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Posts Tagged ‘Dallas Willard’

I recall the venom my former pastor spit at us(not literally, ick, that would have been a sight) when my husband and I gave him a letter that connected dots.  It went from pastor’s sermons to those they quoted to others those quoted to heretical beliefs.  Rick Warren didn’t even bother to quote a person who quoted a person today on twitter, he lead his followers straight to Henri Nouwen.  Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves” -Nouwen   Funny that, our former church not only quoted Rick Warren and Dallas Willard, but they have implimented the programs.  Now, with Warren and Willard both being into people who into mysticism…I know my dots were rightly connected.  Sadly, my former pastor tried to hide those connections, tried to make my husband and me look like liars, even called us liars “from the pit of hell.”   Very sad. 

Adam and Eve hid when they sinned.  Of course, I could be taking Nouwen out of context, you see, I have no idea what book that quote comes from.  So, he might be talking about something  good, but it’s such a short quip.  Sounds bad though to me.  The point is Nouwen’s work and quotes show his mysticm, show his affinity for Buddist ideas.  No place for a Christian.

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I once wrote my pastors and asked not only who they were reading but who they would recommend.  There were many who did recommend Dallas Willard.  Apprising Ministry linked to this page.  It further confirms my squeamish feelings for this man’s influence in the church.  I must admit, when I began my research on this man (I came across him after researching Steve Smith who spoke at our church…he mentioned Willard as a big influence on him), I thought that discipline sounded good.  It was like a weight loss plan that I wanted to buy into.  If I would only be more disciplined, I could be a better Christian.  Time passed, I read more, and it just sounded too good to be true (and it was).  I couldn’t pin it all down, but I began to realize Dallas Willard’s thinking was not quite right on.  I do not believe I really had some magic insight, just that my pastors were preaching unbibilically, and Willard was their influence.  As I read more, I did finally learn Willard was part of the Spiritual Formation crowd (and he’s a leader).   Read the link and just think on scripture and what is taught about Christ.  He’s the narrow gate, no one comes to the Father except through Him. 

http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=14

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I found this interview to be somewhat revealing.
http://www.renovare.org/invitation_christian_disciplines_and_grace.htm

I see the thought is that we can do something to grow in grace, that we can get somewhere to grace in spiritual disciplines. The claim is “the Christian disciplines as avenues to grace…” I thought Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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Like being intwined in seaweed, or brambles in the forest, we Christians are often entangled in things that make it hard to walk the path of truth.  We get into men’s teachings, and follow men.  We get into the world’s ways, become woven together with these ways.  Soon, they become a part of us, like barnacles on a whale, entwined and braided, the thorns have broken off and splinter inside.  Cutting ourselves free will hurt.  I can say, when I read about influences in the church these days I see this entanglement.  Entanglement with the mystics and the belief that it is supposed to be a part of Christianity.  The claim that to be deeper with Christ we must pracitice spiritual disciplines.   I thought Christ was our mediator, and that nothing we do can save us.  The sacrifices desired are a “broken and contrite heart….” and not contemplation. 

From personal experience, I saw entanglement coming from my very own pastors.  If writers like Nouwen, Willard, Hybels, and Warren are producing good fruit, then why do pastors who are following after them continue to loose long time Christians who are serious about following after God?  It is not the numbers that are the measure of fruit, but I believe (and I am not God so anyone out there can correct me on this) that wise people will stick with a wise pastor if God doesn’t call them to something else.  If you are loosing elder members, you might consider why.  If a church looks like the world, then it might as well be the world. 

The entanglement is confusing.  I have asked elders and pastors about contemplative prayer.  I’ve gotten some interesting answers. 

“Do not let terminology frustrate you, the Bible speaks about contemplation” (this also included transformation and meditation).  My question further would be “does it include spiritual formation?”  We didn’t ask much about that as we had enough issues…

The lead pastor of our former church said, “If you are referring to lectio divina, it’s been around since the Reformation.”  Interesting.  Many things have been around since even before the Reformation, and that doesn’t make them right.

I have heard other unsatisfactory responses when it comes to such entanglements.  “Why would you attack a ministry that has done so much to advance the kingdom” and there’s always the “you’re being unloving.” 

It hurts when people pull on the tangles, no one ever likes the rats brushed out.  It can pull and hurt.  Cutting out the cancer and treating it hurts.  What is hard, is that we were warned the weeds would grow among the fields.   We are to snatch some from the flames, but we will not be able to untangle all the knots until the return of our risen Lord.  This hurts all the more.  We can do our part, and it will not be enough but we are still called to do it.  It is finished in Christ Jesus.

Sadly, I have to admit I am entangled too.  The world is on me, though I am cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.  I pick up a thorn here, a barnacle there.  I get caught up too.  I am sure the first thing that will happen after I rejoice in seeing Jesus is sheer on my face mourning.  At least for the second He allows it.   I so long to be untangled. 

Maranatha.

