Volume15, Number 1 January/February 2004
The Year of our Lord - 2004
As we enter this New Year, may it be in our hearts and lives indeed The Year of our Lord! He is coming soon! Are you longing to see Him face to face? Many are wondering at how long we will be involved in Iraq. The significance of our being there goes way beyond just wanting to get rid of Saddam Hussein. One of our articles has a very interesting perspective on this subject. (The Spirit of Babylon on page 6). Judging by recent inquiries coming to the ministry, the most asked question these days is about the Purpose-Driven Life and the Purpose-Driven Church. The folk who seem to have the hardest time are those who are the most biblically based. Yet so much sounds so good! Comments from www.slate.msn.com were quite interesting: “Longtime observers of the evangelical scene speculate that the softness behind the sell helps explain Warren’s appeal to the White House. Mark Silk, who directs Trinity College’s Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, says ministries like Warren’s have a special appeal for an administration where ‘everything is extraordinarily faith-based – not just social service programs.’ Silk also suggests that Bush well understands that Warren’s brand of feel-good evangelism plays well with the mass audience that comes with the bully pulpit of the presidency. ‘It’s a way of doing evangelicalism for people who get scared when they hear it in its unvarnished form.’ This, rather than the abundance of marketing techniques and showman gimmicks that inflect Warren’s style of self-presentation, is the most troubling feature of Warren’s purpose-driven approach . . . “When Jesus stretched his arms wide on the cross, he was saying, ‘I love you this much.’” But God needs to be at a greater remove than a group hug. Surely we lose something if we apprehend the Bible, and the language of faith, as a little more than a lesson book. “If you’re not preaching life application,” Warren has told one interviewer, “you’re not really preaching.” Yet if you are only believing in life application, what are you believing?”
The following is a two-part article on the subject by the author of This Little Church Went to Market.
The Purpose-Driven Life: An Evaluation
By Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel
In our last paper I identified three relatively recent areas of concern in relationship to the Scriptures. First, there are the new hermeneutical approaches that either emphasize the subjective over the objective interpretation of Scripture, or allow for pre-understanding to be brought to the Word. The result is that the reader sits in judgment over the meaning of the text rather than allowing the Word to speak for itself. Next, I discussed some modern translations that have moved away from a literal philosophy to a dynamic-equivalent approach. I argued that the freer the translation the more interpretation is taking place by the translators, and this often takes place at the expense of the objective meaning of the passage.
These two concerns lead naturally to the third. If the reader is free to alter the meaning of the objective biblical text due to his own subjectivity or presuppositions; and if the translators are free to alter the objective biblical text with the notion that they are making it more readable or relevant or less offensive (this is especially true in paraphrases such as The Message); then why can’t a local church or Christian leader do the same in their teaching? If the sense of a passage of Scripture is up for grabs; if your understanding is as good as mine; if a text has more than one meaning and all meanings are equally justified, then why study the Bible at all? Why not think up something you want to teach and then run to the Scriptures to try to find a passage that supports your views? Of course, this has been an all too common practice for years. But now there is a new twist. When a leader wants to develop a certain thesis and ground it in the Scriptures, but no objectively understood passage can support this particular notion, what is to be done? He might force a passage out of context, simply misinterpret it and hope no one notices. Or he might allegorize or spiritualize the passage, adding a foreign meaning. But all of this has been done before. A novel approach, one that might work even better, is to get creative and find a translation or paraphrase that will back your claim – even if that translation has seriously distorted the passage. With this final methodology there is the advantage of actually using the Scriptures as the authority and a fair amount of certainty that few will ever bother to check the passage for its accuracy and/or context. All of this brings to mind Peter’s comments concerning the untaught and unstable distorting the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). The word “distort” in that verse basically means “to torture.” It is the idea of twisting Scripture to make it mean something it was not intended to mean, with the end result being our own destruction.
