Research: Angels, Demons & Spiritual Warfare

Angels, Demons & Spiritual Warfare

Do angels and demons really exist? The Bible says they do. Mentioned by name are two elect holy angels (the good guys): The Archangel Michael (Daniel 10:13) and Gabriel who carried messages (Daniel 8:16). Scripture also mentions the Angel of the Lord; the Captain of the Host of the Lord; messengers; and guardian angels.

The Bible tells the story of fallen angels (the bad guys). Lucifer, one of God’s highest angels, led a revolt against God (Isaiah 14:12-14) and was banished from Heaven along with angels who took his side. Some scholars believe that as many as one third of the angels rebelled against God.

Lucifer is known by many different names that have various meanings. For example: Satan (Mark 1:13); Devil (1 John 3:8); Abaddon (Proverbs 27:20); Evil One (John 17:15); Power of Darkness (Colossians 1:13, 14); Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15); Beelzebul (Matthew 10:25); Serpent of Old (Revelation 12:9); and Tempter (Matthew 4:3).

Fallen angels are most commonly called demons. Demons are powerful spirits that can causes all sorts of afflictions. Read what these odious creatures can do to humans here.

FAST FACTS:

  • Jesus drove demons out of people who were demon possessed (Matthew 8:28) so we know demons exist. “You deaf and mute spirit,” Jesus said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” It would be a little ridiculous for Jesus to talk to demons if they didn’t exist. Clearly they can possess and control the unsaved. (Mat. 8:28-34)
  • Satan is the “god of this world.” (2 Cor. 4:4)
  • Principalities and powers (demons) are under the power of Satan. (Mat. 12:24)
  • Demons can cause sickness (Mat. 12:22); insanity (Luke 8:26-36); bodily injury (Mark 9:14-26); long term infirmities (Luke 13:11-13).
  • Holy angels are incapable of going against God, whereas unholy angels continuously go against God in their quest to lead people astray.
  • Satan and his demons have been given certain powers, but as Bible teacher John MacArthur  points out, “Satan is a servant of God and can only work within the perimeters that God defines…”
  • Jesus gave the apostles the authority to cast out demons. (Mark 16:17, 18; Luke 10:17; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18; 19:12)
  • Satan and his demons may win many battles but in the end they will lose the war. “…we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
  • Angels and demons are personal spiritual beings. (Heb. 1:14)
  • Since they have no physical limitations they’re not bound by the laws of physics.
  • They possess intellect (Mat. 8:29, 2 Cor. 11:3), emotions (James 2:19, Rev. 12:17), and will (Luke 8:28-31, 2 Tim. 2:26).

People who contact angels (or a spirit guide) are actually contacting demons.  Demons can and do possess unbelievers but they’re not given the authority to possess believers. The reason is obvious: the moment of regeneration the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the believer – and He never leaves. Listen to the words of Jesus:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

RESOURCES

America’s All Out Spiritual Battle Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 By Marsha West

An Angel You Ought to Know By Loren Jacobs

Angelology The Doctrine of Angels By J. Hampton Keathley

Angels Among Us By Ron Rhodes

Are all angels safe? By Marsha West

Beware of Angels from the Dark Side By Marsha West

Conversations With the Counterfeit By Craig Branch

Do We Have Guardian Angels?

Dominionists Are on the Move…and they Mean Business By Marsha West

Ephesians 6:12, Where is the struggle, in prayer By Matt Slick

Gladiator-style takedown of demonic forces, Part 1 Part 2 By Marsha West

Holy Angles–The nine orders of angels

Is Michael the Archangel really Jesus?

Moroni, Other Sheep, and Two Sticks add up to Zero

The “Script” Underlying Spiritual Warfare Christianity By Orrel Sreinkamp

Spiritual Warfare Part 1 Part 2, Part 3Part 4

Spiritual Warfare: Fighting to Win By John MacArthur

Spurgeon on Spiritual Warfare

Visions, dreams and revelations: demon possession or genuine prophetic fits By Elizabeth Prata

What do you think about all this Satan stuff? By Marsha West

Why We Should Not Fear Satan and Demons By John MacArthur

Touched by an Angel: But Which Kind? By Berit Kjos

Unbiblical Ideas About Angels By Marsha West

What does Kabbalah teach about Angels By Matt Slick

Who is the Angel of the Lord?

VIDEO

Carnal Weapons: Binding & Rebuking – Spiritual Warfare Justin Peters & Jim Osman

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES:

  • For he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.  — 1 Psalms 11
  • Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels   unawares. — 13 Hebrews 2

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 8 Romans 38-39

Views expressed by individual authors and/or sources don’t necessarily reflect those of Marsha West

Research: New Age Movement

Thousands of people who have been ensnared by the teachings of the New Age movement are waking up to the realization that they are now hostages to Satan and his demons.  Others are still deceived, believing that they have come to a new understanding of themselves by tapping into the hidden powers of the universe.  Let’s think about the subelty of Satan’s trap and then point the way out of his mystical maze.  Fortunately, Christ’s power can destroy his clever grip on the lives of those who admit their need for help. — Erwin W. Lutzer

Many churches are already incorporating New Age forms of “Spiritual Formation,” contemplative prayer or meditation to cleanse the mind and bring peace and energy to the body. This is straight New Age teaching, not biblical, yet Richard Foster and others have successfully leavened this into many churches.

A large number of people in the New Age movement (NAM) don’t like that label — while others would not even consider themselves part of the movement. NAM is eclectic and diverse. There is no hierarchy, doctrine or membership. They believe man’s basic nature is good and divine. Moreover, they believe in evolutionary godhood and that man will soon see himself as god. New Agers have an interest in Eastern mysticism and hold to a belief in reincarnation. Their “theology” is based in diversity, feel-goodism, universal tolerance, and moral relativism. Continue reading

Research: Progressive (Social Justice) ‘Christianity’

Do not be fooled by professing Christians who prefer either “progressive Christian” or “social justice Christian” to evangelical. It matters not what trendy terms people use to describe themselves, a progressive by any other name is still a liberal. So it should not come as a surprise to learn that some PC’s are avowed Marxists. Marxism is the theory of economics and politics of atheists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels that holds that “actions and human institutions are economically determined, that the class struggle is the basic agency of historical change, and that capitalism will ultimately be superseded by communism.” Clearly, this theory is unbiblical.

The Center for Progressive Christianity’s homepage makes it abundantly clear how PC’s view themselves:

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.

That, brethren, is moral relativism.

So here’s the bottom line: Progressive is simply a euphemism for socialism.

Authority of Scripture

  • PC’s do not hold to a high view of Scripture. They out right reject the notion that all Scripture is God breathed — inspired, inerrant, infallible.
  • PC’s will tell you that in their view a large part of the scriptures do not present a true understanding of God’s mind and heart, and much of the Bible is not inspired by the Spirit of God.
  • PC’s hold to a non-traditional view of the Bible. Because they question tradition, they’re willing to re-write Scripture to ensure that God’s written Word is cutting-edge and meets their politically correct criteria.

Environmentalism Besides an emphasis on caring for the poor through social justice, PC’s are environmentally conscious and believe followers of Jesus are commanded to be the guardians of the Earth.

We Are One Many PC’s believe in the “Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life.”

Who Are These People? From “Liberals Created the Culture of Evil and Death.” Progressive Christians are:

ubiquitous, aggressive liberals many of whom are renowned pastors, authors, conference speakers, missionaries, televangelists, radio hosts, and CEOs of Christian organizations. As of late, even some of our most beloved evangelical leaders appear to be morphing into theological liberals. The extent of the movement to liberal ideology varies with each individual, but in certain cases they have gone completely off the rails. False doctrine abounds in books, Bible studies and Bibles authored by notable Christians and promoted by so-called Christian publishers and book sellers. We have been duly warned about this sort of thing happening:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. 1 Tim. 4:1 (Source)

Social Justice  According to Jeff Maples:

The social gospel advances ideas such as racial justice, open borders, and left-wing political ideology that has a facade of Christlikeness, but under the surface, merely replaces the gospel with social activism.

Moreover,

Social justice is not a missing piece of the gospel that has been recently discovered by progressive elitists in evangelical leadership positions. It’s a mass effort to appease large numbers of people who view biblical Christianity negatively by appealing to their sense of self-entitlement. Progressive entitlement ideology is rampant in liberal circles. It’s all about what society can do for me, and how society, instead of me, can take the blame and responsibility for my wrongdoings. (Source)

The religious left demands the redistribution of wealth under the guise of social justice. Beware when you hear terms such as “social reform” and “social justice” because those terms are doublespeak for the transfer (redistribution) of wealth.

Critical Race Theory (CRT)

CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. (Source)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to CRT:

In broad terms, the narrative tends to work along the following lines. The Gospel is less about God saving sinners from eternal condemnation through the righteous life, substitutionary death, and glorious resurrection of his Son than it is about God’s solidarity with the oppressed and his demand for justice. God identifies with the poor, the victim, the minority, the immigrant. God picked a particular group, the Jews, liberating them from slavery. He sent his prophets to speak truth to power, offending exploiters and giving hope to the exploited. He came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, as an impoverished peasant, a refugee threatened by a murderous king, an immigrant born to an unwed mother. He sought social justice. He refused to submit to the privileged of his day and called them to let loose the chains of greed and power. So they killed him. They hung him on a tree. He was lynched because he refused to conform. But by his life and death, God himself says to the world that he is One with the victim, the stranger, the outcast, the refugee, the woman, the person of color. Wherever there is inequity, Christ is the victim. He calls all those occupying privileged social places to repent of their racism, sexism, and exploitation.  (Source)

CRT’s ultimate goal:

Few Christians even knew what critical theory was before it came crashing on the scene, nor that it’s a philosophy that is at odds with the Christian worldview. Instead of teaching that humans are valuable creatures made in God’s image, it says we are defined by our classification in groups: sex, race, class, and gender identity, to name a few. Instead of the main problem being sin—breaking God’s laws—it says the main problem is the oppression of others. Instead of the solution being divine (and human) forgiveness, it says the solution is activism to overthrow those in power and correct the inequality. Instead of the ultimate goal being a restored relationship with God, it says the goal is liberation from oppression. — Alan Shlemon, Stand to Reason

The following falls under CRT’s big umbrella (for a complete explanation click on the Source link):

Social Justice –  a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and  social privileges. (Source) (See how Jeff Maples’ defines progressive/social justice Christianity under the heading “Social Justice theology, Social Justice Gospel” above)

Intersectionality – a theory developed by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. The term is used to describe how different forms of discrimination can interact and overlap with each other. In recent years, it has become a feminist buzzword. As a concept, intersectionality deals with the cumulative societal effects of systemic discrimination on people who belong to more than one disadvantaged group. For example, a woman is oppressed by the anti-women crowd; a black woman faces anti-woman and anti-black bias; a black lesbian woman faces anti-woman, anti-black, and anti-gay discrimination, etc. The point of intersectionality is that the victim of only one type of discrimination may have a hard time identifying with those who face multiple types of oppression. (Source) (Intersectionality examined by Josh Buice)

Cultural Marxism – cultural Marxism is a revolutionary leftist idea that traditional culture is the source of oppression in the modern world. Cultural Marxism is often linked to an insistence upon political correctness, multiculturalism, and perpetual attacks on the foundations of culture: the nuclear family, marriage, patriotism, traditional morality, law and order, etc. Cultural Marxists are assumed to be committed to establishing economic Marxism, in which case their cultural attacks are a necessary preparation for their ultimate goal. (Source)

Black liberation theology – refers to a theological perspective which originated among African American seminarians and scholars, and in some black churches in the United States and later in other parts of the world. It contextualizes Christianity in an attempt to help those of African descent overcome oppression. It especially focuses on the injustices committed against African Americans and black South Africans during American segregation and apartheid, respectively. (Source)

Deconstructionism – a term tied very closely to postmodernism, deconstructionism is a challenge to the attempt to establish any ultimate or secure meaning in a text. Basing itself in language analysis, it seeks to “deconstruct” the ideological biases (gender, racial, economic, political, cultural) and traditional assumptions that infect all histories, as well as philosophical and religious “truths.” (Source)

Rauschenbuschism – the Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor of a congregation. “His work “Christianity and the Social Crisis” may be “the finest distillation of social gospel thought.” Rauschenbusch railed against what he regarded as the selfishness of capitalism and promoted a form of Christian socialism that supported the creation of labour unions and cooperative economics.” (Source)

Emergent Christianity From “Doublespeak: The Language of Deception, Part 5″:

Progressive Christians brought us the emergence/emergent/emerging Church movement (EC). “The words Emergence and Emergent are often used synonymously,” says Carl Teichrib. “There is a difference: Emergence refers to the larger context of global change. Emergent is the new Christian reaction to this world shift. There are various degrees attached to this church movement, making it difficult (and dangerous) to use a single brush stroke when dealing with this issue. This does not negate ‘contending for the faith,’ it does mean, however, that we must be careful when attaching labels.

