|Hermes Trismegistus, |
Supposed Founder of
|Temple of the Rosy Cross|
Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens, 1618
|Hermes Trismegistus, |
Supposed Founder of
|Temple of the Rosy Cross|
Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens, 1618
There is a war going on that most Christians don’t recognize. I call it a war of Romanticism, and it's all well documented in numerous books and articles.
How does this war affect the everyday lives of Christians? It affects them a lot. For one thing, we have friends who are caught up in this war and made captive by it without really realizing it, to the point of even (unknowingly) naming their children after witches in fantasy stories.
We’ve mentioned before what tremendous shifts are going on in Christian thinking and worldview. One of these shifts is the enormous influence of imaginative literature in the lives of Christians, a shift some of whose effects I see particularly among young people. We are seeing Christians whose focus is becoming increasingly focused upon fantasy rather than Scripture. Why? Because of the progressive dominance of Romanticism in Christian literature.
Connected with this shift is the escalating use of street drugs both in the general culture and in the Church (especially in church youth groups). I am convinced that there is a strong connection between this love of imaginative literature and the escape into drugs. I have personally seen children of fervent evangelical Christians, raised within a close community, turn to drugs. Influenced by Christian “culture heroes” like Donald Miller, whose book Blue Like Jazz, promotes drugs and liberalism, they are simply swept away. (See my critique of Miller here.)
I have also met Christians who have gotten tangled into drugs and ended up on the psychiatric unit where I work. At that same unit I often see people tattooed with occult symbols, including runes (Celtic magical symbols used in The Lord of the Rings). These same people are reading and deeply engaged in games involving imaginative literature, especially mythology and fairy tales. The connection can be very strong because many street drugs—especially LSD, Mescaline, and marijuana—stimulate the imagination and can open the mind’s door to the occult. (I speak from experience.)
Can fairytales really be harmful?
The answer I have seen in my studies of recent history is yes. I’ve been reading a book called Metapolitics: From Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler by Peter Viereck. Fantastic as it may sound, this thick and impressively documented book reveals the powerful influences arising from a love of mythology and fairytales that influenced Germany (and especially its youth) and led directly to Nazism.
Following is a list of some relevant books and articles I’ve been reading lately that are giving me deeper insight into the strong connections between Romanticism and the resurgence of paganism:
Viereck explains conclusively how Romanticism so changed the worldview of everyday Germans that it actually shaped political history and led to the Third Reich—which was a political, Romantic crusade. Viereck is a very interesting man uniquely suited to tackle this subject. A Pulitzer Prize winning poet, he studied Nazi propaganda as an Army intelligence analyst during World War II. At the same time, his father, a Nazi propagandist, was in federal prison.
Heely compares J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings with the opera The Ring of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner. This is a very disturbing article because the comparisons between the two works are so clear. They are a strong confirmation of how these streams and risings of Romanticism are really interconnected, whether supposedly “dark” or “light.” (I’ve been trying to make the point for some time that there is no “dark” vs. “light” magic, as is so often represented in modern writing; it is only dark.) In The Ring of the Nibelung, Richard Wagner retells an old German myth about the power of a gold ring. And The Lord of the Rings also tells a story of a magical golden ring. The article mentioned above reveals many other comparisons.
Lewis’s work has become so accepted that there is a universal blindness to the philosophy embedded in it. Normally evangelicals do not accept Platonism/Neo-Platonism as their worldview, but through Lewis they have embraced certain aspects of this unbiblical worldview. (Platonism is a philosophy, and Neo-Platonism is more like a way of life.) This acceptance is quite apparent in the ministry of John Piper, by the way. (Watch his video, “Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul” for an amazing demonstration.)
It is astonishing to see in all of these writings how much Romanticism (that is, the love of mythology) has to do with the rise of fascism.
Basically, my research reveals that the same kind of mythology that became the religious and philosophical foundation for pre-Nazism in Germany was also exalted in England and is now wildly popular in the United States. This does not necessarily mean that just because Romanticism is growing in epic proportions in the United States that it’s going to dominate, but it does indicate that seemingly innocent fairytales can have a problematical effect on the mind and imagination, especially of young people.
