End-time Deception in the Emerging Church

Prof. Johan Malan, Middelburg, South Africa (Sept. 07)

We are living in a time when increased pressure is exerted upon all churches to fundamentally change their doctrines. The Bible is considered less dogmatic since modern humanity is not prepared to restrict its freedom by a narrow and literal interpretation of Scripture. A biblical concept of God, an evangelical doctrine of salvation and premillennial teachings on end-time events are among the major casualties in the new reformation which is currently under way. These tenets all stand in the way of kingdom reforms aimed at ensuring a happy future to a united humanity of all faiths. In the emerging postmodern world, people regard themselves free to determine their own values and beliefs. When their religious views differ substantially from the Bible they merely discount biblical teachings as having been written from the perspective of an ancient world-view when people still believed in a devil and hell, and also in a vindictive God who is intent on punishing sin. In the postmodern world, people think in terms of new paradigms which clash with a literal interpretation of Scripture. Since religion is no longer determined by faith but by subjective human reasoning, they simply deconstruct modern and pre-modern beliefs, and substitute them with postmodern views which emanate from their humanistic world-view.

The many streams of religious deception are rapidly swelling and converging to form a mighty current of deception which is irresistibly heading towards its goal of conquering and changing the world. The emerging church of the 21st century is the product of this movement, which is also described as a new reformation. Various books have already been published on the emerging church – mostly in favour of it but also a few against it. Among the latter is the excellent book by Roger Oakland, Faith Undone: The Emerging Church – a New Reformation or an End-time Deception? (Published in 2007 by Lighthouse Trails Publishing, Silverton, Oregon. See the website www.lighthousetrails.com). Some of the source material for this article has been derived from Oakland’s book.

It is the express purpose of the new reformation to destroy a biblical faith and replace it with a new spirituality. The following are the salient characteristics of the emerging church:

Origin of the movement

One of the pioneers of the new reformation was the famous American businessman, Peter Drucker, who died in 2005. He initiated a strong movement of postmodern reforms in society, which suggested that public institutions, policies, and belief systems of the modern era should make way for those of the postmodern era. Drucker identified three areas of social life in which changes should occur concurrently, i.e. political, economic and religious. In the political sphere, governments with broad and more democratic principles should come to power to ensure a greater degree of peace and unity – also globally. Economic life should see a transformation to big corporations and multinational companies which will have the capacity of making bigger contributions to the process of social change. The religious sphere should be characterised by the formation of mega-churches with extensive ecumenical ties uniting them, so that they can play a bigger role in religious transformation. Leadership networks were established in all three these areas, aimed at collaborating with one another in bringing about comprehensive change. In this way, psychological and business principles were also harnessed to ensure rapid church growth.

As for his religious orientation, Peter Drucker was greatly inspired by the Danish philosopher and religious thinker, Soren Kierkegaard, who argued that faith is not based upon objective facts but an attribute which everyone can subjectively construct in his own mind as he sees fit. His concept of God was mystical. Kierkegaard said that all people should be completely free to determine their religious convictions according to their own needs. He was strongly opposed to the Danish state church which, according to him, restricted human freedom of thought. He even said that people who decide to become Christians are liable to idolatry.

According to Drucker and other postmodernists, churches with rigid structures and creeds are bastions of the obsolete modern era. They should be transformed into ecumenical-minded mega-churches that can, in collaboration with the political and business sectors, play a dynamic role in reforming and uniting society. Churches and Christians who refuse to change and accept the paradigm shift which is foundational to the new reformation are ridiculed by referring to them as Vintage Christianity – they are like old cars of bygone years.

Drucker established a leadership institute to facilitate people’s need for change beyond the confines of traditional institutions and ideologies in society. Under his influence another businessman, Bob Buford, founded a leadership network in 1984 to assist the leaders of innovating churches to team up with one another in order to enhance their capacity of reaching their goals. Two of the church leaders who played a big role in the early days of the leadership network are Bill Hybels of the Willow Creek mega-church and Rick Warren of the Saddleback mega-church. Bill Hybels organised various large conferences and also published books on the emerging church. This initiative prompted the rise of other leading figures such as Leonard Sweet, Professor in evangelism at the Drew University, and Brian McLaren, an influential leader who is also strongly in favour of fundamental change.

