Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Hermeticist Next Door: Part II


The Hermeticist Next Door

Part II:
C. S. Lewis, Undiscerning Christian Leaders,
and the Western Esoteric Traditions

Introduction

Hermes Trismegistus,
Supposed Founder of
Hermeticism
Earlier articles in this blog have often focused upon problems with the teachings of C. S. Lewis and the other Inklings, but in this, the second part of our Hermeticist Next Door series, we will look deeply at the historical stream of which he and the influences surrounding him were a part. As we understand their philosophical, religious, and literary roots, their true nature will become clearer.

Lewis is deeply rooted in what is known as the Western Esoteric Traditions (or Tradition). This term describes a number of important movements and practices that have occurred over many centuries—powerful influences that have been very significant in the history of Christianity, right down to our present age. Yet sometimes these influences have gone completely unnoticed by the majority of Christians.

What exactly are the Western Esoteric Traditions?

The Western esoteric traditions have their roots in a religious way of thinking, which reaches back to Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Neoplatonism in the Hellenistic world during the first centuries A.D. In the Renaissance, the rediscovery of ancient texts led to the scholarly revival of magic, astrology, alchemy, and Kabbalah. Following the Reformation, this spiritual current gave rise to theosophy, Rosicrucianism, and Freemasonry, and the modern occult revival extends from nineteenth-century spiritualism, H. P. Blavatsky’s Theosophy, and ceremonial magic orders to twentieth-century esotericists such as Rudolf Steiner, Alice A. Bailey, and George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, and the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. [The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2008. Kindle edition location 62,]

The book Western Esotericism by Antoine Faivre and Christine Rhone offers four definitions of esotericism, but we’ll just go with the first and most common one:

Five Meanings of the Term Esotericism

1.  Meaning 1: A Disparate  Grouping

In this meaning, which is the most current, esotericism appears, for example, as the title of sections in bookshops and in much media discourse to refer to almost everything that exudes a scent of mystery. Oriental wisdom traditions, yoga, mysterious Egypt, ufology, astrology and all sorts of divinatory arts, parapsychology, various “Kabbalahs,” alchemy, practical magic, Freemasonry, Tarot, New Age, New Religious Movements, and channeling are found thus placed side by side (in English, the label used in the bookshops is often Occult or Metaphysics). This nebula often includes all sorts of images, themes, and motifs, such as ontological androgyny [the belief that man was originally made a hermaphrodite], the Philosopher’s Stone, the lost Word, the Soul of the World, sacred geography, the magic book, and so on. [Western Esotericism by Antoine Faivre and Christine Rhone. (Suny Series in Western Esoteric Traditions). State University of New York Press, 2010. Kindle edition location 115.]

The Romantic Movement, which I have written about extensively in this blog, is just one element in the much greater movement of the Western Esoteric Traditions.

To study the Western Esoteric Traditions as they manifest among non-Christians is strange, but not nearly as strange as seeing how people calling themselves Christians have played a major part in these traditions and have defended them as a valid part of Christianity. After Christ rescued me out of my involvement in that esotericism (and I definitely did not consider myself as a Christian until after my rescue), I found to my surprise that people were accepting aspects of it as totally valid and very positive for Christians to participate in. This was very difficult for me with my life experience to cope with.

For example, when I was a new Christian and waiting in a church lobby to see a pastor, I got into a conversation with a lady who was also waiting. She began sharing about her involvement with a well-known occultic figure named Rudolf Steiner. She said that she didn’t talk about it with most other Christians because they always thought Steiner was very weird and condemned her. (Steiner created a type of subdivision of Theosophy called Anthroposophy.) At the time I had been reading a book by C. S. Lewis in which he said there were some positive aspects about Anthroposophy, so, therefore, I didn’t become alarmed about what this woman was telling me. Later, I learned that Anthroposophy was actually just like the evil non-Christian occultism I had left behind. But because C. S. Lewis had approved of it, I didn’t warn this woman of the danger she was in.

Another time I got into a conversation with another student at the University of Oregon. I was sharing with him how positive I thought C. S. Lewis was and that I’d been reading his space trilogy, especially the last book called That Hideous Strength. I said quite innocently that I was a little disturbed because its ending scene reminded me of my previous occult involvement. In the scene, a group of Anglicans prayed for help against evil forces and through their prayer raised up Merlin the Magician from a long sleep. Merlin then led animals—bears and such—to attack the evil people. The other student was very shocked and annoyed that I’d think something was wrong with the occult. He was an avid reader of C. S. Lewis, and I believe he considered himself a Christian.

