Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dancing With the Stars

“The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science,”
A Cosmic Two-Step

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn and Sarah Leslie

“Many of us who have a foot both in the world of media art and technology and in the world of inner contemplation are awed by the potential of advanced immersive technologies to facilitate deeply transformative experiences. And because these experiences can be rapidly delivered on a mass scale, transformed individuals would accelerate the shift toward a transformed world . . . instead of talking about mystical experiences, we can now deliver them on a mass scale.”
Kate McCallum, “Visions from the Techno-Mystic Edge”[1]

Billed as “How Science Supports Christianity and Christianity Supports Science,” on October 26-28, in Austin, Texas, Christianity Today co-sponsored a symposium called “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science: Empowering the Church to Transform the Culture.”[2] This gathering of evangelical luminaries underscores the concerns addressed in the previous 6-part series on Herescope, “FROM COSMOS, TO CHAOS, TO CONSCIOUSNESS.”[3]

Oddly, the symposium celebrated the merging of faith to science by interspersing performances by the Ad Deum [to God] Dancing Company, a dance group that expressed “worship through dance at various times throughout the symposium.”[4] Described in redemptive terms, the work of this dance troop was billed as follows: “God truly has a redemptive and reconciling plan for the arts and for artists to shine as a light in this world.”[5] The dance group Ad Deum seeks to provide “A visual fusion of faith and artistry, relevant and redemptive for our time.”[6] Given that the “Arts & Media” is one of the 7 mountains Dominionists seek to conquer to “redeem the culture,” and that the symposium’s focus was upon the integration of faith and science,[7] the question arises: What connection does dance have with the faith-science merger? We wonder . . . why include the visual and performing arts in a symposium dealing with merging faith and science? The combination seems peculiar.

Was dance simply “an attraction” for what otherwise possessed the potential (considering the subject matter) to be another boring academic symposium? Or, was dance being employed in order to visualize what many perceive to be a growing connection between the cosmos and the human consciousness of it? Was “dancing to God” meant to celebrate “a romance” that is taking place between faith and science, between physics and metaphysics, between visible and invisible, with the dancers serving as priests and priestesses of the emerging new religion? Does dance function like a sacrament helping people visualize and experience synchronicity (i.e. spiritual oneness) with the vibrations inherent in the universe in both its gargantuan and quantum dimensions? The more these questions were considered, the more the answers became unsettling, especially as the symposium was titled, “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science.”

The symposium stated that it would be an “informed, non-confrontational discourse.”[8] But it is apparent that there would be no room for biblical creationism. Rather, the symposium focused on the “Intelligent Design” model of reality, which, in its conflict with the early chapters of Genesis, forces an evolutionary dialectic upon the biblical worldview. Serving to obliterate the distinction between the Creator and His creation, the evolutionary synthesis between faith and science becomes the touchstone of the newly evolving cosmic spirituality. Corrupting the early chapters of Genesis—especially regarding the Fall of man into sin—evolutionary theory becomes a necessary component of Dominionist doctrine which postulates that within human potential there exists a capacity to build the kingdom of God on earth, thereby redeeming creation and restoring Paradise.

In addition to Christianity Today, there was an all-star lineup co-sponsoring this event — such diverse organizations as Neue magazine, Regent College, Calvin College, Reasons to Believe, the Discovery Institute, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, The BioLogos Foundation, The American Scientific Affiliation, and Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity.[9] Speakers included what seems to have been a diverse group of theologians, commentators and scientists: Andy Crouch, Ross Hastings, Dan Heinze, Hugh Ross, Fazale Rana, Darrel Falk, Bruce Gordon, Stephen Meyer, Deborah Haarsma, Jack Collins, Walter Bradley, Rob Norris, Rob Norris, Jeff Zweerink, Paul Nelson, Bill Dembski, Randy Isaac, Doug Axe, Gregg Davidson, Ken Wolgemuth, Rob Koons, Dennis Venema, Richard Sternberg, Dinesh D’Souza, Walter Kaiser, Tremper Longman, John Walton, Walter Bradley, and Alister McGrath.[10] From the program listing it is clear that the that speakers were addressing things like “An Evolutionary Creationists Perspective on the Universe,” “DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design,” “Creation Care,” “Spiritual Formation,” etc.[11]

