07 May 2011

Discerning Discernment Ministries Part 1

Now that I've probably lost or upset many by writing about Justification, I'm afraid I will probably only alienate more folks with this series. It's not deliberate on my part, but these are the issues I'm writing about. And, for those who disagree with me...that's fine. Maybe my writings can be helpful in either forcing you to re-think some issues or perhaps I can help solidify and convince you of the validity of your position.


Recently I've tried to navigate the rather confusing waters between the Dominionist tendency in so much of Evangelicalism, its variant of Americanism, as well as factors like Dispensational Theology. There are numerous ministries and programmes which are engaged in the task of 'discernment'.

They are very critical of the Prosperity Gospel, the Charismatic variations of Dominionist theology as well as the New Spirituality becoming popularized by the Emergents and people like Rick Warren. In addition they are also very critical of the growing Ecumenical Movement and globalist tendencies both within the Church and within the corridors of power.

I appreciate much of what these folks are saying, but I do have to say about half of the time, sometimes more I cannot agree. We may both agree that Glenn Beck is wrong, but we're going to differ as to why. We would all condemn his Mormonism, but many of these Discernment Ministries will focus on that point and how it plays into the growing Ecumenical Movement. There are other factors at work here. They hold to theologies which lead them to fear Globalism over and against national autonomy. Not surprising these ministries are usually very popular in the United States because they tend to view the world through that lens. What makes it confusing for many is they will label their views as Biblical. Some of their ideas are Biblical, but in the end they are often just as guilty of confusing Americanist ideologies and other theological missteps with their assessments of current events.

I condemn Glenn Beck, not just because he's Mormon, but pretty much everything he says. His interpretations of history are childish and misleading, and rather than promote truth and discernment he promotes fear. In short, he's deceived and deceiving. The fact that so many Christians chase after him says more about the state of the Church than it does about Glenn Beck.

I've chosen a piece by Brannon Howse to try and demonstrate a bit of what I'm talking about. He stands for the Scriptures, opposes the New Age movement, ecumenical type theologies…all admirable positions. By interacting with the text below, maybe I can in brief show why I'm arguing he's right on those fundamental issues….but also very wrong. His commentaries are sometimes helpful, but often just as harmful as those he's critiquing.

I'm not trying to pick on him per se. He's popular both in his own right as well as with his connections to CrossTalk a popular 'discernment' radio programme.





Is America at a Dangerous Tipping Point for Receiving God's Judgment?

By Brannon Howse

This is one article in our new, 48 page, free, full-color magazine you can order here: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/digest.shtml



Other articles include:

• Understanding Fabian Socialism and What it is Doing to America

• The Strategy and Purpose For Destroying America's Economy

• The Similarities Between The Churches in Germany that Allowed Hitler and the Churches in America Today

• Why They Need a Crisis and The Youth of the Working Class

• How Should Christians Respond To What is Happening to America?

• The Anti-Christian Individuals That Have Brought America to the Brink of Self-Destruction and Why They Are the Heroes of Academia and the Mainstream Media

• How and Why This Can Be the Greatest Hour For the Church



I believe America is at a dangerous tipping point for receiving God's judgment for two reasons. The first reason is America's withering support for the nation of Israel. This began under the Bush Administration but has rapidly advanced under the Obama Administration. In early June of 2009, President Obama traveled to Egypt to deliver an address to the Muslim world. In his speech President Obama cited what he called the holy Koran numerous times. This is the very book that calls for Muslim to murder the Jews as well as Christians.

Proto:

Immediately I would point out the following…….what's he concerned about? Look at the lead in articles that are being promoted. Just these article titles and the fact that I already know what he's going to say strikes me as problematic. Before we even dig into his text, there's much that can be gleaned just from the article titles he's promoting.

