Thursday, August 24, 2017

UNIVERSALISM: The Emerging Evangelical Metanarrative

Truths We Believe About God, Part 13
Conclusion: Part 3 

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

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“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.
For He received from God the Father honour and glory,
when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory,
‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
And this voice which came from heaven we heard,
when we were with Him in the holy mount.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy;
whereunto ye do well that ye take heed,
as unto a light that shineth in a dark place,
until the day dawn,
and the day star arise in your hearts
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture
is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man:
but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
—Emphasis added, The Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 1:16-21, KJV

The Emerging Evangelical Metanarrative 

Metanarrative: An overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences. The Big picture![140] 

Born of pantheism emerges an inebriating belief called universalism, that because we’re all part of God now we shall all be part of God forever. God can’t live without us, even though it seems the Trinity did quite well without us in eternity before creation. This is the evangelical metanarrative emerging out of pantheism . . . UNIVERSALISM! But before there can be a new narrative explaining our reality, the old narrative must be dismissed and a new metanarrative introduced.[141] In other words, a new story must replace the old, and The Shack is just such a new story.

The Old Narrative: The Scriptures 
Man needs personal communications from God, in this instance a hand written note from God to Mack. So God wrote to Mack, The Shack’s lead character. “Mackenzie,” Papa goddess tells Mack, “It’s been awhile. I’ve missed you. I’ll be back at the shack next weekend if you want to get together.” Signed “Papa” About receiving this note (perhaps meant by Young to mimic his conversations with God which he wrote down on pads of yellow legal paper), Young creates this thinking which went on in Mack’s mind:

Try as he might, Mack could not escape the desperate possibility that the note just might be from God after all, even if the thought of God passing notes did not fit well with his theological training. In seminary [Young graduated from Bible college, ed.] he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course [expository preaching, ed.]. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects [i.e., theologians, ed.]. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized.... Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was it guilt edges? (Emphasis added, The Shack, 65-66) 

Young’s derogatory swipe at Holy Scripture (that people prefer God in a book, especially an expensively bound leather one with “guilt edges”) is self-indicting. He too puts God in a book—his book! He too has put God’s voice on paper—his paper! He too has put God in a box—his box! He too interprets what his book means. So the question for seekers after truth is: whose book, paper, box or explanation are they going to believe, Young’s or God’s? Again, via musings of his main character, the author takes another swipe at Scripture. “To his amusement” reads the story, Mack “also found a Gideon’s Bible in the nightstand.” (The Shack, 115)

Regarding his derisive jab at Holy Scripture (that Mack found his discovery of a Gideon Bible to be “amusing” if not irrelevant), I would point to personal testimonies of those who, finding themselves in desperate straits in life, found God’s comfort for their soul from reading a Gideon Bible they found in a drawer in a nightstand next to the bed in a hotel room where they were staying. But to Young the Bible is the old and unacceptable story emphasizing sin, guilt and the Savior. The church needs a new narrative, one exclusively based upon love, universal reconciliation and relationship. Enter . . .

The New Metanarrative: The Shack
In his book A New Kind of Christian, as he does in other of his many writings, emergent church leader Brian McLaren calls for a “new framing story.”[142] In his book tellingly titled The End of Evangelicalism?, one scholar summarizes what McLaren wants, that he “calls for an awakening to this new framing story, the ‘creative and transforming story’ of Jesus, where God’s love, reconciliation, sacred beauty, restoration, justice, and renewal take shape among us and the world.”[143] David Fitch’s description of what McLaren desires to see in a new framing story fits, I think, the story Wm. Paul Young creates in The Shack in which he portrays what a new kind of Christianity and Christian might look like. About his new story Young admits:

Please don’t misunderstand me. The Shack is theology, but it is theology wrapped in story, the Word becoming flesh and living inside the blood and bones of common human experience [Note how Young usurps Jesus’ incarnation, ed.]. If you believe, as I do, that everything finds its meaning, value, identity, worth, security, and significance inside relationship, and foremost in one’s relationship with God, then all life falls within the purview of theology, the living word of God’s reality and presence.[144]

The Shack (as also his books Eve and Cross Roads) is Young’s new metanarrative and Lies We Believe About God explains the frame or template of it. In Lies Young claims to expose the deceptions of the old story while in The Shack he creates and communicates the truths of the new story. This is why Eugene Peterson praised The Shack as follows: “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” (The Shack, front cover) There you have it . . . Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is the “old inactive story” for his generation indicating the old way of looking the Christian faith; and Young’s The Shack is a “new interactive story” for this generation explaining the new Christianity. Clever . . . To employ an oxymoronic illustration, this may explain why people formed Bible study groups to study The Shack which is neither in the Bible nor biblical. Bible studies on The Shack? Go figure.

The Shack constantly pictures imaginary conversations taking place in heaven between Papa, Jesus, Sarayu (i.e., the Spirit), Sophia and Mack. But to sell this myth of imagined conversations with God, the Bible has to be discredited, and by innuendo the author, as has been pointed out, does this in The Shack. To communicate this new metanarrative, Christianity needs a new story and theology to enrapture and capture human hearts, and what better entry point is there than getting into vulnerable human hearts by developing concepts about God's relationship to the mystery of suffering where immediate explanations often escape us (Why me, God?). To this issue the Bible speaks about suffering and contains a book called Job.

Nevertheless, Young’s new metanarrative attempts to explain the new Christianity by shedding light on the darkness which surrounds suffering, and to do so Young invents interactive conversations between the members of the Trinity to shed light upon the issues of life, faith and tragedy. But about doing this, A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) cautioned in his classic book The Knowledge of the Holy, that, “It is a real if understandable error to conceive of the Persons of the Godhead as conferring with one another and reaching agreement by interchange of thought as humans do.”[145]

The Basis of the New Story: Vain Imaginings 
On this point and to Tozer’s warning, we note Paul Young bases the origin of his religious allegory about suffering upon personal and private conversations (“notes” he received from God?) he had with God on his daily work-commute from Gresham to Portland, Oregon. In these conversations, Young like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah or Daniel assumes the role of a prophet. He forgets that God entrusted the Jews not Young, with His “oracles” (Romans 3:2). Nevertheless, World magazine reported that, “Young used 80 minutes each day... to fill yellow legal pads with imagined conversations with God focused on suffering, pain, and evil.”[146] Some who knew Young believed his conversations with God were more authentic than imagined. But whether imagined, arising within, or authentic, coming from without, who really knows? Nevertheless, Young admits that The Shack is his theology about suffering wrapped in a story![147] So there you have the new story: from God, to Young to his readers. Oh, really? But from whence did he derive his theology? One can only conclude that the story was sourced within himself and his imagined conversations with God, and that the explanation about suffering was his, not God’s.

