Monday, June 22, 2009


Part 3: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970

Part 1: The Emerging Church - Circa 1970
Part 2:
Early Experimental Emergents

“A church should not change just to be different. It should change because the context of the culture about it requires its organizations to restructure themselves so church tasks can be effectively fulfilled.

“If we intend to realistically proclaim the truth of Christ’s redemption to nonevengelicals, we must have a significantly different form of outreach. This, in turn, requires significantly new forms of training and study. Organizational structures not deliberately geared to prepare us and effectively carry out our witness would be revised to a more functional format.”

– Ralph Neighbour [1]

“The decade ahead is wide open for churches that see themselves as centers for recruiting, training, and equipping a breed of spiritual pioneers competent to move out into all areas of life as lay apostles who can evangelize, reconcile, and prophesy. This, in our view, is truly the apostolic succession.” [2]

A Book Review

By Sarah H. Leslie

While the Discernment Research Group was working on the previous two posts in this article series “The Emerging Church – Circa 1970” and “Early Experiential Emergents” I purchased a used copy of Bruce Larson & Ralph Osborne’s 1970 book the emerging church. I had read a brief review of it at Dan Kimball’s website and was intrigued by his statement that he “didn’t know” about it. Could it be that this generation of emergents truly aren’t aware of their roots? Kimball simply viewed the two “‘emerging’ time periods” as evidence of examples of “‘what church looks like as culture changes.’” Kimball said that this was just another indication of a “New Testament church… constantly changing and emerging due to cultural issues.” [3]

Curious, I wanted to know more: what were the similarities between the first “emerging church” era and the second? Were there significant similarities in worldviews? Would this give further credence to our hypothesis that the two emergent church events were connected historically via personnel, organizations, agendas, and philosophies?

When I read the opening paragraphs of the book I was so stunned that I dropped the book. I recognized it! I had read it before – in the mid-1970s. I hadn’t anticipated this. My mind went back into my earliest years in the faith, shortly after salvation. My husband and I had been part of the first emergent church movement!

In fact, back then I was a perfect candidate to read the book and be influenced by its message of change. At the time I was working on a master’s degree based on humanistic psychology. I had come out of a dead Protestant church background, where modern liberalism had abolished the tenets of the faith. By God’s grace I was subsequently saved in the vibrant “Jesus movement” which openly challenged the “God is dead” lifeless postmodernism.

So, reading Larson’s book the first time around, I had accepted the theme of the book without question: the dead, dry, old, stale church structures and traditions are “wrong, inadequate, or outmoded” (p. 25) and “quite irrelevant” (p. 21). I had agreed with the premise, “it is possible to find a radically different approach” (p. 25). Of course, I didn’t know anything about Faith at Work, nor its agenda.

In the ensuing decades my husband and I joined up with many church “experiments” in our zeal to return to a more authentic New Testament faith. But, by God’s grace, we didn’t leave Scripture behind. And that is what makes our story so different. We separated ourselves from our earlier entanglements with humanistic psychology and mysticism. And we spent the next few decades of our lives researching and writing, particularly in opposition to these very same historical and philosophical issues that had once ensnared us.

So, how did I respond to my second reading of Bruce Larson’s book the emerging church 32 years later? Quite differently! The only areas of agreement that I can still find with the basic premise of the book are that: 1) there are problems with spiritual deadness in churches, 2) church structure, function and format can become confining and lifeless, and 3) people are challenged to relate to each other at a deeper, more meaningful level in churches, especially in our depersonalized, mobile and alienated society. But, alas, the answer to all of this is the Word of God and the Holy Spirit working in lives and hearts – not Carl Rogersencounter groups! Not Peter Ducker’s strategies, goals and measurable results! Not utopian plans to build the kingdom of God on earth!

What I discovered on my re-read is that this 1970s book contains all of the essential elements of the Emergent/Emerging Church movement of our own era, four decades later. The parallels are so striking that it this cannot be an accident. Read the list of similarities below and see for yourself.

