Friday, October 13, 2006

Emerging from the Emerging Church

I’m going through a worldview shake up.

A great image, a great icon that I have cherished, is being torn down before my eyes—the image of C. S. Lewis as the premier modern, intellectual Christian. I don’t think C. S. Lewis created this image, but the difference between how he appears to many Christians and what he actually was, taught, wrote, and spoke about is very great—and seldom mentioned.

Consider the fact that during his argument about education in his little book The Abolition of Man, Lewis defines the ground of all truth as the Tao, the Chinese concept of impersonal truth. This effectively makes Christianity a subset and the God of creation a subset of the Tao. If you find this hard to believe, look at pages 27 to 29 in Macmillan’s 1978 paperback edition. How can the “greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century”—as he is often called—write things like this? Here’s a quote from part of this section:

“This conception (A view of the reality of truth) in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth referred to for brevity simply as ‘the Tao.’”

You might be asking yourself as I’m asking myself: How can this be? How can it be that evangelical scholars and leaders look to various famous modern philosophers and writers and accept and propagate their teachings when they so obviously conflict with what the Bible teaches?

I’ve gotten a clue while studying the history of Christianity about what may be going on today, for this same process has happened before. In fact, it occurred several times in different periods since the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s. It has been both disturbing and enlightening to discover how much various philosophies from the unbelieving world have been accepted within the Church. This process still continues, and I call it:

Evangelicals in the philosophers den

You may ask, “What has philosophy got to do with C. S. Lewis who was a literary critic, a scholar, and a writer of both fiction and nonfiction?”

Lewis was steeped in philosophy in his education, with a special emphasis on German philosophy of the 1700s and 1800s. He even taught philosophy. If you read his book Pilgrim’s Regress, which is almost impossible to read unless you know a lot about philosophy (and hard to read even if you do), you’ll find an allegory of his spiritual and philosophical journey from the dregs of Calvinism through various philosophies until he arrived at a philosophical version of Christianity. In this process the Bible does not enter in as a major factor.

What does this have to do with the Emerging Church? The connection is, as I am beginning to see, that the same bondages from the philosophies of Modernism are shaping and controlling the theology and practice of what is called the Emergent Church. Brian MacLaren and other Emergent Church leaders are claiming to be rediscovering valuable parts of church traditions that have been neglected or rejected by conservative evangelicalism. In this process they are also incorporating traditions and philosophies from non-Christian and occultic religions.

As a result of my background in being rescued from occultic/New Age religion, I am very sensitive to the kind of syncretism that was rife in that demonic stew. However, due to my passive hero worship and acceptance of people like C. S. Lewis who are actually doing the same thing, I blinded myself and was blinded to the similarity of syncretism in modern evangelicalism. I believe that the Holy Spirit is pointing out these kinds of things to me, and I’m in the process of emerging from the distorted view that it is merely a new stage in evangelicalism—a more enlightened evangelicalism—as people in the Emergent Church are now propagating. I believe this is really false and deceptive and that it’s a sinking rather than an emerging—a sinking by God’s people into an old version of bondage to the world the flesh and the devil.

True Unity in the Holy Spirit

In all this talk about “mere syncretism,” I don’t want to forget about true unity in the Holy Spirit.

I’ve been reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, one of the places where the Bible talks about such unity. Chapter 4:1–5 (NIV) says:

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were call—one Lord, what faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Lewis and many others are seeking the unity of the Spirit, but they’re seeking unity in ways not based on scriptural truth. I believe that often their motives are good, but their principles and practices are in error. We need to tell the difference between these errors and truth.

There are practical outworkings of this confusion between false unity and true unity:

  • The true gospel is not preached, and false gospels are often preached.
  • Christians are unable to differentiate between good and evil; they call good evil and evil good.
  • Christians don’t recognize the difference between magic and faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Christians are willing to take part in fantasy games and read fantasy literature without realizing the evil that operates in some of those types of thinking.

I know from personal experience and from observing those around me that these things are happening all the time and in ever-increasing ways because of the intensity of the spiritual war in our present time. I work in a mental institution that is staffed mainly by pagans who think of therapy as Buddhism and occultism blended together with secular humanism along with a few people who call themselves Christians who are as tangled into those problems as the ones who call themselves pagans.