The Bible does have something to say about sourcing God’s Word in human imagination, and it’s not good, especially if the imaginings become a “makeover” for God which people in their opinion think He needs and they believe. In his description of idolatry and after growing “unthankful,” the apostle Paul places “imagination” to be the next step into idolatry. He wrote that even though they knew God, the heathen “glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Emphasis mine, Romans 1:21, KJV). The word “imagination” (Greek, dialogismos) literally means, “the thinking of a man deliberating with himself.”[148] Other versions translate imagination by “speculations” (NASB), “thinking” (NIV, NRSV), and “thoughts” (NKJV). The New Living Translation communicates:

Yes . . . they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like.
The result was that their minds became dark and confused.

(Romans 1:21, NLT) 

Dial a god 
Note: The Apostle states that idolatry germinates out of people imagining about God from within themselves. Like using our cell phones, we can simply “dial a god,” oh, and by the way, we can make up any number (mystical-spiritual discipline) we want to reach out and touch the immanent-one, whether God be he, she, her/him, it or whatever. Theology needs authority, and that authority Young finds within himself and his claimed conversations with God. This “authority” allows him to picture God however he wants. So to accommodate society’s sensitivity to patriarchal and racial prejudice, Young ingratiates himself to his readers by picturing the Father (i.e., “Papa”) as an androgynous large African woman all the while ignoring Jesus’ statement that “God is Spirit [He’s above and beyond race, ed.], and those who worship Him [Jesus patriarchally talked about, prayed and called God His Father] must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). In his “shack” (The book's title represents the author's parochial dig at buildings of organized churches.) Young neither worships God in Spirit nor in truth and admittedly, neither do many congregants who might worship in nice buildings. But does not such a caricature of God qualify as a fable?

To this point we can be informed that the word “fable” (Greek mythos) means myth and refers to “a purely fictitious narrative involving supernatural persons, actions, or events, and embodying some popular idea concerning natural or historical phenomena.”[149] So in reality, Young’s story is a cleverly crafted and “cunningly devised fable,” a myth which reads into who God is and therefore either embellishes or contradicts God’s self-disclosure about who He is in Scripture (See 1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 4:4.). In evaluating Young’s book Lies We Believe About God, it has been demonstrated that the author portrays God to be whatever or whoever he needs, wants or imagines Him to be. This is idolatry, which is where the Apostle Paul moves next in his description.

Pagans turn from worshipping the Creator to worshipping creatures, including themselves. Claiming mystical enlightenment derived from inward deliberations—the unthankful source their understanding of God from what they imagine Him to be. They can’t leave God alone. They won’t let God be God. So they mess with Him, and

Their foolish hearts become darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools
as they change the pristine glory of the uncorruptible God
into idols made like corruptible man,
and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

—My paraphrase, Romans 1:21b-23, KJV

In this “spiritual”spiritual exercise they think they’ve become enlightened, but the spiritual reality is that their prideful hearts have become darkened. It can be noted that out of this spiritual chaos will emerge the end time world super-man, the Anti-Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).[150]

Universalism: The Emerging Evangelical Metanarrative 
In the staging process involving the idolatry of imaginations, as the Apostle Paul describes in Romans chapter 1:18-27, humans break with theism to embrace naturalism. Naturalism in turn gives birth to evolutionism. Evolutionism can lead to atheism, but more “naturally” it ends in pantheism, in nature worship, that God’s in everybody and everybody’s in God (i.e., monism). Teilhard de Chardin called this divinization of creation “pleromization” or as Young and Kruger conceptualize it, “trinitization.” But pantheism needs spirituality, and what can be more “spiritual” than communing with nature and the God within? So to get spiritual, the naturalist must move into mysticism, to seek out conversations with God. These mystical communications assure mystics of their oneness with nature (i.e., monism, all is one and one is all). So they meditate upon nature and nature and it, or spirits, talk to them. There is no real separation between them, the rest of humanity and God—no separation in the past, no separation now, no separation after death. No separation from God ever and forever. God can’t separate himself from nature, including all humanity, because to do so would mean God would have to separate himself from himself, that being an impossibility because nature and God are “one.” So in the end the human heart must fixate upon pantheistic naturalism, in which universalism based on monism becomes the culminating belief. And if the popularity of the book and movie The Shack give any indication, universalism is now the emerging evangelical metanarrative!


[138] I should like to point out Peter’s words, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy.” More sure than what? More sure than the testimony that he James and John heard when from heaven the voice of God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In other words, in Scripture God speaks to us in a voice as certain as when He authenticated His pleasure in His Son to the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and to the crowd at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:21-22). In the prophecy of Scripture we have a “sure word” of God. The transcendent God of (not in) the universe speaks to us from heaven, all the while the precious Holy Spirit bearing witness to and personalizing the testimony He inspired to be written about the Lord Jesus. The Spirit brings the Word home to our hearts. As such, we don’t need myths men invent for us about God, “cunningly devised fables” like The Shack (2 Peter 1:16). 
[139] A metanarrative may be explained as, “an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences.” ( Through Mack’s experiences in life and at The Shack, Wm. Paul Young gives just such an interpretation of and meaning to life. 
[140] See Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2001). Throughout the book McLaren declares the need for “new framing story.” 
[141] David E. Fitch, The End of Evangelicalism? (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2011): 190. 
[142] Wm. Paul Young, “Foreword,” C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D., The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream (New York, NY: Hachette Book Group, 2012): xi. 
[143] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1961): 30. 
[144] Emphasis added, Susan Olasky, “Commuter-driven bestseller,” World, June 28/July 5, 2008, 49. 
[145] Young, “Foreword,” Shack Revisited: xi. 
[146] John Henry Thayer, “dialogismos,” Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975 Reprint): 139. 
[147] Ronald Bridges and Luther A. Weigle, The King James Word Book (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994): 127. The Oxford English Dictionary entry “myth” is quoted. 
[148] Andrews, Christianity and Anti-Christianity: 264-283

*This article series by Pastor Larry DeBruyn will be published into a book, both hard copy and e-versions, Lord willing. Stay tuned to Herescope for further information when these become available. Prayers are appreciated.

