Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Only Scripture

ne of the non-negotiable essentials of orthodox Christianity has always been the completeness of Scripture. By completeness we mean that the Bible (66 books) is the complete and final revelation of God to man. Nothing is to be added to the Scriptures, nothing is to be taken away from it, and nothing is to be placed above, or next to it (in authority or priority). The Bible stands on its own, is complete, and is the final measure by which every other doctrine, statement, creed or revelation is to be judged.

Over the centuries various groups have strayed from the principle of the completeness of Scripture. Most notably the Roman Church places the Apocrypha, the Magisterium, Canon Law, the Ex Cathedra statements of the Pope and a bunch of other stuff at the same level, or higher than Scripture.

One of the things that most cults have in common is that they all have their books, prophecies, and teachings that are equal to, or that supersede, the Bible.

Some historic churches hold their traditions, creeds and council decisions as equal to Scripture. Many also believe the teachings of deceased teachers above God’s Word.
Most (not all) Charismatic and Pentecostal churches place prophecy, visions, revelations, experiences, and the teaching of special gifted leaders (often called apostles or prophets), above the Bible.

This is an old problem, but it has recently been escalating to new levels. Many evangelicals who previously held to the completeness, inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture are abandoning those truths.

Others who previously would have denied that they add to Scripture now openly and boldly defend their move beyond Scripture. I quote two examples:

C Peter Wagner
is the “grand-apostle” and “founder” of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) which now embraces almost all Charismatics and Pentecostals and a huge portion of Evangelicalism. According to Wagner “…the NAR embraces the largest non-Catholic segment of world Christianity. It is also the fastest growing segment, the only segment of Christianity currently growing faster than the world population…”[i]

Wagner therefore represents a huge portion of modern Christendom and has in the last week openly stated that the NAR rejects the completeness of Scripture: “Some object to the notion that God communicates directly with us, supposing that everything that God wanted to reveal He revealed in the Bible. This cannot be true, however… He also reveals new things to prophets…” He continues to say that he does not believe that the Bible is complete in its 66 books, and that all this new revelation supplements what is written in the Bible

Tom Horn
is one of the writers and teachers that has taken the church world by storm with his wild speculations about mutant life forms in the Old Testament, alien visits and abductions, as well as all sorts of fantastical science fiction sold as new Christian revelation (sounds very similar to Scientology – and it is). In addition to his own wild imagination and twisted use of Scripture, Horn has based many of his doctrines on apocryphal books as well as astrology. He strongly defends his use of extra-biblical sources and many evangelical Christians agree with him. He is endorsed by many Evangelical pastors and leaders.

These are but two of dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of “Christian” leaders rejecting the truth that the Bible is complete and closed.

So, is the Bible complete? Does God continue to reveal new truths that were not revealed to the holy men who were moved by the Holy Spirit to produce the Scriptures (2Peter 1:21)?

Well, we need to examine the Bible’s testimony in this regard.
Hebrews 1:1-2 says: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. These verses deal with three aspects of God’s speaking: The agents through whom God spoke, the method God used to speak, and the timing of when God spoke.

God spoke to the fathers in the Old Testament through prophets who acted as mouthpieces for God. But the text clearly says that that has changed. God is no longer speaking through prophets but through His Son. Yes, God still uses people to expound His Word and to speak to His people but all man can, and should say, is repeat what God has already said. For that reason, Paul goes to great lengths to prove that his writings are the things Jesus Christ told him to write (Galatians 1:12, 1Corinthians 11:23, 1Corinthians 15;3 etc.). John does the same in 1John 1:1-5, Revelation 1:1-2 etc. And so does Peter in 2Peter 1:16ff.

Those who claim that God still uses prophets like He did in the Old Testament clearly are dissatisfied with God only speaking through His Son (in the New Testament) and want to return to the Old Testament when He spoke through prophets.

Hebrews announces that God no longer speaks through men, but through His Son; and also that the way in which God speaks (the method) has changed. It says that in the Old Testament God spoke in various ways. He spoke through thunder and lightning, a donkey, visions, dreams, prophets (good and bad), through signs, types, angels and so on. He even wrote on tables of stone and on a wall. But He has now reduced all those different methods down to one single means: His Son.

Please note, this is not my opinion, but is clearly and obviously what the text teaches. Once again, to insist that today God continues to speak through the methods of the Old Testament, is to reject the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thirdly the text speaks to timing. It says that God spoke at “various times.” Various times refers to the fact that not one of the OT prophets received a full revelation. Each one received a piece of the total revelation and God spoke sporadically. Sometimes there were a number of prophets all speaking at the same time and at other times God was silent for long periods of time. But this is contrasted with the fact that He has spoken through Jesus Christ and that in Christ we have the full and final revelation of God’s message to man. Once again note that the text is drawing a clear contrast between a partial and sporadic revelation and a once for all, full and final, revelation.

Now look at the grammar. In the Greek the words “God… has… spoken” is in the first aorist indicative. Aorist marks a completed, one-point action. The verse is correctly translated into the past perfect in English. God is not still speaking he HAS spoken. He is done, He does not continue - He has spoken.

So to suggest that God continues to speak and give more revelation is a clear contradiction of Hebrews 1:1-2. Yes, we talk about God speaking through the sermon, some experience or His Spirit. If we mean He is reminding us of what has been said through Jesus Christ, we are correct. If we mean he is telling us new things that are not written in the 66 books, we are misled and hearing some other voice that is not His.

To be continued....

The Truth:

"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)

[i] C Peter Wagner. The New Apostolic Reformation. An Update. August 18, 2011. http://www.globalspheres.org/
[ii] Ibid

For additional reading on this topic see:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Denying Dominionism

Exhibit 1

"Dominionism? What Dominionism? I don't see any Dominionism!"

The Dominionism Cover-Up

There is a considerable amount of backpeddling going on now that Dominionism has made the national news. A chorus of establishment media have stuck their heads into the sand are are blindly crying, "Dominionism? What dominionism? I don't see any Dominionism!" Most of these reporters who have never heard of it didn't bother to take the time to research it, and therefore say it doesn't exist. Joining the liberal media in this chorus is a host of evangelical leaders, some of them longtime Dominionists, who are spouting the same denials. What strange bedfellows indeed!

The most prominent denial, of course is C. Peter Wagner's public letter, covered in our previous post, in which he asserts that his Dominionist NAR is neither Dominionist, nor a cult. Also issuing a denial was prominent Dominionist Os Hillman who helped launch the 7 Mountains movement and runs the reclaim7mountains website. Hillman is retrenching. He issued a syrupy brief statement[1] emphasizing that "Dominion, or perhaps a better word to use is influence, is a result of our love and obedience to God, not a goal to be achieved." However, the rest of his statement confirms the basic Dominionism platform of Genesis 1:28, adding in the neo-Kuyperian spheres and the idea of restoring heaven to earth:

This is why Jesus prayed that whatever was in heaven would be manifested on the earth. He was wanting to restore all that had been lost. His desire for His people has always been for them to be at the top of every sphere of society.... [emphasis added]

Spheres, of course, are another name for the 7 mountains. The 1980s Coalition on Revival (COR) documents laid out a plan for the Church to take over seventeen spheres of Society, which have now been boiled down to seven. COR was an unlikely conglomeration of Charismatic Dominionists and Reconstructionists who set aside major doctrinal differences in order to accomplish their objectives for Dominion.

Os Hillman cites a quote from Gabe Lyons, who has close ties with the Leadership Network empire, from Lyons' book The Next Christians, page 53.

