The Episcopal Church: The Way of Balaam
False Teachers and the re-appearance of ancient Gnostic beliefs
By Dave Doveton
Cadar Press, SA 2010
Reviewed by David W. Virtue
March 28, 2011
Manchester Cathedral to host tarot card readers and healers at 'new age' festival screamed a headline in a British broadsheet. The cathedral will also feature crystal healers and 'dream interpretation'.
Fortune tellers, meditation experts and traditional healers will fill the pews during the day-long festival in May. The Bishop of Manchester, Rt. Rev Nigel McCulloch, said he wanted to celebrate 'all forms of spirituality'. Bishop Nigel said the unconventional activities are not incompatible with Christian belief.
On January 5, 2008, the new Episcopal Bishop of Nevada was blessed at his consecration by a Muslim Imam, a Hindu chaplain, a Bahai leader, a Jewish Rabbi as well as a Baptist minister and a Roman Catholic bishop.
In June of the previous year in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, twin boys were baptized in a ceremony that used Jewish and Muslim blessings.
Just before the dawn of the new millennium, Canadian Anglican bishop Michael Ingham distributed his seasonal 'Christmas message' in which he predicted that the future would be 'post denominational', in other words divisions between churches would break down due to the increasing independence of young people who would not necessarily follow the 'faith of their fathers',but would go where their spiritual needs were met. The he made an astonishing assertion; "The big emerging movement of the future - still young but new in the unstoppable - will be global inter-faith consciousness. Human nature has not ceased to be spiritual, but human beings have become tired of the relentless and destructive competitiveness of religions each claiming to the only way. People by the millions are now crossing boundaries formerly patrolled by powerful institutional authorities, and meeting each other as fellow seekers after truth. Just as ecumenism has wrought profound changes among the churches, inter-faith movements will bring the religions into new self-critical reformulation."
His message is clear - we are the victims of wicked church leaders whose orthodox doctrines are preventing us from meeting with people of other faiths, and, more importantly, that we are all fellow seekers after truth, and we need to discover the truth each possesses.
At St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Seattle courses are taught in 'evolutionary astrology'. The premise is that each soul that is in the process of progressive evolution towards eventual resurrection with the 'Divine.'
Matthew Fox, an ex-Roman Catholic priest, explains that divinity is greater than any one religion. God is like an underground river...the implication of this is that there is nothing final or complete about the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Like the syncretising thinkers of five centuries ago, the heterodox bishop Ingham attempts to adapt Christian belief to a more profound 'cosmic religion' of mankind; like Pico, John Shelby Spong advances his 12 theses to reformulate the Christian faith so that it can be blended into the 'universal religion'. Like all Gnostic attempts, they try and reconcile two mutually contradictory religious systems - paganism and Christianity.
Dave Doveton, Canon theologian and Director of the Training Centre for Ministries and Community Development in the Anglican Diocese of Mauritius, believes that Gnostic temptation is at the root of every Christian error and heresy.
"In gnosis everything is the intellectual self-production of the individual. This is the real reason why the only authentically Christian heresy is gnosis: the pretension of a self-redemption of man who does not need the intervention of the Other of [One] on High, that is the intervention of God," he writes.
God and the gods
The Episcopal bishop of Washington, John Chane in speaking of relations between different faiths, states that "we all worship the same God", but when we turn to the church fathers, we find an entirely different opinion. When Bishop Polycarp wrote to the emperor Trajan in AD 155/6, the accusations against him included the charge of atheism, because the Christians did not acknowledge or worship the gods of the Greco-Roman culture.
The Bible makes it clear that the God of the Bible is not the same as the pagan gods or gods of the nations. If we conceive of God wrongly, our god is an idol, writes Doveton.
The aim of Eastern mystical systems is to attain god consciousness, or to realize that I and god are one - I am god. This is attained by liberation form "illusion" - the illusion that the individual self is separate from the Brahman or universal self. Christians, on the other hand, believe we are separated from God the creator by our sinful state; we are not divine and furthermore we need redemption. This redemption or salvation comes through having faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.
Doveton notes the paganism being taught at Hartford Seminary with these lines from Miriam Therese Winter, professor of liturgy worship and spirituality, "Our Mother who is within us we celebrate your many names. Your wisdom come. Your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us..."
Matthew Fox suggests that different religions worship the same god, they merely have different names for God, or as he puts it, divinity has multiple faces - including a feminine face.
A New Zealand Anglican bishop maintains he is 'no wishy-washy non-believer' yet rejects the idea of God as a supreme being preferring to define God in terms of 'love' and 'spirit'. But under these outward forms and expressions, another belief system is being imported which is at its heart, Gnostic and pagan.
At Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, one can hear at the Eucharistic prayer, "We break this bread for our ancestors in the Jewish faith, our brothers and sisters in Islam, our friends who are Buddhists..." and this at a key Christocentric part of the liturgy.
Doveton says you cannot change the Trinitarian biblical language and terminology for God - especially in prayer and worship. You cannot abandon the Trinitarian formula of Father, Son and Holy Ghost and substitute other terms addressing God as 'mother', 'healer' or 'life-giver', 'painbearer'. "If God is defined by my need for legitimation and affirmation as a gendered creature, then God is defined in terms of human need and human dignity. Then humanity has become the measure of all things because outside of humanity, nothing has being, nothing has significance. This is in essence the Gnostic belief that because humanity uses language to express religious ideas, in effect humans create the world of the divine.
