass in the world” ought to alarm all Christian believers. This is nothing short of witchcraft. [See specifically Part 3 of Mainstreaming the Mystic Force, “Manipulating the Force,” pg. 36]. The Force is a demonic and impersonal rival to the very personal Holy Spirit of God, Who lives within the believer, enabling, strengthening, teaching, etc. (2 Tim. 1:14; Heb. 2:4; 1 Jn. 2:27).


CONDITIONING ‘FORCE-SENSITIVITY’ 
Also troubling is the use of overt Buddhist methods to convert audiences over to a belief in the Force. Cleverly embedded into the screenplay dialogue of Rogue One is Chirrut’s favorite ‘Force’ mantra. A mantra is a Sanskrit word in the Hindu religion. It is a word or formula that is repeatedly chanted like an incantation or prayer. (This is also going on in the evangelical church, see HERE.)

Chirrut repetitiously recites a mantra throughout the film, which automatically becomes lodged in the viewer’s brain by the end of the movie—like a familiar song from the radio that gets stuck in your head. This serves as a dangerous spiritual chant as it becomes embedded in one's brain, especially considering what it can do to children.

This “Force sensitivity” makes Chirrut an essential, albeit short-lived, character of the film:

Destined to be one of the most iconic lines from Rogue One is Chirrut's mantra, "I am one with the Force. The Force is with me," which he chants when he is trying to center or steel himself as he enters into battle. The line is also indicative how just how Force-sensitive Chirrut truly is. This Force-sensitivity makes even more sense when you learn Chirrut is a Guardian of the Whills and a "deeply spiritual... warrior monk," per the official Rogue One website. As a Guardian, he prevents the Kyber crystals (which naturally carry the power of the Force) from being misused by others; this would explain why he can sense Jyn in the crowded market, thanks to the Kyber crystal she is wearing. 

Chirrut's role as Guardian and the sensitivity to Force-infused Kyber crystals invariably means that even though he is not a Jedi, he can use the Force when need be. Two notable times, aside from when he is able to wield a bow staff and take down dozens of Storm Troopers, include when he, Baze Malbus, and Cassian Andor are imprisoned by Saw Gerrera and Chirrut senses Bodhi Rook's energy from the cell next to theirs; Chirrut also invokes his mantra and uses the Force during the battle at Scarif, guiding him to the control panel where he flips a switch that helps Jyn transmit the Death Star plans to the Rebellion. 

It's hard to misinterpret Chirrut's Force-sensitivity as anything else, and it makes him one of the most intriguing characters in Rogue One. Although he died a glorious death, there's no way he'll be forgotten any time soon.[6][emphases added, links removed] 

Exhibit: Blind Chirrut Imwe, warrior monk in Rogue One [7]


Exhibit: “Blind” Master Po (Keye Luke) in Kung Fu
"Because a man can see, he does not look." — Master Po
[8]

BLIND BUT ‘SEEING’ 
Blind Master Po, from the 1970’s television series Kung Fu, was a martial arts sensei to young “Grasshopper” Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine). Po’s teaching is memorialized in a series of flashbacks by the elder Caine as he recalls his kung fu training at a Buddhist monastery run by Po, who is able to demonstrate super-human power and ability through Eastern mysticism (via the Force).[9] A pertinent quote from Po to young Caine is, “because a man can see, he does not look.” Master Po, of course, is teaching the Eastern concept of ki (chi or qi) energy (the Force) to navigate through the various battles of life. This unbiblical philosophy emphasizes an inward mystical sensing ability as opposed to a seeing objectivity with human reason and rote skill. This manipulation of the Force is vital to progression in the martial arts. [See again Part 3 of Mainstreaming the Mystic Force.]

But harnessing and wielding the Kung Fu/Star Wars Force is antithetical to Christianity.