Item #1 Fabian Socialism. Now, I'm not a Socialist but that fact that I know he's coming from the Christian Right tells me we have once again an occasion where a Christian has equated Free Market Capitalism as the 'Biblical' position. I've argued extensively elsewhere that first, the Scriptures don't set out macro-economic position. There are Christian economics…for Christians. For nations, since their activities are not holy and they exist in the fallen world, their actions cannot be transformed or sanctified. There are no christian nations, and thus no explicitly Christian ways of going about economics on a macro- or national, or societal level. I don't see why this is so surprising a proposition in a fallen and depraved world.

What's Fabian Socialism doing to America? Why is this such a preeminent Christian concern? I would argue becaue Howse as most American Christians has an unbiblical view of the United States. I would also argue he's making sweeping generalizations about Socialism, but that's another topic.

The strategy or purpose for destroying America's economy? I'm immediately suspicious. While Howse may not agree with people like Obama or the economics of the left, it's highly doubtful they're trying to 'destroy' America. This kind of thinking is not helpful. They're lost people trying to build their Babel too…they just have a different idea of what it should look like. It is mistake to think these people are any less eager for power, fame, and riches than anyone else. They're also considering things like social stability, which massive societal inequity destroys. You may not agree with their assessment or their solutions but to suggest they're rubbing their hands together and with a sinister laugh launching programmes to destroy the most powerful cultural, military, and economic juggernaut in world history….is a bit much.

The similarities between the Church in Germany and Hitler….America

Yes, this has cropped a lot lately and I've written about this as well. Bottom line, I would take a completely opposite view. Bush was the closest thing we've had to fascist military leader in a long time. He set aside many of our laws in the name of security, initiated prison camps, torture, and global war…all cheered on by American Christians. American Evangelicals proved they would have been just like the good christian folk of Germany who signed on with Hitler. They thought it was the Christian thing to do. They though God was with them as well.

Part of the problem is I have yet to hear any well known Christian figure in Christian media circles correctly define or honestly discuss what Fascism was or is, what Socialism is and how it differs from Fascism and Communism. I'm afraid many people think that because the Nazis were called National Socialists and the USSR was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics….that therefore all forms of Socialism are the same. It's just flat incorrect and is literally about a third grade reading of these issues. I'm not an expert, but I'm afraid many of these people have no business going on the air or being published as some kind of experts. Every time I hear them I am convinced…they have no idea what they're even talking about! Pick up a basic history…not Glenn Beck, not Bill O'Reilly, not Hannity or Limbaugh. Pick up something that's not propaganda in its nature and look into it.

We also have articles on the Working Class……this is going to be more Conservative argument, which is fine…but don't confuse American Conservatism with Biblical Christianity. They're not the same. Just because someone throws the label 'Biblical' in front of their arguments does not make it so.

The Anti-Christian individuals and the media……..

Well, our society is full of non-Christians, and of course Biblically speaking, anyone who is not Born Again is going to be to some extent anti-Christian. I have a feeling though that he's talking in terms of social agenda. As far as the media, I know it's considered an unassailable proposition that the media is liberal, but after years of being a news junkie, copious reading and considering a host of issues I have come to reject this label. Our media is not Christian, it's not Constantinian, but it's very much within the Establishment Circle. They do not operate outside the box. A media which doesn't question the fundamental principles of American Foreign Policy, does not challenge the Military-Industrial Complex, the Corporate Plutocracy, and cheerleads our wars and proclaims our soldiers as heroes protecting our freedom….is not liberal.

Now getting into the actual article….point 1….Israel.