Such powerful stories and films as The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series have greatly altered the worldview of many people in the United States and, especially, of pastors and seminary professors. They appear to have very little awareness of the difference between Christianity and Romantic religion. Yet Christians, of all people, should be discerning and aware of the possible dangers of such a movement.
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Visualization, Imagination & the Christian: Differentiating Between Biblical Prayer and Meditation and Occult Visualization –$3.50. Although originally the sphere of secret occult societies and private practitioners, the explosion of New Age / occult thinking in the past forty to fifty years has thrust occult visualization techniques into enormous popularity both in secular society and in the Church. In some instances, Christian teachers who have been confused about the difference between the two approaches have unknowingly promulgated occult methods. These days occult visualization techniques abound in many vital areas
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Recognizing deception isn’t easy—especially to Loren and Eve Montcrest who are convinced they’re on the true path. Newly initiated into Seattle’s Arcane Institute, the elite training order of their occult society in the year 2025, they become caught up in a fast-paced succession of intrigues and adventure that rocks their love for each other and even their sanity—and brings them to the brink of destruction. But in the fierce battle for their souls, God is working to strip away the glittering web of false spirituality.
“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19, KJV)
The first two articles in this series laid a basic groundwork for understanding the current state of Evangelicalism from a biblical and historical point of view. The first article discussed another meltdown that took place in the early part of the 20th century called the “Liberal (or Modernist) / Fundamentalist Controversy” and showed how the fragmentation that occurred then weakened Evangelicalism and set the stage for many of today’s problems.
The second article exposed the falseness of the current view that the rise of “postmodernism” means the Church has to change and become more like the world. It pointed out that, in spite of much contemporary Christian activity and commitment of resources, the Church’s response to postmodernism is flaccid and ineffective. Why? Because the Church is already compromised.
This third article now focuses upon a major reason for that compromised state, an aspect of today’s Meltdown that most Christian leaders are not only overlooking but are often blindly embracing and proclaiming as being Christian. That is because it often comes in a disguised form that seems to fit into Christianity.
This disguised element involves a historical movement called Romanticism. Its influx into contemporary Evangelicalism is great, and its intimate connection with the occult is strong. Furthermore, it is subtle, for it seems like it’s spiritual rather than worldly, whereas it’s actually just another form of worldliness.
The present-day assault on Evangelicalism exhibits a rapid increase of the character of Romanticism. Not only is this occurring in secular Western culture; it is influencing countless Christians to the extent of becoming nearly a paradigm shift within the Body of Christ in the United States. Yet there is almost no Christian analysis that both sets its contemporary influences within its true historical context and compares it with the biblical worldview. This series is the beginning of such an attempt.
Major Assaults on the Evangelical Church
in the Second Meltdown
Although this article is meant merely to introduce the issue of Romanticism and some of its major effects upon the Body of Christ today, I could write an encyclopedia about it. However, I’ve written extensively about Romanticism, what it is, and some of its influence in today’s Church in other places, so this article will not discuss it in great depth.[i]
Unfortunately, Christian leaders are also struggling with an enormous tsunami of other assaults, some combined with Romanticism. These include but are not limited to the following:
· Rationalism / Enlightenment thinking
· Romanticism / paganism
· The rapid increase of mysticism, e.g., contemplative prayer and spiritual formation, in the churches[ii]
· Evangelical ecumenism that is trying to integrate Roman Catholicism with Evangelicalism and saying that the Reformation was just a big misunderstanding. A major example is the movement Chuck Colson helped develop called Evangelicals and Catholics Together.
· Marxism and its many mixtures
· The paganization of Christian youth culture through the popularity of the pagan drug culture; their seduction by rebellion and the occult (exemplified by the popularity of books like Blue Like Jazz, dressing like rebels, imitating and glorifying sex, rock bands, etc.)[iii], [iv]
· Alliances with and the embrace of occult / New Age thinkers by Evangelicals. For example, speakers like Ken Wilbur, the “Pope of the occult,” and New Agers Leonard Sweet and Ken Blanchard appear at Evangelical get-togethers and are often called Christian despite their blatantly occult teachings.
