Sunday, June 20, 2010

Buddhist technique of Vipassana sounds suspiciously similar to contemplative "Christianity"

According to this article by a Buddhist:

Buddha taught Vipassana for free to all who cared to practise it 2,500 years ago. Today, the Alberta Vipassana Foundation is teaching this technique for free to all who are determined to give it a try, to see for themselves how it works and to weigh the benefits.

Vipassana in Pali means "insight" to see things as they really are and it has been described by S.N. Goenka as "an art of living." It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation and self-reflection. Its unique quality is non-sectarian, non-religious and it must be taught entirely for free...

...On the evening we arrived, the practice of Anapana meditation was taught. It entails observing the natural breath coming in and out of the nostrils without regulating or changing the breath.

The following two days, we continued to observe our normal breathing as we learned to let our minds become calm, sharp and sensitive.

On Day 3, everyone had to work on normal breathing while paying close attention to any sensations in the small area between the nostrils and the upper lip.

Day 4 was Vipassana day, spent simply observing sensations throughout the body from the top of the head to the tips of the toes -- the whole body. The goal was to understand the impermanent nature of these sensations while developing equanimity by learning not to react to them.

From Day 5 to Day 9, we were not allowed to open our eyes, arms or legs in all three, one-hour group meditation sessions. This was called The Sitting of Strong Determination. We continued to observe sensations, piercingly and penetratingly sweeping through each and every part of the whole body.

On Day 10, we learned loving kindness meditation to develop our noble qualities and share them with all beings. Noble silence was lifted after morning group sitting.

In essence, our cravings and aversions come from the experience of body sensations. Sensations arise when a sense object comes in contact with sense doors. People do not crave chocolate, but the decadent taste sensation that arises from eating it.

The teaching is to feel the sensation and yet not to relish it; to remain equanimous and detached from it. By mastering this, we come out of old habits that create bondages and misery for ourselves. It is a practice of letting go.

The practices for the first three days remind me of contemplative talk about "breath prayers." If contemplative "Christians" haven't yet adopted most or all of these practices, it's only a matter of time until they do. Camp Kasota, where this practice is taught, is owned by the hopelessly apostate United Church of Canada. If you go to the site mentioned at the end of the article, put a "www." in front of the url. If you type "dharma" instead of "dhamma," you'll end up at a similar site in Massachusetts.

40 years ago: The death of humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow died on June 8, 1970 at the age of 62. Dr. Maslow was one of the seminal figures in the branch of psychotherapy known as humanistic psychology, which emphasizes man's capacity for goodness, creativity, and freedom--without God. In contrast to the theorists who emphasized abnormal or neurotic personalities, Dr. Maslow's research was along the lines of what made well-adjusted people well-adjusted. He was famous for his "hierarchy of needs:" People begin with the desire to satisfy physiologic needs (e.g., hunger, thirst), then move up through safety needs (e.g., avoidance of pain or anxiety; desire for security); Belongingness and love needs (e.g., affection, intimacy); esteem needs (self-respect, adequacy, mastery, competence); and finally, the need for self-actualization (to realize one's full potential).

By his own admission, Dr. Maslow met very few people who he believed had become self-actualized. The Maslow hierarchy of needs is exactly the opposite of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33). Christian apologist Rabi Maharaj put it well when he quoted Isaiah 14:14b--"I will be like the most High"--and said that Satan was the first being to get into self-actualization. It's been said that at the end of his life Dr. Maslow was heading in the direction of what today would be called New Age beliefs; given his belief in human potential, that sounds like a logical progression.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
I and my Father are one.
John 10:28-30

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

I’ve lost a few brothers and sisters in the Lord recently, and I take great comfort from these passages of scripture. I like the way Pastor Al Runge puts it in his book A Brooklyn Jew Meets Jesus (2001): "I am looking forward to that day when He will come for me. I don’t have to find heaven on my own." (p. 205). Just one question, Chief: Where do atheists go in such a situation? They have to face the same things, and "Imagine there’s no heaven" doesn’t sound very comforting--in fact, the thought leads me to despair (see Francis Schaeffer’s book Escape From Reason (1968) for a solid biblical analysis of such thinking).