This last accusation seems mean-spirited at best, but the evidence is rapidly coming in that such is the latest rage. I first discovered this new fad when I visited some market-driven evangelical churches. Here were churches that, to my knowledge, still preach the gospel and hold to most of the fundamentals of the faith. Their worship services were crowded and full of enthusiasm. Spiritual life appeared to flow as the congregations sang praise choruses. But something was missing – Bibles. In one church of over 400 I saw only a handful of people carrying Bibles. I wondered why until I sat through the service and found that Bibles were not needed. The Scriptures were never opened, never read. When the pastor preached at least he did open his Bible, but he asked no one to open theirs, nor did he expect anyone to do so. He preached a message loosely based on Scripture and throughout his sermon his main points were projected on the overhead screens along with a few Scripture verses. While the superficiality of the message and the lack of Bibles disturbed me, at least, I thought, he did preach from the Bible and at least verses were projected on the screens. But still, a church with no open Bibles created the scent of spiritual death to me. Was I just being too picky? Many who come to church today are biblically illiterate. They can barely find Genesis, let alone Ezekiel. Maybe this method had merit.
With a little research and input from others I began to realize that what I had experienced was not an unusual event. Churches all across the land are following the same methodologies. Apparently the church-growth leaders have been recommending this approach and their disciples have jumped on board—in many cases, perhaps, without serious evaluation. But it is dangerous for Christians to close their Bibles. What are Bereans to do without their Bibles? What if the leadership of the church has an agenda they want to foster and they misuse the Scriptures to promote it? Who would examine the Word and “see whether these things are so” (Acts 17:11). It appeared to me to be a dangerous trend.
The Purpose-Driven Life. About that time I picked up Rick Warren’s runaway bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life. Warren’s book promises to be “a guide to a 40-day spiritual journey that will enable you to discover the answers to life’s most important question: What on earth am I here for?” More than that, “By the end of this journey you will know God’s purpose for your life and will understand the big picture—how all the pieces of your life fit together” (p.9). With this kind of promo and with Warren’s notoriety, we would expect his book to sell well, and it has. Not only is it the number one best selling Christian book at the time of this writing but thousands of churches are gearing up to take his 40-day spiritual journey.
First, we should say a word or two about Warren himself and his book in general. His first book, The Purpose-Driven Church, has greatly influenced churches throughout the world, due certainly to the fact that the church he pastors, Saddleback Church in southern California, is one of the largest churches in America, and a trendsetter among new paradigm churches. Saddleback reports that over 300,000 pastors from over 100 countries have been trained at their leadership conferences. Warren obviously has astounding influence over churches throughout the world.
There are a number of similarities between The Purpose-Driven Church and The Purpose-Driven Life. Both, for instance, offer some good sound advice, helpful biblical insight and practical suggestions—and both are riddled with errors throughout. The highly discerning reader can perhaps sift through the wheat and tares and make a good loaf of bread, but most readers, I fear, will swallow the poison along with the substance. This leads me to ask, “Who is Warren’s audience?" I was thoroughly bewildered as to whom the author was trying to connect. If it is a book for the unsaved then he fails, for the gospel is never at anytime clearly presented. The closest he came was when he wrote; "Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ" (p. 58). In Warren's gospel no mention is made of sin, repentance or even the Cross-. Real life (i.e., a life with purpose) seems to be the reward, and lack of real life (purpose) the problem. The thesis of The Purpose-Driven Life is stated, I believe, on page twenty-five, "We discover that meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point of our lives." Warren’s message is this: find God and you will find yourself (purpose). We will agree that meaning and purpose will be a reality to the Christian, but they are not the objects of the gospel itself. The gospel is that we as rebellious sinners have offended a holy God, are dead in our sins, enslaved to sin and the devil and under the wrath of God. But God, rich in mercy, sent His Son to die as our substitute to redeem us from our lost condition and give us eternal life. We receive this gift by faith as we turn to Christ, and from sin (Ephesians 2:1-10). That our life takes on new purpose at that point is absolutely true. However, we do not come to Christ because we sense a lack of purpose, but because God has opened our eyes to our need for forgiveness of sin and a relationship with Him. This is one of the fatal flaws in the market-driven church's message in which the unbeliever is called to follow Christ in order to receive any number of benefits—fulfillment, self-esteem, improved marriage, a thrilling lifestyle, or purpose, rather than freedom from sin and the gift of eternal salvation.
If Warren is writing for new believers, which seems the case due to the elementary tone and substance of the whole book, he again misses the mark, for he uses many expressions and biblical references that would be unfamiliar to the novice. On the other hand, if he is writing to the mature he has wasted paper, for any semi-well-taught believer will be completely bored with this book. So, while much praise will surely be lavished on The Purpose-Driven Life, it escapes me who will really profit.