The “Mission” of the Vibrant Dance symposium was stated in terms of the "growing congruence of scientific discovery with our Christian faith."[12] While the symposium ostensibly claimed to hold to orthodoxy[13], it embraced the “all truth is God’s truth” synthesis:

The historic and oft used “two books” analogy of God’s revelation is helpful here; the “book” of nature and the “book” of the Bible. Since both “books” are from the Triune God, the information revealed in these “two books” will enhance our understanding of both, and ultimately will be acknowledged as consistent, though they may seem partially incongruent at times because of human limitations and misconceptions.[14]

To further underscore the unusual nature of this dance-themed event, and despite the trappings of scholarship surrounding it, there is a link to a prior event called “Transforming Culture: A Vision for the Church and The Arts” which was held on April 1-3, 2008. This prior conference, which featured Andy Crouch and Eugene Peterson (author of the controversial Bible paraphrase The Message)[15], was about “art and the mission of the Church in the renewal culture” and “experimenting with new forms of gospel-communication: through film and dance, banners and sculpture, ambient music and architectural design.”[16] Using the “senses, our imaginations and emotions as well as the arts,” the intent was explained as envisioning:

3. A Church which transforms the culture by way of a redemptive artistry; a Church that sends her artists into the culture to become the incarnational presence of Christ, a presence quietly hidden or powerfully public, holistic, prophetic, winsome or graciously subversive; a Church which releases her artists to create works which expose all the ugliness of sin and entice the human creature into the beauty of God.[17]

Our desire here is to help pastors understand the different means and unique ways in which art can reshape our culture. [18]

Using the arts to re-shape culture? Indeed, the pan-evangelical culture is rapidly adopting artistic mediums as a means by which to affect cultural transformation. The arts are not the spoken Word, the presentation of the Gospel of Salvation via the Scriptures. Rather, the transformation is one that it is thought can be effected by images, icons, shapes, stories, drama, physical spaces, music, drumming, and dancing. The premise behind these endeavors is based on the faulty theology that entire cultures (including individuals) need a “transformative” type of redemption, rather than salvation that is based upon the Gospel, upon “the preaching the cross” and “Christ crucified” (See 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18, 23), and upon the “foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1b, emphasis added). The Dominionist cause of redeeming cultures does not rely upon the “two-edged sword” of the Word of God that can pierce “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow,” and in its effect is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Instead the cultural mandate relies upon the machinations of men — excessive time-and-energy-consuming activities that have “no profit” (Jeremiah 2:11; 2 Timothy 2:14) in saving the lost.

"Vibrating" into Consciousness

The redemption of the earth ethos requires a New Spirituality, and the arts become a vehicle to facilitate a transformation into this consciousness. As Pastor Larry explained a few years ago in his booklet Drumming Up Deception—Whether in celebration or contemplation—"feeling" the beat!:

But at some point after the 1960s, the "Good Vibrations" of the Beach Boys became the "god-vibrations" of New Age religion. Though there are various tenets of the New Spirituality of the New Age, one pantheistic assumption views energy to be divinity. Such pantheism holds that everything derives from a single energy "Source." Star Wars fans understand this New Age divinity to be "The Force." As a New Age believer states, “Modern science has proven what the Eastern mystics knew all along that everything is energy at varying rates of vibration.”[19] Note this religious concept: at the heart of the pantheistic worldview is a belief that the essence of the universe is vibrating energy, a sacred animation that is to be worshipped. This pulse exhibits itself in everything from a beating human heart to electrons bouncing off of atoms.

Because the new spiritualists suppose energy to be divinity, a spiritual goal of theirs becomes that of feeling synchronized with the vibrations, or cadence, of the cosmos. One advocate of the New Spirituality suggests that, “On a practical, mundane level, spirituality is an awareness and appreciation of the energy or life force which moves us—yes, spirit!”[20] Again, he says, “We can consciously become sensitive to our own energy fields, and we can manipulate this energy to increase our sense of pleasure and enhance our spirituality."[21]

The New Spirituality also employs creative artistic experiences to facilitate “transforming” the earth, and in that the symposium’s Internet address is vibrant dance.org, it suggests a covert connection. The beat goes on . . . ad infinitum.