While I’m sad that the people I’m thinking about now are no longer with us, I’m glad that they’re now with the Lord. Of those whose recent deaths come to mind, most died of the kind of illness that’s likely to affect many people if they live long enough. Another was a lady who lived her entire life with a serious disability and spent her last few years breathing with the help of a ventilator. She knew how precarious her life was, and asked the Lord to give her a smooth ride when her time came to go; He graciously granted her request. Physical infirmity eventually defeated them on this side of life, but couldn't keep them out of heaven. I miss having these people around on Earth, but I rejoice that they’re in the presence of God, no longer suffering, and awaiting their immortal bodies. I look forward to joining them when the Lord decides that it’s time.

30 years ago: European Economic Community supports Palestinians, criticizes Israel

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

From the "some things never change" department: On June 13, 1980 the European Economic Community began a two-day meeting in Venice. One might think that the EEC would be concerning itself with European economic matters. However, then, as now, the EEC was obsessed with Israel.

On June 13 the European Economic Community backed the self-determination of the Palestinian people and suggested that the Palestine Liberation Organization be "associated with" negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The U.S.A. and Israel had refused to accept the PLO as a negotiating partner in talks on the future of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. Negotiations over Palestinian autonomy resulting from the 1979 Camp David accord between Israel and Egypt had been suspended on May 15 by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when it became clear for the first time that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin was determined to push a bill through the Knesset approving all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and rejecting Arab claims to East Jerusalem. The suspension of negotiations thus left the ultimate status of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip uncertain.

On June 14 the EEC concluded its meeting in Venice by issuing an 11-point statement, which included a declaration that Israel must "put an end to the terrorist occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and that the EEC would not accept any unilateral initiative to change the status of Jerusalem. What Israel's stance on Jerusalem or the Palestinians had to do with the European Economic Community, or what right the EEC had to say what it would or would not "accept," is unclear--at least, to this blogger.

It should be mentioned that the European Economic Community had nine members in 1980: Belgium; Denmark; France; West Germany; Ireland; Italy; Luxembourg; the Netherlands; and the United Kingdom. Greece's membership had been approved in 1979, to take effect on January 1, 1981. Spain and Portugal had applied for membership in 1977 and were still awaiting approval.

As for the bill affirming all of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, it passed the Knesset by a vote of 69-15 on July 30. The bill's passage was probably aided by Israeli resentment over the passage on July 29 of an Arab-sponsored resolution in the United Nations General Assembly calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal from all occupied lands, including East Jerusalem, by November 15.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The prayers of saints are precious to God

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 (NASB)

The thought that the prayers of saints are kept in golden bowls and have the aroma of incense is too wonderful for my limited imagination to comprehend--but it's an encouragement to keep praying.

HT: Ed Major

Edinburgh 2010: The ecumenical movement observes its 100th anniversary

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
I Corinthians 14:7-9

A conference to mark the centenary of the World Missionary Conference was held in Edinburgh from June 2-6, 2010. The conference organizers acknowledge that

the 1910 Edinburgh Conference is considered the starting point of the contemporary ecumenical movement, due to its insistence on the importance of unity and cooperation in worldwide mission.

The participants in 1910 were Protestant churches and missionary organizations, but the 2010 conference includes Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, Orthodox churches, and even Seventh-Day Adventists, which may lead one to wonder what gospel will be proclaimed. Pope Benedict XVI sent a formal greeting:

‘I send my greetings to those gathered during these days in Scotland for the centennial of the first Edinburgh Missionary Conference, which is now acknowledged to have given birth to the modern ecumenical movement. May we all renew our commitment to work humbly and patiently, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to live again together our common apostolic heritage.’

Those interested in the liberal slant of Edinburgh 2010 should go to the conference’s website and click on the various links. I’ll quote a few paragraphs from their Common Call, issued on June 6:

1. Trusting in the triune God and with a renewed sense of urgency, we are called to incarnate and proclaim the good news of salvation, of forgiveness of sin, of life in abundance, and of liberation for all poor and oppressed. We are challenged to witness and evangelism in such a way that we are a living demonstration of the love, righteousness and justice that God intends for the whole world.

2. Remembering Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and his resurrection for the world’s salvation, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called to authentic dialogue, respectful engagement and humble witness among people of other faiths--and no faith--to the uniqueness of Christ. Our approach is marked with bold confidence in the gospel message; it builds friendship, seeks reconciliation and practises hospitality.