But the spiritual leader who made the biggest impact in favour of the emerging church is Rick Warren. A staggering number of 400 000 preachers in 163 countries have been trained through his purpose driven network. For his skills in leadership training Warren gives the biggest credit to Peter Drucker and Bob Buford. He collaborated with both of them. In an interview he said that stability in any nation is dependent upon a strong and healthy government, a strong and healthy business sector, and strong and healthy churches. He likened it with a three-legged stool. With a view to promoting this view he travels to various countries to address government leaders, business leaders and church leaders to make them aware of their responsibility to work together in realising the objectives of stable, prosperous, and purpose driven nations.

Rick Warren addresses church leaders of all denominations on the subject of social transformation – including Mormons and Catholics – and often emphasises that doctrine is not as important as remaining focussed on service to the community.

Kingdom theology

The emerging church is strongly committed to the revelation of God’s kingdom here and now, before the second coming of Christ. The main objective of this kingdom is to promote conditions that will ensure happy and contented societies in which people can live together without oppression, exploitation, poverty, disease, conflicts, revolutions, warfare and other negative experiences. Rick Warren devised a comprehensive PEACE Plan to bring about God’s kingdom on earth. PEACE is an acronym in which the P stands for Planting and Partnering Churches, the E for Equipping leaders, the A for Assisting the poor, the C for Caring for the sick, and the E for Educating the next generation.

Rick Warren influences millions of believers and unbelievers in the world with his clever mix of humanitarian and biblical objectives, and their presentation within the framework of positive thinking. His methods appeal to governments, businessmen, churches and communities at large, whether secular or religiously oriented, to uplift society, eradicate poverty, treat the sick, educate the illiterate, and promote peace and reconciliation among all factions of society.

The serious deficiency in Rick Warren’s positivistic programme of uplifting society is that he doesn’t mention anything that has a negative connotation, e.g. sin, religious deception, and the judgments of God that are evident in the crucifixion of Christ. The cross and blood of Christ are purposely omitted from his discussion; consequently, his kingdom is built upon the false foundation of another Jesus – not the One who was crucified to atone for our sins. His 40-day purpose-driven programme is presented as a tool to unlock and develop the potential of all people, thereby enabling them to lead a fulfilling life and enjoying the full measure of God’s blessings. George Otis Jr. agrees with him heartily, as he says that God forgives our sins because He is a good and forgiving God – He does not do so because of Christ’s death on the cross. The message of atonement is increasingly marginalised and even denied.

This is the language of the emerging church. In the kingdom which they are building there is no dedication to the purity of Christian doctrine. Warren says that in the second reformation the main consideration is not doctrine bud deeds – it does not so much matter what the church believes but what it does. Jesus Christ is not the focal point of the emerging church as the main emphasis is placed upon establishing God’s kingdom on earth. We must all work together to eradicate the problems of disease, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, divisions and conflicts. Transformation meetings are held to mobilise people towards achieving this objective.

Since the emerging church is committed towards promoting a manmade kingdom on earth in which all people will live in peace and prosperity, they take a strong stand against a premillennial interpretation of biblical prophecies. Their future expectation of peace on earth is completely at variance with the biblical scenario of an extensive spiritual falling away during the last days, and the many clear warnings that unbelieving humanity is heading for the great tribulation under the rule of the Antichrist. But leaders of the emerging church ignore these facts and say it is a waste of time to study the signs of the times. They regard people who study end-time prophecies as negative and self-centred. Rick Warren also says that we should not concern ourselves with biblical prophecies. He further states that Christian fundamentalism – referring to people who interpret the Bible literally ­– poses the biggest threat to the emerging church of the 21st century. It is obvious that amillennial churches are natural allies and supporters of the emerging church, and embrace its deceptive kingdom now theology without reservation.