After years of studying historically the role of the Western Esoteric Traditions in Germany, Great Britain, and other countries, I have come to see how intricately all of these strange ideas and practices are connected with certain types of literature that many people consider Christian; and, furthermore, how more and more often this literature is being considered Christian by Evangelicals who used to be wary of literature but are now experiencing a literary renaissance with an explosion of fantasy writing under the label of “Christian fiction.”

These are just a few examples of why I am so disturbed about what is happening among Evangelicals today and feel compelled to keep speaking out.

I do think it can be positive that Evangelicals are more open to historical and cultural influences, but there must be discernment because some of these influences definitely are evil, and to look upon them without discernment is very dangerous. Church history has proven what a stumbling block for Christian thinking and living that pagan thinking and fantasy can be.

Furthermore, there is a massive occult explosion happening right now all around us, and many Christians—and especially young Christians—are being swept into tremendous bondage by these forces and influences. Perhaps one of the worst aspects of this explosion and its effects on the Church is the lack of discernment by some major Evangelical leaders and the influence they exert on their followers.

Undiscerning Evangelical Leaders
And Their Influence

This is an age in which many Evangelicals are caught up in certain aspects of the Western Esoteric Traditions while thinking they are really good, desirable, and innocent, and enable us to be alive in Christ.

One major influence comes from the Inklings and the support of the Inklings given by some Evangelical leaders.

John Piper. The most popular example is John Piper, who is currently giving lengthy and enthusiastic apologetics for Lewis, and encouraging people to read all of Lewis’s works. The bizarre nature of Piper’s approach is evident in his online video, “Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul.” He first lists the many problems and dangers with Lewis’s thinking and then extols his work as wonderful for Christians. He even subtitles the video, “Seems I Shouldn’t Find Lewis so Helpful.” Indeed.

John Warwick Montgomery. Another modern example of a supposed Christian leader introducing Hermeticism to Christians is John Warwick Montgomery, who as an apologist for the Inklings in his defense of Charles Williams, made appalling statements about the “usefulness” of Tarot cards for Christians.

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 [the Tarot] 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 essentially already dangerous occult techniques of divination and should never be used at all.

Montgomery also described Arthur Edward Waite as a Christian. Waite was a co-creator of a Tarot deck, wrote many occultic books, and was in the hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England.

Temple of the Rosy Cross
Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens, 1618
Montgomery wrote his Ph.D. thesis defending the man who wrote the basic documents of Rosicrucianism, trying to dismiss them as just a joke. (See his Cross and Crucible: Johann Valentin Andreae (1586-1654), phoenix of the theologians, Volume 1.) (Founded in the 1600s by Christian Rosenkreuz, Rosicrucianism is an occult philosophy and part of the Western Esoteric Traditions.) 

Basically, Montgomery has been introducing Hermeticism to Christians.

Regent College, a graduate school in the Anglican tradition located in Vancouver, B.C. (where J. I. Packer has taught for years), has been republishing the works of Charles Williams, an open hermeticist. 

Speaking of Regent College evokes memories of our trip there around 20 years ago when we were exploring the possibility of attending. What we experienced was like a scene out of a novel. First we met with a professor and his wife whose office was like a cave out of The Hobbit. Then we met with the founder, John Huston, who treated us as though we were generic ciphers and who, after we had explained our ministry of many years, dismissed it and said that what we really needed was spiritual formation (his big focus). Then we met J. I. Packer, who staunchly defended psychology as a means of sanctification. So it’s not surprising that Regent is republishing the works of Charles Williams. (We decided not to attend.)

George MacDonald. Because C. S. Lewis has so greatly extolled George MacDonald, his writing has emerged from obscurity and become mainline Protestant literature. Lewis called MacDonald his “master” and stated that through reading MacDonald’s works, he experienced a “baptism” of his imagination. MacDonald, while appearing seemingly innocent, is actually very deceptive. MacDonald had been a Scot Calvinist preacher, but when he was removed from the pulpit for unorthodox doctrines, he began writing stories. 

