Emerging Universalism: Part I—"Anchored" to Sludge
By Debra Rae
Better known as Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel authored a number of beloved children's classics. "I like nonsense," Seuss exclaimed; "Looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope enables you to laugh at life's realities." While I agree there is a time for every purpose under heaven, charming, but fanciful thoughts, as his, best remain in works of fiction. You see, by definition, "nonsense" refers to meaningless language and/or pointless behaviors—hardly the stuff of abundant, fruitful living in the real world.
Precursors to 21st century politicians, early sophists attended more to self-serving rhetoric than to truth. Over time, sophistry came to be known as false reasoning. To this day, fifth century thought rears its unsightly head as a sort of cerebral political correctness called deconstructionism whereupon words take on whatever meaning one chooses for them. This normalized nonsense renders meaningful communication unrealizable.
Contemporary sophists forfeit common sense for outright absurdities and inconsistencies (i.e., nonsense). For example, United Nations "experts" freely redefine words to suit their own purposes. Consider the word, "torture." What constitutes the U.N.'s view of torture is not the practice of partial-birth abortion, as pro-life advocates contend, but rather it is accepting the inviolable dignity of human life that naturally restricts abortion (i.e., in cases of rape). Huh?
Proponents of said absurdity freely create language to win arguments, never to affirm truth. Your truth may not be my truth (and visa versa), but "What the hey; who's to say?" Right and wrong don't even exist—only good or bad debate. Sadly, U.N. officials aren't alone in viewing life through the wrong end of a telescope. Another case in point is the American Psychological Association's nonsensical argument that children are "not typically harmed by adult-child sex." Balderdash.
Keep in mind that postmodernists embrace no metanarrative ("big story") respecting the sovereign God of creation. The late Charles Colson rightly labeled this feckless mindset "a formalized expression of despair." Bereft of settled principles, a double-minded man or woman is nothing if not irresolute and wavering. In contrast, hope in the unchanging nature of God's purpose safeguards firm, secure anchorage for the soul.
An Irresistible Revolution
Having mistakenly legitimized universalism, Rob Bell was awarded the #1 spot for top religious stories of 2011—probably due to its collateral damage. Ignoring that God is a god of justice, Universalists err by insisting we all are children of God; and a loving God would never condemn anyone to hell. Then again, Scripture instructs otherwise. In recent years, many Christian youth groups have been served bountiful banquets of a-biblical babble. By imbibing The Irresistible Revolution, written by Shaine Claibourne and Jim Wallis, ill-equipped Christians naively drop anchor in sludge.
The Church at Risk
Many today consider it passé to believe in the inerrancy of scripture. Without appearing overly opinionated, exclusive, and/or intolerant, they simply "live and let live," hear the narratives of many and, then, do what seems right in their own eyes. A softer, gentler, milk-toast-of-a-gospel shushes fundamental warnings about hellfire and damnation.
Religious services officiated by the likes of Rev. Feargus O'Connor (Secretary of the World Congress of Faiths) feature readings from humanist sources along with scriptures of sundry faith systems. At their core, all religions are thought to share the ethical principle of compassion. Accordingly, inspired by progressive thinkers from the world's greatest religions, the U.N. Charter for Compassion (2009) affirms the Golden Rule and exalts empathy and compassion for all. Apart from divine empowerment, however, even well meaning do-gooders identify with the apostle Paul's dilemma, "For the good that I want, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not want. More often than not compassion evades fallen humanity.
Lacking a spiritual compass, religious Universalists accept that all religions (or none) provide equal enlightenment; all represent valid pathways to God. Sadly, even "the elect" fall prey to interfaith deception. Case in point: Carlton Pearson. Raised in a traditional Christian home, and educated at Oral Roberts University, Pearson relies heavily on German "higher criticism" and espouses a non-literal view of the Bible. One of America's 10 Most Influential Black Ministers, Pearson now proclaims a new Gospel of Radical Inclusion that wrongly exchanges universal salvation for personal redemption and social justice for spiritual purity.
Just this month, a mainstream evangelical, church-leadership conference drew thousands of pastors and church workers to Carrollton, Texas for an event called Catalyst Dallas. At an afternoon workshop, attendees engaged in "centering prayer," a mystical practice of Eastern spirituality. So-called "theology of the heart," acted out thusly, may well emphasize intimacy with God; but it nonetheless misses the mark. Whereas biblical meditation engages the mind, contemplative prayer empties it.
Enter, the groundbreaking global Prison Yoga Project. By introducing Karma Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation into prisons, rehabilitation facilities, and community programs, participants reportedly "reconnect more deeply with themselves and others." The project's self-transformative message shifts need for God Almighty to the Self—this, by means of Eastern spirituality—and thereby counterfeits the plan of God for personal salvation.
While describing themselves as "spiritual," increasing numbers of Westerners embrace "no religious affiliation." With creed, commandments, and ritual increasingly falling by the wayside, many accept any brand of spirituality that floats their metaphorical boat. Unfortunately, vain attempts to build an unattainable world of tolerance, justice, security, and peace will end in sudden destruction.
Today's burgeoning ecumenicalism wrongly mixes universalism with humanism and Eastern philosophies: Having convened in Detroit (January 2014), the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation featured Hindu dancers cavorting all the while Muslims droned "the Call" and Jews blew their shofars. This merge-and-splurge display of empty religiosity serves only to morph traditional faith systems into oblivion. Apart from the God of the Bible, emerging, pie-in-the-sky esotericism threatens to deceive multitudes; and that's precisely what it will do.
More to follow in Part 2.
Debra Rae is a regular contributor to The Intellectual Conservative and this publication. © 2014