· The market-driven church, turning the Church into a business (Druckerism) and pastors into business managers and change agents. The main part of the Meltdown is the market-driven church.[v]
· Being “cool.” Straight people aren’t seen as creative; they’re boring, they aren’t free, etc. This is just another aspect of Romanticism. Examples include leaders like Shane Claiborne, Mark Driscoll, and Donald Miller.
· Politically conservative Evangelical leaders becoming involved with and supporting political conservatives who are not Christian (e.g., Glenn Beck, a Mormon).[vi]
Of course there are other areas as well, but the point of this article is to emphasize the insidious influence of Romanticism, a less-known phenomenon that is of great importance in the battle.
Rationalism followed by Romanticism
Today’s assaults on Evangelicalism represent a mixture of two elements. First, the same attack of Rationalism that occurred in the early 20th century during the Liberal-Modernist Controversy is still at work. Now, however, it is combined with a basic theological shift that began about 1950 and was strongly underway by the 1960s.[vii] This shift is from Word-centered to image/mythology-centered Christianity, or Christianized Romanticism, and today it is in full bloom.
The changing view toward Scripture. At the heart of the various contemporary assaults is the view toward Scripture. The focus upon the inerrant Word of God used to be one of the key definitions of being an Evangelical, but many Evangelicals are not focusing upon it the way they used to. Rather, their focus is upon social issues, psychological health, church growth, and being culturally sophisticated. There is a tremendous emphasis upon providing entertainment and using the fast-shifting images and sound bites of the media. Christian pop culture “stars” have become big, their shows and sound systems replacing biblical preaching in many churches to the point of becoming idolatry-driven Christianity.
Liberalism, handmaiden to Romanticism. The liberalism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a reaction to a flood of Rationalism that was completely destroying people’s faith in the Bible. Early liberalism (especially the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher) became a handmaiden to the promotion of Romanticism, for liberals tried to salvage faith by removing people’s dependence upon the authority of the Bible and placing it upon inner feeling states, intuitions, etc. As a result, instead of Rationalism, now the flood is a flood of idolatry and imaginative paganism.
Life and doctrine.
“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16) [viii]
During the First Meltdown, the main attack upon the Church was an attack upon doctrine; later it led to an attack upon Christian life, or how we live out our faith. During the Second Meltdown, the attack is upon Christian life (which of course leads to an attack upon doctrine, i.e., Rick Warren’s “Deeds not creeds.”). You can see this degeneration of Christian life everywhere from the vulgar obscenities popular in many modern preaching styles to casually worn provocative clothing to the emphasis upon entertainment in church services.
Enchantment with mythology. You could say that the weakness of the Evangelicals in the First Meltdown was their enchantment with science and reason while the weakness of many Evangelicals in the Second Meltdown today is enchantment with mythology.[ix]
What does this mean? The Bible is quite clear what our attitude towards myths should be:
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” (1 Timothy 1:4)
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:4)
That time has come.
In his book Christian Mythmakers, Rolland Hein, professor emeritus at Wheaton College (often viewed as the “Harvard of Evangelicalism”), says, “Myth is necessary because reality is so much larger than rationality. Not that myth is irrational but that it easily accommodates the rational while rising above it.” That’s not all. He also says, “Myth is a lane down which we walk in order to repossess our soul …”[x] Hein is a George MacDonald scholar and an enthusiastic promoter of “Christian” mythmaking who is very positive about mythology. His book highlights the works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, and Madeline L’Engle, along with those of other mythmakers.
Unfortunately, many Evangelical theologians, preachers, and teachers who are supposed to be shaped by biblical teaching are embracing such mythology that the Bible calls evil. Later in this article we will look at the practices of some current popular teachers.