  • “we are beginning to sense something of God’s enjoyment in His relationship to His creation…. We pollute our atmosphere, soil, and water…. Rampant selfishness at all levels of society hastens the day when the human race will have accomplished its own extinction.” (p. 32)
  • “We believe that the Church must not only see current trends as opportunities, but also try to predict future developments so that it may set goals that are in keeping with God’s goals….” (p. 114)
  • “does not world peace wait for the time when nations find the freedom and grace to acknowledge their mistakes, confess their failures, and ask the forgiveness of world opinion?” (p. 36)
  • “the life of the congregation in the emerging Church will probably be structured around small groups of believers. That is, the interrelationship of people in dialogue is the means by which Christ may most clearly make Himself and His purposes known.” (p. 59)
  • “In the emerging Church, we will ‘give God the freedom’ to use the humanness of His people.” (p. 66)
  • “people can open their hearts to one another and talk about their past failures and present hopes.” (p. 94)
  • “There must also be a place in the small group for dialogue and encounter….” (p. 95)
  • “‘We would ask only two questions: What product are we trying to produce? Are we producing it?’” (p. 42)
  • “radical rethinking of strategy” (p. 82)
  • “We believe that the Church must now only see current trends as opportunities, but also try to predict future developments so that it may set goals that are in keeping with God’s goals….” (p. 114)
  • “What measurements could be used to determine the effectiveness of a preaching ministry?” (p. 80)
  • “One form of the small group that has been particularly meaningful and helpful to us personally can appropriately be called a ‘covenant community.’ In such a group, the members commit themselves to one another in certain specific, mutually agreed upon ways, for a given period of time, … Both of us are presently part of a covenant fellowship which meets, usually once a month for an entire day.” (p. 96-7)
  • “In thinking about strategy, it is interesting to note that in former days differences between denominations (and between individual churches within a denomination) could be seen in the divergent emphases on theology, or on the presence or absence of certain emphases on ethical values. Today the thing that differentiates between churches is not theology or even values so much as strategy.” (p. 90)
  • "to evaluate their goals and their performance, and to scrutinize their strategy with ruthless honesty. (p. 139)
  • "people of God to adopt strategies and goals for living, speaking, and governing themselves that would be relevant to their changing times and circumstances. (p. 140)
  • “meet in a shopping center or school or community hall;” (p. 51)
  • radical rethinking of strategy required for the educational ministry of the Church of the '70s.” (p. 82)
  • “rethink strategy” (p. 82)
  • “‘theology of architecture’” (p. 83);
  • “No rigid pews” (p. 83)
  • “But then there should be the ‘awaiting’ on an awareness of Christ’s presence and will, …” (p. 57)
  • “But one jarring note was that all of the hymns sung (with great gusto!) were from a bygone era;” (p. 85)
  • “God not only dwells with His people, but in them.” (p. 54)
  • “In too many instances the Church has neglected its primary resources: the divinity of Christ continuing His incarnation in His people, and the very humanity of those in whom he continues to live.” (p. 73)
  • “In the emerging Church, a new kind of preacher is coming into his own for whom there is presently no adequate training….” (p. 59)
  • “we need to do away with the double standard which demands absolute purity of thought, word, deed, attitude, feeling, intent, motive, and desire for the clergy, but permits something more earthy for laymen.” (p. 70)
  • “a clergyman becomes not a disseminator but an interpreter of news.” (p. 108)
  • “‘Then it hit me: the only way to break out of my authoritarian role was to shift the emphasis of my ministry from giving answers to sharing experience.’” (p. 129)
  • “We conceive of an over-arching strategy that will bind together all local congregations which are a part of the emerging Church of the ‘70s. From our point of view, this strategy – this grand design – is the emergence of the lay apostolate as God’s primary means of accomplishing His will in the world…. The enabling of the emerging lay apostolate.” (p. 92)
  • “To be a prophet… means that he discerns where society is crushing an individual or group, declares that this is displeasing to God, and acts to change oppressive laws, systems, circumstances, or conditions.” (p. 93)
  • “A retreat… is a time set apart… for members of the church to dream together about the future…. Big business calls this brainstorming; the Bible speaks of dreaming dreams and seeing visions. This is a vital method of raising hopes and seeing issues clearly.” (p. 98)
  • “A church that is alive must also encourage individuals within its membership to dream personal dreams about God’s new thing for them.” (p. 144)
  • they were waiting for some mystical experience from outside. (p. 61)
  • “The emerging Church can hardly ignore these young people. It will either see them as a threat and shut them out (which would be suicidal) or it will listen to and learn from them, meanwhile holding high the banner of the true revolutionary, Jesus Christ!” (p. 106)
  • “to hold to a morality out of fear of consequences – in the present or hereafter – is no morality at all.” (p. 107)
  • “The emerging Church must learn to speak to both sides of the generation gap as regards to sexual morality.” (p. 108)
  • “the Church has too often hollowed out its own cave where it could remain untouched by the world,…” (p. 103)
  • “When the wall comes down, the Church is free to move out with its message into the very bloodstream of society.” (p. 111)
  • “the disintegration of the wall between sacred and secular is a fantastic opportunity for the emerging Church.” (p. 112)
  • “In our time… is the growing strength of the behavioral sciences. This is a threat to many in the Church, and viewed with alarm. But if we listen to what the behavioral scientists are saying, we can find a new frontier for the Church. Experimenters in the forefront of the behavioral sciences, whether they emphasize T-groups, sensitivity groups, touch therapy, or any of a dozen other techniques,…” (p. 114)
  • “Whenever the emerging Church has become vital enough to make a strong impact, there have been dreamers who saw ‘the big picture’ in a new way.” (p. 143)
  • The Church must be able to dream… about God’s new thing for them… dream a new dream of what God is doing….” (p. 144)
  • “[We] do encourage God’s people to dream dreams that are big in scope. God is in the ‘dream business’ for the Church at large and for local congregations as much for any individual or group.” (pp. 146-7)
  • “Simultaneously the new emerged and the old diminished. This is the kind of thing that we feel certain God is doing in local churches across the nation and around the world. To dream is not to destroy, but to build. The edifice that results from dreaming quietly overshadows the old, and in time the old may pass away.” (p. 151)
  • “advancing Christ’s Kingdom on earth.” (p. 52)
  • “the whole thrust of the Kingdom of God that Jesus has established. If the Church is truly on the offensive and aggressive in its war of agape (selfless love), then when the wall comes down which has separated the secular from the sacred, the Church militant – with its equipped, informed, converted, trained lay apostolate – will be able to penetrate the world with its message of the risen Lord and His plan for individuals and for the world.” (p. 111)
  • “[Charles Darwin] was able to see the evidence which God had set forth from the beginning – and was still setting forth…. Darwin was able to set aside his preconceptions, reevaluate his goals, and at length open the world’s eyes in a fresh way to the mystery and complexity of the physical creation…. [L]est we look askance at the unwillingness of the Victorians to reexamine their ideas and reevaluate their goals, let us admit that it is difficult for us even today to imagine that God may be far more surprising, dynamic, and creative than our preconceived notions allow Him to be.” (pp. 137-8)
  • “God can do once again a new thing and give new orders to His people.” (p. 141)
  • “In our own day we have a man like the famed psychiatric pioneer, Carl Gustav Jung, talking about Jesus Christ making possible a new rung on the ladder of evolution.” (p. 144)