Gabe Lyons explains: "Christ's death and Resurrection were not only meant to save people from something. He wanted to save Christians to something. God longs to restore his image in them, and let them loose, freeing them to pursue his original dreams for the entire world. Here, now, today, tomorrow. They no longer feel bound to wait for heaven or spend all of their time telling people what they should believe. Instead, they are participating with God in his restoration project for the whole world. They recognize that Christ's redemptive work is not the end or even the goal of our stories; redemption is the beginning of our participation in God's work of restoration in our lives and in the world. Understanding that one idea literally changes everything." [emphasis added]

It is interesting that Hillman invokes Gabe Lyons in his downplaying of Dominionism, because this quote is precisely about Dominionism. Gabe Lyons has been marketing his own version of the 7 mountains, which he calls "seven channels of cultural influence: business, government, media, church, arts & entertainment, education and the social sector."[2] This is based on the esoteric idea of "restoration" of "God's original intention for his creation."[3] This is a goal that all Dominionists have in common in one form or another. Oh yes, they do argue and posture amongst themselves in a dialectic dance about whether their particular brand of theology is neo-Kuyperian, neocalvinist, neopuritan, Rushdoonyite, Colsonesque, Sojourneristic, theocratic or theonomic, cultural or missional, and any other newfangled term.

The NAR isn't the only group promoting the 7 mountains. Wagner and his NAR crowd are the ones getting all of the media attention because of their zany antics. But there is a whole backup crew of organizations that have been around for decades, pumping out the doctrines of restoring or redeeming the fallen culture by integrating the Church into the various hubs of Society. This isn't about the narrow group of Reconstructionists that the mainstream press has caricatured for years. Rather, generic Dominionism has now reached out into the mainstream evangelical milieu via conferences, books, technology, and media. There is even sophisticated image marketing for branding certain forms of Dominionism.

Exhibit 1 above is a composite graphic image of the original newsletter where Leadership Network helped to launch C. Peter Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation. For over a generation, Dominionism theology has been an essential component of this intensive managerial (pastoral) training outfit. Leadership Network operates as a marketing network that has its tentacles into nearly every evangelical group in the country. Their doctrine is what we have termed Dominionism Lite -- a cultural renewal, social gospel, eclectic cocktail that appeals to the the type of evangelical elite who aren't off doing the wacky signs and wonders. And this is where Gabe Lyons and an entire army of social engineers appear on the scene. They are actually working alongside Os Hillman and C. Peter Wagner's scheme to take over the seven mountains of the planet. But they market themselves in a different niche.

Gabe Lyons is a good example of how this works. He is the co-founder of Catalyst, which was originally set up in 1999 for the purpose of "change agent" training for the younger generation, which purpose was billed[4] as:

"We are the kingdom ambassadors, change agents, and cultural architects who have the influence to change our communities, churches, and cultures for good. But this change happens in the very place where many leaders flinch and fail because the perceived cost is too high. We must push through this fear for kingdom change to define the future." [emphasis added]

Lyons is the co-author of UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters. On the jacket of his other book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America, it says that Gabe "was embarrassed to be called 'Christian'" so he "set out on a personal journey" to "mobilize Christians to advance the common good." Interestingly, Lyons, while working on this "common ground for the common good" sort of Dominionism with a diverse array of political and religious groups, appeared on a list of those participating in a James Robison political gathering to support Texas Governor Rick Perry's bid for president.[5] Lyons is also founder of a "re-education" group of "young, innovative and influential leaders" called Q, which "was birthed out of Gabe Lyons’ vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures" and "inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, 'Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals.'”[6] This statement by Colson is an example of Dominion Lite - it is the theological premise that secular culture itself can be "redeemed." This is not the Gospel of Salvation. This is the Gospel of the "Kingdom," in which Society itself is seen as an extension of the Church, and views the Church's primary role is to fulfill a "cultural commission" for "social renewal."

Gabe Lyons has been endorsed by Bob Buford of Leadership Network,[7] and acknowledged Buford on page 208 of his book The Next Christians. An eclectic mixture of leaders, including Chuck Colson, Os Guinness, Phyllis Tickle, Lou Giglio, Rob Bell, and Sam Rodriguez endorse this book on the back cover. A full-page graphic image appears on page 116 depicting the "Seven Channels of Cultural Influence," which are identical to the Seven Mountains. How does Lyons suggest the Church change Culture? It hinges on a sophisticated next generation social gospel, complete with state-of-the-art marketing tactics:

“As a natural by-product of God’s plan for his Kingdom, the next Christians are being dispersed as restorers throughout all channels of culture. They are carrying the message of Jesus—bringing restoration, renewal, and healing; fighting injustice; telling the truth; affirming goodness; and celebrating beauty—in their places of service. They play a key role in overcoming the evil that otherwise overwhelms everything.”(p. 116-117)[emphasis added]

Characteristic of all Dominionist revisionism, the first few chapters of Genesis are corrupted. Lyons' particular truncated message of the Fall asserts that there "was goodness in the beginning" and that the "separation of humanity from God" in "the opening scene" of Genesis, with "everyone as corrupted sinners" just "isn't connecting with the next generation."(p. 52) Therefore the message of Original Sin needs to be changed. And furthermore man now has to right what was wrong and restore paradise (often referred to as building the kingdom of God on earth), another key tenet of Dominonism.

Dominionism Conspiracy Theories

So who is doing the "spin" and denying Dominionism? An interesting mixture media and evangelical leaders. For example:

  • Pat Robertson: "What In Heaven's Name Is A Dominionist?"[8]
  • Joe Carter in First Things claims that the term was invented by "Berkeley-educated sociologist Sara Diamond, the author of several critiques of Christian civic engagement, including Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right" and asserts that the term is “never used outside liberal blogs and websites. No reputable scholars use the term for it is a meaningless neologism that Diamond concocted for her dissertation.”[9]
  • Lisa Miller writing for The Washington Post: “Dominionism” is the paranoid mot du jour. In its broadest sense, the term describes a Christian’s obligation to be active in the world, including in politics and government. More narrowly, some view it as Christian nationalism.... Extremist dominionists do exist, as theocrats who hope to transform our democracy into something that looks like ancient Israel, complete with stoning as punishment. But “it’s a pretty small world,” says Worthen, who studies these groups.... Certain journalists use “dominionist” the way some folks on Fox News use the word “sharia.” Its strangeness scares people. Without history or context, the word creates a siege mentality in which“we” need to guard against “them.”[10]
  • A. Larry Ross, who has been the chief P.R. guy for evangelical leaders like Rick Warren, commenting on Michelle Goldberg's August 14th post "A Christian Plot for Domination?": "Goldberg misapplies a broad label that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify. It reveals more about the author’s personal perspective and lack of nuanced understanding of the topic than it provides useful information about the subjects themselves...."[11]
  • Michael Gerson, in another Washington Post article: "Dominionism, though possessing cosmic ambitions, is a movement that could fit in a phone booth.... In the case of Dominionism, paranoia is fed by a certain view of church-state relations — a deep discomfort with any religious influence in politics.... Thin charges of Dominionism are just another attempt to discredit opponents rather than answer them...."[12]
  • Ralph Reed: "The notion that Bachmann, Perry or other candidates secretly harbor "dominionist" theology is a conspiracy theory largely confined to university faculty lounges and MSNBC studios."[13]
  • Nancy Pearcey, associate of Chuck Colson: “Dominionist” is the new “fundamentalist” -- the preferred term of abuse, intended to arouse fear and contempt, and downgrade the status of targeted groups of people.... I had to Google the term to discover whether there really is such a group. Yes, there is a little-known group of Christians who claim the term, though they are typically called Reconstructionists. Apparently it was sociologist Sara Diamond who expanded Dominionism into a general term of abuse....Reductio ad absurdum.... Journalist Stanley Kurtz calls this usage of the term “conspiratorial nonsense,” “political paranoia,” and “guilt by association.”... The term is worldview.... For Kuyper and Dooyeweerd, this holistic concept of worldview did a nice job of capturing the creative impact that Christianity has had on Western culture through history, inspiring much of its art, literature, music, architecture, philosophy, and political thought.[14]
  • Jack Cafferty of CNN: The Daily Beast reports that two of the Republican candidates for president - Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry - are "deeply associated" with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism that's called Dominionism. For those of you who haven't heard of it before, and I was one who hadn't - stand by cause this is "out there."[15]

All of this "spin" on Dominionism is interesting in light of the preponderance of solid documentation. There are 40 years of articles, books, tapes, and eye-witness accounts, and firsthand experiences of many Christian Right activists about this phenomenon called Dominionism. Most of it has come in via the Patriotic Dominionism activities, but the mission movements and the prayer movements were also purveyors of these doctrines. (See "Dominionism and the Rise of Christian Imperialism" for background.)