Howse identifies himself as a Dispensationalist and that makes sense because proponents of that position often from the world in terms of: America and Israel against the world. Building on the ideas of Peter Marshall and other romanticized notions of American History they have constructed an anti-Biblical framework that established America as the de-facto Covenant Nation for the Gospel Age. The language isn't covenantal, it's more in terms of God's Special Role for America, or American Exclusivism. And their Dispensational theology teaches that God has two people…the Jews and the Gentile Church. As we've shown elsewhere this 19th century theology is completely at odds with the clear teaching of the New Testament that God has One People, in fact He's always has One People…the Israel of God. The Jews, the land, the entire Old Testament system pointed to and was fulfilled in Jesus Christ…and as Paul teaches in Galatians is gone. Hebrews echoes and in fact amplifies the Redemptive-Historical necessity of this fact. The Jews are not the chosen people any longer, and the land typology has been fulfilled. The Levantine geography is in no way Holy. The modern Zionist State is not a fulfillment of prophecy and is just a further example of Jewish rejection of Christ the Messiah. Many are unaware that even many in the Orthodox Jewish Community reject the modern Zionist state. They believe that only the Messiah can re-establish Israel…..they're right, except for the fact that they missed the Messiah over 1900 years ago. The Gospels, the book of Romans and the book of Galatians clearly teach the True Meaning of what a Jew was, as well as in the New Covenant era a clearer understanding of what a Jew is and what is meant by Israel. Paul teaches that believers in Jesus Christ are the Sons of Abraham and heirs according to the promise. Israel was re-established, 1900 years ago. Acts 15 tells us that the Tabernacle of David if the Church of Jesus Christ.

So the fact that America is being set up for judgment because she's not standing by Israel….besides being theologically erroneous is simply not true. This ASSUMES America's 'blessed' state which is Biblically unsustainable, as well as assuming Israel is the Chosen nation…and in addition assumes Obama is somehow not pro-Israel. Just because he's not as pro-Israel as the Evangelical-backed Bush does not mean he's somehow turned away from America's key ally/proxy in the Middle Eastern theatre. If he really did so, he would have never been allowed to assume the office.

Obama's famed speech was simply a poor attempt to reach out to a part of the world that has been brutalized by Western powers for over a century and certainly by American power for the last 50 or so years. Most Americans are both not aware of the history of America's interventions, nor have they ever stopped to consider the position of the people who live there. America has backed numerous dictatorial regimes, militaristic and oppressive states, and America's wars, proxy as well as hands on, have resulted in the deaths of millions….yes, millions.

George Bush was the almost surreal capstone to a multi-generational Imperial policy and in just 8 years he literally destabilized the entire Global Order and shattered longstanding relationships and alliances in the diplomatic framework by which America governed her empire. Historians will not be kind to Bush. He will rightly be reckoned one of the worst and most destructive Presidents in American history. But at present, I don't think many in the American public and certainly in the American Church appreciate the earth shattering effect of Bush's eight year reign of international chaos.

Obama inherited a mess and was simply trying to show an ounce of humanity to that part of the world….and he's begrudged for even attempting that!

One good thing has resulted from the Bush policies….the present Arab Spring. However one thing is certain….no one in the State Department or White House neither foresaw it nor are they pleased. Israel is practically frantic. The whole framework that has maintained a tolerable peace for the last 30 years is being undone. Bush wanted to spread democracy….well, it's happened. They're overthrowing the monsters America has backed for generations and rather than helping Israel…George Bush more than anyone has created a destabilizing situation. The Conservative media has tried to spin it by suggesting this vindicates Bush. In fact, the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia are a rejection of American Imperial policy. The additional situations in Libya and Syria are part of a regional frustration neither pro- or anti- American. Although there is considerable evidence to suggest the Libya situation has been in part manipulated by American interests. Obama for all his talk has really proved to be nothing more than a continuation of the Bush policy…simply with a bit more savvy and ability and couching things in diplomatically marketable terms.

Is Howse trying to suggest Obama is a Muslim? He's certainly not a Christian in the Biblical sense…but I can't think of an American President in the last century that was…maybe Coolidge? But to suggest he's Muslim, is misleading if that's what he means.

Howse:

Days before his trip to the region President Obama declared that Iran has the right to a nuclear facility for energy. Why do they need a nuclear facility for energy when they have all that oil?

Proto:

Two reasons……..

1. Oil doesn't help with electricity. The country isn't exactly blessed with hydroelectric opportunities, and I am unaware of sufficient coal resources. I may wrong on that point.

2. Considering they share borders with NATO member Turkey…although relations have eased recently, American proxy Iraq, American occupied Afghanistan, as well as America's recent and current domination of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, a fleet stationed in Bahrain, and the Great Game part II being played in nearby Central Asia….can you blame them? An American president declares them 'evil' and conquers the countries on either side of them. Well, I know if I was Iran I would start considering some other options.