The quotes and snippets of quotes on this list have been excerpted from their original context, but they have not been excerpted out of context. In these few quotes we can see a foreshadowing of what is to come. I believe the similarities of philosophy between the first emergent plan for church transformation, outlined in this 1970 the emerging church book by Bruce Larson, and the subsequent emergent movement birthed about a decade ago, are numerous enough to confirm our hypothesis about substantial linkages.

But there is more. . . .

To be continued, Lord willing. . . .

The Truth:

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4)

[NOTE: any links within quotations have been added.]
1. Cited in Bruce Larson & Ralph Osborne, the emerging church (Word, 1970), page 77. “From the newsletter, “Touch News” (undated), published by West Memorial Baptist Church, 14827 Broadgreen, Houston, Texas 77024; Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr., Pastor. Note: Ralph Neighbour would go on to write the main textbook for the cell church movement, vividly illustrating the cellular/apostolic downline networking hierarchical structure of the emerging church of the future: Where Do We Go From Here? A Guidebook for the Cell Group Church (Touch Publications, 1990).
2. Ibid, p. 100.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


This fall (October, 2009), one major seminary is hosting a one-day seminar on, "Sacred Sexuality." One purpose of the conference includes, "Casting a Vision for the Sexually Healthy Church," and one workshop is titled, "Holy Eroticism: Marital Intimacy."

This quotation is excerpted from the newly updated article, originally entitled "The God of Sex versus Sex God," written by Pastor Larry DeBruyn last September and run on Herescope as a 3-part series.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Significant new thoughts have been added to the original version. Read the new version in its entirety HERE. The new title of the article is "Evangelicals: Emergent and Erotic."

Sadly, this is an issue that is not going away. It is getting worse. As the Emergent/Emerging Church movement is undergoing a head-on collision with the New Age/New Spirituality movement, it is inevitable that we would witness a revival of the ancient pagan rites of sexualized spirituality. (See articles posted here, here and here for background and recent history of evangelical compromises with these heresies.)

The Truth:

"But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renouwn, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was." (Ezekiel 16:15)

Sexualized spirituality is a progression into greater and greater sin, and leads to the next inevitable encounter with the devil: human sacrifice. Read and study Ezekiel 16. Note verses 20-21:

"Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrified unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?"

And the Lord cries out to those who who have left the simplicity of the Gospel to become engulfed in the cesspool of spiritual adultery:

"And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and wast polluted in thy blood." (vs. 22)

And, thus, many have forgotten the Blood of Jesus Christ, shed for our sins:

"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28)

"In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1:7)

"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dumbed-Down Doctrinal Dyslexia

The Sights, Sounds, and Spectacles of Spurious Spirituality

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

A Tall Tale of Two Brains

There has arisen a two-brained theory/myth that persons dominated by their left brain are characterized by “logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy,” while those in touch with their right brain are into “aesthetics, feeling, and creativity.”[15] Illustrating the distinction, a blogger explained why he had not written any devotionals lately. “At long last,” he wrote, “I’ve decided to restart my (online) devotional time. I think the reason I didn’t feel ‘released’ to do this is that my prior attempt was very Left Brain and I needed to do something from the Heart.”