I have no problem labeling the EC apostate. I’m not alone. Listen to how Pastor Ken Silva describes EC:

The term Emergence Christianity, which adherents such as Phyllis Tickle see as the new reformation, itself incorporates more than just a nod to emergence theory of evolutionary science; and many in the EC believe that, right now, mankind is evolving upward into a higher state of consciousness.

For such as these, their practice of neo-Gnostic Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism is where they think that they’ll actually be receiving this “transformation” from God; that’s why, in their minds, meditation in an altered state of consciousness known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer is so important. To some EC leaders, words mean pretty much whatever they want them to mean. They are in fact master wordsmiths. (Source)

Political Activism According to Wikipedia:

Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to “love one another” (John 15:17) within the teachings of Jesus Christ.[1] This leads to a focus on promoting values such as compassion, justice, mercy, tolerance, often through political activism. Though prominent, the movement is by no means the only significant movement of progressive thought among Christians.

Missions Emerging ‘progressive Christianity’ is changing the way evangelical/Protestant missions is being conducted,” observes Roger Oakland. “The idea is that you can go for Jesus, but you don’t have to identify yourself as a Christian or part of the Christian church. This concept spills over into some missionary societies too, where they teach people from other religions they can keep their religion, just add Jesus to the equation. They don’t have to embrace the term Christian. (Source)

Gary Gilley reveals:

The social gospel became the hallmark of the liberal church because the liberals had emptied their message and ministry of biblical truth and were left with no other ‘good news’ than solving physical problems. Sadly, evangelicals today are increasingly adopting the missional, social gospel of liberalism. (Source)

What Progressives Say About Themselves

The 8 Points of Progressive Christianity–We are Christians Who…

What is Progressive Christianity? What Do they Believe? Is It Biblical?

Progressive “Christian” Leaders (in no particular order) Pope Francis, Richard Rohr, Marcus J. Borg, Gregory Boyd, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, John Dominic Crossan, Diana Butler Bass, Rob Bell, Alan Chambers, Hillary Clinton, Nate Collins, Greg Coles, Bart Ehrman, Peter Enns, David Gushee, Rachel Held Evans, Brandon Hatmaker, Jen Hatmaker, Bill Hybels, Lynn Hybels, Tony Jones, Timothy Keller, Ann Lamott, Brian McLaren, Bekah Mason, Carol Howard Merritt, Chrissy Messick. Beth MooreRussell Moore, Barack Obama, Doug Pagitt, Elaine Pagles, Fred Plumer, John Shelby Spong, Warren Throckmorton, Carrie Underwood, Matthew Vines, Rick Warren, Ken Wilson, Karen Swallow Prior, Scot McKnight and a host of others. Also included are same-sex attracted (SSA) “Christians”; gay “Christians”;  LGBTQ+  “Christians.”

Following is The Statement On Social Justice & The Gospel, September 2018

In view of questionable sociological, psychological, and political theories presently permeating our culture and making inroads into Christ’s church, we wish to clarify certain key Christian doctrines and ethical principles prescribed in God’s Word. Clarity on these issues will fortify believers and churches to withstand an onslaught of dangerous and false teachings that threaten the gospel, misrepresent Scripture, and lead people away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Specifically, we are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality. The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for “social justice.” If the doctrines of God’s Word are not uncompromisingly reasserted and defended at these points, there is every reason to anticipate that these dangerous ideas and corrupted moral values will spread their influence into other realms of biblical doctrines and principles.

We submit these affirmations and denials for public consideration, not with any pretense of ecclesiastical authority, but with an urgency that is mixed with deep joy and sincere sorrow. The rapidity with which these deadly ideas have spread from the culture at large into churches and Christian organizations—including some that are evangelical and Reformed—necessitates the issuing of this statement now. More

Initial Signers:  John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, Phil Johnson, James White, Tom Buck, Anthony Mathenia, Michael O’Fallon, Tom Ascol, Darrell Harrison, Craig Mitchell, Justin Peters, Jeremy Vuolo and Josh Buice.

Be A Berean

Bible believing Christians must compare each claim of people who are in the Progressive Christian (social justice) movement with what God’s Word says. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Pray and ask God for wisdom and discernment. He has promised wisdom to all who seek it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5).

RESOURCES

Marsha West’s articles
Doublespeak: The Language of Deception, part 4  part 5

Jen Hatmaker’s Revision of Truth

Liberals changing word meanings with intent to deceive

Liberals created the culture of evil and death, part 3

Progressive Christians and their doctrines of devils

Purpose Driven dismantling of Christianity, part 3

The “Progressive Christian” Charade

Helpful Articles

Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and the Gospel – by Tom Ascol

Mere ‘Christianity’: How Social Justice Is Corrupting the Faith by Ben Hall

Why Social Justice Is Not ‘Prophetic’ and What the Word Really Means by JD Hall

Recognizing Critical Theory by Matt Kennedy 

Social Justice Is An Attack On the Sufficiency of Scripture by Josh Buice 

Slouching to Ancient Rome (Follow up to Revoice: Sliding Into Heresy) by Peter Jones 

Revoice: Sliding Into Heresy by Peter Jones 

Tim Keller’s Full Endorsement of Being Gay & Christian

5 Facts About Tim Keller/Follow up to ‘Tim Keller’s Full Endorsement of Being Gay & Christian’ 

Albert Mohler Forbids SBTS Faculty From Signing “Social Justice Statement” 

The Life & Teaching of Social Justice Jesus (satire) 

Bart Campolo says Progressive Christians turn into atheists. Maybe he’s right

Have your cake and eat it too Christianity by Greg Koukl

Heil to the Coming Progressive Utopia by Peter Jones

How the Social Gospel is Becoming the Dominant Theology in Evangelicalism by Jeff Maples

Jim Wallis, Progressive “Cleric” Tortures Bible to Promote Intolerant Islam – Berean Research

The Immorality of Liberals by Selwyn Duke

The Left vs. Reality by Lee Duigon

The Social Gospel Yesterday and Today, Part 1 Part 2 by Gary Gilley

The Usurpation of Evangelicalism by Social Action Warriors by Al Baker

Helpful videos

Social Justice and the Gospel — The Statement Framers panel. In this informative panel discussion with Dr. Josh Buice, Dr. James White, Dr. Voddie Baucham, Tom Buck, Phil Johnson, and Dr. Tom Ascol, Sovereign Nations Founder Michael O’Fallon leads the presenting scholars in a exploration of the postmodern crisis within the Christian Church.

R.C. Sproul teaching from the book of Amos on the biblical meaning of Social Justice 

How The Gospel Coalition is Destroying Justice and the Church–Jon Harris

Defining Social Justice: meaning, movement, mission–Voddie Baucham

Todd Friel of Wretched Radio –  Part 2

Josh Buice examines intersectionality

Phil Johnson examines Virtue Signaling

Audio

How Social Justice Is Corrupting the Faith and Moving Christians to The Left – David Wheaton interviews Ben Hall 

Books 

Social Justice Goes To Church: The New Left In Modern American Evangelicalism by Jon Harris NEW
The New Missiology – Doing Missions Without the Gospel

Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity Bringing together the voices of top [progressive] Bible scholars and church leaders–including Diana Butler Bass, John Dominic Crossan, Amy-Jill Levine, Brian McLaren, Helen Prejean, and John Shelby Spong–pastors David Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy present a lively and stimulating tour of what it means to be a “progressive” Christian.

 

Views  expressed by individual authors and/or sources don’t necessarily reflect those of Marsha West 

 

Copyright by Marsha West, 2015

Research: Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) claims to be the one true Church as established by Jesus and His apostles. However, an examination of the doctrines upheld and taught by the RCC demonstrates that it stands in contrast with – and even in opposition to – biblical Christianity. Though not exhaustive, the following overview analyzes and compares some of the core tenets of the Roman Catholic tradition with Scripture.

The Council of Trent

Perhaps one of the most important events in the history of the Roman Catholic Church is the Council of Trent (1545–1563). This gathering sought to counter and respond to the Protestant Reformation. It was at this ecumenical meeting that Rome ultimately anathematized, or condemned, the biblical doctrine of justification:

Canon 9: If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. 1

Canon 14: If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.

Canon 24: If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. 3

Canon 30: If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. 4

Canon 33: If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema. 5

The Christian will recognize that these condemnations of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone stand in direct contradiction to Scripture and amount to an anathema upon the Gospel itself. Romans 3:20–28, 4:3, 5:1, Galatians 3:1–3, Ephesians 2:8–9 and Colossians 2:13–14 are just a few of the numerous passages that address the various condemnations which Rome set forth at the Council of Trent.

Salvation

The process of salvation for the Catholic means a Catholic must have faith in Christ and the Roman Catholic Church, participate in the sacraments, take the Eucharist, keep the commandments, perform penance, and do indulgences in order to attain, maintain, and regain salvation as well as reduce the punishment due to him for the sins of which he has already been forgiven.”6

“The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. ‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior. 7

Biblical Christianity

As the perfect sacrifice for the sins of men, Christ’s death and resurrection provided salvation for all who would believe. Salvation is the forgiveness of sins and the saving from the wrath and condemnation of God.

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9).

Salvation is a free gift from God to those who believe (trust) in Him (Rom. 1:16; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9).

Salvation cannot be earned (Rom. 11:6).

Eucharist

Teaches transubstantiation: the idea that at the Mass the bread and the wine are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ (also known as ‘The Real Presence’):

The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” 8

Because these elements are the presence of Christ Himself, they are worshiped: “In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. ‘The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.’”

It is claimed that the Mass is a representation of Christ’s sacrifice. The Catholic Catechism calls this sacrament a “divine sacrifice” 10, a “single sacrifice” with Christ’s that is “truly propitiatory” 11 and capable of making restitution for sins. 12

This sacrament is practiced for those who have already died: “The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed who “have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified,” so that they may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ.” 13

Biblical Christianity

The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is celebrated in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in obedience to His words (Lk. 22:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–26).

Jesus Christ was sacrificed only once for the forgiveness of sins of all those who will believe (Heb. 7:26–27, 9:28, 10:10–12). This single sacrifice was sufficient to save for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14).

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is what makes propitiation for the sins of His people (Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2).

If a man dies without Christ, there are no works that can be done, either for himself in Purgatory or by those still alive on Earth, that can gain him entry “into the light and peace of Christ” (Heb. 9:27).

Mary

Mary was born free from original sin and preserved as such throughout her life: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

“The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.” 14

Teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary:“The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” and so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin’.” 15

Teaches that, now in Heaven, Mary continues to act as a mediator for the Church: “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation …. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” 16

Biblical Christianity

Scripture clearly teaches that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22) and that no man is righteous or without sin (Rom. 3:10–18), with the exception of Christ Himself. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:10).” Thus, Mary, like all mankind, was a sinner.

Scripture indicates that the Lord Jesus had brothers and sisters (Matt. 1:24–25, 12:46–47, 13:55; Mark 6:2–3; John 2:12; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:4–5; Gal. 1:19).

The only One who acts as a mediator between man and God is Jesus Christ. He alone is the high priest (Heb. 5:5, 6) who offered His own blood as an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of those who would believe (Heb. 9:14–15, 10:14).