3. Knowing the Holy Spirit who blows over the world at will, reconnecting creation and bringing authentic life, we are called to become communities of compassion and healing, where young people are actively participating in mission, and women and men share power and responsibilities fairly, where there is a zeal for justice, peace and the protection of the environment, and renewed liturgy reflecting the beauties of the Creator and creation.

4. Disturbed by the asymmetries and imbalances of power that divide and trouble us in church and world, we are called to repentance, to critical reflection on systems of power, and to accountable use of power structures. We are called to find practical ways to live as members of One Body in full awareness that God resists the proud, Christ welcomes and empowers the poor and afflicted, and the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in our vulnerability.
...
6. Recognising the need to shape a new generation of leaders with authenticity for mission in a world of diversities in the twenty-first century, we are called to work together in new forms of theological education. Because we are all made in the image of God, these will draw on one another’s unique charisms, challenge each other to grow in faith and understanding, share resources equitably worldwide, involve the entire human being and the whole family of God, and respect the wisdom of our elders while also fostering the participation of children.

My reaction to most of the statements in the Common Call was "whatever that means." The paragraphs seem to be worded in such a way that those who are more conservative in their beliefs than others will be hoodwinked into going along with a liberal agenda while thinking that they’re following a biblical agenda. Whatever obfuscation is present in the Common Call, the social gospel slant is there. Liberation theologians, for instance, can invoke "liberation for all poor and oppressed" in support of their views.

In paragraph 2 we read, "we are called to authentic dialogue, respectful engagement and humble witness among people of other faiths--and no faith..." This is where I use the old Mad magazine method of analysis: "What they say--and what they really mean." "Authentic dialogue" and "humble witness" = "refusing to proclaim that the gospel of salvation through trusting only in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross is true, and other ways are false." "Respectful engagement" = "appeasement" or "capitulation."

In paragraph 3 we read, "women and men share power and responsibilities fairly..." Does this mean women in positions of leadership in the church? None of the terms are defined, but a liberal could certainly read it that way. Then we have "a zeal for justice, peace and the protection of the environment, and renewed liturgy reflecting the beauties of the Creator and creation." "Justice" and "peace" aren’t defined, and I don’t think "protection of the environment" was a priority for those attending the conference in 1910. As for the "renewed liturgy," I suspect that this opens the door for more worship of nature, I.e., paganism.

Paragraph 4 begins with "Disturbed by the asymmetries and imbalances of power that divide and trouble us in church and world, we are called to repentance, to critical reflection on systems of power, and to accountable use of power structures." Whatever that means--although I suspect that liberation theologians and feminists would probably interpret this in a way favourable to their views. In paragraph 6 we have the phrase "share resources equitably worldwide"--I have no doubt that the typical liberal at that conference would read that as support for socialism.

Bob DeWaay’s 2009 book The Emergent Church is subtitled Undefining Christianity. Pastor DeWaay does an excellent job of pointing out (citing, among other works, Francis Schaeffer’s book Escape From Reason (1968)) that those of Emergent views deliberately leave terms undefined. As Mr. Schaeffer pointed out in his book, the New Theology (1960s existentialist-style) used what he called connotation words, such as "resurrection, "crucifixion," "Christ," "Jesus"--words with a connotation in popular memory. However, the New Theologians, like the Emergents today, have removed all meaning from these words. As far as I can tell, the same is true for Edinburgh 2010--terms are thrown around but are undefined, as if the terms are used in a Gnostic sense, being properly understood only by a select elite. For all of Edinburgh 2010’s emphasis on "mission" (and my "spidey senses" always detect liberalism when I see the word "mission" used instead of "missions"), I don’t see a clear definition of the gospel of Christ. As the ecumenical movement has become increasingly liberal and unbiblical in the 100 years since the first World Missionary Conference, so you can expect the movement to continue in that direction.

Monday, June 14, 2010

100 years ago: The modern ecumenical movement begins with the World Missionary Conference

From June 14-23, 1910 the World Missionary Conference took place in Edinburgh. At the time the conference was seen as the culmination of the 19th Century missionary movement, but it is now largely regarded as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement. 1,200 delegates from major Protestant churches and missionary organizations, mainly from North America and western Europe, gathered in the Assembly Hall of the United Free Church of Scotland, as well as 100 extra delegates appointed by the executive committees.