MacDonald was strongly influenced by Novalis, a 19th century hermeticist who was part of the Romantic Movement. (Novalis was his pen name; his real name was Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg.) MacDonald translated some of Novalis’ works into English and quoted him in some of his own books. (See my article, “’Christian’ Romanticism, the Inklings, and the Elevation of Mythology” for more details; also, the book Romantic Religion: A Study of Barfield, Lewis, Williams, and Tolkien by R. J. Reilly. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1972.)

                                 A Historical Perspective

A good way to grasp what the Western Esoteric Traditions are all about is to look at the historical figure of Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), who influenced Charles Williams. 

Boehme was a leading Protestant mystic and a member of a Lutheran church in a region in Germany rich in Hermetic tradition. He presented an esoteric psychology based on alchemy, Kabbalah, and astrology, which placed him firmly within the Western Esoteric Traditions. This weird mixture is typical of the ways esotericism has been combined with Christian practice. Orthodox pastors rebuked him and forbade him to write, but he wrote secretly and gained many followers. (See The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Oxford University Press, 2008, Kindle edition, location 1712.)

There’s a direct connection between Boehme’s “theosophy” and Charles Williams in that William Law, a disciple of Boehme’s teachings, was very influential upon Charles Williams, who then was very influential upon C. S. Lewis. This is one example of how these occultic traditions have been passed along. In fact, Lewis considered Williams [a Hermeticist] as one of the holiest men he’d ever met. (See other posts in this blog discussing the problems with Williams.) Williams was also a Neoplatonist. Lewis apparently confused holiness with mysticism.

C. S. Lewis and the Cambridge Platonists

Lewis’s fascination with the occult is apparent in that he wanted to write his doctoral thesis on Henry More, a known alchemist and one of the most important of the Cambridge Platonists (1600s), but he decided to go into literature instead of philosophy so he changed the focus of his thesis.

As I showed in my earlier post, “The Hidden War,” Lewis actually was a Platonist and was teaching Platonism in his children’s stories. Frederick W. Baue, in his article, “It’s All in Plato: An Examination of C. S. Lewis’s Worldview,” revealed how strongly Platonism and Neo-platonism influenced Lewis’s worldview right up to his death. As I pointed out in that article, and believe it is important to stress, Lewis’s work has become so accepted that there is a universal blindness to the philosophy embedded in it.

The Cambridge Platonists were professors at Cambridge University who, though considering themselves Christians, incorporated Hermeticism and Neoplatonism with their Christian practices and thinking. And, of course, these practices and philosophies are contradictory to the teachings of the Bible, which warns against vain philosophies and witchcraft.

See to it that no one takes you captive to hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Colossians 2:8

 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
Revelation 22:14–16


Summary

Today the resurgence of Hermeticism and its blind promotion by many Christians is shaping modern Evangelicalism in powerful and disturbing ways. This article is a mere beginning in showing how very strong and alive the spiritual battle is of the temptation to be a “magical” Christian and how very destructive it is of a solid Christian life.

It is also a strong warning to be careful about whose writings we are following and ingesting into our thinking. Having our minds shaped by Biblical teaching is of the greatest importance. The Bible does not have to be the only book we should ever read, but it should be the canon—the measuring rod—of what we are reading and hearing. It is the very unique Word of Truth. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

"Christian" Magic


Introducing a new series:
The Hermeticist Next Door


Part I
“Christian” Magic

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times 
some will abandon the faith and
follow deceiving spirits and
things taught by demons.”
(1 Timothy 4:1, NIV)


Dan Brown’s popular novel The Da Vinci Code has created a storm of controversy. Many seem to believe it’s completely true, some dismiss it, and yet others find it difficult to separate fact from fiction. Discernment can be difficult, not only with Dan Brown’s tangled work but with history in general.

What I have to say may seem more like a novel than history, but recorded writings and historical descriptions exist that confirm what I am about to say. It is a historical tale of deception in the Church that is not only stranger than fiction but is actually true.

Proceed at your own risk because facing disguised demonic teachings that pass for Christian—both past and present—can be disturbing, shocking, and nearly unbelievable.

Origen is the Origin

Origen is the origin of this story, which begins around 200 A.D. Some call this famous Greek Church Father a great mystical Christian theologian; others call him a heretic.