May God grant us grace to know the difference.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A reader responds

Gary K. wanted to add the following comment about our article "'Christian' Romanticism, the Inklings, and the Elevation of Mythology" but said he had trouble signing in, so I'm reproducing it here (thanks, Gary):

I found this article on Berit Kjos's web site ( . I have learned so much from her articles and just how deceptive much of our Christian world has become. This is an indepth look at something that dovetails, in my opinion, with today's somewhat mindless worship music (entertainment). The authors here really present some meat to chew on and deal with this from a very mature Christian world view. They also deal with an area of personal interest to me -- Lewis and Tolkien.

Just how much fantasy do we allow to come between us and our view of absolutes? How much Truth gets bent to fit this 'new' image of God? How much Truth is lost as we tend to view it (Him) only through the eyes of romantic entertainment and the comfort of our easy chairs? Does this new comfort zone become the opening for new age 'truths' and a broadening of the narrow path? Lastly does it produce in us any discipline? (woops, sorry another politically incorrect word...)

I guess the real question for me is this. Do we start to disallow absolutes altogether when we allow ourselves these romantic and mythological views of God? Do they not then create a Petri dish (culture) with in which we can grow a more politically correct 'churchianity'? Or a politically incorrect Christianity? Does not the very nature of God's Truth get mocked in these fantasies?

Unlike many articles, this is not entertainment and ear tickling. It will require some time and thought. This is a Truth seekers article.

Gary K.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Post-modern Man Enters the Body of Christ

I’m creating this blog in order to apply the Bible and Church history to contemporary movements and battles in church. By church I mean the body of Christ, but I intend to focus mainly on the evangelical church in America. My main concern is that God’s people in contemporary American churches are being starved of truth. Movements are sweeping the evangelical churches that are bringing in philosophies, theologies, and practices not based in Christ, on the Word of God, and on sound evangelical orthodox theology. I am not, however, characterizing conservative evangelicalism as being whole and consistent with God’s truth.

“If Jesus is so wonderful…”

Who am I and why do I care about these things? I started life in a family of atheists. I grew up thinking all religion was superstition and that only Charles Darwin and Karl Marx really had it right. My life then was profoundly repulsive and my household full of insanity and immorality. At the age of 18 I discovered what seemed like an escape from the dreariness and ugliness—mind-altering drugs and the occult. I was in essence what would now be called a postmodern man. All this happened in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but now I would define myself as I was then as a neo-pagan. Read a testimony of how my wife and I got saved in 1976.

Entering the body of Christ was a shock. I knew almost nothing about Christianity. I had encountered Christ but not through formal Christian terminology. I had no idea that I’d been born again, and since we’d been saved in the context of a liberal Episcopal church, I got the impression that being born again meant you were ignorant and uneducated. This question plagued me: “If Jesus is so wonderful, then what is wrong with the church?”

Lessons learned in the fire of the Church

During the following 28 years God led us through profound trials, sometimes with joy, sometimes with sorrow and great heaviness. We always continued to attend church even though it was sometimes very vexing. Our first church was particularly vexing because not only did they not preach the gospel, they also advocated homosexuality as a positive lifestyle and had a large community of active homosexuals. Did God make a mistake putting us in that church? I don’t think so because for one thing we grew a lot. This growth was not a direct result of the church’s teaching but rather the teaching of the Holy Spirit who sometimes used church as a medium of conveying truth and sometimes as an example of what not to do. For example, knowing almost nothing about Christianity I assumed that all Christians read the Bible. I felt I needed to catch up so I started reading it, not realizing that Episcopalians traditionally do not read the Bible personally. It’s read in the services and that’s the end of it. So in my ignorance I started reading the Bible and found myself gripped by the Word of God. I believe now that it was the Holy Spirit gripping me through the Word and teaching me even though the church teachers had a low regard for Scripture.

Another great lesson, learned in the fires of that liberal Episcopal church, was that God was not pleased with the disunity in the body of Christ. The idea and vision of the unity of the whole church as portrayed in Scripture was belied by the way that liberals put down the fundamentalists and vice versa. I’d begun reading books by C. S. Lewis when I first started attending the church. He was of course an Anglican, and his vision and unity attracted me deeply at that time. Since inconsistency always bothers me, I was drawn to study church history to see if I could answer that question, “If Jesus is so wonderful, then what is wrong with the Church?”