Thorough research had been done in preparation for the conference: eight assigned commissions of twenty members each had conducted research on their assigned topic. Each commission produced a one-volume report, which as given to each delegate to be studied before heading to Scotland. The proceedings of the conference were compiled and later issued as the ninth volume.

Lord Balfour, a former British cabinet minister and a member of the Church of Scotland, was the president of the conference, while the main organizer was Joseph Oldham, a leader in the British Student Christian Movement. The individual with the most significant involvement with the conference, however, was John R. Mott, who served as the conference chairman. Mr. Mott (1865-1955) was an American Methodist layman and leader of both the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions and the World Student Christian Federation. He founded the WSCF in 1895 and served as its General Secretary from 1895-1920 and as Chairman from 1920-1928. The WSCF is a federation of national Student Christian Movements (SCMs) that represent the ecumenical movement on university campuses. Those who wish to see the extent of WSCF's liberalism should check their website and its various links. The Wikipedia entry on WSCF contains a partial list of famous members; discerning and knowledgeable Christians will recognize at least some of the names.

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own... John 15:19a

Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. Luke 6:26

Mr. Mott was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his work in establishing and strengthening international Protestant Christian organizations that worked to promote peace. He was closely involved with the creation of the World Council of Churches in 1948, and the WCC made him a lifetime honourary president. He was famous for the slogan (Mott's motto?) "the evangelization of the world in this generation," which strikes a familiar note to those of us who were involved with Campus Crusade for Christ in the 1980s. I occasionally heard Mr. Mott mentioned as the leader of the Student Volunteer Movement, but CCC never mentioned Mr. Mott's fellowship with the WCC or his relationships with worldly leaders such as the Rockefellers. For details on Mr. Mott's shady connections,read the article about him at Seek God.

A vote was carried at the conference to establish a Continuation Committee. The committee's work, under the leadership of Mr. Mott was interrupted by World War I, but served as the basis for the establishment of the International Missionary Council in 1921.

One of those in attendance at the World Missionary Conference was Charles Clayton Morrison, editor of the Christian Century. His firsthand account of the conference may be found here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

40 years ago: Faith healer and prosperity preacher A.A. Allen drinks himself to death

Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. I Corinthians 6:10

June 11, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of American faith healer and prosperity preacher A.A. Allen. Asa Alonso Allen was an Assemblies of God pastor who decided to become a revivalist after attending an Oral Roberts tent meeting in Dallas in 1949. Mr. Allen was one of the first televangelists and attracted a large following for performing "healings." He was defrocked in 1956 after being arrested for drunk driving in Tennessee. In 1958, a wealthy admirer donated ranchland in Arizona that Mr. Allen used as his headquarters; it became known as Miracle Valley. Mr. Allen added prosperity preaching to his act, selling "prosperity cloths" in exchange for donations of $100 and $1000.

On June 11, 1970 A.A. Allen died at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco at the age of 59 after a heavy drinking binge. According to reports, his associate (and successor) Don Stewart, attempted to clean up evidence of Mr. Allen’s drinking before police arrived, but they found the room strewn with pills and empty vodka bottles. After an investigation, the coroner’s report attributed Mr. Allen’s death to liver failure brought on by acute alcoholism. His blood alcohol level was a staggering (coma-inducing, actually--he was well past the point of staggering) .36. It was reported that the radio broadcasts of Mr. Allen that aired during the week of his death consisted largely of him denying that he was dead. Don Stewart took over the "ministry," renaming it from Miracle Life Fellowship International to the Don Stewart Evangelistic Association, eventually the Don Stewart Association.

Like his mentor, Mr. Stewart has had a career which might charitably be termed "colourful" (and might uncharitably, although accurately, be termed "scandalous"). Mr. Allen’s ranch headquarters at Miracle Valley, Arizona has changed hands several times since his death, and is currently in foreclosure. G. Richard Fisher of Personal Freedom Outreach has written an article about Mr. Stewart and Mr. Allen, which can be found here.