Howse:

We all know they want a nuclear bomb. Obama has clearly thrown Israel under the bus; by weakening Israel's national security and making them vulnerable to a nuclear strike by Iran. In addition he has increased Iran's threat to America's national security.

Proto:

Maybe they do. I don't doubt it and I wouldn't blame them. What else can they do? They've been painted into a corner. Obama has not thrown Israel under the bus. George Bush did. He more than any other recent President destabilized the region and put Israel into danger. I think maybe some in Israel are finally starting to realize that. Bush's policies in Iraq have given Iran a venue to operate…which they dare not ignore.

How has Obama increased Iran's threat to American security? What has he done any different than Bush? Of course one might ask…is Iran really a threat to America's security? What is it they're going to do?

Howse:

Since 1998, Iran has been practicing shooting a missile off a cargo ship. If one missile, with a nuclear war head, was launched from international waters over the United States and detonated only a few miles above the center of our nation, an electronic magnetic pulse could very easily put America back in the mid 1800s technology wise by damaging vital electrical devices such as America's power-grid and our military defenses. Military experts and scientists have testified before the U.S. Congress and declared that the only way our enemies could bring us down militarily is through an EMP bomb.

Proto:

This is pretty silly. I'm afraid it's typical Right-wing fear mongering. Yes, many terrible things could happen….and America also has done some pretty terrible things. The whole EMP thing was debunked years ago. This is also pretty typical of Conservative media. When the fear-story is debunked, just ignore the facts and keep saying it over and over again.

I don't suppose he would ever consider asking why….why would they want to attack the United States? They're evil? That doesn't cut it. Americans are evil to. Are they somehow exempt from …There is none that doeth good, no not one?

Beside Iran knows if they ever did that, that would be the end of their country, they'd be wiped off the map. I know the Right-wing answer is...they're fanatics and don't care. There are plenty of fanatics in the world, but I don't believe for a second they're going to annihilate themselves.

I guess the only alternative is to attack, bomb, kill. What else can a Christian do?

Howse:

In Genesis 12:3 God says that He will curse those that curse Israel and bless those that bless Israel. I believe one of the only reasons God's wrath has been delayed for America is because of our support for Israel and now America has almost completely withdrawn this support and I believe it puts us at great risk for being cursed by God.

Proto:

Well that's nice, but there's not an ounce of Scripture to support this view. The New Testament redefines Israel…it no longer has anything to do with Middle Eastern geographical boundaries. Again, this ignores that Christ is true Israel and as well as the Apostolic interpretation of the Old Testament.

I would argue that any nation that dares to declare itself in possession of Divine Mandate, a nation that commits evil deeds and yet calls them good, a nation that teaches an ideology that confuses Christianity with its own national and cultural values…is in danger of judgment and curse.

10 comments:

David said...

There you go speaking that thing called "truth" again. No wonder so many people get upset by your writings. :)

Be careful what you write though. I think I read somewhere that if you don't support Brannon Howse then you'll be under God's curse...or maybe it was that he sends out a group of his writing staff to rough you up. If Phyllis Schlafly and Kirk Cameron show up at your door with brass knuckles and switchblades don't say I didn't warn you. Scary stuff.

Ah...I kid. But I've read far too many of their ridiculous articles to take them serious in the least. You're like a discernment ministry for those who have fallen into the trap of listening to these so-called "discernment ministries."

John A. (Protoprotestant) said...

Sometimes they can be scary....(smile)

But really, I think they mean well. But I want people to know that there are others just as committed to Scripture who have a very different view of what's happening.

I feel bad for people. It must be confusing. You've got people like me criticizing Americanism, and then you have people who say they are critiquing it...when in fact all they're doing is promoting a more radical version of it. They just mean they're not going with the flow of culture.

I'm saying the whole thing is wrong.