Origen was a man of extremes and imbalances, whose father was martyred in a great persecution. As a youth, Origen fervently wanted to join his father in martyrdom, but his mother hid his clothes so he couldn’t throw himself into the clutches of the persecutors. He was extremely brilliant—probably the most educated man of the time—and he wrote many books on the Holy Scriptures and philosophy. But, in his fervency to put Matthew 19:12 literally into practice, he also castrated himself.

Origen ranged far beyond Christian orthodoxy[i], and, as a matter of fact, he was partially educated under a pagan philosopher—a man named Ammonius Saccus (named Saccus because he moved sacks as a laborer). Saccus is considered the Father of Neoplatonism in Alexandria, Egypt, one of the great metropolises of the ancient world that became a center of Christianity. A fellow student of Origen was a pagan named Plotinus, known for propagating Neoplatonism.

Given this background, Origen came up with some rather strange ideas. These included the pre-existence of the soul; the eventual reunification of all creation into a god-figure that was not the Christian Trinity; and that the devil and the fallen angels and animals would all be saved, i.e., incorporated back into the “One.” For this last idea especially, he was condemned as a heretic after he died.  

What is Neoplatonism?

Neoplatonism was a new version of the teaching of the Greek philosopher Plato. It was a mixture of Egyptian religion, Platonism, and Greek and other non-Christian and Eastern philosophies. It also included magical practices, with an emphasis on demons. It is truly a doctrine of demons that has endured throughout the centuries and has exerted considerable influence within the Christian Church.

Augustine was a Neoplatonist before his conversion under the influence of the Christian Neoplatonist Ambrose of Milan. After becoming a Christian he became somewhat critical of Neoplatonism, especially about following demons, and the fact that the system didn’t have any place for Christ. However, he continued to hold some Neoplatonist attitudes, though not necessarily consciously. For example, he continued to view marriage as a lower state than celibacy (asceticism).

Neoplatonism was a little different than Gnosticism, mainly in that the Gnostics tended to view the world as evil, whereas the Neoplatonists tended to view it as just very low on the totem pole. But both the Gnostics and the Neoplatonists viewed achieving salvation as going up a spiritual “ladder,” attaining more and more knowledge and holiness until they finally returned to the godhead they supposedly came from. It definitely wasn’t salvation through faith by grace as taught in the Scriptures (see Ephesians 2).

What most people think of as Gnosticism in the early Church is what is called “negative” Gnosticism, but Neoplatonism could be described as a “positive” Gnosticism. Positive gnosis is very much like that view held by Neoplatonists and, in modern times, by people like C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams.[ii]

The kinds of teachings that Origen favored have persisted all throughout church history, and they are still influential today. They all fit under the general category of Hermeticism.

Hermeticism, Dan Brown, and Harry Potter

To date, I have written extensively about Romanticism (see previous posts). Due to my continuing research, however, I have come to view Romanticism as the more general movement (or tradition) of an ancient tradition known as Hermeticism.

We can view Neoplatonism as the philosophical arm of Hermeticism, but Hermeticism also includes the practice of magic and alchemy.

Hermeticism was essentially just an umbrella for a wide variety of occult teachings and practices.[iii] It is basically Egyptian mythology and theology, which gathered pagan teachings from many different cultures under the name of a mystical figure: Hermes Trismegistus (“thrice graced”). Hermes was considered a great prophet, a great priest, and a great king. (Sound familiar?—like Christ?)

The Egyptian name for Hermes Trismegistus was Thoth (the Egyptian god of wisdom and magic). The Romans called him Mercury, and the Greeks called him Hermes, which gives us the word hermetic, i.e., hidden or sealed.

As we will see, as Hermeticism developed, some of its practitioners were considered Christians. They attempted to integrate it with true Christianity—and even to replace true Christianity with it. A long history of these teachings exists woven into the development of the Christian Church, especially among Roman Catholic and Orthodox monks.

A highly honored manual of Neoplatonism written by someone called ‘Pseudo-Dionysus’[iv] appeared in the 5th or early 6th century. Pseudo-Dionysus “acquired almost apostolic authority” among Christians (see here).[v] (The Pseudo—meaning “false”—comes from the fact that the man who wrote it was not the real Dionysus, who was an associate of St. Paul.)