This strange denial by Pat Robertson, cited above, that he doesn't know anything about Dominionism is ludicrous! Robertson is one of the chief purveyors of this doctrine. In Al Dager's book Vengeance Is Ours: The Church In Dominion (Sword, 1990), he describes Pat Robertson's Dominionist views and transcribed a speech in Dallas in 1984 where Robertson said:

Now what do you do? What do all of us do? We get ready to take dominion! We get ready to take dominion! It is all going to be ours--I'm talking about all of it. Everything that you would say is a good part of the secular world. Every means of communication, the news, the television, the radio, the cinema, the arts, the government, the finance--it's going to be ours! God's going to give it to His people. We should prepare to reign and rule with Jesus Christ. (Dager, p. 95)[emphasis added]

One of the more intriguing side effects to all of this Dominionism conspiracy spin is following the counter-reaction. Sandy Simpson of the Apologetics Coordination Team published an extensive rebuttal of C. Peter Wagner's letter on his huge website www.deceptioninthechurch.com which has been exhaustively documenting the rise of the New Apostolic Reformation since its inception.[16] Several non-Christian websites who are watching the rise of the NAR and its Dominionism with concern, have effectually rebutted the Dominionist denials.[17] Rachel Tabachnick, who has written prolificly about the rise of the NAR and Dominionism and was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air on August 24, cut to the chase and explained that "dominionism is simply that Christians of this belief system must take control over all the various institutions of society and government."[18] One of the most interesting and passionate articles addressing the Dominionist spin was authored by Peter Montgomery. A few selected excerpts are below:

If It Quacks Like a Duck

It may be the “word of the day,” as journalists continue to educate themselves and their readers on this particular strand of thinking, but that doesn’t mean an investigation of the role of “dominionism” in religious right rhetoric and strategy is a paranoid project....

So, as background: dominionism refers to a theological tenet at the core of the religious right movement—that Christians are meant to exercise dominion over the earth. As RD readers know, dominionist thought is not a new phenomenon. It may be true, as evangelical leader Mark DeMoss says in Miller’s story, that “you would be hard-pressed to find one in 1,000 Christians in America would could even wager a guess at what dominionism is.” But it’s certainly not true of the leaders of the religious right political movement. Their followers are hearing dominionist teaching whether they know it or not.

In recent years, there has been a very visible embrace by traditional religious right leaders of the rhetoric of “Seven Mountains,” a framework attributed to former Campus Crusade for Christ director Bill Bright. It puts dominionist thinking in clear, user-friendly lay language. The “Seven Mountains” of culture over which the right kind of Christians are meant to have dominion are business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. (Some folks rearrange the categories a bit to explicitly include the military.)

The language has been used by Pentecostal leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, a group that sees itself creating a new church and an army of spiritual warriors who will hasten the return of Christ by taking dominion over the earth. But the Seven Mountains framework has also become a sort of lingua franca among the religious right, forming the basis for Janet Porter’s May Day rally on the mall last year as well as the National Day of Prayer and Jim Garlow’s Pray and Act campaign. The Family Research Council and prominent religious right figures like Harry Jackson and David Barton all use the language.

In other words, this is not a movement dreamed up by people with no understanding of Christianity who simply want to stir up fear of conservative evangelicals. The increasingly widespread use of “Seven Mountains” rhetoric reflects an effort by a broad swath of conservative evangelical leadership to adopt a shared set of talking points, if you will, to unite theologically disparate elements in common political cause to defeat the Satanic/demonic enemies of faith and freedom: secularists, gays, liberals, and the Obama administration.

C. Peter Wagner is the founder of the New Apostolic Reformation and author of Dominion!: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World. His official bio says “In the 2000s, he began to move strongly in promoting the Dominion Mandate for social transformation, adopting the template of the Seven Mountains or the 7-M Mandate for practical implementation.” Wagner was an endorser of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s prayer-rally-cum-presidential launch and dozens of members of the New Apostolic Reformation were involved in organizing and speaking at the event.
[19] [links in original]

The establishment media reporters who have their heads buried in the sand, might take a look at the preponderance of evidence. It has been on the shelves of Christian bookshelves for over a decade. And those who listen and watch Christian media have been saturated with a steady diet of "America is a Christian nation and we must take back our land," which is the patriotic vision that engages people in the Kingdom worldview. In the 1980s, the Coalition on Revival's position paper on the kingdom of God issued a series of Affirmations and Denials, which stated:

  • "We deny that the Church must await the second coming of Christ for the Kingdom of God to be inaugurated on earth in time-space reality and in power." [page 3]
  • "We deny that the restoration of man's God-ordained dominion (a) lies outside the scope of Christ's redeeming work as mediator on the Cross, or (b) awaits the physical presence of the returned Christ for its inauguration and expansion." [p. 5][20][emphasis added]

The Truth:

Dominionism is an intoxicating worldview for those with aspirations for power, wealth and control. It is also alluring for those idealists who want to solve the problems of the planet, help the poor, fix the ills of society, change everyone's worldview and make everyone happy Christians. The problem with all Dominionism is the mechanics. Just how does one create utopia on earth?

The problem for Christians is that Dominionism is off task. It creates a second "commission" beyond the simple "Great Commission" to spread the Gospel of Salvation message. It invokes a second task, which is to create a godly culture and redeem the planet. This task deludes Christians with a promise of a carnal victory in emerging history. But Scripture says:

"And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:18)

1. Os Hillman, "Reclaiming the 7 Mountains - is it dominionism?" http://www.reclaim7mountains.com/articles_view.asp?columnid=4347&articleid=76021
2. "Shaping a Good News Culture," http://record.americanbible.org/es/node/522
See also: Gabe Lyons, "Influencing Culture, http://www.qideas.org/essays/influencing-culture.aspx?page=4
3. Ed Stetzer, "Gabe Lyons and the Next Christians,"10/4/10, http://www.edstetzer.com/2010/10/gabe-lyons-and-the-next-christ.html
4. http://www.catalystwestcoast.com/information?showgallery=1#
5. Reported on by Kyle Mantyla, 7/11/11, "A Who's Who of Religious Right Activists Participated In Robison's Leadership Summits," http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/whos-who-religious-right-activists-participated-robisons-leadership-summits
6. "About Q," http://qideas.org/about/history-mission.aspx
7. Bob Buford, on 5/5/09 in his newsletter, "My Next Book...Year 5, Chapter 8...The Best of Times / the Worst of Times," reported attending the Q Conference in Austin, and cited Gabe Lyons and his Fermi Project.
8. Kyle Mantyla, 8/25/11, "Robertson: What In Heaven's Name Is A Dominionist?" http://www.rightwingwatch.org/print/7996