In his book The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren wrote that feelings are a key to spiritual maturity. Seemingly, if believers get their feelings right they will get their faith right. In addressing “Maturity Myth #6: All you need is Bible study to grow,” Warren buys into the left-brain-right-brain theory. He wrote:

Many evangelical churches have been built on this myth. I call them “classroom churches.” Classroom churches tend to be left-brain oriented and cognitive focused. They stress the teaching of Bible content and doctrine, but give little, if any, emphasis to believers’ emotional, experiential, and relational development. All you need to be spiritually mature, says one well-known classroom church, is to have ‘doctrine’ in your frontal lobe. [16]

Obviously, a right-brained ministry favors ministering to the subjective feelings within as opposed to the objective faith without. This approach is but a variation of fideism in which knowledge of God rest on feelings, “to the exclusion of any rational considerations.” [17]

If you are left-brained in your approach to faith, are you beginning to feel discriminated against? When subjected to the scrutiny of Scripture, is this right-brained emphasis right? For several reasons, as has already been shown from 2 Timothy 4:3-4, desires can be deceiving.

True, spiritual maturity is more than just being exposed to biblical teaching. But spiritual maturity is not less than understanding Bible doctrine. As the reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote,

For feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God,
Naught else is worth believing. [18]

So let’s proceed with a Scriptural explanation as to why the right-brained approach to Christian maturity is deficient. Amidst a sensate church, it may come as a surprise to some that the Bible is a left-brained book!

First, the greatest commandment Moses gave to that nation—“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might”—states that Israel was to “teach . . . diligently” their children (Emphasis Mine, Deuteronomy 6:4-7). Unger and White note that the verb lays stress on, “Judaism’s traditional emphasis on teaching and thus preserving its faith . . . found in the Old Testament, specifically Deut. 6:4-9.”[19] They go on to note that the later Jewish term Talmud, meaning “instruction,” is derived from the verb to teach.[20] The word “teach” is common in the Psalms indicating that one purpose of singing hymns was to—left brain—teach (See Psalm 60 superscription, “A Mikhtam of David, to teach”). So in the greatest of all commandments, the emphasis is on the left brain!

Second, to teach the nation of Israel, the Lord appointed first the priests, and then the prophets to that responsibility. In contrast to Levi, the first priest in whose mouth was “the law of truth,” succeeding generations of priests failed to teach people the Law. The prophet Malachi indicted the priests of his era stating, “For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Emphasis mine, Malachi 2:7). To compensate for the failure of the priests, God raised up the prophets. But having been desensitized to God’s word by the derelict-from-duty priests and false prophets, Jeremiah described the response of the people to his prophetic ministry, “And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction” (Jeremiah 32:33, KJV).

In the same way, God gives pastor-teachers to the church to instruct so that the people may seek instruction from them. But it appears this whole teaching ministry has been preempted by a generation of pastors who, having been taken captive by a “touchy-feely” culture, and bypassing sound doctrinal preaching in order to meet the “felt needs” of their audiences who want what they want, no longer preach the Word. They may preach about the Bible, but they do not preach the Bible.

Third, Jesus referred to Himself and was called “Teacher” by others, even by His enemies (Matthew 10:24-25; Mark 10:17; Matthew 12:38). One cannot read the words of Jesus in the Gospels without noticing that He engaged the minds—the left brain—of His audience, and that He commissioned His disciples to do the same in His absence.

Fourth, Jesus ordered His disciples to make disciples by “teaching.” Jesus told them, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Emphasis mine, Matthew 28:19-20). If a church is not a teaching church, then it is not a disciple making church. Personally, I believe this is why so many young people defect from the faith when they go off to college. Their churches have never really taught them God's cognitive truth. All they have offered them is emotional experiences.

Fourth, the apostle Paul was a teacher. One cannot read the book of Romans without noticing the great theology of the letter. In it, there’s some heady truth! With its emphasis upon right-brain spirituality, is the user-friendly church missing Paul’s message?

Fifth, the central gifts for the church’s edification are those of “teacher” and “pastor-teacher.” The risen and ascended Christ gave these gifts to the body of Christ so that it might come to, “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . [and] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine (i.e., ‘teaching’)(Ephesians 4:11-14). The exercise of these gifts is consistent with the example of Jesus. Too, the exercise of these gifts is consistent not only with Paul’s example of ministry, but also with his exhortation to teach to Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:11; 6:2).

Right Ain’t Right

This two-brained approach to spiritual maturity has led to doctrinal dyslexia. Many Christians can no longer discern left from right, truth from error. For example, many no longer believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to get to heaven, and this in spite of His upfront statement, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:4).[21] How can such a defection from plain truth be accounted for? One pastor, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, observes that the number of churches “who teach a clear doctrinal message are a minority today,” while another professor remarks that while overall people claim to be religious, “they have no command of theology, doctrine, or history.”[22]

Clearly, right-brained based spirituality has led to a dumbed-down version of the Christian faith. By way of contrast, Luke records that the early Christians “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). When looked at in both testaments, the Bible appears to appeal to the left brain, doesn’t it?

By ignoring the Word the Holy Spirit inspired (2 Peter 1:21), and those He has gifted to minister that Word (1 Corinthians 12:11, 28), the right-brain emphasis short circuits the whole process of Christian growth. In the journey to spiritual maturity, there can be no growing where there is no knowing (Romans 6:3, 6, 9, 11). To put it bluntly, spirituality stinks when it doesn’t think!