Be that as it may, I want to give credit where credit is due. Warren writes some good sections on a number of subjects, including worship, community, the church, truth and spiritual gifts. If some of these topics could be isolated from the main body, they would make for helpful reading. But when interspersed with an array of erroneous ideas, distortions of Scripture and plain false teaching, they are of little value and may prove dangerous.
As I began reading this book, the problems were so numerous and obvious that I backed up and began marking these errors. I found 42 such biblical inaccuracies, plus 18 out-of-context passages of Scripture, supposedly used to prove his point, and another 9 distorted translations. (I will return to some of these in a moment). In general, there is much that is disturbing within the pages of The Purpose-Driven Life. Even though he denies it, Warren is obviously a disciple of pop-psychology, which is littered throughout. The wise reader is well aware that simply because someone denies they are teaching something does not mean they are not teaching it. The proof is not in the denial but in the substance. In this case Warren on the one hand repeatedly rejects psycho-babble, but on the other hand he immerses his reader in it. One example is "Most conflict is rooted in unmet needs" (p.154). You will find that idea in Rogers and Freud but try to find it in Scripture. He quoted favorably from a wide variety of dubious authors, from Aldous Huxley and Albert Schweitzer to George Bernard Shaw and St. John of the Cross (Catholic mystic). He apparently believes practicing Roman Catholics are true believers, several times mentioning monks and nuns as Christian examples, and of course the obligatory reference to Mother Teresa (twice). This unqualified acceptance and promotion of Catholics brings into question Warren’s understanding of the gospel message itself. If he believes that faithful Roman Catholics, who believe in a works-righteousness, are born-again Christians, what does he believe the gospel is? Do we receive the gift of salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus certain works and sacraments? This is no minor issue, especially in a book that never spells out the plan of salvation.
Warren, however, is not totally off base, and I would not want to portray him as such. Without question he is as evangelical as many evangelicals. Nevertheless, when every third page (on average) of a book presents either an unbiblical, or at least a biblically unsupportable idea, there is not much sense bothering to read it. And that would be my suggestion—don't bother.
Torturing Scripture. What we want to do in the remainder of our examination of Warren’s popular book is to point out some examples of his distortion of Scripture. This is not to say that everything he says is wrong. The irony is that often he will say something that is biblically correct, but rather than use proper scriptural support he chooses to twist the meaning of some other passage to prove his point. Our concern here is focused on his blatant twisting of the biblical text to suit his purposes. This is a dangerous trend that will lead to nothing good if not recognized, challenged and rejected by the Christian community.
Matthew 16:25 As stated above, it is not unusual for Warren to make good statements, such as his rejection of pop-psychology, then turn around and by his misuse of Scripture promote the very thing he just condemned. The reader is then faced with two problems: what does Warren really believe about this subject and, more importantly, why has he chosen to either distort the Word of God directly or through his use of faulty translations? For example, in the midst of his denial of pop-psychology (p. 19) he quotes The Message translation of Matthew 16:25 – Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self (emphasis mine throughout). The Message has altered the meaning of Jesus’ words into a means by which a person finds himself, a fad having roots back to the 1960s but not to the Bible. Compare the NASB rendering: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” Jesus is speaking of eternal life (v. 26 makes this clear), not the modern day concept of “finding yourself.” There is a bit of bait-and-switch going on in many of these quotes. Warren is attempting to tap into the current felt-needs making the rounds—in this case finding ourselves and/or finding our purpose in life. He is then presenting the Christian life as a means of meeting that felt-need. It is true that the Lord will give you purpose in life, but that purpose will be to live for and follow Christ. It is not a promise that we will find ourselves (if you ever find yourself you are going to be disappointed anyway) but that we will find true life in Christ. What often happens is subtle: Warren turns these passages, and the Christian life, from being Christ-centered to being centered on the human self, the individual. The focus now becomes us rather than Christ.
Romans 12:3. The thesis of the book is found on page 25, where Warren says, “We discover that meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point of our lives. The Message paraphrase of Romans 12:3 says, the only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us.” The Message has subtly changed the meaning of the text. To see how, we turn to a good translation. The NASB reads, For by the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. The thrust of the verse is the problem of pride, in the context of spiritual gifts (see verses 4-8). Apparently, some in the church body were arrogant about their spiritual gifts, leading to anger, bitterness and vengeance (see verses 9-21). Paul told them not to think so highly of themselves but to have sound judgment in reference to their giftedness. The result would be the proper functioning of the body. The passage is not giving a formula for how to understand ourselves. The Message abuses the true meaning of the text and yet Warren quotes it to support his thesis.
