Thursday, August 17, 2006

PSEUDO-MISSION: Inclusivism

We could talk about the inclusive tribe of God, for example: in a world of increasing tribalism, continually threatened by intertribal warfare and genocide, God is creating a barrier-breaking tribe that welcomes, appreciates, and links all tribes. This inclusive tribe isn't an in-group that makes other tribes into out-groups; rather it's a "come on in" group that seeks to help all tribes maintain their unique identity and heritage while being invited into a tribe of tribes who live together in mutual respect, harmony, and love -- because God is the universal tribal chief who created and loves all tribes."
(Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus [W Publishing Group, 2006], pp. 147-8)

"There is no other way of creating an international ethos than the preaching of the Gospel of God as the Lord of the nations, and as the Father of the men, women and children out of whose mutual relations the mirages called nations are conjured up. It is only through a sense of the common Fatherhood of God that we can hope to awaken a sense of the brotherhood of Man. Thus there can be no international ethos without a religious basis."
(
Arnold J. Toynbee, cited in William Paton, The Church and the New Order (1941)*



The best way in which to advance the Kingdom of God on earth is by adopting a new gospel of inclusivism. This idea first took root many decades ago. It is now producing abundant variegated fruit. This series of Herescope posts on Pseudo-Mission began with C. Peter Wagner's quotations (7/31/06) about the new nature of international mission work. He had referenced an earlier 1932 Laymen's Inquiry which issued a summary (book) entitled Re-Thinking Missions.

Re-Thinking Missions caused great controversy at the time, particularly among the Presbyterians (J. Gresham Machen, et al). After the dust settled, it became obvious that foreign missions needed to come out from the direct control of denominations if these recommended new theologies and practices were to be successfully instituted. Parachurch mission organizations were formed over the ensuing decades. Picking up the torch to implement the original suggestions in the book were the neoevangelicals, who headquartered themselves at Fuller Theological Seminary. Here, in a "think tank" atmosphere, men like C. Peter Wagner and Ralph Winter repackaged theology and reformatted mission strategies to fit the Re-Thinking Missions model. A "strategic" global mission movement was born.

It is therefore relevant to highlight a few more critical aspects of this proposed reform. Re-Thinking Missions endorsed inclusivism as a "natural stage" in the expansion of Christianity through mission work. In a section entitled "The Attitude Toward Reform," The authors wrote about "borrowing" from other faiths. It was their contention that Christianity could be "trusted" to co-mingle with other faiths and survive intact:

"b. Growth in non-Christian religions: borrowings. Whenever two vigorous religions are in contact, each will tend to borrow from the other -- terms, usages, ideas, even gods and articles of faith. After centuries of such borrowing they show strong resemblances, like Taoism and Buddhism in China, while holding to some precious points of difference. Commonly the borrowing is without acknowledgement: each religion takes what it can use from the other, or from the common fund of popular usage, and gives it a turn and a derivation suited to its own history. So Christianity in its early days adopted Christmas tree, or Yule festival, or imagery from the mysteries, or philosophical tools from the stock of Greece and Rome. Sometimes the new acquisitions are merely set up outside or loaded into the general warehouse without logical regard to what is already there: Hinduisim has frequently added to its inner variety this way. Sometimes they take root and grow on the existing stock, because they belong there by natural stages of advance." [emphasis added]

In this next section, note the clever reversal. The fact that pagan religions BORROW from Christianity and integrate them into their own framework is seen as a positive development. The opposite possibility -- that Christianity may BORROW from pagan religions and integrate their practices and doctrines -- isn't at first acknowledged:

"In the presence of Christianity, it is not surprising that the living religions of the East should grow in this way, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. They are not as a rule averse to acknowledging the debt, even while claiming that what they borrow is their own by right. In this way, little by little, much of Christianity is assimilated by these religions without calling it Christianity. Not merely modes of worship, preaching, Sunday schools, hymns, popular fads, but aspects of the conception of God, ethical notions, the honoring of Christ, may be taken over.

"What should be the attitude of the Christian mission to this process? At best, it would appear to be a striking success of its own work: a transfer of the substance apart from the name. With what we are concerned except for the spread through the world of what Christianity means?

"Nevertheless, there are misgivings. In part from a fear that the adoption will be imitative, unreal, or half-understood, leaving men satisfied with what resembles Christianity without its reality. In part from a very different fear, namely, that the adoption will be real as far as it goes, the non-Christian religion thereby receive new vigor, the contrast between it and Christainity be lessened, the motives which have led its member to come over into the Christian fellowship correspondeningly minimized. Those who feel this latter fear are evidently thinking in terms of competition. We have in mind a missionary who defines the God of Islam as a God of power, whereas the Christian God is a God of love. He is accordingly disturbed when he finds a Moslem teaching that the compassion of Allah is the same as the love of God: he inclines to cry plagiarism? and to warn all Moslems that the idea of God as loving Father is Christian and private property!

"It is time for the Christian movement to have overcome these unworthy fears springing from a sense of proprietorship. The unique thing in Christianity is not borrowable nor transferable without the transfer of Christianity itself. Whatever can be borrowed and successfully grown on another stock does in fact belong to the borrower. … Hence all fences and private properties in truth are futile: the final truth, whatever it may be, is the New Testament of every existing faith." [emphases added]

This conclusion is a stunning announcement, which is in effect saying that "all truth is God's truth" -- an integrationist position that permits the rapid dissolution of the tenets of Christianity due to BORROWING from other religions.

Note that the exclusivity of Christianity is being negatively portrayed as "competition" and "proprietorship." The authors make the argument is that any "Chrisitan who could be anxious" about "strengthening" a pagan religion "displays too little confidence in the merits of his own faith." What should be a better response for the poor missionary who expresses concern and dismay? The authors propose "rejoicing" in the fact that the "vitality of genuine religion is anywhere increased."

"He will look forward, not to the destruction of these religions, but to their continued co-existence with Christianity, each stimulating the other in growth toward the ultimate goal, unity in the completest religious truth." (pp. 43-44) [emphasis added]

So, then, the unity of all religious truth was the stated goal of Re-Thinking Missions. How to accomplish this emergent global Universalism was another matter. It became necessary for the Fuller Theological professors to conjure up new doctrines such as contextualization and redemptive analogies to teach to whole new generations of evangelical missionaries through such vehicles as the Perspectives course. Blunting the radical separateness of authentic Christianity was a key goal. Borrowing heavily from the methodologies of the social scientists, these leaders trained missionary candidates in group dynamics, dialogue and cross-cultural desensitization.

Al Dager, in his book The World Christian Movement (Sword, 2001), tackles this topic in a chapter entitled "Is Jesus the Only Way?" He notes that much of this came in through the dialectic of so-called "Christian Universalism" which "seeks a middle ground between biblical salvation through conscious surrender to Christ, and traditional Universalism."

Given the long history of this doctrinal perversion and compromise, is it any wonder that the pagan practices and beliefs of the New Age movement are so openly tolerated and embraced in modern neoevangelicalism?


The Truth:

"Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" (Jeremiah 2:21)

*Cited in Martin Erdmann, Building the Kingdom of God on Earth, (Wipf & Stock, 2005), p. 112). See also footnote 200 on p. 136.