The New Spirituality also views the arts in a cosmic sense, as a useful tool to “bring balance to the evolutionary forces,” to “create order out of chaos and change,” and to “unify cultures and philosophies.”[22] Are pan-evangelicals now using the arts as tools for the same purposes? Obviously, if they have bought into an evolutionary worldview (anything other than a literal biblical creation account, particularly any synthesis that permits an evolutionary perspective of Genesis 1-3), then it would make sense that they would look at the arts as a way to further global transformation (i.e., Dominion), even though they cloak their transformational intent in Christian-sounding terminologies.

The Techno-Mystic Medium

The New Agers do have a use for art. They now view it as a techno-mystical medium to affect transformation. They are using state of the art “neuroesthetics,” i.e., “a rapidly growing sub-discipline of neuroscience that seeks to explain and understand the impacts of music and art at the neurological level using tools such as neuroimaging and genetic analysis.”[23] In this context, they are examining how perception and cognition affect human “consciousness.”[24] Music, in particular, is seen as a particularly powerful medium because it affects our emotions and can “trigger inner shifts in perspective . . . [that can] bring about new understanding and awareness.”[25] One advocate of techno-mystical transformation explains:

Art and media that transform operate on multiple levels affecting one’s whole self—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This often subjective and unexpected experience can be elicited in myriad ways: listening to music, watching a dance, feeling the sacredness of a physical space....[26]

Furthermore, the New Spiritualists have noticed that the “multiple sensory experiences” of the arts can have “'an enlivening effect on the brain'” shifting it to a “’unified wholeness, where unity both transcends and embraces sensory diversity.’”[27] In sum, the arts are seen as a vehicle to induce “transformative states of awareness, which can also be applied to group experiences.”[28]

Why use the arts? Because the arts have the potential to manipulate the cognitive and affective parts of the human brain, and that can facilitate the desired shift to a global consciousness—what the New Age-New Spiritualists explain as an evolutionary leap to a “cosmic” consciousness. As they explain:

In their earliest expression, the arts were closely aligned with spiritual truths—for example, when used in ritual or in dedication to gods and goddesses. Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to reclaim the sacred power of the arts and to bring more awareness to creative expression that could yield tremendous benefits for humanity…. Ancient perennial wisdom, which for so long had been available only in books or in verbal transmission by way of spiritual teachers, mystery schools, and secret societies, can now be beautifully disseminated to a broader audience through digital storytelling, filmmaking, music, and other arts; recorded on CDs, iPods, and DVDs; woven into our electronic games; and sent across the world via the Web. The gateways have opened wide.[29]

Many Christians don’t “get” why their pan-evangelical leaders are engaging in the arts to facilitate transformation. The answer seems obvious: “The spiritual condition of evangelicalism may be compared to ancient Israel. Bored believers are constantly seeking excitements to excite them, and in doing so, exchange spirituality for sensuality.”[30] All of this extra-biblical activity carries about it an intoxicating sensuality that becomes one means whereby the New Spirituality seeks a link to cosmic significance. As Pastor Larry has explained:

By their own exertion, and assisted by the mechanism of drumming, the new spiritualists attempt to experience the energy within them coalesce with the energy around them (i.e., within other persons, their immediate environment, and, ultimately, with the universe). If attained, this felt union with nature is considered to be an enlightened state of “at-one-ment,” in which the new spiritualists suppose themselves to be absorbed into God. Facilitated by drumming, this feeling of union with nature is the goal of mystical-religious experience.

But this contest between the nature spiritualities and the spirituality that comes from God is between opposite and contradictory systems of faith that literally are worlds apart. Should I believe in my senses, of what my blood feels, or in God’s revealed truth, in what comes from above, and in what stands written. This contest between man’s sensuality (i.e., human gnosis) and God’s revelation (i.e., the divine Logos) is currently being played out not only in our media oriented culture, but also in and among professing Christians and churches.

Ancient and pagan cultures employ sacraments as religious acts to bind their community together. These group acts were performance-based, ritualistic and manipulative, involving body contortions and maneuvers, and gesticulations that could be externally seen and connoted a spiritual purpose.[32] Sacraments are defined as follows:

The word "sacrament" connotes a religious act or gesture whereby a togetherness already existing on some secular level allegedly becomes a togetherness on the religious level. The function of sacrament is to bind together on the religious level that which is already bound on such other levels as tribal consanguinity, political homogeneity, national solidarity, and linguistic similarity. This is the meaning the word "sacrament" had in the pre-Christian world;...."[33]

By such an understanding the curious context of the Vibrant Dance symposium comes into sharper focus. In an as above, so below context, ritualistic dance attempts to connect the physical to the spiritual worlds, functioning as a “visual fusion of faith and artistry, relevant and redemptive for our time.”[34]

These types of activities do not promote biblical orthodoxy, but serve as alluring sacraments that engage the participants and voyeurs of it in a subtle form of nature worship that seeks to "redeem creation" as it also attempts to "transform culture."