The book brought this type of teaching into monastic thinking where it continues today, especially within Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Church. Accepting these teachings as Christian is a harmful fraud; they are actually disguised paganism. One of the evil results of these teachings is the diminishing of the importance of family and the very creation itself, that God made man male and female and created marriage. Asceticism distorts the Word of the Lord and is anti-family. (The Book of Colossians warns about this false mysticism and asceticism.)

This influence has continued up until today and is rapidly growing in the Christian Church. Amazingly, many contemporary Protestants continue this view. It partakes of the double view of paganism that the body is both something to be worshipped, through sex, and something to be rejected. Later blog posts and articles will go into this influence and discuss some of its practitioners in the Church in detail.

Fast-forward now to the Renaissance in the 1400s and to a very influential family in Florence called the Medicis.

Lorenzo de Medici (called “Lorenzo the Magnificent”) was a major Renaissance leader who had two talents: making money and sponsoring art and literature on the model of ancient Greece. Under his influence, a scholar named Facino translated some manuscripts from Greek into Latin (read in Italy at the time by the educated classes). These teachings, a set of books called The Corpus Hermeticum, became well known by scholars in the Renaissance and influenced many of the Church leaders.

During this period, an idea developed about gathering all religions together as one, in a way very similar to what is happening today through the World Council of Churches and other syncretistic[vi] movements. These hermetic teachings were the unifying factor.

Amazingly, at the same time, the teachings of the mystical Jewish books called The Cabbala were enthusiastically incorporated into this scheme. They taught many things similar to Hermeticism, and their promoters even called them “The Christian Cabbala.” This tradition still exists today. (Cabbala is spelled many different ways.) The main difference between Hermeticism and the Cabbala was the Cabbala’s emphasis upon divination through the Hebrew words and letters of the Old Testament. The currently popular book, The Harbinger, is another version of Cabbalism.

A lot of these writings incorporated mythological stories and themes, as well as secret writings, mystical imagery, and symbols. While Hermeticism was becoming popular, it was still treated as a mystery religion, suitable only for the initiated—the wealthy and educated.

Hermeticism in the heart of the Protestant Reformation

One aspect of this strange history that is very difficult for me to cope with is that this strong Hermetic influence was not confined to Roman Catholicism. In fact, there was an explosion of interest in Hermeticism among Protestants. And, the center of this “Christian” Hermeticism ended up actually being in Germany shortly after the Reformation. After the upsurge of so-called “Christian” Hermeticism in Germany, similar upsurges occurred in Great Britain and other European countries.

Following are a few examples.

Sebastian Franck was a former Roman Catholic priest who became a Reform preacher in the 1500s. He was also a major supporter of Hermeticism. The following quote exposes his real teaching:

“Franck derived his image of Hermes, as he acknowledges, largely from Ficino, though he clearly assigns a distinctly earlier date to Hermes: he was a contemporary of Abraham and thus clearly antedated Moses. Franck’s interpretation of Hermeticism was far more radical, however, in that he considered the Hermetic writings to be a pagan replacement for Christianity and for Judeo-Christian revelation. The Pimander contained ‘all that is necessary for a Christian to know.’”[vii] [The Pimander was a name for The Corpus Hermeticum mentioned earlier.]

This is just an example of how highly regarded Hermeticism was, even in the heart of the Protestant Reformation. The young Luther tended to look favorably upon some of these Hermetic and mystical writings, but later in his life he called Hermeticism fanaticism.

Another example.

Hermeticism in the Service of Promoting Tolerance

Christian apologetics had used Hermeticism to demonstrate that the Christian religion was consistent with the philosophy and theology of the ancient world. By the sixteenth century, however, circumstances had changed, and Christianity had become the cultural matrix, but, even then, Hermeticism served to indicate the compatibility of various cultures and religions. Indeed, once again Hermeticism served Christian apologetics.” (Same article, Kindle location: 1763, my bolding]

[Note: This same practice occurs in the 20th century in the apologetic works of C. S. Lewis and his fellow “Inkling,” Charles Williams.]

Jacob Bohme. Bohme was a strange man—a sixteenth century shoemaker who started having visions. He represents a turning point of the influence of Hermetic philosophy because he tried to make it an acceptable aspect of Lutheranism.