After stating that the primary appeal of the gospel is not to the emotions (that would be sentimentalism), or to the will (that would be legalism), D. Marytn Lloyd-Jones counseled,

The emotions and the will should always be influenced through the mind. Truth is intended to come through the mind. The normal course is for the emotions and the will to be affected by the truth after it has first entered and gripped the mind . . . this is a principle of Holy Scripture. The approach to the emotions and the will should be indirect. Still less should we ever bring any pressure to bear upon either the emotions or the will.[23]

Regardless whether it might feel good to us or not, the Bible is balanced. On the one hand the Psalms reflect the experience and emotion of those who probe the meaning of believing amidst the trials and struggles of life. But those feelings are invariably reigned in when the psalmist reflects upon the rock solid truth regarding who the Lord is and what He has said. As a one poet expressed it,

Three men were walking on a wall—
Faith, Feeling and Fact.
When Feeling got an awful fall
Faith was taken back.
So close was Faith to Feeling,
He stumbled and fell too.
But Fact remained and pulled up Faith,
And Faith brought Feeling too.

(Unknown Author)


Lamentably, for reason of their having been entertained by feelings, majorities of professing Christians are not edified, seemingly for reason that they, because of the sympathetic passions aroused in them, “consider themselves in a high and certain state of grace.”[24] The sensate church has been seduced by sights, sounds, and spectacles of spurious spirituality. The are so-called evangelical churches in which the majority of members do not believe that one, the Bible is the Word of God, and two, Jesus is the only way of salvation. Yet their celebrations continue unabated.

Presumptuously, we may in worship offer to God so-called sacrifices of praise, but the overriding question is . . . does God accept them? As Carradine noted, we cannot “dodge behind some corporeal service and call that an offering.”[25] It should not be supposed that He does if the celebrations are really for us, and not Him. As the Lord told Israel through Amos, “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols” (Emphasis mine, Amos 5:21-23, KJV). Clearly for Israel of old, happiness did not translate into holiness, and neither does it for us.

The Truth:

"Blessed art Thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. . . . Teach me, O LORD, the way of Thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end." (Psalm 119:12, 33)

15. On Purpose Associates, “Right Brain vs. Left Brain,” Funderstanding (
16. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995) 340.
17. Alan Cairns, “Fideism,” Dictionary of Theological Terms, Expanded Third Edition (Greenville, South Carolina: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002) 178.Norman L. Geisler, “Foreword” to Arthur L. Johnson, Faith Misguided, Exposing the Dangers of Mysticism (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1988) 10.
18. Norman L. Geisler, “Foreword” to Arthur L. Johnson, Faith Misguided, Exposing the Dangers of Mysticism (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1988) 10.
19. Merrill F. Unger and William White, “To Teach,” An Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984) 419.
20. Ibid.
21. “Survey: My Way Isn’t the Only Way to Earn Salvation,” The Indianapolis Star, June 24, 2008, A1, A6.
22. Ibid.
23. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Conversions, Psychological and Spiritual (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1959) 39. Lloyd-Jones wrote this booklet to address issues raised by Dr. William Sargant (1907-1988) in his book, Battle for the Mind. Son of a Methodist minister, psychologist Sargant dismissed all conversions to be mechanically induced as experiments with Pavlov’s dog showed. As expected, Lloyd-Jones argues that such is not the case, but notes that Christians ought to avoid revival methods that invite the accusation that conversion can be accounted for reason of psychological inducements that are engineered below (Contra John 3:3, “a man must be born from above”). Nevertheless, as Dabney observed, “Doubtless, many ministers are unconsciously swayed by the natural love of excitement.” See Dabney, “Spurious Religious Excitements,” 471. And, like Aaron, many pastors will pragmatically stoop to any carnal means to stimulate excitement in the camp/church.
24. Dabney, “Spurious Religious Excitements,” 468.
25. Rev. Mr. Beverly Carradine, “Church Entertainments,” Master Christian Library (Ages Software Version 8, Albany, Oregon, 1997) 60.

NOTE: This 4-part article series is appearing in print in the May/June Discernment Ministries newsletter. A special thank you to Pastor DeBruyn for this well-honed, urgently needed message for our time. For more devotionals and commentary by Pastor DeBruyn, visit and his church homepage

For more articles on this topic of the sensate church, see the 2007 Herescope series beginning with "The Dopamine-Driven Church."

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Ecstasy, Lusts & Lies

The Sights, Sounds, and Spectacles of Spurious Spirituality

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Ecstasy and Idolatry

On Mars Hill, the Apostle Paul addressed the Athenian philosophers: "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device" (Emphasis mine, Acts 17:29). The word "device" is interesting. The word was formed from the preposition en, meaning in, and a noun thumos, meaning "strong feeling, passion."[3] Literally, we should not liken God to be a graven image carved "in passion by man." Evidently, as evidenced by the Exodus Israelites, Paul viewed that passion is integral to both idolatry and immorality. People feel strongly about their gods. All of which brings us to evaluate the relationship of religious excitements to genuine Christian spirituality.