Well I know some of the readers here like Howse. I hope I don't make them too upset...but I certainly won't tell them they'll be cursed if they don't agree with me.

David said...

Sorry, apparently I was in a sarcastic mood. I get frustrated by this stuff because, like you, I know how enticing and deceiving it can be. I know you used to be a dispensationalist, which most of the worldviewweekend (WW) folks are. While I never held to that eschatology, I was really into the whole culture wars thing. I was on the WW mail list for a long time, and followed the ACLJ page, and raged against political correctness, and fought for political conservatism, watched Hannity and listened to Limbaugh...the whole nine yards. This was during the time that I was a Christian (I had accepted Jesus as savior, prayed to God, tried to live morally, etc.) but had not yet read the Bible for myself in its entirety. I had heard various stories (the birth story, the crucifixion, Abraham, Noah, Joseph, David and Goliath) but I had no conception of it as an organic whole. The idea of there being a single flow of redemptive history that unified every page of scripture had never even crossed my mind. In other words, I was in the infancy stage of my faith. I was still on milk, but needed to grow and move on to solid food. Then I read/studied the whole Bible for myself. It was amazing. All that other stuff just fell away, like scales from my eyes. I would never be able to look at the world the same way again. Those desires that I had previously held just weren't on the pages of scripture. The scriptural mandate was to live life as a sacrifice to God, to pour oneself as a drink offering, to submit, to be humble, to suffer when necessary, to love and pray for enemies, to communicate the character of Christ in all that we do.

David said...

My first comment above was petty, but I really believe all that stuff is of the enemy. It is nothing but a distraction from who we are called to be and what we are called to do as the church. It is futility. It is driven by a desire to create a "godly" society, which I agree is pursued with good intentions, but their utopian vision is a fiction. All men, even Christians, are marked by sin and the temptations of power has always led to oppression and persecution regardless of who wields it. It is, as you call it, a Babel project. it is man's desire to build for himself a Edenic existence, yet it is something only God can give. It is the spirit of the serpent that drives those desires. They forfeit the church's God-given mission in order to pursue worldly goals. It is as if while the Israelites were exiled in Babylon, instead of seeking God and longing for Him to restore them to the land he had promised, they instead sought to remake Babylon into a replacement of Israel. If only they could get power and influence and transform the culture it would be as though they had never left. But it was God who sent them out as punishment, and it was God that promised to bring them back. That would have been a rejection of the authority and will of God. So too, we are called to be pilgrims and witnesses, knowing our true identity as members of the kingdom of God, bearing in ourselves the character of Christ, including his suffering and self-sacrifice when necessary. I just cannot come to terms with the will to power and the American-centric views that most American Christians hold. I feel like most things are driven by a pragmatic and self-centered viewpoint that assesses what is best according to the flesh rather than the Spirit. I know men like Howse and his fellow contributors at WW believe they are doing God's work. There is no malice or ill-intent on their part. But just the same, my heart aches when I read these things or hear them speak and know how many other Americans are listening and agreeing vehemently with every word. It is truly shameful, and I believe the Christian witness in America, and perhaps in other places as well, is tarnished by their work. The loudest and clearest voices that supposedly represent Christianity around the globe seem to be voices of people who have truly missed the mark.

David said...

Those who are engaged in this type of "ministry" surely feel like they are participating in pious and godly activity. It is a deception that C.S. Lewis's Wormwood would be proud of.

Anonymous said...

John
Apart from seeing Howse's name on a few articles here and there, I must admit to not knowing a great deal about the fellow. But that aside, my eyes rolled decidedly into their sockests upon reading that America was on the verge of some drastic form of judgement based on a dwindling support for Isreal.
To be honest, where one takes a position [ or if they don't] on dispensationalism has a huge bearing on how they are interpreting scripture, and surely , scripture should be the starting point of any doctrine. However , my point here is that those who literalise scripture are more likely to not also be dispensationalist, but premillenial as well.
I wonder whether the Darby/ Schofield school of thought could have forseen the effect that zionism has had on global politics as we see it today.

Ray

Anonymous said...