It’s a foolish thing to disregard the Bible’s warnings about the damage that can occur when we ignore doctrine. But perhaps you’re thinking, “So what? Granted, the Bible is against mythology, but, after all, they’re just stories, and Jesus told stories. They don’t do any harm—they’re just fiction.” But mythological fiction is not just entertainment; its power and danger lie in the fact that it draws readers into a worldview with another gospel and shapes their minds. It embraces the soul and the imagination. It teaches. And appearing as Christian, it can fool many. Look at how our children are swept up in it.[xi]
Let me tell you a little about some of the harm I’ve seen personally.
Many modern sermons often include positive references to, or quotes from, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or from C. S. Lewis’ literary works, which engender a pagan worldview. (See our other articles.) Besides living in San Francisco through the Sixties and personally experiencing the power of Romantic literature’s connection with the occult, I’ve also seen countless young people over the years succumbing to this darkness. They’ve tattooed themselves with runes from reading Romantic literature, delved into magic and countless dark areas, and practiced witchcraft. Many are ending up deranged. Especially troublesome was a talk I heard on the Internet by one Evangelical minister about how he had been reading Harry Potter regularly to his five-year-old daughter until she finally asked him to stop because it was scaring her. I also heard one mental patient say to another, “I stopped reading Harry Potter because it got too dark.” Yet some Christians are actually defending these kinds of works.[xii]
Mythology isn’t the same as Bug Bunny. Whether considered good or evil, mythologies are powerful, as the Bible’s warnings testify.
“Okay,” you may say, “I admit that some of this might be a problem. But is it really serious enough to say that Evangelicalism is ‘melting down’?”
Yes, it definitely is. The Second Great Evangelical Meltdown is visible to most Christians concerned with the true Gospel. Countless Christians are complaining that they can’t find a church that preaches the Bible or a seminary or a Bible school that isn’t replacing the Bible with spiritual formation programs, mysticism, and psychology.[xiii] Look around at the powerful influence of the Emergent Church movement, at the floods of paganism and immorality appearing not only in our culture but among Christians. Many have lost their way. And we are losing our children to the pagan culture. Drugs, sexual immorality, and the occult are immensely popular among Evangelical youth. I have worked in a psychiatric crisis unit for almost twenty years and frequently see the results of this disaster in the lives of young people from Christian homes.
The assault of Romanticism upon the Church is especially effective because it can hide in the folds of certain kinds of Christianity. That is because it emphasizes certain kinds of spirituality—approaches involving mysticism and the imagination that are enormously popular today. It is also similar to certain movements in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that many people are reviving in their attempts to be inclusive in our age of Evangelical ecumenism.
The spirit of Romanticism is sweeping the Evangelical world.
Contemplative spirituality. One major assault is coming through the enormously popular technique of contemplative spirituality and the spiritual formation movement. Its proponents basically believe that this approach mystically unites Christians with each other and with other religions. They focus upon visions, mandalas, continually repeated phrases (maybe from the Bible or some other religious text), chanting, etc. in order to enter what they call “the Silence,” a passive trance-like state akin to self-hypnosis. The term used among Evangelicals for one type of contemplative practice is lectio divina, which involves chanting a Scripture verse repeatedly. Richard Foster’s visualization techniques (called active imagination) are very popular. This area blends into the counseling movement because visualization, along with “Christian” yoga, is part of popular contemporary occult therapy.[xiv]
There is a big difference between contemplating the Word of God as a series of words and viewing it as the vehicle of the truths God is speaking to us. Yet this unbiblical mystical method of contemplative prayer is sweeping the once-Evangelical world. People use it thinking it will strengthen the Church, but it actually weakens it because of its self-focus and the fact that it trains people to look for salvation from within. It also opens the door for occultic influences and is the same method used by witches to contact spirit guides. (We speak from personal experience.)[xv]
Marxism. A similarity of this Second Meltdown to the First Meltdown is that the truth gap allows Marxist ideas to enter under the guise of social justice. Thus, you get Evangelical youth leaders making the same kinds of erroneous statements as Marxist radicals in the 1960s did, such as accusing the United States of being the absolute worst purveyor of violence in the world, etc. You can hear these kinds of statements from one very popular leader of today’s Christian youth, Shane Claiborne.[xvi]
Promotion of the drug culture and the occult.