Since that time we’ve been in many different churches: Pentecostal, Lutheran, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Calvary Chapel, Reform Churches, and so on. I also went to a cathedral school connected to the Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle and to a seminary involved in the Episcopal Renewal. My greatest educational experience was in the school of the Holy Spirit and through hard knocks—for example, working the past 13 years in a crisis psychiatric center.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Romantic "Christianity," the Inklings, and the Elevation of Myth

A burgeoning movement is occurring in Evangelical literature today in connection with the vast popularity of works by such writers as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Countless Christians are being influenced by this movement, which in many places is nearly akin to a paradigm shift, yet almost no Christian literature seems available that both sets it within its true historical context and compares it with the Biblical worldview.

Many Christians are unaware that this movement is part of the contemporary resurgence of a larger historical movement called Romanticism. Romanticism was popular in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Europe, especially in Germany, France, and England, and it never really died. Today it is rapidly increasing in Western culture in a variety of ways...

Read the rest of the article
here. It provides historical depth and background for my concerns.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Getting an Inkling about Romantic Christianity

I’ve been stimulated to do some research by seeing how powerfully the emergent church movement is sweeping through evangelical churches.

My first encounter with the influence of the emergent church was listening to a CD from the 2005 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. The speaker, a representative of Word Publishing, was measuring Christian growth by comparing it to the movie The Matrix while at the same time exalting a book I hadn’t read called Blue Like Jazz. I was appalled to hear his enthusiasm for what seemed at the time like the kind of paganism I used to be involved in.

Around the same time, I also read a book by Brian MacLaren called A New Kind of Christian. Again, I was appalled by his approach and disturbed by his use of C. S. Lewis, and also by the interconnections with the Episcopal Church. For example, the hero of MacLaren’s book is a black man named Neo, like the hero of The Matrix, who’d gotten away from Evangelicalism and was enthusiastically embracing the Episcopal Church. I watched the video The Matrix and again was floored. This video was teaching paganism with a very few Christian associations. For instance, the heroine’s name was Trinity.

I was especially disturbed by all the associations with the Episcopal Church—especially its “renewal” form, which I had been involved with for many years through a variety of Episcopal churches on both the East and West Coasts and also by going to Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Pennsylvania. TESM was a really mixed bag, both a blessing and a trial. And I encountered two factors there that I also saw in Brian MacLaren’s book: the diminishing and relativizing of Scripture, and the exaltation of the occult and certain kinds of syncretism. For example, TESM’s pastoral psychologist was a Jungian. (Born to a Lutheran pastor, Carl Jung was a Gnostic psychiatrist who rejected Christianity and embraced many different kinds of pagan practices and philosophies in the guise of therapy. For details, see Richard Noll’s excellent book, The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement, Princeton University Press, 1994. Noll lectures at Harvard.)

And of course C. S. Lewis was unquestionably a major influence at Trinity and upon me.

While I was pondering all this, I found a Web site called Christianity and Romanticism ( I was startled to see a whole different aspect of Lewis and learn that he was really part of a definite intellectual and religious movement definable, at least in part, under the description Romantic Religion or Romantic Christianity. Lewis was part of a literary group called The Inklings – also part of the same movement – that met in his college rooms. He attributed to the Scottish writer George MacDonald the “baptism of his imagination” before he became a Christian.

This of course led to my attempt to read MacDonald’s books, Phantasies and Lilith, which according to Lewis were supposed to show his Christian imagination, but I was so repelled by the all-too-familiar images from the years I had indulged in occult paganism and witchcraft that I couldn’t stand to continue. (Read about my life at For example, the title Lilith comes from an occult myth of the first wife of Adam, who was a witch. [Read the whole corrupt story at under Chapter 10: Adam's Helpmeets (Excerpt from The Hebrew Myths by Robert Graves and Raphael Patai (New York: Doubleday, 1964), pp 65-69.)]

“Romantic Christianity.”

Now I was on my way, feeling strongly called to study this thing called Romantic Christianity. What did it really mean, theologically and practically? I knew something about the Romantic Movement that took place primarily in Germany from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, but I had no idea that there was any connection with contemporary events, especially involving these what seemed like “idols” of the Church—Lewis and Tolkien.

I managed to find a reference to a book called Romantic Religion: A Study of Barfield, Lewis, Williams, and Tolkien by R. J. Reilly (University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1972). As I read through it, I began to see how very different this Romantic Religion is from Biblical Christianity and that what I was seeing was also very different from the popular view of what the Inklings were really like. (The Inklings were the literary group that C. S. Lewis belonged to for many years. They included Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and J. R. R. Tolkien.) Tolkien was a Roman Catholic; the other three were members of the Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church.