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Moving on in this electronic world is hard.  It’s hard not to listen online, hard not to see people people online either.  We have chosen to leave our former church, but so far the issue hasn’t left us.  When I was overheard, this prompted a call to the pastor and a call to us (I assume it was me as I can think of where I would have been and who I was with…when I was speaking openly in public).  His statement is that the church has denounced emergent and is not headed in an emergent direction.  He says we base our information on a few sermons by a different pastor.  He also says they let go of one youth pastor, but though “we talked about Nooma videos he showed” (which we never did talk about and we weren’t aware) he wanted us to be discreet about that and thought we discussed that discreetness…uhmmmm.  We never had that conversation and thank you for proving our point.  Noomas in the youth is another sign of clear emergent leanings.  Oh, and the pastor says they let several staff members go because of financial reasons, not for the Noomas.  So they may have confronted emergent verbally, but do they see it in their staff?  Pastor claims “emergent” is dying.  Well, the terms may have changed, but the shift of churches is not dying. 

To his credit, his sermons do use scripture very much.  I don’t think Rick Warren is the same as Doug Pagitt.  I do not think Dallas Willard is the same as McLaren.  I do believe they are on a similar path, to change church and to focus on emergent youth OR on self and disciplines from Catholic mystics.  This may not be emergent.  I see other authors label it something else, contemplative something or other…maybe it’s contemplative spiritual disciplines.  To be clear, the church we attended hasn’t come out with contemplative prayer.  It has come out with spiritual formation.  This term alone links back to monks in caves hundreds of years ago.  These monks chanted and used breathing techniques as well as repetition to “meditate.”  Requirements of silence, fasting, and the like for a supposed deeper relationship with God are part of this spiritual discipline thing, as well as spiritual formation.  If the church has a spiritual formation pastor, and plans on lectio divina (as spoken by the pastor’s own mouth) and wants to follow the plans of Dallas Willard, and impliments “moments of silence” often, calls people to fast (not wrong to fast by the way, but it’s part of a larger picture here) then they are part of a movement that is not Biblical.  Focusing on this for spiritual transformation, methods and means not practiced by the disciples themselves.  I would say choosing to be disciplined is not a bad thing.  Saying you need it for deeper relationship with Christ is not accurate.  Discipline can make our Christian lives easier, can make memorization easier, and can help us to start our day in prayer.  Altering breathing, sitting in silence with no activity, these things are strange and unbibical in the context of trying to get closer to God.  Making an effort to give a sacrifice to God in our day is not wrong, as long as we realize our sacrifices are not worthy but God is gracious and merciful and can be pleased by us if we are humble and contrite (which cannot be manufactured).  Service is also a part of the spiritual formation movement.  Service in Christian life in itself is good.  However, service as a way to “get closer to God” is not.  I believe what is wrong with spiritual formation is it’s all flipped.  Service for others flows FROM the compassion we gain in Christ.  We are first made new creatures.  We have to recognize we still have a sin nature.  At any rate, our pastors from our former church were heavy into the spiritual formation books, mostly Dallas Willard. 

The one pastor who was most obvious in his sermons doesn’t make the head pastor bat an eye.  He sees no scary connections when Frost, Miller, and others are quoted.  He doesn’t even ruffle when he’s told about the “christ conciousness” or “christ coursing through my veins” or “you are little christs.”  He even defended the “little christ” comment.  He mentioned lectio divina, he defended Dallas Willard and suggested we read his books.  He defended the teaching by Steve Smith when he visited the church…the teaching that Lazarus had grave clothes and our grave clothes are life’s trials and burdens.  This teaching was strange, and bothered me a great deal and the pastor mentioned lectio divina after these stating, “it’s been around since the reformation.”  

Another pastor we spoke to said if our former church has denounced emergent doctrine and that was our complaint, we couldn’t leave then.  Well, we may not have brought out we don’t agree with following Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan and we may have only mentioned Dallas Willard, but our issue is with these things too.  We also feel, and it’s hard to define exactly, but that the lead pastor is manipulative and really makes me personally nervous.  Anyone who knew we were having a meeting with the man said, “good luck.”  He is intimidating.  This alone is a red flag of warning.  In general, people give the impression they don’t really feel safe with him or may feel he’s overbearing.  Don’t know if I can pin it down.  I know I personally have been friendly to him, he’s been friendly back.  He just seems much like a man trying to proove something.  I have met men like him, if I were in single land (before marriage) I would have known two things.  This man would never choose someone like me to date, and I would never choose him.  I feel like he’d be a guy who I would fight with.  I feel like I’d be expected to act a certain way in the home.  He’s not necessarily someone who oppresses women, don’t get me wrong.  I just get that feeling when around some men, that I wouldn’t mix with him.  Usually these guys are driven and goal oriented, intelligent.  However, they seem to be demanding and perfectionistic.  It’s not authority, it’s something else.  Now this is just speculation on my part…please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying he’s a bad man or anything, just most people don’t say he’s sweet. 