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:5–6)

Scripture

Equates Scripture and man-made tradition:“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.” Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ‘always, to the close of the age’.”17

“As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.’”18

“‘Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God’ (DV 10) in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.”19

Includes the Apocryphal books as part of the inspired canon (considered as part of the Old Testament):“This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New: The Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.”20

Biblical Christianity

The Bible supports tradition only when it affirms what God has already revealed in His Word and through the teaching of the Apostles (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2).

When man’s tradition contradicts Scripture (as many of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church do), then it must be rejected (Mark 7:8–9, Col. 2:8).

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (2 Tim. 3:15–17, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Thess. 2:2) Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: (John 6:45, 1 Cor 2:9–12) and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. (1 Cor. 11:13–14, 1 Cor. 14:26, 40) which are always to be observed (1 Cor. 11:13).”21

Purgatory

Teaches that some men must undergo additional purification after death before being able to enter the kingdom of Heaven:

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.” 22

The idea that men must atone for their own sins, whether in life or death, runs contrary to the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, and denies the full efficacy of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice achieved the salvation of all who will believe, apart from any work or merit of their own doing.

Purgatory is not a Scriptural concept. Scripture does speak quite clearly, however, about the two possible destinations after one’s death: Heaven

or Hell (Matt. 25:31-34).

Biblical Christianity

The idea that men must atone for their own sins, whether in life or death, runs contrary to the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, and denies the full efficacy of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice achieved the salvation of all who will believe, apart from any work or merit of their own doing.

Purgatory is not a Scriptural concept. Scripture does speak quite clearly, however, about the two possible destinations after one’s death: Heaven or Hell (Matt. 25:31-34).

Indulgences

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” “An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.” 23

“Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory.” 24

Biblical Christianity

The teaching of indulgences negates the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. Christ alone has born the punishment for the sins of those who will believe (Rom. 5:1, 9; Eph. 2:8; Isa. 53:4-6).

Penance

A sacrament of reconciliation for sins committed after baptism. Necessary to re-establish a right relationship with God: “Penance is a liturgical action. the elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest’s absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dismissal with the blessing of the priest.” 25

Biblical Christianity

The deeds of men are as filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6), and thus the Christian can only be reconciled to God by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24, 5:1, 11:6; Eph. 2:8).

The Papacy

Built upon a misinterpretation of Matt. 16:18, the RCC asserts that the pope is Christ’s representative on earth and the visible successor of Peter:

“Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Christ, the “living Stone”, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.” 26

When the pope speaks “ex cathedra,” he “defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.” 27

Biblical Christianity

The perfect life, death and resurrection of Christ was accomplished in full so that man would no longer require another mortal mediator between himself and God. Sinful man, through Jesus Christ alone, can now approach the throne of God (Heb. 10:19–22, 4:16).

Please see the list of ‘Further Reading’ below for additional discussion of the interpretation of Matt. 16:18.

Further Reading

On Salvation

On the Eucharist

On Mary

On Scripture

On Purgatory

On the Sacraments

On the Papacy

General Resources

Footnotes

  1. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  2. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  3. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  4. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  5. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  6. Matt Slick, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, “Summary of process of salvation in Roman Catholicism.”
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Paragraph 1129
  8. CCC, Paragraph 1376
  9. CCC, Paragraph 1378
  10. CCC, Paragraph 1068
  11. CCC, Paragraph 1367
  12. CCC, Paragraph 1444
  13. CCC, Paragraph 1371
  14. CCC, Paragraph 491, 493
  15. CCC, Paragraph 499–501
  16. CCC, Paragraph 969
  17. CCC, Paragraph 80
  18. CCC, Paragraph 82
  19. CCC, Paragraph 97
  20. CCC, Paragraph 120
  21. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Paragraph VI
  22. CCC, Paragraph 1030, 1031
  23. CCC, Paragraph 1471
  24. CCC, Paragraph 1498
  25. CCC, Paragraph 1480
  26. CCC, Paragraph 552
  27. Catholic Encyclopedia, “Ex Cathedra,” accessed 15 September 2012, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05677a.htm http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05677a.htm

Note: Christian Research Network’s original paper can be found here.

 

Research: Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is the process of apparent spiritual development through engaging in a set of behaviors, termed disciplines. Advocates believe these disciplines help shape the character of the practitioner into the likeness of Christ.

Though superficially similar to discipleship, spiritual formation is not merely concerned with biblical exhortation and instruction in orthodox doctrine, but also with the teaching of “many practices that opened [the believer] to the presence and direction of God, and nurtured the character traits of Christ into fruition” 1 (Source)

The Renovaré website states:

Spiritual formation is a process, but it is also a journey through which we open our hearts to a deeper connection with God. We are not bystanders in our spiritual lives, we are active participants with God, who is ever inviting us into relationship with him. 2

Spiritual Disciplines

According to proponents of spiritual formation, various “spiritual disciplines” must be practiced in order to experience true spiritual growth:

Christian spiritual formation is a God-ordained process that shapes our entire person so that we take on the character and being of Christ himself.

Properly employed…these disciplines help us attain increasing levels of spiritual maturity so that we respond to our life circumstances with the mind of Christ. 3

In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, as well as on his Renovaré website, Richard Foster lists these disciplines as: 4

  • Meditation Entering into a “listening silence” in order to “hear God’s voice.” Similar to the meditation of Eastern religions.
  • PRAYER An “interactive conversation” with God. Practiced as contemplative prayer.
  • Fasting “The voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”
  • Study “The mind taking on an order conforming to the order of whatever we concentrate upon.”
  • Simplicity “The joyful unconcern for possessions we experience as we truly ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matt 6:33).”
  • Solitude A “state of mind” for one to be “found by God and freed from competing loyalties.”
  • Submission Letting “go of the burden of always needing to get our own way.”
  • Service “A pattern of service as a lifestyle…At the center is found a contentment in hiddenness, indiscriminancy.”
  • Confession Confession of sin to other professing believers.
  • Worship “Entering into the supra-natural experience of the Shekanyah, or glory, of God.”
  • Guidance Learning to “heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus.” “It is the perception that we have heard the Kol Yahweh, the voice of God.”
  • Celebration Celebrating God in all facets of life.Since the disciplines are not defined in Scripture, no concrete, definitive list is available. Consequently, Willard notes that we should not “assume that our particular list will be right for others. 5 This confirms the subjective nature of these practices.

Unbiblical Origins

Despite assertions that the spiritual disciplines are “God-ordained,” 6 they are in fact derived from the practices of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox mystics.  7 These practices are contrary to the biblical theology fought for in the Reformation.

Gary Gilley asks: Do we, as believers in Sola Scriptura, take our marching orders from the written Word, or do we look to the ‘white spaces’ in Scripture to determine how we live?

In other words, are we to turn to mystical, subjective ascetic practices, or do we rely upon the objective truth of God’s Word?

Bob DeWaay contends: The Bible nowhere describes an inward journey to explore the realm of the spirit. God chose to reveal the truth about spiritual reality through His ordained, Spirit-inspired, biblical writers. 9

Unbiblical view Of Man’s Condition

Spiritual formation teaches that man possesses innate goodness, but that his fallen state of sin is a result of “deprivation” or “spiritual starvation.” Thus, the disciplines help to feed, mature and grow man’s spirituality. In his Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard states:

The evil that we do in our present condition is a reflection of a weakness caused by spiritual starvation. When Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” he was not just being generous to his killers; he was expressing the facts of the case. They really did not know what they were doing. As St. Augustine so clearly saw, the deranged condition of humankind is not, at bottom, a positive fact, but a deprivation. It is one that results in vast positive evils, of course, yet depravity is no less a horror because it stems from a deficiency, and people are no less responsible for it and its consequences. 10 

Rather than having an innate ability for good, Scripture teaches that, due to the Fall, man is innately depraved (Rom. 3:11–18235:8Eph. 2:1) and his heart is wicked (Jer. 17:9).

Possibility of Real Spiritual Experiences Not From God

Richard Foster himself has offered warnings when it comes to practicing some of the disciplines. In regard to the practice of contemplative prayer, which is a type of meditation, Foster, in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, writes:

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way!…. 

…But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection. 11  

When seeking to “hear from God,” there is no biblical guidance as to how one may determine exactly who or what is communicating. Foster himself notes that not only could one be deceived by Satan, but one may also mistake one’s own imagination or “human voices” for the voice of God.

Learning to distinguish the voice of God…from just human voices within us…comes in much the same way that we learn any other voice. Satan pushes and condemns. God draws and encourages. And we can know the difference. 12

Though Foster provides criteria for determining just who or what is speaking, there is no biblical support for the specifications he provides. He implies that God will always speak in a positive manner, yet there are multiple instances in Scripture when God speaks negatively to His people. About Foster’s comments in the above-referenced Be Still DVD, Pastor Larry DeBruyn writes:

Assuming that God speaks Soul to soul today, what if Foster’s paradigm for determining “the voice” were reversed; that the negative voice is God’s, and the positive is Satan’s? It happened that way in the Garden. God warned Adam and Eve that for disobedience to God, “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17), but Satan reassuringly told Adam and Eve, “You surely shall not die!” (Genesis 3:4). The point is that when engaging meditative spirituality, the contemplator can never be certain who will speak, and as a consequence, the experience can become the spawning ground for myriads of flashy ideas based solely upon, “he heard this,” or “she heard that.” And at that juncture, Christians and the church will have turned aside “to myths” (2 Timothy 4:4). 13

Deception is rampant, and unbiblical, mystical practices may offer people an actual spiritual experience, though not one that originates from the true and living God. To ignore the boundaries of Scripture is to open oneself up to danger.

Leaders:

Audio: 

An excellent primer on why Spiritual Formation is dangerous:

Spiritual Formation: An interview with Dr. Gary Gilley

Helpful Articles:

Richard Foster

Dallas Willard

General Resources:

Research:

Books:

What does the Bible teach?

Footnotes:

  1. Bruce Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality (NavPress, 1999), 24.
  2. http://www.renovare.us/SPIRITUALRENEWAL/WhyBecomeLikeJesus/Whatisspiritualformation/tabid/2572/Default.aspx, accessed 16 May 2012.
  3. Richard J. Foster and Gayle D. Beebe, Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion (InterVarsity Press, 2009), 15, 16.
  4. All quotations within these definitions are from http://www.renovare.us/SPIRITUALRENEWAL/PracticingLikeJesus/WhyPracticeLikeJesus/tabid/2518/Default.aspx and linked pages, accessed 16 May 2012.
  5. Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 157.
  6. Richard Foster, Renovaré Newsletter, http://www.renovare.us/ViewNewsLetter/tabid/2404/Default.aspx?ID=71, May 2003.
  7. Gary Gilley, Spiritual Formation.
  8. Bob DeWaay, Richard Foster – Celebration of Deception.
  9. Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, (HarperCollins, 1990), 63–64.
  10. Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, (HarperCollins, 1990), 68.
  11. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (HarperCollins, 1992), 157.
  12. Richard Foster, Be Still, Fear of Silence (DVD © Twentieth Fox Home Entertainment LLC, 2006). Transcript courtesy of Larry DeBruyn, Who Goes There?
  13. Larry DeBruyn, Who Goes There?

Note:  CRN’s Spiritual Formation Research Paper has been updated. Our original, more in depth paper, is here.

Research: Occult-Sorcery

The term “occult” comes from the Latin occultus or “hidden.” Generally the word is used of secret or mysterious supernatural powers or magical, religious rituals. The word “occult” is used to describe any attempt to gain supernatural power or knowledge apart from the God of the Bible. Generally it refers to witchcraft, Satanism, neo-paganism, or various forms of Psychic discernment (astrology, séances, palm reading, necromancy, tarot cards, etc.).

Divination Practices and Occult Games (Source)

Description: Divination is the attempt to predict or control one’s future, or to gain access to hidden information (e.g., psychically) by the assessment of various “indicators” (such as the occult meaning of numbers), or use of particular implements (such as the Ouija board). Examples of divinatory methods include interpreting the positions of the heavenly bodies (astrology) or the symbols on cards (tarot), analyzing dreams (dream work) or the flight of birds or liver markings, casting stones or coins or other objects (I Ching), inter­preting hand markings (palmistry), and seeking information from dowsing rods, idols, or oracles (Ezekiel 21:21). Occult games are not necessarily divinatory; however, they attempt to introduce players to occult philosophy or practice in a fun and exciting manner through playing a “game.”

