Looking for God in all the wrong places
We see more and more of the church looking to the world for a connection. Some claim that God is everywhere, throughout the world in every culture God is expressed.
On the subject of Culture (M7 conference of the Nazarenes) the speaker is Jon Middendorf who has been introducing emergent teachings and practices to the Nazarene church:
“We look for evidence of the divine and we find it in nature, in art, in literature, in music in film, so, rather than fear the surrounding culture, and the surrounding cities which predictably results in a bunker mentality the emerging congregation embraces the culture and expects to find God in it” the emerging congregation embraces the culture recognizing that its not all pretty but it embraces the culture and even then expects to find god in it because there is nowhere god isn’t. there are many places where the church isn’t but I don’t think that means there are places where god isn’t.”
Is God in his explanation? The church has done outreaches to nearly every culture to man, there is no need to denigrate her to give credibility to the movement. Perfect love casts out fear, to have this love one must have biblical faith- those in mission work are not fearful of culture they have gone into the cultures, societies and the worlds religion for millennia. Those involved in the emerging church will not critique the culture; instead it criticizes the church!
When did God start being in culture? The Bible tells us the evidence for God is in God’s creation in nature, not in the things manmade. but Rom. 1:17-20 “The just shall live by faith." …For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
The dictionaries definition of “culture” is: “The quality in a person, or society that rises from interest in arts, letters, scholarly pursuits, etc. 2. a particular form or stage of civilzation: Greek culture.—The Random House Dictionary
“2. the development and refinement of mind, morals and taste 4. Anthropol. The sum total of the attainments and learned behavior patterns of any specific period or people”—Funk & Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary
“tillage, cultivation 4: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” —The Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Cultures are developed by man’s interests, they are expressions of ones beliefs and religion in their customs, - cultures are not benign. Ancient cultures caused societies and communities to be bound together by common interests and often religion was a priority, permeating their lifestyle. To say the emerging congregation embraces the culture and expects to find god in it sounds too similar to the indigenous peoples movement and is just as wrong. In fact "Many Nations One Voice Celebration" Conference held at Silver Springs, MD (Co-Sponsored by the Elijah List) emergent leader Brian McLaren joined himself with Richard Twiss, Terry LaBlanc, Randy Woodley, Jonathan Maracle, Suuqinna & Qualmaniq who are all involved in promoting the indigenous people movement to the nations.
God has not been, nor is he present working in each culture. Israel was told “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles.” Ps. 106:35 “But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; and it became a snare to them.” This can certainly happen , and is happening to the church when it looks to culture.
God does not dwell in manmade cultures, those who do not know God but have other gods. To embrace culture is the Zietgiest of our day. If the divine or God can be found in the culture-- in art, in literature, in music, in film, etc. then do we need to preach Christ in the church to the culture. Since there is no “Christian culture” what is the culture influenced by? Individuals and their collective values; which are subject to change. God's Truth does not change and it transcends culture. However God has the capacity to reach and change culture and the values for the better (to his values) but this can only occur by those promoting the gospel. The Church is to bring the gospel to the culture it exists in, God is cannot be found in any culture without the Gospel.
Cultures are developed by man’s interests, they are expressions of ones beliefs and religion in their customs, cultures are not benign. Ancient cultures caused societies and communities to be bound together by common interests and often religion was a priority, permeating their lifestyle.
The Bible does not use the word culture but addresses culture and society as the world. The Bible addresses people groups as “nations”; their religion and how they worship their gods. Satan is the god of this age the ruler of this world system- this includes all cultures which are under sins affect. Eph 2:1-2 tells us of people being dead in trespasses and sins, because they walk according to the course of this world, they are sons of disobedience. This is why we are told “not be conformed to this world ...” God’s solution- 1 Cor.2:12: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God’, we are then in the world but not of it. We are instructed to go into all the world and preach Christ (Mt.28:19).
The cultures are part of the world system which are antagonistic to God. John 17:14: "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." God’s word is the light that has come into the darkness. Jesus in John 14:17 "the Spirit of truth, the world cannot receive.” The world includes cultures and societies.
I Jn. 2:15-16: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-- is not of the Father but is of the world”
The Bible teaches the world and its system are condemned. The majority of cultures in the world have a religious basis; the roots of manmade cultures came from the tower of Babel, God did not approve. There are enough Bible examples to illustrate that God did not approve of cultures in ancient Bible times. God told Israel Deut.18:9: “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.”
We need to apprehend this Biblical viewpoint to see this correctly, or we will be lost in a plethora of opinions, of new ways to evangelize and conduct church.
God called Abraham OUT from Ur that was a pagan culture. He did not leave him there to find God in it, neither did he send him back to reform it. Moses was brought up in the Egyptian culture and was removed into the wilderness. After 40 years of preparation God then sent Moses to call Israel OUT of Egypt. He did not have him reform it or look for evidences of God in it (Heb. 11:27), because there were none.
The influence of emergent relative thinking has you begin with a wrong premise so you will come to an erroneous conclusion. Middendorf is a main example of this influence. The fact that out culture is post Christian and moving further away as time goes on proves that the church that has the power of God is not impacting it as we should. We should consider that when the church begins to look like its contemporary culture we can call it "emergent culture," as it has taken on the properties of secularism. The basis of God found in the culture or other religions is pure ecumenism. The trend is to find common ground in other religions because God has been working in all the cultures. As one adopts this model they will interpret scripture by the culture. Cultures change, God and his word does not. As believers that follow Christ we are sanctified by the word and the culture should see us as different, not the same we are to offer something that the culture cannot.
Middendorf: “… The emerging conversation questions any image of God any message from God any interpretation of Scripture any expression of Faith or any practice of the Church that doesn’t look like Jesus.”
There are far more things being practiced in the emergent church that do not look like Christ than do. Putting Christian labels on yoga, labyrinth walking, eastern type meditations, accepting the Eucharist and other Catholic rituals etc. does not make any of this look like Jesus or suitable for spiritual practice. I find it difficult to understand how statements like these are overlooked when the opposite is being done. How aware are the youth in the church
He further said “Then give me a concise definition of the emerging church The emerging church is simply a body of believers seeking to live the way of Christ in a post modern era.”
If this were accurate then they would not be questioning the word like they do but submitting to it as their guide to a spiritual life so they can reach people in the culture and subculture. Instead they are letting the culture develop their lives at the same time thinking they are affecting it with the spirit of Christ.
We are told that because culture has changed the church must change to reach the culture. Actually the culture is looking for something that is proven, true and rock solid, something that does not change but is the same, the truth does not change. We do not need to rethink- they do. We have the truth that has been the same for ages. We only need to explain it better not change it.