Read the previous articles in this series: 
Part 1: Truths We Believe About God 
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist 
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way? 
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality 
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization 
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All” 
Part 7: A Catena: Universalism's Troubles With “All 
Part 8: A Catena: Universalism's “World” and “Everyone” 
Part 9: A Catena: The “Catenization” of Universalism 
Part 10: Pretending Evil Doesn't Exist

Part 11: Conclusion: Part 1: Evangelical Anarchy & Chaos 

Part 12: NATURALISM: Undercurrent in Evangelicalism 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

NATURALISM: Undercurrent in Evangelicalism

Truths We Believe About God, Part 12
Conclusion: Part 2

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

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“Beware lest any man spoil you through
philosophy and vain deceit,
after the tradition of men,
after the rudiments of the world
[i.e., naturalism, ed.],
and not after Christ.”

—The Apostle Paul, Colossians 2:8, KJV 

NATURALISM: Undercurrent in Evangelicalism 
Naturalism’s influence upon evangelicalism has earlier been traced in the movement’s history, observing the initial effect of the philosophy upon American Christianity evidenced with the rise of liberalism and its rejection of supernaturalism, then naturalism’s influence upon Neo-evangelicalism with that movement’s accommodation of evolutionary theory, then the Charismatic movement’s protest against naturalism by working of supernatural “signs and wonders,” then by the mega-church’s employment of humanistic means to produce “results” of church growth, and now the emergent church’s reinterpretation of the biblical mandate to fit a worldly vision of reality by adjusting the church’s message to fit the ecological, social, economical, political and spiritual needs of life on this planet. (By saying this I do not suggest man has the right to abuse this planet and its life. God has given humans the right of beneficial dominion over, not destruction of His world, Genesis 1:26. And the Bible also gives instructions, even commands, about how we are to treat others, Galatians 6:10.)

As ideas have consequences, there is however a sequence of “isms” inherent within a naturalistic philosophy of life. We begin with the source, the philosophy of naturalism which at core is anti-Christ because Scripture presents the Lord Jesus as the supernatural creator and sustainer of the universe (Colossians 1:16-17); and that after His Second Coming, the whole cosmos will consummate in Him “so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). The Lord Jesus Christ is the Omega point toward the universe is headed (Revelation 1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13).

Naturalism, especially in this modern world in which scientific and technological advantages reduce the insecurities and harshness of life, negatively influences people to be less dependent upon God because the philosophy asserts that nature is king. Nature is viewed as the essence of being. Ah, life is good! that is, until we come to the end of it. Is this all there is? Death has a way of exposing humans to the insecurity within nature. Death brings our vulnerability up close and personal (Romans 5:12). But despite the prognosis of death, naturalism seeks to explain life, even the mystery of it, through knowing “the methods characteristic of the natural sciences.”[123]

Naturalism favors a monistic worldview (that everything which exists is one natural reality) as opposed to a dualistic worldview (that everything which exists is constituted of two realities, one natural (below) and one supernatural (above). (See John 8:21-30.) Respectively, these realities are the cosmos and its Creator, the universe and God. Though supernaturalism holds that God has and can miraculously interrupt the cosmos whenever and however He wills (i.e., creation, the Exodus, the incarnation of Jesus, His resurrection from the dead, His promised personal return, etc.), philosophical naturalism rejects “the supernatural, or world of god and invisible agencies.”[124]

So enter the theory of evolution, naturalism’s brain child. Might it be said that evolution evolves out of naturalism? To accommodate their faith to the latest advances in science or human knowing and because they think it’s settled theory, many evangelicals believe some aspect of evolutionary theory. Unwilling to consider that the theory might flawed and false, Neo-Calvinists like the well-known Timothy Keller accept “truths” about evolution and try to incorporate the theory into their Christian faith despite the fact that the theory neither needs nor wants God. Evolution is a quite self-sufficient theory and doesn’t need God. But incorporating God into evolution by evangelicals appears as so much Christian “window dressing.” Really I quite like my naturalism they say, but I’ll give God a nod.

After discussing pros and cons of the theory (mostly pros), Keller stated in his best selling book The Reason for God (2008): “For the record I think God guided some kind of process of natural selection,” indicating he believes in theistic evolution, but adds that he rejects “the concept of evolution as All-encompassing Theory [by using capital letters “A” and “T” Keller gives a nod to God that the theory is not divine, ed.].”[125]

Another example is evident in Paul Young’s book Lies We Believe About God, when his friend C. Baxter Kruger encountered an eccentric Indiana Jones looking “systematic microevolutionary botanist” whom he found himself seated next to on a commercial jet flight. After Kruger introduced himself to the botanist as a theologian, the “microevolutionary botanist” responded, “I suppose you want to talk me about evolution.” “Not really,” Baxter answered. “I don’t care much about that, but please tell me more about plants.” (LWBAG, 127) These two illustrations, there are many more I am sure, indicate that vast numbers of evangelicals determine what they believe about God by mixing naturalism and supernaturalism. In their heart of hearts, or mind of minds, they do not entirely believe God to be the cause of all causes, but rather in the natural make-up of the universe, causes are their own causes. Causes cause themselves. In other words, the universe is a symphony without a Composer and a Director.

Enter Intelligent Design—a scientific movement which adapts Thomas Aquinas’ teleological argument for God’s existence. Intelligent designers ask, how can there be natural design in the universe absent a supernatural Designer? Their answer of course is, there can’t. The point is made. But naked knowing does not prove Jesus is God and lead individuals to accept the Gospel and believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for believing God is the Designer of the universe and the Cause of all causes. Nature bears wonderful testimony to “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:19-20). But left unto itself this argument takes its believers no further than into Deism, believing that, oh! yeah, there’s a God, but He’s left us on our own to figure life out and fend for ourselves. Intelligent Design, while giving God nodding acceptance, is just another nuance of the philosophy of naturalism. While the popular theory explains God, it does not explain His Son. For that supernatural revelation, the logos, is needed (John 1:1-5, 14).

Many evangelical pastors and theologians, perhaps to enhance their worldly credibility, acceptance and respect, continue to look for common religious ground with scientists. Why argue about evolution when they mutually accept all or part of the theory to be true?

But many individuals think that the consequence of believing in evolution is atheism. Charles Hodge (1797-1868) thought so and stated as much in his book, What Is Darwinism?[126] Maybe evolution does demand atheism, but then, given the innate need of humans to worship someone or something bigger than themselves, there just might be another possibility, and that’s . . .