Founder: Varies; some are unknown.

Scientific evaluation: Science cannot evaluate claims to see into the future, although it can test the predictions of diviners. This often reveals fraud or a poor record of divining, or that psychic powers fluctuate greatly under stringent conditions of scientific assess­ment. This is not to say that these methods are never accurate; to the contrary, their persuasiveness is often found in their divinatory power.

Examples of occult potential: Psychic development, spiritism.

Practices and Terms

  • Astrology: The concept that one’s future is dependent upon the precise location of the sun, moon and planets at the time of birth.
  • I Ching: an ancient Chinese oracle book which can be used to foretell the future, answer questions, etc. The practitioner generates a number from 1 to 64 by selecting sticks, or casting dice or coins. The oracle book assigns different meanings to each of the numbers.
  • Necromancy: Conjuring the spirits of the dead for purposes of revealing the future or influencing the course of events.
  • Numerology: the practice of assigning a digit to each letter in a person’s name, and deriving a series of numbers which have special significance to the person.
  • Palm reading: foretelling a person’s future by the creases in their palm and shape of their fingers.
  • Runes: a group of from 16 to 31 (typically 26) letters of an ancient Northern European alphabet. The letters are inscribed on small rocks or pieces of paper or (shudder) plastic. A group is cast, and the future foretold from the runes that land inverted and not inverted, as well as from their position.
  • Scrying: a technique of producing visions of the future by gazing into a crystal ball, black mirror, bowl of water, hot coals from a fire, etc.
  • Tarot cards: fortune telling through the use of a pack of 78 Tarot cards which can be divided into four suites (wands, cups, pentacles and swords). 5 Each suite has number cards (ace to 10), a king, queen, knight and knave. In addition, there are 22 additional cards which form the greater arcana; they include the Chariot, High Priestess, Juggler, Lovers, Moon, Sun, Strength, Death, Devil, etc. The cards are shuffled; a few are dealt and laid in a specific formation (circle, cross, square, etc.). The cards are interpreted according to their inherent meaning, as modified by the significance of their location.
  • Teacup reading: foretelling the future by the shapes formed by tea leaves after a cup of tea has been consumed.
  • Other methods: Future events have been predicted through the use of dice, dominos, dream interpretation, pendulum movements, playing cards, etc.

Medical and therapeutic techniques:

Games:

Some games have occult terms and activities (casting spells, potions, charms, calling on pagan gods, runes, Tarot, etc.). What the games do is desensitize people to occult practices. Beware because this can cause spiritual and emotional damage. “It is a comment on how far this culture has come that what should be innocent and cheerful games for young girls are instead fraught with evil themes and depictions of what should be scary but are presented as fun, glamorous, or sexy. Doing evil is actually depicted as inviting and/or powerful.” —Marcia Montenegro

Occult games: Ouija Board, Magic the Gathering, Tarot cards, Illuminati, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Occult Wars

Fantasy role-playing games: Dungeons and Dragons, Fable, Star Wars, Spycraft…more

LeadersTwentieth Century only, in no particular order. Many more not listed here. (Source)

New Age/New Thought

RESOURCES

What the Bible teaches:

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this (Deuteronomy 18:10-14). (emphases added)

Bible Verses Opposing Sorcery: Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 19:26-26; 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Isaiah 8:19 and Malachi 3:5.

The Bible details the occult practices that are expressly forbidden by God. He banned sorcery then and He bans it now. Moreover, those who practice these sorts of things are an abomination – detestable. In the case of the Israelites all charms for diseases, all amulets or spells to prevent evil, fortune-telling (looking into the future), contacting the dead – any of the magic arts were considered wicked.

Views  expressed by individual authors and/or sources don’t necessarily reflect those of Marsha West  or Christian Research Network.

Research: Contemplative Prayer

Definition of Contemplative Prayer:  A form of Christian mysticism that allegedly brings about a mystical union with God.

The mystical “spirituality” that is so popular in evangelical and charismatic circles today is a yearning for an experiential relationship with God that downplays the role of faith and Scripture and that exalts “transcendental” experiences that lift the individual from the earthly mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. Biblical prayer is talking with God; mystical spirituality prayer is meditation and “centering” and other such things. Biblical Christianity is a patient walk of faith; mystical spirituality is more a flight of fancy. Biblical study is analyzing and meditating upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality focuses on a “deeper meaning”; it is more allegorical and “transcendental” than literal. — David W. Cloud.

Contemplative prayer (also referred to as centering prayer, breath prayer, meditation or listening prayer) is one of the most esteemed spiritual disciplines taught in spiritual formation. In both practice and purpose, contemplative prayer stands in contrast with what Scripture teaches about prayer. Practitioners believe that one must clear the mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may more easily be heard and that one may be united with the “divine spark” within.

Advocates of contemplative prayer believe and teach that it is a necessary practice if one desires to become more like Christ. In claiming this, however, they often appeal to the practices of ancient Roman Catholic mystic monks rather than the Word of God.

Contemplative Prayer is a prayer of silence, an experience of God’s presence as the ground in which our being is rooted, the Source from whom our life emerges at every moment…. Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself.1

Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice correcting, guiding, and directing you…. The fundamental idea is simply to enjoy the companionship of God, stilling your own thoughts so you can listen should God choose to speak. For this reason, contemplative prayer is sometimes referred to as ‘the prayer of silence.’2

Practice and Technique

Seeks to empty the mind and enter an altered state of consciousness by:

  • repetition of a mantra;3
  • focusing on one’s breathing;
  • contemplating images or icons.4

Instructs one to sit in silence, waiting and listening to hear from God:

“Yet God speaks in many ways. We need to learn to listen for His voice. Normally, His voice is not audible … but I wouldn’t want to exclude that possibility. Who am I to say how God will choose to speak?” 5

Biblical Prayer

Prays according to the Scriptures. Micah 7:7Ps. 4:31 John 5:1415

Prays with both spirit and mind, not one or the other. 1 Cor 14:15

Talks to God the Father (Phil. 4:6) through Jesus Christ (John 16:23) in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Understands that what God has revealed in His Word is sufficient; new revelation is unnecessary. 2 Tim. 3:16–17

Objectives

Seeks to experience God in an inexplicable way, often describing the believer’s relationship with God in erotic or romantic terms.

“There are many terms that seek to capture this dynamic … they all are attempts to capture the same thing: the movement beyond words to an intimacy that requires no words. This intimacy is the kind that lovers know when they give themselves over to the act of lovemaking.” 6

Desires to achieve a “God-consciousness” and a unity with God:

“He [God] wants to bring us further, to a transformation of consciousness, to unity-consciousness, to a full possession of our divinization.” 7

[T]he place to which we are going is one in which the knower, the knowing, and that which is known are all one. Awareness alone remains. The one who is aware disappears along with whatever was the object of consciousness. This is what divine union is.”8

Expects to hear from God, usually through an inner voice or prompting:

“Growing intimacy requires that I pay careful attention to the other person. When that other is God, it’s necessary to still my own voice and listen in quietness. Then I can detect the gentle whispers of the Spirit. Too often we fail to hear God speak because we are not attentively listening.” 9

Biblical Prayer

Understands that prayer is ultimately a form of worship. It should glorify God alone. John 14:1314

Understands that prayer is an act of reverence, approaching the very throne of God to receive mercy and find grace.Heb. 4:16

Acknowledges and humbles oneself before the holy God of the universe. Prayer should affirm God’s sovereignty and majesty. Matt. 6:9

“Everything in prayer revolves around who God is, what God wants, and how God is to be glorified. That is the sum and substance of proper praying. 10

The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2–4) offers a model of how Christians ought to pray as it “emphasizes the glory and supremacy of God.”11

Purposes to confess sin and acknowledge our position before God as rebellious sinners (e.g., Dan. 9:5–11;Matt. 6:12): “We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.”12

Desires to align and submit our will to God’s. Ps. 86:11Matt. 6:10John 15:7;John 16:231 John 5:14

“While God communicates to us through the Bible, we respond to Him in prayer.”13

Effects of Contemplative Prayer

As noted in the Spiritual Formation research article, the spiritual disciplines are rooted in unbiblical origins. In his book The Sacred Way, Emergent theologian Tony Jones acknowledges that “Centering Prayer grew out of the reflections and writings of the Desert Fathers.”14 These Desert Fathers, however, did not appear until the third century AD, long after the time of Jesus and His Apostle.

Contemplative prayer presupposes that the Christian must seek outside of Scripture to hear all that God is saying, thus Scripture loses its position as the final, authoritative Word from God. The following quotes are from Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, respectively, who are both leading teachers of contemplative prayer:

Many discussions about hearing God’s voice speak of three points of reference, also called ‘three lights’ that we can consult in determining what God wants us to do. These are circumstances, impressions of the Spirit and passages from the Bible. When these three things point in the same direction, it is suggested that we be sure the direction they point is the one God intends for us.15

Only the Bible as a whole can be treated as the written Word of God…. In any case we must certainly go beyond, though never around, the words of the Bible to find out what God is speaking to us.16

Yet, Scripture itself informs us of its sufficiency (2 Tim. 3:16–17), and of God’s final word and revelation to us in Christ (Heb. 1:1–2).

While one may indeed “hear” from an entity in the spiritual realm, the voices heard, or impressions received, may not always be from God:

There are other ‘spiritual voices,’ too…. Satan … too will speak in our heart once he sees he no longer holds us in his hand. Only if we learn to recognize this voice as well can we … correctly identify and firmly resist him and make him flee from us (1 Pet. 5:9Eph. 6:11).17

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.18

The Christian, however, is told to resist the devil (Jas. 4:7). This would necessarily include rejecting any practice which may engage one in direct communication with the Enemy and his servants.

Commonly Misused Verses

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! PS. 46:10

It is the first half of this verse that is most commonly abused by advocates of contemplative prayer. Psalm 46:10a may also be rendered as “Cease striving and know that I am God…” as it is in the NASB. The context of this verse is one of war and conflict.

“The verb ‘Be still’ (Hebrew, rapah) is used 46 times in the Old Testament with meanings everywhere from describing laziness to ordering relaxation…. In no biblical usage or context does the Hebrew verb enjoin God’s people to meditate or contemplate. Rather, believers are to rest and trust in God.”19 “This is not a contemplative call for reflection but a redemptive call to surrender and to know God personally and intimately before his swift judgment is unleashed (Hab. 2:20Zeph. 1:7Zech. 2:13).”20

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.PS. 62:1

This verse is used by contemplatives to support the practice of silent waiting before the Lord. However, understood in context, this verse offers a picture of submitting oneself to the Lord, trusting in and waiting patiently for Him to act according to His will. “Only to God did [David] look with complete calmness.”21 “Psalm 62 is not a call to unexpressed contemplation, but rather a song of expressed confidence…. The psalmist is not providing an example for retreating into silence. Rather he is telling fellow believers to go to God.”22

Additional Concerns

The “Divine” Spark:

Practitioners and teachers of contemplative prayer often maintain that inside all humans there is a “spark of the divine.” Hence, the purpose of contemplative prayer is to become aware of – and connect with – this inner divinity:

Although God lives in the souls of men who are unconscious of Him, how can I say that I have found Him and found myself in Him if I never know Him or think of Him, never take any interest in Him or seek Him or desire His presence in my soul? 23

Contemplative prayer is a process of inner transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in the process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists. 24

This teaching of a “divine spark” existing in all humans contradicts both the biblical doctrine of original sin and the fact that, without Christ, all men are dead in their trespasses and sin (Rom. 3:10–183:23). Pastor Larry DeBruyn teaches:

Absent birth by the Holy Spirit from above, any mystical assumption that the human heart possesses a divine essence, a resident kingdom of God within, does not accord with Jesus’ teaching and is therefore, heretical (Compare Mark 7:14-23.). In order to either “see” or “enter the kingdom of God” a person must be born from above. In his teaching, Jesus spoke of persons entering the kingdom. But He did not speak of a kingdom of God residing in people. The New Birth, the requirement for entering the kingdom of God, comes from without a human soul, not from within it.25

Parallels to Practices of Eastern Religions

While contemplative prayer mirrors the practices of the Desert Fathers, as noted above, it may also be viewed as a “Christianized” version of what is known as Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM has its roots in Hinduism, 26 and was brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1959.27 Maharishi states:

Through Transcendental Meditation, the mind unfolds its potential for unlimited awareness, transcendental awareness, Unity Consciousness.28

This is strikingly similar to several of the quotations cited above, wherein proponents of contemplative prayer would have the practitioner still himself so as to become more aware of God within.