In both of these examples Warren’s use of Scripture is just close enough to be confusing, but neither of these passages are being used as they were meant to be. This is not a minor issue. Once we believe we have the right to change the meaning of God’s Word to suit our agenda, there is no limit as to how far the misrepresentation of God’s truth can go. This is exactly how virtually every cult and heresy is started. While I am not accusing Warren of this level of deception, it should greatly concern us to see him adopting the same attitude toward the Scriptures. And it should disturb us even more to discover that so few Christians care.
In my last paper I evaluated Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life, focusing almost entirely on his use, or rather misuse, of Scripture. Far too often Warren plays fast and loose with the Word of God, and he does so in rather innovative ways that are going undetected by many. Let’s continue to examine some examples of Warren’s creative use of Scripture.
I Corinthians 2:7. In chapter one, Warren makes several statements with which I would agree. He writes that the Bible “explains what no self-help or philosophy book could know” (p. 20). He then quotes 1 Corinthians 2:7 from The Message paraphrase as support: God’s wisdom… goes deep into the interior of his purposes…. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest – what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us (emphasis mine throughout). Let’s first compare this to a good translation. The NASB reads, but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory. Just a quick reading reveals that The Message’s paraphrase has no real connection with the meaning Paul was intending. Paul was writing of the wisdom of God, which is unlike the world’s in several ways. First, it is a mystery, which in Scripture speaks of something hidden in the past and unknowable without revelation from God (see Ephesians 3:3-5). God’s wisdom is still hidden from the people of the world (vv. 6, 8), but revealed to God’s people through the Holy Spirit in the New Testament Scriptures. God had determined this wisdom before time began but has now worked it out in the present age. All of this was for our glory. In the context of the passage this refers to the eternal salvation of God’s people as a result of the crucifixion of Christ (see v. 8). Our glory is biblical language referring to the final goal of salvation, which is to share in the glory of the Lord Himself (v. 8b). Now, let’s back up to Warren and his use of The Message. The wisdom of God that has been revealed through the apostle Paul is not that God has determined “the way to bring out His best in us,” but that the Lord has determined the way to bring us to eternal glory. It is not about purpose in life, but about the truth of salvation. It is not that Warren’s original statement is wrong. He could have actually found passages of Scripture to support his view. The problem is that he is misusing Scripture, in rather imaginative fashion, to prove his position. Once we head down this slippery slope it will prove very difficult to change courses.
Ephesians 1:11. A similar type of thing happens in the very next paragraph of the book. Warren makes a biblically defensible statement, “You must build your life on eternal truths, not pop psychology, success-motivation, or inspirational stories.” Excellent! But rather than backing this truth with proper Scripture, he decides to use a distorted paraphrase of Ephesians 1:11 found in The Message once again. It reads, It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eyes on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Warren says that this quote gives us three insights into our purpose, the first of which is, “You discover your identity and purpose through a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
In analyzing these comments we begin with a literal translation of the verse: Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will (NASB). This verse says nothing about discovering our purpose through a relationship with Christ. It speaks about our position in Christ – our eternal inheritance in Him. This verse tells us that we have been made the heirs of God; through no merit of our own we were given the right to all the blessings of salvation, both now and in eternity. It speaks of being “predestined according to His purpose,” not finding our purpose or identity.”
Jeremiah 29:11. A more common form of misuse of Scripture is taking passages out of context. Warren gives this exaggerated promise, “If you have felt hopeless, hold on! Wonderful changes are going to happen in your life as you begin to live it on purpose,” followed up with this quote from Jeremiah 29:11, I know what I am planning for you…. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future” (p. 31). Unfortunately, this is a promise to Israel concerning their future, not a general promise for all people (even Christians) at all times. Just a few chapters later the promise is reversed, Behold, I am watching over them for harm and not for good… (44:27). And in Lamentations 3:38 the same prophet writes, Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth? It is strange how people love to claim Jeremiah 29:11 and ignore passages such as these last two. I have yet to find anyone who has claimed Jeremiah 44:27 as their life’s verse.