Oh, see, I’ve titled this “moving on” and I cannot move on.  That is my problem.  I have got to find a way to get this out of me, let it go.  How do you let go when you think a church is being led in the wrong direction?

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I actually believe our former pastor may mention our names at least in an elder meeting.  Because one of us was overheard talking about the church, I just wonder what will come of it?  During the call, my husband shared that he cannot possibly stop telling people who ask why we left the church honestly what he thinks.  The pastor then said something like, “so likewise, I can share about you spreading rumors and saying things we don’t agree with.”  My husband said he didn’t care what they say.   It may have not been that harsh, really, from the pastor.  It was what I thought my husband said, but it was along those lines.  At any rate, I wonder if there will be some sort of larger group that will hear about this?  At any rate, it is what it is. 

I don’t believe we ever said the former church was 100% emergent.  I do believe we said there were emergent phrases and authors popping up in sermons, and that the youth camp was emergent.  The type of prayer has been mentioned as a problem to pastors, one even contacted the youth camp to get the example of prayer off the web site stating it’s not Biblical.  Last time I checked, it’s still there.   The pastor told my husband about Noomas being shown to the youth…and this was not something we’d ever heard.  It was in the context of, “I thought we agreed to be discreed about [minister X] and the Noomas.”  Huh.  So, though it wasn’t my husband who had this discussion, and I don’t recall us talking about minister X, someone has AND at least one Nooma has been shown to youth somewhere, somehow through this church.  Yet there is denial of emergent creeping in?  The pastor still was frustrated that we made connections based on who was quoted in sermons.  Okay, truthfully, it wasn’t just quotes.  A sermon was framed right from Donald Miller’s stuff.  I heard a podcast and the idea came directly from the podcast of Miller’s.  Even if only one pastor on staff was saying this stuff, it shows he is into emergent teaching and he promoted it right from the pulpit.  To NOT address this is wrong.  So, yeah, since that pastor is still on staff, there is an emergent element in our former church. 

One thing that has been true of our former church is they have been on the Warren P.E.A.C.E. plan.  So, I guess we can call them what?  Seeker friendly?  The pastors all read Dallas Willard and many recommended his works to me to read.  So, we can call the church what?  Contemplative/Spiritual Formation influenced?  The church itself uses terms like “Bible based” and “Missional.”  So, it’s an emergent/contemplative/Spirtual Formation/Missional/Bible influence church.  ECSFMBIC

Of course, we’re supposed to never say this church is emergent because that movement is dying, according to what the former pastor said.  Huh.  Bet there was a day when someone thought the Mormon church was dying too when it was in it’s early years.  Of course, renaming yourself or infiltrating churches through the back door, and many times through the front, doesn’t make you a “church” so much as it makes the churches you.  But, no, pastor…it’s not dying.  It’s doing what it has been made to do, it’s evolving.

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It’s not the end of the world, the pastor today in the church we’ve been attending mentions that his interpretation is not what matters of this text.  I am sorry, I’m being lazy right now and don’t know what text off the top of my head.  At any rate, he mentioned the part of the text (Peter) where it’s mentioned Jesus went to the spirits in prison during his 3 days in the grave bodily.  He speculated that had to do with the demons that possesed the people who mated with women in the times of Noah.  Okay, anyone ever hear of this?  Our former church pastor mentioned the Nephilim and how they were evil angels on earth, and now this pastor says the Nephalim are demon possessed and Jesus went and spoke to them during the three days he was in the grave.  Anyone?  Where are these things coming from?  I’ve NEVER heard that Jesus was speaking to demons, and these were the Nephilim (a demon possesed people during the time of Noah).  What?  The pastor did point out that this thing in the text is not something he knows for sure and others have different opinions, and don’t get caught up in this and please don’t miss the important points made by Peter for us otherwise.  Oh, so now I wonder if the points made were worth my time (by the pastor not by Peter).  I have to reread and see what was said.  He did say he doesn’t like to do a verse by verse analysis because that’s saved for Sunday morning bible study group and “life group” time.  He likes to do overview lessons on Sunday morning sermon time.  Huh. 

We also had a time of silence during the song set.  Not prayer, just silence.  Why again?  Lovely.  I hate to do this to my husband, but I am on my guard and I’m prepared to leave this one too.  He likes the people and so do I, some we know left our former church.  They support us as they had similar issues to us (but again, so many issues allow for differences).  I am just so tired and I feel we only now just started the battle.  Ugh.  God knows what he is doing, and we have to trust him and not give in so easily.  Of course, I haven’t given the new to me pastor a chance yet.  If he hears from our former pastor, he may boot us (if he’s Warrenite anyway).  If he’s Willard’s disciple, he’ll likely do the same…but in a kind and loving way.  Of course, maybe I should be trusting?  I don’t know.  I have a hard time turning off skepticism.  I really do.

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