In their book Finding Grace at the Center, Roman Catholic monks Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington write:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible…. Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences.29

Persisting in such practices as transcendental meditation invariably will lead to universalism, as pastor-teacher Ken Silva demonstrates in his article Meditating on Contemplative/Centering Prayer.

Furthermore, Scripture unambiguously instructs the Christian to refrain from pagan practices (Lev. 18:3Deut. 18:121 Cor. 10:20Gal. 4:8). The Christian has been called out of the darkness of the sinful world and its man-made religions, and is called instead to be set apart in Christ (1 Pet. 2:9–12Phil. 3:20).

Leaders (to name a few):

Catholics

Non-Catholics

Helpful Articles 

On the Dangers of Contemplative Prayer:

Opinion:

On Biblical Prayer:

Other Research Sites

What Does the Bible Teach 

Sola Scriptura:

Footnotes:

  1. Center for the Contemplative Mind in Society.
  2. Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, (NavPress: 1999).
  3. Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, (InterVarsity Press: 2006), 76.
  4. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the 5. Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 45.
  5. Richard Foster, 5 Misconceptions That Hinder Prayer.
  1. Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, (InterVarsity Press: 2006), 68.
  2. M. Basil Pennington, Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form, (Random House Digital: 1982).
  3. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 74.
  4. Bruce Demarest, Satisfying Your Soul, Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality, (NavPress: 1999), 108-109.
  5. John MacArthur, Steps to Successful Prayer, Part 2.
  6. John MacArthur, Steps to Successful Prayer, Part 4.
  7. Martin Luther, The Small Catechism.
  8. Gary Gilley, Contemplative Prayer
  9. Tony Jones and Phyllis Tickle, The Sacred Way, (Zondervan: 2005), 70.
  10. Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 170.
  11. 16.Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 167.
  1. Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 181.
  2. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home(HarperCollins, 1992), 157.
  3. Larry DeBruyn, Be Still.
  4. Steven J. Lawson, Holman Old Testament Commentary: Ps. 1–75, ed. Max Anders, (B&H Publishing: 2003), 246.
  5. Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Victor Books: 1985), vol. 1, 839.
  6. Larry DeBruyn, Should We Wait in Silence?.
  7. Thomas Merton and Sue Monk Kidd, New Seeds of Contemplation, (New Directions Publishing: 2007), 43.
  8. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 4.
  9. Larry DeBruyn, The Essence Within: Divinity or Depravity? 
  10. Hinduism Worldwide“Creator of Transcendental Meditation – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi”.
  11. Koppel, Lily. 2008. “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Spiritual Leader, Dies.”New York Times, February 6.
  12. The Transcendental Meditation Program, accessed 6 June 2012.
  13. Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, Finding Grace at the Center, (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2007), 31.

See also our White Paper on Spiritual Formation

Research: Discernment

What exactly is discernment? It means “to distinguish, to separate out by diligent search, to examine.”

Search…examine… “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, emphasis added) The Berean Christians didn’t take Paul’s word for anything. They listened to his teaching and then they went to the scriptures to see if what he taught was true.  Because the Bereans checked Paul’s teaching against Scripture, he commended them saying that they were “more noble than those in Thessalonica.”

Christians who are spiritually discerning are able to properly distinguish between true and false teaching. Those with discernment have wisdom. Moreover, in the Bible we’re told that a true believer possesses the mind of Christ. “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:15-16)

According to Bible expositor Matthew Henry:

The apostles were not guided by worldly principles. They had the revelation of these things from the Spirit of God, and the saving impression of them from the same Spirit. These things they declared in plain, simple language, taught by the Holy Spirit, totally different from the affected oratory or enticing words of man’s wisdom. The natural man, the wise man of the world, receives not the things of the Spirit of God. The pride of carnal reasoning is really as much opposed to spirituality, as the basest sensuality. The sanctified mind discerns the real beauties of holiness, but the power of discerning and judging about common and natural things is not lost. But the carnal man is a stranger to the principles, and pleasures, and actings of the Divine life. The spiritual man only, is the person to whom God gives the knowledge of his will. … And the apostles were enabled by his Spirit to make known his mind. In the Holy Scriptures, the mind of Christ, and the mind of God in Christ, are fully made known to us. It is the great privilege of Christians, that they have the mind of Christ revealed to them by his Spirit. They experience his sanctifying power in their hearts, and bring forth good fruits in their lives. (Source – bold added)

Only the spiritual man (regenerate) possesses the knowledge of God’s will….because he has the mind of Christ.  Henry calls to our attention that it is through reading the scriptures that the spiritual man receives the knowledge of His will.

Before we move on we must add a word of caution from blogger and author Tim Challies.  Speaking on discernment in “How can I increase my spiritual discernment?” he wrote:

Some have mistakenly defined spiritual discernment as a God-given awareness of evil or good spiritual presences—the ability to tell if a demon is in the room. While some people may possess this capability, it is not the biblical meaning of discernment. Spiritual discernment ultimately has to do with wisdom and the ability to distinguish truth from error.

So – how do Christians grow in spiritual discernment?  Two ways.  By allowing the Holy Spirit to be their guiding light; likewise, thorough carefully studying the Bible.

What should we do to determine if a person’s teaching is unbiblical? We are commanded to test what’s being taught. In fact, Paul urges believers to “test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) Likewise, John encourages us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” How does one test a spirit?  By reading the scriptures, in context, for that’s where Truth is found. Why is “testing” so important? “For many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) False prophets/teachers distort the truth….which is why the Bible refers to them as false teachers and wolves in sheep’s clothing.  It’s no exaggeration to say that a large number of charlatans knowingly—and without a smidgeon of guilt–lie through their teeth. Admittedly, examining someone’s teaching is no easy task.  But nowhere in Scripture are we told that it should be left to “professionals”; it is clearly our responsibility.

We mustn’t ignore the fact that any teaching that fails to line up with what the scriptures say is not from God.  And if the Bible’s not the source of his/her teaching, most likely its source is the “spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.”  Satan’s not called the father of lies because he’s a truth teller!

Far too many Christians rely on the discernment of other believers, like those of us involved in online discernment ministries. It’s okay to learn from each other (iron sharpens iron), but again, we must do as the Bereans did – test!  Regrettably, when it comes to testing for errors, a growing number of professing Christians deserve a failing grade.

Because so many people spend a huge amount of time on one form of technology or another, it’s easy to see why the views so many evangelicals hold are derived from TV preachers, radio/podcast personalities, best-selling books, popular bloggers and even social media. Many individuals who claim to be evangelicals search religious TV networks such as TBN, Daystar and God TV looking for a spiritual fix.  Unbeknownst to them, they’re exposed to rank heresy taught by Word of Faith (WoF) teachers like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Fred Price, Creflo Dollar as well as “life coach” Joel Osteen.

If Christians would take the time to test those mentioned above, they’d discover that their teaching is decidedly unbiblical. The fact of the matter is that WoF is a theological cult. What often happens when this fact is pointed out to those who have bought into the teaching of these wolves is that they become defensive, even enraged, take aim and “shoot the messenger.”  Sadly, many professing Christians prefer to hold onto their conspiracy theories, unbiblical philosophies and their distorted view of Scripture than spend time studying the Bible, in context.  As the saying goes: Context, context, context!  Why?  For the reason that taking a verse out of its proper context leads to error. According to 2 Timothy 3:16, all Scripture is “God-breathed” which means that the words on the page are inspired by or come directly from God, not from the writers.  We’re commanded to read, study, and understand God’s Word.  But first we must pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance so that we are able to discern the things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:14) In John 16:13 we learn that the Spirit of truth guides us into all truth.

What about believers who claim that they hear directly from God, those who say “God spoke to me”…“God told me” to do …”I felt led to“…I sensed that God wanted me to___”  You fill in the blank.  “There is no divining of the will of God through feelings or extra-biblical visions or pictures that appear in our minds or voices we hear,” says Mike Ratliff. “God will never violate the truths He has given to us in His Word.”

Televangelists, who pretend to have a direct pipeline to God, prance around in front of the TV camera, claiming to hear a “word from the Lord.” At the risk of sounding divisive, most televangelists teach outright heresy (I can prove it), so why would God speak to them at all? Frauds should not expect to hear from God; they should expect to be rebuked by God.

What are we to do about false teachers? We are to “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11) To expose means “to reprove with conviction upon the offender,” says Ratliff. So we must point out to the offender their error. And if they do not listen and repent? Then we “prove to the Body of Christ that this is so using the Word of God to show how they are not being obedient to God.” (Source)

The goal for every Christian is to eliminate aberrant and heretical teaching and all that this includes from Christ’s church. The only way for this to happen is for each of us to become a Berean. So with this in mind, those who love the Lord Jesus must “contend [fight in its defense] for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

RESOURCES

The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible by Michael J. Krueger

Amputating Discernment Ministries from the Body of Christ by Michelle Lesley

A Manifesto of Christian Discernment by Steven Kozar

We need discernment ministries? Yes, bsolutely! by G. Richard Fisher

Speaking up for discernment ministries by Elizabeth Prata

5 Ways Christians Should Judge by Julie Roys

Christian Watchbloggers Under Fire by Marsha West

Have Christians Lost the Art of Biblical Discernment? by Marsha West

Developing Biblical Discernment, 1 John 4:1-6 by Don Green

Discernment Challenge: If you see something, say something!

Discernment Made Easy: A List of Celebrity Christians Who Declare the Bible Insufficient by Bud Ahlheim

Discernment Ministries: A Helpful Defense by Gary Gilley

Have your cake and eat it too Christianity (One Way or Any Way?) by Greg Koukl

How to Help Indoctrinated Cult Victims Break Free

Is She a false teacher? Seven steps to figuring it out on your own by Michelle Lesley

Peek Inside Online Apologetics and Discernment Central War Room

Seven Reasons 1 Timothy:12 isn’t the crazy aunt we hide in the closet when company comes over by Michelle Lesley

Still Be Discerning about Discerners Discerning Discernment Ministries by Michelle Lesley

The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney by Michael S. Horton

What Is Discernment? by Sinclair Ferguson

Why doesn’t God just talk to me? by Dan DeWitt

HELPFUL WEBSITES

Answers In Genesis

Apologetics Index

Apprising Ministries

Berit Kjos Ministries

Christian Research Network

Churchwatch Central

Deception in the Church

Herescope

Justin Peters

Michelle Lesley 

Pirate Christian

Possessing the Treasure

Pulpit & Pen

Reformation Charlotte

Spirit of Error

Spiritual Research Network

The Aquila Report

The End Time

Tim Challies

VIDEO

Defining Social Justice: meaning, movement, mission–Voddie Baucham

BOOK

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies

What the Bible says

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:28-32)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12)

Food for thought

If you just let the modern media soak into your mind without exercising biblical discernment, your mind will be turned to mush (morally as well as intellectually). So when you watch, read, or listen to anything, Christian or non-Christian, your brain should be in gear, not in neutral. You need to be interacting with the material in that art form in a manner that is illustrated by the phrase “talking back to your TV.” Talk back to your music, talk back to your books, talk back to the movie screen–not out loud (though sometimes that might be appropriate!), but in your heart and mind. And when you see or hear something good, make a note of the truth that is communicated or illustrated. When you see or hear something bad, make a note of how and why it displeases God, and think about why you should not believe or practice it. This way you will be “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), rather than allowing your mind to be captured by the deceptive and destructive ideas of the enemy.  – Dave Swavely, Who Are You To Judge?, pg.140-141

H/T Glenn Chatfield

Views  expressed by individual authors and/or sources don’t necessarily reflect those of Marsha West 

Research: New Apostolic Reformation

The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a dominionist movement which asserts that God is restoring the lost offices of church governance, namely the offices of Prophet and Apostle.