Young: God’s in Everything 
Pantheism, believing that nature is God, or panentheism, that nature contains God (as a can contains Coca Cola) or that God’s being permeates nature (like a colored dye poured into a glass of water), is basic to The Shack’s view of God. God participates in and is not separate from nature. As Jesus explains to Mack about “Papa-Elousia”:

Being always transcends appearance—that which only seems to be.... That is why Elousia is such a wonderful name. God who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things—ultimately emerging as the real—and any appearances that mask that reality will fall away. (Emphasis added, The Shack, 112). 

Kruger: Everything’s in God (The Trinity) 
After drawing an intertwined three-circled symbol of the Trinity, C. Baxter Kruger, Young’s friend, relates the following conversation he had with that scientist mentioned earlier which Young recounts in his book Lies: “Look,” says Kruger to the scientist,

“this is the symbol for the Three-Person Oneness of God. Inside of this moving divine dance of relationship, everything was created: every human being, every plant, every subatomic particle, everything. God loves His creation and our participation in it.” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 127-128) 

Connect the dots . . . Imagine! Young says . . . God who is the ground of all being dwells in, around, and through all things. God’s in everything. Kruger says . . . Everything from particles to people is “inside” the Trinity. This is how Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) imagined reality. He saw the universe to be “pan-Christic,” that “Christ is in all things” and “all things are in Christ.” To de Chardin all things includes “all humanity. . . all creation, all of life, all beings and elements in the cosmos.”[127] Young and Kruger appear to have taken the cue for their worldview from Teilhard, and call it whatever you might wish, this symbiotic worldview of Christ being in nature (Can we say nature incarnates Christ?) is pantheism. About pantheism Samuel Andrews insightfully observed:

The essential element of Pantheism... “is the unity of God and nature, of the Infinite and the finite, in one single substance.” The Infinite is not swallowed up in the finite, nor the finite in the Infinite, but both co-exist; and this co-existence is necessary and eternal. Thus we have the One and the many, the Absolute, the All. It will have no dualism; it will unify nature, man, and God.[128]

Pantheism or panentheism, call it what you wish, philosophically intrudes into who Scripture reveals God to be (Colossians 2:8). In a pantheistic view of the cosmos the worlds of above and below meld into one, the idea of divine immanence (God’s down here) consuming any idea of divine transcendence (God’s up there).

God’s Lesson about Pantheism: Mercy Seat, Ark and Temple
Though the glory of the Lord came to dwell on the Ark’s Mercy Seat beneath the Cherubim in the temple, the materials of the ark and the temple were not permeated with divinity. Solomon knew that the Lord transcended anything he could build. His dedicatory prayer reflected this:

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?
—1 Kings 8:27 

Think for a moment: Solomon, according to the Lord’s revealed instructions and specifications, built a beautiful temple out of valuable materials. The Lord however, was not in those materials and neither was He in the temple until He came to dwell in it (2 Chronicles 5:14; 7:1-3). Evidently God is not in all things. If He was, then all Israel would have to have done is build the temple and worshipped it, like a lot of people do when they reverence their beautiful and majestic churches and cathedrals. But from God’s perspective, there are no sacred places and no sacred spaces (John 4:21-24; 1 Timothy 2:8). That Israel was ordered to build a temple absent God’s presence testified to His transcendence! Yet given the human heart’s propensity to worship nature, the story of the Old Testament faith could be related “in terms of a tension between a spiritual conception of God and worship... and various pressures, such as idolatry, which attempted to debase and materialize the religious consciousness.”[129] Such is the transcendent separation of the Holy God from His material creation.

The Lord is Holy 
The essential attribute of God in Scripture is holiness. As regards God being holy, one Old Testament scholar observed:

The basic idea conveyed by the holiness of God is His separateness.... the One who stands apart from and above the creation.... It is no exaggeration to state that this element overshadows all others in the character of the deity....[130] 

Yet the heathen worldview does not accept God’s transcendence over creation but rather chooses to believe He’s immanent in creation, that He exists and dwells in everything whether it be animate or inanimate (Romans 1:23). Hence pagans could make idols out of materials they believed were indwelt by the universal soul of God, that divinity was in, through, with and around the wood and precious metals they used to fashion their images (Jeremiah 10:8). The problem was that their idols could not act or speak, unless demons would use the idols to deliver fake oracles (Zechariah 10:2). As Isaiah mocked:

They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.
—Isaiah 42:17 

The point: pantheism, believing that God is wholly immanent, or its cousin panentheism, that nature is permeated-infused of a divine Soul, leads to idolatry. In contrast to the surrounding pagan nations and their worship centers, this explains why the glory of the transcendent Lord came dwell in the temple—He came to dwell on His terms and not Israel’s—and later why when Israel apostatized from Him to worship idols, the glory of the Lord departed from the temple (Ezekiel 8:3-4; 9:3; 10:4; 11:23). The whole point of the coming and going of the Lord to and from the temple was to show His chosen nation that though He transcendently dwelt apart from and above the temple, He could, if He chose to, come to dwell immanently within it! The Lord did not dwell in every ancient temple built by man, only in Israel’s. His indwelling was exceptional and selective. As Paul the Apostle told the philosophers on Mars Hill, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). By the way, as to the selective indwelling of God, let’s not forget beloved, that in this present age we, not everybody, are “a temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you [we] have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19). God’s presence does not dwell in everything or every person, but in some people, in believers who have been baptized in, with, and by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; John 7:39; 14:16-17; Romans 8:9).

“Papa-Elousia” is not holy! 
But the God of The Shack is not holy. He does not live separate from nature. He is part of it. Instead of being called “His Excellency,” we might call Young’s Papa goddess, “her immanency”! In Young’s allegory God is not high and lifted up, but base and brought down (See Isaiah 6:1-7.) This may explain why in The Shack Young consistently spells Creation spelled with a capital “C”; because his scheme of reality involves a panentheistic universe permeated of divinity, that God “is the ground of all being dwelling in, around, and through all things.”[131] Likewise, while denigrating a biblical worldview as one of unnecessary institutions, arbitrary authority, and inhibiting rules, The Shack is big on experiencing “Creation” with a capital “C”—strolling in the garden, hiking in the forests, lying on a dock and looking up at the stars in the night skies, exploring caves, walking on water, and so on. Young’s pantheism leads to communion with nature which eventuates in mysticism, seeing visions, hearing voices, experiencing visitations, whether imagined or real. But as evolution/pantheism is the brain child of naturalism, so mysticism is the soul child of pantheism.