Excitements can be manufactured. There are mechanisms that can be used to trigger states of self-transcendence. For example, drugs, drumming, and dancing can deliver participants out-of-themselves. These deliverances masquerade to be genuine encounters with the divine. Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), a British expatriate who spent his adult life living in Los Angeles, and was obsessed by interests in psychedelics, mysticism, the paranormal, and the occult, once remarked of the power possessed by mechanical means of arousal. He wrote:

. . . all we can safely predict is that, if exposed long enough to the tom-toms and the singing, every one of our philosophers would end by capering and howling with the savages.[4]

As a manner of evangelistic speaking, the philosophers would be "converted"![5] Theologian Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) observed that,

Blinded men are ever prone to imagine that they have religious feelings, because they have sensuous, animal feelings, in accidental juxtaposition with religious places, words, or sights.[6]

Frequently, I hear persons announce that they are "really passionate" about this or that. What they mean is that they feel quite strongly about a particular issue, subject, or belief. Increasingly, Christians are determining the rightness or wrongness of their belief based upon how passionate it makes them feel. Bypassing revelation and reason, they feel their way to faith. Theirs is a religious epistemology by experience (The word epistemology concerns how we know what we know, and why we believe what we believe.). I think of the person who declared, "I refuse to believe in a God I cannot feel!" As Dabney observed, "People are ever prone to think that they are feeling religiously because they have feelings . . . about religion."[7]

So the pan-evangelical movement has and is continuing to develop spirituality, not based upon the clear teaching of the Word of God, but rather upon manufactured sights, sounds, signs, and sensations that generate religious feelings within them. Theirs has become a faith based upon desires, not doctrine.

The New Testament has much to say about desires and lusts (Greek, epithumia). True, they have their good side. Paul desired to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), and to again see the believers at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:17). But desires also possess a dark side. Often they can lead us spiritually astray. Thus the New Testament employs the word to mean "evil desire" as frequently translated by the word "lust."[8]

Lusts and Lies

Because of the underlying sin nature that is constitutional to our being, our feelings can be and most often are, self-centered, self-indulgent, and self-serving. Perhaps more than any other aspect of our personality, we bend our experiences to be about "us." We indulge that which titillates and pleasures us, but shun activities and ideas which prove painful. After categorizing emotions into four groups of individual emotions--personal taste, remorse, fear or hope, and sympathy--that can be aroused by external stimuli, Dabney comments regarding personal taste:

Now it is most obvious that the movements of taste . . . carry no moral imperative whatever. They have no more power to reform the will than strains of music or odors of flowers. Yet how many souls are deluded into supposing that they love God, duty, and gospel-truth, because these aesthetic sensibilities are stimulated in connection with such topics [i.e., by sights, sounds, smells, and spectacles of spirituality]![9]

So the New Testament calls such emotional wants "lusts"--"deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22); "foolish and hurtful lusts" (1 Timothy 6:9); "youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22); "worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12); "fleshly lusts" (1 Peter 2:11); "ungodly lusts" (Jude 18); and so on.

Regarding the relationship of lustful excitements to spirituality, Paul warned Timothy, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; (or "lusts," Greek, epithumia) and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

To Tickle the Fickle

Several features of Paul's warning need to be noted. First, the apostle predicted that professing Christians will not endure healthy teaching. Like addicts, they will revel in the unhealthy teachings which make them feel good, the teachings of false teachers who by "speaking out arrogant words . . . entice by fleshly desires (Greek, epithumia), by sensuality (Greek, aselgeiais, 2 Peter 2:18). Note that Peter equates fleshly desires to sensuality.

Second, false teachings find entry for reason of the comfort level they induce in a person's psyche (Compare 2 Timothy 3:6-7.). False teaching resonates within them because it meets needs immediate to them. Regarding the desire to have "their ears tickled," John MacArthur states, "They have an itch to be entertained by teachings that will produce pleasant sensations and leave them with good feelings about themselves."[10] Of such apostates another observes,

They have closed their ears to all that contradicts their own inner emotions, feelings and urges. There is, for them, no fixed point of reference by which to judge truth or error. Their only standard of measure is their own subjective feelings at any given moment. [11]

Third, given their insatiable desire, they will stockpile -- "they will accumulate for themselves" -- false teachings in their spiritual refrigerators and pantries. Pseudo-believers hunger after heresies, and pay top dollar for what they want to hear (See 2 Peter 2:1-3.).

Fifth, they will turn away from the truth. These spiritual sophisticates will turn their noses up at the preaching of God's Word, and in so doing snub both the Son and the Scriptures (See John 14:6, and 17:17.).

And finally, they will turn aside to myths (fables and fictions). They will forsake "the faith . . . once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). They will exchange the clear teaching of the Word for an imaginary world of make-believe. Fiction will replace he faith, and stories the Scriptures.[12]

Lusts are the addictive perversion of love. Insatiable, they inevitably leave us unfulfilled and craving more when we indulge them. These addictive feelings are deceptive in spiritual matters.