"Names are part of the specificity of personal identity. Creator, redeemer and spirit are not referents of specific personal identity, when they are used they give a view of God as remote and distant.
"Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has a side chapel with walls adorned with the sacred symbols of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism. The purpose of the chapel is to create a 'sacred space' for a person of any faith to pray, but underneath it imports a new theology of worship into a Christian church. By allowing a 'multifaith space' we are in effect denying the exclusive claim of Jesus to be the one in whom is salvation and help in time of need."
Doveton blasted the use of labyrinths "as a device to communicate with the goddess, or feminine principle. Lauren Artress, one of the driving forces behind the use of labyrinths says walking the labyrinths is a spiritual process that leads us to experience the 'god within', the 'sacred feminine'.
In Philadelphia, at the Episcopal Cathedral, a sand mandala or wheel of life was constructed by a Tibetan Buddhist monk. This temporary display of Buddhist tradition and symbolism includes representations of Jesus and Buddha. "Mandalas and labyrinths are not spiritually neutral, they are magic diagrams or devices which lay claim to their surrounding 'space' as week as subjugating spiritually the people in the neighborhood."
Doveton pounded theologian Marcus Borg for abandoning a theistic worldview and adopting a worldview in which nature is divine. "Embrace of a pagan-Gnostic enlightenment experience and belief in the divine within seems to lead ineluctably to the abandonment of doctrinal orthodoxy. Says Borg, "I do not believe that Christianity is the only way of salvation or that the Bible is the revealed will of God, or that Jesus is the unique son of God."
Walter Melnyk, a former Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, also believes in two mutually contradictory faiths simultaneously 'walking between' the worlds of pagan Druidry and Christianity as does the Rev. Chris Horseman, an English vicar with a degree in white witchcraft.
Doveton says the Gnostic tendency to place experience above clear scriptural teaching is apparent in the decisions of TEC to permit the 'blessing' of same sex unions. He cited the Bishop of Vermont, Tom Ely who provided the justification for these 'blessings' arguing that for homosexuals and lesbians "sexual expression is something entirely different from that condemned by a few verses of Holy Scripture." In other words, says Doveton, the 'pervasive, absolute and strong biblical prohibition of same-gender sexual relations which has been interpreted as such and upheld by the church for two millennia, can be overturned on the basis of personal experience. Human experience is highly subjective and can be to totally misleading,' says Doveton.
The author cites British theologian Alistair McGrath who argues cogently that "doctrine interprets our feelings even contradicting them when they are misleading. It stresses the faithfulness of God to his promises and the reality of his resurrection hope - even where experience seems to suggest otherwise. Doctrine makes sense of the contradictions of experience."
Doveton's views on the infiltration of Gnostic can be summarized thus:
* The Gnostic doctrine of the migration of the soul results in spiritual elitism.
* Gnostic influence reduces faith to the interior, the personal and the subjective.
* The Gnostic idea of salvation is similar to forms of Hinduism and Buddhism; Gnostics believe that man's problem is not sin but ignorance.
* For the Gnostic, the problem is not an 'original sin' but the captivity of the soul in material existence.
* For Katharine Jefferts Schori, PB of The Episcopal Church, Jesus is the route to God for Christians, people of other faiths approach God through their own social contexts, they relate to God, they experience god in human relationships
* The implication is clear here - Jesus is not the unique revelation of God, valid for all people at all times; He is merely the exemplar of a relationship with God.
* Gnostic attitudes to the authority of Holy Scripture are that it is seen as incomplete and needs adding to. So any one cultural expression or contextual embodiment of Christianity is limited in its understanding and experience of the gospel.
* Gnosticism is bound up with victimhood. Bishop Tom Wright observes that many issues in the Christian church today suffer from a complete lack of reasoned debate and are instead decided on the basis of a priority of "victimhood"...which enables anyone with hurt feelings to claim the moral high ground, and the invention of various 'identities' which demand not only protection but immunity from critique.
* Gnostics regard states of mind or consciousness as of primary importance and regard behavior as of secondary importance.
* For many churchmen in TEC sin is not a breach of right behavior but rather, "sin lies not in the specific actions but in the context and intention with which it is performed and received.
The last word"
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4: 1
Balaam did not learn from his encounter with the angel of the Lord, but continued to lead the children of Israel into idolatrous worship - the worship of Baal-Peor, one of the foulest cults of Canaan. In the end he came under the judgment of God, which according to several NT writers as well as Jesus himself awaits all false teachers, all 'Balaams'. There is no doubting the terrifying, severe, complete and final judgment of God on all 'Balaams' including The Episcopal Church.
Copies of the book can be obtained here:
Fr Gavin Mitchell
Secretary Anglican Mainstream SA
Tel: +27 021 874 1120 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +27 021 874 1120 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax:+27 086 568 4013
Mobile: +27 083 799 0726
For a more complete picture of the situation in the Diocese of Manchester's cathedral read Charles Raven's splendid analysis here:http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=14173
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