The connection between Romanticism, the drug culture, and the occult is very strong. Along with drugs, an enormous amount of occultic concepts and techniques have been flooding our culture since the Sixties. These influences appear nowadays in everything from “Christian” yoga and martial arts[xvii] to a huge influx of the occult and fantasy in “Christian” literature[xviii] to Buddhist therapy in mental hospitals.
Many Christians try to spread the Gospel by uniting intense, emotional images of drug-like experiences (i.e., a type of Romanticism) with what is supposed to be a Gospel outreach. I think it must often end up converting the youth ministers to paganism rather than converting the pagans to Christians. Some rock bands especially do this. Donald Miller’s popular book Blue Like Jazz, which has been sweeping the Evangelical world, and especially its youth, for years, basically portrays the pagan drug culture as much more free, attractive, and creative than that of conservative Evangelical Christianity.[xix]
Another illustration is the similarity of some of the writings of Charles Williams (a close friend of C. S. Lewis) to LSD experiences. His novel, The Greater Trumps, for example, depicts the Tarot cards as a channel for Christ—the same Tarot cards we used in the Sixties for divination. In fact, unbelievably, some Evangelicals are actually using the Tarot cards as ministry tools to New Agers.[xx] Influential biblical apologist John Warwick Montgomery[xxi] teaches that you can profitably view the Tarot cards from a Christian perspective and basically use the techniques of divination if you use them for the “right purpose.” [xxii]
The Emergent Church. Part of today’s rebirth of Romanticism is appearing in the form of a flood of rebelliousness masquerading as a new wave of Christian freedom and spirituality that is especially apparent in the Emergent Church movement and through the writings of such authors as Brian McLaren. Its rejection of God’s Word provides an open door for the occult and other unbiblical approaches. Interestingly, they are also using the same scholars as the Evangelicals do—C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and Henri Nouwen. Because of its theological content and flavor, the movement can seem somewhat Christian. Nevertheless, its true base is paganism and syncretism. They don’t realize how revolutionary and pagan Romanticism is. Its traditions go back to paganism and led to Nazi Germany. That’s what’s moving in the Emergent Church.
What is considered “postmodernism” today was just normal counterculture life in the Sixties. That period was an explosion of Romanticism, kindled by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings combined with LSD, the occult, and the mystical teachings of such men as Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, and Timothy Leary, along with the political Marxism and moral radicalism in the universities and colleges. Talking to trees seemed normal then. The Emergent Church movement seems like an almost exact replica of Haight-Ashbury thinking and practice—the couches, the coffeehouses, the incense and candles, the chanting, the light shows, the rock and acid rock music. Déjà vu.
Both postmodernism and Romanticism are types of worldliness, even though some Christian leaders are seeing Romanticism as an antidote to postmodernism. However, there are different factors at work, and there is a different balance of the types of worldliness in each. The First Meltdown was a more rationalistic worldliness; in the Second Meltdown, it’s a more Romantic worldliness. In the First, the Church wanted to look rational and acceptable to the culture. In the Second, the Church wants to look wise and cultured. Both concern pride and wanting to be acceptable.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a church that preaches the Gospel faithfully. There are numerous churches with all types of small groups based mainly upon psychological methods, and churches that contribute to the social good but don’t want to preach from the Bible or spread the Gospel. They ignore the whole counsel of God, avoiding talking about hell, wrath, and judgment. This affliction is enormously widespread these days. Many, many churches are turning to gimmicks to increase numbers. The Emergent Church elevates experiences to the same level as revelation and truth—creating the very mythology the Bible warns against.
‘Reformed’ Romanticism: “Rock solid” but unholy. Another example of the corrupting influence of Romanticism is appearing in a movement referred to as the Resurgence.[xxiii] Its purpose is to promote the Gospel with a Calvinist style. Yet many of its leaders (including Al Mohler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, CJ Mahaney, and Tim Keller) are promoting paganism through their enthusiasm for C. S. Lewis, and some are even supporting Henri Nouwen.