This indulging of fleshly lusts accounts for why so many churches engage in what Paul Proctor labels evangetainment. Worship is about them, not Him. He writes that, "today's church no longer believes that Jesus is enough--that the Living Word of God can't really compete in a sensory-driven world and that the Holy Spirit needs our help." Thus he continues, "It's not even enough to 'tickle our ears' anymore. Now we need our eyes tickled, our noses tickled, our taste buds tickled and our funny bones tickled . . ." (See 2 Timothy 4:3.).[13]

After questioning whether the rousing revivalism of his day had any impact upon the lives of those involved in it, R.L. Dabney noted that it made,

[N]o difference; they are still excited and 'happified' in meetings; they sing and shout, and sway to and fro with religious feelings. Thus these worthless, sympathetic passions are trusted in as the sure signatures of the Spirit's work.[14]

So how is it that the contemporary church has come to be in such a sensate state?

To be continued. . .

The Truth:

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." (Romans 6:12-13)


3. W.E. Vine, "Device," An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984) 297. Granted, the word "device" (Greek, enthumesis) is translated as possessing a mentalist meaning (i.e., "thought," NASB; "imagination," NRSV, NAB; "skill," NIV; and "devising," NKJV). But the diverse translations indicate it's not certain how to handle the word. Like the word "desire" (Greek, epithumia), "device" (Greek, enthumesis) is emotional at its base ("wrath," Greek, thumos). Obviously, idolatry can be a passionate experience.
4. "Aldous Huxley on Self-Transcendence," The Psychedelic Library (,+%22tom-toms%22&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us). The quote is taken from the Huxley's book, The Devils of Loudon (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953), the Epilog of which is reproduced in its entirety on this site. Peter Webster summarizes that Huxley "writes here about self-transcendence and the various methods used in its pursuit."
The caution to believing souls is obvious: Self-transcendence is a state of soul that can be mechanically induced, and in their cravings for anything supernatural, many churches employ drumming music to induce corporate states of self-transcendence which the worshipping experientialists receive as a "sign" of real spirituality. All the while however, the self-transcendent ecstasy is but a selfish man-centered experience masquerading itself as the authentic thing.
On the other hand, genuine spirituality of soul in the Bible is characterized by a deep, abiding, and piercing conviction over sin which is not only self-transcendent--the contrite heart understands the being of God's absolute holiness--but also self-immanent--the convicted become acutely conscious of the sin resident within them. As Isaiah the prophets declared, "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5; Compare Paul's self-confessed state of soul in Romans 7:18-25.). But this is a pierced state of soul drumming music is designed to dull and blunt. After all, church worship is all about "getting all excited" and having "fun," isn't it?
5. In this regard, we note how Rick Warren once remarked that, "A song can touch people in a way a sermon can't. Music can bypass intellectual barriers and take the message straight to the heart. It is a potent tool for evangelism." See "Match the music to the people you want to reach: Three thoughts about music in worship,", Rick Warren's MinistryToolBox, Issue #190, January 19, 2005.
6. Robert L. Dabney, "Instrumental Music in Public Worship," Discussions, Volume V, Edited by J.H. Varner (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Sprinkle Publications, 1999) 332. As a point of historical note, Dabney's wife was first cousin to the wife of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863).
7. Robert L. Dabney, "Spurious Religious Excitements," Discussions, Volume III (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Sprinkle Publications, 1996) 459.
8. Vine, "DESIRE," Expository Dictionary, 289.
9. Robert L. Dabney, "Spurious Religious Excitements," 459.
10. John MacArthur, Author and General Editor, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997) 1880.
11. John Kitchen, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors (The Woodlands, Texas: Kress Christian Publications, 2009) 436.
12. In this regard, we must note the popularity of the bestselling religious allegory, The Shack.
13. Paul Proctor, "America is not Prepared for What’s Coming,", February 24, 2009 (
14. Robert L. Dabney, "Spurious Religious Excitements," 469.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Excitements & Idolatry

The Sights, Sounds, and Spectacles of Spurious Spirituality

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Exodus and Excitements

The problem being raised is not new (Read Exodus 32:1-35.). Upon their exodus from Egypt, the children of Israel were not content in worshipping a God they could not see or feel, a God who was apparently not meeting their needs. "Is the Lord among us, or not?" they asked, as they grumbled against Moses and God because of a shortage of water in the wilderness (Exodus 17:7). Not content to walk by faith and to trust the Lord to meet their needs, the children of Israel wanted tangible proof that the Lord was with them. So as they wondered and wandered, they grew increasingly restless and unsatisfied.

In spite of Mount Sinai acting like a volcano for reason of the Lord's presence (Exodus 19:18), and when later Moses delayed on the mountain and did not return to give them a "signal" report of the Lord's dealings with him, they couldn't stand the drab silence. They needed something more, something visual and exciting. So they demanded of Aaron the High Priest, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him" (Exodus 32:1).