During his visit to South Africa early in 2007, George Otis Jr. of the Sentinel Group said that in the church dispensation we should confidently look forward to the fulfilment of the following request in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). He said that we must expect the descending of God’s kingdom upon us to bring about conditions which exactly resemble those in heaven. He agrees that the devil is responsible for much of the deception and chaos on earth, but has devised a comprehensive system of strategic spiritual warfare to pull down Satan’s strongholds and rid the world of his influence. However, all efforts to this effect have so far failed miserably. The world is still in the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19) and will remain in this condition until Christ comes.

Peter Wagner of the World Prayer Centre is also of the opinion that the devil’s power can be broken and that the world will soon be ruled by mighty apostles and prophets who will lead united city churches. He calls the emerging church the post-denominational church of the 21st century, and says that after Satan has been dethroned and mega churches established in all cities, it will be very difficult for any person in such a city to be lost. These theologians absolutely refute the idea that the world will deteriorate in the end-time and end up in the Antichrist’s reign of terror.

Another God and another Christ

The concept of God in the emerging church is rapidly moving away from the Bible’s Triune God to the universal God of all faiths. It is now commonly alleged that God revealed Himself to humanity through all religions – not only through the Bible, Jesus Christ and the Christian church. There is also a clear move away from monotheism to panentheism. The idea is no longer entertained that there is a personal Creator-God who is above His creation, but rather an impersonal god who is in everything – in all people and also in nature. That means that people can discover him in themselves and also become little gods.

Malicious attacks are launched on the biblical presentation of Jesus Christ. Every effort is made to render Him an ordinary human being who is on an equal level with the leaders of other religions. That is done by denying His virgin birth, His bodily resurrection and His ascension. On the basis of these assertions it is denied that He is the incarnate God. These views are also proclaimed by various South African theologians – particularly the leaders of the New Reformation. They argue that Jesus only rose metaphorically in the hearts of His disciples.

One of these theologians, Prof. A. van Aarde of the University of Pretoria, says in his book, Fatherless in Galilee, that Jesus was an illegitimate child whose mother was a prostitute and His father probably a Roman soldier. Because of that He fantasised about a heavenly Father. The denial of the resurrection of Jesus is supported by several of the local theologians. Most of them also deny the existence of the devil and the hell. A visiting theologian of the Jesus Seminar in the USA, John Dominic Crossan, said in Pretoria that

the crucifixion of Jesus was a form of transcendental child abuse by God, and that we should reject such a cruel God. He also said that Jesus was never buried and that His corpse was eaten by wild dogs. After his lecture, Crossan was praised as an eminent theologian, and his views echoed by several of the local theologians who set the movement towards a new reformation in South Africa in motion.

The postmodern deconstruction of the Person of Jesus Christ is done to make Him conformable to the image of the Antichrist. That is the final objective with all the deception that is spread in the name of Jesus. This process still continues – after Jesus has been deprived of His divine attributes, He is presented as the cosmic Christ of all faiths. That is in harmony with the view that God is the universal God of all faiths. The deconstruction of Christ proceeds even further: in terms of the panentheistic view of an impersonal, mystical god, Christ is similarly portrayed as impersonal by referring to a christ consciousness as a form of inner light. That is equated with the Buddha consciousness. Since the emerging church denies the existence of a devil and an Antichrist, they will immediately accept the Antichrist as the Christ because he will comply with the image of their deconstructed Jesus.

Forms of revelation

The emerging church is characterised by the increased rejection of the Bible as the inerrant and inspired Word of God. They justify their views on the Bible in terms of postmodern thinking which has liberated them from the language of dogma. Narrow, dogmatic views are rejected – not only on the attributes of God and Jesus Christ but also on moral and ethical matters such as homosexuality. In this way the Bible loses its authority and opens the way to the acceptance of the holy books of other religions as authentic revelations of God.