This corrupting influence shows in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. The greatest symptom that something is wrong is their support of Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Driscoll, one of its leading members, acts like a stand-up dirty comedian, frequently resorting to foul and abusive language and coarse discussions about sexuality. He is a prime example of trying to win people by acting ultra-cool.[xxiv] Traditional Calvinists, with their emphasis on holiness, never would have allowed this.
Clearly, there is some blindness among its very idealistic leaders. With their biblical foundation they should know better, yet they support Driscoll and his shock-jock tactics by refusing to distance themselves from him because he supposedly offers “Reform preaching” (although not all support Driscoll the same way). This is a clear example of the degeneration of Christian morality resulting from life being separated from doctrine. They are willing to overlook gross examples of behavior in order to promote their view that Reform doctrine is all that matters—or, as John Piper says, is “rock solid.” Their message appears to be: “I will not compromise with the world on my doctrine, but I will compromise with my life.” Yet Scripture is clear what our stand should be:
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” (Ephesians 5:3–7)
Although they are truly seeking to renew the church in a Gospel way, these undiscerned problems expose some built-in weaknesses. A more discerning reading of history could greatly help, as ignorance of Romanticism and its effects is blindsiding many leaders today.
There is a lot more to say about this movement, but there isn’t room to go into it here. I only bring up the issue of the Resurgence now to show the manifestation of the blindness to Romanticism among even those leaders that are trying to promote the Gospel. I hope to discuss other symptoms in the future.
Where are the heroes?
These are but a few influential examples of the way the spirit of Romanticism is sweeping the contemporary Evangelical world. Where are the strong voices speaking out against it? On the contrary, many leaders are succumbing to worldliness when they should be depending upon the Holy Spirit.
“It is that evangelicals, while commonly retaining the same set of beliefs, have been tempted to seek success in ways which the New Testament identifies as ‘worldliness’. Worldliness is departing from God. It is a man-centred way of thinking; it proposes objectives which demand no radical breach with man’s fallen nature; it judges the importance of things by the present and material results; it weighs success by numbers; it covets human esteem and wants no unpopularity; it knows no truth for which it is worth suffering; it declines to be a ‘fool for Christ’s sake’. Worldliness is the mind-set of the unregenerate. It adopts idols and is at war with God.”[xxv]
Many Christians enthusiastically assume that there’s a revival going on, but in reality Evangelicalism is extremely divided and fragmented and appears to be growing weaker.
Dr. Ian Murray’s incisive book, Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000, spares no quarter in its excellent overview of conflicts in Evangelicalism. He discusses how often such leading Evangelicals as Billy Graham, J. I. Packer, and John Stott, among others, have succumbed to worldly methods that have compromised the preaching of the Gospel. For instance, “Keeping a customary eye for maximum public impact and ‘trying always for the largest possible crowds’ was a settled part of the Billy Graham Association’s strategy.” Yet, ironically, the optimism over filling churches turned out to be an illusion for later research revealed “’the main impact [of the crusades] was among already sympathetic church members.’”[xxvi]
Murray lists many more examples, showing how the way that some Evangelicals are elevating ecumenical relationships and seeking popularity allows manipulation to replace preaching the truth.
Today’s church growth movement echoes this attempt to imitate a true Holy Spirit awakening through the use of publicity. People are trying to initiate renewal through worldly means and a wrong spirit. Mark Driscoll is a perfect example; he hungers for publicity, even to the point of broadcasting himself on the Internet cursing. He is a powerful example of that weakness that runs through Neo-evangelical attempts at renewal.
All of the above elements and many others are coalescing today into a broad, influential, and frequently invisible movement. I believe that the lack of many apologetics ministries to address these problems is due in part to the great prestige of some contemporary leaders, such as C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and J. R. R. Tolkien. It seems that once leaders reach a certain “legendary” status, mere mortals fear to criticize them.