In connecting the divinity within them to the divinity dwelling in, with, through and around them, mystical meditators (or imaginers, Romans 1:21) become laws unto themselves resulting in spiritual anarchy, one person’s experience either coalescing with or contradicting another’s. Over a century ago Samuel J. Andrews insightfully navigated the mindset of the pantheist in his book Christianity and Anti-Christianity (1899). He observed that, “Every man, being Divine, is a law to himself. The Divinity in him rules and guides him.”[132] So disengaged with the idea that Scripture was and is any kind of direct and binding Word from God, perhaps being but a recollection of people’s “experiences” with the divine, pantheistic mystic-meditators will only “listen to and obey the inward voice.”[133] So the inner voice asks (Compare The Shack’s portrayal of the Bible just covered.):

Why hearken to the voices of the past? Why listen to the [“prophetic,” ed.] utterances of an old Bible? “If a man claims to know and to speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered [“dusty and decayed,” ed.] nation in another country, in another world [ancient Israel to whom were committed the oracles of God, Romans 3:2, ed.], believe him not.” In other words, it is nothing to me what God has said by Moses or Paul; I am concerned only with what He says to me today.[134]

Pantheistic seekers into the divine, and make no mistake pantheism needs, even demands, mysticism, sense God speaking directly to them or experience having conversations with God. Whether imagined within themselves or received from spirits, these voices allow mystic meditators to relate to others their experiences with God. In the “spiritual exercise” of meditation we can be reminded that idolatry is thinking wrong thoughts or experiencing wrong emotions about God. As a result, “No law can be sacred to any man, but that of his own nature. Let every man obey his own Divine impulses.”[135] So as meditators take their mystical journey into themselves or transcendence, let the new metanarrative begin. Here we have it: naturalism leads to imagination and imagination stimulates belief in pantheism which asks people to commune with nature in and around them, and that is mysticism—it’s all within the mind and soul of man, or worse, demonic, as souls cavort with the spiritual principalities and powers in the universe (Greek stoicheion, Colossians 2:8; See Ephesians 6:12).

Communing with and experiencing nature can also be classified as existentialist (For definition, see footnote.).[136] In imagined conversations which he claims streamed into his consciousness from God, Young asserts his beliefs about God. His source of belief is primarily himself. Often he tries to find biblical confirmation for his conversations, but as he distorts Scripture to do so, he does not. Why try to find truth from some old leather Bible with gold edges, or what he calls “guilt edges”? That’s why he calls other sources, including truths from the Bible, Lies. By asserting that his conversations with God make him an authority on theological truth, the author demeans Scripture because for existentialists the Word becomes a “troublesome obstacle . . . in the way of the decisive conversation between the I and the Thou.” So the existentialist asks, “How can I meet a Thou if he has the written Word in between?”[137] So Young cleverly inserts his conversations with God to replace the Bible, and from appearances, record numbers of evangelicals, based upon his talks with God, are buying into and believing the story and theology of The Shack.
Adapted from Pastor Larry DeBruyn's article "Theater Church"

Drunken Spirituality 
About the arrogance pantheistic belief promotes in the human soul, Samuel Andrews offered this insightful impression:

Pantheism is an inebriating faith, of which vanity or sensationalism is apt to be the first word, though not the last.... When you put the Unities, and Immensities, and Abysses in the place of God, you are very apt indeed to feel what a wonderful fellow you must be to front the World and the Eternities in that grand way.[138]

Stay tuned for the final “ism” which derives from a naturalistic worldview, which is . . .

Conclusion: Part 3 to follow . . .

[123] Simon Blackburn, “Naturalism,” The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Second Edition (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005): 246. 
[124] Ibid. 
[125] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2008): 98. 
[126] Charles Hodge, What Is Darwinism? (New York, NY: Scribner, Armstrong, and Company, 1874): 102. Hodge says, “We have thus arrived at the answer to our question, What is Darwinism? It is Atheism.” 
[127] Ursula King, Christ In All Things: Exploring Spirituality with Teilhard de Chardin (London, GB: SCM Press Ltd, 1997): 70, 68. 
[128] Samuel J. Andrews, Christianity and Anti-Christianity in Their Final Conflict (New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1899, Second Edition): 126-127. 
[129] J.A. Motyer, “Idolatry,” The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962): 551. Such is the transcendent separation of the Holy God from His material creation. That is why in the Second Commandment God ordered: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Exodus 20:4).
[130] E.F. Harrison, “Holiness; Holy,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, General Editor, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982): 725. As another scholar summarizes, “God’s holiness thus becomes an expression for his perfection of being that transcends everything creaturely.” See Jackie A. Naudé, “7727 qadoshNew International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, Volume 3, Willem A. VanGemeren, General Editor (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997): 879. 
[131] It can be counted that the word “creation” occurs approximately twenty times in The Shack, and is always spelled with a capital “C.” By his use of the upper case spelling contra Romans 1:25, is the author assigning divinity to nature? Too, in its first occurrence of the word “nature” is spelled with a capital “N.” (The Shack, 15) On the page preceding, Young also wrote of “the god of winter.” (The Shack, 14) 
[132] Andrews, Christianity and Anti-Christianity: 256. 
[133] Ibid: 257. 
[134] Ibid. 
[135] Ibid: 258. 
[136] “Essentially existentialism is a revolt against rationalism, with its stress on reason alone, for its failure to progress beyond the obvious, its lack of engagement with people, and its ignoring of their real needs.... Existentialism is to be experienced directly rather than taught.” See E.D. Cook, “Existentialism,” New Dictionary of Theology, Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright, Editors (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988): 243. Based upon the above definition, The Shack qualifies as an existential book as it engages the experience of readers at the level of one great emotional need, that of resolving any great sadness they may have experienced in their lives. 
[137] Emphasis mine, Robert P. Roth, “Existentialism and Historic Christian Faith,” A Christianity Today Reader, Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor (New York, NY: Meredith Press, 1966): 231. 
[138] Mr. H.R. Hutton quoted by Andrews, Christianity and Anti-Christianity: 258.

Images from The Shack, the official trailer of the movie,

*Read the previous articles in this series: 
Part 1: Truths We Believe About God 
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist 
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way? 
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality 
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization 
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All” 
Part 7: A Catena: Universalism's Troubles With “All 
Part 8: A Catena: Universalism's “World” and “Everyone” 
Part 9: A Catena: The “Catenization” of Universalism 
Part 10: Pretending Evil Doesn't Exist

Part 11: Conclusion: Part 1: Evangelical Anarchy & Chaos 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Evangelical Anarchy & Chaos

Truths We Believe About God, Part 11
Conclusion: Part 1 

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

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn 

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, “The Lord has said, ‘You shall have peace’”; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’”
—Emphasis added, Jeremiah 23:16-17, NKJV

Evangelical Anarchy & Chaos
m. Paul Young admits The Shack is a story, but that it's wrapped in theology. Readers are thus challenged to discover the theology behind The Shack, and this has been the purpose of my interaction with Young’s book Lies We Believe About God. “Strictly, theology is that which is thought and said concerning God.”[111] So what does Young think and communicate about God? What is his theology which underlies Young’s writings?