This disposition has given rise to great interest in extra-biblical revelations of God’s will, which are predominantly of a mystical nature. Mysticism is a spiritual practice which has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit or any experience of God’s presence. We can either approach God’s throne of grace through the Holy Spirit or we can have supernatural experiences through practising various mystical techniques. When people resort to the latter they open themselves up to influencing by the devil and his evil spirits. He comes as an angel of light to give them a false peace through a deceptive sense of God’s presence.

Transcendental meditation is the most common technique to come into contact with the god within. This practice is also described as contemplative prayer or centring prayer. Through the use of a mantra a person descends to the centre of his inner being where a mystical experience of god as a universal source of energy and wisdom awaits him. A mantra is a single word or a short prayer which is repeated over and over until all other thoughts have been excluded. Christian prayer, to the contrary, centres upon a personal God who infinitely transcends His creation.

In Eastern, monistic philosophy it is held that everything is one, and god is conceived to be part of His creation. To them, god is a hidden dimension of the same reality of which humanity is part. The purpose with centring prayer is to penetrate the outer layer of reality and get in touch with its deep, mystical core where god can be experienced as the deeper self, or the god within. Through the use of a mantra, often accompanied by Yoga breathing exercises, people empty their minds by excluding the sense-perceived reality and then proceed to the centre of their being where they become conscious of a cosmic power, a spirit-guide, the deeper self, the higher self, or the Christ within.

Prayers of this nature are usually practised for twenty minutes every morning and evening. The person chooses a sacred word; he tries to ignore all thoughts and feelings in order to experience a state of pure consciousness or mental void. The thinking process is suspended and you will have an open mind and an open heart. The idea is to go to the centre of your being to find the true self. The Bible says that Lucifer is on the throne of fallen man’s heart. He is the universal “god of this world” who blinds the minds of people and keeps them from making contact with the true God and His Son (2 Cor. 4:4).

During contemplative prayer one meets an impersonal god who is inherently part of creation and hence also of the inner beings of humans. This god is only experienced mystically as communication with him never takes the form of a conversation. The mystical god of cosmic spheres only leaves certain impressions and suggestions deep inside people who are in a meditative trance, and these thoughts are always contrary to the Bible. Examples of such thoughts are that everything is one, that we should co-exist peacefully and in spiritual harmony with people of all religions, that there are various paths to God, that Christians, Hindus and Muslims worship the same God, and that human beings can heal themselves.

There are various other practices of a mystical nature which are used to deceive people. Among them are extra-biblical revelations of God’s will through speaking in tongues, and also through dreams and visions. Courses are even offered to help people interpret their dreams. A mystical practice which is very popular is falling (or slaying) in the Spirit. People fall down backwards and mentally descend to different levels of a trance state. Deceiving spirits gain control over them and make them laugh uncontrollably or to make animal noises such as barking, roaring, crowing or bleating. Because of this experience, many people regard themselves as being saved or sanctified. However, they were in a trance and not able to practice faith – they only had a doubtful mystical experience. These phenomena are all characteristic of the emerging church.

What should we do?

More than ever before, we should seriously consider the Lord’s warnings: “Take heed that no one deceives you (Matt. 24:4); beware of the false teachers will proclaim fables to please people (2 Tim. 4:3-4); test the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1); contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3); hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Rev. 2:25-26). Avoid at all cost any complicity with the end-time falling away from the faith: “The Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1).

Through the postmodern interest in other belief-systems, the door is opened widely to multireligious experiences of various sorts. It is truly a time in which the Christian foundations of society are rejected: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? … The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals, fire and brimstone” (Ps. 11:3-6).

The Bible says that the difficult time which we experience is a time of testing for the righteous. The Lord will thoroughly purge His threshing-floor and gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire (Luke 3:17). One of the few benefits which this time of postmodern deconstruction offers is that we need no longer be controlled or manipulated by the traditions and commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). Everyone must decide where he or she really stands – either with evangelical Christianity or with the deteriorating but uniting world which is preparing the way for the coming of the Antichrist. It is in a time such as this that the heavenly Bridegroom will come for His bride. Are you ready for this appointment?