A search on YouTube will turn up many video clips of A.A. Allen. Most of the comments below the videos provide ample evidence of the lack of discernment in much of modern evangelicalism. Here’s a typical example of the man at work, where he uses the old leg-lengthening trick:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Not "fools for Christ's sake"--just fools

A church from the hopelessly apostate United Church of Canada placed this item in the Edmonton Journal's Religion Calendar for June 5, 2010 (bold in original):

Worship in Whiteface Service, June 13 at 10:30 a.m. at McClure United Church, 13708 74th St.; part of the clown ministry, being fools for Christ's sake (1 Cor. 4:10); symbolic and non-verbal liturgy, transforming the irrational into understanding.

Unfortunately, such nonsense is no longer to be found just in mainline churches.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

40 years ago: Southern Baptist Convention delegates demand the withdrawal of a liberal SBC Bible commentary

On June 3, 1970 delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual convention in Denver (a Convention convention?) succeeded in passing a motion that the first volume of Broadman Bible Commentary be withdrawn and the section on Genesis be rewritten by a Bible-believing author. A detailed explanation of the controversy is found in James Patterson's article Alternative Theological Education in the Southern Baptist Convention: A Case Study of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, which appeared in The Journal of Baptist Studies in 2007:

...a whole new crisis developed in 1969 with the publication of the first volume of the Broadman Bible Commentary. This volume included a section on Genesis written by G. Henton Davies, an English Baptist from Oxford. Davies, like Elliott before him*, employed higher critical methods and reached predictable conclusions. He shocked SBC conservatives by questioning whether God ever commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22). Following Elliott’s neoorthodox approach, he generally argued that religious "truth" could be maintained apart from historical fact.

Debate about Davies’s handling of Genesis reached the floor of the Denver Convention in 1970. Gwin Turner of California brought a motion asking that the first volume of the Broadman commentary be withdrawn and "rewritten with due consideration of the conservative viewpoint."

...The Turner resolution passed by an overwhelming majority. At the 1971 Convention in St. Louis, a motion was approved to instruct the Sunday School Board that the Genesis commentary be redone by a different writer, and subsequently Clyde Francisco of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was enlisted for the task.
(pp. 4-5)

*In 1961 Broadman Press, the publishing arm of the Baptist Sunday School Board, had published The Message of Genesis by Ralph H. Elliott, a professor of Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. Mr. Elliott accepted German higher critical beliefs (e.g., multiple authors of the Pentateuch, no universal flood, etc.) while spouting the neo-orthodox view that Genesis communicated religious "truth." (see Patterson, p. 3)

In 1970 it was ordinary pastors, not "big names" or denominational leaders, who had enough discernment to lead the opposition to this example of liberalism in the SBC. Would the same be true today? In his last book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Francis Schaeffer warned that the Southern Baptist Convention was in the same shape then (1984) that the mainline churches were in during the 1920s and '30s. 26 years have gone by since brother Schaeffer issued that warning.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pornographic perversion prevents parole for disgraced ex-pastor

..and be sure your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23b

When I see stories such as this one, it makes me wonder how someone could become a pastor and continue in that position when his life doesn’t measure up to the biblical qualifications (e.g., I Timothy 3:1-7). Some people seem to be very good at keeping sin secret--until God allows their sin to find them out.

The Province June 2, 2010

A former Surrey pastor who made a video inciting viewers to sexually assault a teen girl has had his bid for parole denied.

Larry Robert Collins, a former pastor at the Church of Nazarene, is serving a 15-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography late last year.

Collins first came to police attention in June 2008 when local authorities were contacted by police in another province about an online video involving a B.C. teen.

The video included a montage of girls in pornographic acts interspersed with photos of the victim, taken from her Facebook page. Collins wrote messages on top of the photos inciting viewers to sexually assault the girl, then created online accounts impersonating her and encouraging people to watch the video.

Police said Collins knew the girl through a church function and seemed to have a "fascination" with her.

In a written decision released late last week, the parole board noted Collins led a "double life" for many years before making the video. He "struggled" with pornography, spending four to five hours per day viewing it and, at one point, called it a "friend."...

...The parole board denied Collins' bid for parole because he had not yet completed the [sex-offender] program, in addition to concerns about his lengthy pornography addiction and a "demonstrated . . . capacity over many years to engage in deception."

Collins was immediately dismissed from his job as pastor in 2008 after his crimes came to light.

The teen was physically unharmed but, according to the parole board, "remains concerned" for her safety and "notes these images will never go away and could resurface at any time . . . "