It has been demonstrated that God’s Word is not core to Young’s beliefs. The assumption of Young’s big story, one contradicting Scripture, is that God is reconciled to everybody and everybody’s reconciled to God—that from time immemorial all people either now have or will develop a loving relationship with God. That The Shack has sold upwards of twenty-two million copies and the movie has attained star status indicates the “feel good” message of Universalism has become popular among evangelical Christians. So what’s going on here? It all begins with authority because theology is based on authority, on God’s Word, the Bible.

As they look at the development of American pan-evangelicalism over the last decades, conservative Christians try to understand and explain the phenomena of both the book (2007) and movie The Shack (2017). Beliefs that were subtly implied and peddled by author Wm. Paul Young in The Shack are now openly declared in his non-fictional work Lies We Believe About God, in which he claims to expose lies commonly accepted as truths among evangelicals. To expose the twenty-eight lies he believes plague evangelicalism’s collective psyche, the author cleverly frames arguments around his impressions, experiences, conversations, questions, misrepresented Bible verses, and personal convictions. In his “conversation” with his readers, he intends for his core beliefs to influence theirs and that they too will reject lies they believe about God. After all, if what he exposes are really lies, shouldn’t readers embrace Young’s truths?

So as he wrote The Shack to explain to his children what he had grown to believe about God, ten years later he’s written a sort-of-theology Lies We Believe About God to make credible what he believes about God to his followers. Many pastors and Christian leaders have spoken out and written against The Shack, and their criticism has not been well received by those who love the book and movie.

Universalism Undeterred 
Wayne Jacobsen, who collaborated with Young in writing writing The Shack, did so knowing that Young’s belief in universal reconciliation not only contradicted what he believed about salvation but also would offend, at least initially, mainstream evangelicals who possessed a superficial and cultural acquaintance with the Gospel. So Jacobsen attempted to help Young clean up obvious and offensive references to Universalism the first manuscripts of The Shack. Through their discussions, Jacobsen thought he had influenced Young to move away from Universalism toward a more traditional view of salvation, and in the editing process overt evidences of Young’s Universalism became obscured. Thus when critics arose who rejected the book’s humanization of God and undertones of Universalism, Jacobsen pejoratively labeled them hostile conspirators and defended both Young and his religious story-narrative-allegory he helped to edit. After all, criticism of Young was indirectly criticism of him. So one of the questions Jacobsen addressed to defend Young was: “Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?”[112]

Jacobsen admitted the theme of universal reconciliation “was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR,” but that both he and Young came to an understanding which he thought “affected” the author’s view of salvation. In other words, in the give and take of the editing process Young grew out of believing in UR. So Jacobsen excused Young as follows: “Holding him [Young] to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.”[113] So in answer to the question, “Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?” Jacobsen categorically denied, “It does not.”[114] Yet a decade later in his book Lies We Believe About God, in refuting what he calls the lie “You need to get saved.” (Chapter 13), Wm. Paul Young “outs” his personal belief in Universalism. In the conversation he’s having with readers he writes,

Are you [Paul Young asks of himself] suggesting that everyone is saved?
That you believe in universal salvation?
That is exactly what I am saying!
This is real good news!
(LWBAG, 118) 

So as we look at what is happening in the religious conglomerate called evangelicalism, we ask, how has the movement grown so insensitive to the Gospel which it once accepted? That TBN (the Trinity Broadcasting Network) recently completed a 20 episode series “Restoring The Shack” featuring Wm. Paul Young, who also appeared on the Oprah show, indicates the authority of the evangel has been lost amidst entertainment.[115] As he rides the wave of celebrity, Young appears comfortable in peddling his synthesis of quasi Christianity and New Age and New Spiritual beliefs, and it appears that professing Christians are eating, or should I say buying, it up. So it must be asked, how did evangelicalism transition from Bible teachers like Dr. M.R. DeHaan (1891-1965) of the Radio Bible Class and Theodore Epp (1907-1985) of Back to the Bible to evangelists like Billy Graham (1918- ) and now to faith innovators like Wm. Paul Young (1955- )?[116] Did these early Bible teachers create a climate in which lies could flourish?

A Question of Authority 
“Ideas have consequences” is a phrase that has been often repeated, and nothing is more consequential and devastating to the Christian faith than thinking that one, the Bible, though it may contain the word of God or be a record of people’s experiences with God, is not the transcendently sourced inspired and authoritative Word from of God; and two, that the Scriptures are not determinative as to what Christians should believe, what they should not believe, how they should not behave, and how they should behave (2 Timothy 3:16). When Christians jettison the idea that Scripture’s authority without and external to themselves, spiritual anarchy results. Much group Bible study involves participants saying, I feel this verse means this or that. But the Bible means what it means and says what it says despite what I might personally think or feel. Preachers have popularly proclaimed, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it!” I would change this to: The Bible says it, that settles it! God’s Word is God’s Word independent of whether I believe it or not. If people believe whatever might suit a contemporary whim or fancy, and we fundamentalists and evangelicals are not immune from doing this, then what they believe about God is sourced within them, and such individualism is naturalism. Absent any coherence provided by the external authority of God in His Word, then everyman will believe and do whatever... whatever... they want. “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). About such a condition of faith and life, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) wrote:

The choice for us today is really as simple as it was for those first Christians in the early days. We either accept this authority [i.e., The Scriptures] or else we accept the authority of ‘modern knowledge’, modern science, human understanding, human ability. It is one or the other.[117] 

We, all of us, need to quit philosophizing and legalizing our faith and get back to God’s Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel and the Bible!

God’s Immanence, God’s Transcendence 
For centuries naturalism has asserted itself against Christianity in western civilization, and the church, more or less, buys into it. The Christian faith must be adapted to fit nature (i.e., the culture, society or science), and nature interprets and influences man’s understanding of God. Thus earth is viewed as the replica of heaven, “As above, so below.” (See John 8:21-24) God is viewed to be no longer transcendent over or independent of the material universe (dualism), but rather immanent and dependent upon the material universe (monism). When as promoted in The Shack, this monistic worldview becomes mainstream, then the biblical God and His truth fades into obscurity for as Francis Schaffer (1912-1984) said, nature will inevitably eat up grace. Whether at either the macro or micro levels, naturalism possesses zero tolerance for supernaturalism, the theistic evolution and deistic intelligent design movements being examples. So what’s the bottom line of this transcendence-immanence business? What’s the big deal? In a story he says is as old as history, and it is, Peter Jones frames the issue for evangelicalism: “Will we worship Nature or the God who created Nature?”[118]

So to understand the current state of affairs in contemporary evangelicalism one must be aware of naturalism’s influence upon the culture in general and Christianity in particular. To this end a general understanding of evangelical Christianity in America and how naturalism has influenced it might prove helpful.