9. Kyle Mantyla, 8/23/11, "If Dominionism Doesn't Exist, Someone Forgot To Tell The Dominionists," citing "John Aman, Director of Communications at Truth in Action Ministries... writing a piece for the Christian Post." http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/if-dominionism-doesnt-exist-someone-forgot-tell-dominionists citing the article by Aman titled "'Dominionism': Sham Charge Reserved for Christian Social Conservatives," 8/23/11, http://www.christianpost.com/news/dominionism-sham-charge-reserved-for-christian-social-conservatives-54363/
10. Lisa Miller, "Be not afraid of evangelicals," 8/18/11, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/dominionism-beliefs-among-conservative-christians-overblown/2011/08/17/gIQAb5eaNJ_story.html
11. A. Larry Ross of A. Larry Ross Communications, "Christian Dominionism Is a Myth," 8/21/11, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/21/christian-dominionism-bachmann-and-perry-aren-t-out-for-world-domination.html Interestingly, Ross gives quotes from two well-known Dominionists, Jim Wallis and Os Guinness, in explaining how Dominionism is a myth!
12. Michael Gerson, "An unholy war on the Tea Party," 8/22/11, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-holy-war-on-the-tea-party/2011/08/22/gIQAYRcOXJ_story.html
13. Ralph Reed, The Inconvenient Truth of the Evangelical Vote," 8/25/11, http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Inconvenient-Truth-of-the-Evangelical-Vote-Ralph-Reed-08-25-2011.html?print=1
14. Nancy Pearcey, "Dangerous Influences: The New Yorker, Michele Bachmann, and Me," August 13, 2011, The Pearcey Report, http://www.pearceyreport.com/archives/2011/08/dangerous_influences_bachmann_pearcey_new-yorker.php, link in original. It is very odd that Sara Diamond, a critic of Dominionism, is being blamed for concocting the term! There seems to be an orchestrated "spin" going on about this. Those who are doing the spinning are forgetting that there are those who were in the trenches of Christian Right activism long before Diamond wrote her book, and have firsthand experience with all of this. Note that Pearcey invokes Abraham Kuyper, who is the harbinger of Dominionism, while denying that she knows what this means. And note that the term "worldview" is what she would prefer to to use in describing Kuyper's transformation. See also: http://www.rivendellsanctuary.com/academics/faculty/faculty.html, and http://www.rivendellsanctuary.com/academics/academics_main.html
15. Jack Cafferty, "How much does it worry you if both Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have ties to Dominionism?" 8/17/11, Cafferty File, http://caffertyfile.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/17/17612/?iref=obnetwork
16. See: A Response To "An Urgent Message From Peter" by Sandy Simpson, 8/20/11, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/wagnerletter.html
17. See articles such as: Frederick Clarkson, "Another Senior Journalist Confesses to Ignorance," 8/21/11, http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/8/21/201517/933 and Rob Boston, "Fringe Festival: Why We Must Take 'Dominionists' Seriously, 8/23/11, http://blog.au.org/2011/08/23/fringe-festival-why-we-must-take-‘dominionists’-seriously/
18. Terry Gross interviewing Rachel Tabachnick, " The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare," 8/24/11, NPR Fresh Air, http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=139781021. See also: http://www.npr.org/2011/08/19/139781021/the-evangelicals-engaged-in-spiritual-warfare?live=1
19. Peter Montgomery, "Paranoia and the Progressive Press: A Response to WaPo's Religion Columnist," 8/22/11, http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/5008/paranoia_and_the_progressive_press:_a_response_to_wapo's_religion_columnist/
20. Cited in Al Dager's book Vengeance Is Ours: The Church In Dominion (Sword, 1990), p. 256.

Monday, August 22, 2011

C. Peter Wagner Spins the NAR,

Issues A Public Statement

Post-denominational churches. The next church. New paradigm churches. They are all names that have been used to describe a new kind of church that is emerging at the close of the twentieth century and the dawn of the third millennium. The current reformation underway is not so much a reformation of faith as it is one of practice, not so much against apostasy as it is
against irrelevance in a warp speed culture. Missiologist/researcher/author C. Peter Wagner has adopted the term, New Apostolic Reformation, to characterize this movement of God that is reshaping Protestant Christianity in the US and around the world. His new book, Churchquake!, to be released in March, seeks to identify the dynamics of this movement and chronicle the distinguishing characteristics of this new wineskin. We thank Wagner and his publisher, Regal Press, for their permission to print excerpts in this issue of NEXT.
--Leadership Network, NEXT, Vol 5, No 1, Jan-Mar 1999

C. Peter Wagner issued a letter late last week that discusses the recent controversy about the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and International House of Prayer (IHOP) in the media and the American political scene.

Wagner's letter, titled "THE NEW APOSTOLIC REFORMATION: An Update" was issued for the apparent purpose of doing damage control over the recent characterization of the NAR as a Dominionist cult, especially in the mainstream press. Recent public attention in the media has shed light on his entire NAR empire, and his letter indicates that he is very concerned about their image. He begins his letter with the sentence, "Surprisingly, the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) has recently become a topic of discussion in the political media."

Surprisingly? But what else could he expect? His group of self-appointed, self-anointed apostles and prophets, which has grown and thrived under the radar for over a decade in charismatic circles, has within the past year and a half come out as a key player in American Religious Right politics, beginning with the extraordinary May Day prayer event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 2010. We wrote about it in a series of articles at the time, here, here, here and here at the time.

Since that time many of the leaders of the IHOP and NAR movements have deftly moved out of the closet and into direct political action. And these apostles and prophets are now fully supported by a second tier of leading media moguls in the evangelical world, including the influential Family Research Council and the American Family Association. Everything changed when Texas Governor Rick Perry, now a presidential candidate, began associating himself with the NAR at his public prayer rally, "The Response" held on August 6th. We published many articles voicing concern about this situation. Why were we concerned? It wasn't about the politics of the situation. It was about the strange and aberrant doctrines and practices of this formerly obscure cult, which has now suddenly propelled itself onto a front and center national stage, and which has religious and political goals that are totally antithetical to biblical Christianity. We wrote:

In his letter, Wagner denies that the NAR is a cult, and claims that the NAR represents no doctrinal change. However, this statement is preposterous in light of his extensive public record of working on a new apostolic "paradigm" for both church structure and theology. He goes so far as to claim, "The NAR is not an organization," even though he has headed up the crucial networking elements that form its power base from the very beginning. Much of the factual details are documented very well at Sandy Simpson's Deception In The Church website, which has chronicled Wagner's activities for the past several decades, e.g. here, here, here and here. The truth is that Wagner's apostolic structure, which positions apostles and prophets in a hierarchical downline network over individuals, groups and organizations, represents both a major doctrinal change and a structural change.

Technically, the NAR may not be an organization, but it is a network. And as such, this network has, by stealth and cunning, superimposed itself on top of nearly every existing denominational structure in the country. This aggressive networking has set up entirely new avenues of authority and accountability, until existing structures and theologies have been compromised and eroded, or completely taken over by the NAR and/or one of its related networks. And through its Dominionist goals, the NAR hopes that its network can superimpose itself over existing community, cultural and governmental structures across the land, which is referred to as the Seven Mountains.

Several years ago we ran a series of Herescope posts about Wagner's NAR networking structure -- a series which explains how his networking empire was built, and the theology behind it:

At the time of this series we wrote explanations like these:

This new church structure is based on a revolutionary interpretation of the “five-fold ministries” (Ephesians 2:20-21; 4:11-13) based upon the esoteric doctrines of the Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God cult. In this evolutionary twist, the Church (as an organic whole) needs to come into full "maturity" by restructuring itself into networking cells that are governed by apostles and prophets. It is claimed that this will "activate" the Church to become fully operational as a body on Earth, unified to fulfill its manifest destiny (fulfill the Great Commission) -- a global army that heralds the return of “Christ.”