Genesis 6:8. Chapter nine is devoted to the kind of person who makes God smile and is rooted in this Living Bible paraphrase of Genesis 6:8, Noah was a pleasure to the Lord. The New King James translates this verse; Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Some other literal versions translate “grace” as “favor” and the Hebrew word can have that meaning. But when used of God, the word always means unmerited favor or grace. When Noah found grace, he was the recipient of undeserved Divine favor. He was not spared the flood because of his righteousness, but because of God’s grace. By changing the word from “grace” to “pleasure,” the Living Bible has turned the true meaning of the passage on its head. Now Noah is spared due to his goodness – he is the kind of guy that makes God smile – and you can be such a person too. But now grace is no longer grace; it has been transformed into a work that pleases God. This is not a minor error; it strikes at the root of the Christian faith. Ironically, Genesis 6:9, which tells us that Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time, and Noah walked with God, could have been used to support Warren’s chapter, so keep in mind our concern. We are not accusing Warren of being wrong in everything he is saying, but we are accusing him of distorting Scripture. He is undermining the Word of God by changing its meaning to suit his purposes. In this case the marvelous doctrine of grace takes the hit.
Job 22:21. Warren strains Scripture to interesting limits by using none other than Eliphaz as his spokesman. “The Bible is crystal clear about how you benefit when you fully surrender your life to God. First you experience peace” (p. 82). The proof-text is Job 22:21, Stop quarreling with God! If you agree with him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you. If you recall, this speech from Job’s friend is a promotion of works-righteousness, which, along with Eliphaz’s whole theology of living, will be condemned by God later in the book. To use it as a means of finding peace with God is an extremely careless use of Scripture.
Romans 6:17. In the same paragraph Warren also promises freedom if we surrender to God. He uses The Message’s rendering of Romans 6:17: Offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits…. [his] commands set you free to live openly in freedom! It is true that we have been set free in Christ, but what kind of freedom is Paul offering? The NASB translates this verse: But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed. Verse eighteen continues, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Warren does not mention that the freedom promised in Scripture is from sin, and that the believer becomes immediately the slave of another – righteousness. Nor is there any mention that this slavery transferal is not predicated upon a subsequent surrender on the part of the Christian, but rather is actually the definition of a Christian. When people come to Christ for salvation, their master is changed. They no longer owe any allegiance to sin for they have become the slave of God. Whether they live in fidelity to this new Master is another matter, but ownership has changed hands. This is the argument of Romans six, which is ignored by Warren, who forces it to say what God never intended.
Hebrews 12:1. Warren uses The Living Bible paraphrase of Hebrews 12:1 to teach that God has assigned certain boundaries to each believer. “When we try to overextend our ministry reach beyond what God shaped us for, we experience stress. Just as each runner in a race is given a different lane to run in, we must individually; run with patience the particular race that God has set before us (p. 253). But this verse simply reads, Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (NASB), and is speaking of the Christian race of faith in general. This verse cannot be pressed to teach that each Christian has a particular race to run – it is simply not the context or meaning of the passage.
Philippians 4:7. We are told, “worry is the warning light that God has been shoved to the sideline. The moment you put him back at the center, you will have peace again” (p. 314). He then quotes The Message’s translation of Philippians 4:7, A sense of God’s wholeness…will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. While there may be truth in what Warren says, a proper translation of this verse will not teach what he says it does: And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (NASB). Let’s break it down a bit. “A sense of God’s wholeness,” whatever that means (I have no clue), is not the same thing as the peace of God. The last sentence found in The Message is foreign to the passage. The peace of God guarding our hearts and minds cannot be contorted to mean that something wonderful happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Warren is developing his propositions upon faulty paraphrases of Scripture and the average reader is none the wiser. Placing God back at the center of your life may indeed result in peace, but, and this is the important thing, Philippians 4:7 does not say so. To make Scripture say what it does not say is manipulation, not exegesis.