Leading figures in this seemingly loosely organized movement claim that these prophets and apostles alone have the power and authority to execute God’s plans and purposes on earth. They believe they are laying the foundation for a global church, governed by them.

They place a greater emphasis on dreams, visions and extra-biblical revelation than they do on the Bible, claiming that their revealed teachings and reported experiences (e.g. trips to heaven, face-to-face conversations with Jesus, visits by angels) can not be proven by the ‘old’ Scripture. (Source)

…NAR, the New Apostolic Reformation. … It is like Grape Nuts – it’s not grapes and it’s not nuts. It’s like Christian Science – it’s not Christian and it’s not scientific. Well, the New Apostolic Reformation isn’t new, it isn’t apostolic, and it isn’t a reformation. But it is a rapidly expanding movement being generated by some of the same old troubling false teachers and false leaders that have been around in Charismania for decades, always dishonoring the Holy Spirit, always dishonoring the Scripture, always claiming miracle signs, wonders, visions, dreams. ~ John MacArthur

Fast Facts:

  • Also known as Dominionism, Third Wave, Latter Rain, Kingdom Now, Joel’s Army, Manifest Sons of God, Charismatic Renewal, Charismania.
  • Its founder was C. Peter Wagner who claims that the Church of the 21st Century will be ruled by Apostles and Prophets. Wagner has anointed himself NAR’s “Presiding Apostle.”
  • Linked with the Kansas City Prophets “who brought grandiose claims that a ‘new breed’ of super prophets were beginning to arrive on planet earth who would change the world forever”; likewise Word Faith and Pentecostal movements.
  • Not governed by an official denomination, it is led by alleged apostles and prophets.
  • Teaches that the new apostles and prophets are to be the government for the emerging “New Order” church.
  • Claims there will be a reformation greater in scale than the Protestant Reformation.
  • Claim direct revelation from God and many allege that Jesus and angels visit them in person. Some of them declare that they have visited heaven many times and had conversations with Jesus as well as the Prophets and Apostles.
  • NAR’s extensive mission outreach throughout the globe has caused the astonishing church growth that’s happening in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
  • Denigration of the Bible and Sola Scriptura.
  • Experience oriented theology and based in emotionalism.
  • Steeped in mysticism.

Common Traits

Here are 6 traits, beliefs, and some of the common lingo used by adherents:

1. “APOSTLES” 

We’re in a “Second Apostolic Age.” There are new Apostles are on the earth today, anointed by the laying of hands to represent and speak for God here on Earth. These “Super Apostles” are equal to the original Apostles – the ones who witnessed Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and were appointed by Christ Himself to the office. Since these new apostles are commissioned by God, their authority may not be questioned.

2. “KINGDOM”

Rather than preach the Gospel of the cross, Apostolic leaders are working to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth.  They do this by taking dominion of earthly kingdoms or “mountains” of government, media, entertainment, education, business, family, and religion. Leaders often talk of city building and organize prayer walks to pray against demonic strongholds. They often speak of being mission-focused rather than being Christ-centered.

3.  “DESTINY” “PRESENCE” “GLORY”

Though members are not always charismatic, they frequently emphasize a manifestation of “Glory” and “God’s presence,” and often have a special anointing to receive direct revelation from God, perform healings and other signs and wonders. They teach that our purpose is to achieve our dream destiny so that we can change the world.

4.  “REVIVAL”

Revival on a massive scale is key in this movement. There is a strong emphasis on an “end times harvest” through a great awakening that we can usher in.  Often these revivals are held in stadiums and reach millions around the world via live stream technology; they are marketed and produced like rock concerts. All scripture verses about an end times falling away are ignored, and get replaced with hyped-up claims about the Next Big Thing that’s always just around the corner.

5. “UNITY”

Unity (at the expense of biblical doctrine) is almost always used as both the how and the why in this movement.  Unity for the sake of bringing Heaven to Earth is leading to the blurring of doctrinal and denominational lines, often bringing together well-known leaders charismatic, reformed, Word of Faith, seeker-emergent, progressive and Roman Catholics churches, all under one umbrella.

Finally, NAR churches almost always abandon major tenets of the Christian faith:

6. NAR DENIES THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE.

NAR adherents may believe in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, but God’s breathed-out Word is just not enough for them. Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins is not good enough; the promise of eternal life in Heaven is not good enough.

Leaders:

The founder of the New Apostolic Reformation is church growth specialist C. Peter Wagner. Wagner served as Professor of Church Growth at the Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Missions until his retirement. Until recently he was president of Global Harvest Ministries and is currently Chancellor emeritus of the Wagner Leadership Institute. Prominent member of the International Council of Apostles Chuck Pierce was his successor.

“Apostles” and “Prophets” and others entrenched in the NAR cult:

More…

John Kelly, Bill Haman, Dutch Sheets, James Goll, John Eckhardt, Jim Laffoon, Jack Deere, Johnny Enlow, Barbara Yoder, Charles Kraft, Bob Beckett, Che Ahn, Naomi Dowdy, Mary Crum, Jack Hayford, John Arnott, Stacy Campbell, Patricia King, Phil Pringle, Yonggi Cho, Beni Johnson, Jen Johnson, Kris Vallotton, Carl Lentz, David Barton, Steven Strang, Robert Stern, Stephen Strader, George Otis, Ed Silvoso, Janet Porter, George Barna, Mary Glazier, Thomas Muthee, Tom Hess, Samuel Rodriguez, Eddie Smith, Lance Wallnau, Loren Cunningham, Bob Beckett, Os Hillman, Jill Griffith, Francis Oda, Graham Power, Francis Frangipagne, Wendy Alec, Amanda Wells, Katherine Ruonala, Lana Vawser, Kong Hee & Sun Ho, Theo Wolmarans, Jennifer LeClaire Ben Fitzgerald, Shawn & Stacie Bolz, Michael Koulianos & Jessica Hinn Koulianos and many others.

Groups include:

Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), GodTV, Word Network, American Family Association, Campus Crusade for Christ (cru), Youth With A Mission (YWAM), International Coalition of Apostles, PrayforNetwork, International Transformation Network, Marketplace Leaders, International Coalition of Workplace Ministries, Alpha Course, Renovar (Richard Foster) and many more.

Groups supporting C. Peter Wagner include:

Wagner Leadership Institute, Global Harvest Ministries, World Prayer Center, Global Prayer Movement, Generals International, Fuller Theological Seminary, Council for National Policy, Promise Keepers, Barna Group, World Vision, YWAM, Prison Fellowship and many more.

Leaving the NAR Church:

In a series of blog posts, we take readers beyond the textbook What is the New Apostolic Reformation Movement explanation, into the personal experiences from those who have been there, and what happened when God opened their eyes to the truth. You can read their stories here.

What the Bible says: 

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter 2:1

What you can do:

First, pray!  Then, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. If your church has any part of the six traits listed above, you’ll want to humbly alert your leaders. We’ve included links below to many of the best research articles, and will keep this list updated.

Helpful articles:

Videos:

Helpful sites:

Views  expressed by individual authors and/or sources don’t necessarily reflect those of Marsha West 

Research: Yoga

Many Christians have been duped into thinking that yoga is just relaxation and exercise when nothing could be further from the truth. Classical yoga includes stretching, controlled breathing and relaxation to increase one’s physical fitness.  It is intended to put the practitioner into an altered state of consciousness. The word yoga means to yoke or unite.  Believers who think they’re “just exercising” are being swept into a counterfeit religion.

According to God’s Word, mystical practices of any sort are evil. Romans 12:9 instructs Christians to, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Sooner or later, those who wade into mystic waters will be pulled into the shark tank. Jesus gave this warning in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Involvement in Eastern mysticism will lead to destruction.

Basic Premise:

The basic premise of yoga theory is the fundamental unity of all existence: God, man, and all of creation are ultimately one divine reality. An editorial in the “Yoga Journal” declares this basic premise:

We are all aware that yoga means “union” and that the practice of yoga unites body, breath, and mind, lower and higher energy centers and, ultimately, self and God, or higher Self. But more broadly, yoga directs our attention to the unity or oneness that underlies our fragmented experiences and equally fragmented word. Family, friends, the Druze guerrilla in Lebanon, the great whale migrating north – all share the same essential [divine] nature (594:4).  (Source)

Can Christianity and yoga be separated?  Former New Ager Marcia Montenegro says that physical yoga and Eastern philosophy are mutually interdependent — you cannot have one without the other:

If one removes the core aspects of Yoga to make it into something acceptable to Christians, then the breathing techniques and asanas need to be removed, which means there is then little or no Yoga at all. Changing the terms does not change Yoga, either. Just as there is no Christian Ouija board and no Christian astrology, so there is no Christian Yoga that is either truly Yoga or truly Christian.

The bottom line is that it is disingenuous and disrespectful to real Yoga practitioners to pretend Yoga is just a physical activity, and it is deceptive to market it that way to anyone else. (Source)

Fast Facts: (adapted from What Is Yoga?)

  • There are different types of yoga, but what they all have in common is they are a way to earn salvation.
  • There are several practices within yoga. These include but are not limited to meditation, repeating the divine name, breathing exercises, performing acrobatic exercises, trying to put one’s own body in difficult postures.
  • Meditation is central to all forms of yoga. Meditation helps its practitioners to be able to find release from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
  • Yoga is a method of spiritual training whose purpose is to integrate or unite the self.
  • Yoga is a physical exercise, its goal is nonphysical-uniting with God.
  • Yoga teaches that people should attempt to yoke the individual spirit to God, to atman-the individual soul or essence of a person-and to Brahman.”
  • Yoga is a $30 billion-a-year business in America.

Phrases and Terms: (Source)

  • Om & Namaste — Some classes will be bookended by a unison “om.” This mantra, or sacred chanting syllable, is a considered to be a primordial sound of the universe. Following your last “om” of the class, the teacher may give the common salutation “Namaste.” “Namaste” literally means “I bow to you,” according to yoga teacher Aadil Palkhivala of Yoga Journal.
  • Pranayama — Breathing techniques to build prana, or energy, are known as pranayama. This is an important aspect of the yoga tradition and a part of the physical practice. A commonly used pranayama in Western classes is known as ujaii breathing, which mimics the sound of the ocean by constricting the throat. This technique links the breath with movements.
  • Asana — The physical practice of yoga is known as Asana and consists of postures or poses. There are hundreds of different yoga postures, and they vary among the different styles and disciplines of Hatha Yoga. Teachers will often give the names of the postures in English, Sanskrit or a mix of the two. In a Vinyasa flow yoga class, the students are led through sun salutations, or Surya Namaskar. The series of postures can be repeated to build prana.
  • Find your center
  • Root yourself
  • Become present
  • Listen to your breath
  • Set your intention
  • Mindfulness

Helpful Articles:

Other Research Sites:

Books & DVDs 

What the Bible Teaches: 

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this (Deuteronomy 18:10-14). (emphases added)

Also, Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26; 19:31; 20:6; Isaiah 8:19 and Malachai 3:5.

Views  expressed by individual authors and/or sources don’t necessarily reflect those of Marsha West

Research: Word of Faith

Word of Faith, Health & Wealth, Prosperity Gospel

The world’s fastest-growing false religion tells us that  our faith is a “force,” and the words we speak have the power to create something new. The Word of Faith proponents promise we can obtain health, wealth, success, and more if we simply have enough faith. Biblical Christianity says no.

 

Fast Facts:

  • Known as Positive Confession, Name-it-and-claim-it, Word of Faith or Word-Faith.
  • Fastest-growing segment of Christianity
  • Sometimes (but not always) linked with the New Age and with New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
  • The WOF movement grew out of the Pentecostal movement in the late 20th century.
  • Its founder was E. W. Kenyon, who studied the metaphysical New Thought teachings of Phineas Quimby.
  • Mind science (where “name it and claim it” originated) was combined with Pentecostalism, resulting in a peculiar mix of orthodox Christianity and mysticism.
  • Kenneth Hagin, in turn, studied under E. W. Kenyon and made the Word of Faith movement what it is today.