During the First Meltdown many major leaders, especially Dr. J. Gresham Machen, recognized the Church’s main problem at that time, which was the alien religion of liberalism. But it seems like most Evangelical leaders today are rather blind to what’s happening during this Second Meltdown. Some recognize some parts of it but are blind to other parts and end up advocating things that are really destructive to their ministries. Albert Mohler is a good example. While he has done a wonderful job defending biblical inerrancy and turning around Southern Baptist Seminary, his radio program consistently promoted Romanticism while it was on the air.[xxvii]
Another example is Dr. Peter Jones, whose ministry focuses upon reaching a pagan culture. He hosted a conference to deal with the problem of Romanticism, yet some of its speakers praised C. S. Lewis.[xxviii] Dr. Jones also has joined with Mark Driscoll in ministry.
Few contemporary leaders seem to see the bigger picture. Dr. Ian Murray is one of the few who do, yet he’s neither a major leader nor that well known in the United States (he’s British). Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones pointed to some of these problems before his death in the 1980s.
History’s sad lessons. Many leaders during the First Meltdown adopted certain strategies to deal with liberal Christianity that weakened Evangelicalism, and many leaders during the Second Meltdown are doing the same. In the First Meltdown pastors became psychologists; in the Second Meltdown pastors are becoming business managers (or “change agents”), following Peter Drucker’s manipulative management style. And their guide for living is just as soon a leadership text as the Bible. They are also becoming spiritual formation counselors that are introducing their flocks to mysticism. And shock jocks promoting a false, worldly freedom. Many major figures are also embracing and promoting New Age and Romantic leaders these days.
The destructive results of the strategies embraced during the First Great Meltdown are clearly visible in the shrinking and weakening of the churches that shifted to liberalism. Today the insidious influence of Romanticism is weakening and fragmenting Evangelicalism to the point where “Evangelicalism is being redefined, reimagined and reinvented.”[xxix]
Let us take warning from the Bible and from church history that we should be extremely careful about loving the world and embracing its ways of thinking and acting.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15–17)
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 1Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15–16)
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:5)
In conclusion, Romanticism as it is operating in the Body of Christ today is a largely unrecognized, undiscerned stream of great negative influence that is disguised by its popularity.
I’m not condemning all of Evangelicalism and saying it’s no use trying for unity, but a very destructive false unity is operating. There needs to be a true unity based on the Gospel and Scripture and a discerning theology rather than a worldly theology.
In our attempts to expose and resist its influence, I don’t want my readers to:
· Hide in a fearful ghetto mentality
· Reject education and intellectual effort
· Reject art, literature, and history
· Fear uncharted realms
· Feel they must operate in a rigid religious system that can only exist in a very enclosed environment.
But, on the other hand, let’s not:
· Exalt education to the point of idolatry or seek the acceptance of the world
· Follow Christian leaders blindly or accept any form of leadership without using discernment and differentiation. The Bible commands us to grow in the discernment of good and evil.
· Ignore the fact that the Church has a history. In fact, we desperately need much more understanding of that history in order to avoid the pitfalls all around us.
Can the Meltdown be stopped or reversed? It would be very easy to just say, well, the end is at hand. This is the Great Apostasy. While it’s very hard to predict the future, we can look to the past to see if there have been restorations—and there have been. For instance, the First Great Awakening was certainly a restoration. Things were very bad in Colonial America. Drunkenness, immorality, and skepticism were prevalent. Yet God moved sovereignly in a mighty way. The Holy Spirit is the corrector, the reviver, of the Church. He is in charge.
Has prayer lost its effectiveness? Are the Word and the Holy Spirit so weak that we must turn to worldly methods to promote the Gospel, which Paul calls “the power of God unto salvation”? Why are we turning elsewhere than the Bible for wisdom?
What a time to pray! Let us pray that God will open the eyes of our leaders and raise others with the wisdom to see these things and the strength to stand and to walk in obedience to God’s Word. The Church needs both revival and reformation. Revival is an awakening and convicting by the Holy Spirit—a sovereign outpouring, a shaking. Along with revival, reformation also involves a transformation: an awakening of the mind and an embrace of the truth of Christ—especially the truth of the Gospel. A biblical reformation is essential. But both come from God.
Let us not lose heart but repent and pray for both.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
[i] See footnote (vi) in Part II of “The Second Great Evangelical Meltdown.”