A core heresy of the New Apostolic Reformation is that the Church must “incarnate” Christ; i.e., become deified through this restructuring process. A corollary to this doctrine creates the dominionism mandate whereby the church is empowered to act as agents of Christ on earth, crushing His enemies and building His Kingdom.

C. Peter Wagner has served as a one-man public relations firm for the widespread propagation of the new doctrines associated with the apostolic networks. In the latter half of the 1990s, key conferences were held in which he laid the groundwork for the creation of these apostolic networks. He constantly refined and re-defined the doctrines as he went along (sometimes very publicly); and has written numerous books on the topic, and introductions for books by other authors.

Another curious facet of C. Peter Wagner's recent letter, is that he re-wrote some of his own history. In this letter he said:

If I was going to write about this phenomenal move of the Holy Spirit, I knew I had to give it a name. I tried "Postdenominational" but soon dropped it because of the objections of many of my friends who were denominational executives. Then, in 1994, I tested "New Apostolic Reformation."

However, he gives a different history in his 1999 book Churchquake! which launched his New Apostolic Reformation. On page 35 he explains:

The first time I saw the term "apostolic" used in this context was in an issue of NetFax published by the Leadership Network of Tyler, Texas, on September 4, 1995. It spoke of "The New Apostolic Paradigm." I filed it only because I was experimenting with another name at the time.

We have included at the top of this post a copy of this issue of NetFax by Leadership Network as Exhibit 1. This one-pager provides evidence that there was experimentation with the whole concept of a downline networking apostolic structure. But it is a year later than Wagner asserts he did his own testing of the term. So how could Wagner be testing the term "apostolic" if he didn't hear about it until he read this issue of NetFax? There is probably some very interesting history behind the scenes here. Regardless of what really happened, the Leadership Network organization was already working on the same concepts that would become part and parcel of the New Apostolic Reformation, and it has now become one of the biggest purveyors of Dominionism's social gospel ("missional," "cultural renewal," "kingdom gospel," etc.) through its Emergent empire, its megachurch empire, and its connection with the NAR.

In fact, Leadership Network helped to launch the New Apostolic Reformation: it published a lead article by C. Peter Wagner in its January March 1999 issue of NEXT (Vol. 6, No. 1) titled "Another New Wineskin... the New Apostolic Reformation." This high-profile endorsement gave Wagner a prominent platform to explain his NAR and tout his book Churchquake! which is not-so-subtly subtitled: How the New Apostolic Reformation is Shaking Up the Church As We Know It (Regal Books, 1999).

Finally, Wagner's letter denies his more extreme views on Dominionism, especially those views that have come to be associated with the Seven Mountains. Yet, as our blog has reported here, it was C. Peter Wagner and Os Hillman (who, incidentally, also issued a letter downplaying Dominionism this week -- ironically posted at his www.reclaim7mountains.com website!) who launched Lance Wallnau on the dog-and-pony-show for Dominionism around the country. Notably, C. Peter Wagner, while citing his mainstream credentials in his letter, neglects to mention that he is also the author of a key book on the topic, aptly titled Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World, which he published in 2008.

There is much more that could be said and written about this letter by Wagner. Much documentation on Wagner and his NAR Dominionism has been published on this blog since 2005 and the Discernment Ministries website, which has newsletters dating back several decades on this topic.

The Truth:

We are continually grieved over C. Peter Wagner - what he has written and what he has said, how he has changed the landscape of Christianity with his marketing tools, warfare rituals, networks and leaders. When and how did he fall prey to a doctrine that teaches that Jesus did not defeat Satan at the cross? When was he beguiled through subtilty so that his mind became corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ? (2 Cor. 11:3) When did he leave the humble simple Gospel of Jesus Christ and His grace? How is it that anyone could believe that it is a good thing for a church to sit upon seven mountains?! (Rev. 17:9) We urge our readers to pray for this man. And with all sincerity and earnestness we plead with Dr. Wagner to repent and turn again to the truth of the Gospel.

"The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth." (Psalm 145:18)

Monday, August 15, 2011

YOGA: Posture to Apostasy

Can yogic practices be integrated with the Christian faith?

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Whatever trend happens to be in vogue at a particular moment, Christians readily respond with a "Jesus approved" version. When dieting became the rage, Christian dieting shortly followed. As yoga gained popularity, Christian yoga started up. And as the sexual revolution unfurled its banners, Christians sought scriptural warrants for indulging the pleasures of the flesh.
—Christianity Today*

To accomplish this grand event "to which the whole creation moves" the East Indian practises Yoga, and so gradually unfolds his spiritual consciousness....
thus will come the dawn of the Golden Age....
This thenthe Spiritual Consciousness and the unfoldment thereofis the motive prompting to the practice of Yoga.
Swamie A.P. Mukerji**

"Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. For Thou [O Lord] hast abandoned Thy people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled with influences from the east . . ."
(Isaiah 2:5-6, NASB)

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet . . . ” Rudyard Kipling’s words accent the difference between eastern and western spirituality, between Hinduism and Christianity. But the two, “the twain” as it were, are now meeting via yogic practices promoted in various places of worship and activities of spirituality. Take, for example, one Jewish synagogue. The weekly Shabbat services of Congregation Beth-El Zedek have included such activities as “Torah Yoga,” which asks congregants to “stretch and take deep breaths” as the Torah is read, or when as worshippers enter the synagogue, they are “welcomed by Torah meditations set to drums and chanting.”[1] But Jews are not alone in adopting yogic postures and practices.

“Christian yoga” is also gaining popularity. A few years ago, Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher, released a book titled, Yoga for Christians, by Susan Bordenkircher.[2] In an interview with the Denver Post, the author, a fitness instructor, explained, “What we are attempting to do with a Christ-centered practice is fill the heart and mind with God, becoming ‘single-minded’ as Scripture calls it.”[3] Unapologetic for promoting so called “Christian yoga,” she explains:

Christ-centered yoga is definitely not just a repackaging of . . . yoga. The difference, she says, lies in the intention: shifting the focus from self to God with yogic postures (“breathing in” the Holy Spirit, for instance), integrating health as critical to effective godly service, and slowing down enough “from our fast-paced lives to actually hear God’s voice.”[4]

Wow . . . “breathing in the Holy Spirit . . . slowing down . . . to actually hear the voice of God.” The instructor’s words betray an ominous and foreboding ignorance of Christian truth.

Believers do not breathe in the Holy Spirit. When by faith people are justified (i.e., saved), in a millisecond of time they are regenerated (John 3:3, 5-7), and instantly indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. Corporately and individually, believers are the “temple” of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). As Paul wrote to the Roman believers, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). There are only two types of persons in the world: saints and ain’ts–those in whom the Holy Spirit lives, and those in whom He does not.

Given the Spirit’s abiding presence in the life of the believer, how then can He be inhaled into the soul via yogic practice? Answer: He can’t, because at salvation the Holy Spirit makes the justified believer’s soul His sanctuary! Hopefully this yoga instructor isn’t suggesting that regeneration takes place by a sort of yogic “inbreathing” of the Holy Spirit. If she really is, then by adding a human mechanism (i.e., “breathing in”) for salvation, her version of spirituality stands in blatant contradiction to the salvation that comes “by grace . . . through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Her spirituality formula also opposes Jesus’ testimony that like the wind, the Sovereign Spirit blows when and where He “wishes” (John 3:8). The Sovereign Spirit will not be manipulated or controlled by yogic “inbreathing.”