Beliefs

Supporters of the “word-faith” (name-it-and-claim-it) movement believe that faith works like a mighty power or force. Through faith, we can obtain anything we want — health, wealth, success, whatever. However, this force is only released through the spoken word. As we speak the words of faith, power is discharged to accomplish our desires. Kenneth Hagin’s theme, as found in his booklet How to Write Your Own Ticket with God, can be summarized as follows (Christianity in Crisis, pp. 74-75):

In the opening chapter, titled “Jesus Appears to Me,” Hagin claims that while he “was in the Spirit” — just like the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos — a white cloud enveloped him and he began to speak in tongues. “Then the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to me,” says Hagin. “He stood within three feet of me.” After what sounded like a casual conversation about such things as finances, ministry, and even current affairs, Jesus told Hagin to get a pencil and a piece of paper. He then instructed him to “Write down: 1,2,3,4.” Jesus then allegedly told Hagin “if anybody, anywhere, will take these four steps or put these four principles into operation, he will always receive whatever he wants from Me or from God the Father.” That includes whatever you want financially. The formula is simply: “Say it, Do it, Receive it, and Tell it.”

Step number one is “Say it.” “Positive or negative, it is up to the individual. According to what the individual says, that shall he receive.” Step number two is “Do it.” “Your action defeats you or puts you over. According to your action, you receive or you are kept from receiving.” Step number three is “Receive it.” We are to plug into the “powerhouse of heaven.” “Faith is the plug, praise God! Just plug in.” Step number four is “Tell it so others may believe.” This final step might be considered the Faith movement’s outreach program.

The Deification of Man

Faith teachers like to teach, based upon serious mishandling of passages such as John 10:31-39 and II Peter 1:4, that Christians are “little gods.” Copeland says, “Now Peter said by exceeding great and precious promises you become partakers of the divine nature. All right, are we gods? We are a class of gods!” (Christianity in Crisis, p. 116). Benny Hinn declares, “God came from heaven, became a man, made man into little gods, went back to heaven as a man” (Christianity in Crisis, p. 382 n. 43). Earl Paulk wrote, “Until we comprehend that we are little gods and we begin to act like little gods, we cannot manifest the kingdom of God” (Satan Unmasked, p. 97).

The Humanization of God

While man is glorified, God is humiliated in the Faith system. Copeland claims that God is a being who stands about 6’2″-6’3″, weighing somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred pounds, and has a hand span of 9″ across (Christianity in Crisis, p. 121). Copeland also declares “Adam was the copy, looked just like (God). If you stood Adam beside God, they looked just exactly alike. If you stood Jesus and Adam side-by-side, they would look and sound exactly alike” (Christianity in Crisis, p. 137).

Many of the Word-Faith teachers also embrace a heresy known as Tritheism, which in essence teaches that there are really three separate Gods. Hinn, under supposed inspiration, explains:

“Man, I feel revelation knowledge already coming on me here. Holy Spirit, take over in the name of Jesus. … God the Father, ladies and gentlemen, is a person; and He is a triune being by Himself separate from the Son and the Holy Ghost. Say, what did you say? Hear it, hear it, hear it. See, God the Father is a person, God the Son is a person, God the Holy Ghost is a person. But each one of them is a triune being by Himself. If I can shock you — and maybe I should — there’s nine of them. Huh, what did you say? Let me explain: God the Father, ladies and gentlemen, is a person with his own personal spirit, with his own personal soul, and his own personal spirit-body. You say, Huh, I never heard that. Well you think you’re in this church to hear things you’ve heard for the last 50 years? You can’t argue with the Word, can you? It’s all in the Word (Christianity in Crisis, p. 123-124).

Hinn, under fire, later retracted his remarks, only to reaffirm them two years later.

Jesus supposedly told Copeland, “They crucified me for claiming that I was God. But I didn’t claim I was God; I just claimed I walked with Him and that he was in me” (Christianity in Crisis, p. 137-138). Many of the Faith heresies concerning God can be traced to the notes found in Dakes Annotated Reference Bible.

The Distortion of the Cross

Four atonement-related errors on the part of the Faith teachers can be documented:

  1. Christ was re-created on the cross from divine to demonic. To put it in Faith vernacular, Jesus took on the very nature of Satan himself.
  2. Your redemption was not secured on the cross, but in hell. In fact, many Faith teachers claim that Christ’s torture by all the demons of hell was a “ransom” God paid to Satan so that He could get back into a universe from which He had been banished.
  3. Jesus was reborn (or born again) in the very pit of hell.
  4. Christ was reincarnated through His rebirth in hell and that those who (like Christ) are born again can become “incarnated” as well.

Thus, Faith teachers take Christ, the spotless Lamb, and pervert Him into an unholy sacrifice on the cross (Christianity In Crisis, p.153).

Practices

While many, even within the Word-Faith churches, are unaware of some of the doctrinal heresies of the movement, none can plead ignorant of the strange and bizarre practices and emphasis of its leaders. The following things are standard occurrences in virtually every one of their television broadcasts, evangelistic campaigns, and church services.

A Prosperity Gospel

Nothing will create more euphoria in the average person than the promise to make them wealthy, and this the Word-Faith leadership knows very well. The Word-Faith teacher’s lifestyle is clearly identified by opulence, luxury, riches, and the assurance that all of this can be his followers as well — if only they apply certain principles.

Robert Tilton is normative. On a Trinity Broadcasting Network program in 1990 he said:

“Being poor is a sin, when God promises prosperity. New house? New car? That’s chicken feed. That’s nothing compared to what God wants to do for you” (Charismatic Chaos, p. 285).

Fred Price on a similar broadcast explains how it works:

“If you’ve got one dollar faith and you ask for a ten-thousand dollar item, it ain’t going to work. It won’t work. Jesus said, ‘According to your [faith],’ not according to God’s will for you, in His own good time, if it’s according to His will, if He can work it into his busy schedule. He said, ‘According to your faith, be it unto you'” (Charismatic Chaos, p. 286).

Of course, the road to prosperity somehow always leads to the offering plate of the Word-Faith Movement. Gloria Copeland (Kenneth’s wife) pulls no punches in her book God’s Will Is Prosperity:

“Give $10 and receive $1000; Give $1000 and receive $100,000 … give one house and receive one hundred houses or a house worth one hundred times as much. Give one airplane and receive one hundred times the value of the airplane. … In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal” (p. 54).

A Health Gospel

The “name-it-and-claim-it” pundits are not content with mere wealth; they want to feel well enough to enjoy their prosperity. So do most of their listeners. So while you are giving away wealth, why not dispense health as well?

The Word-Faith teachers, as is true of many other charismatics, believe that Christ provided for physical healing at the cross. As a result, not only are Christians saved from sin, they are promised a life of health. Kenneth Copeland writes in Healed … to Be or Not to Be:

“The first step to spiritual maturity is to realize your position before God. You are a child of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. Consequently, you are entitled to all the rights and privileges in the kingdom of God, and one of their rights is health and healing” (p. 25).

But, if healing is part of the atonement, why do Christians get sick? Lack of faith, as Benny Hinn explains:

“The Bible declares that the work was done 2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now — he healed you 2,000 years ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith” (Rise and Be Healed, p. 44).

Of course reality, in the form of sickness, has to be faced even by the Word-Faith leaders. Fred Price may proclaim “we don’t allow sickness in our home,” but his wife still has cancer. Kenneth Hagin brags that he has not had a headache, the flu, or even “one sick day” in nearly 60 years, but he has had four cardiovascular crises. Paul Crouch may have healed Oral Roberts of chest pains on a TBN Broadcast, but it didn’t stop Oral from having a heart attack a few hours later (Christianity in Crisis, pp. 237-238). How are these things explained away? Predictably, by blaming them on the devil. Sickness in the Word-Faith camp is usually seen as satanic attacks that must be repelled by words of faith (i.e., “positive confession”).

Experiences

The faith leaders make some amazing claims. Hagin, for example, has visited (so he says) both heaven and hell as well as had out-of-body experiences (Christianity in Crisis, p. 334). He has had many visits from Jesus and angels. He boasts of the ability to heal, cast our demons, and levitate people (p. 336). Hinn opens his best selling book with these words:

“It was three days before Christmas 1973. The sun was still rising on that cold, misty Toronto morning. Suddenly He was there. The Holy Spirit entered my room. He was as real to me that morning as the book you are holding in your hand is to you. For the next eight hours I had an incredible experience with the Holy Spirit. It changed the course of my life (Rise and Be Healed, p. 1).

Hinn speaks of frequent personal visits from the Lord, the first being at age eleven:

“I saw Jesus walk into my bedroom. He was wearing a robe that was whiter than white and a deep red mantle was draped over the robe. I saw his hair. I looked into His eyes. I saw the nailprints in His hands. I saw everything. … When it happened, I was asleep, but suddenly my little body was caught up in an incredible sensation that can only be described as ‘electric.’ It felt as if someone had plugged me into a wired socket. There was a numbness that felt like needles — a million of them — rushing through my body. And then the Lord stood before me while I was in a deep, deep sleep. He looked straight at me with the most beautiful eyes. He smiled, and His arms were open wide. I could feel His presence. It was marvelous and I’ll never forget it” (Rise and Be Healed, p. 22).

When Hinn describes his conversion, he does not mention the cross, repentance, or faith; rather, it is all couched in terms of experience:

“What I really felt, though, was that this surge of power was cleansing me — instantly, from the inside out. I felt absolutely clean, immaculate, and pure. Suddenly I saw Jesus with my own eyes. It happened in a moment of time. There he was. Jesus” (Rise and Be Healed, p. 31).

Hinn claims power of a supernatural nature often emanates from his body:

“Once, my mother was cleaning the hallway while I was in my room talking with the Holy Spirit. When I came out, she was thrown right back. Something had knocked her against the wall. I said, ‘What’s wrong with you, Mama?’ She answered, ‘I don’t know?’ Well, the presence of the Lord almost knocked her down” (Rise and Be Healed, p. 42).

Both the appeal of the book and its dangers are evident in this quote:

“Are you ready to meet the Holy Spirit intimately and personally? Do you want to hear His voice? Are you prepared to know him as a person? That’s exactly what happened to me, and it drastically transformed my life. It was an intensely personal experience, and it was based on God’s Word. You may ask, ‘Was it the result of a systematic Bible study?’ No, it happened when I invited the Holy Spirit to be my personal friend. To be my constant guide. To take me by the hand and lead me ‘into all truth.’ What He will uncover and reveal to you in Scripture will make your study of the Bible come alive” (Rise and Be Healed, p. 48).

Both the Word-Faith leaders and their followers make the same mistake of basing their lives on experiences and feelings rather than upon the inspired Word of God.

Leaders:

Many Word-Faith preachers broadcast their services and campaigns on the largest Christian-based television network in the world: The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), capable of televising the Faith message all over the world.

Here are a few of the thousands of WOF teachers — in no particular order

Helpful articles:

Video:

Books:

Other Research Sites:

What the Bible says:

The Bible defines “faith” as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Our “faith” cannot override the will or nature of God.  But our faith that He is able to accomplish all good things for His glory is a necessity for prayer and petition to God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it. Believers, especially leaders in the church (1 Timothy 3:3), are to be free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5). The love of money leads to all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). In sharp contrast to the Word of Faith emphasis on gaining money and possessions in this life, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The irreconcilable contradictions between prosperity teaching and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.”

This paper was written by Marsha West & Amy Spreeman.

Research: Futurism – Transhumanism

We don’t have to die! It’s the dawning of a New Age, and there is a global plan from the International Congress and others to change the face of humanity, and put a stopper in death, disabilities and disease.  There are some who have made a religion out of futuristic ideas that sound outlandish but are becoming reality. World governments are contracting with universities and private organizations for projects in human microchippingSynthetic DNA, cloning, “smart dust,” cyborgs, “Biosurveillance“ and other innovations are no longer on the drawing boards, they are here.

