Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Emerging Spiritual Revolution

“It is also important to note the extreme nonrational anti-institutional nature of the Charismatic movement. It is, first and foremost, a movement of the heart over the mind, of personal experience over objective analysis. The very basis of the Charismatic renewal is nonrational and subjective. . . .

“As a possible revolutionary movement, then, the Charismatic renewal must be reckoned with seriously.”
[Jeremy Rifkin, The Emerging Order (G.P Putnam’s Sons, 1979), p. 228, emphasis added.]

In his blueprint for “the emerging spiritual revolution” (The Emerging Order, p. 95), Jeremy Rifkin wrote about how to manipulate the Charismatics to create a new Dominionist worldview for science, economics and spirituality. This worldview is New Age, representing a new world order created out of the humus of Hermeticism. Rifkin suggested that the Charismatics could provide the nonrational component, while the evangelicals could work on the theological logistics of a “new covenant vision and a new world view."

“Today’s Christian renewal movement is a two-pronged phenomenon. First, there are the millions upon millions of Charismatics, whose belief in supernatural gifts of faith healing, speaking in tongues and prophesy represent a monumental assault on the modern age itself. For the Charismatics, these supernatural powers are beginning to replace science, technique and reason as the critical reference points for interpreting one’s day-to-day existence. If this unconscious challenge to the modern world view continues to intensify, it would provide the kind of liberating force that could topple the prevailing ethos and provide a bridge to the next age of history.

“While the Charismatics are generating a potential liberating impulse, the more mainline evangelical movement is beginning to provide the necessary reformulation of theological doctrine that is essential for the creation of a new covenant vision and a new world view.” (p. x)

Rifkin proposed that a “new definition of dominionism” be part of this “new covenant vision.” In future posts we will detail the history of how, since Rifkin wrote about it in 1979, this “new covenant” doctrine was authored and became pervasive. Just as Rifkin planned, these doctrinal changes came out of the neoevangelical mainstream – particularly Fuller Theological Seminary, the U.S. Center for World Mission.

For a good part of his book, Rifkin was particularly consumed by the mechanics of how to create a “great religious awakening. . . one potentially powerful enough to incite a second Protestant reformation” (p. xi). He seized upon the media, particularly televangelists, and newly-developed psycho-social tools that utilized “anxiety” to change cognitive function, as a way to stage-manage these “nonrational” aspects of Charismaticism.

The original neoevangelical leaders (see April 5th post) had used revivals as a way to facilitate change, and Rifkin had taken note of this. Richard Riss, in his book Latter Rain (1987) spoke of how the mid-twentieth century neoevangelical “awakenings. . . contributed significantly to the revitalization of evangelicalism” (p. 18). Bill Bright, working under the influence of Henrietta Mears, published his Awakenings Bulletin in the 1950s, chronicling the fervors. Mass revival was a method that was both “emotional and illogical” (p. 27), but that is what the leaders wanted. J. Edwin Orr, Armin Gesswein, Billy Graham, and others studied the mechanics of the revivals. Orr taught a class on “Spiritual Awakening” at Wheaton College in 1949 (p. 37). The goal of these revivals was to create a sensation of the “presence” of the Holy Spirit. By the 1970s, a mechanism for mass indoctrination was created that critic John E. Ashbrook referred to as “Explos and Extravanganzas” (New Neutralism II, Here I Stand, 1992, p. 77). Mass spiritual events in stadiums, could work people up into an emotional frenzy. And heightened emotions were supposed to be evidence of the "presence" of God.

The rise of the global prayer movement deserves special mention in this context for its ability to accomplish so many of Rifkin’s objectives simultaneously:
  • ecumenism
  • altered states of consciousness
  • desensitization to new practices and doctrines
  • experience over reason
  • communicating new doctrines
  • mysticism
  • new worship
  • mood-altering music
  • spiritual warfare
  • Dominionism
  • creating a international Christian mindset

The emphasis was most often put on group prayer. When these corporate acts of prayer are accompanied by sensory stimulation (optical, aural, tactile, etc.) and sensory deprivation (fasting, sleep loss, physical exertion, etc.), there is a heightened ability to alter cognitive processes in the brain. In other words, organized prayer rituals serve as a vehicle to open the mind to heretical ideas. In a similar fashion, mysticism incorporated into private prayer activities (such as meditation, contemplation, etc.) serves to open the mind to the occult.