[ii] See “What is Contemplative Spirituality and Why is It Dangerous? A Review of Brennan Manning’s The Signature of Jesus” by John Caddock for a good discussion of this issue.
[iii] See Spiritual Junk Food: The Dumbing Down of Christian Youth by Cathy Mickels and Audrey McKeever. (Pleasant Word, 2002). A well-documented presentation of how "pop" psychological concepts have infiltrated Christian youth groups all across the country. John MacArthur calls it "A much needed wake-up call for parents and youth leaders." Of course, since this was written, youth ministries have been inundated with mysticism, especially through such influences as Zondervan’s Youth Specialties.
[v] David Wells clearly discusses this issue in Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, in the chapter “Mega-churches, paradigm shifts, and the new spiritual quest.” (Eerdmans, 2005).
[vii] Herrick, James A. The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition. (Downers Grover, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003). Herrick chronicles the development of Western religious thought and life that are at the root of much ‘modern spirituality’. As the endorsement on the back by James W. Sire states, “The dominant god today is the cosmic spirit embodied in the self.”
[viii] Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
[ix] Herrick’s The Making of the New Spirituality has documented the historical movements that transformed the popular view of the Bible over the past three hundred years into that of a mythical document instead of an historical one.
[x] Hein, Rolland. Christian Mythmakers. (Chicago: Cornerstone Press Chicago, 2002, 2nd ed.) Quotes from pp. x, xi, xiii, respectively.
[xi] See our article on “edgy” and Romantic “Christian” fiction, “Children of the Inklings: Emergent ‘Christian’ Fiction.” Also, here is an excellent article on the subject: “Is Harry Potter or Twilight Something a Christian Can Support Scripturally?”
[xii] See “Harry Potter Lures Kids to Witchcraft with Praise from Christian Leaders” by Berit Kjos for one example. Another is “Harry Potter and the Views of His Christian Community Supporters.”
[xvi] See his book The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Zondervan, 2006).
[xviii] Marcher Lord Press, founded by Christy Award-winning editor Jeff Gerke, states as its purpose: “Marcher Lord Press is the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. Whether it's fantasy you love, or science fiction, time travel, chillers, supernatural thrillers, alternate history, spiritual warfare, superhero, vampire, or technothriller—if it's speculative and it comes from the Christian worldview, Marcher Lord Press is your publisher.”
[xix] See my article, “Green Like Envy: An Ex-pagan Looks at Blue Like Jazz.”
[xx] E.g., John Mark Ministries at http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/13596.htm
[xxi] Montgomery has 11 degrees in various disciplines and focuses on apologetics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Warwick_Montgomery
[xxii] In his book, Principalities and Powers (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, 1973), Montgomery claims that writers “such as T. S. Eliot (The Waste Land) and Charles Williams (The Greater Trumps) have employed its imagery so effectively both in describing the lostness of the human condition and the Christian redemptive solution” (p. 131). He states, “Because the cards are so potent symbolically, they are also most dangerous when misused or perverted.” Misused? Perverted? They are already dangerous occult techniques and should never be used at all.
[xxiii] This website (CRI) offers a good overview of the Resurgence movement and its focus on Calvinist doctrine, but it fails to critique its leaders’ support of ungodliness. This website and this website detail some of the problems with Driscoll that poison the Resurgence movement.
[xxiv] Check out these articles for a start: “Sexpert Pastor Mark Driscoll is Told ‘Enough is Enough’ and “John MacArthur on Mark Driscoll.”
[xxv] Murray, Ian. Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), p. 255.
[xxvi] Murray, pp. 58–59.
[xxvii] One example of this is that on 9/4/09 Dr. Mohler bewailed the intrusion of mythological thinking into current views of the Bible. Yet on 7/31/09, his guest host, Dr. Russell Moore, the dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Seminary, had explained how he incorporates Tolkien’s stories into his devotional times with his children. I’m sure Dr. Moore doesn’t realize that he’s giving them mythology. Tolkien viewed it as mythology; Lewis viewed it as mythology; and both men considered mythology divine revelation.
[xxviii] Unfortunately, I can no longer find the MP3s from this conference on the Internet. It took place several years ago.