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"Research Notes" and "Letters"

from the Research Notes column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 2: Number 2, 1989.

The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.

From the RESEARCH NOTES column

Matthew Fox, Catholic theologian popular among New Agers, has written a new book entitled The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. Fox, who was recently disciplined by the Roman Catholic Church for his unorthodox views, is bound to keep the Vatican boat rocking with this new book. In it he argues that we should throw out any idea of a "historical Jesus" (p. 7). Our attention should instead be focused on the "Cosmic Christ" who is defined as "the pattern that connects" (p. 133). The Cosmic Christ connects every part of creation with every other part: heaven with earth, divinity with humanity (p. 134). Fox classifies his view as panentheism, which he defines as "all things in God and God in all things" (p. 57). This, he suggests, is the way all genuine mystics interpret the universe.

A central concept in the book is "deep ecumenism." He explains: "Deep ecumenism is the movement that will unleash the wisdom of all world religions -- Hinduism and Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, Taoism and Shintoism, Christianity in all its forms, and native religions and goddess religions throughout the world. This unleashing of wisdom holds the last hope for the survival of the planet we call home" (p. 228). The Cosmic Christ -- as "the pattern that connects" -- supposedly makes deep ecumenism possible.

This book is a radical reinterpretation of Christianity through the eyes of mysticism, panentheism, feminism, and ecumenism. Mystical New Age meanings are superimposed on many biblical passages in an effort to make Fox's ideas appear compatible with the Bible. In the process, Fox has completely robbed Jesus Christ of His uniqueness, exalted Mother Earth to godhood, redefined the human dilemma (the killing of Mother Earth) as well as its solution (a revival of mysticism), and reduce Christianity to being one of many viable options in the smorgasbord of religions.

A review of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ will appear in the Winter/Spring CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL.

Incidentally, the book is endorsed on its back cover by M. Scott Peck, author of The People of the Lie.

Seventh Day Adventism Update

Ken Samples recently wrote an article for the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL entitled "From Controversy To Crisis -- An Updated Assessment of Seventh-day Adventism." Because the article was well received by prominent Adventists, Samples and Dr. Walter Martin were invited to speak to the Southeastern California Conference of SDA Pastors on January 26. They also had the opportunity of speaking the same day to the School of Religion faculty at Loma Linda University.

Samples reports that two of the major issues of controversy within Adventism continue to be (1) the authority of Ellen G. White, and (2) righteousness by faith. Regarding the first issue, traditional Adventists believe that Ellen White's writings are inspired counsel from the Lord and are authoritative in doctrinal matters. Based on a survey that Samples conducted, however, the majority of the Adventists he and Martin addressed are more evangelical and do not believe that White's writings are infallible. They believe her writings are more pastoral than canonical and should not be used as a doctrinal authority.

On the second issue, traditional Adventists believe that righteousness by faith includes both justification and sanctification. They believe that one's standing before God rests on both the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ. Again, Samples's survey revealed that most of the Adventists he and Martin addressed depart from traditional Adventism by accepting the Reformation understanding of righteousness by faith. This view sees righteousness by faith as including justification only. It is a judicial act of God whereby He declares sinners to be just on the basis of Christ's own righteousness. It is received by faith alone. Accordingly, sanctification is understood as an accompanying fruit and not the root of salvation.

Although many evangelicals abandoned Adventism over the past decade, Samples's survey suggests that a strong evangelical contingent remains within the sect.

From the LETTERS column

I am writing to thank you for your ministry. After listening to your program, I decided to research for myself why Mormonism is considered a cult. My primary resource was your book The Maze of Mormonism. As much as I wanted to defend the Mormon church, I soon found it impossible to do so.

I shared what I discovered with my wife, my brother, my father (a former LDS bishop), and my mother. Praise the Lord! All of us have denounced Mormonism and have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior. We now attend a good Christian church here in Sacramento.

By the way, it might interest you to know that I am a direct descendent of Brigham Young. He is my great, great, great, great grandfather.

I am a graduate of est. I have been involved for some time with the network of people here in Canada who have participated in Werner Erhard's various trainings (est, the Forum, Transformation Technologies). Recently I accepted Christ. I am now wondering what to do about this affiliation. People I know in the network are not opposed to Christian beliefs; they just do not accept them as the truth. It seems to me that it is possible to interpret the work through whatever filter you want, be it Christian or the New Age movement. Please correct me if I am heading off into a dangerous direction.

My research of est/the Forum and similar human potential trainings (like Lifespring and Summit Workshops) leads me to conclude that it is not possible to adapt them to a Christian world view. They are based in humanistic psychology and Eastern mysticism. Erhard himself acknowledges that he drew on these sources.

It has always been the case both with humanistic psychology and Eastern mysticism that one can begin participating in them without making a faith commitment. This is because they are not based on objective, propositional revelation, like the Bible. They are based, however, on particular assumptions about human nature and the universe, and a subjective rather than objective approach to truth. These assumptions determine the objectives of the trainings that these various schools develop. They are calculated to create dynamic experiences which profoundly affect one's view of life. The end result is a religious conversion, just as surely as if one had prayed the "Sinner's Prayer."

Although these human potential programs may not require acceptance of any particular beliefs, their entire approach is nevertheless based on the unchristian beliefs that truth is relative, that we entirely create our own reality, that we are essentially good and acceptable just the way we are -- no one is a sinner. These assumptions undergird all that goes on in their programs. If you follow them to their logical conclusions (what Erhard calls "getting it") you will come to the basic New Age belief that "You are God."

There is no neutral ground. Your friends say they are not opposed to Christian beliefs -- they just don't accept them as truth. This is exactly my point. Everything is relative for them. However, the nature of life is such that you cannot escape from absolutes. If you hold that everything is relative, that becomes your absolute, and that "truth" is in direct conflict with the truth of Christianity. Christianity by its very nature claims to have the truth. (John 14:6). If you take that away from it, you do not have Christianity at all by any historic definition of the term. Therefore, it is only so much lip service for them to say they are not opposed to Christianity, because they are opposed to it for what it really is.

The position that I am stating is not my own creation. It is Jesus who established the terms of His own faith when He made statements like: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24).

The Forum teaches ultimate views of reality and human nature, and an entire approach to life. Yet Jesus Christ occupies no real place in these teachings. For a Christian, anything other than a Christ-centered approach to life is in conflict with his faith, for how can he serve two masters? There is therefore no "Christian filter" through which this work can be interpreted.

End of document, CRN0007A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"Research Notes" and "Letters" columns
release A, June 25, 1993
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1993 by the Christian Research Institute.

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