The Condition of Chaos 
Historically the theological lapse of Christianity from supernaturalism and order into naturalism and chaos might be summarized as follows. After the Pilgrim-Puritan Fathers settled in this land (1620-1691) and after the First (1730s through 1740s) and Second (Late 1790s to Mid 1800s) Great awakenings, there occurred in six interconnected and interacting movements: 1. The Rise of Liberalism (Mid to Late 1800s); 2. The Reaction of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Early to Mid 1900s); 3. The Rejection of Fundamentalism by Neo-Evangelicals (Mid to Late 1900s); 4. The Romancing of Evangelicalism by early Pentecostalism and then the Charismatic movement (Early 1900s to Present); 5. The Repackaging of Evangelicalism by the Mega-Church Movement (Late 1970s to Present); and 6. The Restructuring of Evangelicalism by the Emergent Church Movement (Early 2000s to Present). The historical phases were and are....

Rationalizing the Message—Liberalism 
In their attempt to remain relevant to a changing culture during the mid to late 1800s, major Protestant seminaries, denominations and pastors began adjusting their message to suit a determinative naturalistic-scientific worldview influenced by the acceptance, whether in part or the whole, of evolutionary theory. Trying to keep in step with the scientific elite and materialistic culture, liberals jettisoned belief in the “embarrassing” creation account of Genesis in favor of viewing the opening chapters of the Bible to be myth. As a result and given the interconnectedness of the rest of the Bible with Genesis, other biblical and supernatural beliefs began to fall like dominoes. Denominational hierarchies grew out of touch with some of their membership who remained Bible believers. Where could these believers go to find fellowship with others of like precious faith?

Reacting to Liberalism—Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
So across denominational lines these believers sought the encouragement from and with others of like-minded faith. Their fellowship centered upon five essential and supernatural fundamentals of the faith to which they agreed—the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of the Bible, Jesus’ virgin-birth and incarnation, His substitutionary atonement on the Cross for sin, His physical resurrection from the dead, and His promised personal return to earth. This rejection of naturalism by Bible believers was called “fundamentalism.” That the movement attracted a significant number of followers became evidenced by the Bible conferences that were held and the Bible believing seminaries (Westminster, Dallas, Fuller, etc.), colleges, churches, independent faith missions and publishing houses that were founded. Because of its emphasis upon the Gospel (good news, the evangel, Greek euangelion), this network of independent fundamental Christians and institutions also became known as “evangelicalism.” Bible believers found a home in which naturalism did not oppress their faith, and for about fifty years all seemed to go well.

Reservations about Fundamentalism—the Neo-Evangelicals 
After World War II during the late 1940s through the 1960s, a spirit of discontent settled over some evangelicals (traditional fundamentalists were not similarly disaffected). Tired with some of the movement’s censorious attitude toward liberal Christians and Roman Catholics along with its disregard for advancements in science (evolutionary theory, quantum physics, etc.), in biblical scholarship (historical and higher criticism regarding the origin and authorship of the biblical books) and the need to be socially relevant (the social gospel, i.e., “WWJD”), evangelical leaders and scholars began to distance themselves from separatistic and “narrow minded” fundamentalists and their churches and institutions. This protest movement became known as New or Neo-Evangelicalism.

Generally, new-evangelicalism de-emphasized the local church and founded parachurch ministries to compensate for what they thought were the fundamentalism’s deficiencies, ministries such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Christianity Today magazine, Youth for Christ International, Campus Crusade for Christ, Christian publishing houses, etc. With varying emphases, some biblical and others not, most of these ministries remain within evangelicalism today. But philosophical naturalism with its emphasis upon rationalism and evolutionary theory, continues to influence the collective mind and soul of the evangelical movement both from within and without. The world, always the enemy of God, continues to exert pressure upon Christians to conform (1 John 2:15-17). And not immune from these pressures, evangelicalism continued to host naturalism. As such, evangelicals no longer felt in their hearts that which their minds no longer believed.

Reviving the Message—the Charismatics! 
Parallel with the rise of Neo-Evangelicalism, first the Pentecostal (Early 1900s to the Present) and then the Charismatic (Middle 1900s to Present) movements influenced the soul of evangelicalism in America. By the rousing up emotion for Jesus, the Charismatic movement with its emphasis upon supernatural “signs and wonders” revived feelings of faith which since the days of the manipulative evangelist Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) had lain dormant because of naturalism’s intrusion upon the collective evangelical mind and soul. These movements remain viable and influential among persons considering themselves to be evangelicals. But despite the influence of these movements, the 60s generation, “the baby boomers,” grew to feel disconnected from the traditional church religion their parents passively and nominally embraced.

Repackaging Church—the Church Growth Movement 
So new strategies and methods of doing church were conceived during the 1970s and 80s in institutions like Fuller Seminary and its connection with Leadership Network, and by leaders such as C. Peter Wagner (1930-2016) and management consultant Peter Drucker (1909-2005), methods designed within a naturalistic framework to produce predictable results, namely church growth. So evangelicalism was repackaged to attract the bored-with-traditional-church crowd of “baby boomers.”

The church growth movement revised church “worship” to accommodate the contemporary tastes of those born during the late 1940s through the 1960s, accommodations which included entertaining worship teams performing upbeat rock music accompanied by special effects, cultivating a casual atmosphere by encouraging people to dress informally and providing coffee, communicating psychologized messages designed to meet people’s “felt needs” and make them feel good about themselves, and providing full service ministries for the whole family. In the church growth movement the consumer became king and influential pastors, taking their cues from Bob Schuller (1926-2015), conceived of doing church the “Purpose Driven” (Rick Warren) and “Willow Creek” (Bill Hybels) ways, both of which employed “tricks of the trade” learned from the master maestro of “The Crystal Cathedral.” (By the way, The Crystal Cathedral is no more. It went bankrupt.) Churches became “welcome centers” employing user-friendly management techniques and schmoozing-seeker-sensitive messages to reach the disconnected generation of “baby boomers” who felt the church to be irrelevant to the materialistic and well-adjusted life they wanted and pursued, and on the surface at least, the new management, method and message appears to have worked, especially in affluent suburbia America. Manipulate... manipulate... manipulate....