Of course we could go on, but hopefully you get the point. Other notable examples are: Page 24-- James 1:18; Pages 25, 30 – Isaiah 49:4; Page 104 – I Corinthians 14:16-17; Page 105 – Romans 12:1,2; Page 109 – Job 23: 8-10; Page 110 – Job 7:11; Page 219 – II Corinthians 3:18; Page 223 – Habakkuk 2:3; Page 232 – Mark 8:35; Pages 272-273 – I Corinthians 1:27; Pages 273 – II Corinthians 12:9-10
Summary. So, what difference does it make? What if Warren is misrepresenting Scripture over 40 times as well as peppering his book with extra-biblical psychological theories and other earthly pieces of wisdom, disguised as biblical principles? Overall he says many good things, and even in the sections where Scripture is abused he often says the right thing but uses wrong Scripture to support it. What’s the big deal? The big deal is this: once we sign off on this kind of Christian teaching and torturing of Scripture, the sky is the limit. It should not go without notice that every cult claims to believe in the Bible. The uniqueness of cults is that they twist the interpretation of Scripture to say what they want it to say, and failing that they write their own translations to support their heresies (e.g. Jehovah Witnesses’ New World Bible). Should we endorse these same methodologies when evangelicals promote them? Or should we refute those who openly sanction such approaches to Scripture? Remember we are not discussing different opinions on interpretations of certain passages. That too cannot be ignored. But of a more serious nature is this careless and wanton mishandling of Scripture that we have been discussing. To purposely ignore the proper translation of a passage and insert one that has no basis in the original languages in order to under gird a particular point of view is about the most dangerous thing that I can imagine. The only thing more concerning would be to discover large segments of the evangelical community being incapable of discerning this kind of problem – and/or not caring.
Articles used with permission. See the website for Gary Gilley: www.svchapel.org
The Spirit of BabylonProf. J.S. Malan, University of the North, South Africa
Summary: The spirit of ancient Babylon blows strongly through Iraq to establish an antichristian new word order. It is not only aimed at transforming Iraq but also other countries in the region and in the world.
The continued presence of the American-led coalition forces in Iraq is a prelude to great and far-reaching changes in that land and also in the rest of the world. The USA plans to establish a democracy, free-market economy, and religious equality in Babylonia, which will send a clear message to Teheran, Damascus, and other authoritarian governments to follow Iraq’s example if they wish to have peace and be fully accepted by the international community.
Should the USA’s experiment succeed in this highly volatile and political unstable part of the world it will be a major breakthrough for the emerging new world order of peaceful coexistence and multinational cooperation. However, should the plan fail and revolutionary leaders succeed in firming their grip on Islamic oil-producing countries, it may give rise to a new wave of religious radicalism and the beginning of a major regional war – even a world war. There is much at stake with the attempted transformation process of Iraq.
Jordan is one of the Arab countries that fully endorses President Bush’s request to Arab states in the Middle East that critical steps be taken toward democratization. King Abdullah II called on his government and parliament to make radical changes aimed at turning Jordan into a modern democratic country. The speech to newly appointed senators and the recently elected parliament focused on domestic issues such as the economy and socio-political reforms, while steering clear from major international disputes: “Our vision of the Jordan that will emerge… should make the country a model for tolerance, freedom of thought, creativity and excellence.” King Abdullah is strongly committed to a multi-religious vision as he believes that all religions have much in common and can consequently associate and work together peacefully.
It is a transformation of this nature that Mr. Bush wishes to implement in Iraq. This country has vast oil riches that can support a flourishing economy, but the major problems of the population are in its ethnic and religious composition. The Sunni and Shiite Muslims have a long history of hostile relations, while the Kurds of northern Iraq are intent on establishing an independent Kurdish state. It will call for exceptional leadership to establish a well-integrated, tolerant, harmonious, multi-religious democracy in this troubled and deeply divided land.
Nothing less than this is seen to be needed if the emerging new world order is to pass one of its most difficult tests. Iraq (ancient Babylon) is slowly but certainly moving in the direction of a cosmopolitan world state in which all religions are welcome, and in which diverging ideologies will be tolerated and accepted on condition that their supporters subscribe to non-violent, democratic principles. Unlikely as this inclusive approach may seem to be in a region where exclusive, non-Christian religious beliefs dominate politics, that is indeed the course on which this country is being pushed. A lot of blood may still flow before this objective is realised, but the forces favoring a new world order are strongly supported and set to get the upper hand.
Isn’t it amazing that two of the most powerful and influential nations on the face of the earth, the USA and England, are the major forces behind the reforms in Iraq? Billions of dollars and pounds are poured in to make the plan with Iraq work without a further major war – thereby also attempting to transform other countries such as Syria and Iran without the use of military means.