You’ll want to see this article on Human Robots Spiritual Transformation and the 2045 Global Future, and watch this promotional video:

Fast Facts:

  •  RFID microchips are being implanted in thousands of elderly Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease who are at risk of wandering off, and also being implanted into many people who are chronically ill so doctors can access their medical information quickly in an emergency.
  • Amazon gained patent for a program that would track where users go with mobile devices and use such information to predict where they’ll go next in order to best target them with personalized ads and coupons.
  • We now have “smart dust,” particles that are no larger than grains of rice, that are fitted with computing power, sensing equipment, wireless radios and long battery life. Smart dust will relay mountains of real-time data about people, cities and the natural environment.
  • Scientists are experimenting with wireless brain implants called the “pacification chip” that can be remotely activated by the government through cell tower bursts or hand-held units by police to help quell rowdy or angry crowds. There are also reports of “money chips” that can be used in stores instead of cash.
  • India has become the first country to start a Biometric ID Program for every citizen –that’s millions of people getting their retinas, faces and fingers scanned–1 million being processed every 24 hours as we speak.

Helpful articles:

What the Bible says:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8

“You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.” – Yahweh, Psalm 50:21

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…” – Paul, Romans 1:22-23

This paper was written by Amy Spreeman of Berean Research. Extensive updates were done by Marsha West.

tim keller

Contemplative prayer (also referred to as centering prayer, breath prayer, meditation or listening prayer) is one of the most esteemed spiritual disciplines taught in spiritual formation. In both practice and purpose, contemplative prayer stands in contrast with what Scripture teaches about prayer. Practitioners believe that one must clear the mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may more easily be heard and that one may be united with the “divine spark” within.

Advocates of contemplative prayer believe and teach that it is a necessary practice if one desires to become more like Christ. In claiming this, however, they often appeal to the practices of ancient Roman Catholic mystic monks rather than the Word of God.

Contemplative Prayer is a prayer of silence, an experience of God’s presence as the ground in which our being is rooted, the Source from whom our life emerges at every moment…. Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself.1

Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice correcting, guiding, and directing you…. The fundamental idea is simply to enjoy the companionshp of God, stilling your own thoughts so you can listen should God choose to speak. For this reason, contemplative prayer is sometimes referred to as ‘the prayer of silence.’2

At a glance

Contemplative Prayer Biblical Prayer
Practice & Technique Seeks to empty the mind and enter an altered state of consciousness by:

  • repetition of a mantra;3
  • focusing on one’s breathing;
  • contemplating images or icons.4

Instructs one to sit in silence, waiting and listening to hear from God:

“Yet God speaks in many ways. We need to learn to listen for His voice. Normally, His voice is not audible … but I wouldn’t want to exclude that possibility. Who am I to say how God will choose to speak?”5

Prays according to the Scriptures. Micah 7:7; Ps. 4:3; 1 John 5:14, 15Prays with both spirit and mind, not one or the other. 1 Cor 14:15

Talks to God the Father (Phil. 4:6) through Jesus Christ (John 16:23) in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Understands that what God has revealed in His Word is sufficient; new revelation is unnecessary. 2 Tim. 3:16–17

Objectives Seeks to experience God in an inexplicable way, often describing the believer’s relationship with God in erotic or romantic terms.“There are many terms that seek to capture this dynamic … they all are attempts to capture the same thing: the movement beyond words to an intimacy that requires no words. This intimacy is the kind that lovers know when they give themselves over to the act of lovemaking.”6

Desires to achieve a “God-consciousness” and a unity with God:

“He [God] wants to bring us further, to a transformation of consciousness, to unity-consciousness, to a full possession of our divinization.”7

[T]he place to which we are going is one in which the knower, the knowing, and that which is known are all one. Awareness alone remains. The one who is aware disappears along with whatever was the object of consciousness. This is what divine union is.”8

Expects to hear from God, usually through an inner voice or prompting:

“Growing intimacy requires that I pay careful attention to the other person. When that other is God, it’s necessary to still my own voice and listen in quietness. Then I can detect the gentle whispers of the Spirit. Too often we fail to hear God speak because we are not attentively listening.”9

Understands that prayer is ultimately a form of worship. It should glorify God alone. John 14:13, 14Understands that prayer is an act of reverence, approaching the very throne of God to receive mercy and find grace. Heb. 4:16

Acknowledges and humbles oneself before the holy God of the universe. Prayer should affirm God’s sovereignty and majesty. Matt. 6:9

“Everything in prayer revolves around who God is, what God wants, and how God is to be glorified. That is the sum and substance of proper praying.”10

The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2–4) offers a model of how Christians ought to pray as it “emphasizes the glory and supremacy of God.”11

Purposes to confess sin and acknowledge our position before God as rebellious sinners (e.g., Dan. 9:5–11; Matt. 6:12): “We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.”12

Desires to align and submit our will to God’s. Ps. 86:11; Matt. 6:10; John 15:7; John 16:23; 1 John 5:14

“While God communicates to us through the Bible, we respond to Him in prayer.”13

Effects of Contemplative Prayer

As noted in the Spiritual Formation research article, the spiritual disciplines are rooted in unbiblical origins. In his book The Sacred Way, Emergent theologian Tony Jones acknowledges that “Centering Prayer grew out of the reflections and writings of the Desert Fathers.”14 These Desert Fathers, however, did not appear until the third century AD, long after the time of Jesus and His Apostles.

Contemplative prayer presupposes that the Christian must seek outside of Scripture to hear all that God is saying, thus Scripture loses its position as the final, authoritative Word from God. The following quotes are from Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, respectively, who are both leading teachers of contemplative prayer:

Many discussions about hearing God’s voice speak of three points of reference, also called ‘three lights’ that we can consult in determining what God wants us to do. These are circumstances, impressions of the Spirit and passages from the Bible. When these three things point in the same direction, it is suggested that we be sure the direction they point is the one God intends for us.15

Only the Bible as a whole can be treated as the written Word of God…. In any case we must certainly go beyond, though never around, the words of the Bible to find out what God is speaking to us.16

Yet, Scripture itself informs us of its sufficiency (2 Tim. 3:16–17), and of God’s final word and revelation to us in Christ (Heb. 1:1–2).

While one may indeed “hear” from an entity in the spiritual realm, the voices heard, or impressions received, may not always be from God:

There are other ‘spiritual voices,’ too…. Satan … too will speak in our heart once he sees he no longer holds us in his hand. Only if we learn to recognize this voice as well can we … correctly identify and firmly resist him and make him flee from us (1 Pet. 5:9; Eph. 6:11).17

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.18

The Christian, however, is told to resist the devil (Jas. 4:7). This would necessarily include rejecting any practice which may engage one in direct communication with the Enemy and his servants.

Commonly Misused Verses

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Ps. 46:10

It is the first half of this verse that is most commonly abused by advocates of contemplative prayer. Psalm 46:10a may also be rendered as “Cease striving and know that I am God…” as it is in the NASB. The context of this verse is one of war and conflict.

“The verb ‘Be still’ (Hebrew, rapah) is used 46 times in the Old Testament with meanings everywhere from describing laziness to ordering relaxation…. In no biblical usage or context does the Hebrew verb enjoin God’s people to meditate or contemplate. Rather, believers are to rest and trust in God.”19 “This is not a contemplative call for reflection but a redemptive call to surrender and to know God personally and intimately before his swift judgment is unleashed (Hab. 2:20; Zeph. 1:7; Zech. 2:13).”20

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. Ps. 62:1

This verse is used by contemplatives to support the practice of silent waiting before the Lord. However, understood in context, this verse offers a picture of submitting oneself to the Lord, trusting in and waiting patiently for Him to act according to His will. “Only to God did [David] look with complete calmness.”21 “Psalm 62 is not a call to unexpressed contemplation, but rather a song of expressed confidence…. The psalmist is not providing an example for retreating into silence. Rather he is telling fellow believers to go to God.”22

Additional Concerns

The “Divine Spark”

Practitioners and teachers of contemplative prayer often maintain that inside all humans there is a “spark of the divine.” Hence, the purpose of contemplative prayer is to become aware of – and connect with – this inner divinity:

Although God lives in the souls of men who are unconscious of Him, how can I say that I have found Him and found myself in Him if I never know Him or think of Him, never take any interest in Him or seek Him or desire His presence in my soul?23

Contemplative prayer is a process of inner transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in the process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists.24

This teaching of a “divine spark” existing in all humans contradicts both the biblical doctrine of original sin and the fact that, without Christ, all men are dead in their trespasses and sin (Rom. 3:10–18; 3:23). Pastor Larry DeBruyn teaches:

Absent birth by the Holy Spirit from above, any mystical assumption that the human heart possesses a divine essence, a resident kingdom of God within, does not accord with Jesus’ teaching and is therefore, heretical (Compare Mark 7:14-23.). In order to either “see” or “enter the kingdom of God” a person must be born from above. In his teaching, Jesus spoke of persons entering the kingdom. But He did not speak of a kingdom of God residing in people. The New Birth, the requirement for entering the kingdom of God, comes from without a human soul, not from within it.25

Parallels to Practices of Eastern Religions

While contemplative prayer mirrors the practices of the Desert Fathers, as noted above, it may also be viewed as a “Christianized” version of what is known as Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM has its roots in Hinduism,26 and was brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1959.27 Maharishi states:

Through Transcendental Meditation, the mind unfolds its potential for unlimited awareness, transcendental awareness, Unity Consciousness.28

This is strikingly similar to several of the quotations cited above, wherein proponents of contemplative prayer would have the practitioner still himself so as to become more aware of God within.

In their book Finding Grace at the Center, Roman Catholic monks Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington write:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible…. Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences.29

Persisting in such practices as transcendental meditation invariably will lead to universalism, as pastor-teacher Ken Silva demonstrates in his article Meditating on Contemplative/Centering Prayer.

Furthermore, Scripture unambiguously instructs the Christian to refrain from pagan practices (Lev. 18:3; Deut. 18:12; 1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 4:8). The Christian has been called out of the darkness of the sinful world and its man-made religions, and is called instead to be set apart in Christ (1 Pet. 2:9–12; Phil. 3:20).

Further reading

On the Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

On Biblical Prayer

Footnotes

  1. Center for the Contemplative Mind in Society.
  2. Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, (NavPress: 1999).
  3. Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, (InterVarsity Press: 2006), 76.
  4. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 45.
  5. Richard Foster, 5 Misconceptions That Hinder Prayer.
  6. Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, (InterVarsity Press: 2006), 68.
  7. M. Basil Pennington, Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form, (Random House Digital: 1982).
  8. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 74.
  9. Bruce Demarest, Satisfying Your Soul, Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality, (NavPress: 1999), 108-109.
  10. John MacArthur, Steps to Successful Prayer, Part 2.
  11. John MacArthur, Steps to Successful Prayer, Part 4.
  12. Martin Luther, The Small Catechism.
  13. Gary Gilley, Contemplative Prayer</cite.
  14. Tony Jones and Phyllis Tickle, The Sacred Way, (Zondervan: 2005), 70.
  15. Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 170.
  16. Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 167.
  17. Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 181.
  18. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (HarperCollins, 1992), 157.
  19. Larry DeBruyn, Be Still.
  20. Steven J. Lawson, Holman Old Testament Commentary: Ps. 1–75, ed. Max Anders, (B&H Publishing: 2003), 246.
  21. Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Victor Books: 1985), vol. 1, 839.
  22. Larry DeBruyn, Should We Wait in Silence?.
  23. Thomas Merton and Sue Monk Kidd, New Seeds of Contemplation, (New Directions Publishing: 2007), 43.
  24. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 4.
  25. Larry DeBruyn, The Essence Within: Divinity or Depravity?
  26. Hinduism Worldwide, “Creator of Transcendental Meditation – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi”.
  27. Koppel, Lily. 2008. “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Spiritual Leader, Dies.” New York Times, February 6.
  28. The Transcendental Meditation Program, accessed 6 June 2012.
  29. Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, Finding Grace at the Center, (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2007), 31.