Hi John

I've been reading your articles for probably a couple of months now and you really have helped me see things in a better light. I really appreciate the time you have put into helping others get out of some of the 'deceptions' we may find ourselves in, or, leaning towards. Thank you.
Lorena

Jim Wetzel said...

Another good piece!

One small quibble: oil can indeed be used to make electricity, either indirectly (by turning water into steam, which is then used to turn a turbine which in turn rotates a coil of wire in a magnetic field), or directly (using a gas turbine engine to turn the coil of wire). Electric utilities typically generate some portion of their electricity from oil ... the part that they may need infrequently but on short notice. The majority of the load is steady-state and is generated by more efficient means, such as hydroelectric, nuclear, or coal-fired.

Myself, I can understand why Iranians might want to generate electricity by nuclear methods: cleanliness, efficiency, and reliability come quickly to mind. And if weapons-grade isotopes also happened to be produced, well ... the recent history of the world seems to show that there are two kinds of countries: the kind with nukes, and the kind that become the targets of US aggression. If the Iranians aren't trying to make nuclear weapons, they're crazy. Which seems insane, but that's how it goes when you share a planet with the Empire.

John A. (Protoprotestant) said...

Jim W.

Thanks for that info. Lots of people around here use heating oil and obviously I knew the objective in a power producing plant is to generate steam...I just didn't think oil would be an efficient means to do that.

That's interesting about the short notice part. What they keep a big tank on hand for backup? What about using it as a primary source of fuel for the generators? I would think it wouldn't be financially wise...unless you had no other resource. Do you know...would you use crude, or would it have to be refined?

I'm just wondering because I know Iran has very little in the way of refining ability. They actually import most of their gasoline I believe.

I think your second paragraph is puts it well.

Lorena- Thank you, that's quite encouraging.

Ray- Thanks. I'm not sure if Howse is quite a national name, but he's sure popular on the radio. I think Darbyism has had a tremendous effect on world politics. There are a lot of politicians affected by it...George Bush certainly was.

A lot of people are unable to articulate it. It's certainly a vastly intricate system and not apparent when reading the Scriptures. My wife always talks about how as a teenager and young woman she had just virtually given up on trying to read the prophets, let alone something like Revelation. As far as she was concerned she had no possible hope in understanding them. Of course she was looking for things that aren't really there, wasn't finding them, and then despairing. She resigned to having to trust the pastor and teachers in her Baptist church.

Money's a big part too. American Christians are funnelling a lot of money to the Israeli settlement movement. Those folks are the real zealots and quite aggressive.

I used to be caught up in it too. The writings of Leon Uris really stirred me and Orde Wingate was certainly one of my heroes. He was Plymouth Brethren and very moved by Dispensational Eschatology.

David- No need to apologize for being sarcastic. Paul was quite sarcastic on occasion, sometimes I even laugh out loud at his sarcasm. It can be done in a bad spirit, but I don't think I would accuse you of that.

Your Wormwood statement cuts right to it. That's what has burdened me. Some of these folks, the CrossTalk crowd and others are very appealing to those very keen to be faitful to Scripture. These folks sound good and preach a strong message.

They're not ALL bad, but in the end I think they're definitely doing more harm then good. Rather than really address the root of these issue, they're often distracting people, leading them down an equally dangerous road.

Your third comment was excellent. That hypothetical analogy of the Jews trying to turn Babylon into Israel....when I first picked up on that years ago, it just floored me. I realized that's exactly what all these different Christian groups are trying to do.

The whole Pilgrim idea of the Kingdom and the ethic that goes with it, is really rejected and condemned by most Christians.

Anonymous said...

Hi John.

I think you were really spot-on about Howse. He's not wrong about everything - but the things he is wrong about are pretty major.
During the election (that lasted a good 2 years) I was listening to him and others and they had me worried sick! And you know what?
None of it has come to pass. No brown shirts showed up at my door ready to take my daughter away. No one has taken away my home schooling rights. No one has threatened me in any way - if fact - it seems to be pretty much business as usual.

Lisa