Evangelicalism in Chaos 
This confusing, incoherent, chaotic and disparate mix (i.e., Traditional Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Neo-evangelicals, Dispensationalists, Reformed, Calvinists, Neo-Calvinists, Open Theists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, the Jesus Movement, the Latter Rain Movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, Trinity Broadcasting Network followers, Evangelical Radio and Television Preachers, Evangelical Publishers, Fuller Theological Seminary, Leadership Network, Purpose Driven and Willow Creek, Contemplative Spirituality—Richard Foster, etc., the Emergent Church movement, and much more) I years ago referred to as “pan-evangelicalism.” By the way, though confusing on the surface, not everything in this mix is bad. Nevertheless, in one of his books Francis Schaeffer warned of The Great Evangelical Disaster.[119] We are now living in the disaster.

That many evangelicals have become disaffected by being part of the evangelical chaos and seek structure, stability and authority for their faith may be indicated by their defection into Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism, the recent conversion of the Bible Answer Man’s Hank Hanegraaff into Orthodoxy being a case in point (many others like Thomas Howard, Elisabeth Elliot’s brother, and Frank Schaeffer, Francis Schaeffer’s son, preceded him).[120] James Stamoolis, who has written on the defection of evangelicals to “this older iteration of Christianity,” ascribes it to “the whole idea of authority,” and with the movement’s defection from believing in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, evangelicalism now espouses spiritual anarchy. So Stamoolis adds, “I know a lot of people who have converted from Protestantism to Catholicism and Orthodoxy because it’s fixed. It’s settled.”[121] 
Hank Hanegraaff became Orthodox (Source)

Rescuing the Gospel—the Emergent Church 
But as the entertainment phase of doing church wanes (it doesn’t take long for the bored to get bored again with the entertainment business called church), influential leaders and authors, who are really liberals, have arisen within the ranks of the evangelical movement. These individuals think and propose that change is again needed, that the aging, wrinkled and self-centered evangelical movement has grown out of touch with the needs of the world and had better get its act and message together or die and like an empty ship go drifting in the cultural sea of irrelevancy and obscurity. So to become relevant to our secularized culture, these voices view that evangelicalism doesn’t need another “face lift” (the mega-church has already tried doing that that), but a “mind lift.” Strong sentiment therefore exists in the emerging church that after decades of “lifts,” adjustments and readjustments, the church still hasn’t got the Gospel right.

As the mega-church movement centers upon methods, management strategies, music styles and psychologized preaching, the emergent church now attempts to adjust and adapt its message by creating a new “missional” narrative to fit an evolutionary “kingdom now” theology (which in its postmillennialism, denies the futuristic prophecies of Jesus, the prophets and the apostles). Thus, emergent church leaders focus upon such “now” issues as developing a sense community in the church (something lost in the mega-church), discovering a real, more authentic and more relevant historical Jesus, advocating a “green” worldview including an ecological message, and attending to social and political justice issues, communicating a more inclusive gospel message, and so forth. To get its message across, the emergent church attempts to create a new story to attract new believers from the crowd of secular skeptics and doubters like millennial youth who have grown to see “entertainment church” as being too self-centered to have any real impact on the modern world. (About this they are so right.)

Now that we have seen what has gone on in “the church of what’s happening now” we could ask, where might evangelicalism be going? My answer would be evangelicalism is going to go where it’s been going, and that’s deeper and deeper into naturalism and this philosophy’s inherent demand for pantheism, mysticism and universalism—that everything is spiritual, and that everyone is saved. The ingredients of naturalism are evident in Wm. Paul Young writings. He became the popular communicator of the new framing story coming out of the emergent church. He is on the cutting edge. Mark this also: When Young’s star begins to fade, and it will, someone else will assume the mantle of a false prophet. Someone else will arise to promote universalism. Nevertheless, into this evangelical chaos enter Wm. Paul Young and others...

Conclusion: Part 2 to follow...

[111] Geoffrey W. Bromiley, “Theology,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, Everett F. Harrison, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1960): 518. 
[112] Wayne Jacobsen, “Is THE SHACK Heresy,” Life Stream, March 4, 2008 ( 
[113] Ibid. 
[114] Ibid. 
[115] Wm. Paul Young, “Restoring the Shack,” TBN, Episodes 1-20, March 5-July 9, 2017 ( See also interview by Oprah Winfrey of William Paul Young, “If Love Is Forced, That’s No Love at All,” SuperSoulSunday, Season 8, Episode 801, July 9, 2017 ( 
[116] There is also a glut of other popular entertainer-communicators who also played a role in the historical transition between historic evangelicalism and modernity, names like Peale, Schuller, Warren, Hybels, Osteen and more. See Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “Bewitched: Evil Eye Over Evangelicalism,” Discernment Newsletter, March/April 2010, Volume 21, Number 2 ( See also Paul Smith, New Evangelicalism: The New World Order (Costa Mesa, CA: Calvary Publishing, 2011). Paul has particularly insightful observations about Charles Fuller, the founding of the seminary bearing his name, and that seminary’s fall into modernism. See also Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976): “The Strange Case of Fuller Theological Seminary,” 106-121, and “Other Denominations and Parachurch Groups,” 122-140. 
[117] D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Authority (Chicago, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1958); 60. 
[118] Peter Jones, “Preface,” On Global Wizardry: Techniques of Pagan Spirituality and A Christian Response, Peter Jones, Editor (Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions, 2010): 15. 
[119] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1984). “Have Christians compromised their stand on truth and morality until there is almost nothing they will speak out against? Has the evangelical church sold out to the world?” This is the question the book asks. 
[120] Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, “‘Bible Answer Man’ Converts to Orthodoxy: CRI’s Hank Hanegraaff joined the Greek Orthodox Church on Palm Sunday,” Christianity Today, April 12, 2017 ( 
[121] “Why Orthodoxy Appeals to Hank Hanegraaff and Other Evangelicals,” Christianity Today, April 20, 2017 (

*Read the previous articles in this series:
Part 1: Truths We Believe About God 
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist 
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way? 
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality 
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization 
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All” 
Part 7: A Catena: Universalism's Troubles With “All
Part 8: A Catena: Universalism's “World” and “Everyone” 
Part 9: A Catena: The “Catenization” of Universalism 
Part 10: Pretending Evil Doesn't Exist