A strong and interesting connection with all this is that I received my Master of Arts in Religion in Church History from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry where there was a great emphasis on the history of the Anglican Church. The Church is very unique as it contains in one body almost every factor that can be seen in other churches worldwide. For instance, there is liberalism (called “the broad church” within Anglicanism), and Evangelical Anglicans who are Calvinists, and Anglo-Catholics, who are very much like and very focused upon Roman Catholicism and, to a smaller extent, Greek Orthodoxy.

With my background in church history, I began seeing certain patterns as I explored Romantic Religion. For instance, C. S. Lewis was an Anglo-Catholic, which made him very close theologically and ceremonially to Roman Catholicism. He believed in purgatory, which people erroneously conclude was one of the doctrines of all of Anglicanism. This is definitely not true, but it is a tendency that Anglo-Catholics have because they look to the Middle Ages and its theology as the archetype of Christianity. In fact, they didn’t start using the word “priest” for Anglican ministers until the late 1800s, when the Anglo-Catholic movement came in with its high ceremonial practices.

Thus, I began to see a very different picture of the influence of Lewis and the other Inklings upon Evangelicals. I began to see that Romantic Religion has much to do with the creation of idolatrous images in and by the imagination that are then given the worship due only to the Holy Trinity.

This is not to say that the imagination is evil in itself; it is a gift of God. It is like the hand. The hand can do wonderfully constructive things, and the hand can also hold a sword to kill someone. God gave us the hand; it’s up to us how we use it. There are godly uses of the imagination, but using it in the wrong way, even unintentionally, to create something that is then honored and worshipped, is horribly destructive and violates the First Commandment.

(Our booklet Visualization, Imagination, and the Christian examines and contrasts Christian imaginative meditation with occult visualization.

My next blog will include more quotes from the book Romantic Christianity and the writers he looked at. These quotes will show how really different Romantic Christianity is from Biblical Christianity and help show Lewis’s position in this stream.

“Just as the Enlightenment god of Reason was eternal and omnipresent, the Romantic interior deity of Imagination was everlasting and infinite.”

The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition by James A. Herrick (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p. 87.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mere Syncretism

Comments on recent trends in the Body of Christ

In recent times, unity has become a powerful theme, both in the Evangelical Church and in the culture. Although such attempts at unity have occurred for centuries in philosophy, politics, and the history of Christianity, the search for unity has been increasing in the last hundred years or so.

Some of the latest trends in Evangelical Christianity appear in the movement Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Promise Keepers, The Purpose Driven Church, and the “emergent church conversation.” As I reflect on these and other movements, I see trends toward both a good and true unity and trends toward false, syncretistic unity. I am calling the false unity (or the attempts at false unity) Mere Syncretism. (Syncretism is the combining of religious elements that don’t fit together, such as Christianity and Buddhism.)

I’m afraid though that this title, Mere Syncretism, will lead to some controversy because assaulting a cherished image can arouse anger and rejection. Obviously it's related to C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. How dare I even hint that there could be anything Lewis wrote that is the least bit questionable? As a new Christian, I thought C. S. Lewis was more authoritative than the Apostle Paul.

However, I am not going to try to figure out his complex personality. Instead, I want to look at his teaching through his nonfiction and fictional writings, as well as through those writers he considered his friends and companions—including Tolkien, Barfield, and Charles Williams. That’s because I believe a lot of the theology and practice in current movements toward unity—especially the “Emergent church conversation”—echo some of Lewis’s theology and spirituality. This blog will not just be devoted to Lewis, however, even though his thinking is an important element in these movements.

What is real Biblical unity among Christians? And does Lewis’s teaching reflect such unity? Can we really depend upon it as a basis for unity among modern Christians? Is it, in fact, truly “mere Christianity”? Or is it a mixture of religious theology, philosophy, spirituality, and practices?

My wife and I were personally involved in “mere syncretism” for many years before becoming Christians, and after becoming Christians we attended many churches where these ideas were very influential. I also attended a seminary that was in the center of this stream of ideas.

This blog will examine these questions by looking at the history of Christianity along with theology and philosophy and comparing it with the teachings of Scripture.

Welcome aboard.