Significantly, Vonette Bright, wife of Bill Bright, is credited by C. Peter Wagner as the “key person in heightening and sustaining a significant prayer emphasis in the Lausanne Movement” and convening “the World Prayer Assembly, the largest international prayer meeting that had ever been held. . . in Seoul, Korea, in 1984” (Confronting the Powers [Regal, 1996], p. 15-16). Indeed, many of the global mission leaders also worked to jumpstart the global prayer movement, justifying it by the need to pray for "unreached people groups." It is difficult to criticize prayer for mission work, but Al Dager, writing about this in his book The World Christian Movement (Sword, 2001), noted: "If people must be motivated to pray for their neighbors by an external organization whose agenda is dominionist and, thus, unscriptural, there is something wrong." (p. 138)

Of note is the special purpose of the World Prayer Center, which has served as a hub for the various streams of the New Apostolic Reformation, particularly the convergence of the mission and prayer-warfare Dominionists. Al Dager explains:

“Of late the focus on the WCS’s dominionist agenda has spread from U.S. Center for World Missions in Pasadena, California, to The World Prayer Center, affiliate of Global Harvest Ministries, headed by C. Peter Wagner in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The World Prayer Center (WPC) is headed by C. Peter Wagner, Ted Haggard and Chuck Pierce, all of whom Charisma magazine calls ‘God’s Generals.’ It is touted as the ‘Pentagon of modern Christianity.’ ‘God’s Air Command,’ and other militaristic nomenclatures.” [emphasis added]

According to Dager, the World Prayer Center website originally explained its purpose in terms of databanking and networking -- a gigantic global prayer request databank filled with personal information, as well as strategic "intelligence" data about population groups around the globe:

“The World Prayer Center is a communications center, serving the Church throughout the world by linking prayer requests, practical needs, and reporting evangelistic breakthroughs. It will collect and compile requests from every continent as national prayer centers report what God is doing and how His people ought to pray. Dr. Peter Wagner says, ‘We see our task as getting people in touch with one another to form interactive, human web networks that are properly equipped to wage effective spiritual warfare.’

“The physical facility. . . will include the latest telecommunications system. . . .

“Never in the history of the Church has it been possible to link believers throughout the world. The coordinated prayers of God’s people will be concentrated on His objectives. . . .

“Since prayer is the precursor to every great move of God, a fully equipped nerve center with data and information about prayer needs throughout the world will enable intercessors to pray intelligently. The World Prayer Center networks prayer ministries, denominations, churches and cell groups. This creates a united prayer front that will end Satan’s attempt to divide and isolate believers, and to blind so many to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” (pp. 127-8) [all emphases added]

It can be surmised that Rick Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. Databank will either supplement or replace the current World Prayer Center.

The Global Day of Prayer is the latest worldwide attempt to network Christians for “revival,” notably in stadiums. This five-year annual event was promoted by Rick Warren as part of launching his Second Reformation. Doctrines of Dominionism are incorporated into the prayers.

A high-tech version of the dominionist prayer/mission movement, connected with the entities above, is George Otis’ Transformations video series which promises that entire cities, regions and nations can go through a revolutionary process of revival. All of this remarkably serves Rifkin’s original intents and purposes. But, as Al Dager cynically notes:

“With all the hoopla, sweat, screaming, wailing and jumping up and down that have gone on over the spiritual plight of cities these past several years there isn’t a single one that has been won to Christ. And there won’t be any. These efforts create nothing but black holes that suck up Christians’ time, energy, and money while exalting the leaders as God’s anointed apostles and prophets.” (p.134)

Notably few, if any, of these corporate prayer revivals have been accompanied by widespread repentance. The doctrine of Dominionism focuses attentions on changing the structures of society, but not on the more difficult dying-to-self work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Concerted prayer is claimed to serve as a better way for God to hear His people, but the Scripture assures us:

The Truth:

“The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:19)

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16b)