“Bohme is a turning point in the history of Hermetic philosophy. Hermeticism and Christianity had always been strange bedfellows, and as we have seen, much of Hermetic thought—such as its conception of the divine or semi-divine status of man—is heretical by Christian standards. [Giordano] Bruno [a Dominican priest] even went so far as to advocate the abandonment of Christianity and the return to a Hermetic, ‘Egyptian’ religion. Bohme, in effect, acted to prevent the self-destruction of Hermetic philosophy in the face of its clear conflict with the dominant, orthodox faith. David walsh writes that ‘For the new occult philosophy to work, the old Christian philosophy must be redirected. The individual with the theoretical genius to effect their reconciliation and, thereby, become the transmitter of the new symbolism to the modern world was Jakob Bohme.’”[viii]

Bohme used Christian terminology but changed the real meanings. For instance, he used the word trinity, but definitely not in a Biblical sense. His influence extended even to England where he was quite popular. The English mystic William Law promoted his writings, which even influenced John and Charles Wesley for a while. Fortunately, they later turned away from Law’s influence.

Contemporary Examples of Hermeticism

Some obvious examples of contemporary Hermeticism in English literature can be seen in Dan Brown’s books, especially The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, as well as the immense popularity of imaginative, magical literature. This genre includes Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as his lesser-known Silmarillion, along with the fiction of C. S. Lewis. More recently, there is the popularity of the Harry Potter series and Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, which includes The Golden Compass.


In summary, the above facts give but a taste of the pervasive, corrupting influence of Hermetic thought and practice upon the Christian Church historically. Unfortunately, this influence has never died away, and today it is expanding with great speed within the Church. In coming posts, we will see that it is alive and spreading unconsciously through the teachings of many well-known Christian leaders.




ENDNOTES

[i] I’ve encountered confusion about the term orthodoxy. One pastor I knew actually said orthodoxy means when a pastor wears a suit, but in reality it’s the solid core of biblical theology, included in the main Christian creeds and in the teachings of the Apostles: the Virgin birth, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Second Coming; and including justification by faith in Christ alone through grace alone.

[ii] This concept of positive and negative gnosis is described in Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances Yates. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, 22.

[iii] Also known as the Western Esoteric Tradition. It basically views humanity as on a spiritual path to return to unity with the Divine.

[iv] Although Wikipedia states that the works of Pseudo-Dionysus were “mystical and show strong Neo-Platonist influence,” it still calls him a “Christian theologian and philosopher.” You can see the confusion I mentioned above.

[v]Since Pseudo-Dionysius represented himself as St. Dionysius the Areopagite, an Athenian member of the judicial council, the Areopagus, who was converted instantly by St. Paul, his work, strictly speaking, might be regarded as a successful ‘forgery’, providing him with impeccable Christian credentials that conveniently antedated Plotinus by over two hundred years. So successful was this stratagem that Dionysius acquired almost apostolic authority, giving his writings enormous influence in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance…” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

[vi] Syncretism is the uniting of religious ideas that conflict with one another.

[vii] The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus: Hermeticism from Ancient to Modern Times by Florian Ebeling. Cornell University Press, November 11, 2011. Kindle Edition. Location: 1735.

[viii] Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition by Glenn Alexander Magee. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 2001. The quote at the end of the quote comes from footnote 60: David Walsh, “A Mythology of Reason,” 151.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Hidden War

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.

I’m just beginning to read this. Veith talks about the influence of Romanticism. Veith is the Provost at Patrick Henry College and the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary.

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.

Baue reveals how much secular philosophy there is in Romantic literature, and especially how strongly Platonism and Neo-Platonism influenced C. S. Lewis’s worldview. This influence began early in his life, after he left Christianity. It continued later when he returned to Christianity and lasted up to his death. In fact, his final book, Till We Have Faces, retells a pagan myth. Lewis also incorporates Platonic philosophy into the Narnia stories. This is pretty sophisticated stuff to give to children, and, as a matter of fact, the stories are designed more for adults than for children. (Tolkien's fairy stories also seem designed more for adults than for children.)

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.)