The Truth:

"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." (Romans 1:21-22)

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Colossians 2:8)

To be continued. . . .

1. “Visions from the Techno-Mystical Edge,” Kate McCallum, Sept.-Nov, 2008, No. 20,
Art, Science and Consciousness, a publication of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), http://www.bridgeartsmedia.com/cms/images/stories/artscienceconsciousness.pdf
2. http://www.vibrantdance.org/ This organization also has a blog: http://vibrantdance.org/BlogRetrieve.aspx?BlogID=4404 We are indebted to Kim Treweek for her research assistance with this.
3. The 6-part series was posted here:
4. http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/program
5. “Welcome to the Web World of Ad Deum Dance Company,” http://www.danceaddeum.com/
6. http://www.danceaddeum.com/id48.html
7. Program, http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/program
8. “Vibrant Dance Overview,” http://www.vibrantdance.org/about/overview. The FAQ webpage (http://vibrantdance.org/about/faq )asks “Do we have guidelines of behavior and interaction at the symposia and on the website?” It answers: “Yes. In attending a Vibrant Dance of Faith & Science symposium or interacting online, you are agreeing that you will treat those you encounter in a spirit of collegiality and respect – irrespective of sincerely held differences. By being a part of these activities you are further agreeing that you will seek to promote collegiality, respect and community among symposium participants and attendees and within the online community.”
9. See the websites for these various co-sponsors to catch more of the significance of this event, for example: http://hillcountryinstitute.org/; http://www.reasons.org/; http://www.biologos.org/; http://www.neuemagazine.com/; http://www.asa3.org/; http://www.discovery.org/; http://www.bibleandscience.com/ .
10. List gleaned from: “Program,” http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/program; “Speakers,” http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/speakers and “Breakout Sessions,” http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/breakout-sessions
11. “Program,” http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/program
12. “Our Mission,” http://vibrantdance.org/about/mission
13. “Our Values,” which includes the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed, http://vibrantdance.org/about/values
14. “Background & Motivation: How Science Supports Christianity and Christianity Explains Science,” http://www.vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/background-motivation. Emphasis added.
15. http://www.transformingculture.org/speakers.html
16. The original link on the Vibrant Dance website to this conference is: http://vibrantdance.org/about/resources/past-events and that page has a link to: http://www.transformingculture.org/. The quoted materials is from: http://www.transformingculture.org/about.html
17. http://www.transformingculture.org/about.html [Emphasis in original]
18. http://www.transformingculture.org/thequestions.html
19. Donni Hakanson, “Enhancing Your Spirituality” (http://www.alternativeculture.com/spirit/enhance.htm), cited in Larry De Bruyn, Drumming Up Deception: Whether in celebration of in contemplation--"feeling" the beat! (2008): available for $2.00 from Discernment Ministries http://home.etcable.net/hestervanboven/Books.htm
20. Hakanson, “Enhancing Your Spirituality.” Cited in Drumming Up Deception.
21. Ibid. Cited in Drumming Up Deception.
22. “Visions from the Techno-Mystical Edge,” Kate McCallum, Sept.-Nov, 2008, No. 20, Art, Science and Consciousness, a publication of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), http://www.bridgeartsmedia.com/cms/images/stories/artscienceconsciousness.pdf Note that this article may help to explain the "new music" prophesied by the New Apostolic Reformation. In all likelihood it may be a techno-mystic hybrid, concocted to alter consciousness in the brain.
23. Ibid.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid.
27. Ibid.
28. Ibid.
29. Ibid.
30. Drumming Up Deception.
31. Drumming Up Deception.
32. Concepts summarized from Leonard Verduin's The Anatomy of A Hybrid: A Study in Church-State Relationships (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1976), p. 21.
33. Ibid.
34. http://www.danceaddeum.com/id48.html