America is also busy working out an economic plan that will benefit Iraq and two of its neighboring nations. It entails a multinational agreement between Iraq, Turkey, and Syria on the use of water from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. These two rivers flowed through the Garden of Eden and are still life-giving streams to millions of people in these three countries.
A Home to All Religions. According to the Bible, the restored Babylon of the end-time will be called “the mother of harlots” (Rev. 17:5), which means a home and meeting-place for all the false religions of the world. Although America and England have, politically speaking, good intentions with their development policy for Iraq, they are laying the foundation for much more radical reforms which the coming Antichrist will implement in this land where the human race had its earliest origin.
There are already signs that other religious groups in Iraq are beginning to practice their rights of religious freedom. One of these is the Chaldean Catholic Church with its 700 000 members, most of whom are living in Iraq. One of the bishops of this church, Rabban Al-Qas, said that Iraq needs help from outside to be born again. According to him, at least 80% of the Iraqi population regards the coalition forces as liberators. Bishop Al Qas visited the Vatican early in December together with other church officials to elect the future “patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.”
The ancient country of the Chaldeans is destined to great and far-reaching reforms. During the reign of the Antichrist, world markets will be controlled from here (Rev. 18). Babylon will, therefore, still become a symbol of the new world order. It will again be in absolute opposition to the Triune God of the Bible before it will be de destroyed during the Second Coming of Christ (Is. 13:19-22; Rev. 18:4-8).
The spirit of Babylon. In a certain sense, the reforms in Iraq are implemented on a worldwide scale. A Babylonian spirit of multi-religious thinking is universally at work, seeking to promote understanding, tolerance, peace and unity among all peoples, cultures and religions.
The most fundamental differences among diverse peoples are religious in nature, and for that reason considered to be non-negotiable by many supporters. Certain religions, particularly fundamentalist factions of Islam, are quite militant and have, during historical times, endeavored to advance their cause by the use of violence and intimidation. The present struggle waged by Islamic fundamentalists against Israel, America, England, and various other countries and groups, constitutes religiously-motivated violence against infidels who do not worship Allah of the Koran.
The great threat of warfare and acts of terror motivated by extreme religious groups is inducing religious leaders all over the world to join hands in an effort to promote peace and discourage radicalism. In the process, there are those who deny the basic nature of Christianity by associating it on an interfaith basis with the non-Christian religions. When one goes that far you deny the Lord Jesus as the only Mediator between God and man (Jn. 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). From a Christian perspective, the very nature of interfaith initiatives jeopardizes the basic principles of the religions they wish to serve.
Lorin Smith of Christian Research Projects, a ministry that analyses global developments and their impact on the Christian community, says that in the construction of the new world order, Christianity will face ideological challenges to the central tenets of its faith unlike anything it has experienced in the previous two millennia. In this new world, all religions must be recognized and acknowledged as legitimate pathways to God. Religious exclusivity, absolutism and dogmatism will be viewed as potential threats to world peace and survival. Evangelical Christianity will, therefore, still be ruled out by the architects of the new world order.
On the other hand, there are those who support the idea of interfaith collaboration without seriously considering the religious fornication committed by ‘Christians’ who are unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-15). Hans Kung, director of the Institute of Ecumenical Research at the University of Tubingen, favors interfaith initiatives in his book, Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic: "All the religions of the world today have to recognize their share in responsibility for world peace. And therefore one cannot repeat often enough the thesis for which I have found growing acceptance all over the world: there can be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. In short, there can be no world peace without religious peace." However, if the basis of participation among such participants is false, then the agreements reached by them will also be false.
That is the false Babylonian spirit of interfaith thinking that blows across the world. In only a few years it has changed the very nature of national constitutions and educational systems, it manipulated major media organizations into conformity, and is now pushing churches and theological seminaries over the cliff into the abyss of multi-religious thinking. Various theologians are making common cause with this evil philosophy by accepting the unwritten condition that they deny the Lord Jesus Christ by rejecting the clear biblical statement that nobody can be saved but by Him (Acts 4:12). They also may not, as in the Bible, negatively reflect on the non-Christian religions (1 Cor. 10:19-20; 2 Cor. 6:14-17) as that is seen to be improper and not conducive to the fostering of interfaith alliances.