So being the accommodating religious leader he was, Aaron took their sacrifices of praise, their jewelry, and smelted and engraved the precious metals into the image of a powerful bull. To the mass of religious voyeurs he then declared, "*This is your god,* (lit., 'these are your gods'] O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt" (Exodus 32:4). Israel no longer needed to wonder if the gods were with them. One had miraculously jumped out of the fire! As Aaron explained to Moses, "I threw it [i.e., the jewelry] into the fire, and out came this calf" (Exodus 32:24).

But not only did the Israelites possess "the need" to see their gods, but also "to get high" over them. So in an act revealing the utter ungodliness of the audience-driven and seeker-sensitive approach to ministry, Aaron announced,"Tomorrow shall be a feast [a celebration] to the Lord" (Exodus 32:5). It was on his own initiative Aaron decreed this feast, for the Lord had already mandated the three feasts Israel was to observe, and this wasn't one of them! (See Exodus 23:14-17.).

So the next day, the Exodus narrative describes the frenzied excitement that built up around the entertaining image of the bull. Upon hearing the wild worship going on in the camp when he and Moses descended from the holy mount with the two inscribed tablets of stone, Joshua supposed that the celebration was "a sound of war in the camp" (Exodus 32:17). But Moses knew differently. "It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat," he said, "but the sound of singing I hear" (Exodus 32:18). A celebration was going on.

To explain the displeasure of God against this kind of stuff happening in the church under the guise of worship, the apostle Paul referred to this incident. To the Corinthians he explained, "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.' Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed . . ." (1 Corinthians 10:6-8a, KJV).

Signs and Adultery

In working His messianic miracles, his "signs and wonders," Jesus attracted crowds (Matthew 8:18; Mark 9:25; Luke 5:19; John 5:13). Jesus exorcised demons out of afflicted persons restoring them to spiritual and emotional health (Mark 5:1-20). He caused the lame to walk and healed the sick (Isaiah 35:6; Matthew 11:4-5). He even raised people from the dead (John 11:1-46). Can it get anymore exciting than this? Expectancy built up among the Jewish people as they observed the signs and wonders Jesus worked, as He temporarily put a stop to disabilities, sickness, and death (John 21:25).In some instances, Jesus requested those He healed to keep it quiet (See Matthew 8:4; Luke 8:56; John 5:13.). But often they disobeyed Him and told others, indicating that though they liked what Jesus did, they would not listen to what He said.

The miraculous displays left many voyeurs craving for more. Jesus' miracles piqued the curiosity of many Jews. They were spectators of spectacles. This helps explain why at the height of His ministry, certain Jewish leaders came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You" (Matthew 12:38). Signs and wonders made for good theater.

So Jesus censured the sign seekers telling them that, "*An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign . . ."* (Matthew 12:39a). He then proceeded to explain that, "no sign" would be given to them except "the sign of Jonah the prophet," and that the repentant persons who had lived at the time of both Jonah and Solomon would rise up to judge them (Matthew 12:39b-42). The Jews wanted theater, but all Jesus would talk about was their guilt and the coming divine judgment. Jesus seemed to know that spectacles produced spectators, but He was looking for followers.

Question: On account of the present cravings for spectacle spirituality, how much of the "we-got-to-feel-it" atmosphere which is aroused in our worship celebrations indicates that, like Jews of His day, Jesus might consider us to be an evil and adulterous generation?

No stranger to controversy that comes from standing for God's truth amidst a multitude's cravings for show-time religion, Methodist evangelist Rev. Mr. Beverly Carradine (1848-1931) perceived that, "The whole demand for signs springs from unbelief."[1] He then continues,

We are referring to a spirit of doubt that will not take God’s word nor move forward as He directs without some peculiar display of the divine presence and power, which in our conceit we dictate to the Lord and also decide as to its fashion, form and continuance . . . The Lord seeks to bring His followers into a life of such faith in Him that they will not ask nor care for strange sights and sounds . . . If we want to please God we must throw away every doubt when He has spoken; quit asking for strange tokens and wonders; and, resting on His word, say, “No matter what happens, I believe God; and though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. [2]

We should know that Jesus is not looking for fans, but for followers (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21; John 10:27; etc.). He calls us to the cross, and not to celebrations, to self-denial, and not to self-indulgence. He told His followers,"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).

Self-denial is not a "feel good" experience. In fact, sin and its guilt, which lies at the heart of Jesus' atonement, makes us to feel bad about ourselves; and this may account for the reason there is so little preaching about sin and guilt in contemporary churches these days. Such a message would spoil the celebration.

But the need to be entertained not only manifested itself amongst the Exodus Israelites and the Jews in Jesus' day, but also the pagan Greeks. . . .

To be continued. . . .

The Truth:

"And My people are bent to backsliding from Me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt Him." (Hosea 11:7)

1. Rev. Mr. Beverly Carradine, "Gideon," Master Christian Library (Ages Software Version 8, Albany, Oregon, 1997) 18. Carradine’s life is explained by Gene A. Long, "Time and Location Line of the Life of Rev. Beverly Carradine," ( 2005. He refers to Carradine as, "The Prince of Holiness Writers."
2. Ibid. 18, 19.