Additionally, practicing yoga with a view to hearing a mystical “voice of God” is anti-scriptural. Does the yoga instructor mean to suggest that yogic practices actually prepare people to “hear the voice of God”? Is not the Word of God mediated through the Son and Scriptures adequate? (See Hebrews 1:1-2a.). Does she really mean to say that yogic practices become a conduit through which to hear God speak? Incredible! That’s not Christianity. That’s the eastern mysticism of New Age religion. Embracing yoga with a view to hearing God’s voice denigrates the sufficiency of Scripture in the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:16), and opens a Pandora’s Box out of which blows every “wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

Christianity cannot be integrated with yoga and remain Christian. To think otherwise mindlessly imperils the Christian truth and faith. As the managing editor of Hinduism Today, Sannyasin Arumugaswami, remarks:

Hinduism is the soul of yoga ‘based as it is on Hindu Scripture and developed by Hindu sages. Yoga opens up new and more refined states of mind, and to understand them one needs to believe in and understand the Hindu way of looking at God. . . . A Christian trying to adapt these practices will likely disrupt their own Christian beliefs’.[5]

Wedded to the Hindu system of philosophy and psychology, Yoga refers to “the mystical union with the universal spirit.”[6] Yoga practices are meant to aid practitioners experience oneness with the cosmos.

Associated with the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy, an instructor named Danda likewise stated:

Is Yoga a religion that denies Jesus Christ? Yes. Just as Christianity denies the Hindu Maha Devas such as Siva, Vishnu, Durga and Krishna, to name a few, Hinduism and its many Yogas have nothing to do with God and Jesus (though we do respect that others believe in this way). As Hindus who live the Yogic lifestyle, we appreciate when others understand that all of Yoga is all about the Hindu religion. Modern so-called ‘yoga’ is dishonest to Hindus and to all non-Hindus such as the Christians.[7]

East is east, and west is west, and if Christianity is to remain Christian, “the twain,” meaning yoga and Christianity, should never be integrated. The soul that is engaged to Jesus Christ cannot commit spiritual harlotry by flirting with the yogic practices intended to introduce them to Hindu gods. As John the Apostle wrote: “Little chidren, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).


“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (Paul, 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, KJV)

[1] Robert King, “Torah Yoga? If it draws Jews closer to their faith,” The Indianapolis Star, 12 April 2006, 1A.
[2] Susan Bordenkircher, Yoga for Christians (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006) Paperback, 224 pages.
[3] Bordenkircher quoted by Darryl E. Owens, “‘Christian yoga’ strikes a new pose,” DenverPost.com, Thursday, May 18, 2006. Online at: htttp://www.denverpost.com/lifestyleles/ci_3819655.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid. quoting Sannyasin Arumugaswami. Apparently, Owens’ article quoting Arumugaswami first appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, May 14, 2006. See Laurette Willis, “Why a Christian ALTERNATIVE to Yoga?” Praise Moves. Online at: http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga/.
[6] Kurt E. Koch, Occult Practices and Beliefs: A Biblical Examination from A to Z (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1971):123.
[7] Danda, of the Dharma Yoga Ashram (Classical Yoga Hindu Academy, www.classicalyoga.org) located in Manahawkin, New Jersey, in a personal e-mail to the Lighthouse Trails Research Project. Used with permission.

* Matthew Lee Anderson, "God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Body," Christianity Today, 8/12/11,
**Swamie A.P. Mukerji, Spiritual Consciousness : Yoga Lessons for Developing Spiritual Consciousness (Yogi Publication Society, Masonic Temple, Chicago, 1911), pp. 157, 160. Swamie Mukerji instructs readers on yoga for spiritual exercise in order to create a global transformation of consciousness that will usher in a new age of "oneness." Also see http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-life-in-way.html

Quotations at the top of the article were added to the original text. This article was reprinted with permission of the author. Published at http://guardinghisflock.com/2011/01/11/posture-to-apostasy/#more-1502

Friday, August 12, 2011


Dance and Worship

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, KJV

“It’s difficult to get people to come to church” said A.W. Tozer, “when the only attraction is God.” So churches now offer enticements. Driven by the “wants” and “needs” of the audience, people come to church for “therapy.” Expository preaching from the Bible is down, but entertainment is up. Welcome to “the church of Me.”

Churches call their worship services “celebrations,” and offer a smorgasbord of attractions including rock music, drama, multimedia presentations and now liturgical, or sacred, dance. Recently, a website advertised a book with the title, Dancing into the Anointing: Touching the Heart of God through Dance. Of course, practitioners of all these so-called worship activities attempt to find justification for dancing into the anointing somewhere in the Bible.

At least two psalms invite the Hebrew nation to praise the Lord “with dancing,” to “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing” (Psalms 149:3; 150:4). They did it. Why shouldn’t we? If persons like David danced before God (2 Samuel 6:14), then why shouldn’t churches take cue from the king and do the same? But do these injunctions from Psalms and the example of David provide justification for employing liturgical dance in the church’s worship as advocates of it claim they do?

In the context of any “worship” based upon the Old Testament, questions about dance arise. Are we to bring sacrifices to church? Is dance, we might ask, a means of grace that can draw worshippers into the heart of God? For that matter, does God need or want the dance of moderns to praise Him?

Dance in the Old Testament
It must be known that between the biblical and contemporary worlds, there exists a cultural divide. The dance of today does not necessarily equate to the dance of that day. It does not follow that because God invited the Israelites to dance before Him under the Old Covenant He now invites worshippers to dance in the church under the New Covenant. The Hebrew culture was wedded to dance. Occasions for dancing were important. The feasts and sacred days of Israel’s religious calendar provided occasions for Israel to express their praise to the Lord via the medium of dance. At those times, even the bed-ridden were exhorted to exalt the name of their God! (Psalm 149:5). One scholar summarized, “Much of what we consider everyday life was so bound to sacral concerns in biblical times that the cultic/secular dichotomy is not as useful in classifying dance as the occasions on which it was performed.”[1]

As has been pointed out, those who employ dance in contemporary worship use certain Psalms as justification for doing so. But it should be noted that accompanying dancing, the psalmist invited Israel to spontaneously praise the Lord with trumpet, psaltery and harp, timbrel and dance, stringed instruments and organs, upon the loud cymbals and upon the high sounding cymbals (Psalm 150:3-6). Mention of these instruments highlights the cultural disparity between our day and that of ancient Israel. If the instruments are foreign to our culture, then might it be suggested that the type of dance the Hebrews offered to God also differed? Do proponents of modern liturgical, or sacred, dance also advocate using such instruments to accompany their dance before the Lord? Or is contemporary “worshipful” dance choreographed for and then accompanied by softer, and perhaps, and more sensual music?

In the Hebrew religion and culture, dance was a participatory and spur-of-the-moment exercise of praise to God, rather than an artistic activity performed by dancers before a worshipping congregation. Furthermore, the invitation to dance was open to the whole congregation, not restricted to a performance by a dance troop in a worship service.

A Definition of Old Testament Dance
Dance in the Old Testament was processional. Of the several words used for dance in the ancient Hebrew language, the root meaning of the most frequently used word (Hebrew, hwl) means to “perform a whirling dance.” It describes the post-war emotions of the Hebrew people who expressed “the emotion of joy, particularly as the way to describe women who danced when their men returned safely from war.”[2] The word connotes spontaneous, as opposed to choreographed, bodily movements. As such, Hebrew dancing suggests something like the physical exhilaration and celebration NFL fans feel and demonstrate when their favorite team scores a touchdown, or wins a championship game.