There are few Christians hymns more memorable than John Newton’s Amazing Grace. Note the last line of this famous spiritual song (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16):

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound 
That saved a wretch like me. 
I once was lost, but now am found, 
Was blind but now I see.[10] 
The Lord Jesus Christ used the congenital blindness of a man as an object lesson to compare physical blindness to a lost spiritual condition. Only He can open unseeing eyes and save sinners from the eternal penalty of their sin by opening their spiritual eyes to see His amazing grace of salvation. When questioned by the Jewish leaders after the Lord healed and saved him, the man replied, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! (Jn. 9:25).

The sightless warrior-monk character of Rogue One reverses God’s grace. He remains in his blindness—both physically and spiritually—banking on the ethereal Force to direct his daily path and to ultimately protect him in the martial arts combat he encounters on a regular basis. In the end, he loses his soul as a mystical rebel martyr.
Rogue One merchandising at Amazon.com

THE TRUTH: 
There is no question that Rogue One is a well-crafted story replete with state-of-the art sound and visual effects sure to charm and mystify moviegoers. Troubling for the Christian believers, however, is that the dark power of this intoxicating medium embeds heretical beliefs into unsuspecting minds and hearts.

Chirrut’s blasphemous mantra: “I am one with the Force; the Force is with me” needs to be actively swept out of the thought chamber with biblical truths, such as the following verses:  

“I can do all things through Christ
which strengtheneth me.”

(Phil. 4:13) 

“I am crucified with Christ:
nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by the faith of the Son of God,
Who loved me,
and gave Himself for me.”

(Gal. 2:20)

At Christmastime, believers ought to be reflecting upon the birth of our gracious Savior:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
(Is. 9:6)
 
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
(Matt. 1:23)

But His humble birth had a much greater purpose. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born in a common stable just as the ancient prophets foretold, but He was destined to die on a tree to pay for the sins of mankind with His own blood (1 Pet. 2:24; Eph. 1:7; Rom. 3:25). Surely, He is the greatest gift ever given by God to His creation.

The Christmas message is full of real HOPE, love, and light—not the gloom, darkness, and futile salvation-striving offered by the Star Wars marketers.

Exhibit: Christmas manger scene[11]
 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
for those living in a land of deep darkness,
a light has shined upon them.”

(Isaiah 9:2)

 “I am come a light into the world,
that whosoever believeth on Me
should not abide in darkness.”

(John 12:46)



Endnotes:
[1] See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue_One and Star Wars.com: http://www.starwars.com/films/rogue-one
 [2] Anthony D'Alessandro, Deadline Hollywood, “‘Rogue One’ Secures $155M Opening; Has Potential To Do Near-‘Titanic’ Size Business – Weekend Postmortem,” Dec. 19, 2016; see: http://deadline.com/2016/12/rogue-one-star-wars-story-preview-box-office-social-media-1201871704/
[3] Graphic taken from the Geek Tyrant website: http://geektyrant.com/news/new-photos-and-interesting-character-details-for-star-wars-rogue-one-including-darth-vader
[4] Joey Paur, “New Details Revealed for Star Wars: Rogue One and the Force-Sacred World Jedha,”Geek Tyrant website; see: http://geektyrant.com/news/new-details-revealed-for-star-wars-rogue-one-and-the-force-sacred-world-jedha?utm_source=gametyrant.com&utm_medium=related
[5] Allie Gemmill, “Is Chirrut Force-Sensitive In 'Rogue One'? His Mantra Makes The Answer Pretty Clear,” Bustle.com; see: https://www.bustle.com/articles/200678-is-chirrut-force-sensitive-in-rogue-one-his-mantra-makes-the-answer-pretty-clear
[6] Ibid. Gemmill. 
[7] Chirrut Imwe taken from http://www.starwars.com/databank/chirrut-imwe
[8] Image taken from Classic Television Shows online; see: http://classictelevisionshows.blogspot.com/2013/04/kung-fu-everybody-was-kung-fu-fighting.html. Master Po quote from Wikipedia: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Kung_Fu_(TV_series)
[9] See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kung_Fu_(TV_series)
[10] See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace
[11] Graphic taken from Worship House Media online: http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/motion-backgrounds/34504/nativity-2.