Catholics are collaborating. The Roman Catholic Church also embraces the interfaith, Babylonian spirit by giving its full support to promoting it. In October 2003, representatives of various religions attended an interfaith conference in Fatima, Portugal, which was organized by the Catholic Church in association with the United Nations. The shrine and complex in Fatima were erected to the honor of Mother Mary, but will now be transformed into a center where members of all religions can worship their gods.
The Director of the shrine, Luciano Guerra, told the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian delegates, as well as pagans from Africa, that Fatima will change to the good of them all. He said: “The future of Fatima, as well as the worship of God and His Mother at this shrine, should now be transformed into a place where all religions can mingle. The interfaith dialogue in Portugal, and also in the Roma Catholic Church, is still in an early stage but Fatima will support this movement toward realizing the new approach of universal worship.”
Guerra said the mere fact that Fatima is a Muslim name (Mohammed’s one daughter was called Fatima), is an indication that this shrine should be open to the co-existence of all religions. He added: “We must accept that it is the will of the blessed Virgin that this change would take place.” Conservative Catholics who rejected the interfaith ideas were described by Guerra as old-fashioned, fanatical extremists and instigators who cause trouble and stand in the way of religious reconciliation.
One of the speakers at the conference that was held in Fatima was the Jesuit theologian, Jacques Dupuis. He strongly insisted that all religions should unite: “The religion of the future will be a convergence of all faiths under the guidance of the Cosmic Christ who will meet everyone’s needs. The different religions of the world is part of God’s plan for humanity, and to that end the Holy Spirit works through the writings of the Buddhists, Hindus, other non-Christian faiths as well as Christianity… The universal nature of God’s kingdom allows for this, and for that reason the interfaith movement is nothing more than a diverse form of participation in the same mystery of the divine plan of salvation. Ultimately, it will make the Hindu a better Hindu and the Christian a better Christian.” Hindu delegates confirmed this view and said that millions of Hindus are experiencing positive vibrations when visiting shrines of the Virgin Mary in the East.
The worldwide swing of the public opinion in favor of multi- religious thinking sets the scene for the appearance of the cosmic Christ of all religions – the Antichrist (Rev. 13:1-4).
Backsliding among Christians. While the multi-religious orientation is gaining ground, a correlating process of spiritual backsliding occurs among evangelical Christians in the world. This statement could also be reversed: As the light of the Gospel grows dim, the false religions and other works of darkness are getting the upper hand.
Research continues to reveal a steady theological collapse among professing Christians in America. Secularists, Liberals, and Muslims do not need to fear conservative Christians, says Dave Shiflett in The Wall Street Journal. Christians, he says, are not interested in converting the heathen: “They don’t really believe that there is such a thing as the heathen, tending to believe instead that every religion is equally valid. Even the most feared of Christians, the born-agains, often embrace the modern orthodoxies of tolerance and inclusion over the traditional teaching of their faith.”
He cites poll data that 26% of born-agains believe all religions are essentially the same and that 50% believe that a life of good works will enable a person to get to heaven. More than 35% born-again Christians do not believe that
Jesus rose physically from the dead. However, the Bible says: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor. 15:17). Only a risen Christ can impart eternal life to lost sinners.
While the love of many Christians is growing cold because of compromising with the world, the Babylonian conspiracy of non-Christian religions – including a false version of Christianity that embraces them – is making final preparations for the appearance of the universal messiah of all faiths. If the relatively small group of disciples of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ, do not succumb to the Babylonian pressures by defecting to the camp of the enemy, they will be counted worthy to escape the coming tribulation period and to stand before the Son of Man (Lk. 21:36).
History comes full circle. The history of the nations started with a Babylonian conspiracy against the kingdom of God, as described in the first book of the Bible – Genesis (Chapter 11). In the last book of the Bible, Revelation (Chapters 17–18), a description is given of how the history of the nations will end in this dispensation – with a repetition of that early Babylonian conspiracy against the kingdom of God. Modern technology and the proliferation of evil will render the present conspiracy exceedingly more fierce and destructive.
This author is confident that the rebuilding of the ancient city of Babylon, as part of the development of Iraq, will play a major role in the culmination of the end-time Babylonian new world order after the coming of the Antichrist. The Bible strongly supports such a notion.
Article used with permission. Visit Dr Malan's website @ www.bibleguidance.co.za/
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