Shall the Church Dance Like David?
In discussing the merit of dance in worship, advocates of it invariably seize upon the Old Testament example of King David. As Robert Webber defines it, liturgical dance is the “expressive use of the body similar to that used by David, who danced before the Lord.”[3] It is argued that, like David, congregations ought to offer sacred and celebratory worship to God through the medium of dance. David, says the historical record, danced “before the Lord,” so why shouldn’t we? (2 Samuel 6:14). The answer to this question lies in our understanding of both the occasion and the description of what David actually did before the Lord when the ark was rescued from the Philistines and brought back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).

The Occasion
From the days of aged Eli and Samuel, a state of war existed between Israel and the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:1-2; 5:25). Early in that war, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of the Lord’s Divine Presence with the nation. For one-hundred long years the ark had been separated from the tabernacle. Initially, for several months it stood under Philistine control. Then, it rested for a short time at Beth Shemesh. But for the duration, the ark was held captive at the town of Kiriath Jearim. All the while though, the placement of God’s ark lawfully belonged in Israel, not Philistia.

When after Saul’s death and the defeat of the Philistines David consolidated his reign over Israel, the king determined that the ark should be returned to its rightful place, to the tabernacle in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 4-6). But while moving the ark, a disaster occurred.

Instead of moving the ark in a manner prescribed by the law—it was to have been shouldered by Levites with poles run through the ark’s golden rings—David moved the ark like the Philistines had on other occasions, “on a new cart” pulled by oxen (Compare Exodus 25:13-14; Numbers 4:15, 20; 1 Samuel 6:1-21; 2 Samuel 6:1-11.). As the ark moved, Israel rejoiced with musical celebration (2 Samuel 6:5; Psalm 150).

When the celebratory procession reached “the threshing floor of Nacon,” the cart and the ark suddenly wobbled. To keep the ark from falling over, Uzzah instinctively reached out to steady it. In that instant, “the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:7). In the midst of the celebration, why did God smite Uzzah? He died because the ark was not moved “according to the ordinance” of the Lord (1 Chronicles 15:13). In other words, the Israelites were breaking the law of God by transporting the ark in an illegal manner that they had learned from the pagan Philistines, and Uzzah touched the forbidden and paid the penalty.

Some lessons to be gained from this incident are: First, God’s children must not imitate the ways of the world (i.e., the way the Philistines moved the ark) in how they conduct His business and worship Him. Second, they must not profane the sacred, and if for some reason they do, no amount of ceremonial hoopla will compensate for indifference to, or variance from, God’s standards.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, and emotionally smitten by anger and fear over what had happened, David ordered the procession and celebration to stop. For a cooling off period of three months, the ark was stored in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. When it became apparent that God blessed Obed’s household for reason of the ark’s presence, David concluded that it would be safe to make another attempt to move the ark to its rightful place. To usher the ark into Jerusalem, the king organized a second procession. This time he determined to move the ark according to the law of the Lord, and not according to the pagan example of the Philistines. It was during this procession that in exuberance of soul David was seen “dancing before the Lord.”

David’s Dance Described
David’s Position
As the ark was being transported into Jerusalem, David’s position was “before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:14, 16). In that the ark symbolized the dwelling presence of God, the preposition “before” suggests that David danced in the Lord’s presence. Yet such understanding does not exhaust the meaning of David’s position. In the context, “before the Lord” means that David danced “in front of” the ark. As Youngblood notes: “In this context, ‘before the Lord’ (v.5; cf. v.14) is virtually tantamount to ‘before the ark’ (a literal translation of ‘in front of it,’ v.4).”[4] We understand that David’s dance was processional, “in front of,” or, before the ark.

David’s Movements
The Scripture says that, “David was dancing (the verbal form suggests rapid and repeated whirling movements) before the Lord, with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14, 16). David’s movement could be interpreted that that he repeatedly performed athletic spin moves—“360s” or “180s”—as he led the procession, or that as the procession and carriers transported it into the city, David circled about the ark,[5] or that the king of Israel engaged in “an old ritual dance.”[6]

Added to his whirling dancing, the scene also describes him as “leaping” before the ark as it entered the holy city (2 Samuel 6:16). The word “leaping” (Hebrew, pazaz, Piel participle, signifying intense action) suggests “to leap, show agility.” When the two descriptions are combined (“dancing and leaping”), a picture emerges of David spontaneously and athletically jumping up and down in a whirling fashion in front of the ark as the procession transported it back to Jerusalem. The physical demands of David’s movements may explain why he “uncovered” himself by removing the cumbersome royal garments to wear only “a linen ephod,” an undergarment like that typically worn by Levites (2 Samuel 6:14, 20; See 1 Chronicles 15:27.). Track athletes do not run their races in their warm-up suits.

David’s Strength
One final point: David danced “with all his might” (2 Samuel 16:14, Hebrew, oz). His movements were physically demanding and might be compared to the most exhausting of today’s aerobic workouts.

David and Today’s Sacred Dance
One can only compare the spontaneous, athletic, and aerobic dance of David to the choreographed and scripted dance advocated within contemporary evangelicalism to see that the form, occasion, culture and motivation of it is a world apart from modern “worshipful” dance. Ancient Hebrew and modern liturgical dance simply do not belong to the same genre. So let’s stop promoting the use of sacred or liturgical dance in the modern church by referencing it to the example of David. On this point, apples are not being compared with apples.

When the dance of David is studied, it becomes difficult to see any resemblance between it and the liturgical dance of today. Robert Webber justified the use of sacred dance “similar to that used by David.” In his book Worship Is a Verb, he describes the dance of a young girl that he once observed during an ordination service at a local Baptist church, a service crafted and choreographed to present mystical imagery and symbolism to the congregation.[7] We need not fear this type of dance he wrote, because it “certainly will not turn us into worldly Christians, nor impede our worship or produce unclean thoughts.”[8] Assuming his point for a moment, that such dance will not turn us into worldly Christians or corrupt our thoughts, then it follows that neither will observing such dancing turn us into spiritual Christians.

The Golden Calf
In that most often it involves bodily movement scripted to rhythmic music, dancing primarily appeals to humanity’s fleshly nature. Like the worship expressed in the ancient fertility religions, Israel’s passionate and physical worship of the golden bull was idolatrous. Exodus records that after offering sacrifices to the molten calf, the Israelites “rose up to play” (Exodus 32:6). The word for “play” (Hebrew, tsachaq) can possess a sexual meaning as when Abimelech observed Isaac “caressing” (tsachaq) Rebekah, or when Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of attempting to “mock” (tsachaq) or make sexual “sport” (NASB) of her (See Genesis 26:8; 39:14, 17.).

Associated with the Israelites’ sexual playing was their dancing. “And it came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain” (Exodus 32:19). Based upon this incident, Paul warned the Corinthians, “Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance’” (1 Corinthians 10:7, RSV). Warning: contemporaries who employ dance ought to be concerned that what they are doing is really “sporting,” not worshipping.

The Absence of Dance in the New Testament
Having observed the cultural disparity between ancient Hebrew and modern sacred dance, it must now be asked whether, or not, the New Testament encourages praising and worshipping of God through dance. With the coming of the Christ, the expression of worship of God became distinct from that engaged in by the Hebrew people. As signified by God’s tearing of the Temple Veil from top to bottom when Jesus died, the Old Testament cultus ended as the era of worshipping the Father in spirit and truth commenced (Compare Matthew 27:51; John 4:21-24.). In the worship of the church, any precedent for the employment of liturgical dance in the New Testament is absent. Even though people danced in the context of the Greek and Roman cultures, such activity never found entry into the worship of the early church, and for good reason. Dance was irrelevant to the simple form of worship embraced by the apostolic church (Acts 2:42). The transition from the Old to the New Testament marked a cleavage between the “spectacle” and the “spiritual” in worship.

Dance in the Apostolic Church
Hebrew dance was not used in the worship of the apostolic church. While its service order derived in part from the Jewish synagogue, the early church’s expression of worship distinguished itself from Judaism for both theological and cultural reasons.