Conclusion

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.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Our apologetics booklets for sale


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Strategies of Evangelism to New Age Culture –$3.50. The current shift in popular culture is affecting the Christian Church in a major way. In recent years the emergence of the syncretistic “Emergent Church” movement has swept the evangelical world by storm. The rising flood of paganism and rebellion is overwhelming many of our culture’s historical “antibodies” against it. The roots of the shift are many and deep, and focusing upon them is not this booklet’s purpose. What concerns us here is what Christians can do to reach out.

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The Devil’s Doorways is not available at this time.

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The Glittering Web

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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)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Speculative "Christian" / Emergent Fiction


This post is in particular response to comments and questions left by Danny Polglase after my third Meltdown article. I apologize it's taken so long to answer. We never received notification when your response arrived and only found it and published it recently.

Danny, since one of your questions had to do with speculative fiction, I recommend that, first, you read our article, "Children of the Inklings: Emergent 'Christian' Fiction" at the link above. We put a lot of thought and effort into that article.

The larger issue though isn't types of fiction or just being wary of hidden paganism, but realizing that there is a movement that is gaining ground rapidly among evangelicals that is generally undiscerned in the churches. It is connected with an ignorance of Christian history, especially since the beginning of the 19th century when a major spiritual-artistic-intellectual movement, which was Romanticism re-cast in a modern form, began sweeping the culture and the churches. Because American evangelicals have very little awareness of this influence and the seductiveness of its philosophy and literature, many Christians have been seeing it as a new move of the Holy Spirit--a breath of freedom--rather than what it really is--another aspect of worldliness and paganism. They think of it as an answer to materialistic thinking and don't see how very far it is from true Biblical thinking.

I believe that what would help Christians most to discern this deception is to understand the roots of this kind of literature and its artistic productions. Speculative fiction is only a part of this much larger milieu.

While I agree the Holy Spirit does give us checks in our spirits sometimes, I don't think that depending upon this and assuming it's going to happen is always a reliable approach, not to mention knowing whether what you are experiencing is really from the Holy Spirit.

Finally, you might read something and be aware of a non-Christian worldview behind it but still just want to read the story and be able get good things out of it anyway. But if you then start using that book as a teaching aide, or giving it to your children who are not equipped to discern, it can be a real problem. For instance, a friend gave our son the Narnia stories when he was about eight, and it turned out his fourth grade teacher at his Christian school was also reading some of the stories to the class at the same time. We finally decided that, since we knew he was going to get it from all sides of the culture as he grew up, we would go over them with him and teach him to recognize the clearly pagan elements. We couldn't do all this when he was only eight, of course. It's been a process over the years, and it's been a real battle because that kind of literature is so attractive to young people. The real problem I think is when pastors deliberately read The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia stories to their children as part of their devotions. I know personal examples of this, and Russell Moore, Dean of Theology at Southern Baptist Seminary, mentioned doing this on the Albert Mohler radio program. (I mentioned this in another blog post.)

Thanks for your questions and comments, Danny. I hope this helps and may God strengthen you in your search for truth and desire to write. And I sympathize about trying to find discerning fellowship.

As for writing speculative fiction, that's a whole kettle of fish I don't have an easy answer for. Some of our own fiction could be called speculative; however, it also clearly shows the difference between paganism and Biblical thought. We like to think of it as anti-Romanticism spiritual adventure fiction, as part of our purpose is to expose deception.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Second Great Evangelical Meltdown: Part III: The Romantic Assault

Introduction


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)


Conclusion


“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.

—Isaiah 64:1–4



Endnotes

[i] See footnote (vi) in Part II of “The Second Great Evangelical Meltdown.”

[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?”

[xiii] Lighthouse Trails Publishing’s research website is doing a fine job documenting this shift.

[xiv] We have written several booklets on these topics, “Visualization, Imagination & the Christian” and “The Christian and Yoga,” available here.

[xv] Lighthouse Trails’ research website provides an excellent definition of contemplative spirituality and spiritual formation along with numerous contemporary examples.

[xvi] See his book The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Zondervan, 2006).

[xvii] See “Your Child and the Martial Arts” by Linda Nathan, as well as The Dark Side of Karate by Linda Nathan and Tonie Gatlin (Authorhouse, 2004).

[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.”

[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.

[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.

[xxix] See Lighthouse Trails Publishing’s older but excellent article on this. Lighthouse Trails Research Website is nearly alone in following all of these things, reporting publicly on them, and trying to call leaders to account. They came out of nowhere to take a stand.