The End of the Old Order
Upon Jesus’ death, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). With the breaking down of the old order, the church grew to embrace both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14-16). A new age had dawned, and along with it, a spiritual setting in which there would no longer be “Jew nor Greek,” but rather, “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The Law descended from God through Moses, but “grace and truth” had come through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:14). In the ongoing drama of redemption, the time had arrived when the temple and its services would no longer be employed to worship of God because Jesus’ death brought the whole cultus to an abrupt end. Those who would authentically worship the Father would do so “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The Lord’s announced judgment upon the temple, its services, and its celebrations also served to nullify the old order of worship (Matthew 24:1-2).

With the obvious change of worship “style” between the testaments, it should come as no surprise that sacred or liturgical dance finds no reference in the life of the apostolic church.[9] If dance, as some moderns suggest, is a viable expression of worship, then why does it not find mention in or encouragement from the New Testament writings? Could it be because the ceremonial law and its practices had become obsolete in the life of the church? (See Colossians 2:16-17.). With the birth of the body of Christ, Jewish feast days and national celebrations were no longer relevant to the church’s worship. In other words, occasions for dance had ceased.

Dancing into the Mysteries
As a religious observance and ritual, dancing to worship pagan gods occupied a prominent place among the gnostic religions of the ancient world. However, as has been pointed out, the activity is not mentioned in the era of the apostles (A.D. 35-100). Dancing began to be incorporated in the life of the Church sometime during the patriarchal age (circa A.D. 150-450). Of this intrusion of the dance exhibition into the church’s worship, E. Louis Backman wrote,

[T]he Jewish dance ceremonial determined in a high degree the development of Church dances. But in all probability the highly-developed dance customs of the pagan mysteries cannot have been without influence on the development of the Church dances of Christianity. The terminology used by the patriarch Clement of Alexandria and Ambrose regarding the meaning of the Church dances . . . is the pure language of the mysteries and employs clearly and openly the terminology of the mysteries.[10]

If sacred dance was that noticeable in the surrounding culture, then its absence in the New Testament is telling. Admittedly, this is an argument from silence, but the silence is deafening. Perhaps, the absence of dance’s mention in the New Testament can be explained for a number of reasons.

Why not?
First, the apostolic church did not practice dance because it represented the intrusion of the spectacle upon what otherwise was its practice of a very simple expression of spiritual worship involving “the apostles’ teaching . . . fellowship . . . the breaking of bread and . . . prayer” (Acts 2:42). The early church distinguished itself by focusing upon doctrines to be believed, and not upon fasting, feasting, and festivals (See Colossians 2:16-17.). There is no evidence that dancing was practiced in the simple church of the apostolic era, and such apostolic practice, we might assume, would have been consistent with apostolic precept.

As to the difference between culture and Christianity, Professor Ramsay MacMullen defines culture as “the way of doing things.” Christianity he describes as belief, and a Christian as someone who has “seized upon a doctrine” by which his life is wholly directed and shaped. The difference between culture and Christianity may be compared to the difference between folkways and faith. To the extent that the Christian faith remains centered upon the teachings in a book, the Word of the New Testament, the book then becomes the filter through which the Christian religion should be, and most often is, defined. MacMullen says that the role of Scripture “will screen out, it will simply not allow as ‘religion,’ dancing and other communal or individual cult acts.”[11]

Second, the apostolic church did not employ dance because of its association with the old order of things—the ceremonies, feasts, and sacred days of Judaism. After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the day came when no longer would worship take place on Mt. Zion with its required sacrifices, ceremonies, and rituals, but rather, would take place in a manner consistent with how the Father seeks to be worshipped; that is, “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). The Father no longer seeks to be worshipped according to some outward form and spectacle, but from a spirit of inward faith. While Jews comprised the vast majority in the initial Christian church, the church’s practices and emphases were distinct from Judaism (See the book of Hebrews.). The tearing of the veil in the temple at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion possessed tremendous implications regarding the passing of the old way of worship, and the emergence of a new standard (Matthew 27:51).

And third, the church hesitated to use dance in worship because of its association with paganism. One scholar observed, “The universal importance of dance as part of the induction of new adherents into the mystery cults of the Greco-Roman period . . . made dancing highly suspect for Christian worship.”[12] Another wrote, “Dancing as a religious activity was not prominent in early Christianity, probably because of its pagan licentious associations.”[13]

Dancing With the Stars
On this point, it might again be pointed out how some contemporaries are employing dance.[14] Recently, a symposium celebrating the merger going on between faith and science featured performances by the Ad Deum [to God] Dancing Company, a dance group that expressed “worship through dance at various times throughout the symposium.”[15] 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.”[16] The dance group Ad Deum seeks to provide “A visual fusion of faith and artistry, relevant and redemptive for our time.”[17] 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, questions arise: What connection does dance have with the faith-science merger? Why include the visual and performing arts in a symposium dealing with merging faith and science? At first glance, 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 the “dancing to God” meant to celebrate a “romance” that is taking place between faith and science, between physics and metaphysics, between the visible and invisible universe, 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? After all, the symposium bore the title of, “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science.

Filtered Out
The early church discerned and filtered out from its corporate worship those activities associated with and advocated by surrounding Jewish and pagan cultures, dance being one of the religious activities that the apostolic church refused to incorporate into its assembly.

“Once upon a time” Protestants agreed that the Spirit mediated spirituality through the Scriptures as together they witnessed to God’s works in history and to Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:21; John 5:39; 17:17). But modern evangelicalism is forsaking “spirit and truth” worship and turning to spiritual arousals stimulated by spectacles like those of sacred dance.

[1] Eleanor B. Johnston, “Dance; Dancer,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, General Editor, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979): 856-57.
[2] David S. Dockery, “2565 hwl,” New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, Willem A. VanGemeren, General Editor, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997): 46
[3] Robert E. Webber, Worship Is a Verb (Nashville, TN: Star Song Publishing Group, 1992): 194.
[4] Ronald F. Youngblood, “1, 2 Samuel,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 3, Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992): 870.
[5] S.R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel (Winona Lake, IN: Alpha Publications, 1912): 269.
[6] Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988): 209.
[7] Webber, Worship, 194-195.
[8] Ibid. 195.
[9] Some church fathers tried to justify dance in Christian worship celebrations, and did so by attempting to distance it from the sensual dancing performed by Herod’s daughter, Salome (Matthew 14:6). See Johnston, “Dance; Dancer,” 858. Nevertheless, dance is not advocated by the apostles in the New Testament as a means of sanctifying grace by which to draw the audience closer to God. Rather, it is a mechanical and mystical ritual employed to induce experiences in the souls of spectators.
[10] E. Louis Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and Popular Medicine, Translated by E. Classen (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1952): 1-2.
[11] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to the Eighth Centuries (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997): 106.
[12] Johnston, “Dance; Dancer,” 858.
[13] R. K. Harrison, General Editor, “Dancing,” Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1987): 101.
[14] See Pastor Larry DeBruyn and Sarah Leslie, “Dancing With the Stars: The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science, A Cosmic Two-Step,” Herescope, November 9, 2010. Online: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/11/dancing-with-stars.html.
[15] Billed as “How Science Supports Christianity and Christianity Supports Science,” on October 26-28, 2010, in Austin, Texas, Christianity Today co-sponsored a symposium called “The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science: Empowering the Church to Transform the Culture.”
[16] “Welcome to the Web World of Ad Deum Dance Company,” Ad Deum Dance Company, Relevant and Redemptive Artistry: Passion, Athleticism, Beauty, Grace. Online: www.danceaddeum.com/.
[17] Online: www.danceaddeum.com/id48.html.